RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 6

Updated: October 18th 2020

Stephen’s Picks

Matt’s Picks

Kyle’s Picks

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

The Watch List 2021: Week 7 Preview

Updated: October 15th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

(Editor’s note: There have been two important updates related to this week’s article. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has tested positive for covid and there is some speculation that the game may be postponed. Update your game watching schedule accordingly. Also, Tamorrion Terry underwent knee surgery and is expect to miss at least a few weeks.)

If you only have time to watch one college football game this weekend your choice must be #3 Georgia visiting #2 Alabama. The game is chock full of future NFL stars on both sides of the ball, however I’ve recently written about both teams so I am going to look elsewhere for this weekly preview. To run the gamut of watchability, let’s take a look at two prospects who are playing on teams that are bad enough that you can barely bring yourself to DVR and fast forward through their contests: Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry and Duke’s Deon Jackson. Duke finally broke their duck with a victory against Syracuse in Week 6, whereas FSU’s lone win came against FCS squad Jacksonville State. Combined against FBS opponents, the two teams are 1-6 and have been outscored 263-157. I selected these two players to spotlight and started writing this preview before the kickoff of Week 6 games and the performances by both Terry and Jackson in those games confirmed my suspicions that we need to keep these two on our shortlists.

Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State

Tamorrion Terry is a former 4-star recruit who landed in Tallahassee with some hype after turning down offers from a number of blue blood programs like Georgia and Auburn. I love finding absurd stats in player bios and Terry had one of the best I’ve seen: as a senior in high school he recorded 40 receptions and scored on 19 of them. Fast forward to his freshman and sophomore seasons at FSU where Terry couldn’t possibly match that incredible efficiency but amassed strong 35-744-8 and 60-1,188-9 stat lines. Heading into Week 6 of 2020 though, Terry had just 12 receptions and 129 yards with no touchdowns. That underwhelming output — including a catchless game against Miami — is more on quarterbacks James Blackman and Tate Rodemaker than on Terry. Jordan Travis got the nod for the Notre Dame matchup after a good showing late in the win versus Jacksonville State. That was great news for Terry who ended the Notre Dame game with nine grabs for 146 yards and a touchdown. (7-121-1 of that line came from Travis who injured his hand late in the game but has said he’ll be fine.)

Terry’s touchdown against Notre Dame was a thing of beauty so it’s worth looking at more closely. Terry is lined up on the perimeter, to the field, against off-man single coverage. Terry runs a short stem, cuts hard inside for a slant which the corner pounces on as Terry cuts back outside for a double move. The corner recovers but Terry is able to get a few yards of separation. The ball is slightly under thrown so Terry slows his momentum and tracks the ball well to make an over the shoulder grab in stride. The corner makes a valiant effort at the tail end of the play trying to bring Terry down by his ankles but Terry is too big and too strong as he falls forward into the end zone.

I also watched Terry’s 2019 Boston College tape and some highlight packages. There was a lot to like in those clips too but the biggest surprise from watching the BC game was that Terry loves to block. He threw a wallop of a block near the goal line in the first quarter and was the key downfield blocker for a second half touchdown scamper by Jordan Travis (who was used situationally as a runner in 2019). Terry checks a ton of boxes — size, catch radius, speed, tackle breaking ability, physicality — and it’s hard to find major negatives to his game. If I had to nitpick, I would say that one thing that I noticed repeatedly was that he doesn’t always use his sticky-strong hands and lets the ball get into his body.

When researching Terry I found that there was some disagreement on his top-end speed. One of my trusted scouting sites, DraftScout.com, projects Terry in the 4.6 range. A few other resources suggested a 4.50 forty. And then I stumbled on a Reddit thread that shared a tweet that has since been deleted that clocked Terry at 23.4mph during the bowl game against Arizona State last year (which happened to be his best game of the year, 9-165-1). As the commenters point out, that would be faster than any speed the NFL has tracked using their next-gen stats. So either Terry will be the fastest NFL player ever or he’ll run one of the slowest times of the class at the combine. I’ll go with the median and expect a time between 4.45-4.55.

Tamorrion Terry has the wingspan and ability to attack like a pterodactyl from a Jurassic Park sequel. From what I have seen so far, I expect that he can be a starting X receiver in the NFL. In regards to Terry’s NFL Draft prospects, we may have a similar situation to that of his former teammate RB Cam Akers. Few could argue against Akers’ talent but there was enough uncertainty from playing on a bad team that his stock fell from the #1 back in the recruiting class to fourth off the board at the NFL Draft. I’m hopeful that the uptick that Jordan Travis provided continues and Terry sees higher quality targets throughout the rest of the season. I can see Terry becoming a rising star during the predraft process and landing in the Top 50 because of his physical traits.

Deon Jackson, RB, Duke

When I was searching for some Youtube game tape of Jackson, I came across a highlight reel titled “The Most Disrespected RB in the ACC.” That may have primed me before I dived deeper but after a short study I can’t say I disagree. I’ve fallen in love with Deon Jackson.

Like Terry above, Jackson has been a reliable producer on a mediocre team. In 2018 and 2019, Jackson combined for 333 carries, 1,488 yards and 13 TDs, averaging 4.46 yards per carry. Hardly eye-popping numbers, but solid. Jackson also contributed as a receiver, adding 47-445-4 as a receiver in the same span. That’s an average of 9.46 yards per reception which would be up there just behind Travis Etienne among the conference’s best backs last year. Jackson had the best game of his career against Syracuse last week, earning 169 yards on 30 carries (he did have a bad fumble in the first half though). So far in 2020 Jackson has not yet shown up as a receiver — just six receptions through five games — perhaps because he’s playing with a new quarterback in Chase Brice who prefers to check down to TE Noah Gray instead.

I watched the condensed version of Duke’s win against Syracuse and also watched some of Jackson’s highlights to better understand his game. Jackson probably has 4.55-4.65 speed so he won’t be winning too many long distance sprints but that’s okay because he’s plenty quick. He mostly runs straight ahead, adding just a little wiggle if needed in the open field. He’s patient at the line of scrimmage but is decisive once he sees his hole. As a receiver, Jackson is fantastic. He only had one reception against Syracuse but it was a good hands catch, as were those in his highlights. He occasionally lines up as a receiver and looks to run solid routes from anywhere. Against Syracuse he was used in pass protection a few times and protected Chase Brice well on the team’s first touchdown of the game. Here was Jackson’s highlight play against Syracuse, a fifty yarder in the first quarter where he showed some speed and that decisiveness I mentioned above. He accelerates as he hits the hole and manages to break through the traffic beyond the line of scrimmage.

Jackson has enough speed and the size at 6000/215 to be a workhorse at the next level (think: Chris Carson). I’ve made the mistake of writing off running backs like Carson (and Alvin Kamara) who had similar athletic profiles and collegiate production, so I won’t be doing that with Jackson. It’s too soon to predict next-level success like that of an NFL star but we need to keep a close eye on Deon Jackson.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List 2021: Week 6 Preview

Updated: October 9th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Forgive me for sounding like a cub reporter for the The Tiger, the student newspaper at Clemson, but this week’s entry is going to focus on the nation’s best. Clemson has started the season 3-0 with relatively easy contests against Wake Forest, The Citadel and Virginia. So far they have outscored opponents 127-36, and were never really in danger against UVA even though they did allow the Cavaliers to keep it somewhat close for awhile. The #1 ranked Tigers will face a real test this week when #7 Miami travels to Death Valley for Week 6, looking to protect their own unbeaten start. Since the first three Clemson outings were snoozers broadcast on the depths of your channel guide, many of you, like me, probably haven’t seen too much of the Tigers yet in 2020. I thought it would be good to check in on a few of the key draft eligible players who might make a difference on Saturday night.

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

“And that’s the one Marvin, that’s the silver tuna.” I’m not sure why that Home Alone quote was the first thing to come to mind when I was brainstorming a quirky opening sentence that summed up Trevor Lawrence and his place atop the college football world, but hey it works! During his three years as the Clemson starter, I have not written much about Lawrence because frankly there isn’t much for me to say. Lawrence has been the darling of #DraftTwitter since before he even took a snap for Clemson. Back before the 2018 season, I was ready to pencil him in over incumbent Kelly Bryant right away, saying “it’s only a matter of time before we see Lawrence take over at Clemson.” In hindsight, that seems like a “no duh” sentiment and it should have been because Bryant had no business playing over Lawrence to start that campaign. Barring injury, or a self-preservation redshirt, Lawrence will end his career with over 10,000 passing yards, more than 100 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing scores. Unsurprisingly, Lawrence is the all-time leader in passing efficiency in ACC history. This week against Miami, Lawrence will be facing the best and most opportunistic defense he’s seen so far (and maybe until the playoff).

Trevor Lawrence has it all as a quarterback. He has better than prototypical size at 6060/220. His arm is strong and he trusts himself to squeeze it into tight spaces. He’s accurate and doesn’t make many mistakes (a 73:12 TD:INT ratio is good right?). He’s effective as a short yardage runner and has enough juice in those long legs to break off an occasional long run. Check out this first half highlight reel from his last game against UVA where you see him do a little of everything:

In addition to his traits on the field, something else that I was pleased to see this offseason was Lawrence’s leadership off the field. Regardless of your personal opinion on the viability of this year’s college football season amid a pandemic, it was nice to see Lawrence rallying players from across the country. Lawrence has also been a leading voice in the college football world when it comes to equality and social change. Sports Illustrated recently quoted him saying, “I’m not an activist of any sorts, but I do think I have a responsibility to promote equality and help the people I love.”

Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck and will undoubtedly be the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s also going to be a first rounder in your rookie draft; even if you’re not playing superflex he’s going to go earlier than you think because somebody will want to build around a once-in-a-generation talent.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

I last wrote about Travis Etienne, currently my favorite college football player, in the Spring when I previewed three potential 1.01 rookie draft picks. In that preview, I gushed about Etienne once again. Over his career, Etienne averages 7.7 yards per carry and has scored 65 total touchdowns. It’s hard to argue with that production, especially when you consider the level of competition he’s facing at Clemson. In six career playoff games, Etienne has nine scores and over 450 scrimmage yards. So far this year, Etienne has earned 315 yards from scrimmage and 3 total TDs. He’s not off to a blazing start but that doesn’t worry me. With a modified offseason and a mediocre opening slate, I would not be surprised if the plan was to ease Etienne into the season until they need him most.

Etienne started his career as a home run hitting speedster. Since then, he’s developed his body and his game and has become powerful at the point of contact. He has also overcame his reluctance as a receiver to be a valuable option out of the backfield (37 receptions, 432 yards and 4 receiving TDs last year). The two snippets below show just how his game has evolved. The first highlight is from his freshman season in 2017 and it shows just how quickly he can accelerate and stride past all eleven defenders. The icing on the cake was the sprinter’s lean as he crossed the goal line. The second play came against Virginia last week; it’s only a sixteen yard run to the endzone but he shows us so much. The clip illustrates his patience, strength and contact balance while four defenders have a chance to stop him.

https://twitter.com/TheHHShow_/status/1312559519390593024?s=20

I think it’s inevitable that Travis Etienne is a first rounder in the NFL Draft in 2021 and a Top 3 pick in your next rookie draft. I hope I luck into a number of shares because I love watching him play and expect he’ll continue to develop into a complete three-down NFL running back.

Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson

A few months back we did not expect that Amari Rodgers would be the Tigers’ leading receiver. Instead, we assumed it would have been Justyn Ross, however a neck/spine injury has sidelined him for this year (and hopefully only this year.) Through his first three years on campus, Rodgers proved to be a trustworthy complementary target with a career stat line of 104-1,124-8. When I wrote about Rodgers in the Spring, I described him as a “strong and compact slot receiver whose unique 5100/210 body type is well suited to breaking tackles.” I went on to suggest that Rodgers would “have an instant role in the NFL as a reliable underneath receiver and dynamic punt returner.”

Against Virginia, Rodgers had one of the best games of his career, going for 72 yards and 2 TDs on six grabs. His best play of the game didn’t count though: an acrobatic diving touchdown that was ruled incomplete but should have been reviewed. Rodgers showed the ceiling and the floor of his potential versus the Cavaliers. The two clips below will help illustrate my point. At worst, as I mentioned above, he’s a satellite player who can succeed in space, whether that’s on screens or returns. At best, he can use his speed and nimble nature to get open on deep posts and make difficult receptions. I don’t expect him to regularly win contested downfield balls against NFL defensive backs but if he can occasionally stretch the defense to open up options for his teammates he’ll be a key contributor at the next level. I’ll bet Rodgers, likely a late rounder, becomes a fan favorite by the end of the season because we’re going to see a lot of Clemson in primetime and he’s bound to make some memorable plays.

 

 

Jackson Carman, LT, Clemson

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have an eye for scouting offensive lineman. But, you don’t need a scout’s eye to notice Jackson Carman and his gargantuan 6050/335 build. Carman took over as the starter in 2019 and has twenty career starts thus far at left tackle. Phil Steele, one of my most trusted voices in college football, had Carman as the 12th best offensive tackle in the draft-eligible class before the season began. The Draft Network has him ranked even higher at the 6th best in the class. In their scouting report, TDN described Carman as a “road grader in the run game” and said that “no pass rusher is going through him.” Sounds good to me. Dabo Swinney has proven himself to be one of the best coaches in the nation and he wouldn’t trust his phenom quarterback’s blindside to just anybody.

Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson

The Clemson defense has been without its two biggest prospects to start the season: Justin Foster and Xavier Thomas. That has left the door open for other guys to make a name for themselves, including graduate linebacker Baylon Spector. Spector is the team’s leading tackler with 20 tackles, 2.5 TFL and 1.0 sack through three games. He lit up the box score last week against UVA, tallying 13 total tackles. Clemson’s defense has been an NFL factory of late but that usually comes from the edge rushers and secondary. Some of their recent off-ball linebackers like Kendall Joseph and Ben Boulware went undrafted but got a sniff in the NFL as undrafted free agents. Spector may be in the same situation if he can continue to rack up the counting stats this season. Admittedly, I’m also a sucker for a good “human interest” story and Baylon’s younger brother Brannon is on the squad too. He’s a redshirt freshman receiver who had four receptions last week. The Athletic recently had an entertaining profile of the brothers and how they trained together throughout the pandemic. It’s unlikely that either Spector is a viable NFL Draft prospect but I’ll be rooting for them anyway.

 

PS: The Hurricanes offense will be paced by dual-threat QB D’Eriq King and TE Brevin Jordan but we should be paying attention to junior RB Cam’Ron Harris too. It’s been four years since the ‘Canes had a 1,000 yard rusher and even in a shortened season Harris is on pace for 1,140 rushing yards and 18 scores. He caught my eye in their opener against UAB, showing both long speed and power to push the pile. He has an ideal build at 5100/210 and should continue to earn passing game work too.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and 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 Staff Picks 2020: Week 4

Updated: October 4th 2020

Stephen’s Picks

Matt’s Picks

Kyle’s Picks

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Feeling Better about RSO Contracts

Updated: October 3rd 2020

There are always a number of variables surrounding players for which we do not have all the answers going into the season.  The play of surrounding players, coaching schemes, health, and other factors dictate much of a player’s fantasy production.  With a few weeks of the NFL finished, we can now get a feel for how some of those variables will work out.  The article examines a number of RSO contracts, using average startup data from many leagues this offseason, for which we can now feel more confident about based on usage and surrounding circumstances through three weeks of the NFL season.

 

Quarterback

Josh Allen, QB7, $16M / 3 years

I was not in love with Allen’s price tag as a player I viewed as a high upside matchup play rather than an every week starter due to low projected passing volume and efficiency.  Allen destroyed expectations so far as the fantasy QB2.  While he still commands a large volume of rushing attempts, Allen also saw his passing jump considerably in 2020. The Buffalo quarterback ranks 2nd in passing yards and yards per attempt, while also sitting at 7th in passing attempts.  Those numbers represent big passing volume and efficiency jumps so far.

Jared Goff, QB16, $11M / 2 years

The book on Goff seems mainly written at this point.  He can produce some of the most consistently accurate throws in the league when given a relatively clean pocket.  His results become far sketchier when pressure exists, forcing him into off-script plays for which he does not have the athleticism or arm strength to make on a regular basis.  Head coach Sean McVay has this offense clicking using more of a run-based approached with a big increase in play-action passing off of it, which has resulted in a much more efficient passing attack.  This scheme also helped the offensive line, in particular seeing a vast decrease in pressure on their quarterback.  Goff currently ranks as the most efficient passer in the NFL.

 

Running Back

Austin Ekeler, RB13, $23M / 3 years

Not many people questioned Ekeler’s skills.  He graded as one of PFF’s top running backs over the last couple of years with a great athletic profile which translates to the field and outstanding skills in as a receiver. The main questions concerning Ekeler revolved around what his role would be and how much Tyrod Taylor would dampen his production.  The early results are encouraging.  Despite a nearly 50/50 split in carries with rookie Josh Kelley, Ekeler ranks 12th in rushing attempts while remaining one of the most targeted running backs in the league.  Taylor is already injured and the early returns from rookie quarterback Justin Herbert look ready to boost Ekeler’s fantasy ceiling.

Kareem Hunt, RB29, $9M / 2 years

This is another scenario where situational concerns brought questions.  Most RSO GMs bought Hunt, in part, as a gamble he would land a starting gig next season.  Those hopes were likely dashed when Hunt signed an extension with the Browns.  Cleveland brought in Kevin Stefanski and Hunt remains behind star running back Nick Chubb.  The run-heavy Stefanski offense and the offseason additions to the offensive line appear to alleviate many of the concerns.  Hunt produces stand-alone value, ranking 21st in carries, as the fantasy RB14 despite playing second-fiddle to Chubb and possesses elite fantasy upside as his handcuff.  All systems go on this contract.

Wide Receiver

Stefon Diggs, WR20, $15M / 3 years

One of the best route runners in the game, questions surrounded whether there would be enough volume in Buffalo for sustained weekly production.  The history of high-end receivers switching teams also does not inspire confidence.  Injuries and inconsistent volume plagued Diggs in Minnesota.  The changing of the Bills to a more pass-happy offense helps solidify Diggs’ place among wide receivers.  The evolution of Allen helped propel Diggs to the fantasy WR4 through three weeks.  This RSO contract appears much safer right now.

Diontae Johnson, WR41, $6M / 2 years

The offseason darling skyrocketed up auction boards after a great rookie season in which he routinely made defensive backs look silly.  Many unknowns still existed however. Was his rookie season just a small sample outlier playing with bad NFL backup quarterbacks and a injury-plagued season by star wideout Juju Smith-Schuster? Would Roethlisberger come back healthy, and if he did, would revert to Smith-Schuster as the primary target?  Those questions seem mainly answered so far.  Johnson amassed a whopping 23 targets the first two weeks before injury in week three.  The injury and Pittsburgh’s unexpected game move in week four might even provide a buying window.

Tight End

Hunter Henry, TE7, $9M / 2 years

Henry represents another player who performed great while on the field, however injuries and the afore-mentioned quarterback situation for the Chargers raised issues this offseason.  He also is playing on the franchise tag this season with no long-term contract in place. The results speak for themselves so far this year. Henry is a main cog in the Los Angeles passing attack ranking fourth in receptions among tight ends through three weeks this season.   He seems like a lock to earn a new contract if he stays healthy throughout the year.


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

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 3

Updated: September 27th 2020

Stephen’s Picks

Matt’s Picks

Kyle’s Picks

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell