RSO Writers’ League Rookie Draft

Updated: July 16th 2017

For our RSO readers, we wanted to give an open look into our Writer’s League Rookie Draft. Since we did our draft through an email chain we started by declaring our franchised players for the upcoming season. A list of who was tagged and for how much is listed below followed by the pick-by-pick selections and comments from each owner.

Stephen Wendell – Jimmy Graham ($10,331,667)

I tagged Jimmy Graham because I am obviously so confident in the draft pick I just made (Engram)

Luke Patrick – Travis Kelce ($10,331,667)

I tagged Travis Kelce because I assume any guy with a reality show is a good investment for football purposes.

Matt Goodwin – Melvin Gordon ($20,323,333)

I tagged Melvin Gordon because, well he dominated last year and has less competition this year. The $20.3m price tag seemed about right compared to what I thought he’d get on the open market.

Kyle English – Matt Ryan ($19,242,667)

I tagged Matt Ryan because he has Julio and should come out and torch everyone after last year’s super bowl embarrassment.

Nick Andrews – Drew Brees ($24,311,719)

I tagged Drew Brees for several reasons:

  1. a) Many of the other QBs were being tagged leaving Brees to be the target of the auction if I let him go
  2. b) Being in a win now mode allowed me to justify overpaying from the usually conservative salaries I give QBs and;
  3. c) There was enough interest in Brees through trade talks that if I am unsuccessful in my quest for a repeat championship he should bring back a couple of decent assets during this season.

Matt Papson – Eli Manning ($19,242,667)

I decided to tag Eli for $19.2MM despite the hefty price tag and my significant dollar commitments to other quarterbacks for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a superflex league where quarterbacks are the highest scoring position and where I feel the ownership (in general) is severely undervaluing quarterbacks. Two, I believe Eli is poised to have perhaps the finest statistical year of his career, but I’m not confident about his long-term prospects. Finally, even though I’ve got a bunch of money tied up in Andrew Luck & Carson Palmer, I’m not 100% confident Palmer will return to form, even though I still feel good about the odds.

Jaron Foster – Jameis Winston ($19,242,667)

Given the superflex format and lack of quality quarterbacks that will be available in the auction, the franchise tag price seemed reasonable to keep a young QB who is ready to take the next step with some new toys to play with.

Bob Cowper – None

I tagged nobody because, well, my team just wasn’t very good.

Dave Sanders – None

Bernard Faller – None

2017 RSO Writer’s League Draft Results

Below is a transcription of each pick and comments that the owner made during their selection. Included also are the trades that occurred during the draft.

Corey Davis

1.01 – Corey Davis

Luke Patrick: I opted for Corey Davis, but it was a hard call for me with Fournette and McCaffrey beckoning at a position of need.   With a bloated A-Rob (Allen Robinson) contract and an invaluable 4-year control on a potential stud WR proved too much for me to resist, I opted for the potential HR.

1.02 – Leonard Fournette

Bob Cowper: Even though Jacksonville isn’t great, I think he will be dominant enough to be a valuable fantasy player from the start (albeit less so than Zeke).  I think Fournette’s pass catching ability is underrated so as long as he can be an average pass blocker he has a shot at staying on the field for 3 downs.

1.03 – Christian McCaffrey

Jaron Foster: Between draft stock and lack of competition, this is a fairly easy choice for me. He should have a high PPR floor even if he doesn’t turn into a 3-down back and a high ceiling if he does.

1.04 – Joe Mixon

Matt Papson: I entered the Rookie draft with selections 4 and 6. My plan, which was feasible until a few weeks before the draft, was to land two of the four elite running backs — Fournette, McCaffrey, Mixon, and Cook. When the draft fell Davis, Fournette, McCaffrey, I was faced with a difficult decision. I preferred Mixon to Cook, though not by much, and I thought there was a chance if I took Cook, perhaps Mixon would still be around at 6. I was not confident the opposite would be true.

1.05 – Dalvin Cook

Nick Andrews: I traded up before the draft started sending the 1.10 and a 2018 1st knowing that I wanted to get one of the top 5 rookies. Once all the other players were selected through the first four this was an easy choice to make. Cook was considered the 1.01 up until the combine and depending on your expectations from Latavius Murray this could be his backfield from week 1. He has the skills to be a 3-down back and should help to take some pressure off of Sam Bradford.

1.06 – Mike Williams

Papson: As it turned out it didn’t matter. I took Mixon, Cook went 5th, and I was essentially forced to take Mike Williams by default. Williams is the #1 WR on my board but was not planning to take unless I had to because of existing depth at the position. Best available reigns supreme.

1.07 – O.J. Howard

Bob: Struggled with this one a bit.  I haven’t been shy about my Howard concerns – he’s obviously an athletic freak but he was so underutilized at Alabama and so much of his production came in two games against Clemson.  To those who argue that the Alabama offense just doesn’t use the TE, I would counter by saying that it hasn’t relied on a run-first QB like Jalen Hurts either but Saban found a freak athlete he just had to work into the game plan.  Why not with Howard?  He might have the lowest floor of some of the others in contention at 1.07 but it’s hard to say no to somebody of his size and speed.  Having Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson under contract also factored in, figured I should fill the TE spot rather than taking John Ross or reaching for one of the second-tier RBs.

1.08 – Kareem Hunt

Matt Goodwin: As someone who owned Spencer Ware last season in this league, I’m picking Kareem Hunt because I think he’s very talented and in a situation where he can win the Chiefs starting running back job this season and if he does, that’s fantasy gold. I’m intrigued by the fact that Pro Football Focus ranked him third in its elusiveness rating. Also, the Chiefs traded up to get him, which speaks volumes about what they think of him. Hunt caught six balls in multiple games this season and has a nose for the end zone and big plays. I’m happy to pick what some are calling the “steal of the NFL draft” and who Louis Riddick had effusive praise for, comparing him to Emmitt Smith. As someone who graduated from Miami University, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to pick a future star from the MAC.

1.09 – Alvin Kamara

Jaron: I took Kamara to back up the newly acquired Mark Ingram. It would have been difficult to choose between Hunt and Kamara, given Hunt’s ideal landing spot, so I’m glad the decision was made for me. I expect Kamara will sit behind Ingram and AP for a year, and then will take over when one or both leave the bayou.

1.10 – John Ross

Kyle English: Don’t really need a WR, but that’s far and away where the best value is at this point.  Still struggled quite a bit with this one, but ultimately decided on Ross.  Quite worried about competition for targets there in Cincy and his injury history, but at the 1.10 I can’t let him fall any further.

*TRADE ALERT*

Bob Trades: Jordy Nelson

Luke Trades: 2.08, 2.06, Giovanni Bernard, Tyler Lockett

*TRADE ALERT*

Papson Trades: 1.06 (Mike Williams)

Luke Trades: 2.01, 2.09, 2018 2nd, Jerrick McKinnon

 

2.01 – Juju Smith-Schuster

Papson: Flush with 3 2018 1st round picks, and with 7, 8, and 9 (Howard, Hunt, Kamara) falling fairly favorably, I briefly negotiated for the 1.10 before making a deal for 2.01 and 2.09 in exchange for Mike Williams. My intention here was to end up with two of the following three: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Patrick Mahomes, and DeShaun Watson. I took Juju at 2.01, though I pondered both Mahomes and Watson in that slot. Depending on who you ask, JuJu could be ranked as high as 7th and low as 27th, but I wasn’t willing to wait any longer.

2.02 – Chris Godwin

Bob: He was my best player available (#8 on my board) and even though I already took Howard (and have Martin) I’m going for it.  As a Michigan and Rutgers fan, it kills me but I loved watching him play this year. Godwin makes spectacular high point catches and should see lesser coverage with all the other weapons. I really wanted Davis at 1.02 but figured Godwin would be my backup at 2.02.

2.03 – Evan Engram

Bernard Faller: My top fantasy TE in the class but is really just a pass catcher.  Unlike most TEs, his maturity as a receiver makes him ready to play from day one.  The ridiculous combination of size, speed, and athleticism is virtually unmatched by any receiver in this class.

2.04 – David Njoku

Stephen Wendell: Miami must not have had a lot of favorable lines this year because I spent no time watching any Miami football, but I tend to only watch college football where I have some action, but that tends to be most games, so I am not sure how I missed him. That said, even if I had watched him, my opinion of rookies means nothing and Bob Cowper’s means everything to me… the guy is an animal, a Matt Waldman in the making. And he has Njoku ranked 12…his BPA is Zay Jones who I like as well, but not a perfect situation for him in Buffalo and he kind of feels like a guy that may be pretty great (if he becomes great) at the end of his rookie deal when he is likely a FA already in our league. Additionally, someone has to catch some passes for the Browns this year, whether it is Osweiler or Kizer (or Jimmy G??) throwing them, so why not a stud TE to grab a few and pick up a few red zone scores (he grabbed 8 last year). Lastly, a severe position of need for me, especially if Fleener does not play better in NO this season.

*TRADE ALERT*

Luke Trades: Josh Gordon, 2019 1st

Kyle Trades: Blake Bortles, Laquon Treadwell

*TRADE ALERT*

Papson Trades: 2018 1st

Kyle Trades: 2.05

2.05 – Patrick Mahomes

Papson: As the round progressed, I got a little anxious about the fact that Mahomes and Watson might both be gone by 2.09, and I then decided I wanted to find a way to get both. I tried desperately to acquire 2.06 and 2.08 from Rookie Draft aficionado Bob Cowper but quickly realized that would be futile. I instead moved up to 2.05, where I selected Mahomes because in Andy I trust.

2.06 – Mitchell Trubisky

Bob: I wanted Mahomes and should have pulled the trigger to move to 2.05.  Guess I did the reverse-Bears.  I think the QBs are being undervalued for our superflex league so I still wanted to go for one and took Trubisky.  I hope he doesn’t start in the NFL this season because he’s not ready (neither is Mahomes but I think his ceiling is higher). I went for a similar guy last year in Jared Goff and while that may not work out, hoarding young QBs on cheap contracts can only end up hitting sooner or later.

*TRADE ALERT*

Papson Trades: 2.09, Jerrick McKinnon

Goody Trades: 2.07, Sterling Shepard

2.07 – DeShaun Watson

Papson: I made some nifty moves to swap 2.09 & 2.07 so that I could also grab Watson and complete my triumvirate.

2.08 – Zay Jones

Bob: It wasn’t who I was targeting here since I figured he’d be gone. The Bills don’t trust Sammy Watkins so at worst he’s a year away from being the number one and in the meantime should have PPR value.

*TRADE ALERT*

Papson Trades: Kelvin Benjamin

Stephen Trades: 2018 2nd

*TRADE ALERT*

Goody Trades: Jerrick McKinnon

Kyle Trades: Josh Gordon

2.09 – DeShone Kizer

Goody: In short-SuperKizeme! For my squad heading into the rookie draft, my hope was to dump some salary and keep my picks intact as best as possible. After giving away Mark Ingram ($18m this year) before the draft, I thought that effort was done until Matt Papson offered to take one year of Sterling Shepard for $9.9m off my books to swap 2.07 for his 2.09, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to enter our auction with the most cap space in the league. I would have taken DeShaun Watson at 2.07, but am happy I get to take a super-cheap flyer on DeShone Kizer. As a Cleveland Browns fan, I liked the pick and think there is some time for Kizer to grow. The physical tools are there and in this superflex league if Kizer becomes a star that will be incredibly valuable to me. So in the end, guys like Samaje Perine and Cooper Kupp move to the background and Kizer has me dreaming of a QB from my youth with a similar sounding name-Kosar (as in Bernie). #Believeland

*TRADE ALERT*

Papson Trades: Sterling Shepard, Michael Floyd, 2018 1st

Bernard Trades: 2.10

2.10 – Curtis Samuel

Papson: I ditched some players’ salaries and a final 2018 1st to get to 2.10 to select Mr. Irrelevant, Curtis Samuel.

*TRADE ALERT*

Luke Trades: Mike Williams, 2018 1st

Bernard Trades: Tyrod Taylor, 2018 1st

2017 Writer’s League Rookie Draft Results

1.01 – Corey Davis – Luke 2.01 – Juju Smith-Schuster – Papson (thru Luke)
1.02 – Leonard Fournette – Bob 2.02 – Chris Godwin – Bob
1.03 – Christian McCaffrey – Jaron 2.03 – Evan Engram – Bernard
1.04 – Joe Mixon – Papson 2.04 – David Njoku – Stephen
1.05 – Dalvin Cook – Nick 2.05 – Patrick Mahomes – Papson (thru Kyle)
1.06 – Mike Williams – Bernard (thru Luke, thru Papson) 2.06 – Mitchell Trubisky – Bob (thru Luke)
1.07 – O.J. Howard – Bob 2.07 – DeShaun Watson – Papson (thru Goody)
1.08 – Kareem Hunt – Goody 2.08 – Zay Jones – Bob (thru Luke)
1.09 – Alvin Kamara – Jaron 2.09 – DeShone Kizer – Goody (thru Papson thru Luke)
1.10 – John Ross – Kyle 2.10 – Curtis Samuel – Papson (thru Bernard)

Top 100: RSO Rookie Rankings

Updated: July 23rd 2017

To answer the question right at the top… Yes, I still have Leonard Fournette as my 1.01.  I’m sure we’ll spill much digital ink over the coming months debating the pick but I think he will be dominant and with so much draft capital invested, the Jaguars will have to stay dedicated.

The lifeblood of every dynasty team are it’s incoming rookies, like Fournette.  The only problem is that few rookies are as well-known as Fournette and so many owners don’t have the time to devote to doing research on who the rookies are and how their landing spot impacts their RSO outlook.  Throughout the last three months, I have done the research for you and have come up with what you will see below: RSO’s top 100 rookies.

This was a fascinating exercise for me because after I started, I realized there were still a number of players even I needed to do more research on.  For example, at one point I realized I was getting the two RB Elijahs mixed up (Hood: UNC and McGuire: LA-Lafayette) despite having opposite skill sets because I had them listed consecutively on my RB ranking (for the record: even though I prefer Hood for his bigger frame and the way he always fights forward, I pushed McGuire above him because of his fit with the Jets and path to touches).  I first started making rankings for each position so I could easily compare players and develop tiers within each position.  Next, I decided how I would value positions based on my league assumptions (see below).  Then, I massaged the positional rankings together using my tiers and positional values to help determine the overall rankings.  Finally, I fine tuned throughout the draft to adjust positional and overall rankings based on team fit.  It was a time consuming exercise for sure, but one I would recommend for RSO owners, just on a smaller scale (I would suggest however many rookie picks your league has + 5).

Before we get to the rankings, a few notes:

  1. I created these rankings assuming the following starting lineup in a 10-12 team league: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, OFLEX, DL, LB, DB, DFLEX.
  2. I assumed 0.5PPR but otherwise standard scoring (i.e. a slight bump to WR and pass catching RBs).  IDP scoring can vary quite significantly in my experience but I assumed the typical key stats of tackles, sacks and INTs.
  3. If you are in a Superflex or 2QB league, I would recommend moving the QBs up about 10-15 spots.
  4. If your IDP league uses more starters (meaning more will be drafted) you should move IDP players up about 5 spots as the value of the best IDP players will increase.
  5. I ranked at least 10 QB, TE, DL, LB and DB and at least 20 RB and WR.  I figured all but the deepest of leagues would need to go deeper than that at each position.  Determining how some DE/OLB will be listed is tough at this point but when in doubt I used NFL.com’s listed position.
  6. As you go down the list, the amount of research done on a given player admittedly decreases, so to do the strong opinions.  I feel much more strongly about Mixon over Cook than I do about Clement over Pumphrey.
  7. Keep in mind that these rankings are being finalized on Saturday, April 29.  Much can, and will, change before you draft.

Rank First Name Last Name Position Pos Rank
1 Leonard Fournette RB RB1
2 Corey Davis WR WR1
3 Christian McCaffrey RB RB2
4 Joe Mixon RB RB3
5 Mike Williams WR WR2
6 John Ross WR WR3
7 OJ Howard TE TE1
8 Chris Godwin WR WR4
9 Dalvin Cook RB RB4
10 Zay Jones WR WR5
11 Kareem Hunt RB RB5
12 David Njoku TE TE2
13 Marlon Mack RB RB6
14 Curtis Samuel RB RB7
15 D’onta Foreman RB RB8
16 Taywan Taylor WR WR6
17 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR WR7
18 Evan Engram TE TE3
19 Carlos Henderson WR WR8
20 Cooper Kupp WR WR9
21 Jeremy McNichols RB RB9
22 Samaje Perine RB RB10
23 Mitch Trubisky QB QB1
24 Myles Garrett DL DL1
25 Wayne Gallman RB RB11
26 Pat Mahomes QB QB2
27 Jake Butt TE TE4
28 Alvin Kamara RB RB12
29 Solomon Thomas DL DL2
30 KD Cannon WR WR10
31 Malik Hooker DB DB1
32 Deshaun Watson QB QB3
33 Zach Cunningham LB LB1
34 Josh Malone WR WR11
35 Taco Charlton DL DL3
36 Jonathan Allen DL DL4
37 Jonnu Smith TE TE5
38 Haason Reddick LB LB2
39 Jamal Adams DB DB2
40 Jabrill Peppers DB DB3
41 Josh Reynolds WR WR12
42 Amara Darboh WR WR13
43 Jamaal Williams RB RB13
44 James Conner RB RB14
45 Josh Dobbs QB QB4
46 Tim Williams LB LB3
47 Takkarist McKinley DL DL5
48 Malachi Dupre WR WR14
49 Reuben Foster LB LB4
50 Ardarius Stewart WR WR15
51 Charles Harris DL DL6
52 Deshone Kizer QB QB5
53 Nate Peterman QB QB6
54 Joe Williams RB RB15
55 Elijah McGuire RB RB16
56 TJ Watt LB LB5
57 Marshon Lattimore DB DB4
58 Raekwon McMillan LB LB6
59 Gerald Everett TE TE6
60 Derek Rivers DL DL7
61 Isaiah Ford WR WR16
62 Bucky Hodges TE TE7
63 Chad Hansen WR WR17
64 Obi Melifonwu DB DB5
65 Elijah Hood RB RB17
66 Derek Barnett DL DL8
67 Jarrad Davis LB LB7
68 Brad Kaaya QB QB7
69 Brian Hill RB RB18
70 Davis Webb QB QB8
71 Ryan Anderson LB LB8
72 Tyus Bowser LB LB9
73 Marlon Humphrey DB DB6
74 Adam Shaheen TE TE8
75 Jalen Robinette WR WR18
76 Donnel Pumphrey RB RB19
77 Jordan Leggett TE TE9
78 Corey Clement RB RB20
79 Duke Riley LB LB10
80 Dede Westbrook WR WR19
81 Seth Russell QB QB9
82 Aaron Jones RB RB21
83 C.J. Beathard QB QB10
84 Malik McDowell DL DL9
85 Budda Baker DB DB7
86 Carl Lawson DL DL10
87 Marcus Maye DB DB8
88 Jeremy Sprinkle TE TE10
89 Adoree’ Jackson DB DB9
90 Kevin King DB DB10
91 Gareon Conley DB DB11
92 Mack Hollins WR WR20
93 Tarik Cohen RB RB22
94 Chad Williams WR WR21
95 Jordan Willis DL DL11
96 Chad Kelly QB QB11
97 Amba Etta-Tawo WR WR22
98 Chidobee Awuzie DB DB12
99 Kenny Galloday WR WR23
100 George Kittle TE TE11

 

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: QBs

Updated: July 23rd 2017

My first love was college football.  Like every long-term relationship, college football and I have had our ebbs and flows throughout the years.  Recently we’ve been in a lull due to the fact that I have Rutgers season tickets and I typically spend 6-8 hours at the stadium on a game day.  Factor in an annual away game (Ann Arbor here I come again this year) and I’m missing about 8 weeks of college football action each season.  Thankfully, playing on RSO has helped me refocus and concentrate on the incoming rookies and starting with today’s piece my writing on RSO will be devoted to rookies and the college game.  Check back throughout the offseason for more rookie-centric research, film study and mock drafts.  First up, let’s take a look at the top of the 2017 rookie QB class.

Mitch Trubisky, UNC

By many accounts, Mitch Trubisky will be the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft and much ink will be spilled discussing him.

Trubisky is a Junior who is coming out after just one full season as a starter.  The only game in which he had significant reps as a Sophomore came against FCS Delaware when he filled in for injured starter Marquise Williams.  In 2016 he totaled 3,748 passing  yards, 30 TDs and 6 INTs.  He also added decent production on the ground with eight games of either 30+ yards or a rushing TD.  Trubisky’s best outing was against #12 FSU where he completed 31 of 38 passes for 453 yards and 3 TDs; he also added a rushing TD.  His worst outing undoubtedly came against #25 Virginia Tech when he went 13-33 for just 58 yards, zero TDs and 2 INTs.

I watched Trubisky’s film against Duke and Stanford.  One of the first things I noticed about him is that his feet never stop moving in the pocket.  He is always poised to throw but is equally able to evade the rush and escape the pocket.  Twice in the 3rd quarter against Duke, Trubisky fled the rush and turned a sack into positive yardage (one of them into a first down actually).  He did the same a number of times against Stanford and their Top 5 prospect DE Solomon Thomas.  Unfortunately a last second two point conversion attempt to tie the game was one example of the pressure getting home and Trubisky being unable to escape.  Against Stanford he also threw two bad INTs which ended possessions the Tar Heels desperately needed late in the game.

The second half of the game against Stanford perfectly encapsulates Trubisky’s draft prospects.  In the 3rd quarter, on 2nd & 11, Trubisky eludes the pressure and throws a flat-footed pass 40 yards for a first down.  In the 4th quarter, 3rd & Goal, down 8 points with 30 seconds left, Trubisky rolls right toward the boundary but is pressured.  He circles back towards the field, quickly sets his feet and throws a dart from the opposite hash for a touchdown (he threw a similar TD pass from the opposite hash in the 1st quarter of the Duke game).  The next play was the aforementioned two point conversion sack that essentially ended the game.

He certainly has the arm strength and athleticism to make it in the NFL but he’s just a step short.  Will he be the first quarterback drafted?  I think so and somebody will likely take him in the Top 10 but that is too rich for me.

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

Kizer will be over-drafted because of his size, plain and simple.  He is 6’4″ and 230lb which should peg him as the biggest quarterback prospect other than Davis Webb who will be drafted significantly later.  He certainly won’t be drafted for the stats he put up at Notre Dame.  He had a horrendous completion percentage of 58.7% in 2016 and did not break 3,000 passing yards in either 2015 or 2016.  He does have some “boom” capability though so be careful which tape you watch – he went off for 5 TDs and 0 INTs twice, once in 2016 against Texas and once in 2015 against Pitt.  What makes his size so tantalizing is the speed that goes with it – he’s tough to bring down in traffic and if he gets into the open field, he’s gone.

When I watched Kizer’s film, I was struck by how uncomfortable he looked under pressure which I thought might be a strength given his athleticism and speed.  Kizer often seems to forget about the rush once it gets behind him and gets sacked from behind rather than stepping up and out of the pocket.  Against Stanford, I counted four sacks like this; two of which came on the last drive when the Irish were down 7 points.  I was not impressed with his accuracy or arm strength when rolling out.  I also question his attention to detail: between the two games I watched, Duke being the other, Kizer dropped two snaps and botched a handoff.  Lastly, his awareness of game situation and field position worries me.  Of all of the film I have watched so far of the rookie QBs, Kizer has by far the worst throw.  Let me set the stage… it’s 35-35 against Duke with just 5 minutes left, Notre Dame has the ball in the shadow of their own goal posts and it’s 3rd & 20.  Kizer drops back to pass, into his own endzone, shuffles left and throws a duck without setting his feet.  The pass is easily intercepted at the Notre Dame 45 yard line.  The announcer basically says, “no big deal, they would have punted anyway” but that is asinine.  If Kizer was able to gain even 5 yards to give his punter some room, they could have ensured that Duke at least got the ball back in their own half instead of plus territory.  Duke took over, killed 4+ minutes and kicked a 19 yard field goal that ended up being the game winner.

Some quarterback desperate team will inevitably take Kizer in the Top 15 due to his physical tools but I wouldn’t want my team making that mistake – he will need time to develop and he won’t get that if he’s taken in the top half of the first round.

DeShaun Watson, Clemson

DeShaun Watson will be the name that most casual fans will be familiar with and the one that I am most worried about RSO owners reaching for.  Watson has played in two National Championship games, one of which he won, has finished in the Top 3 of Heisman voting twice and has more than 10,000 career passing yards.  Watson certainly has a championship pedigree but can he turn that into success in the NFL?  Not unless he can stop throwing interceptions.

Without even watching any film of Watson, you can quickly determine his biggest negative… he throws way too many INTs.  In 2016 he threw 17 and in 2015 he threw 13.  Does this sound familiar?  Okay you’re right I ragged on Watson for his interceptions in the lead up to January’s championship game, so I’ll move on.

When I started watching film of Watson, I had a preconceived notion that his interception problems were caused by his limited reading of the field.  After watching 2016 outings against Auburn and Ohio State, I still believe that.  Against Auburn, the first game of the season, you will find very few throws when Watson looks away from his primary receiver.  Against Ohio State, in the semi-finals, he was improved but still not what you would hope for from a franchise quarterback.  Going back to the Auburn game, I also noticed three times when Watson’s throw was deflected at the line of scrimmage.  Depending where you look he is either listed at 6’3″ or 6’2″ – I would not be surprised if his height becomes a problem come combine.

Watson is obviously supremely talented and I think that his field vision issues could be helped by the right coach (whether that means giving him half-field reads or actually helping him improve) so I’d be willing to give him a shot in the late 1st round.

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

If there is one quarterback in the first round that I would be targeting it would be Mahomes.  Many draft resources have him listed as the 4th prospect behind Trubisky, Kizer and Watson but I believe he should be right up there with Trubisky.  Given the difference in draft pick needed to nab the two, Mahomes would be my pick.

It’s easy not to give any credence to the numbers that Mahomes (and past air raid quarterbacks) put up but let’s just take a quick look because they are insane.  He threw for over 11,000 total passing yards in his career and 93 TDs.  In 2016 he had six games of 400+ yards, three games of 500+ and one of 700+.  Add in 22 career rushing TDs and you have an all-around prolific quarterback.  All of Mahomes’ stats (yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, interceptions, etc) improved year over year from 2014 to 2016.

Watching film of Mahomes is a bit misleading due to how many attempts he has each game, but it was sill instructive – anybody could find pros and cons when you have 50+ attempts.  You will notice immediately that his footwork needs improvement – he throws off one foot often – but he has the arm strength to overcome.  To my eye, he looked most comfortable when rolling out of the pocket and only had half of the field to read.  When on the run, he throws accurately.  Like Kizer, he seems to struggle with stepping up and out of the pocket, oftentimes he just stepped right into a sack.  Two things that I loved when watching Mahomes play against Arizona State… First, he drew two offsides and turned one of those into a touchdown on a free play.  That is something you see in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers anybody?  Just kidding) and not so often in college.  Second, he executed this one play perfectly a few times, once going for a touchdown, where he has a long fake at the mesh point and then fires a quick bullet to a slanting TE.  He was knocked out of the game against Kansas but it was not a serious injury.

Mahomes, like the other three profiled here, is not perfect but I think his trajectory is pointing in the right direction and he is worth a pick by a fringe playoff team around 20th overall.

 

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

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.