Same Site…New Look!

Updated: April 24th 2018

It’s taken us a bit longer than we would have liked, but we are now rolling out an updated site.  Most of the functionality of the site is the same or similar to what it was before, just with a vastly new look.  Along with this new look, you should see more responsive pages when viewing on mobile devices as well as better overall performance on some pages (and it shouldn’t be any worse on the others).  I’ll highlight a few of the bigger changes we’ve made with this update:

League Nav

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the new league navigation.  Gone are those static sub navigation items that were always near the top of the page.  They are no longer ingrained into the content of the page, but rather appear as part of the navigation menu and appear/disappear as you hover over other options.

As we’ve grown, more and more of our users are now belonging to more than one RSO league, so we’ve made it easier on those of you.  The same navigation that you’ve had for the past year on the external pages to enter your league now appears internally as well so you can quickly navigate between leagues when needed.

Owners/Roster/Ledger

Unfortunately with the new navigation, we needed to cut down the number of sub navigation items and so we’ve combined the old Owners, Rosters, and Ledger pages which will all be under the new ‘Owners’ item.  They are still there, but if you’re going to the Roster or Ledger page it’s going to take one more click than it used to.

League Home

If you didn’t notice the navigation first, you’ll sure notice the new league home page.  Admittedly, functionally this is more or less the same page that it was, but we have moved a few things around and it will be your first look at how all the pages will be laid out.  The NFL schedule now appears in a slider at the top of the page.  The transactions have been moved from the larger content area to the side area under the weekly fantasy matchups.  Also a few other small touchups but you can discover those for yourself.  We did remove one section from the home page and that’s the Messages.  We didn’t feel like having the messages on the home page brought enough value especially given that you couldn’t even read the full contents of the message.  We do however have some good news for those of you that do regularly use the messaging feature…

Messaging

This has my vote for most improved experience on the site.  What we had before was rather clunky and honestly I thought was a bit of a pain to use.  Now everything is all on one page and is hopefully a more familiar layout to what you’re used to.  We’ve also added the ability to see who the messages are to since we know that in the past it wasn’t easy (or impossible) to distinguish public vs private messages.  Also now moved to this page is the ability to toggle whether the league chat window appears or not.

Other Improvements

There’s plenty of other smaller improvements that we’ve made, most of which I’ll let you discover on your own but here’s a few quick items:

  • Can now filter by position on the Contracts Overview page (which is also now exclusively under the Player navigation rather than also under Team)
  • The few total point leagues out there should have a better experience on a few pages (Home and History mostly)
  • Other bug fixes and error hadnling so you shouldn’t see that dreaded error/oops page nearly as often

Other FYIs

If you have them, bookmarks to league pages from before this update will no longer work (they’ll take you to the site home rather than your league).  You’ll need to re-bookmark the league page(s).

We’ve tested the new site on all the latest verisons of the major browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge) so those are all supported.  We also tried it on IE 10 and 11 as well and it should be fine on those browsers outside of a couple very minor cosmetic issues.  If you’re using anything before IE 10 then you’re on your own.

Also, it’s a large site and it’s possible that we could have missed something.  If you see something that isn’t behaving as you believe it should or if you see anything that looks off, screenshot it and send it to inquiries@realitysportsonline.com and we’ll take a look at it.

What’s next

Draft season is upon us, so we’ll be busy with the new rookies.  Over the next month or so we’ll also be looking to add SSL to the site, add 1st downs as a scoring option, as well as other smaller items.

Follow me on twitter @RSOKyleEnglish for the latest RSO technical updates or any quick technical questions you may have.

More Analysis by Kyle English

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Part II, Picks 17-32

Updated: April 19th 2018

If you have not already read Part IV of my mock draft, please start there so you can start at the bottom and follow through to the beginning.  Part IV includes detailed notes about my methodology and process.  You can then move on to Part III and then finally to Part I once it is posted.  An important note to remind readers is that this mock draft was compiled on March 30-31 so please keep the timing in mind as you read in case there are trades or free agent signings in the interim.

 

#32 – Eagles – Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma

If Orlando Brown didn’t attend the combine he would have been drafted higher.  Instead, he did participate and promptly became the butt of many jokes on #DraftTwitter.  The reason for the hate was just how unathletic Brown looked.  He ran a 5.85 40 yard dash, had a 19.5″ vertical jump, a 82″ broad jump and 14 bench reps – all worst at the position.  On the field though, Brown has been lauded with accolades throughout his career.  He was a 2017 consensus All-American and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy.  In 2015 and 2016, he was named to various awards lists as well.  The Eagles have added to the defense in the offseason, trading for DE Michael Bennett and CB Daryl Worley, so I think it makes sense to go offense here, specifically the line.  Starting tackles, Jason Peters and Lane Johnson are good but are not always available.  Peters is 36 and has a long injury history, meanwhile Johnson has already been suspended twice for PEDs in his short career.  Nobody should have been surprised that Brown is not an elite athlete, just watch some tape, but the hate has gone too far.  He’s 6’8″ and 345lbs and you can’t teach size.  The fact that he’s played 40 career games and is not an injury risk is just further reason to take him here and benefit from the discount his awful combine created.

#31 – Patriots – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

The Patriots love to go defense with their first pick and have done so every year, except 2011, since 2006.  In that range, there were two high profile LBs taken, Jamie Collins and Jerod Mayo, so we know the Patriots aren’t averse to drafting the position high.  Vander Esch was uber productive in the Mountain West this season (141 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 INTs, 4 forced fumbles) but really only has one year of experience as a starter because of a redshirt and a season mostly lost to injury.  If Vander Esch returned to school in 2018 and put up similar numbers, I would expect him to jump into the first half of the first round.  Instead, he’ll sneak in here and unsurprisingly, the Patriots will find value with a late first round pick.

#30 – Vikings – Connor Williams, T, Texas

In most years, Connor Williams probably wouldn’t warrant being the third tackle off the board but this is not the strongest class (similar to last year where only two were taken in the first round).  In 2016, Williams was a consensus All-American, improving on a freshman season that earned him freshman All-American honors.  In 2017, however, he only played in five games due to injury.  At the combine, Williams measured in as one of the smallest tackles so it’s possible that teams may try to move him inside.  Regardless of whether he deserves to be a first rounder, I think the Vikings will feel the need to add to their offensive line to help protect their new franchise quarterback, Kirk Cousins.  Centers Frank Ragnow or James Daniels are probably the best lineman on the board at this point but the Vikings are already set at the position with Pat Elflein.  Chalk this one up to team need rather than BPA.

#29 – Jaguars – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

Evans is a versatile linebacker who started his career as a pass rusher and has since transitioned inside.  He played very well down the stretch when the Tide needed him to be the primary inside backer due to injuries to Shaun Dion Hamilton and others.  Over his last six games, Evans had 8+ tackles in five of them.  Adding Evans to a starting linebacking corps of Telvin Smith and Myles Jack is almost unfair to the rest of the AFC South.  Evans has a lot of potential and I think he would fit right in with the ethos of the Jaguars defense.

#28 – Steelers – Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

Per Spotrac.com, the Steelers have yet to resign four DBs from 2017’s squad.  They did bring in safety Morgan Burnett from the Packers but they still need more depth.  Mike Hughes is an interesting prospect.  He started his career at UNC but was suspended after an alleged assault at a frat party.  After leaving UNC, he became a JUCO All-American and ended up at UCF where he shined in 2017 as a junior with 49 tackles and 4 INTs.  Hughes also contributes on special teams where he ranked top five in both kick return and punt return average.  In addition to his one interception return touchdown, he also returned two kicks and one punt for scores.  The Steelers ranked near the bottom of the league in both kick and punt return average in 2017.  So, even if Hughes is unable to unseat Joe Haden or Artie Burns as a starting corner, he could add value as a nickel and a return man.  The Steelers tend to use their starting receivers as returners, but it might behoove them to protect both Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster and let somebody else handle the kicks.

#27 – Saints – Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

I really struggled with the Saints pick here at #27.  I considered local edge rusher Arden Key from LSU but decided he wasn’t worth the pick.  I also considered Mason Rudolph, the next best quarterback on my board, as the heir apparent for the aging Drew Brees.  Gesicki was my other choice but part of me didn’t want to put two tight ends back-to-back.  Once my mind flashed to Jimmy Graham back in the day with Brees and the Saints, I was sold.  Gesicki is an incredible athlete and labeling him as a tight end might be a misnomer because he’s not a good blocker and will serve primarily as a receiver.  Gesicki’s 2017 output at Penn State, 57 receptions for 563 yards and 9 TDs, is better than all three of the Saints’ 2017 tight ends combined.  The Saints did re-sign TE Benjamin Watson for a second stint which also made me hesitate with this pick.  Watson missed all of 2016 with an achilles injury but rebounded with a 61-522-4 line in 2017 as a 36 year old with Baltimore.  Watson is not going to factor into the team’s plans past this season (neither will Coby Fleener whose dead cap number drops next offseason), so it’s not crazy to think that they target another weapon for Brees.

#26 – Falcons – Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

Dallas Goedert is now my top ranked TE in the class.  At various times over the last year, I have had Mike Gesicki and Hayden Hurst in that spot but I’ve become enamored enough with Goedert to push him up.  His usage in college reminded me of Travis Kelce with the Chiefs.  The team made a concerted effort to get the ball in his hands in creative ways to showcase his plus athleticism.  At worst, he’s an average blocker when compared to the other top prospects at the position.  That means he should be able to see playing time early in his career.  I like the idea of adding him to the Falcons’ 8th ranked passing offense.  I doubt the team is ready to give up on 2016 draft choice Austin Hooper, but combining Goedert with Hooper could shore up the only weakness of this offense.

#25 – Titans – Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio State

Hubbard is my highest rated edge rusher left on the board.  His stat line of 42-13.5-7 is not amazing but that’s mostly a factor of playing on Ohio State’s dominant defensive line where he shared snaps with a number of future pros.  Hubbard played as a 4-3 end so it remains to be seen how he would fit with the Titans and new coach Mike Vrabel.  Like Matt Patricia, I expect Vrabel to adopt more of a multiple scheme rather than locking into a 3-4 or a 4-3, even though DC Dean Pees prefers a 3-4.  The Titans have spent heavily on former Patriot players Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler, perhaps no surprise given Vrabel’s history in New England.  The relationship between Bill Belichick and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano is well known.  Since Vrabel has already shown a desire to create Patriots South with his free agent signings, I’ll bet that he continues that in the draft and targets a player who will be vouched for by two trusted coaches.

#24 – Panthers – Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

The Panthers traded starter Daryl Worley to the Eagles for WR Torrey Smith so they currently have a need at the position.  Jackson led the nation in 2017 with 8 INTs, including five combined against top Big Ten foes Ohio State and Wisconsin.  He has tremendous ball skills (he also had 18 pass break ups).  Jackson is a converted receiver, hence the ball skills.  Jackson played better in run support in 2017 as a full-time starter, totaling 48 tackles.  The Panthers passing defense finished in the bottom half in yards per attempt, yards per game, interceptions and average rating so adding somebody like Jackson is a no-brainer.

#23 – Rams – Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, Georgia

(Editor’s note: The Rams traded this pick to the Patriots as part of the Brandin Cooks deal.  Cowper is upset because it likely means that whatever chance his beloved Lorenzo Carter had as a first rounder are dashed.  Cowper doubts whether the Pats will hold the pick but if they do, they may be hoping to grab a falling LT)  This pick is my biggest reach of the first round but I love Lorenzo Carter.  I introduced my readers to Carter in Week 4 when I said that he could ultimately end up with a first round grade.  He put up good numbers this year: 62 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries.  He put up even better combine numbers, running a 4.50 and broad jumping 130″ at 6’6″ and 250lbs.  That was the fastest time and longest jump for anybody 6’5″ and 240lbs or bigger.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Carter used in coverage at times down the stretch in 2017 so I don’t think he is limited just to situational pass rushing.  In time, I think he can be an every down linebacker who has exceptional length and speed.

#22 – Bills – James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

The Bills have spent heavily on the WR position recently.  They traded for Kelvin Benjamin and used a second round pick on Zay Jones in 2017.  Going back a bit further, they used a first rounder on Sammy Watkins in 2014 and a second rounder on Robert Woods in 2013 – neither of which is still with the team.  The recent disturbing video of Zay Jones has me thinking that the Bills will need to invest another high pick on a wide receiver.  Having two first rounders makes it a bit easier to do so.  If they do, I think they should grab Washington instead of Courtland Sutton.  Sutton is a big bodied receiver who would be too similar to Benjamin.  Washington is basically a running back playing out wide.  He has good speed, excellent acceleration and is a former high school track star.  He lacks the size and strength to fight for contested balls but his quickness means he rarely has to if the quarterback can hit him in stride.  Once he has the ball in his hands, he has good vision in the open field and often breaks big plays (he averages over 20 yards per reception for his career).

#21 – Bengals – Kolton Miller, T, UCLA

The Bengals offensive line unit is largely a group of no-name guys.  Unless you’re a masochistic Bengals fan, you probably wouldn’t recognize any of the names on their depth chart, maybe aside from Cordy Glenn who was just acquired in a trade.  The Bengals allowed 40 sacks in 2017, ranking them in the bottom half; their running backs averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, ranking them third worst.  Adding Miller instantly upgrades the unit.  The NFL.com scouting report on Miller describes him as an “average athlete.”  He rejected that notion at the combine where he finished third or better among tackles in the 40 yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone and shuttle.  Oh, and did I mention that he came in at 6’9″ and is the tallest prospect in the class?

#20 – Lions – Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College

New Lions head coach Matt Patricia will not run a set 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, instead he will adjust based on the matchup as he did in New England.  Because of this, he will need edge rushers who can get to the quarterback regardless of their alignment.  Landry fits the bill.  He played as a 4-3 end at BC but he has the speed and quickness to rush from a stand-up position in a 3-4 (at the combine he had the fastest shuttle and second fastest 3-cone among DE/EDGE).  In true Patriot fashion, the Lions would be getting a discount on Landry because he would have been taken higher if he came out last year after a 16.5 sack junior season.  Instead, he missed time in 2017 with an ankle injury and when he was on the field he was less effective.

#19 – Cowboys – Will Hernandez, G, UTEP

The Cowboys offensive line has been a strength of the team after they spent first round picks on linemen in 2011, 2013 and 2014.  The Cowboys also took a chance on La’el Collins who was a first round talent but went undrafted due to off the field concerns.  Collins and 2014 first rounder Zack Martin are a formidable duo of guards but I still want the Cowboys, my favorite team, to add to the offensive line.  Hernandez is the best lineman on the board at this pick so I would take him even though the team has two young starting guards.  Since that 2014 pick of Martin, the Cowboys have only used two draft picks on offensive lineman (a 3rd and a 7th in 2015) so it’s time to reinvest in the position.  Similar to how the Travis Frederick pick in 2013 disappointed Cowboys fans, myself included, this pick is not sexy but it would go a long way to keeping Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott healthy.

#18 – Seahawks – Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA

This is the third time I picked Davenport in this mock draft.  I second guessed the first two and replaced him with a different player.  When I got down here to the Seahawks I felt it was a perfect pick even with Harold Landry still on the board.  The Seahawks defense is in flux and two big name defensive linemen, Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson, won’t be there in 2018.  That opens the door for a prospect like Davenport to come in and be part of the new look Legion of Boom.  Davenport is a raw prospect but is very athletic for his size.  When compared to other DE/EDGE prospects at the combine, he excelled at the 40 yard dash and the broad jump while putting up respectable numbers in the vertical and bench press.  Davenport had a 55-17.5-8.5 line this season as a stand-up rusher.  What convinced me that the Seahawks would pounce on somebody like Davenport was researching their “Leo” position.  As I learned, Pete Carroll plays a modified 4-3 that features one defensive end “standing up or with his hand in the ground, and [his] sole focus is to be the primary pass rusher and wreak havoc in the backfield.”  That sure sounds like Davenport to me when you watch his highlights.  I don’t think he will be an every down player in the NFL early in his career but he will flash enough to get noticed.

#17 – Chargers – Isaiah Wynn, G/T, Georgia

Wynn is a versatile offensive lineman whose future in the NFL is likely at guard but he could see action at tackle or center as well.  He bounced between LT and LG at Georgia but is too small to start as a LT in the NFL on a regular basis.  I believe he would be a good target for the Chargers because of his versatility.  Both of the Chargers’ projected starting tackles, Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale, are 30 years old.  Okung has been placed on the IR twice in his career while Barksdale missed multiple games last year with a foot injury.  New C/G Mike Pouncey has a history of hip injuries and played a full season last year for the first time since 2012.  When you Google “Mike Pouncey injury,” one of the results trumpets the fact that the hip injury is not career-threatening.  Well, that’s encouraging.  Last year’s second round pick, G Forrest Lamp, missed his entire rookie season after an ACL tear.  What I’m driving at is that the Chargers will very likely need to juggle their offensive line this year and having somebody like Wynn who could fill a number of roles would be tremendous.  Both tackles also have smaller dead cap numbers for 2019, so maybe the Chargers can groom him, despite his smaller size, to be the team’s starting RT for 2019 and beyond.


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

Rookie vs. Veteran Value Analysis

Updated: April 17th 2018

The NFL draft season always creates a buzz around rookies which inflates the value of 1st and 2nd round picks in the current year. Until last year the RSO strategy for rookie picks was that you wanted to get a player who would produce immediately. This was because a player who needed a couple of years to develop would likely be on someone else’s team after his rookie contract ran out. With the latest features to have a 5th-year rookie option and the ability to resign a player, there may now be a shift in draft strategy where players that need a year or two to produce are still valuable. This creates two camps in the RSO fantasy community. The first are owners who want to accumulate rookies on 3 to 4-year contracts for between $1-7MM per year and have below market value players locked in long-term. The second are those that move their picks to acquire veteran talent because they know what they are getting, or at least can more accurately expect their production levels when compared to a college player arriving in the NFL.

So the question becomes which strategy is better for building a championship caliber team? To compare these strategies we need to look at the average production of a player on their rookie contract and place it against the top 24 players that are being priced according to their league’s market value in Free Agent Auctions at each position. The metric I will use shows a single value to compare all players against one another. This value will be a combination of two data points. The first is a player or draft pick’s points per game average over the last three (3) seasons compared to the average points from the top 24 players at each position. The second is a player or draft pick’s average annual contract value divided by their average fantasy points per game ($/FP) compared to the average $/FP of the top from the top 24 players at each position. This number will show how much a player is being paid per fantasy point whereby a lower number is the desirable outcome. Finally, a weighted ratio of 75:25 in favor of points per game is applied giving the final singular value, from here known as the Total Value.

Rookie Values

Now that we have gotten the background information out of the way let’s see what the data shows. First, the rookie selections. Plotting the data for the last three rookie drafts produces a graph that looks like this. For those in Superflex and 2QB, I have also done a separate analysis for comparisons.

Before continuing further one thing needs to be established regarding John Ross and where he fits within this data set. Because Ross didn’t score any fantasy points in his rookie season and doesn’t have any other years to compare against he was removed from the data. Including him would make the scale of the chart unreadable for all other players. If I revisit this data in the future when Ross has accumulated points I will add him back to the data.

As expected the 1.01 holds a lot of value. With players like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot, and Leonard Fournette the 1.01 has become an instant impact player that has been well below market value in their rookie season and beyond. Owners that have had these players under rookie contracts have had a strong advantage over their fellow league-mates when it comes to their buying power in Free Agency. The remainder of the first round, save for two spots, holds below average (1) value due to several expensive misses including Laquon Treadwell, Kevin White, Nelson Agholor, and Josh Doctson along with some yet to be sided picks in Corey Coleman and Corey Davis. It is likely no coincidence that the players listed are all WRs. More will be discussed about draft strategy regarding this later.

In the second round is where a separation in values between single and Superflex QB leagues. Because most leagues feature only one starting QB this makes drafting rookie QBs less of a priority and thus pushing them down the average draft board. Only two QBs had a first-round ADP in the last three seasons, Marcus Mariota (12.3) and Jameis Winston (12.6) compared to the seven total that were drafted in the first two rounds. The other five were drafted between 17 and 24 which is why the 2.07 – 2.12 features the lowest dollar per fantasy point value of any range of picks. For those who have started reading Matt Waldman’s RSP, he is noticing a similar trend over the last 5 years of rookie QBs producing earlier in their career. This is big news for RSO drafters because QBs score the most points in fantasy on average and if they can be acquired below market value early in their careers and now resigned to moderate contracts later drafting rookie QBs becomes even more of a second-round staple for value.

Comparing to the Veterans

Now that we have established the values of rookie picks we can bring in the veteran players to see what their values are. Remember that veteran players are likely to be earning higher contracts but they also have higher minimum production values when compared to rookies and rookie contracts. Below is a comparison between 2017’s top 3 scorers at each position and each pick within the first two rounds. Again, a second chart for 2QB and Superflex is also listed.

Before looking for me on twitter to tell me that Antonio Brown for the 2.01 immediately makes this study invalid here me out first. While the goal of this work was to try and give an exact yes or no answer to trades it turns out that cannot be done and much like most trades there is room for interpretation on both sides of a deal. The formula aims to value production over contracts but in some cases, it makes it difficult for the highest earning players to have greater value when players like Jordan Howard and Alvin Kamara are being drafted around the 2.01 at rock-bottom contracts. That is not to say that every 13th ranked player will be a top 24 player at his position but with their recent success, combined with their low contract value it makes them more valuable than other top players in the calculations.

The other reason for quirky results is because of players either being less roster-able in most leagues, their production was limited to a handful of games, or they were easily acquirable for minimum contracts in 2017. This is the case with players such as Josh McCown, Alex Collins, Benjamin Watson, Alex Smith, and Chris Thompson being considered “more valuable” than the 1.01.

Ultimately, this data is meant to be used to showcase where some of the more valuable spots within a draft are for selection value. The important numbers to focus on are at the bottom of the chart that shows veteran players hold more value compared to the average top 24 draft pick. Even in 2QB and Superflex, there is only slightly more value for draft picks due to QB’s higher scoring being more valuable under a rookie deal. For the full list of players and values, you can find the value charts shared here.

Final Thoughts

While the figures above would suggest moving down in (and often out of) the draft as the right decision we know also from the chart that scoring is not exactly even when comparing the top selection to the rest of the draft. If you are moving the 1.01 you want to ensure that you are receiving a great return in terms of veteran player production to counter the amount of cost savings the selection has when compared to the market value. Of course, the selection itself has to be the correct one otherwise the cost will doom its owner, both financially in the sunk cost of the first pick and production wise in the assets they forfeited to have it.

When it comes to making rookie selections the running back position is the position that offers the greatest likelihood of immediate and impactful returns. This is a key strategy for RSO leagues as you want to have championship windows built around having top performing starters being on below-market/rookie contracts before they become expensive to either resign or reacquire in Free Agency. While not always the case, most receivers take a few seasons to adapt to the NFL which reduces their value of being on low-cost contracts. If you have a top pick it is often more valuable to select an RB. Depending on if you play Superflex this may also be a spot to consider a QB, again because of the reduced cost and expected point total when compared to their veteran counterpart.

From the 1.05 to the 2.12 there is almost no correlation or change in expected career PPG. This is when the lottery begins on whether a player will be as successful as a top 24 player at his position. From any of these spots, you can start to weigh offers for veterans and decide whether their production value is equal to or greater than a realistic expectation of a rookie selected in that position. This is where I would reference my chart to see establish ranges where certain players become more valuable than a draft pick.

Other major takeaways to consider:

  • Do not draft a TE even if the value seems to be greater than that of any other player on the board. Their value should only be established once they become consistent producers. Paying a first round pick for a player like Travis Kelce is more justifiable than drafting a TE like O.J. Howard in the first round. You will be paying top TE salaries while hoping they produce as a top TE maybe by the final year of their contract.
  • In 1QB leagues, if you find yourself in the second round or later and are uninterested in drafting any of the available WRs or RBs take the highest available QB. Their value will often remain constant for the next year or two and can be flipped for similar pick values in future drafts.

Hopefully, these tips give you a leg up in the draft this season and if you have any questions about draft pick trade values send me a message on Twitter @RSO_NickAndrews.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Rethinking League Settings

Updated: April 17th 2018

A person recently asked me about auction values for some available players (all running backs and wide receivers) in his upcoming RSO free agent auction.  After looking over his team, I noticed he had a big need for tight end and quarterback and so asked him if he had any questions about QB and TE values.  His response essentially was “Who cares?  They are tight ends and quarterbacks so I will just take what is left over”.  Is that really how we want our leagues set up?  This issue is common in many leagues.  You can look at the big disparity in franchise tag values between positions or notice how late in rookie drafts tight ends and quarterbacks typically start going off the board to understand the issue.

With many leagues yet to begin, now is a good time to review league settings before startup auctions begin, particularly scoring and starting position requirements.  This article gives you a few ideas about how to address the big value differences between positions in your leagues.

Player Scoring

Let us do a quick review of player scoring among positions before we proceed.  I used data from the last four NFL seasons (2014-2017) to compute averages for player scoring on a Points Per Game (PPG) basis among the primary position groups in a fairly typical Points Per Reception (PPR) setting with quarterbacks scoring 4points per touchdown pass, -2 points per interception, and 1 point per 20 passing yards.  Figure 1 displays the results from which we can derive a few key insights to keep in mind going forward.  First, all position groups follow a similar pattern where the difference between player scoring tends to lessen as we get further down the ranks.  Second, quarterbacks generally score more as a group than other positions for most typically used scoring settings.  This becomes more important for those incorporating an RSO Open Flex (Superflex) spot.  Third, tight ends are drastically outscored by running backs and wide receivers.  This means a tight end will almost never be a good choice for your flex option.  Next, we examine what this means for player value.

Figure 1.  Average Player Scoring among Position Groups

Player Values Issues

Our next step is computing player values using our player scoring from above.  The question becomes what is player value?  In this context we define value as the difference between a starter’s PPG and the first league bench player for each position.  For example, say that the RB10 scores 15 PPG in a 10 team, start 2 running backs league and the RB21 scores 10 PPG.  The RB10 would have a value of 5 PPG.  A person may calculate each starter’s value using this methodology and examine the total values associated with each position group and relative to the other groups.

My baseline setting for this exercise is a typical 12 team league starting 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, and 1 TE using the scoring rules stated earlier.  Note that changing from a 3 WR league to a 2 WR plus 1 flex spot does not materially affect player values as wide receivers typically outscore running backs and tight ends over the flex spot range in a PPR league.  Figure 2 shows the values corresponding with our typical league using the averaged player scoring data detailed previously.

Figure 2.  Average Values among Position Groups in Baseline League

The above chart brings into sharp focus the big value differences between QBs/TEs and RBs/WRs.  The quarterback position, for example, holds only about 1/4th the total value of running backs and 1/5th that of wide receivers while the top quarterback averages about half the value of the top running back.  The average starter value of quarterbacks and tight ends are also significantly below that of running backs and tight ends.  Another issue involves the value concentration for the top quarterbacks and tight ends.  The top-6 quarterbacks and tight ends hold approximately 5/6th and 4/5th, respectively, of the total value at each position.  Many leagues use deeper starting requirements with more flex spots where the value differences between positions become even more pronounced.

Solutions to Value Issues between Positions

Thankfully there is no shortage of ways addressing the issues stated above.  Changing starting requirements, the number of teams, or scoring rules can have big impacts on player values.  RSO offers multiple scoring and roster options which provide plenty of flexibility to suit your league tastes.  Let’s examine one example of league settings which help balance our player values, a modified version of our baseline 12 team league adding another QB/Superflex and tight end spot with quarterbacks scoring 6points per touchdown pass and -3 points per interception plus giving tight ends 1.5 PPR scoring.  Looking at figure 3 below, the effect on league values is dramatic and presents some pleasing traits when compared to our baseline league.  Total player value is far more balanced between positions with the average starting player holding similar values among all positions.  The top players at each position also approach values far closer to one another.

Figure 3.  Average Values among Position Groups in a 2QB/2TE League

The modified league provides just one example address valuation differences and should not be thought of as a “be all” to every league.  There are countless league size, scoring variations, and starting lineup changes which can affect player valuations in positive ways.

2QB vs Superflex

I have used 2QB and Superflex leagues somewhat interchangeably in the above valuation analysis but there are differences you need to be aware of in your leagues.  The quarterback position is somewhat unique for fantasy purposes in that all NFL teams essentially play one quarterback each week barring the occasional injury or benching.  Each week there are at most 32 realistic starting options available, and as little as 26 in some bye weeks, for starting QB spots on RSO teams.  This means that, generally, some teams will likely be left without a viable quarterback for their second quarterback spot during bye weeks.  Taking a zero at the highest scoring position is extremely difficult to overcome in a given week which makes quarterbacks far more valuable in a 2QB league.  Backup quarterbacks also become roster considerations in 2QB leagues given the importance of fielding a QB.  A superflex league gives a team the ability to place another skill position player in play which is very appealing in many circumstances.  Superflex leagues also offer more strategic flexibility in how you construct your roster through trades, free agency auctions, and the rookie draft.

There is an argument that 2QB leagues should create an active trade market as competitive teams in need of quarterbacks are forced to look at other teams’ rosters for replacements.  Every league is different, but in my experience trade markets tend to freeze up for quarterbacks in deeper 2QB leagues due to the scarcity of starting options available.  The type of quarterback who should be part of an active trade market , veterans on expiring contracts, are not typically held by uncompetitive teams and competitive teams rarely want to depart with QB depth.  Nobody wants to give up quality starters on long-term deals.

Conclusion

There is no right or wrong way to set up your league but league settings will have big consequences on player values.  If you are bored of having quarterbacks and tight ends holding little value, consider starting your new league by adding an additional starting slot for each and/or changing other settings to bump up the value.  The result is a more challenging league which truly rewards good players no matter the position.


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

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2018 NFL Mock Draft: Part III, Picks 33-48

Updated: April 17th 2018

If you have not already read Part IV of my mock draft, please start there so you can start at the bottom and follow through to the beginning.  Part IV includes detailed notes about my methodology and process.  Once they are posted, you can then move on to Part II and then finally to Part I.  An important note to remind readers is that this mock draft was compiled on March 30-31 so please keep the timing in mind as you read in case there are trades or free agent signings in the interim.

#48 – Chargers – Justin Reid, S, Stanford

My primary need for the Chargers was on the offensive line.  I addressed that with their first round pick to give Phillip Rivers and Melvin Gordon some protection.  For the next pick, I wanted to target the defense. Last year’s starting free safety, Tre Boston, has not yet been resigned.  Boston led the team in defensive snaps so it’s telling that they didn’t resign him right away.  Former undrafted Texas Longhorn Adrian Phillips is the next up at the position, so the Chargers could use an upgrade through the draft if they don’t bring Boston back.  Justin Reid is the next best safety available, either free or strong, and could start from Day One.  Reid ran the second fastest forty of any safety (4.40) so he has the speed to avoid getting beat deep and he has good ball skills.  He also plays well closer to the line of scrimmage (he had 94 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss in 2017) and would give the Chargers defense some flexibility with how they align the secondary.

#47 – Cardinals – Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

I firmly believe that Rudolph will be taken in the #30-40 range and that he won’t actually make it this far, but I’m not mocking any trades so I had to find a home for him.  Most of the teams starting the second round don’t, or won’t, need a quarterback (i.e. the Browns and Giants who I expect to draft one earlier or the Bears and Bucs who have their own young QBs).  A team may decide to jump up to get him late in the first round to get the extra fifth year of control.  Or, a team may trade up to start the second round and guarantee they get the top of their second tier of passers.  I am higher on Rudolph than most – he started the year as my QB2.  He is a pocket passer with elite size.  He has underrated mobility in and around the pocket but he’s certainly not a dual threat.  I believe he has a high floor as a quiet locker room leader with a ton of experience and and big arm.  The Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to start in the short-term so this would be a good landing spot for Rudolph.  He would not be pressured into starting on Day One but he also wouldn’t be stuck behind an entrenched starter for years (i.e. AJ McCarron).

#46 – Bengals – Brian O’Neill, T, Cincinatti

At pick #21, I also had the Bengals going tackle.  That’s how badly I think the Bengals need to upgrade their offensive line.  I’ll go into more detail at that pick.  O’Neill started his career at Pitt as a tight end before transitioning to RT and then to LT.  O’Neill led all offensive lineman in the 40 yard dash and the 3-cone drills, by significant margins.  He’s tall at 6’7″ but light at 297lbs so he doesn’t really have the frame or the strength to be a starting left tackle in the league.  He’s most likely looking at a transition back to the right side or possibly even inside to be an athletic pulling guard where his athleticism could be utilized.  Watch out for O’Neill on trick plays: he has three career rushing attempts for 39 yards and 2 TDs.

#45 – Packers – Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

Do you feel a sense of deja vu with the Packers drafting a tall corner near the top of the second round?  Last year they took 6’3″ corner Kevin King and this year I have them taking the 6’1″ Isaiah Oliver from Colorado.  The Packers finished 28th or worst in numerous passing defense categories last year, including: completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating and touchdowns.  Oliver is not strong in run support, making just 60 tackles over the last two years, but he does use his length to break up passes (3 INTs and 19 passes defended over the same span).  Adding two potential starters to a beleaguered secondary, plus the return of Aaron Rodgers, could make the Packers a Super Bowl contender.

#44 – Redskins – Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

According to most experts, Harrison is a first round talent but I just didn’t find the right fit for him in the 25-35 range like I thought I would.  He’s the type of player who might get “trade up” attention if he makes it into the second round.  If Harrison makes it this far, or if the Redskins decide they want to try and trade up a few picks, I think Ronnie Harrison would be a good target for their defense.  Aside from free safety DJ Swearinger, the Redskins have barely any cap tied up in the safety position.  The current projected SS is Deshazor Everrett.  While Everrett has a great first name, he is a converted corner who went undrafted coming out of Texas A&M.  Replacing him with a hard hitting safety like Harrison, who tallied 157 tackles and 5 INTs over the last two seasons, would seriously improve a defense that ranked 28th in points last year.

#43 – Patriots – Jamarco Jones, T, Ohio State

I knew that I wanted the Patriots to take a tackle with this pick after passing on the position at #31 but it was really hard deciding on which tackle.  Former starting LT Nate Solder has moved on to the Giants so there’s a big hole to fill on Tom Brady’s blindside.  The other players I was considering at this pick were Martinas Rankin, Brian O’Neill and Chukwuma Okorafor.  I decided against Rankin and O’Neill because they are less likely to make it as a LT at the next level.  Okorafor has the size to be a LT but he’s raw and can’t start right away.  Jones is undersized at just 6’4″ and 299lbs but he played well at LT in 2017 against a highest level of competition.  The length of Jones’ arms stood out to me.  He has longer arms than most of the taller tackle prospects.  Of the remaining tackles, I felt that Jones has the best chance to start for the Patriots on Day One.  However, if I’m being honest, I fully expect them to trade this pick and take somebody like Jones later.

#42 – Dolphins – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

What are the Vegas odds on two players named Hurst going back-to-back in the NFL Draft?  Hayden Hurst started the season as my top choice at tight end because I believe he is the best combination of blocker and receiver in the class.  I predict he’ll start right away because the Dolphins wouldn’t need to hide him on rushing downs.  In 2017, Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano combined for 53 receptions, 495 yards and 4 TDs.  Both players are gone, however, and the leading candidate for the starting job would be former college quarterback MarQueis Gray who had just one reception last year.  The Dolphins addressed the defense with the Robert Quinn trade, and earlier in this mock, so I think it makes sense to give QB Ryan Tannehill another target.

#41 – Raiders – Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

I’ve seen Hurst play in person a number of times against my hometown Rutgers team.  When I saw him play the Scarlet Knights out in Ann Arbor this past season he stood out like you wouldn’t believe.  He ended up with 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a sack.  If possible, his impact seemed even bigger than that from the stands.  I was really rooting for Hurst to go high in the draft but those hopes were dashed with the news that he had a previously undiagnosed heart condition.  Hurst has since been cleared but not without denting his NFL Draft stock.  Hurst is a smaller tackle with good quickness and will fit in well in as a 3-technique in the Raiders 4-3 defense.

#40 – Denver – Frank Ragnow, C/G, Arkansas

According to Spotrac.com, the Denver Broncos have six offensive linemen hitting free agency in 2019 (two each at tackle, guard and center).  That means they need to bring in reinforcements now to avoid having to over-spend next offseason.  It’s also important to solidify the line considering that they used the #5 overall pick on a QB in this mock.  Ragnow was PFF’s top ranked center in both 2016 and 2017.  He played guard in 2015 so he has some versatility as well.  According to PFF’s stat tracking, Ragnow did not allow a single sack over the last three years.  In fact, in 2017 he did not even allow any hits to the quarterback.  That’s impressive.  Ragnow is the type of player that will elicit groans from fans attending the Draft but will be a franchise cornerstone for a decade.

#39 – Bears – Arden Key, EDGE, LSU

Key was projected to go much higher than #38 early in 2017, however, he has since fallen due to injury and off the field concerns.  Key had shoulder surgery in the Spring of 2017 while away from the team for “personal reasons.”  What those personal reasons are, I have no idea.  Since Key has not come out and fully explained why he stepped away from the team, I can only guess that it’s a negative story.  I’ll bet NFL personnel are thinking the same.  Key also suffered a hand injury which limited his playing time in 2017.  When he was on the field, he recorded just four sacks in eight games (after eleven in eleven in 2016).  At the combine, Key declined to participate in the 40 yard dash, citing a knee injury.  He also did not do the bench press.  Of the events he did complete, the shuttle was the only one where he finished in the top five among DE/EDGE.  Key is a high risk, high reward player who will need time to adapt to a OLB role in a 3-4.  If he pans out, even as a situational rusher, he’ll be a steal for the Bears at #39.

#38 – Bucs – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

The Bucs signed 34 year old Brent Grimes to a one year extension this offseason but they need a young option to line up alongside Vernon Hargreaves.  Alexander missed significant time in 2017 with leg and hand injuries, but when he was on the field he allowed just a 17.7 passer rating against.  That’s incredible.  Per Pro Football Focus, Alexander was about 20 points better in that metric than Joshua Jackson, the second best.  Alexander also tested well at the combine, running a 4.38 and performing well in the 3-cone and shuttle.  I’m higher on Alexander than most so maybe I’m reading too much into his stats and potential but I’d like to give him a shot.  If it weren’t for the injury riddled 2017, Alexander would have ended up even higher.

#37 – Colts – Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

Davis measured in as one of the biggest corners at the combine (6’1″ and 203lbs) and has long arms which helps his ball hawking ability (10 pass break ups each of the last two years).  Davis would be a solid addition to a secondary that the Colts front office has been trying to build through the draft.  In the last three years, the Colts have used six picks on defensive backs, five of those coming in the first four rounds.  Having four picks in the Top 50 means you can concentrate less on immediate need here and instead build a strength.

#36 – Colts – Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

With the first of back-to-back picks, I have the Colts going WR which is a big position of need.  Aside from the flashy TY Hilton, they don’t have much at receiver.  Donte Moncrief is gone, as is veteran journeyman Kamar Aiken.  The Colts signed former Redskins WR Ryan Grant in free agency to a one-year deal but he’s nothing to get excited about.  Sutton is a big bodied receiver with great body control along the sidelines.  He can use his height and length to high point the ball and make contested catches.  He doesn’t have the best straight line speed but he did surprise at the combine in the 3-cone and shuttle agility drills.  Sutton’s skill set compliments that of Hilton so Colts fans should look forward to this pairing for the returning Andrew Luck.

#35 – Browns – Tyrell Crosby, T, Oregon

I still don’t think any of the remaining tackles are worth the pick here at #35 but the Browns don’t pick again until #64 and they need a long term replacement for the retired Joe Thomas so they’ll have to pull the trigger on Crosby.  I also considered Pitt LT Brian O’Neill here but Crosby projects more like a LT rather than a RT or G like O’Neill.  Crosby’s combine performance was mostly forgettable but he did measure in heavier than O’Neil with longer arms and bigger hands, despite O’Neill’s height advantage.

#34 – Giants – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

The Giants would have considered going RB at #2 overall with Saquon Barkley on the board, but instead they went for a QB.  Being able to get the second ranked running back at #34 is a great opportunity for the Giants.  They did sign 31 year old Jonathan Stewart this offseason but they also invested big money in two offensive linemen in Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh.  In my opinion, the Giants wouldn’t have spent that money if they didn’t intend on replenishing their offensive weapons.  An opening day offense featuring Eli Manning, Stewart, Guice, Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and a re-worked offensive line would set this team up for success in 2018.

#33 – Browns – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

The Browns have addressed their secondary in free agency by signing three players so I don’t think they will target a CB with the 33rd pick.  I also don’t think they will go with a offensive tackle because none truly warrant this pick.  Instead, I think they will use another high pick on a defensive lineman.  They already have two great ends in Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah, but they could use some help on the interior.  In comes Da’Ron Payne from Alabama.  Payne weighs in at 311lbs and is a pure run stopper (he has just 3 career sacks and 5 tackles for loss).  He would make for a good anchor for the Browns’ defensive line.


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

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.

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