FA Expectancy – Allen Robinson

Updated: March 18th 2018

Our Free Agent (FA) Expectancy series is back! Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Probably the biggest news, fantasy-wise, was Allen Robinson not being tagged by Jaguars and then being signed by the Bears to a 3yr/$42MM contract. The community is excited about Robinson’s move but there are real questions about what realistic expectations should be for 2018. Out for all but one game in 2017 with an ACL tear, there is an expectation that Robinson will be back for week 1 next season. Still, every receiver needs practice time to acclimate with a new quarterback to develop routes and timing and we don’t know yet when Robinson will be available to start practicing at full speed. Moving to a new team with a new offensive scheme will require time to learn the playbook and hot routes as well. Even if he is back week 1 the expectations for ACL recoveries is that it takes two seasons before a player is fully healed and feeling comfortable with his running abilities. So are the expectations too high for Robinson in 2018? Let’s investigate further into the Bears to decide.

Declawed Bears

The Bears’ passing gaming last year in one word was “bad”. They ranked 32nd in attempts, 30th in completions, 32nd in yards, T-31st in touchdowns, and 32nd in 1st downs. Some of this was because the receiving group was decimated with injuries leaving Kendall Wright as the team’s leading receiver at 59-614-1. Mostly though, the team was just lacking talent at the position which left little weapons for Mitch Trubisky to develop with. Because of this, Allen Robinson will instantly become the focal point in this offense and could rival DeAndre Hopkins in terms of team’s target shares. The Bears also added Taylor Gabriel for a deep threat option, along with Super Bowl champion Trey Burton at tight end. They also hope that Cameron Meredith will be back healthy from his own gruesome knee injury to compliment Robinson as the slot receiver, though there is no timetable yet for his return.

There have been some early takes suggesting that Mitch Trubisky and the Bears will take a similar leap in 2018 as Jared Goff and the Rams did from 2016 to 2017. I think there will be an improvement to the Bears’ passing game in 2018 if only because it was the worst in 2017 but to go from bottom 5 to top 5 in one season would be a historic turnaround. Saying that if, and it’s a big “if” at this point in the offseason if Allen Robinson is healthy and Mitch Trubisky takes the usual leap for QBs from year 1 to year 2 he should return to his level of past years’ production soon. If you think Robinson’s value is too high right now you may have the opportunity to buy at a slight discount if he doesn’t meet his return to WR1 status in 2018. Like I said it usually takes two years for a full recovery from his type of injury and will also take time to become acclimated with Mitch Trubisky and new Head Coach Matt Nagy’s playbook. Even having a moderate stat line of 70-900-8 would be a good sign of him returning to full health by year two where he should return to being a 1,000-yard receiver. This would have put him just outside the WR1 territory last season and anything above that production would be gravy.

Jaguars in Flux

It is tough to understand what the Jags plans are looking into the future. After making the AFC Championship last season, mostly because of their defense, the team let their best young receiver in Robinson leave via free agency rather than at minimum tagging him to see what he could bring to their offense. They were able to have success without him so maybe they felt that his contract amount would be better used elsewhere to retain and bring in other key positions. However, the contracts that they were able to negotiate for Donte Moncrief, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Niles Paul are all short-term deals (1-2 years) and the deal they gave Blake Bortles could be forgone by 2019. This would suggest that they don’t have enough confidence in Blake Bortles long term and would rather wait and see which version of himself will surface next season before committing more money to the pieces around him. The Jags could find themselves in a similar scenario next season as the Vikings were before signing Kirk Cousins where they have an elite defense but can’t prop up their offense to reach the final game once the playoffs come around. Expect Leonard Fournette to have his fill at RB but at this point, the rest of the offense is a buyer’s beware market.

Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Leave me a message on Twitter @RSO_NickAndrews.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Evaluating Cleveland’s Trades

Updated: March 15th 2018

Cleveland made a few high-profile trades this past weekend using some of their enormous draft capital.  I take a closer look at what the Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry moves mean, both in real life and for fantasy purposes.

Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo to Cleveland for 208 3rd (65th Overall)

Let’s start with one of the more divisive players based on evaluator’s opinions.  The Bills move a player clearly not in the team’s future and receives significant compensation in the process, Cleveland’s top of the third round pick.  The trade gives Cleveland a short-term placeholder for the likely top-4 pick quarterback taken in this year’s draft.  For the most part, you know what you are getting from Taylor at this point.  He provides a low-volume passer who prefers running the ball than throwing into tight windows when questionable passing situations arrive.  What does he do well?  His supreme athleticism sets Tyrod as one of the top rushers at the quarterback position and gives him the ability to extend plays and escape free rushers.  This gives his team free first downs to extend drives from time to time when other quarterbacks would simply throw the ball away and punt.  He also has a risk-averse personality which limits the number of turnover-worthy plays resulting in one of the lowest interception rates in the league.

On the other side of the spectrum, Taylor struggles with most aspects of the passing game.  His lack of fundamental footwork, mechanics, and pocket awareness routinely results in inaccurate throws.  He does not possess the arm-strength to drive the ball which severely limits the number of intermediate-deep routes, particularly boundary throws. Taylor also struggles mightily in diagnosing defenses and choosing open receiving targets resulting in far too many missed opportunities.  Taylor is a player who can keep you in competitive games with his legs and avoid turnovers but his limitations as a passer hurts drive to drive consistency and severely hinders a team playing from behind needing to pass the ball.

Figure 1.  Selected Tyrod Taylor Statistics

What does the trade mean for fantasy?  Tyrod remains in the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 conversation thanks largely to his rushing ability.  He averaged over 500 rushing yards and almost 5 rushing TDs in his three seasons for Buffalo.  His surrounding players are likely at least as good, and probably better than those in Buffalo.  At the same time, the Bills quarterback never exceeded 436 attempts or 3,035 yards in any of his three seasons with Buffalo.  Taylor’s low-volume passing attack is unlikely to significantly change in Cleveland.

Looking at the other direction, what does this do for the fantasy prospects of Cleveland receivers?  Unfortunately, this is one of the worst-case scenarios for Browns pass catchers.  Gordon, Coleman, and Njoku all looked like potential values heading into the year.  The arrival of Taylor probably puts that on hold for a season.  Almost any other conceivable available option at quarterback provided far more potential volume and scoring opportunities to the receiving corp.  During Taylor’s three starting seasons, Buffalo ranked no better than 28th in passing yards, 20th in passing touchdowns, and 30th in completions.  Put another way, Buffalo averaged 6 fewer passing touchdowns, 63 less completions, and over 700 less yards than the average NFL team each season under Taylor.  Taylor produced very little in the passing department despite playing with wide receivers which have been more productive on other teams including Kevin Hogan, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Robert Woods, and Marquise Goodwin.  The Browns likely limited passing volume means one of Cleveland’s receivers would need a huge target share to make a substantial fantasy impact.  The arrival of Jarvis Landry makes that event even less likely to occur.

Figure 2.  Buffalo Passing vs NFL Passing, 2015-2017

Grade: C-, Taylor is a fine short-term option at quarterback but the 65th pick is a hefty price to pay for a probable middling stopgap.  He immediately improves the quarterback spot over what the Browns received from Kizer last season, however you could say the same thing for virtually anyone they would have brought in.  The deal looks worse in a deep free agency quarterback class with multiple options who possess production potential similar to Taylor’s and far higher upside available for no draft compensation.

Jarvis Landry from Miami to Cleveland for 2018 4th (123rd Overall) and 2019 7th

Miami’s abysmal salary cap situation made moving Landry a virtual must-do to get out of his contract.  The Browns obtain a quality NFL receiver, albeit one with a very specific skill-set, at a relatively cheap price in terms of draft pick compensation.  Landry provides a safety net for Taylor (see above) and whoever Cleveland takes at quarterback in the draft for the future.  The offense will need to incorporate many designed screens and other short routes to take advantage of his strengths.  He is not a player you will run a typical route tree with and expect to be successful.

Landry’s fantasy value becomes very problematic to pinpoint in Cleveland but is almost certainly a significant downgrade next season.  His value while in Miami was tied to a unique scheme in which the large majority of receptions and yardage came from the short passing game.  He averaged 100 catches a season with the Dolphins but only 10.1 yards per reception while gobbling up almost 142 targets per year.  It is difficult imagining a scenario with Taylor at quarterback where Landry sees anywhere close to that kind of usage.

Grade: B, The bottom of the fourth round is where teams start expecting role players, backups, and special teamers.  That is a very reasonable price to pay for a good NFL starter.  The true value of the trade depends on what role the Browns have in store for Landry and how they incorporate him into the offense.  This deal becomes better if Cleveland signs Landry to a reasonable long-term contract. They definitely have the cap space to do so.

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.


More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Updated 2018 Positional Rookie Rankings

Updated: March 15th 2018

Back in November, I released the first draft of my 2018 positional rookie rankings. Today, I will revisit the rankings and go deeper than before (TWSS?). Before we get started, please remember that we are still early in the draft process. All of these players just completed the combine and as of this writing, none have yet had a pro day or an individual workout. We’ll likely learn more about some prospects before this article even gets published; we’ll surely know a lot more a month from now. As in November, I did struggle at times as to whether the rankings should be based on my perceived fantasy value or in what order I believe players will be drafted. Ultimately, I am ranking based more so on expected fantasy value than predicted draft order but the two are highly correlated. I’ll post separate fantasy and NFL mock drafts in April so you’ll be able to see where the two values diverge. I have included brief notes on interesting players for each position and designated tiers. For more detailed analysis follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper and check out my “RSO Rookie Rundown” series.

Note: this was written prior to the retirement of Adam Breneman.


My quarterback rankings are likely more controversial than my rankings at other positions. I truly believe that Josh Rosen is the most NFL-ready of the top prospects and as such I still rank him first. I don’t think he will be drafted first at that position but honestly that might do more to help his fantasy stock than hurt it. I have been low on Sam Darnold and Josh Allen since October so their rankings should come as no surprise. The more I watch and read about Lamar Jackson, the more impressed I am with him as a quarterback; don’t believe the WR narrative. I am much higher on Mason Rudolph than many analysts. He may be a little stiff but he was highly productive, excelled in some advanced metrics and was a quiet leader in Stillwater. I think Rudolph will get drafted by a team who benches him for Year One only to give him the keys to the car to start Year Two (i.e. Pat Mahomes). Luke Falk and Mike White find themselves ahead of the next tier due to their elite size and above average production. Of the rest, my picks for guys who may move up the rankings are JT Barrett and Chase Litton. Barrett was a proven winner at one of the nation’s best programs so I won’t count him out yet. Litton threw too many interceptions in college but is one of the biggest quarterbacks in the class and as such will get a shot somewhere.

Running Backs

No change at the top for me. It’s Barkley well above Guice and Chubb. Jones, Penny and Michel are the next tier and are all very close. I have not elevated Sony Michel as high as some others because I am wary of the recency effect. Michel was in the RB5-10 range all season and one great game against Oklahoma shouldn’t really change that. All of the things we “learned” against Oklahoma were already baked into Michel’s ranking. We knew he could catch the ball, we knew he was explosive, we knew he didn’t need 20 carries to make a difference, etc. To bump him higher based off that one game is essentially a double counting accounting error. Freeman (early in the season), Balage (at the combine) and Johnson (late in the season) are an interesting tier as they all flashed at different times. I’m intrigued by Balage and his combination of size and athleticism; I want to study him more and could slide him up into the third tier. Two big names that have slid down the rankings are Josh Adams and Bo Scarborough. Both concern me because of their size: running backs as tall as they are just don’t often succeed in the NFL (which is also a concern for Balage). There are three FCS prospects on the list (Martez Carter, Chase Edmonds, Roc Thomas). My favorite of that group is Martez Carter. He is short and stout and is a dynamic pass catcher. Edmonds showed out at the combine and will likely move up NFL Draft boards. I’m not a fan of John Kelly because he has a lack of production, size and speed that worries me even though he’s starting to get some buzz. If I had to pick one mid- to late-round pick that will have the biggest immediate impact in the NFL, it might be Ito Smith. Smith was a very good blocker according to PFF’s metrics and is a fantastic receiver (40+ catches each of the last three seasons).

Wide Receivers

I have had Calvin Ridley as my WR1 since the start of the year and I have not been discouraged by the mediocre stats or his middling combine performance. I still believe in Ridley’s raw ability and think that he’s the best of this class. Unlike last year, this class lacks a Top 10 talent so Ridley may be artificially moved up draft boards simply because he may be the best at a position of need. Many other analysts have either Washington or Sutton at WR1 and I can’t really argue with that. They both out-produced Ridley over their careers and each have their own athletic attributes. Ironically, both Washington and Sutton are the only two to have a teammate also make this list so maybe I’m undervaluing just how dominant they could have been on another team. I love all of the guys in my second tier and I don’t think NFL teams will go wrong with any of them. If I was an NFL GM I would probably pass on Ridley in the first and instead grab one of Miller, Moore, Kirk or Gallup in the second. All four have a similar profile: they are versatile, quick and can make spectacular catches. Auden Tate is a big, pun intended, wildcard for me because his sample size is so small (just 65 career catches). However, he has the size and body control to be a true X receiver in the league. Dante Pettis is being too undervalued right now in my opinion. Many analysts seem to have forgotten all about him. He was a four year contributor on a championship contending team. He’ll get on the field early with his punt return and run after catch ability, maybe like how Tyreek Hill started his career, and could be a late round steal in fantasy drafts. Allen Lazard has fallen far down my rankings, mostly because he just failed to impress me at points this past season. There is talk of him moving to TE which would do wonders for his fantasy value. There are three guys in the bottom tiers who are more talented than their rankings: Cain and Callaway (off the field issues) and James (injury). I ended up watching a number of Syracuse games this year and became a fan of Steve Ishmael. He had a fantastic 105-1,347-7 line while playing for a bad Orange team. He has good size and made a number of big-time catches in the games I watched him play against Florida State and Clemson.

Tight Ends

The consensus opinion currently states that Mark Andrews is the best player at the position but I strongly disagree. I did not see enough out of Andrews for me to think he could be a starting NFL tight end. I would feel much more confident drafting one of the other top four for my squad. Goedert is the most well rounded player in the group and he’s such a likable person to boot. Gesicki and Hurst are right with Goedert. Gesicki is an incredible athlete but has a wrap for being a poor blocker. Hurst is underrated because he doesn’t score much (just 3 career TDs) but catches a lot of balls and can block better than most in the class. Adam Breneman has serious injury concerns which drags down his potential – if it weren’t for his history of knee injuries he could be atop this group (Editor’s Note: Breneman has since retired from football). Tight end was a difficult position to rank for me because there were few prospects I had a great feel for. Admittedly, everybody past Troy Fumagalli is a dart throw. Chances are that your fantasy league won’t need to draft the position deeper than that but if you do, I provided a bunch of names of guys to keep on your radar. I prioritized players with either great size or great production – very few had both – and left off some players who might be selected in the NFL Draft but likely have no shot at factoring in fantasy-wise. If you have to go deeper, take the guy who gets drafted highest, regardless of where he ended up in my ranking because there’s so little between TE7 and TE13. The two at the bottom, Yurachek and Akins, are truly deep sleepers. Both are undersized, “move” tight ends who could see a hybrid TE/WR role in the NFL. Teams may be less hesitant to draft somebody of their size and speed after the success of Evan Engram in 2017.

Note: When watching film for a player in the offseason, I typically pick two games at random to watch. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample. When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com
  • Film: 2018 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey. Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

RSO Rookie Rundown – 2018 WRs, Part I

Updated: March 8th 2018

Welcome to the RSO Rookie Rundown, a resource to help RSO owners prepare for their upcoming rookie drafts. For more college football and NFL Draft coverage, follow me on Twitter at @robertfcowper. Throughout the offseason, the RSO Rookie Rundown will delve into dozens of future rookies for your consideration. Each prospect will be evaluated on a number of criteria including size, production, performance, character and durability. This is an inexact science but the goal is to gain a better perspective of each player through research. Each player will be given a draft round grade as well as a recent NFL player comparison. For draft round grades, it’s important to remember that some positions are valued more highly than others in the NFL. For player comparisons, it’s important to remember that it is a rough heuristic for illustrative purposes and is based on a physical and statistical basis rather than a prediction of a similar NFL career.  

(Editor’s note: most of the below article was written prior to the NFL Scouting Combine)

Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

I first wrote about Anthony Miller in July, before the season started, and said, tongue-in-cheek, that he would be the next Antonio Brown.  Fast forward six months and that prediction isn’t as crazy now as it was then.  My attention was grabbed by Miller after he made an incredible one-handed catch against UCONN in 2016.  I wasn’t even watching the game for Miller, I was researching the opposing quarterback, but he popped off the screen.  Miller, a Memphis native, did not receive any D1 offers and decided to walk-on in 2013 at Memphis.  He redshirted that first season and then missed all of 2014 after a rotator cuff injury.  In 2015, he played in all twelve games but started just four of them.  What I’m driving at is that he’s patient and earned the stardom he has found the last two seasons.  That patience does mean that Miller is one of the oldest prospects in the class.  Per DLF, he’s 23.4 years old which makes him the tenth oldest.  He’ll also rank near the bottom in many combine measureables.  I anticipate he’ll come in just short of 5’11” and about 190lbs.  He lacks top end speed for a receiver of his size which will dent his draft stock.  For comparison, John Ross measured about the same size as Miller and ran an elite 4.22 40 yard dash; NFLDraftScout.com predicts Miller will run a 4.53.  In addition to the shoulder injury, Miller has had a number of more minor injuries but none that forced him to miss time.  He was injured in the Liberty Bowl and ended up on crutches and in a walking boot.  He was invited to the Senior Bowl but declined, likely because of the injury.  As far as his personality goes, I’m a fan.  When watching him at the end of the season against UCF and Iowa State, it was clear that he was playing through injuries but that they would have to physically remove him from the field to get him out of the game.  I did not come across any character negatives while researching Miller and he had one of the most mature quotes I have come across doing such research.  When asked what his personal goals were for the season, Miller replied: “I don’t have any individual goals, I just want to win a championship.”  He fell short but that’s an uncommon perspective for a young man of his ability so I have confidence that he’ll be a great teammate in his next locker room.

Stats & Accolades:  The numbers that Miller has accrued the last two seasons are nearly off the charts.  In both 2016 and 2017 he ranked 10th or better in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns – the only FBS player to do so.  He was named a consensus First Team All-American after the 2017 season to recognize his accomplishments.  Regardless of the level of competition, more on that in a minute, having two back to back seasons of 95+, 1400+ and 14+ is awesome.  That’s production and consistency that nobody else in this class can match.  The American Conference may want you to think they are part of a Power 6, but they are not, so I checked how Miller did against Power 5 opponents.  Those seven games included Auburn, Ole Miss twice, Kansas twice, UCLA and Iowa State.  Certainly not a group of top defenses but the averages are still instructive.  In those games, Miller averaged 6.3 receptions, 95.4 yards and .7 TDs.  According to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics, Miller did not fair as well.  In their Deep Receiving stat, he had a mediocre catch rate but did pull in 11 of the 13 catchable passes (7 of them for scores).  He did even worse in the Drop Rate stat.  His 12.4% drop rate on catchable balls put him near the bottom of the 200 player sample; his 11 total drops was the most out of all sampled players.  The one PFF stat that Miller excelled in was Yards Per Route Run.  YPRR is a measure of efficiency and Miller ranked third among all FBS receivers.  I looked into his situational stats to get a deeper view of his stat tables and was disappointed to see how infrequently he was involved on third down.  Just 12 of his 96 receptions came on third down (12.5%).  Amazingly, 52 came on first down (54.2%).  Having so many receptions on first down, especially when so many turn into another first down (25 of the 52), may tell us more about the Memphis offense than it does about Miller’s ability but it does give me pause.  In the red zone, Miller is unstoppable: 17 of his 18 touchdowns came inside the twenty.

Receiving & Rushing Table
Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2015 Memphis American SO WR 12 47 694 14.8 5 9 54 6.0 2 56 748 13.4 7
*2016 Memphis American JR WR 13 95 1434 15.1 14 12 69 5.8 1 107 1503 14.0 15
*2017 Memphis American SR WR 13 96 1462 15.2 18 10 25 2.5 0 106 1487 14.0 18
Career Memphis 238 3590 15.1 37 31 148 4.8 3 269 3738 13.9 40
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 2/12/2018.

Film Study: Navy (2017), Iowa State (2017), UCLA (2017)

The first play of Anthony Miller that I want to show you is the one that first caught my eye.  It came last year against UCONN.  Miller makes an incredible one-handed catch, over and behind his head, along the sideline.  When I say he’s capable of the spectacular catch, it’s not an exaggeration.

While watching Miller’s tape I noted three key attributes: his hands, his release off the line of scrimmage and his ability to run after the catch.  Let’s start with his hands.  Miller has sticky hands that I’ll bet are bigger than most guys his size.  He often catches the ball away from his body and is able to adjust if the ball is poorly thrown.  Two screen pass catches against Navy showcased these hands.  Here’s the first:

My analogy when watching this first catch, one that he snags far away from his body, was of a basketball three pointer from the corner.  Due to the angle, there is no hope of an assist from the backboard.  Same with this catch below.  Miller catches the ball with his hands so far away from his body that he is purely catching it with his hands, he couldn’t use his body to help.

This was another good hands catch on a screen pass.  Miller runs many short yardage routes, including numerous screens, that allow his ability after the catch to shine.  More on the YAC in a second, let’s first look at a replay angle of a catch against Iowa State.  You can clearly see here how he gets his hands in good position and catches the ball with his hands without letting the ball get into his body.

Now onto what Miller does when he has the ball in his hands.  He’s essentially a running back once he gets the ball because he shows some key attributes of running backs: patience, leg drive, strength to shed tacklers, etc.  Miller often initiates contact and rarely chooses to go out of bounds to avoid a tackler.  A good illustration of this running ability is showcased by this touchdown catch against Iowa State:

Miller stands still for a beat after the snap, something I think he does on purpose to confuse the defender and to give his blockers an extra moment to set up.  He catches the ball twelve yards out and if you pause it right at the catch, there’s no way you would think he gets through all the traffic to paydirt.  He is patient with his blocks at first, attempts to stiff arm a tackler and powers toward the goal line.  When he gets close he’s able to keep his feet and as he starts to extend for the end zone he has the presence of mind to keep his knees up.  Most running backs wouldn’t have been able to convert the score on this play if they were handed the ball at the five, let alone catching it seven yards further back.

Later in the same game, Miller catches a post and shrugs off the corner.  He spins the safety like a top and fights for the extra yardage.  It wasn’t a huge gainer or for a touchdown but it’s another good example of his “want to” when he has the ball in his hands.

Another key attribute for Miller is his release off the line of scrimmage.  Due to his above average speed and route running ability, many teams play him off but he makes them pay when they try to press him.  Iowa State played him off for most of the game until late when they tried switching things up.  Ultimately the three plays shown below didn’t result in much of anything, so I guess you could argue that the tactic worked, but I don’t think it was because Miller got bottled up at the line.  To the contrary, he beat the corner on each of these plays.  The first play was a run and the second resulted in a sack.  The third was the best chance at a positive play but Riley Ferguson overthrew a streaking Miller who had beaten the defense.

Miller showed his fantastic release against UCLA as well.  This play was a fantastic touchdown catch that we’ll get into below.  Here’s a good angle showing just how easily he gets around the corner and up field.  Plays like this where Miller beats the press untouched are common.

As I’ve mentioned in multiple places in this profile, Miller is capable of the spectacular.  Against UCLA, he made this amazing catch:

At first glance it is not clear if Miller holds onto the ball, but he does.  He is fully extended and catches it with his fingertips.  He somehow manages to control the ball as he hits the ground with no free hand to break the fall.  Here’s a replay angle:

On the very next play, Miller makes another excellent catch, this one over the shoulder.  Miller leaves the defender behind effortlessly, as seen above, catches the ball with nary a glance over his shoulder and drags the defender the last five yards into the end zone.  What a play.

Now, I don’t want you to think it’s all rainbows and roses with Miller.  There are some concerns to share as well.  He’s not a great blocker, no surprise given his size and usage.  However, what bothered me most was that he doesn’t always show that “want to” when he doesn’t have the ball in his own hands.  Here are two examples of plays where Miller basically gives up.  In the first he doesn’t even bother trying to block for his teammate down field.  In the second he misses a block and promptly stands around.

After my review of his statistics, I was expecting to see a number of drops from Miller but I didn’t note it as a concern while watching these three games.  Maybe I just watched the wrong games, maybe I missed one while taking notes or maybe I have a different definition of a “drop” than the PFF analysts.  I would be interested to see what other draftniks think after watching a different batch of games.  Are concentration drops an issue?  For now, I’ll say no but I’m not positive.

SWOT Analysis: (SWOT analysis is a way to study the internal and external factors that may help or hinder your ability to achieve an objective.  The objective here: getting drafted.)

Strengths: Route running, release against press coverage, ability to make the spectacular catch, body control along the sideline, willingness to play through injury, efficiency, red zone efficiency, personality.

Weaknesses: Age, size, lack of production on third down, potential issue with concentration drops, played against lesser competition.

Opportunities: Miller needs just one team to see past the negatives so he has a chance to get on the field and show what he can do.  They will find out pretty quickly that they have a stud.

Threats: Due to his mediocre measureables and advanced age, teams may not view Miller as a prime candidate to be the team’s future WR1.

Draft Round Grade:  Early 2nd Round

I feel pretty confident about this one.  Miller is the type of player, in my opinion, that won’t be sought after by all 32 teams but there will be a few who are just absolutely sold on his potential.  If I was a betting man, I would say he goes within the first forty picks and is a target for a team trading up into the top of the 2nd round.

Recent NFL Comparison:  Antonio Brown

I’ve already used the Brown comparison so I’ll stick with it.  Brown measured in slightly smaller at the combine (5’10” and 186lbs) than Miller is currently listed but the difference is negligible.  Brown ran a 4.56, just a tad slower than Miller is projected by NFLDraftScout.com.  Both players were dominant receivers at a mid-major conference.  Brown was more versatile (with plenty of rushes and returns) but Miller was more productive as a receiver (15.1 average and 37 TDs versus 10.5 and 22).  Brown’s magnetic hands and nimble feet have propelled him in the NFL and I think Miller has that potential as well.


Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State

Michael Gallup is an interesting prospect, and one that fans should focus on for a few reasons.  The first and most obvious reason is Gallup’s on the field production.  He’s arguably been the best receiver in the conference the last two seasons (Cedrick Wilson may disagree) and racked up impressive stats in his two seasons with the Rams.  The second reason to follow Gallup is because of his interesting back story.  Gallup was born in Atlanta and adopted into a family with a number of other adopted children.  Gallup’s siblings hailed from India and multiple West African countries.  He became the man of the house at a young age and seems like an all-round great kid.  He excelled in sports all throughout high school, earning sixteen varsity letters (playing varsity football, basketball, baseball and track all four years).  Gallup had offers from eight Power 5 schools, including Kentucky, Missouri and NC State.  Ultimately, his test scores were subpar and he had to go the JUCO route and landed at Butler Community College in Kansas.  Gallup ended up getting offers from Colorado State, Kansas State, New Mexico and South Alabama when he left Butler.  He chose CSU and the rest is history.  Aside from an ankle injury in 2015 that limited him to just four games, Gallup has had a pretty clean bill of health.  At the Senior Bowl, Gallup measured in a little shorter than hoped: just under 6’1″ and 198lbs.  I struggled to find a good 40 yard dash estimate but multiple articles I found suggested a 4.40 to a 4.50.  Gallup clearly has the skills and the speed to make it in the NFL, so I’m interested to see how teams evaluate his path to the league.  It’s impossible to guess what could have been if he had had the chance to play at one of those bigger schools, but I’ll bet Gallup is a-okay with how things worked out in the end.

Stats & Accolades:  Back in 2014, as a freshman at Butler Community College, Gallup scored 11 TDs and amassed 780 yards (an injury killed his sophomore season).  He leaped into the national college football consciousness in 2016 with a great 76-1,272-14 season as a JUCO transfer.  He followed that up with a 100 catch campaign in 2017 which netted him consensus All-American status.  His scoring and average declined this year though despite the added targets.  In 2016 he led the Mountain West in receiving touchdowns and in 2017 he led the conference in receptions.  I consulted Pro Football Focus’ signature stats and was encouraged by some data and discouraged by others.  Gallup ranked 8th in Yards Per Route Run, which is a measure of efficiency.  This efficiency shouldn’t be surprising because he ranked 3rd in the FBS in receiving yards earned on screen passes.  This predilection for short passes and struggles in the deep passing game (he ranked 76th in Deep Passing catch rate) gives me pause.  Gallup was middle of the pack in drop rate but I’m not too worried yet: he’s such a high volume target with questionable quarterback play that it’s inevitable that he’ll have a number of drops.  The more important thing will be to watch his film and see if concentration drops are an issue.  PFF reports that Gallup has dropped just 12 of his 191 catchable targets the last two years.  He came in above average, compared to his draft class, in missed tackle rate but below average in blocking.  I studied his situational stats and game logs to see if there were any notable trends.  I was happy to see that he is successful on 3rd and long, converting 9 of 11 such receptions for first downs this season.  One negative I noticed was that 63% of Gallup’s receptions came in the 1st and 2nd quarter which means he was not showing up for the Rams at the most clutch times.  I didn’t take the time to go through the scoring summaries for each Colorado State game but 7 of the 13 were two possession games or closer.  Those are games that you would expect the second half to be competitive.  Based on my quick back-of-the-envelope arithmetic, I would expect Gallup to be much more involved down the stretch.  Gallup’s performance against Power 5 teams was mostly mediocre, except for a 11-134-0 game against Oregon State.  He did manage 5-81-0 against Alabama’s supreme pass defense this year – that will likely be a key film to watch.

Receiving & Rushing Table
Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2016 Colorado State MWC JR WR 13 76 1272 16.7 14 4 15 3.8 0 80 1287 16.1 14
*2017 Colorado State MWC SR WR 13 100 1413 14.1 7 0 0 0 100 1413 14.1 7
Career Colorado State 176 2685 15.3 21 4 15 3.8 0 180 2700 15.0 21
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 2/24/2018.

Film Study:  Oregon State (2017), Alabama (2017)

The first trait I was watching for in Gallup’s film, after reviewing his PFF advanced stats and after my Anthony Miller study, was his ability to run after the catch.  It’s clear why the Colorado State coaches scheme to throw Gallup the ball so often on short passes: he serves as an extension of the running game.  On the below play, Gallup gets the ball thrown to him quickly as a hot read after a corner blitz.  He sidesteps safety Ronnie Harrison and manages to squirt through the tackle.  As he runs in the open field he changes his ball hand, positioning the ball nearer the sideline which is a great sign of his awareness.  Gallup manages to break the second tackle but it sets him off-balance along the sideline.  He manages to stay in bounds for an extra ten yards before getting walloped by Minkah Fitzpatrick.  The play showcased his ability to break tackles, his body control, his awareness and a little of his speed.

I estimate that Gallup has above average speed for his class (NFLDraftScout.com estimates 4.52 which is one of the higher estimates I found online).  You can see some of his speed on the above play between broken tackles but there better examples.  In the below play, you get a taste of Gallup’s speed as he blows past the corner, as well as a glimpse at his route running and hands.  The corner makes up ground as Gallup slows to make the over-the-shoulder catch but you can see his speed on the release.

Speaking of his release, Gallup often gets a clean release, even when he was playing against superior corners in the Alabama game.  For the first clip, I picked one where Gallup easily gets off the line with a quick footed juke move that lets him get inside leverage on the corner.  He doesn’t ultimately make the catch because he gets spooked by the oncoming safety.  It was a tight window for the quarterback to try and fit but I still mark this one as a concentration drop.

In the second clip showcasing his release off the line of scrimmage, Gallup shows that he has good hands to fight off a pressing corner.  He starts outside, the corner gets a hand on him which he violently knocks off.  Once he fights off the corner’s contact, he’s free to cut inside on a skinny post route that I saw him run numerous times in my study.  The catch went for a first down in what was still just a two possession game against Alabama.

This next clip again shows Gallup’s effortless looking release.  He uses his speed and agility to get past the first defender by first setting him up outside before cutting inside.  The second dropping defender doesn’t have a chance as he clumsily flips his feet once he realizes he’s about to be beat over the top.  Gallup does not make the catch but I wouldn’t count this one as a drop like I did above – it was a much harder catch at full extension.

After watching these two films, I can confidently say that Gallup has very good hands and excellent body control.  He may not be on the same level as Anthony Miller when it comes to making awe inspiring catches but nobody is.  On this first example, which happened to be the opening play of the game, Gallup looks the ball into his hands and makes an NFL catch with both feet in bounds.

The next example comes a little later in the Oregon State game.  The pass is thrown wide of Gallup but he adjusts and makes the catch with his hands while still managing to get (both of) his feet in.

The final example didn’t actually count as a catch but the play was inconclusive at best.  Even though it was ruled incomplete, I think it really shows us an underrated strength of Gallup’s game: his play strength.  We have already seen that he’s willing to get physical while running his routes by hand checking with the corner, and in this play we see how strong his hands are with a defender draped all over him.  Gallup high points the back shoulder ball and manages to hold on as the defender gets his arm inside and tries to pry the ball loose.  The ball may have moved as Gallup hit the ground but I don’t think it’s irrefutable, at least on the replays I have seen.  Who knows with the potential changes to the NFL catch rules, maybe this would hold up at the next level.  Either way, it’s a great play that didn’t actually count.

In the two games I watched, I did not see much blocking action from Gallup.  There were a few plays where he was engaged with a defender as the ball went to the other side of the field.  I was encouraged, after seeing Anthony Miller give up on some plays, that he did seem to play to the whistle.

SWOT Analysis: (SWOT analysis is a way to study the internal and external factors that may help or hinder your ability to achieve an objective.  The objective here: getting drafted.)

Strengths: Production, higher pedigree than most mid-major WRs, all around athlete, run after catch ability, play strength.

Weaknesses: Lacks elite measureables, reliance on screen passes inflates production, concentration drops may be an issue, non-traditional route to college stardom.

Opportunities:  Due to his level of production, teams may ignore Gallup’s path and treat him as if he did end up at one of those Power 5 schools.  His versatile skill set likely means he can fill a number of receiver positions on the field for most offenses.

Threats:  Teams may compare him to Zay Jones from 2017 whose stellar numbers were heavily inflated by his reliance on screen passes.  The fact that Jones did not translate immediately with the Bills could hurt Gallup’s stock.  Teams may question Gallup’s mental acuity since he did not test well enough to play in the FBS at first.

Draft Round Grade:  Mid to Late 2nd Round

I will have Gallup behind Miller in my positional rankings so that means I should probably give Gallup a lower draft grade.  I think they are both 2nd round talents but give the nod to Miller.  All three players I considered for Gallup’s comp were selected in the 2nd round so this is a no-brainer grade.

Recent NFL Comparison:  Nelson Agholor

When I first did my combine measureables comparison, I was between the aforementioned Zay Jones, Nelson Agholor and Robert Woods for Gallup’s comp.  Ultimately I decided to go with Agholor.  They are about the same height and likely about the same weight.  The reason I say likely is that Agholor’s listed weights range from 185-198; the official weight on the Eagles website, and the weight measured at the combine, is 198, identical to what I have down for Gallup.  Agholor was a dynamic punt returner in college but Gallup never returned a single kick so they differ there.  Other than that though, there are a number of similarities in their stats.  Both had 100+ catches and 1,300+ yards in their last, and best, seasons.  Their receptions, yards and touchdown totals are all remarkably similar (although Agholor had the benefit of playing sparingly as a freshman, so slight advantage to Gallup for doing the same in two seasons).  They both averaged about 15.0 yards per reception and had one season over 16.0.  I watched a Youtube highlight package of Agholor at USC and after you get past the punt returns, there is a lot that mirrors Gallup: the yards after the catch, the snatch catches with the hands away from the body, the hand strength to hold onto contested catches.  Gallup will need to run at the top of his estimated 40 yard dash time but it’s not impossible to think he gets in the 4.45 range as Agholor did.  If Gallup lands on a team that uses him as the Eagles used Agholor in 2017 it would be a big win for his fantasy owners.

DJ Moore, WR, Maryland

DJ Moore has mostly been off my radar throughout the season and the start of the draft process.  A number of #DraftTwitter follows that I respect have high opinions of Moore so I thought it was important to give him a closer look myself.  Moore checks in at 6’0″ and 210lbs, a good size combination.  He is free of serious injuries and started 35 straight games for Maryland dating back to his freshman season.  Moore is a former 4-star recruit from Philadelphia who found a home nearby in College Park.  I came across numerous mentions of his work ethic, specifically his strength coach said that “his attitude and work ethic is contagious.”  I struggled to find estimates of his 40 yard dash speed except for this questionable Hudl page which shows a 4.49 time.  By the time you read this he will have already ran at the combine but for now I am just guessing at his speed based on his film.  A common theme I read about when researching Moore was his poor quarterback play.  Over his three seasons, Maryland has had seven quarterbacks attempt 20+ passes (Moore has caught passes from eight different QBs).  While I think that poor quarterback play is a fair consideration, we should keep in mind that many of these prospects are being targeted by average, or worse, passers.

Stats & Accolades:  In addition to his receiving stats which we’ll get to, Maryland created touches for Moore in numerous ways.  In 2016, he returned fifteen kicks (22.3 average).  In 2017, he returned fifteen punts (10.2).  He has seventeen career rushing attempts (125 yards, 1 TD) and even five passing attempts (3 completions, 36 yards).  The cherry on top was a 34 yard punt in the Michigan game this past season.  It’s hard not to fall in love with Moore for his versatility before you even analyze his abilities as a receiver, but that’s why we’re here.  Moore’s stats don’t jump off the page – he barely hit the 1,000 yard mark this year and never scored double digit touchdowns.  If he were a small school prospect we probably would even be thinking of Moore as a draft prospect.  However, he did face strong Big Ten defenses with those poor passers as previously mentioned, so he gets the benefit of the doubt.  Moore’s biggest career game came in 2017 against Northwestern.  In that contest he racked up 210 yards and 2 TDs on 12 receptions.  He has four other games of 100+ for a total of five in his career.  As far as advanced stats, Moore’s advantage lies in his target share.  He was the sixth most targeted draft eligible receiver this year according to PFF.  In their Yard Per Route Run metric, he ranked 16th.  He caught 9 of 12 deep passes (for 326 yards and 2 TDs).  His drop rate was 8.14% which is a little high and puts him in the bottom half of receivers in that stat; he dropped 7 of 86 catchable targets this season per PFF’s tracking.  Moore’s scatter plot was interesting to digest in the PFF NFL Draft Guide.  It shows where on the field a receiver was for each target and shows whether it was a completed pass, an incomplete pass, a touchdown or an interception.  Moore lined up exclusively on the left hand side which caught my attention and five of his eight TDs were caught within ten yards of the line of scrimmage.

Receiving & Rushing Table
Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2015 Maryland Big Ten FR WR 11 25 357 14.3 3 1 9 9.0 0 26 366 14.1 3
*2016 Maryland Big Ten SO WR 13 41 637 15.5 6 11 55 5.0 0 52 692 13.3 6
2017 Maryland Big Ten JR WR 12 80 1033 12.9 8 5 61 12.2 1 85 1094 12.9 9
Career Maryland 146 2027 13.9 17 17 125 7.4 1 163 2152 13.2 18
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/2/2018.

Film Study:  Northwestern (2017), Michigan (2017)

The first film of Moore that I watched was the 2017 Michigan game.  It was brutal.  The starting quarterback, a walk-on named Ryan Brand, was just utterly over matched by the Michigan defense.  I might be reconsidering my point above about Moore’s quarterback play and how it’s something that many receivers need to transcend.  Moore did not do much in the game as a receiver (5-37-0) but he was involved in other ways.  The first play I’ll show you is the aforementioned punt.  I thought for sure the play would have come out of a “wildcat” formation in an effort to fool the defense on a short fourth down.  Nope.  Moore was lined up fifteen yards back on his own 15 yard line in a true punt formation.  I have no idea why, maybe the punter was dealing with an injury?  The commentators sounded just as confused as Michigan looked.

Moore’s other trick play in the game was a 21 yard completion on a reverse pass back to the QB.  It wasn’t a pretty throw but Moore made the play and that’s what matters most.

On two consecutive plays, Moore did show a willingness to get involved as a blocker.  I question his ability to stand up to linebackers, safeties and larger corners in the NFL but he did well enough on these two plays that I am willing to say he’s at least an average blocker compared to others in the class.

Due to the combination of his size, speed and lower body strength, Moore is a good runner after the catch.  No play showed that better than this touchdown against Northwestern.  Moore lines up outside and runs a quick in route.  It’s a designed play because you can see the blockers down field right away.  As Moore arrives at contact after making the catch, he lowers his center of gravity as three tacklers converge.  He forces his way through two leg tackles and emerges at the other end with a quick jab step that freezes a fourth incoming defender.  That quick step allows Moore to escape and then he turns on the jets for the score.

Moore is adept at running multiple screen patterns from various alignments on the field.  Near the line of scrimmage he has a feel for avoiding traffic and getting open as he streaks across the field.  There were two consecutive plays early in the game that I noted as questionable route running.  In the first play, he does not show an explosive first move and does not appear to be successful fighting off the corner’s contact with his hands.  In the second play, he gets inside leverage on the defender but his pivot step is lazy and he doesn’t really make himself a target for the quarterback.

Moore’s route running was better against Northwestern so I’m willing to overlook my nitpick comments against Michigan.  In this first example, he shows a great awareness of field position and game situation.  It’s 3rd and 16 and Northwestern is playing a deep zone coverage.  Moore lines up outside and breaks his route in after getting two yards past the first down marker.  He finds a soft spot in the zone and sits in it, right at the sticks.  When he catches the ball he gets up field, albeit after a hazardous first step backwards, and gets more than enough for the first.

The best route I saw Moore run (and possibly the best route I noted out of this trio of receivers) came early in the Northwestern game.  Moore is lined up in the slot to the left of the quarterback.  He runs a short five yard out route, which does not look like much at first glance.  If you slow it down though there is a lot to love.  Moore’s first step is to the boundary, to the outside of the defender.  This causes the defender to slide inside in an effort to gain leverage.  Moore pushes him up field and then plants his right foot which makes the defender bite and think he’s breaking inside.  As Moore breaks outside, he misses the chance to knock the corner’s hands off him but he still gets free enough to make the grab.  He has to slow down and adjust to the ball and catches it with his body but we’ll forgive that since he did so much else well on the play.  He delivers a violent stiff arm to the would-be tackler and drags him into the end zone while his facemask is being held.  All in all, it was a great play that illustrates a number of Moore’s best qualities.

SWOT Analysis: (SWOT analysis is a way to study the internal and external factors that may help or hinder your ability to achieve an objective.  The objective here: getting drafted.)

Strengths:  Run after catch ability, speed, versatility to line up inside or outside, trick play master, high target share, played well despite bad quarterback play last two years, field and game situation awareness, work ethic.

Weaknesses:  Lacks elite production, high drop rate on catchable balls, lined up exclusively on the left side of the field.

Opportunities:  Moore can line up as both an inside slot receiver or on the outside which will make fitting into an NFL scheme easier.  His reported work ethic will allow him to win the offseason and earn respect in the locker room early.  That plus his high target share may lead teams to believe he could develop into their WR1.

Threats:  I struggled to identify weaknesses for Moore.  Ultimately, teams may use his versatility against him and deem him as a “jack of all trades and master of none.”  NFL offenses who have their receivers line up on both sides frequently may notice that Moore rarely lined up to the right and may fear that is a tell of a weakness Maryland was trying to hide.

Draft Round Grade:  Early 2nd Round

I started this preview with a 3rd round grade in mind.  After all of my research and film study, I can’t help but put Moore at the top of the 2nd round.  I really struggled to find negatives while watching his film and have a feeling he will do well in draft process.  Right now I would place Moore ahead of Gallup and about even with Miller.

Recent NFL Comparison:  Chris Godwin

Typically I prefer using a comp that has more NFL experience so owners are more familiar with who I select.  Unfortunately, there are not many great comps for Moore – which is a compliment to his athletic ability.  Moore can run faster, jump higher and jump further than most in his cohort.  Godwin is the closest approximation we have since 2010 as far as athletic profile and college production.  Godwin also struggled at times with below average quarterback play but ended up with a 154-2,421-18 line (compared to Moore’s 146-2,027-17).  Godwin ended up being a third rounder but I think Moore’s stock is higher because he’ll likely test better.


Note: When watching film for a player in the offseason, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com
  • Film: 2018 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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OC’s Gameplan: Bad Offenses and Good RBs

Updated: March 8th 2018

My brother once asked me when he was going to college: what major was most likely to find a wife?   Looking back, this is an odd thing for an 18 year-old to worry about, but highlighted for me the importance what questions we should be asking.   Orthodoxy around drafting running backs points us toward opportunity.   That wisdom of the crowd may not be far off, but one aspect of a running back’s chances often has me thinking and saying statements such as: “draft running backs attached to good offenses,” or “I want Aaron Rodgers’ caddie.”   At a macro level, our preparation for the 2018 season, and the projections of the best minds in the fantasy business, suggest that a team’s overall pace of play, scoring, and potential yardage is factored and then fantasy prognosticators can begin carving the ham for individual players.   The hours of our lives we spend panning through the dirt and grit of film and data for the nuggets of golden touchdown goodness from our adopted players is desperate to a degree that might even merit sympathy from prospectors.  How do we find the highest scoring running backs? Do we know the best offenses?  Will the two ever meet?

Think for a moment about the scoring offenses that are truly great over the last three years.   Upstarts in the LA Rams took the crown this past season.  Prior to that was Atlanta’s outlier, and the season before the Falcons, the Carolina Panthers.   The only thing these offenses share is that none of them appear in the top 10 the other two seasons under our scrutiny.   Not too many hands are in the air when asked who predicted the Gurley men would wreck real and fantasy seasons, nor Matty Ice flinging the rock like the only sober guy in a cornhole contest.  However, the Panthers led by wunderkind Cam Newton had more preseason hype.   The only problem is that if we attached our fantasy RB fortunes to the Panthers, the recently departed Jonathan Stewart was riding shotgun and returned RB2 numbers.   Not until 2017 did the top overall RB come from the top scoring team, and last season of the top 24 scoring RBs, 16 of them came from offenses outside the top 10.   It did become slightly more promising in the top 10 where 6 of the 10 RBs corresponded to the top offenses, but two of them, Mark Ingram and the golden-grilled Alvin Kamara hailed from the same offense.

Two significant problems arise with the “hitch your cart to the best offense” theory of drafting running backs.  1) Our cart-hitching is fairly random, as only three offenses (NE, NO, and Pitt) have sustained a presence in the top 10 for the last three years.  2) Even if we manage to predict those offenses, only one of them, has produced a top 10 back in all three years.  Pittsburgh managed that feat but with DeAngelo Williams in 2015 and Lev Bell the past two seasons.   In fairness, NO should be counted on as well.  Standing in the shadow of larger names, Mark Ingram makes a case for the most consistent back in fantasy over the last three years (registering RB1 numbers each time) but just outside of the top 10 once.

The most stunning aspect of looking into the truly elite NFL scoring offenses, however, is that the league AVERAGE for rushing touchdowns over that three year span was always within 5 of an average of those elite offenses.  In 2017 the ratio was 12/17, 2016: 14/16, and 11.4/16.*  The elite offenses seem to distinguish themselves by outstripping their average counterparts in passing touchdowns by nearly double digit margins.  Fantasy orthodoxy holds that players should look to tether their fortunes to RBs in the best offenses.   The truth seems to point to other aspects of opportunity as far more important and so future examinations of offensive play calling will point you to the coordinators and players likely to garner scoring chances.  Incidentally, I told my brother he should look into Musical Theatre and Nursing…opportunity over talent, I suppose.

*All numbers drawn from the inestimable Pro Football Reference


Luke @FantasyDocOC is husband, father, doctoral student, and teacher slowly building a reality dynasty league comprised entirely of daughters. He writes OC’s Gamplan for Reality Sports Online.  Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” CUA. Hoya Saxa.

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NFL Combine: Events that Matter Most

Updated: March 3rd 2018

The NFL Combine events start up this week and not too soon it is for us football fanatics.  Players will compete in a diverse group of events testing strength, speed, quickness, and agility among other traits.  It would be great if players displayed tremendous all-around athleticism translating to superb well rounded players, but very few large athletes excel in every event like a Julio Jones or David Johnson.  The large majority of players coming into the NFL will not be dominating focal point wide receivers and tremendous all-around backs succeeding in all areas of the run and pass game. Most athletes will go on to play more specialized roles based on their unique abilities and strengths.

So which of these of these athletic events are we most interested in?  The answer, as usual, is that it depends.  I focus on athletic events which have translated to increased odds of success for a variety of players with different projected roles in the NFL.  This is not to say these events are any kind of guarantee of success or that they are even the most important quality for a player.  The athletic profile is just one more component of a player’s evaluation.


You mainly are allowed to ignore the athletic combine events for quarterbacks.  Accuracy, decision making, anticipation, defense recognition, and read progression are among the most important quarterback traits.  None of those show up at the combine. You surely want your quarterback possessing enough arm strength to make all the necessary throws from the pocket but velocity, by itself, has not translated to effective QB play over the years.  Likewise, few quarterbacks have maintained long careers primarily on their athletic ability.  It will be fun watching Lamar Jackson tear up the running drills and Josh Allen could smash the throw velocity record, but these are not metrics high on the list for successful quarterbacks.

Running Backs

The Space Back – Archetype:  LeSean McCoy

Events we most care about: 3 Cone Drill, 20 yard Shuttle

These players usually come in on the smaller size of NFL backs.  They consistently win by avoiding defenders with above average agility.  The lateral quickness drills are of prime importance here.  This group also dominates the passing down specialists and, in general, makes up the better receivers out of the backfield.  Dion Lewis, Theo Riddick, and Gio Bernard make up a small sample of other players in this grouping.

Compact Tackle Breaker – Archetype:  Marshawn Lynch

Events we most care about: Vertical Jump, Broad Jump

Here we come to the maulers who tend to be good creating yardage by breaking tackles with consistent leg drive.  Lower body explosion drills show off leg strength paramount to these players.  These are backs who perform well in the box.  While also generally on the short side, they typically weigh in on the heavier side giving a lower center of gravity making them hard to bring down.  Kareem Hunt and Jay Ajayi are a couple of other recent examples in this category who have had success in the league.

Two-Down Power Back

Events we most care about:  40-yard dash

The NFL is moving to more diverse backs who are capable pass catchers but there are still roles for bigger backs who can absorb the punishment of weekly 20-touch workloads.  I am primarily watching the 230 lb+ backs in this category like a Carlos Hyde.  These players do not need to be speed demons but I avoid the very slow backs in my fantasy drafts.

Wide Receiver

Slot Receiver – Archetype:  Julian Edelman

Events we most care about: 3 Cone Drill, 20 yard Shuttle

Start/stop quickness is the name of the game here.  The ability to effortlessly get in and out of breaks providing quick and easy passes for a quarterback defines much of a slot receivers’ success.  This trait also helps maximize missed tackles after the catch producing larger gains.  While we usually think of the smaller players in the slot role, high agility helps the bigger slot players like Cooper Kupp as the NFL evolves at the position moving receivers around the formation.

Deep Threat – Archetype:  Mike Wallace

Events we most care about: 40-yard dash, Vertical Jump, Broad Jump

The ability to make big plays from the wide receiver position will always be a valuable commodity to NFL teams.  Stretching a defense vertically helps spread the defense and opens up throwing lanes for underneath receivers.  High-end speed is nearly an absolute must for the smaller vertical threat to threaten defenses.  Leaping ability becomes a bigger factor for larger receivers who depend less on speed and more on high-pointing deep passes.

Tight Ends

Events we most care about: All of them

There have been few consistent upper-level fantasy options at tight end over recent years but the large majority of them who have existed usually exhibit great overall athleticism.  Gates, Gronk, Kelce, and Graham are a few examples of tight ends possessing the great size, strength, and power to dominate at the position.

In recent years, coaches have evolved utilizing smaller tight ends with more specialized receiving roles relying less on their blocking ability.  The “move” tight ends such as Delanie Walker and Jordan Reed carved out big roles in the passing game relying more on speed and agility to win routes.

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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