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

 

1st Round NFL Draft Trades

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Another NFL draft began with a boom in 2017. We only waited until the 2nd pick of the night for a trade.  But who came up ahead and which teams were the proverbial babies having their candy taken away. I look at some of the trades occurring in the 1st round this year, analyzing the value and implications for each team involved.

My trade values in parentheses below were taken from Kevin Meers study on NFL draft pick values.  The value chart is a modification from the standard NFL Draft Trade Chart (NDFT) utilized by many NFL teams.  There are many different analytical studies on the value of draft picks but most agree that the NDFT tends to significantly overvalue early picks and undervalues mid to late-round picks.  The reliance on the NDFT leads to big overpays for many teams trading up in the draft.

Another issue that comes up when examining trades is how to value future picks. There are two primary problems which present themselves.  First, we do not know where a team will finish in the standings next season.  Second, the value of draft picks (like most things) tends to diminish over time.  The 18th pick in 2017 is generally worth more than the 18th pick in 2018 for example.  To address these issues, I estimated next year’s finish and discounted the pick value by 20% (a somewhat heavy discount).  Now, on to the trades.

San Francisco gives #2 (435.7)

Chicago gives #3 (401.3), 67 (125.8), 111 (87.4), and 2018 3rd (94.4)

There is no other way to put it. Chicago took a pounding on this deal.  The Bears have massive question marks all over the roster including secondary, wide receivers, and tight end.  They simply could not afford to give up this amount of picks, particularly in a draft considered very deep by most analysts, for a quarterback with the amount of question marks associated with Trubisky.  The new Bears signal-caller must become a top-ten quarterback for this trade to work out.

New San Francisco General Manager John Lynch, on the other hand, absolutely nailed his first trade. They crushed the value side (708.9 to 435.7).  The 49ers move down one spot, get the player they were going to take at two, while also accumulating valuable picks on a team needing talent across the roster.  Great trade for San Francisco.

Buffalo gives #10 (299.1)

Kansas City gives #27 (214.7), 91 (102.7), and 2018 1st (182.7)

This was one of the more bizarre moves of the night. Kansas City is one of the more solid teams across the board, but has some big depth issues, particularly on defense.  The Chiefs could have used playmakers on a true contender which has won 23 games over the last two seasons.  Mahomes has major mechanical and decision-making issues plus will need to learn the basics of NFL QB play coming from Texas Tech. There are certainly extraordinary physical gifts, but trading up (at a big cost) for a long-term developmental quarterback is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Buffalo demonstrated that they understood the many holes on their team. The Bills addressed a big need with cornerback Tre’Davious White at the end of the first round, while accumulating more picks for a new coaching staff, and handily won the value game big-time here (a continuing storyline for teams trading down).

Cleveland gives #12 (283.6)

Houston gives #25 (221.3) and 2018 1st (207.4)

This trade was a direct development of the previous two trades for quarterbacks. Houston, without any clear plan at quarterback, panicked after two QBs went early in the draft.  This is what happens when a team has most of the pieces to compete except for the all-important quarterback.  The Texans are hoping for a Dak Prescott-type performance from DeShaun Watson but the odds are against rookie quarterbacks succeeding in the first season.

For Cleveland, this is simply what the new management team does. The Browns trade down for great value and collect future high-end picks.  After taking Miles Garrett at number 1, Cleveland adds one of the more intriguing prospects, safety Jabrill Peppers, at 25.  Peppers is a tremendous athlete who can play a variety of positions at the NFL level.  Cleveland has time to develop and mold the former Wolverine into a true weapon.

Seattle gives #31 (203)

San Francisco gives #34 (170.3) and 111 (87.4)

John Lynch made day 1 of the NFL draft look easy. San Francisco pounced on the hammer-hitting linebacker, Rueben Foster, when he fell down the draft due to character concerns and a diluted drug sample at the NFL combine.   Lynch revealed Foster was a top-3 player on the 49ers draft board.  This is a perfect example of when trading up works.  San Francisco takes a moderate risk and gives up a little draft value for a high-upside player who could easily make up the value difference and a lot more.

The move also makes a lot of sense for the Seahawks continuing their strategy of accumulating mid-round picks for small drops in draft position. Seattle has massive holes on the offensive line and somewhat surprising, only one offensive lineman was off the board when the trade occurred.  Seattle moves back and is guaranteed one the top-4 offensive lineman on their board if that is the direction they choose.


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.

FA Expectancy: Latavius Murray

Updated: July 23rd 2017

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.

Latavius Murray – RB, Minnesota Vikings

It is hard to find anyone that the fantasy community is more down on than Latavius Murray in 2017. After letting Adrian Peterson walk the Vikings signed Murray to a 3 year/ $15million deal to theoretically lead their backfield on the first two downs. Many question what Murray can really offer his new team as he was never able to carry the full workload in Oakland in 2016. His move from a top 5 rated Raiders offensive line to a bottom 5 rated Vikings doesn’t really help his cause either. But he is technically the lead back (as of writing this article before the NFL Draft) so he should get a fair share of the touches. Is he a sneaky buy-low candidate?

Tyler Buecher of NumberFire looked at how penalties, specifically pass interference calls, can affect the season end results for fantasy numbers and whether some players were negatively and positively affected because of them. His results can be found here. For running backs, these were the players that received the most benefits from the calls.

Player

1st-and-Goal Penalty TDs

Total TDs

Fantasy Finish

LeGarrette Blount

5

18

RB9

Latavius Murray

4

12

RB13

Lamar Miller

3

6

RB20

Melvin Gordon

3

12

RB7

Devonta Freeman

2

13

RB6

Doug Martin

2

3

RB54

Ezekiel Elliott

2

16

RB2

Matt Asiata

2

6

RB37

 

Murray benefited the second most from pass interferences calls with four of his twelve rushing touchdowns coming from an interference call leading to 1st and goal from the 1-yard line. Since we know that touchdowns fluctuate season-to-season it wouldn’t be surprising to see a decline in his totals, especially with a team that will have less frequent trips inside the red zone. Ironically, Matt Asiata is also on this list which suggests that the Vikings are indeed a candidate for goal line touchdowns to regress next season.

So what does this mean for Vikings players?

The short answer is not much. Murray may or may not be the bruiser back heading into 2017 with Jerrick McKinnon continuing his role as the change-of-pace and satellite receiving back. I expect the Vikings to take a running back in the draft to try and groom into their featured runner once they move on from Murray. If there are any Bishop Sankey truthers still left out there this might be his last opportunity to be a usable NFL running back in case Murray falters or more likely gets injured. In really deep leagues Sankey could be a dart throw that pays off for a couple of games if he shows that he can ward off any potential incoming rookies should Murray be absent from the lineup.

I guess you could call this an upgrade for Sam Bradford who had zero options for handing the ball off last season. It’s unlikely that any coordinator will fear the run game though so the Vikings should expect aggressive blitzes and plenty of nickel and dime packages to cover the receivers and tight end. Murray’s presence could have a negative impact on the receivers scoring opportunities inside the 10 yard line as there were nine passing touchdowns that came within 10 yards of the end zone in 2016 (4 to Kyle Rudolph, and 1 each to McKinnon, Stefon Diggs, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen).

So what is Murray’s Value?

As previously stated the Murray stock is at an all-time low so if you were ever going to get in cheap now is the time. He’s been moved around in my home league four times already this offseason and I have had several other offers in other leagues with him as a throw in. As Bernard Faller pointed out in his article, “Read the Fine Print” while Murray’s contract may be for 3 years it really works out to be a 1 year deal with additional team option years added on. He essential could be cut at the start of next season and save the Vikings $5.1million in cap space. This is why I expect the team to invest and develop a running back from this loaded class to then hand him the keys in 2018.

If Murray is available in your auction you should be able to get him dirt cheap as a 1-year rental player that could be used for decent matchups. Otherwise, unless Murray is on a steal of contract I wouldn’t value him for more than a third round pick. There are too many lottery ticket running backs that could increase their value by 2018 in the second or third round to settle for a low floor RB2/3 like Murray.

So what does this mean for the Raiders?

The Raiders have been linked to bringing the corpse of Marshawn Lynch back for weeks now and while playing behind that offensive line would give him some value I just don’t see it being worth it for real or fantasy purposes. Bringing in fresh legs from the draft would be the best option for the team and any player they select will see his rankings shoot up the rookie ADP rankings. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard were nice waiver wire additions last year and they still hold value right now especially if a back isn’t selected by the end of day 2. However, Washington wasn’t a high selection either (5th Round) and Richard was an UDFA so the Raiders do not owe them anything for playing time. They are both savvy players to watch for in your auctions but don’t get carried away in a bidding war for mediocrity.


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? Look for my polls to cast your vote or send me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

League Scoring Settings

Updated: July 16th 2017

As part of my fourth season writing, Matt and Stephen have asked me to write a series of Reality Sports Online strategy articles, sharing what makes the platform so unique and next level. To those who have been participating in Reality Sports Online leagues for at least one year now, some of my strategy series may simply be suggestions to augment or tweak your leagues. Of course any league not in its first year making seismic strategic shifts should let owners participate in a vote to make scoring changes. For you rookie GMs kicking the tires on the only fantasy football platform I use anymore, welcome.

What you’ll get from these articles, aside from hip-hop and pop culture references are ideas on how to optimize the strategy dynamic in your league. What you won’t get right away is too much player commentary, rookie draft analysis (we have plenty of good articles on both by talented writers). Feel free to reach out to me or the Reality Sports Online guys with any questions, knowing that you are part of something special and unique that also has amazing and prompt customer service.

My first article is going to focus on scoring settings. Other articles in the series will include roster and league configuration and contracts. Don’t worry, I will get to the newly introduced in-season contract extensions as well.

So, like Andy Dufresne said to his letter to Red in Shawshank Redemption, if you’ve come this far, come a little further. I can’t promise pristine ocean water on a Mexican beach, but you can potentially take that vacation after you win your coveted league championship.

Here are my five commandments of Reality Sports Online league scoring settings:

1) The Higher Scoring, the Better

You didn’t come to Reality Sports Online to play in some fantasy clunker with a score of 57.02 to 55.61 with limited scoring options. You came to be a year-round General Manager, to make frequent trades and roster moves, and to figure out how to gain your competitive advantage. With that said, make the scoring dynamic and high as the platform offers customized scoring for yards, touchdowns, etc.

As a rule of thumb, depending on how many starting roster spots you have, I personally like the potential for a good game to crack 200 and an epic performance to crack 300 (think about it like bowling in that regard).

You’re long removed from just rewarding players who score touchdowns from a fantasy perspective and the platform allows lots of creativity and categories for different fantasy scoring than your standard, vanilla fantasy platform. So reward yardage and big plays with bonuses wherever possible.

2) The NFL is a Passing League, so…

The key to RSO is that it turns fantasy into reality. The reality is that all but a few running backs are in timeshares, any quarterback who has half a good season is never a real NFL free agent, and that most successful NFL teams feature dynamic passing offenses.

As a result, you’ll want to turn fantasy football historic groupthink on league scoring settings on its head. With that, I highly advocate being very creative when scoring the quarterback position. For instance, the main league I’m in rewards quarterbacks with the same amount of points for a passing touchdown (7-again dynamic, high scoring with distance bonuses) that another player would score rushing or receiving. The quarterback is super valuable as a franchise builder in NFL drafts and in team success, so don’t diminish the position in your RSO dynasty league just because Emmitt Smith ran for 21 touchdowns in 1994.

Additionally, I’m all in favor of rewarding passing completions and penalizing passing incompletions. This just adds another layer of strategy in a manner similar to quarterbacks who are successful at running the football does. For starters, it makes almost every offensive play relevant from a fantasy perspective for quarterbacks. The NFL values accuracy from a passer, so why shouldn’t your league? My league currently rewards completions with +0.5 fantasy points and incompletions with -0.5. This really aids passers like Philip Rivers who don’t rely on the deep ball to be fantasy relevant. If you are in a league where you start two quarterbacks, this small change from typical leagues will make the values of quarterbacks more important.

Those of you who fall into the “Late Round QB” camp don’t have to be adversely impacted by dynamic quarterback scoring because you still have the freedom to choose how much you want to spend/prioritize on your quarterbacks in the Free Agency Auction Room and scoring against the position or other positions is still relative. All this does is adds another strategic element to your league.

3) PPR is the way to go

With the NFL being a passing league, of course I’m down with “PPR” scoring in my leagues. This aids in dynamic scoring. Naysayers will say that a player should not be rewarded in fantasy football for not garnering a lot of yards after the catch. However, if that play results in a first down to sustain the drive or contributes to the drive in a positive manner, I’m of the school of thought to reward it. Players like James White, who produced 14 receptions for 110 yards in the Super Bowl certainly exemplify the value of how accretive an NFL reception can be.

If you want the scoring tempered on receptions slightly, 0.5PPR can work. I know some leagues are even moving to rewarding Tight End receptions differently to 1.5PPR to put those players on a more level scoring field with their wide receiver brethren. My personal preference is to not give Tight Ends an extra 0.5PPR because they end up getting targeted more in the red zone anyways, which helps the middle-of-the-pack Tight End derive their middling fantasy value while being touchdown dependent.

I also don’t diminish the full PPR for pass-catching running backs because I think these plays are valuable in a passing league.

Changing direction for a second-I personally don’t like rewarding running backs with points for carries. I, along with my league commissioner, feel like the act of catching a ball (even if for zero yards) requires an act or skill that adds more value than simply carrying the ball for no gain.

4) Punish Mistakes Heavily

If quarterback is such a valuable position, then an elite quarterback should not make many mistakes in a game. So, if a quarterback throws an interception, -2 is not a sufficient punishment if you are doing dynamic scoring where touchdowns are worth considerably more. I’m in a league where all offensive player turnovers (interceptions, fumbles lost) are worth -5 points. It seems drastic, but it will change your league dynamic and add an interesting wrinkle to things. New this year: RSO has added a “pick six” category if you want to punish your quarterback for throwing interceptions that result in touchdowns for the opposing team.

Furthermore, quarterbacks who take sacks by holding onto the ball and making poor decisions should also not be exempt from negative points. RSO has a unique feature to deduct points for sacks taken and I recommend -1 fantasy pts for taking a sack. I highly advocate for these simple, small changes to make your league more exciting.

5) Special Teams/Defenses

For those of you not in IDP leagues, make sure you differentiate in your league scoring what is a dominant defensive effort from a middling one. The Reality Sports Online settings allow customized positive and negative scoring for points and yards allowed. Defenses in my league tend to fluctuate a lot in terms of week-to-week fantasy points where a dominant effort can be worth as much as a wide receiver catching 10 for 150 with two TDs. Our league collectively voted to move in this direction after our first year.

As a guideline, we value shutouts worth 12 fantasy points and then scale down by -2 fantasy points based on tranches of points allowed. Same deal with yards allowed where under 250 yards is worth 10 fantasy points. The key is in a strategic league like this, owners should have to think about not only which team DST they pay for in the auction (and how much), but which they start on a week-to-week basis without simply thinking of whether or not the team may score a touchdown on the defensive end.

If you want to go super dynamic, you will reward return touchdowns by distance as there are bonuses for yardage.

Additionally, in the vein of punishing mistakes, any kicker who misses PATs or short field goals has customized options for negative scoring.

The point is on Reality Sports Online’s innovative platform, with options such as scoring fantasy points for blocked punts, the only limitation to how your league scores fantasy points is your own imagination.


Matt Goodwin is entering his fourth season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (2 year old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

NFL Mock Draft: Picks 17-33+

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.  Below you will find the second half of the first round – to start at the top, click here (INSERT LINK)

#17 – Redskins – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

The Redskins had signed six defensive players in free agency by the time I wrote this piece so I don’t foresee them drafting defense in the first round.  I also don’t see them going for a WR because they have a fair amount invested in new signing Terrelle Pryor and 2016 first rounder Josh Doctson.  John Ross would be a good replacement for the departed Desean Jackson but I feel they’ll compare their WR and RB depth and go for Cook.  Cook did not perform well at the combine but his tape is spectacular, he could end up being a steal here if the tape doesn’t lie.

#18 – Titans – John Ross, WR, Washington

Ross comes with myriad injury concerns (both knees, shoulder) and they do worry me.  If it weren’t for them, his 40-yard dash at the combine alone would be enough to push him 6-8 spots higher in this draft.  Ross is a burner who would pair well with Tajae Sharp, Rishard Mathews and Delanie Walker to create a solid but under-the-radar receiving corps.

#19 – Buccaneers – David Njoku, TE, Miami

This was a surprise pick even to me, having Njoku go before OJ Howard, but I couldn’t talk myself out of it after I put pen to paper while doing my research.  The Bucs had Njoku in for a private workout and must have immediately realized the potential of having Njoku alongside Mike Evans in the red zone.  Howard is bigger and faster than Njoku, but Njoku can jump far higher (7.5″ higher vertical).  Njoku is young (just 20 years old, about 18 months younger than Howard) and started playing football later than most so he has room to grow, literally and figuratively.  Plus he grew up about 5 miles from where I live so maybe this is partly a “homer” pick.

#20 – Broncos – Garrett Boles, OT, Utah

The Broncos suffered a sack on 6.6% of drop backs which was the 8th worst in 2016.  Then they lost Russell Okung to the Chargers in free agency so they need a long term replacement.  I’m not sure that Boles ultimately is that franchise cornerstone LT, but at the least he will provide depth to a position of need.

#21 – Lions – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Ezekiel Ansah is the freakiest of athletes but he needs help so offenses cannot constantly double team and chip him.  In 2016 the Lions only had 26 sacks, second worst, and only 2 of those came from Ansah.  Barnett was a three year starter for the Vols who had at least 56 tackles and 9 sacks.  He would help put a pass rushing threat opposite Ansah so offenses couldn’t key on him so much.  The Lions have addressed their defensive line in the past two years, taking 3 DTs, so they may feel that taking another lineman is overkill but they definitely need it.

#22 – Dolphins – Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple

I really struggled to identify the biggest need for Miami.  Ultimately, I decided to go BPA for them and that was Reddick for me.  Reddick really upped his draft stock with an impressive 2016 totaling 65 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 1 INT.  He’s a stat sheet stuffer.  He did well at the combine, running the fastest 40-yard dash for a DE/OLB and was in the Top 12 for the other drills.

#23 – Giants – OJ Howard, TE, Alabama

As I mentioned above, I was surprised to have Howard fall this far after reading so much about him when doing my research.  I think the Giants would feel the same if they find him here at #23.  He is an amazing athlete for his size, no doubt.  He is 6’6 and 251lb and ran the second fastest 40-yard dash for a TE (4.51) and ran the best times in the 3 cone and shuttle.  My concern with Howard is that he is riding the wave from two massive performances on the national stage against Clemson in 2015 and 2016.  More than 18% of his career receiving yards came in those two games against Clemson.  What was even more surprising is that he only has 7 career TDs and 3 of those came against Clemson.  Don’t assume he must be a redshirt sophomore coming out early and just doesn’t have many games under his belt; he was a four year player who played in 46 career games.  When 2 of your 46 career games account for so much of your production, I have my eyebrows raised.  Those brief flashes of brilliance make Howard a 1st round pick at a position largely devoid of stars but I’m not going to be the guy reaching for him in my rookie draft.

#24 – Raiders – Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

There is a non-zero chance that Joe Mixon goes completely undrafted due to his off the field issues.  Even though NFL teams have black balled other violent offenders, I think they will be enticed by Mixon’s combination of size, speed and pass catching ability and give him a chance any way.  The Raiders are courting Marshawn Lynch currently, but if that falls through expect them to grab Mixon here to replace Latavius Murray.  Despite splitting touches with Samaje Perrine, Mixon still amassed over 1,800 total yards and 15 TDs last season.

#25 – Texans – Jabril Peppers, LB/CB/S, Michigan

The Texans lost 168 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 7 INTs this offseason when LB John Simon, CB AJ Bouye and S Quintin Demps departed.  What better way to replace all of that production than with a versatile and dynamic player like Peppers?  None of Peppers counting stats jump out (just 3 sacks and 1 INT, all coming in 2016) but there’s no denying how athletic he is.  When he first landed in Ann Arbor in 2014 he started at CB but lost most of the season to injury, in 2015 he moved to safety and in 2016 he mostly played LB (oh, and RB, KR and PR).  He does not have a defined role which could be a problem for some coaches but I believe Bill O’Brien, of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, would find ways to make use of him.  The Texans were fourth worst in yards per kick return last year, so Peppers could help there immediately.

#26 – Seahawks – Kevin King, CB, Washington

The Seahawks love tall CBs.  Seven of the eight currently on their roster are 6 foot or taller.  The tallest of the bunch is Richard Sherman and as you’ve heard he is on the trading block.  Sherman is 6’3″ and 195lb meanwhile, King is 6’3″ and 200lb – a near perfect match.  Seattle should try to trade Sherman before the draft because once they take King, it will be obvious to the rest of the NFL that they have no intention of holding Sherman and will lose some of their leverage.

#27 – Chiefs – Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

When researching the Chiefs, I found one writer on Draftek.com who went back and looked at decades of their draft history.  He found that the Chiefs have not taken a first round QB since 1983.  They haven’t even taken one in the second round since 1992.  I think the time has come in 2017.  I believe Pat Mahomes is the best combination of talent, potential and value in this draft class.  His mechanics need work, he rarely throws with his feet set, but his arm strength and awareness are evident when you watch his film.  If needed to start tomorrow, Trubisky and Watson would be better choices, but the Chiefs still have Alex Smith.  Smith is a good-enough QB who can give Mahomes the time he needs to improve and mature.

#28 – Cowboys – Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky

The Cowboys should go the same route they did in 2013, when they took C Travis Frederick, and make a surprise pick by taking the highest rated interior lineman.  The Cowboys definitely need DL help too but I think they will forego that need for now.  Lamp was a tackle predominantly in college but projects more as a guard in the pros.  The Cowboys invested heavily in their OL from 2011-2014 using three of their four first rounders on linemen.  With a young backfield of Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott to protect, there’s no reason to stop now.

#29 – Packers – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Ladarius Gunter was embarrassed by opposing offenses on multiple occasions last year so the team signed Davon House to try and stanch the bleeding.  House isn’t enough to vastly improve a passing defense that was in the bottom ten in most categories and was worst in passing yards per attempt.  Conley had 4 INTs last year and 8 passes defended which will definitely help.

#30 – Steelers – Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt

The Steelers have lost LBs Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones to free agency.  I was between Cunningham, Tak McKinley and Charles Harris for this pick.  I chose Cunningham because of his combine performance in the vertical and broad jumps which show his burst and lower body strength (even though they they beat him in the speed drills).  Cunningham is not a real threat to sack the QB (zero sacks in 2016), likely because of that lack of elite speed, but neither was Jarvis Jones (1 sack in 2016).  For me it’s all about Cunningham being a volume tackler (125, 10th most in the NCAA in 2016).

#31 – Falcons – TJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

You can’t go wrong with a Watt, right?  Watt is the best combination of strength and speed in the pass rushers remaining at this point and will immediately help what was a bad defense in 2016.  Watt ran a better 3 cone and shuttle drill than highly touted athletes Dalvin Cook and Curtis Samuel.  In the Falcons 4-3 system, Watt will probably slot in at DE rather than OLB but he likely has the ability to play anywhere in the front seven if needed.  My only concern on Watt is the sample size.  He played minimally in 8 games as a sophomore in 2015 (just 7 tackles, 0 sacks) so all of the hype is based off his 63 tackle, 11.5 sack junior season and his combine performance.  At this point there are other pass rushers with a longer track record (McKinley, Harris) but Watt gets the nod because of the bloodline.

#32 – Saints – Obi Melinfonwu, S, UConn

Melinfonwu would be a luxury pick for the Saints here at #32.  I’m not sure they need him but if he doesn’t go in the first round, he’s somebody teams will target with a trade at the top of the second.  Melinfonwu has moved up draft boards after a stellar performance at the combine.  He ran the fastest 40-yard dash among safeties (4.40).  He had the highest vertical jump (44″).  He had the longest broad jump (141″, best by a huge 9″ gap).  If he ran the 3 cone and shuttle drills, I bet he would have dominated those too.  Not only is he a great athlete but he is a tackling machine (118 tackles in 2016, 18th best and one of the few safeties on the list) who also had 8 career INTs.  Not a bad addition to a passing defense that was third worst per attempt last year.

#33 and beyond

These are the players whom I believe teams will be targeting at the top of the second round.  With the break between the first and second rounds, it gives teams time to re-evaluate their board and see what highly rated players fell to a point that they just need to snap them up.  Based on projected rookie contracts by Sportrac.com, the difference in total contract value for the #32 and #33 picks is about $1.6mil.  For comparison, that’s about the same difference as the value between #24 and #32.  So, there is real value at the top of the second.  There’s an RSO lesson here too… If you do your homework and have your own “Big Board” you can package picks together to move up to 2.01 and grab a first round talent at a steep discount.

  • Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State – I really wanted to find a spot for McDowell but didn’t.  He’s a huge space eater (6’6″, 295lb).  He isn’t much of a pass rushing threat but who needs to be when you’re that big.
  • Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama – Robinson is the best of the rest of the poor OT class.  I originally figured he would go in the first before I started but the value on many of the defensive players was just much better.
  • DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre DameI am not a fan of Kizer but others are.  I believe he lacks awareness and good decision making on the field.  However, he is big and fast and somebody is bound to fall in love and try to grab him and hope they can fix him.
  • Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss – Engram is the fastest of a fast group of rookie TEs but he is also the smallest.  He is “just” 6’3″ and 234lb.  I would not be surprised to see him play more on the outside and essentially transition to WR similar to how Devin Funchess did when Michigan realized he didn’t really have the size to be a pro TE (Engram is bigger though so it’s probably not going to be an official change).  Size wise, he is about the same as Jordan Reed but Engram ran a much quicker 40-yard dash (4.42 vs 4.72).  If you told a coach he could have a faster Jordan Reed without the long injury history they would jump at that.
  • Nate Peterman, QB, Pitt – Mel Kiper believes that the Texans might be interested in Peterman.  He’s brought it up on the First Draft podcast and worked it into his most recent mock draft.  I’m thinking there may be something he’s been told by a team official but he can’t just admit that.  No way should they take him in the first, but I think they could make a move up to pick #40 or so and grab him then.  With Romo retiring and Osweiler shipped to Cleveland, the Texans are left with Tom Savage.  As a Rutgers season ticket holder, I have first hand experience of what happens when you rely on Tom Savage.

**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.

The Kaepernick Question

Updated: July 23rd 2017

One of the more interesting debates this NFL offseason revolves around why former San Francisco quarterback does not have a job yet. The arguments tend to range primarily around 1) declining football skills versus 2) bias due to his political stance last season but also move into somewhat bizarre areas such as his vegan diet. This article focuses the discussion to the football realm and whether his football abilities, recent production, and market forces dictate he should indeed possess a starting job.

What Kaepernick is as a Quarterback

Before we examine where the free agent quarterback is in his development, we need to look at how he was viewed early in his career. Perhaps no statement demonstrates the sky-high expectations for Kaepernick better than a certain ESPN analysts’ famous quote (one I am sure he would like to take back) leading into the 2013 NFL season.

“I truly believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever,” – Ron Jaworkski.

Obviously this quote seems silly now but Jaworski was not alone in thinking Kaepernick could be a game-changer at the quarterback position. Kaepernick displayed a rocket arm combined with a tremendous athletic profile which was showcased during his spectacular 2012 playoff run in which he made one big play after another leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl.

So what happened? The most basic answer is that Kaepernick never evolved as a passer in the league.  Looking back at a few weaknesses reported in his NFL Draft Profile sheds some insight into the issue: “Has not been asked to make NFL progressions and reads. Misses too many short passes. Doesn’t have consistent touch on the deep ball. Release is somewhat elongated and can dip down to sidearm at times.”  Sound familiar?  It should if you have watched many San Francisco games.  Kaepernick still has major accuracy issues, struggles to make the most basic NFL-level reads, and never addressed his throwing motion.  In addition, he also breaks out of the pocket far too often from imagined pressure.  But do his weaknesses on film show up on in his production?  We can take a look at the numbers below.

We can clearly see his career play deteriorating from Table 1 below. QBR (ESPN) and DVOA (Football Outsiders) are respective measures of quarterback value per play from each site. Both measures are publicly available and rely on play-level data to assess quarterback play taking into account surrounding circumstances.  QBR, for example, splits responsibility for drops and yards per reception among quarterbacks and receivers on each play.  QBR and DVOA listed in Table 1 reflect Kaepernick’s QBR and DVOA rank among qualified NFL quarterbacks over the past five seasons.  His DVOA rank went from one of the best during his rookie season to one of the NFL’s worst over the last couple of seasons among starting quarterbacks.

Colin Kaepernick Jay Cutler
Year Games QBR Pass DVOA Games QBR Pass DVOA
2012 13 N/A* N/A 3 15 22 25 27
2013 16 8 25.5 7 11 3 35 13
2014 16 17 30.3 29 15 16 32.6 22
2015 9 29 0.4 35 15 10 45 9
2016 12 23 -0.3 30 5 N/A** N/A N/A
Table 1: Kaepernick vs. Cutler
*Not enough plays to qualify but ranked 4th.
**Not enough plays to qualify. QBR was far below Kaepernick’s and DVOA one spot ahead.

Possibly even more indicative of his struggles as a quarterback over the last couple of seasons is examining his expected points added on passing plays (Pass in Table 1). Kaepernick, quite literally, added practically no expected points in the passing game during the 2015 and 2016 seasons where he ranked at the bottom of the league.  To put this in context, he provided far less value as a passer in 2016 than other much-maligned starting quarterbacks including Brock Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Case Keenan.

So what does Kaepernick bring as a quarterback? The answer is clearly the ability to take over games with his legs where his athletic abilities can truly shine.  The 49er accumulated more expected points from rushes than any other quarterback during the 2016 season despite playing in only 12 games.  He can bring value to a team relying on the run game where Kaepernick can be utilized substantially on play action passes limiting his deficiencies as a pocket passer and also on zone-read schemes to further emphasize the rushing attack.

The Market for Kaepernick

As detailed in my report on possible quarterback landing spots, Kaepernick faced a market loaded with players available who have starting NFL experience.  In addition, the former 49er’s limited passing abilities make him a niche player in the league with only a handful of coordinators and coaches willing to structure an offense around his skills.  Most rebuilding teams prefer a more traditional pocket passer to match with developing young receivers. This left very few teams in a position to utilize Kaepernick’s skills with coaching staffs willing to restructure their offense around him.

We also need to look at Kaepernick’s remaining completion for a starting job. Let us begin with Jay Cutler, another spited quarterback on the unemployed block.  Referring again to Table 1, it is fairly clear that Cutler has been the superior player in aggregate over the last few seasons.  The former Bear produced QBRs in the top half of the league in each of his last three qualifying seasons (2013-2015), each of which exceeded Kaepernick, while also amassing more production as a passer.  We also need to remember that the NFL draft has not yet occurred and that many teams will be looking toward rookies for near-term and future starters.

The demand for starting quarterbacks has only shrunk since the start of free agency. Buffalo restructured Tyrod Taylor’s contract.  San Francisco (Brian Hoyer) and New York (Josh McCown) signed cheaper short-term stopgaps, likely in preparation for adding a longer-term starter in the near future or further evaluating young quarterbacks on the roster in the Jets case.   Chicago opted for Mike Glennon.  Only Houston and Cleveland remain as viable starting options.  The Browns just released Robert Griffin III, a player with a similar skill-set to Kaepernick, making Cleveland an unlikely landing spot.

Kaepernick’s Expectations

I am not privy to Kaepernick’s thoughts but we can extrapolate his possible initial expectations based on his actions and reports coming out of free agency. Kaepernick opted out of his $14.5 milliion base salary with San Francisco in 2017.  Various reports also had the current free agent initially asking for a starting spot at about $10 million per season while teams signed other starting options for significantly less money.  It becomes fairly obvious that Kaepernick’s contract expectations did not match the thinking of NFL teams.

The Verdict

I do not doubt that some teams may have removed Colin Kaepernick from employment consideration due to his political views, but the data overwhelmingly suggests Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment relates primarily to his football skills. He has not performed as more than a lower-tier quarterback for years and his passing skills never developed in the time with San Francisco.  Kaepernick likely viewed himself as a definitive starter on the open-market where NFL teams probably viewed him as a backup or bottom-tier option competing for the starting job.  His employment opportunities were also likely hurt by the high number of quarterbacks with starting experience available this offseason.  Kaepernick will probably find a job eventually based on his early career success but that opportunity could very well come following the NFL draft where teams firm up their rosters.


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.