NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-16

Updated: July 16th 2017

We’re now less than a month away from the NFL Draft and hopefully you’re well into your rookie research.  I think doing a full 32 pick mock draft is a good, albeit time consuming, exercise for dynasty owners because it can help you identify the landing spots for the best offensive talent.  Hopefully, that offensive talent will feature prominently on your 2017 RSO team.  I have included the first sixteen picks below, check back next week for the rest of the first round.

#1 – Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Garrett is the consensus first overall pick and will be an instant impact on the Browns defense.  He was a starter for three years at A&M and produced each season (31 sacks, 47 tackles for loss).  His closest combine comparison over the last few years would be the Vikings Everson Griffen who started out slow his first three seasons but is now coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons.

#2 – 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Thomas is a versatile DE who showed out in the Sun Bowl against Mitch Trubisky’s Tar Heels (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 very important late sack).  He can move inside when needed and will give flexibility to a team that finished 2016 in the bottom half of sacks.

#3 – Bears – Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama

The Bears have other needs but will go Best Player Available (BPA) here and go for offense later.  Like Thomas, Allen is versatile and can get to the quarterback from either his interior DT position or from the end.  He had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

#4 – Jaguars – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

The Jags signed Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson but neither is the long term answer, more like a stop gap.  Jacksonville was dead last in 2016 with just 7 INTs, meanwhile, Hooker had 7 himself with the Buckeyes last season.  He is coming off injury so he won’t immediately take over but should be firmly entrenched come midseason.

#5 – Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

CB Jason McCourty is a UFA in 2018 so I expect the Titans to draft his replacement at #5.  They can take that luxury pick because they have the #18 where they can go for an offensive weapon for Marcus Mariota.  Lattimore is young, he’s only a redshirt sophomore, and only had 16 career games at Ohio State.  He would benefit from that time behind McCourty if they don’t push him into the lineup beside him right away.

#6 – Jets – Jamal Adams, S, LSU

I don’t believe any of this year’s QBs are worth the #6 pick so the Jets should go BPA and take Adams.  His stock has fallen slightly recently so he might still be available here rather than going in the Top 5 as was previously thought.  Many mocks have Fournette going here but with the serviceable duo of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell I don’t think they would invest this heavily at RB.

#7 – Chargers – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

I’m sure the Chargers would prefer safeties Hooker or Adams but they will likely miss out.  Instead, they will have to settle for the next best CB to help their secondary.  This feels like a great spot for a team to trade up and grab the first QB (I think the Panthers, Bengals and Bills are pretty solid with who they want and who will be available so don’t think those three would trade back) or for somebody to grab Fournette before the Panthers do.

#8 – Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette won’t come into the NFL as much of a sure-thing as Zeke Elliott was last year, but he’s pretty close.  Dynasty players have been planning for Fournette for two years now.  The Panthers did just extend Jonathan Stewart’s contract but Ron Rivera has a history of using multiple RBs (i.e. Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert) so I don’t think that precludes them from taking Fournette.  I could foresee two seasons of a Fournette-Stewart combo that helps Cam stop taking so many hits on short-yardage plays and extend his career.

#9 – Bengals – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

The Bengals lost Karlos Dansby in free agency, signed Kevin Minter to replace him and still have Vincent Rey on the roster.  Foster totaled 115 tackles and 5 sacks in 2016, including 12 tackles and a sack in the championship game against Clemson.  Foster will instantly be the best ILB on the roster so this is a no-brainer.

#10 – Bills – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Personally, I have Williams ranked below Corey Davis but I’m not sure if most NFL teams would agree.  Now that he got his new contract, Tyrod Taylor will need some help; the Bills lost Robert Woods this offseason and Sammy Watkins is unreliable due to injury.  I also would not be surprised to see the Bills go for OJ Howard or David Njoku here and be the first team to start the run on TE.  Williams injury history (he missed all of 2015 with a neck injury) does worry me but he did return just fine in 2016.  He has a big frame that helps him catch off target passes which is good when you have an average quarterback.

#11 – Saints – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Charlton is the biggest DE in the Top 100 or so prospects and had more tackles and sacks than Myles Garrett last year.  If Charlton’s 40-yard dash wasn’t so bad (4.92) he could have snuck further up the draft board.  The Saints were 28th in sacks last season and Charlton will help get pressure on the QB.  And, just think of the marketing possibilities with a guy named Taco.

#12 – Browns – Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC

If the Browns only had one pick in the first round, I don’t think they would use it on Trubisky.  However, to leave the first round with Garrett AND Trubisky is huge – that could set up the franchise for a decade to come if both hit.  Trubisky is a hometown guy (from Mentor, only about 30 min outside of Cleveland) and seems to be the consensus best QB in this class.  I don’t think Trubisky is good enough to start from Day One since he is so inexperienced but maybe since he doesn’t go #1 overall the Browns can be more patient.

#13 – Cardinals – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

We all know that the QBs will be drafted higher than their value warrants and I think this is the most “reach” of a pick thus far.  I don’t like Watson but he does have a championship pedigree and seems to have good leadership skills.  He won’t need to start at all in 2017, barring an injury to Carson Palmer, and that should help his long term prospects.

#14 – Eagles – Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford

Matt Waldman has compared Christian McCaffery to Brian Westbrook.  Eagles head coach Doug Pederson played with Westbrook on the Eagles in 1999 and was on the coaching staff at the back end of Westbrook’s career there so you’d assume there is some synergy there.  I still believe McCaffery is a better football player than a RB but given the lackluster options ahead of him on the depth chart (Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood), McCaffery could see significant time right away if taken by Philly.  McCaffery had a staggering 6,000+ all-purpose yards combined in 2015 and 2016.

#15 – Colts – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

This OT draft class is historically bad as we have investigated.  In most years, Ramczyk would be the 3rd or 4th best tackle but this year he is probably the best despite being injured.  I would hope that by now the Colts brass are tired of Andrew Luck missing games due to injury or playing hurt and are willing to invest some draft capital to fix that problem.  Unfortunately this is not a more talent rich class at the position but that doesn’t mean they can just ignore the need.

#16 – Ravens – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Steve Smith has retired (presumably), leaving Mike Wallace (who was the team’s leading WR in 2016) and injury prone Breshad Perriman at the top of the depth chart.  Wallace is already 30 and is just not very good so to rely on him in 2017 is likely a mistake.  Enter Corey Davis who is a great route runner with a good combination of size and speed.  Davis is #1 on the all-time NCAA receiving yards list and is #2 in TDs and #4 in receptions.  Davis doubled, or nearly doubled, Mike Williams in most counting stats.  It shouldn’t be surprising that Davis’ numbers are better given that Williams missed 2015 but to see the stats doubled is surprising (Davis played 50 career games, Williams played 38).  He’s good and he’s the guy I’m targeting at the top of my RSO rookie drafts.

To be continued…

**Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  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
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com

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.

GM’s Guide to Matt Waldman’s RSP

Updated: July 23rd 2017

There are a lot of dynasty resources out there but none of them is as comprehensive as Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio (RSP).  There are two parts to the RSP, the Rookie Scouting Portfolio proper which is released before the NFL draft, and the Post-Draft update. First time readers will undoubtedly be overwhelmed as I was in 2015 when I first bought the RSP but don’t be dissuaded!  After two years, I am far from an RSP expert but I truly believe that the amount of research you do is directly correlated to your long term dynasty success.  Whether you spend an hour with the RSP, cherry picking paragraphs about your favorite players, or power through the full 1,600 page document, you’ll be a more informed dynasty owner because of it.  It should be no surprise that the RSP is not perfect in it’s predictions and conclusions, nothing can be given such a fickle topic, but don’t let that discourage you from purchasing again in the future even if you miss on somebody this season; past issues are a treasure trove of information when players change teams or hit free agency.  Because of the unique cap/contract format of RSO, I thought it would be helpful to present some tips for RSO owners to get the most out of the RSP.  For more information about the RSP, testimonials and details on how to purchase it, click here.

Pair Rookie Productivity Charts with Depth Chart Notes

The RSP has rookie productivity charts for each position.  These charts are based on the last ten years of rookies and show the average production for a player who had a certain threshold of passes/rushes/receptions.  For example, there were 63 RBs in the sample who had at least 100 rushing attempts in their rookie season; those backs averaged nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 6 TDs.  When the threshold increases, obviously so does the production (i.e. a better rookie will end up getting more touches).  I find it interesting that there seems to be a sweet spot in the 150-200 carry range that can net you some great value with your RSO rookie draft picks.  Somebody like Zeke Elliot who is going to be a starter from day one is an obvious early draft pick but does not offer much value.  The key is being able to identify which rookie backs will get the opportunity to fall in that 150-200 carry range where their value is maximized.  In 2016, the rookie backs who did were Rob Kelley (168 carries) and Devontae Booker (174).  Kelly was far off the radar in May of last year for RSO owners, Booker, though, is the real takeaway.  Similar to the Redskins and Matt Jones, the Broncos have been hesitant to commit to CJ Anderson and ended up drafting Booker in 2016.  If you grabbed Booker in your 2016 rookie draft despite him not being the immediate starter, you were rewarded with some decent output and hopefully a future starter.  Jordan Howard ended up exceeding the 200 carry mark, but is a further example of a shaky incumbent leading to a great rookie pick.  By pairing Waldman’s rookie productivity charts with his depth chart notes, you can find rookies like Booker who have a shorter path to meaningful production and draft accordingly in the late 1st and early 2nd rounds of your rookie draft.

Pay Attention to ADP Value Designations

In the Post-Draft update, there is a lot of ADP data.  My favorite way to view this data is through the lens of Waldman’s “value designations.”  These notations are formatted like “over 5” or “under 5.”  What that means is that Waldman feels that that player is either being over- or under-drafted by that many spots.  This data is useful in two ways because it can help you avoid reaching for a player and it can also help you identify a bargain in RSO contract terms.  Out of the top 24 rookies by ADP (so about the first two rounds of your rookie draft), Waldman identified C.J. Prosise, Pharoh Cooper and Kenyan Drake as over-drafted players.  Prosise and Drake have some value but the difference between where you had to draft them based on ADP and where they were valued by Waldman’s research is about $500,000 (or, exactly how much you might need for that mid-season waiver wire savior).  Instead, you could have realized the lack of talent at your pick, traded back, and drafted somebody like Tajae Sharp a little later and received a better return on investment.  Conversely, players like Kenneth Dixon and Malcolm Mitchell were marked as under-drafted heading into 2016.  Getting a bargain on a potential contributor when you draft these guys can help set you up for future salary cap success.

Don’t Fall in Love with Lottery Tickets

Those of you who are college football fans like myself will likely recognize some of the names in the “UDFAs to Watch” and the “Fantasy Waiver Wire Gems” sections in the Post-Draft update.  Undoubtedly it’s a great list for deep dynasty leagues or those with a taxi squad but as an RSO owner it’s easy to get excited by this and suffer from confirmation bias.  Don’t fall in love with them and take their inclusion as confirmation that you should take them in your RSO rookie draft.  Most RSO leagues (check your settings) will not have a deep enough roster to warrant taking these players.  If your league rosters 35+ players, maybe, but anything less and I think you should stay away.  That is not to say that these players will never “hit,” I just mean that they are at least two years away from being relevant and until then it will tie up much needed salary cap space.  It may not sound like much, but that $900,000 you commit to your 3rd round rookie pick could keep you from picking up that free agent RB you desperately need or keep you from completing a trade because you’d be receiving more salary than you have space for.  Even if you have salary cap available, you’re going to be faced with cutting that lottery ticket and you’ll take the cap hit to add insult to injury.  In 2015, one of those guys I fell in love with in the RSP and nearly drafted was Zach Zenner.  On my 23-man roster, I would definitely have been forced to cut him before he became useful for a few games late in 2016.  In 2016, two of those UDFAs I had my eye on were Peyton Barber and Jalen Richard.  Ultimately, Barber offered minimal contribution despite the Bucs RB injuries; Richard looks like he could be a better pro than fantasy asset (especially in standard where his 29 receptions wouldn’t count) because his production was decent but inconsistent.  Don’t forget, RSO is not like other dynasty formats where you can be more patient with a player.  If you’re drawing a salary for my RSO team you better be closer to contributing or I’ll have to find somebody who is.  That “what have you done for me lately” mentality is one of the things that makes RSO so similar to the real NFL.

Be sure to purchase the RSP on April 1 and get a head start on your league.  Check back again after the draft and I will try to apply some of the above lessons to the 2017 draft class.


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.

Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Fantasy Doc OC’s Gameplan #1

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”Robert Louis Stevenson

Rarely as fantasy players do we get to witness the marriage of the very worst to the very best.   The romcom equivalent of the bride and groom at the altar destined for unspeakable calamity until the voice of reason crying from the congregation to “stop.”   This year we get a fantasy union of striking proportions and no one is screaming any objections just yet. This year’s most eligible bachelor comes in the form of an offensive coordinator-turned head coach.  His blushing bride, the worst offense if football. My contention is that offensive coordinators are one of the most crucial, least evaluated variables in fantasy production.   There is little glamour to be found in glitchy microsoft pads or dapper headsets that make up the tools of the offensive coordinator’s trade, but I will attempt to offer some predictive claims based on the scoring opportunities   This series of articles will dive into the potential impact of new playcallers on your fantasy players.  Consider two teams:

Team A: Finished dead last in the league in 2016.  The percent of team’s drives ending in an offensive score at 21.8%

Team B: Topped the league in the same category with a staggering 52.9% of its drives ending with an offensive score.

The good news is fantasy players have every reason to hope that a coordinator that pops off at a better rate than Steph Curry in the bay area will be able to pan some fantasy gold.   The 49ers are team A in the scenario above, and team B is your NFC Champion Falcons.   Kyle Shanahan’s best performance was amplified by the steady hand of Matt Ryan, the breathtaking talent of Julio Jones, and one of the league’s deepest backfields.   It is a fool’s errand to attempt to parse exactly how much is Shanahan and how much production stems from the array of talent at his disposal, but consider his scoring performance across three franchises and his other five seasons at the helm of the offense:

Falcons

Overall Offense/Percent of Scoring Drives

17th overall/34.5 %

Browns

27th overall/28.0 %

Redskins

27th overall/ 27.6

6th overall/39.3

21st overall/30.9

Shanahan comes out at a six year average of 35.53% despite being tethered to the QB play of luminaries like Donovan McNabb 2.0, RG3, Brian Hoyer, and Johnny Manziel.   So it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he can work with the QB Hoyer/TBD of the SF 49ers.  35.53 would represent a 60% improvement over the scoring output of the 2016 49ers and would have been good for 18th in the league last year, nestled firmly between the Bengals and Ravens.  If, however, you want to strip 2016 as an outlier not truly indicative of Shanahan’s prowess, you are left with a scoring percentage of 32% over five seasons, pushing Shanahan down into the 2016 territory of the Bucs and Texans, but still a nearly 50% increase in production for the 49ers.  At the team level this suggest that the 309 total points produced by the 49ers could jump significantly.   Couple this with the Shanahan tendency to turn to his running backs in the red zone, and one player stands out as most set to benefit from Shanahan’s alchemy: Mr. Carlos Hyde.

Hyde’s new Dr. Jekyl engineered 18 high-leverage rushing attempts for Devonta Freeman inside the opponents 5 yard line, and targeted him 6 more times inside the 10, for a total of 24.   All year Carlos Hyde saw 6 rushing attempts inside the 5 and exactly 1 target inside the 10 yard line.   Hyde was able to ride significant volume in the Chip Kelly’s attack to a RB18 overall finish in PPR scoring formats 14th in standard.  Two more scores would have vaulted Hyde into RB1 status on the season.  It is time for RSO GM’s to follow Kyle Shanahan, fantasy prospector, out West to pan for the fantasy gold of a top 10 running back.


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.

Rookie Mock Draft v1.0

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Here it is folks, the much anticipated rookie mock draft you’ve been waiting for.  Let’s put a few things in context before we move on… Remember that it’s still March and players are liable to get hurt (or healthy) and that the value of the below players will inevitably shift once we know who they are drafted by.  Also, keep in mind that this is how I would draft for a “neutral” RSO team – your team’s positional needs and salary cap situation should greatly influence your own thinking.  For example, if you lucked into David Johnson two years ago but still finished last and grabbed Zeke in 2016, maybe Fournette isn’t the way to go at 1.01.  For the purposes of a narrative structure, I have grouped some of the players into similar talking points, their grouping is not necessarily reflective of a “tier” or anything else.

  • 1.01 – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

  • 1.02 – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

I’m not sure there is anything that can happen over the next month to make me change the position of either Fournette or Davis on my “Big Board.”  After my film study of the top players at their positions, I determined they were my favorite.  I compared Fournette to Adrian Peterson in my write up and think he will be the best bet to contribute immediately even on a bad team.  As for Davis, I believe he is the best combination of size, production and injury history at the WR position.  Dynasty League Football has Davis listed as 1.01 on their 2017 rookie rankings and I would not balk at that decision depending on your team’s composition.

  • 1.03 – Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

  • 1.04 – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

  • 1.05 – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

As sure as I am about Fournette and Davis not falling, these three are all neck and neck for me and will continue to fluctuate.  I did not include Mixon in my RB Film Study piece and am regretting it now.  Putting Mixon at 1.03 is a crapshoot but because he has the widest range of potential outcomes is exactly why I put him in that spot.  Because of his off the field issues, Mixon will not be drafted very high so there is a better chance that he lands on a good team who decides they are willing to take the chance.  There’s also a non-zero chance he isn’t drafted at all.  Who knows.  If it weren’t for his baggage, I don’t think anybody would question him this high.  As I discussed in my WR Film Study piece, Williams’ tape just does not impress me and I am worried about his 2015 neck injury.  Cook’s stock has fallen after his brutal combine performance despite his spectacular tape.

  • 1.06 – Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford

  • 1.07 – John Ross, WR, Washington

  • 1.08 – Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

  • 1.09 – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

These four just miss out on being considered at the top of the draft.  I think McCaffery’s immediate impact in the NFL will be as a third down back whose pass protection will keep him on the field unlike many rookie RBs; I don’t think he has enough Year One upside to draft any higher though.  Ross is obviously a burner but he has a long injury history and his value will heavily rely on who drafts him.  Kamara is a little under sized (5’10” and 214lb, very similar to Cook) and only had 210 career carries at Tennessee (a whopping fourteen games with single digit carries; for comparison McCaffery had 253 carries in 2016 alone).  Kamara did show out at the Combine in the vertical and broad jumps, unlike Cook, and could ultimately move up this list.  Smith-Schuster put up back-to-back 10 TD seasons at USC but is about 2 inches shorter than he should be to garner more draft attention.  Smith-Schuster compares well to DeAndre Hopkins at the 2013 Combine so while I’m cautious, I have some hope.

  • 1.10 – OJ Howard, TE, Alabama

  • 2.01 – Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss

  • 2.02 – David Njoku, TE, Miami

In one of my early offseason articles, I mentioned that 2017 could be the year of the running back in the NFL Draft.  2017 very well may go down as the year of the tight end in your RSO draft.  I grouped these three TEs here right at end of the 1st, start of the 2nd because honestly I don’t know where else to put them.  It’s hard to imagine three TEs being drafted by the time you hit 2.02 but these guys could arguably make an earlier impact for your RSO team than Kamara or Smith-Schuster.  I’m not quite ready to put them above those two though since they play more in-demand positions.  Engram ran a faster 40 yard dash than both Corey Davis and Mike Williams while Howard beat out Smith-Schuster.  Both Engram and Howard beat out Curtis Samuel in the 3 cone drill and the shuttle even though he he’s been lauded as a a versatile athlete by many.  Njoku does not quite measure up to Howard’s and Engram’s athleticism, although he was a state champion high jumper in high school, but the unknown about him (only 64 career receptions, only started playing football in middle school) has scouts salivating about his potential.

  • 2.03 – Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

  • 2.04 – D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas

  • 2.05 – Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State

Perine and Foreman are both two big backs (both weigh 233lb, Perine is 5’11” while Foreman is 6’0″).  The biggest differnece between the two comes down to experience for me.  Foreman bounded into the spotlight in 2016 with a 323 carry, 2,028 yards and 15 TD season (enough yards to be 23rd on the all-time single season list) but he was only a contributor in 2015.  Perine on the other hand, was a three year starter with three 1,000 yard seasons and 51 total TDs in his career.  I thought it was interesting too that Perine so handily outperformed Foreman in the bench press at the Combine, 30 reps to 18, despite their similar size.  Ultimately, I’ll go with Perine and what I deem to be a surer thing.  To highlight the trouble with Curtis Samuel, I have grouped him here with Foreman and Perine even though that is a horrible fit for his skill set.  Samuel could run into the same issue in the NFL where his versatility could end up being his downfall.  Samuel totaled 172 carries and 107 receptions in his Buckeye career.  He is the same height as McCaffery and Ross and falls between the two weight-wise which feels about right.  Ultimately his speed (4.31 40-yard dash) will make him desirable but I worry he will struggle to fit into every offense and could become a gadget player.

  • 2.06 – Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina

  • 2.07 – Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

  • 2.08 – KD Cannon, WR, Baylor

I’m torn on how to sort these three WRs but ended up going for the size and production of Zay Jones despite playing at a lesser school in East Carolina.  I also considered Carlos Henderson and Dede Westbrook but decided to leave them off.  Jones came in at 6’2″ and 201lb at the Combine and ran a solid 4.45 40-yard dash.  His production jumps off the page more than anything else though… 158 receptions, 1,746 yards and 8 TDs in 2016.  That wasn’t a one-time thing either – he totaled 399 receptions, 4,279 yards and 23 TDs in a four year career.  Much like Perine feels like a sure thing, so does Jones at this point in your rookie draft.  Dupre is of a similar size but just did not produce at LSU, likely due to ongoing quarterback issues.  Dupre has thirteen career games with 1 or 2 receptions while Cannon and Jones have twelve combined, most of which came in their freshman seasons.  Meanwhile, Cannon has the production, Baylor is a high volume air raid offense, but lacks size.  Cannon isn’t quite the same athlete as Corey Coleman who came out of this same offense last year but he’s close enough to warrant a chance.

  • 2.09 – Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson

  • 2.10 – Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

We’ve reached the point in the mock draft where I will call a few “shots.”  I fell in love with Gallman while I did research for my championship game preview back in January and I wish he was getting more love.  He had a bad Combine but I’m going to go against all logic and still hold out hope.  Gallman is a slasher who would be a great fit for a zone read scheme in the NFL.  His production was off the charts at Clemson despite having star QB Deshaun Watson hogging the spotlight (675 carries, 3,475 yards, 36 total TDs in three seasons as the primary running back).  I’m not ready to write Gallman off yet and want to be able to claim I was right when he inevitably blossoms on the right NFL team.  Similarly for Mahomes, I am doubling down on my previous love.  I don’t think he is the best QB coming out and he definitely won’t be the highest drafted but he’s the one I want on my RSO team provided I don’t need an immediate starter.  I predict Mahomes will be nabbed late in the first round, either by a playoff team or a team trading back into the first because they want him.  He needs help with his footwork and making full field reads but he has great arm strength and athleticism.  When watching tape, I saw him catch defenses making late substitutions for free plays (one of which turned into a touchdown), a la Aaron Rodgers.  College quarterbacks just don’t do that.  If I was an NFL GM, and I’m not so take all my suggestions with a big grain of salt, I would be getting Mahomes for my team.

Rookie Film Study: WRs

Updated: July 23rd 2017

I’ve wavered on my opinion of the top WRs in this class since January when we saw Corey Davis, John Ross and Mike Williams playing in their post New Year bowl games.  In fact, I ended up putting Ross ahead of Williams halfway through writing this piece but decided to flip-flop them again before publishing.  I’m not sure if the fact that the three of them played on very good teams (combined 39-4 in 2016) is correlation or causation but the reality is that they will each be drafted in the first round and will be difference makers in 2017.  It would be cliche to say that you can’t go wrong with any of them, so I won’t, but I will definitely revisit their order after the draft based on the fit with their NFL team because that will help provide some separation between them.

Corey Davis, Western Michigan

The production put up by Corey Davis at Western Michigan is astounding.  The counter-argument regarding his numbers is typically about the quality of his opponents.  That’s fair, but also keep in mind he’s not having passes thrown to him by a future NFL quarterback like Deshaun Watson.  In addition to his production, Davis has good size (6’3″ 209lb; same measurements as Devante Parker last year) and because of that, I’m not scared away by Davis’ “mid-major” resume.

I watched film of Davis playing against Buffalo and Wisconsin.  Time and again throughout both games, I was impressed by his field awareness and how he turns that into perfect routes.  Whether it is knowing exactly where the first down marker is or knowing when to drag a route versus turning up field.  He’s very physical and uses his body well, which was highlighted by a 2nd Quarter touchdown against Wisconsin when he basically boxed the defender out and made the catch look easy.  He did something similar against Buffalo where he ran a great route near the goal line which caused the defender to hold him as he cut towards the pylon, he fought through the hold and by sheer strength turned the play into a touchdown rather than an accepted penalty.  In addition to his physicality, he has quick feet which help him after the catch – specifically two spin moves he pulled against Buffalo, one of which went for a score.

I think Davis himself would admit that he’s not very fast, but he looks slow coming off the line in the tape I watched.  Probably for this reason, he often lines up in the slot where he can gain some momentum before making contact with the defender.  He’s the target of the occasional quick or bubble screen and even some jet sweeps to get him in open space where he can try to make tacklers miss but his lack of elite speed prevents either from being a true weapon in the playbook.  Davis was not called on often to block but when he did I would say he was below average, there was not a single time where I noted that he really helped a teammate gain extra yardage.  Against Buffalo, Davis did have a number of drops but that could have been caused by the intermittent snow that fell early in that game.

Finally, let’s take a closer look at Davis’ aforementioned record-setting stats.  He is 1st ALL-TIME in career receiving yards in the FBS.  He is 2nd all-time in career receiving touchdowns.  He is 4th all-time in career receptions.  When compared to fellow rookie Mike Williams, Davis nearly doubles Williams in the main counting stats (Williams did miss all but one game in 2015, but I was still surprised to see such a difference).  Corey Davis haters will point out that the top of those all-time stats are full of unrecognizable names but it’s still an impressive resume and if he performs well enough at his pro day (if he is healthy enough) it should cement his place atop my rankings.

Mike Williams, Clemson

The most important film you can watch of Mike Williams is of this play from 2015.  That neck injury forced him to miss essentially the entire 2015 season.  It was a scary injury that thankfully was not worse.  If I was drafting for my NFL team, that would most definitely be on my mind as it is for my RSO team.

In my notes from the Clemson vs Ohio State semi-final game, I wrote “Mike Williams is a man.  If he were 2 inches taller he would be a Top 3 pick in the NFL Draft.”  I still agree with that sentiment, but he isn’t taller and after watching film I’ve learned to love Corey Davis more.  Against Florida State, Williams faded into the background a bit, only catching 7 balls for 70 yards (he did catch a key 2pt conversion late).  What stood out most against FSU wasn’t Williams’ size or ability to catch the ball, it was actually his blocking.  On three occasions, one with Watson rushing and Gallman the other, Williams’ blocking on the edge allowed the team to get a first down and advance down the field.  I was similarly nonplussed by Williams’ performance against Louisville even though he was the victim of a few bad throws from Watson.  His best play against Louisville was a short catch where he fought back through the defender to catch the ball.

Like Davis, Williams has the physical size (6’4″ 218lb) to be a great NFL wide receiver, but after reviewing his combine results I am starting to question his athleticism.  Williams’ vertical jump of 32.5″ was 30th best and his broad jump of 121″ was 24th best.  I do have to admit that for his size, Williams ran a good 4.50 40-yard dash at his pro day.

Ultimately, I am too hesitant to take Williams ahead of Davis.  At this point, I’d rather be the guy who misses on Williams but gets solid production from Davis than the guy who takes him despite the neck injury, some lackluster tape and concerns about his athleticism and is stuck with a bad contract.

John Ross, Washington

John Ross is fast, no doubt about it.  My concern though is how does that fit into his NFL team’s offense.  I’m not willing to bump Ross above Williams or Davis at this point because his best trait could easily be wasted if he is not drafted by a team/coach with a good track record who would be willing to utilize him properly.  Imagine if Ross was on the Chiefs offense instead of Tyreek Hill last year.  Hill is a former high school track athlete who showcased his speed on his way to a 12 TD rookie season.  Now, think about the fact that Hill ran a 4.29 40-yard dash at his pro day (which is typically a more favorable environment than the Combine) while Ross ran a record 4.22 last week.  That .07 may not sound like a lot but it is and it shows just how Ross could make the most explosive NFL players look pedestrian.

What makes Ross’ speed more impressive is that he is doing it after knee injuries to both knees.  Like Williams, he missed the entire 2015 season.  Ross is also now dealing with a shoulder injury.   If I’m being fair, I have to knock Ross significantly for his injury history like I did for Williams.

It should come as no surprise given his raw speed, but Ross has great release off the line of scrimmage.  He easily gets past defenders and can then accelerate downfield.  Against Rutgers, he had two of these plays in the 1st Quarter that resulted in touchdowns (38 and 50 yards) and he also had one in the 3rd Quarter against USC (70 yards).  Once he got past the defender at the line of scrimmage there was really nothing the defense could do.  Even with safety help, Ross is at full speed in an instant and by the time the safety flips his hips and pursues it is too late.  Ross did not run as many screens as I expected, but I do imagine this being a bigger part of his game in the NFL where corners will be bigger and more adept at keeping him in front of them.  Not surprisingly, Ross did not block much; his contribution to the running game was often running a pattern in the opposite direction of the play to draw defensive attention.  He did add a kick return touchdown against Rutgers (and had 4 on his career) which could help Ross contribute right away on whatever team drafts him.

Honestly, I was expecting Ross to be smaller than what I saw when I started watching film. I had not seen much of him (yeah, yeah East Coast Bias) prior to my research and based off what I had heard on talk radio I assumed he was in the 5’8″ or 5’9″ range.  He measured in at 5’11” 188lb at the combine which puts him in the same vein as guys like Odell Beckham, Markus Wheaton and Corey Coleman; none would be considered tall receivers but they aren’t Dri Archer which is more like what I was expecting.  That bodes well for his ability to stick as a featured receiver in the league.

**Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  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
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com

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.

NFL Combine Aftermath

Updated: July 23rd 2017

We take a look at some of the top offensive skill position rookies this week following the NFL combine. The article focuses on how individuals and position groups as a whole performed relative to perceptions prior to the combine and what that could mean for draft status.

Running Backs

PLAYER HGT WGT ARMS HANDS 40 225 VJ BJ 20S 60S 3C
Cook, Dalvin 5′-10″ 210 32.375 9.25 4.49 22 30.5 9′-8″ 4.53 DNP 7.27
Foreman, D’Onta 6′-0″ 233 31.375 10.125 DNP 18 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Fournette, Leonard 6′-0″ 240 31.625 9.25 4.51 DNP 28.5 DNP DNP DNP DNP
Hunt, Kareem 5′-11″ 216 31.375 9.625 4.62 18 36.5 9′-11″ DNP DNP DNP
Kamara, Alvin 5′-10″ 214 32.75 9.25 4.56 15 39.5 10′-11″ DNP DNP DNP
Mccaffrey, Christian 5′-11″ 202 30 9 4.48 10 37.5 10′-1″ 4.22 11.03 6.57
Perine, Samaje 5′-11″ 233 30.375 10 4.65 30 33 9′-8″ 4.37 11.71 7.26
Mixon, Joe * 6′-1″ 228 10.25 4.50 21 35 9′-10″ 4.25 7.00
Table 1: Selected Running Back Performances from 2017 Combine * Pro Day Results

Leonard Fournette confirmed his freakish size-speed status running the forty yard dash in 4.51s at 240lbs.  Other consensus top pick, Dalvin Cook, disappointed in most drills compared to pre-combine expectations spotlighted by agility and explosion drills near the bottom of the class. Players with this type of athletic profile rarely get drafted early and do not often succeed at the NFL level. It was the type of performance that will have evaluators reviewing film and watching his pro day carefully. Christian McCaffrey shined throughout the combine process highlighted by exceptional agility marks and ultra-smooth receiving drills.  The question remains what fit the Stanford Cardinal will play at the NFL level.  McCaffrey’s traits profile more as a slot receiver but his diverse skill-set should ensure a significant role wherever he lands. Joe Mixon’s off the field issues are well documented but he has the least on-field questions of any running back in this class.  The Sooner possesses prototypical size, breakaway speed, strong athleticism, and superb receiving skills.

Most analysts predicted the running back group as the strength of the 2017 rookie class coming into the season.   We seem to have more questions than answers after an underwhelming combine for the group.  There are few complete top end prospects without question marks and no one from the lower tier of backs really emerged from the combine as someone challenging the top-tier prospects.  The group is very deep with individuals of varying skills who should contribute to NFL teams immediately.

Wide Receivers

PLAYER HGT WGT ARMS HANDS 40 225 VJ BJ 20S 60S 3C
Davis, Corey 6′-3″ 209 33 9.125 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Dupre, Malachi 6′-3″ 196 31.5 9 4.52 11 39.5 11′-3″ 4.26 11.88 7.19
Jones, Zay 6′-2″ 201 32.5 9 4.45 15 36.5 11′-1″ 4.01 11.17 6.79
Kupp, Cooper 6′-2″ 204 31.5 9.5 4.62 DNP 31 9′-8″ 4.08 DNP 6.75
Ross, John 5′-11″ 188 31.5 8.75 4.22 DNP 37 11′-1″ DNP DNP DNP
Samuel, Curtis 5′-11″ 196 31.25 9.5 4.31 18 37 9′-11″ 4.33 DNP 7.09
Smith-Schuster, Juju 6′-1″ 215 32.875 10.5 4.54 15 32.5 10′-0″ DNP DNP DNP
Williams, Mike 6′-4″ 218 33.375 9.375 DNP 15 32.5 10′-1″ DNP DNP DNP
Table 2: Selected Wide Receiver Performances from 2017 Combine

Two top receivers, Corey Davis and Mike Williams, provided very little information at the combine.  Davis did not perform due to an injury and Williams did not perform in any running drills. John Ross and Curtis Samuel both blazed incredible forty times highlighted by Ross’ combine record-setting performance.  These are completely different players, however.  Ross will be utilized primarily as a lid-lifting deep threat whereas Samuel is more of a do-it-all player in the mold of Tyreek Hill and Percy Harvin with value in the receiving, rushing, and return game. Zay Jones turned in one of the more impressive all-around performances of any receiver, excelling across the board in every drill.

This class is shallow at the top of with very few players possessing the ideal size and athleticism of traditional high end receiving options from previous years. This group is in no way without talent, however.  The combine brought far more depth into view than many realized coming into the combine and should provide a large number of NFL contributors.  Many small school receivers including Jones, Taywan Taylor, and Carlos Henderson displayed NFL-caliber athleticism confirming their college production was more than just scheme-based against inferior competition.

Tight Ends

PLAYER HGT WGT ARMS HANDS 40 225 VJ BJ 20S 60S 3C
Butt, Jake 6′-6″ 246 32 10 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Engram, Evan 6′-3″ 234 33.5 10 4.42 19 36 10′-5″ 4.23 DNP 6.92
Hodges, Bucky 6′-6″ 257 32.5 10.125 4.57 18 39 11′-2″ 4.45 12.08 DNP
Howard, O.J. 6′-6″ 251 33.75 10 4.51 22 30 10′-1″ 4.16 11.46 6.85
Leggett, Jordan 6′-6″ 258 33.5 10.375 DNP 18 33 9′-6″ 4.33 12.06 7.12
Njoku, David 6′-4″ 246 35.25 10 4.64 21 37.5 11′-1″ 4.34 DNP 6.97
Table 3: Selected Tight End Performances from 2017 Combine

O.J. Howard cemented his place among the top tight end prospects.  He possesses NFL size, great speed (he matched Leonard Fournette’s forty-time weighing 11 more lbs), and he scored highest among tight ends in agility drills. Evan Engram produced a workout which would make most wide receivers jealous highlighted by a jaw-dropping 4.42 forty time.  Engram is the premier split tight end in this class and a matchup nightmare with comparisons to Washington star Jordan Reed common. David Njoku was considered the best raw athlete among tight ends pre-combine and his performance impressed.  The former youth high jump champion from Miami excelled in explosion and agility drills.  Only 20 years old, Njoku has room to grow both physically and learning the position. Bucky Hodges possibly raised his status more than any tight end with a great all around performance.  He routinely beat college defenders on jump balls and that explosiveness was demonstrated at the combine with tremendous best-in-position numbers in the vertical and broad jumps.

Overall, the combine boosted the tight end position to extraordinary heights. Already considered one of the strengths of the rookie class, many now think the position group is among the best in recent memory.  While the top tier of prospects certainly excited, there are intriguing prospects littered throughout the class.  6’-7” 278 lb behemoth Adam Shaheen from Division II Ashland played basketball in college and displays rare receiving skills for someone of his size.  Another example from a small school athlete, Gerald Everett out of South Alabama displayed dynamic hybrid tight end/ wide receiver skills throughout the year and at the combine.

Quarterbacks

PLAYER HGT WGT ARMS HANDS 40 225 VJ BJ 20S 60S 3C
Kizer, Deshone 6′-4″ 233 33.125 9.875 4.83 30.5 8”11″ 4.53 DNP 7.4
Mahomes, Patrick 6′-2″ 225 33.25 9.25 4.8 30 9′-6″ 4.08 DNP 6.88
Trubisky, Mitchell 6′-2″ 222 32 9.5 4.67 27.5 9′-8″ 4.25 DNP 6.87
Watson, Deshaun 6′-2″ 221 33 9.75 4.66 32.5 9′-11″ 4.31 DNP 6.95
Table 4: Selected Quarterback Performances from 2017 Combine

I questioned myself about adding athletic results for quarterbacks from the combine. The information provides limited useful data concerning quarterback evaluation except for those QBs who rely on rushing as a major component of their value (think Michael Vick and Tyrod Taylor).  The combine results tended to reinforce much of what was already known about the prospects. Deshone Kizer checks the physical boxes for a limited-mobility, prototypical-sized quarterback while Patrick Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky, and Deshaun Watson displayed very good agility in a somewhat undersized frame.  The velocity data featured Mahomes’ (60 MPH) big arm with Kizer (56) and Trubisky (55) displaying solid NFL speed.  Watson’s (49) velocity is at the very low end ever recorded at the combine and the results of similarly measured prospects do not provide much hope for Watson at the NFL level.  Velocity is certainly not the primary trait concerning quarterback success but the lack of velocity will require a degree of decision-making, anticipation, and accuracy which has, at best, been inconsistent in Watson’s college career.

Overall, the combine did not really change the perception of the quarterback class. This is not a good year for NFL teams in need of a franchise quarterback.  In addition to Watson’s issues; Kizer (accuracy), Mahomes (mechanics, decision-making), and Trubisky (experience) possess at least one major red flag that makes each more of a project than an NFL player ready to lead  a franchise.

Overview

2017 is a far deeper class for offensive skill position players when compared with the 2016 class. Just three rookie running backs from 2016 received 150 touches and only 2 wide receivers garnered 100 targets.  Do not expect two rookies to lead the league in rushing again or any wide receiver to see the kind of production of the Saints Michael Thomas, but the talent is available in 2017 to double the number of rookies with the afore-mentioned volume numbers.  This class also contains the tight end talent to impact games in a way we rarely see from rookies at the position.


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.