2018 Post-Draft Rookie Rankings

Updated: May 11th 2018

I’m feeling a bit bittersweet today.  After months of research, statistical analysis and film watching this will be my last post about the 2018 rookie class.  You’ll be in capable hands with the rest of our RSO writing crew but I can’t help but feel sad about losing “my guys.”  I’m looking at you Anthony Miller and Rashaad Penny.  I had been a casual college football writer for years, and a fan for much longer, but the 2018 class was the first that I went truly deep on.  Alas, I will probably feel the same about the 2019 class this time next year.  Speaking of the 2019 class, expect to see content rolling out starting in June.  I have compiled a watch list of 150 players from the FBS to Division III.  I will release conference previews in the Summer, along with a way-too-early mock draft.  I will also unveil a Madden-like grading system I devised as a way to quantitatively compare players across levels and positions.  Before all of that though, let’s take one last look at my 2018 rookie rankings.  These were updated after the NFL Draft and I have also included a write-up about some noteworthy players.  Enjoy!

#3 – Nick Chubb, RB, Browns

I have vacillated on Chubb’s ranking more than anybody else at the top of my rankings. Earlier in the year I had Chubb and Derrius Guice alternating as my RB2/RB3. Immediately after the draft I bumped Chubb down to RB4 (1.04), behind Ronald Jones, due to concerns about playing on a poor Browns team that has a crowded backfield. The more I thought about it though, I decided I’d rather have Chubb because I think he’s a better player and will earn ample opportunity early enough in his career to warrant the 1.03 pick.

#5 – Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks

It was hard not to have Penny rocket up my rankings after he went 27th overall to the Seahawks. It felt like a confirmation of everything I saw and loved during the 2017 season. I tempered my excitement though for two reasons. First, Penny’s struggles as a pass protector are well known and I fear this could limit his touches to start his career. Second, the Seahawks have a weak offensive line (ranked 27th by PFF after 2017) that will test even Penny’s elite evasion. I was also building some return game work into Penny’s valuation but now that he’s a first round draft pick I doubt there’s any chance he gets to return kicks.

#6 – Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons
#7 – DJ Moore, WR, Panthers

I’m sticking to my guns here. I have had Ridley as my WR1 throughout the season and I still don’t feel he has done anything to change that for me. Moore certainly impressed at the combine more so than Ridley but it’s not like Ridley looked like Orlando Brown out there. Moore was a victim of a poor passing game at Maryland, but you could say the same about Ridley who was rarely featured. Moore will get a lot of early targets as the lead receiver in Carolina but I’d rather have Ridley’s fit in Atlanta with a top passing offense. Julio Jones will dictate coverage which should leave Ridley and his superb separation and route running skills wide open.

#20 – Bradley Chubb, DE, Broncos
#21 – Josh Rosen, QB, Cardinals

Chubb and Rosen come in as the first of their position in my rankings. IDP and QBs are always tough to rank because they are so heavily dependent on league settings and scoring. In general, for a typical RSO IDP league, I think that taking your first IDP near the second turn is a good bet; same with quarterbacks in a 1QB league. If you’re in a league featuring high IDP scoring or in a Superflex or 2QB league, you’ll need to push these guys higher by about a round. Similarly to Ridley, Chubb joins a unit where he won’t be the focus and can prosper. I’d be buying shares of the Broncos in team defense leagues, boy are they going to rack up the sacks. Rosen was the fourth quarterback taken in the NFL Draft but I think he should be the first off the board in your fantasy draft because he has the best combination of short-term opportunity and supporting cast in my opinion. Darnold and Allen may see the field just as soon but they won’t be throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and Christian Kirk. Mayfield is the wildcard if he beats out Tyrod Taylor, who the Browns spent a 3rd round pick on in a trade, because the Browns skill position players look intriguing if they all stay healthy and out of trouble.

#39 – Lorenzo Carter, OLB, Giants

I have a man crush on Lorenzo Carter. He’s a quick and lanky edge rusher who also showed the ability to drop into coverage late in the season. He’ll probably start as a situational pass rusher but the Giants will soon find that they found a gem in Carter. If you’re playing in an IDP league you can probably get Carter later than 39th overall but I wouldn’t chance it. Take him in the third round, stash him on your bench and be the envy of your league this time next year.

#45 – Ito Smith, RB, Falcons

Like Carter, Smith is a sneaky late round pick to stash on your bench. He’ll be lucky to find 50 touches in 2018 behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman but once Coleman leaves in free agency, Smith will fall into a fruitful timeshare. Smith ran for 1,100+ yards each of the last three years while catching 40+ passes. Smith is strong and thick with powerful leg drive. I rated him as a B+ blocker in his class so despite his short stature he isn’t a liability in pass protection. Smith will be the type of back who earns 75% of his fantasy production in the last two minutes of each half. He’ll come on the field for his mix of receiving and protection and stay on the field while the team runs the hurry-up.

#48 – Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Packers
#49 – J’mon Moore, WR, Packers

I’m not very high on either of these Packer receivers but one of them is going to emerge, it’s just a matter of which one does. There were rumors that St. Brown fell in the draft because of his “diva” personality which shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anybody who has done any research about his family. That pedigree and promise is what garnered St. Brown buzz the last two years – it certainly wasn’t his on-the-field production. Moore is shorter, lighter and slower but put up two solid seasons at Mizzou in 2016 and 2017 (60+ receptions, 1,000+ yards, 8+ TDs). I wouldn’t recommend drafting either player, you’re better off waiting to see which one hits and then scramble to the waiver wire, but if I had to pick I would go with St. Brown for his superior physical attributes.

#50 – Mason Rudolph, QB, Steelers

I like Rudolph as a speculative third round pick in Superflex and 2QB leagues. While Ben Roethlisberger has been squawking about the Rudolph pick, let’s not forget that just a year ago he was considering retirement. I don’t think it’s a mistake that the Steelers brass decided to draft James Washington and then pair him with his college quarterback. There’s also a chance that Rudolph gets playing time in the short-term due to an injury to Big Ben. Ben has only played a full 16 game season three times in his 14 year career. If you happen to get two games out of Rudolph in 2018 when your own starter is hurt or on bye you’ll already be ahead of the game value-wise.

#64 – Josh Sweat, DE, Eagles

Josh Sweat is another IDP sleeper of mine. Sweat may not get much opportunity early in his career but he had first round talent and physicals but was available later due to his injury history. The stories about his knee injury are pretty gnarly so I would not recommend spending much draft capital on him but if you’re in a deep IDP league and looking for a long shot, he’s your guy.

#80 – Richie James, WR, 49ers

So you’re saying there’s a chance? The 49ers offense is an enigma at the moment. As a Jimmy G owner, I’m excited for what he showed late last year but I am concerned about who he’ll be targeting this year. Pierre Garcon will be back from injury but he’s old. Marquise Goodwin is back too but he’s nothing more than a complementary player in my opinion. The door is open for somebody to emerge and Richie James has as much of a chance as anybody else on the roster. James had two uber productive seasons to start his career: 107-1,334-8 and 105-1,625-12. He lost most of 2017 to injury but is healthy now and reports are that he played well at the team’s first mini camp. You’d have to be in a pretty deep league to consider drafting James but once you get past WR15 it’s a crap shoot anyway.

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

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes
More Analysis by Bob Cowper

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Part IV, Picks 49-64

Updated: April 11th 2018

Are you starting to suffer from #DraftTwitter mock draft fatigue?  Honestly, I am.  There are so many mock drafts out there that I’ve actually found myself tuning out and avoiding those tweets, articles, blog posts, etc.  Instead, I started to work on my own NFL mock draft.  Mocking is a great way to force yourself to do some research and make qualitative decisions about specific players.  It’s also the best way to define your own opinions on the players, rather than relying on the #DraftTwitter groupthink.

Here’s the method to my madness… I started out by creating positional rankings and tiers for each position, concentrating on players who could potentially be drafted in the Top 100.  Next, I consulted my preferred team needs resource which was a community effort on the r/NFL_Draft subreddit.  The spreadsheet collects info about primary and secondary team needs, scheme, draft strategy and character risk tolerance.  While it may not be perfect, I think it’s more useful than most similar sites and is far better than I could compile on my own.  Next, I referred to Our Lads depth charts which are my favorite (you should also bookmark their glossary).  For some teams I also visited Spotrac to get invaluable information about contracts and free agency.  To keep track of my picks, I am using the mock draft spreadsheet created by Reddit user Mbrr1214, to which I made a few slight tweaks.  Team names are color coded for quick recognition; colored pick numbers correspond to the pick’s original owner.

A few notes before we get started…

  • This mock draft was compiled predominantly on March 30-31 with some edits in the following days.  It will be posted in pieces over the three weeks leading up to the NFL Draft so please keep in mind the dates in which it was first created should there be any breaking news in the interim.
  • My knowledge of offensive skill players far outpaces that of offensive linemen and defensive players.  That’s not to say I haven’t seen the other players play, it’s just that my analysis is more shallow.  I covered many of these linemen and defensive players during the season and during my bowl previews but I have admittedly not done a deep study.
  • I did not include any trades which can obviously turn this mock draft on its head.  Personally, I think mock drafts that include trades are a cop-out and a way for the author to skirt around tough decisions.  Real GMs may not always have the option of trading out of a pick and must make a decision on whether they go BPA (Best Player Available) or reach to fill a team need.  For a mock draft author to say “well, Quenton Nelson is the best player on the board, let’s trade this pick to a team that needs a guard” is missing the point of the exercise.

What Did I Learn?

I’ve done mock drafts before but never a full two rounder with “honorable mentions.”  I walked away with a few insights:

  1. More quarterbacks will be drafted than you think and they will be drafted earlier than you hoped.
  2. Solid offensive tackle prospects are becoming less common and, as such, teams will have to reach for them nearly as often as they do for quarterbacks.
  3. If I had to build my own team, I would rarely use a top 75 pick on a running back or wide receiver.  Offensive skill players, aside from the quarterbacks, fell much further down my mock than anticipated.

Honorable Mentions

These players did not get selected in my mock but I had originally listed them as potential targets when I started my research.  Since I considered them while working on this project, I thought I should share their names as they could be some of the top targets in Rounds 3 and 4.  They are ordered by position then by last name – they are not ranked.



Welcome to the 2018 NFL Mock Draft…

#64 – Browns – Kemoko Turay, EDGE, Rutgers

Homer pick alert.  With my last pick in my two-round mock, and the first one that you’re reading, I have the Browns taking Kemoko Turay.  As a Rutgers season ticket holder, I have been both enticed by and disappointed by Turay.  His blocked field goal against Michigan in 2014 remains one of my favorite football moments ever experienced in person at the stadium.  The “Kemoko Dragon” performed well at the Senior Bowl and became a darling of one of my favorite draft resources: NDT Scouting.  NDT had numerous pieces highlighting Turay around the Senior Bowl but I feel like his name has fizzled a bit as of late.  Turay’s career stats are marred by injuries and ineffectiveness but he has raw ability that teams covet.  I use the word raw on purpose because he definitely needs some work.  His senior season at Rutgers was a pretty good one: 60 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks.  Edge rusher is not a position of immediate need for the Browns, but when you five of the first 64 picks, you can afford a luxury pick or two.  The depth chart ahead of him is why I would love to see Turay taken by the Browns.  He can come in and learn while he bulks up.  Given time, I think that Turay will be a starting end in the league.

#63 – Patriots – Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond

Rumors are swirling that the Patriots might take a quarterback late in the first round.  I think it’s more likely that they take one here at pick #63 (mostly because I doubt they hold onto both of those late first rounders).  If the Patriots pull the trigger in the first round, it would be for Mason Rudolph, whereas if they wait until the second I think it would be Kyle Lauletta.  Lauletta played at Richmond in the Colonial Athletic Association in the FCS.  Lauletta threw for 3,737 yards and 28 TDs last season, adding 4 rushing TDs.  Lauletta has a career completion percentage of 63.5% and improved his accuracy each year as the starter.  He does throw too many interceptions though, 35 over the last three seasons.  My first look at Lauletta came in the lead up to the Senior Bowl when I read Benjamin Solak’s “Contextualized Quarterbacking” piece about the Senior Bowl quarterbacks.  He went on to win the MVP award at the Senior Bowl, moving himself up draft boards.  I went back and re-read Lauletta’s section and two words confirmed for me that the Patriots would target him: “mechanically pure.”  In case you were wondering, the Pats took Jimmy Garoppolo, an FCS quarterback who thew too many interceptions but had a quick release, with pick #62 in 2014.

#62 – Vikings – Braden Smith, G, Auburn

The most immediate need that I identified for the Vikings was their offensive line.  I wanted to address the line with both of their first two picks, hopefully ensuring that new QB Kirk Cousins can last for the duration of his fully guaranteed contract.  Smith is my highest rated lineman on the board at this point so it was an easy pick.  He was an AP All-American in 2017 and starred at the combine.  Smith came in as the biggest guard (6’6″ and 315lbs) in the class.  He also had the highest vertical jump and came in second in the bench press and broad jump.  He’s big enough and athletic enough to hold his own across the line so he could prove to be a valuable addition to the Vikings offense.

#61 – Jaguars – Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado St

I was surprised when the Jaguars let Allen Robinson leave in free agency and then cut Allen Hurns.  I figured they would at least hold onto one of them.  Instead, they decided to re-sign Marqise Lee and add Donte Moncrief from the Colts.  Moncrief is now the highest paid receiver on the team, but they must not be too convinced because they only gave him a one year deal.  Michael Gallup has an interesting personal story which I wrote about a few weeks ago.  He had numerous Power 5 scholarship offers but his test scores were not good enough so he had to go the JUCO route and then ended up at Colorado State.  If he had played at a school like Missouri originally, we could be talking about the top receiver in the class.  Some experts still feel that way about Gallup and trust his pedigree over his route to the pros.  I like Gallup but he has a few negatives that bump him down for me.  Primarily, he lacks elite measureables and is prone to losing focus.  There’s a lot to like though so that seems like nit-picking.  Gallup plays faster than his 4.51 forty indicates.  He is good with the ball in his hands after the catch, utilizing his all-around athletic ability (he earned sixteen varsity letters in high school).  I believe Gallup’s play strength is better than advertised which will be a useful trait as he adds weight for the NFL.  If Lee continues to ascend as he did in 2017, and Moncrief proves he’s not a bust, the Jaguars could be looking at an under the radar receiving corps this year.

#60 – Steelers – Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina St

Similarly to the 49ers below, the Steelers brass would not have expected to need to spend draft capital on an inside linebacker if you had asked them a few months ago.  Unfortunately, though, that is the reality after Ryan Shazier’s frightening spinal injury.  Shazier says he’ll play again but I think it’s safe to say that that will not be any time soon.  You’re forgiven if you have never heard of Darius Leonard.  Leonard is a fifth year senior from South Carolina State, a 3-7 MEAC side.  I had heard the name a few months back but never did any research so I decided to watch one of his 2017 game films and a highlight reel as a quick primer.  Against FCS foe NC Central, he often looked like the best player on the field, showing good speed, especially to the sideline.  He is effective in coverage and plays a great QB spy because he has the quickness to shadow the passer and then meet him at the edge.  Leonard tallied 100+ tackles each of the last two seasons and is an adept pass rusher despite his coverage responsibilities (20 career sacks).  Leonard will likely compete with free agent signing Jon Bostic for a starting role.  Bostic is on his fifth team in five years so I’d put my money on the rookie.

#59 – 49ers – Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

The thought of the 49ers drafting a linebacker in the second round of the 2018 draft would have seemed a little crazy eleven months ago.  Fast forward though and it’s possible that San Fran needs to plan for a future without MLB Reuben Foster.  Foster was arrested twice this offseason and missed six games due to various injuries in 2017.  When researching his off-field issues, I also came across a story about him getting sent home from the combine last year which I had forgotten all about.  Jefferson would be a good pick for the 49ers because he could fill the MLB slot until Foster returns from an anticipated suspension.  Jefferson’s best position, according to Charlie Campbell and Lance Zierlein, may end up being at WLB.  The projected starter at that spot for the 49ers is Malcolm Smith who missed all of 2017 with a torn pectoral.  Either way, whether it’s in the middle or on the weak side, Jefferson will prove valuable from Day One.

#58 – Falcons – Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech

This feels a little early for Settle because I had at least one other DT ranked above him, however, he fits a more immediate need for the Falcons at NT.  The Falcons signed Dontari Poe to a one year deal in 2017 and let him move on to division rival Carolina this offseason.  Settle is big at 6’3″ and 329lbs and would be a space eater for the Falcons.  Settle is a former 5-star recruit who was ranked by ESPN as the 19th best overall recruit in his class and the second best at the position.  In college, he never really “settled” in.  He’s a redshirt sophomore so maturity and experience are a concern, as is his low level of production.  Settle has just four career sacks, all coming in 2017, and 53 career tackles.  The Falcons are a pretty complete team so I think it’s best for them to address a need, even if it may be a bit of a reach.

#57 – Titans – Taven Bryan, DT/DE, Florida

Any time somebody draws comparisons to JJ Watt, you should take note.  When researching Bryan, I came across multiple sources running with the comp, including the NFL Research Twitter account.  Bryan’s production continued to increase in 2017, when he finished with career highs in snaps, sacks, quarterback hits and hurries.  Bryan played as a DT in a 4-3 at Florida and will likely play DE in 3-4 sets with the Titans.  I expect the Titans to use multiple sets though so Bryan could move inside when they switch to a 4-3.  I also envision Bryan playing inside of the 3-4 on passing downs to give offenses a different look and increase pass rush pressure.  Bryan blew away the DT class with his explosiveness and agility at the combine, leading in four drills: vertical jump, broad jump, shuttle and 3-cone.

#56 – Bills – Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State

This is Buffalo’s fourth pick in the first two rounds.  Earlier I have them address quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker.  With #56, I wanted the Bills to make a value pick for the future.  If Billy Price didn’t tear a pectoral muscle at the combine, he would have been a late first round prospect.  Price can play at either guard position or center, as he did for the Buckeyes, but I’d expect him to find a home as an NFL center.  Sadly, starter Eric Wood was forced to retire after last season due to an injury so the Bills could use a long term solution at the position.  They did sign Russell Bodine from Cincinnati last month but it’s just a two year deal with a potential out after 2018.  That would be perfect timing to give Price time to recover before becoming the permanent starter in 2019.

#55 – Panthers – Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

Miller is my favorite player in this draft class.  His measureables don’t stand up to others in the class, which is why we find him at #55 and not at the top of the second, but I’m not deterred.  Miller’s release is superb and he makes the spectacular catch look routine with excellent body control.  In addition to his playmaking ability, Miller has repeatedly impressed me with his toughness and determination.  There were times when he willed the Tigers to comeback or to victory, often exhausted or banged up.  He has the versatility to line up anywhere and was Pro Football Focus’ sixth ranked slot receiver in 2017.  With Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith on the field with him this season, I would anticipate seeing Miller in the slot.  In terms of Miller’s long term projection, this fit works well because I doubt that either Smith or Funchess stick around long.

#54 – Chiefs – Josh Sweat, EDGE, Florida State

I was of two minds when considering the Chiefs first pick of the 2018 draft (they traded their first rounder in the deal to land Pat Mahomes last year).  My first thought was that the Chiefs should be cautious, opting for a sure thing since they are missing a first rounder.  My second thought was that because they were missing that first rounder that they should be more aggressive and make a high risk, high reward pick.  My id won out and here we have Josh Sweat.  Sweat is a complicated prospect because he has a history of knee injuries that make him a risk.  Those injuries though are the only reason that Sweat would be available to the Chiefs at this pick.  A player with Sweat’s combine measureables (4.53 40 yard dash at 6’4″ and 251lbs) and production (29 career tackles for loss and 14.5 career sacks) would not normally be available here.

#53 – Bills – Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa

It’s startling how little draft capital the Bills have invested in the linebacker position.  Only two of the seven backers currently on the roster were drafted, the rest were all college free agents.  Those two who were drafted, Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo, were fifth and sixth rounders last year.  The Bills drafted the position this high twice before in recent memory, in 2013 and 2016, but both Reggie Ragland and Kiko Alonso were traded away.  Jewell is the next up in my linebacker rankings and he would be a good fit at MLB in the Bills system.  It’s fun reading scouting reports on Jewell and seeing how the author tries to tiptoe around the fact that Jewell is simply unathletic.  However, he is quite productive: he recorded 124 or more tackles each of the last three years.  In his write up about Jewell, Matt Miller said that “all those hyperbolic cliches like ‘tackling machine’ actually apply to Jewell.”  If history is any indication, Jewell may not be long for Buffalo but I’m confident that he would make an impact before his subsequent trade.

#52 – Ravens – Martinas Rankin, T/C, Mississippi State

The Ravens offensive line ranked 18th in 2017 according to Pro Football Focus.  Perhaps that should come as a surprise given that the Ravens spend the 28th most, on a per player average, on the offensive line.  The team spends even less at center where they rank 29th in spending.  Rankin is a versatile lineman who played tackle in college but could end up playing center in the pros.  The Bulldogs tried him out at center last Spring but kept him at tackle instead.  Drafting a player like Rankin would give the Ravens a lot of flexibility and could help solidify the line both at tackle and center, wherever the immediate need is.

#51 – Lions – James Daniels, C, Iowa

The Lions need a center and James Daniels is a damn good one.  Last year’s starting center, Travis Swanson, has signed with the Jets.  The Lions did sign G/C Wesley Johnson, ironically from the Jets but he doesn’t really satisfy the team need.  Johnson is a former tackle who moved inside for the NFL, he’s not a true center.  Neither is guard Graham Glasgow who would project as the starting center for Detroit this year if they don’t address the position.  While doing some research on Daniels, I came across this highlight where he owns a BC linebacker and I couldn’t help but watch it a number of times.  Daniels came in smaller than some of the other top center prospects but he showed his supreme agility by owning the competition in the shuttle and 3-cone.

#50 – Cowboys – D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

There’s been a number of rumors that the Cowboys are considering a wide receiver with their first pick, specifically Calvin Ridley  I think that would be a mistake, even though Ridley is my highest rated receiver, and sincerely hope they continue to add to their already-strong offensive line instead.  I’d much rather see the Cowboys wait, full disclosure that I’m a fan, and grab a receiver at this pick.  I have Anthony Miller ranked higher in my rankings at the moment but I think that Moore is the more likely selection for the ‘Boys.  Per WalterFootball.com, Moore has met with the Cowboys on multiple occasions.  Moore was not on my watch list to start the season but by the end of it he had worked his way into my positional rankings.  Moore is quick (4.42 speed) and explosive (first among WRs in the broad jump, second in the vertical) and runs with purpose once he has the ball in his hands.  He had awful quarterback play at Maryland so the fact that he performed as well as he did at times is impressive.  In my preview of Moore, I called him a “trick play master” which could come in handy when the Cowboys offense becomes predictably run-heavy.

#49 – Colts – Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

I believe there’s zero chance that the Colts head into training camp with just Marlon Mack, Christine Michael, Josh Ferguson, Robert Turbin and Matt Jones competing for running back reps.  They are a lock to add a running back in the first few rounds.  Mack should be the favorite to come out of that group but I don’t think he’s able to be a bellcow and none of the journeyman inspire confidence.  Chubb was pegged as the top back of this class years ago as a freshman but he has since fallen down the rankings due to an ACL injury and sharing the spotlight with Sony Michel.  I still prefer Chubb to Michel as a pro prospect but I do admit that Chubb’s running style likely means he’ll serve a shorter career.  Chubb had three 1,000+ yard seasons and averaged 6.3 yards per carry over 47 games.  His 44 career rushing TDs are fourth most in the SEC since 1956, per Sports-Reference.  Chubb is not a receiving back but that’s okay because that’s Mack’s strength.  The biggest knock on Chubb is his ACL injury from 2016.  I’m not that concerned because he returned and completed two full seasons since then, even if he has lost some of his pop.  Having a formidable running back duo will help Andrew Luck get back into form because the team will not have to rely solely on him to move the offense.

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

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

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

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

Updated 2018 Positional Rookie Rankings

Updated: March 15th 2018

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

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


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

Running Backs

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

Wide Receivers

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

Tight Ends

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

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

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

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

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

RSO Rookie Rundown – 2018 WRs

Updated: March 30th 2018

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

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

Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft Round Grade:  Early 2nd Round

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

Recent NFL Comparison:  Antonio Brown

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


Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft Round Grade:  Mid to Late 2nd Round

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

Recent NFL Comparison:  Nelson Agholor

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

DJ Moore, WR, Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft Round Grade:  Early 2nd Round

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

Recent NFL Comparison:  Chris Godwin

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


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

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

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

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