The Watch List: 2019 Rookie Mock Draft 2.0

Updated: April 13th 2019

Welcome to The Watch List, 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 Spring and Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

In this installment of The Watch List, I’ll be sharing version 2.0 of my 2019 Rookie Mock Draft.  This labor-intensive exercise will soon be worthless once the NFL Draft ends but it’s still a helpful tool for a rookie ranker like myself.  Let’s skip a lengthy preamble and get to it!

1.01 | N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Harry has an enticing combination of high floor and high ceiling which has kept him atop my rookie mock draft for the entire season. At various times in his career, he’s shown us that he can do it all – win in the air, manufacture yards after the catch, overpower defenders – and I trust that he will put it all together in the pros. I expect him to earn targets in Year One and be a valuable fantasy asset by Year Two.

1.02 | Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State

If Harmon fared better at the NFL Combine he would have challenged Harry for my top choice. A disappointing combine, though, isn’t enough for me to forget what I saw from Harmon when I watched him all season. He appears to be a nuanced route runner who has the play strength and body control to live on the outside. Harmon will be a good compromise for owners who miss out on Harry but aren’t willing to take the risk on Metcalf.

1.03 | DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Metcalf may go down as the most polarizing player for #DraftTwitter. His upside is evident but so are the question marks. Metcalf is a physical specimen unlike anybody we’ve seen recently. His size, speed and strength are almost literally off the charts. Unfortunately, his small sample size and injury concerns cloud the outlook for fantasy owners. I am very unlikely to own Metcalf in any of my RSO leagues but would consider him more in pure dynasty formats where there is no clock on his development.

1.04 | Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

If I were forced to choose between Butler or Metcalf for my fantasy team, I think I would ultimately choose Butler. I think that is far from consensus and unlikely to happen in many RSO drafts though so that’s why I list Butler after Metcalf in this mock draft. (Side note: I always vacillate on whether these rookie mock drafts should mirror my rankings or what is most likely to happen in a typical league.) In my most recent NFL Draft preview article, I described Butler as “a speedy 6053/227 behemoth with a wingspan that would make a pterodactyl jealous.” I think that perfectly sums up why he continues creeping up draft boards, mine included. https://cms.realitysportsonline.com/the-watch-list-2019-nfl-draft-previews-sleepers/

1.05 | David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

Finally, our first running back! Like Harry has been my top wideout, Montgomery has been my top rusher in the class for nearly two years. Other names have ebbed in popularity since I started writing about this running back class, but Montgomery has always remained constant. Montgomery lacks the long speed to be a breakaway runner but he more than makes up for it with tremendous contact balance that allows him to keep plays alive as he pinballs off defenders. He is also a plus receiver and pass blocker which will help him see the field early.

1.06 | Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

The Sooners’ diminutive duo of QB Kyler Murray and WR Marquise Brown combined for numerous spectacular plays in 2018, cementing Brown’s “Hollywood” moniker. He’s lightning quick with a Mach 2 top speed – the type of player that friends would need to agree to bench when playing NCAA 14. When I studied Brown earlier this season, I was happy to see that he was not just a quick slot receiver. In fact, according to PFF’s play data, less than half of Brown’s receptions came from the slot (32 of 75). The obvious knock against Brown is his size (5093/166) but a creative offense will find a way to utilize him in space. If a team invests significant draft capital in him you can be sure that fantasy owners will take the hint.

1.07 | AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss

The forgotten man of the 2019 draft class is AJ Brown. I honestly don’t have a good reason as to why he fell from 1.04 to 1.07 since September. It really just comes down to an excitement around Metcalf, Butler and Hollywood Brown that I don’t feel for AJ Brown. If he wasn’t in Metcalf’s shadow, we would be talking more about Brown because he performed well at the combine and put up an SEC leading 1,320 yards in 2018. I believe that Brown will be a fantasy asset whose value is independent of quarterback play because his ability to win in the slot will appeal to both savvy veterans and struggling sophomores seeking a safety valve. As somebody who owns a number of picks in the 1.07-1.09 range, I am secretly glad to see Brown fading in popularity.

1.08 | Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

The difference between Fant and TJ Hockenson for the TE1 spot is minimal. Fant is more athletic while Hockenson is the better blocker. Fant had the better 2017, while Hockenson led the way in 2018. For fantasy purposes, I think Fant makes an earlier impact because he’s more likely to see targets as a rookie. For reality purposes, I’m leaning towards Hockenson because he’s the more complete tight end right now. It’s close and the tie will ultimately be broken by team fit. Counterintuitively, I lean Fant because I think he comes off the board second, meaning he’s more likely to land in a better situation.

1.09 | Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Two months ago we were talking about Jacobs’ rise and how he could emerge as the unquestioned RB1 in this class. I never quite made that jump, although I did propel him to RB2 after his late season dominance. Jacobs ran a disappointing 4.60 at his pro day but it’s important to remember that straight-line speed is only part of the evaluation. I’m currently thinking that Jacobs is drafted first but for our purposes here I’m not ready to have him leapfrog Montgomery until we see just how much draft capital is invested in both players. Both are well-rounded backs who contribute as receivers and pass protectors, but Mongtomery has the much longer track record.

1.10 | Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

I have been a strong proponent of the “2.01 Rookie QB” in my time playing on RSO. I always figured that, much like in the real NFL, locking up a young starting QB on a team-friendly deal was exorbitantly valuable. I still think that’s the case, but two things have slightly tweaked my thinking. First, my RSO leagues are superflex and I think that is becoming more popular. The most frequent ranking question I get is how to adjust for superflex and I feel that having the first quarterback come off the board in the second round is not as illustrative as it was four years ago. Second, RSO now has a fifth year option for first rounders. I don’t have the numbers to back this up, I’ll save that for my more mathematically inclined colleagues, but my gut feeling is that an extra year of somebody like Mitch Trubisky is worth more than the difference in salary between 1.10 and 2.01. Put another way, the salaries at 1.10 and 2.01 are both below market value for a young and startable QB in many leagues, so you might as well maneuver to 1.10 and get the option.

Haskins emerged as my QB1 once it was clear that Oregon’s Justin Herbert was eyeing a return to Eugene. He’s a solid pocket passer who has the arm strength and accuracy for the NFL. His mobility is limited though which will be a stark difference between him and Kyler Murray (or even Daniel Jones). Haskins may end up as the second quarterback off the board but if I was choosing between him or Murray to be the leader of my RSO franchise, I would make the safer pick.

2.01 | Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

If Kyler Murray isn’t the first quarterback selected in your rookie draft, I guarantee you that he’ll be taken with the successive pick. There will be at least one Kool-Aid drinker in every league and if that person doesn’t reach for Kyler early in the first, they certainly will once the quarterback bubble bursts to make sure they get him before a run starts. As an RSO owner, I would be okay with Murray at 2.01 but will miss out on him if my leagues value him more highly. If the naysayers are proven right and his body cannot withstand the NFL, your dead cap number at 2.01 will be less than half as much than if you had taken him early. If the yaysayers are proven right and his dynamism and cannon-like arm make for a singularly talented prospect, you’ll have the bargain of all bargains.

A suggestion for RSO commissioners: have a proactive rule in place should Murray (or anybody) decide to quit football and return to baseball during his career. Some keeper and dynasty leagues I play in don’t have foolproof rules regarding players who stop playing but don’t clearly retire (i.e. Marshawn Lynch, Ladarius Green). Since Murray’s case may not be a true “retirement” I think you should address it now to avoid a messy league vote later.

2.02 | TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa

See: Fant, Noah.

2.03 | Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis

Henderson has unbelievable per-touch numbers the last two seasons. Over 387 combined touches, Henderson averaged 9.26 yards from scrimmage (3,584 total). I don’t know if that’s a record or not but I’ve never seen production like that sustained over two full seasons. He’s undersized at 5083/208 but he runs with a downhill style that belies his shorter stature. If the traditional stats aren’t enough to sell you on Henderson’s potential, check out PFF’s advanced metrics. He’s their second ranked back in Elusive Rating and first in Breakaway Percentage and Drop Rate. We might all be sleeping on Henderson. (In fact, while writing Henderson’s blurb, I decided to flip-flop him and Anderson. How could I be so impressed with all of his stats and not give him the edge over the oft-injured Anderson.)

2.04 | JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

I fell in love with JJAW early in the season when he started the campaign on fire (17-408-7 after four games). He’s long and strong which is helpful because he’s not a great leaper. He can still win contested catches due to his play strength and wingspan. He didn’t test at the combine so his pro day was going to be huge and he did not disappoint. Arcega-Whiteside ran a 4.49 forty which far exceeded my expectation. Pro day times are always favorable to a player so I doubt he’s truly that fast but it did make me reconsider what was probably his biggest negative. In my opinion, Arcega-Whiteside has the potential to be a team’s starting boundary receiver but he lacks the athletic upside that some others in the class possess.

2.05 | Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

If not for his history of serious injuries (ACL, broken leg, broken neck bone), Rodney Anderson would be my RB1. I studied him early in the season and he just popped off the screen. He runs with great momentum, using his power and speed to run over defenders. He’s agile enough to quickly change direction at speed. Due to the small sample size (just 17 receptions in 17 career games) it’s tough to know how talented he is as a receiver. If 2.05 was my first rookie pick of the draft, there isn’t a chance I’m risking it on Anderson. However, if I have a nice cache of draft capital I’m going to take a shot and hope he stays healthy.

2.06 | Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State

I still have not come around fully on Parris Campbell. I fully admit it may be because I am a Michigan fan, even though I try not to let that tint my evaluations. My rebuttal about Campbell was always that he was a one-trick pony and didn’t produce enough to be considered a top receiver prospect. Well, I was quite surprised to see that Campbell ended 2018 with ninety (!) receptions. He did muster 24 of those in the final three contests but I can’t spin that as a negative when I would usually applaud a player for showing up when it mattered most (one of those three games was a 6-192-2 explosion against my Wolverines). When it comes to advanced stats, Campbell stands out as well. According to PFF, he is top five in Yards Per Route Run, Slot Receptions and Slot Receiving Yards. Campbell added a stellar combine performance to all of those great stats. He finished in the 90th percentile or higher in the following categories: 40 yard dash, short shuttle, vertical jump, broad jump. Campbell is definitely somebody that I need to study more closely after we see who drafts him.

2.07 | Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State

After Saquon Barkley left for the NFL, Sanders never really earned the buzz that I thought he might once he became the lead back. I’m guilty of this myself because I didn’t devote any time during the season to studying Sanders. Now, as the NFL Draft approaches, my fellow analysts are starting to remember the promise with which Sanders arrived to Happy Valley as a highly touted teenager. Some have put Sanders as high as RB1 but I’m not ready to catapult him yet until I have a chance to study him more closely. He did put together a solid combine and his basic stats are very good: 1,274 rushing yards, 9 rushing TDs, 24 receptions, 139 receiving yards. Stay tuned.

2.08 | Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

The order of Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs is a tough one. Up until my last batch of rankings, I had Harris higher because he beat Jacobs for touches and had the higher pedigree coming out of high school. Jacobs’ late surge though showed that he just might be the better three-down back at ‘Bama. Harris checks in at 5101/216 so he has middling size to go with mediocre 4.57 speed. Despite never eclipsing 150 carries in a season, Harris has been consistent, managing two 1,000 yard seasons and cresting 3,000 career rushing yards. He’s a good receiver but not a great pass blocker. Best case: Harris is just good enough in short-yardage situations, in the open field and in pass protection that he earns an every down role. Worst case: Harris is just small enough and slow enough to get passed over in his team’s pecking order.

2.09 | Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State

Similar to Harris, I think Weber has a wide range of possibilities in the NFL. He’s an all-round back who I think will greatly outperform his draft position. I foresee a narrative where Weber impresses in training camp and earns a spot in the rotation before Week 1. I just recently wrote about Weber for my NFL Draft sleepers article, so check that out for a deeper dive. LINK: https://realitysportsonline.com/Content.aspx?articleID=the-watch-list-2019-nfl-draft-previews-sleepers

2.10 | Irv Smith, TE, Alabama

Irv Smith has one of the more bizarre “spider graphs” I have ever seen on Mockdraftable (LINK). He’s very small for the position (6023/242, 8th percentile) but quick (4.63, 83rd percentile). He also has short arms so any hope of him punching above his weight as a blocker is unlikely. The knee-jerk reaction is to label Smith as a big slot, but I also foresee him being used in an h-back role. Lining Smith up off the line of scrimmage, or in motion along the line, allows him to avoid getting jammed at the snap. Instead, he is able to use his speed to get open in the flat or to spring up field past slower linebackers.

3.01 | Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo

Johnson went the JUCO route out of high school, playing one season each at two different schools before getting an offer from Buffalo (and South Alabama). He was very productive for the Bulls, finishing his career with 133 receptions, 2,367 yards and 25 TDs. Johnson plays bigger and stronger than his 6017/209 frame and ran surprisingly well at his pro day (unofficial times reported were between 4.41-4.50). He’ll be a solid, if not exciting, addition to any NFL offense.

3.02 | Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State

Another JUCO transfer WR, Preston Williams excelled in his one season at Colorado State, totaling 1,345 yards and 14 TDs on 96 receptions. He’s a lanky receiver who adjusts to the ball well and has an innate ability to make spectacular catches. Williams is a 5-star talent that some team will get for a discount because of his off the field concerns.

3.03 | Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

“Motor” Singletary put up fantastic numbers on the field the last two seasons (3,266 rushing yards and 54 TDs), unfortunately, his combine measurables left much to be desired. He is tiny at 5071 and ran just 4.66. He looks faster and stronger than those numbers suggest so we’ll need to see him perform in the preseason before investing much capital in him

3.04 | Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

The catch (pun intended) with Samuel is that he’s been injured far too often in his career so I just haven’t seen enough of him to form a strong opinion. We finally got a full season out of Samuel in 2018 and he did produce: 62-882-11. He’s great with the ball in his hands and also adds a dimension as a kick returner (29.0 career average, 4 TDs) which will increase the chances that he makes an early impact. I wanted to put Samuel higher but I just had a hard time justifying it for a receiver who has a history of injuries and didn’t standout at the combine.

3.05 | David Sills, WR, West Virginia

I’m higher on Sills, for fantasy purposes, than many others. I think he will have an instant role in the NFL as a redzone threat and be deployed similar to Mark Andrews in his debut season. I’m expecting a rookie stat line of 25-200-6 which would have utility during bye weeks.

3.06 | Andy Isabella, WR, UMass

Isabella is beguiling because based on his size (5083/188) you would assume he’s just a dink-and-dunk slot receiver. To the contrary, he finished second in PFF’s Deep Receiving Yards stat and led in Yards Per Route Run. After watching some tape it’s easy to see why he is so successful at the deep ball: he’s fast and tracks the ball incredibly well. I have never seen so many over-the-shoulder catches. So, while he may look like a prototypical Patriot pass catcher, we shouldn’t discount his versatility and upside.

3.07 | Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State

Alexander Mattison intrigues me like no other mid-tier back. I’ve tried to steer away from comps this year as they can be counterproductive but I keep coming back to Kareem Hunt when I see clips of Mattison play. He’s a powerful runner and a good receiver. He’ll be a fifth rounder with little hype but I think he’s worth a late stash in your fantasy draft.

3.08 | Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky

Snell seems destined to be a two-down back in the NFL. He can succeed in short yardage situations and runs with a bruising mentality. He’s been extremely durable despite a large workload (39 games, 737 carries) which you could spin as a “tread on the tire” negative but I’m not worried because I don’t expect him to be an every down player anyway.

3.09 | Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Just about every time you read about Daniel Jones, you will inevitably also hear the name David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe earned his quarterback whisperer title working with the Mannings, so I can understand the excitement. Jones is big, athletic, throws well on the move and is smart. He’s going to be drafted higher than you expect, maybe in the first twelve picks.

3.10 | Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

Gaskin was the ultimate compiler at Washington. He managed to stay healthy throughout 52 career games, amassing 945 career carries and four straight thousand yard seasons. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that he was so durable at his size (5091/205) because he’s stronger than others in his cohort (24 bench reps). His smaller stature will mean some teams won’t believe he can be an every down starter but he’s worth grabbing late in your draft just in case.

4.01 | Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall
4.02 | Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
4.03 | Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
4.04 | Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
4.05 | Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
4.06 | Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri
4.07 | Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame
4.08 | Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State
4.09 | Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
4.10 | Emmanuel Butler, WR, Northern Arizona
5.01 | Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M
5.02 | KeeSean Johnson, WR, Fresno State
5.03 | Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
5.04 | Josh Oliver, TE, San Jose State
5.05 | Donald Parham, TE, Stetson
5.06 | Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis
5.07 | Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State
5.08 | Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska
5.09 | Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis
5.10 | Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo


Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  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.  When writing a full report for a player, I typically pick two games of film to watch.  When time permits, I may add a third game. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had 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.  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, foxsports.com, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters 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, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, 247Sports College Football, College Fantasy Football: On Campus, Underdog Pawdcast, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com (the media home for FWAA members)
  • 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 recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

2019 NFL Draft Stories

Updated: April 13th 2019

Every season we witness many unknowns play out both leading up to and during the NFL draft.  I expect nothing different this year.  Which player surprisingly falls?  Which teams trade up to get their guy?  How early will quarterbacks go off the board?  Many of the questions should be answered in short order with the draft mere weeks away.  This article delves into a few of the bigger stories heading into the draft taking a look at some interesting player stories and a team which will have a big impact on the draft.

The Josh Rosen Saga

Do the Arizona Cardinals really change up at quarterback by drafting Kyler Murray one year after drafting Josh Rosen in the top-10?  Most current reports point to this being the case.  There is no shortage of teams potentially looking at making a quarterback move.  Oakland, Tampa Bay, the Giants, Denver, Cincinnati, Miami, Washington, and Tennessee are all teams with questionable quarterback situations going forward with either starting quarterbacks on expiring contracts or deals with little or no guaranteed left after 2019.  This gives teams plenty of freedom to move on from their current starter if desired.  Rosen might also garner interest from teams with older quarterbacks, such as New England and the Chargers, who would want the chance to groom a young quarterback at the right price.  Rosen would be owed only about $2 million per year (less than many backup quarterbacks) over the next three seasons for a new team, potentially making him a ridiculous bargain if he can become just a competent starter.

Could the Murray talk all be a smokescreen to drive up trade value in a move down the board for Arizona?  That would also make sense for an awful team in need of talent across the board after truly earning the number one pick in the draft.  The answers to these questions will drive the rest of the draft.

Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders Draft Plan

To say Oakland was bad in 2018 does not really begin to describe the depths of Raider’s woes.  Oakland ranked 25th in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA and 30th on the defensive side.  Their highest ranked player at running back, wide receiver, tackle,  edge defender, defensive interior, linebacker, and cornerback graded no better than 42nd per Pro Football Focus’ ranks.  There is work to be done, clearly.  Fortunately, the Raiders jumped off to a big head start early in the off-season.  Oakland traded for all-pro wide receiver Antonio Brown.  They further boosted the receiver corps in free agency adding speedsters Tyrell Williams, and J.J. Nelson.  Tackle Trent Brown, safety LaMarcus Joyner, running back Isaiah Crowell, plus veteran linebackers Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict complete the notable free agent signings.

So how do the Raiders use their four top-35 picks in the draft?  Let’s concentrate on their top pick at number four, a potentially key turning point in the draft.  There are rumors the Raiders could move up to the number one spot for Murray if he is truly available.  They easily have the ammunition with the aforementioned number of high picks to move up if that is the case.  It would be a bold move for new GM Mike Mayock but also limits available draft resources on a team with massive needs, particularly across the defense.  One scenario involves taking an edge rusher at four, one of the biggest needs for Oakland.  The potentially available edge talent, such as Josh Allen, fits this draft spot and might be the most likely scenario.

Another interesting case occurs if defensive tackle Quinnen Williams falls to the Raiders at number four.  He is the top overall player for some analysts and teams can never have enough disruptive interior players to rotate along the defensive front.  Oakland invested heavily (but cheaply) in defensive tackles recently, however, with last year’s rookies 2nd rounder P.J. Hall and 5th round steal Maurice Hurst plus signing Jonathan Hankins and Justin Ellis.  It would be a fun debate of best player available versus team needs/value in a draft loaded with high-end defensive line prospects.  Trading down from four also presents another option here, particularly if Kyler Murray or Williams falls and one which the Raiders might prefer given the defensive line depth available in this draft.  The lack of top quarterback talent this year might make trading down difficult though.

Overall, Oakland’s early picks should be dominated by shoring up the defense in a draft loaded on that side of the ball.  The available picks, large number of needs, and interesting spots in the draft make the Raiders one of the key teams in determining how the draft plays out.

Quarterback Needy Teams

Where quarterbacks fall always represents one of the bigger stories on draft day.  The need for competent passers traditionally pushes them up the draft board yearly.  The article notes previously the many teams who could draft a quarterback.  The question is how many teams actually invest early at the position.  Despite the large number of teams who possibly draft a quarterback high, there might not be many in true desperation over their quarterback situation.  Many of those teams have competent players, although maybe not long-term answers, which allows freedom in using high draft picks.

The NFL starting quarterback landscape is dominated by high picks with the majority being selected in the top half of the 1st round.  Will the Giants select a quarterback at six when they bypassed a signal-caller at pick two last year in a class considered far superior by the consensus when compared to this year’s group?  Do the quarterback-needy teams in the middle of the first deem any of the quarterbacks worthy of trading up for?  They would likely have to sacrifice next year’s 1st round pick to move up far enough to be sure of obtaining their desired player.  A team like Miami could stay committed to the rebuild and postpone taking a quarterback.  Are the quarterbacks who drop to the mid-first range really worthy of selecting in the middle of the first if none of the teams were confident enough in the quarterback to make a move up?  Might teams simply use veteran stopgaps this season waiting for next year’s 2020 class in hopes of better alternatives in the draft?  The questions abound for this quarterback class.  It would not be a surprise to see any of the top quarterbacks including Haskins, Lock, and/or Jones fall farther than many projections envision in this year’s draft.  Conversely, like in every draft, the need for quarterback could push these same players higher than expected.

How Far does Jeffery Simmons Fall?

A highly rated prospect injures himself prior to the NFL draft.  Unfortunately, we have seen similar situations before.  Many scouts ranked Simmons as a top-10 type draft talent prior to tearing his ACL after dominating the SEC for two consecutive seasons at defensive tackle.  He likely misses most, if not all of the 2019 season due to the injury and teams will not know when he will be fully recovered.  That means any team selecting Simmons probably misses out on at least a quarter of his rookie contract.

Simmons also has an ugly off-the-field incident prior to his freshman season at Mississippi State that teams will have to look into but he stayed clean throughout his time in college.  Linebacker Jaylon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys found himself in a similar situation on the injury front in 2016 where a late season injury causing a missed rookie season in the NFL.  He dropped to the 2nd round of the NFL draft.  A similar scenario is easily within the range of outcomes for Simmons in this draft.


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

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Part I, Picks 1-16

Updated: April 24th 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 to Part II before continuing below.  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.

#16 – Ravens – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

The Ravens have been desperate for a WR1 for what feels like a decade.  Sadly, I don’t think free agent signing Michael Crabtree is the answer nor are there are any true standout WR prospects in the class.  Despite my criticism, I believe that Ridley is the best of the bunch.  Aside from a solid 40 yard dash, Ridley mostly hurt his stock at the combine.  I previously had him as a Top 10 player but have dropped him because of lingering doubts.  Ridley is quick, shows good hands and is an excellent route runner.  When I watch him on film he just pops, damn the stats or the combine results.  I’m less convinced about his chance to become a team’s WR1 now than I was a year ago but I still think he can be a productive NFL receiver.

#15 – Cardinals – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Denzel Ward at #15 is an absolute steal.  In real life, I believe Ward will go higher because some team will either trade their pick to a team looking for a corner or some team will just go BPA and snag him.  He very likely could go a spot earlier to Green Bay but instead I have him falling to the Cardinals.  Unfortunately for the Cards, none of the top quarterbacks have made it this far so they’ll be the ones to go BPA and take Ward.  While researching Ward, I came across a telling stat: opposing quarterbacks completed just 32% of their passes when targeting Ward.  He had a very positive combine to go with the tape.  He tied for the fastest 40 yard dash by a corner (4.32), had the longest broad jump and the second highest vertical.

#14 – Packers – Derwin James, S, Florida State

James started the year in Top 5 consideration with Minkah Fitzpatrick but slipped a bit during a disappointing season for the Seminoles.  Long time starting safety Morgan Burnett is gone to the Steelers so Green Bay has a vacancy in their defensive backfield.  James excels in run support and near the line of scrimmage which would fit perfectly with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at free safety.  The Packers did draft a safety last year in the second round, Josh Jones, but I don’t think that would be enough to make them pass on James.  Even though he and the team struggled at times, James still put up good totals (84 tackles and 2 INTs) in his comeback season from 2016’s knee injury.  Corner may be a more immediate need for the Packers but something about Derwin James in Green Bay felt right.

#13 – Redskins – Vita Vea, DT, Washington

The Redskins need a NT for their 3-4 scheme and there is none better in this class than Vita Vea.  He has refrigerator like size: 6’4″ and 347lbs.  He ran a 5.10 which sounds slow since we’re so conditioned to the times for RBs and WRs so let me put it into context.  Since 2010, he ran the second fastest of any defensive lineman 345lbs or more.  The only player faster was Dontari Poe who went 11th overall to the Chiefs in 2012.  Vea’s stat line isn’t overwhelming (43 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks in 2017) but that’s because you can’t measure his impact with the boxscore.  Lining him up alongside 2017 first rounder Jonathan Allen will create a stellar one-two punch for years to come.

#12 – Bills – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

In my preview of Lamar Jackson this offseason, I comped him to then Bills QB Tyrod Taylor so it’s ironic that I have him landing here after Taylor’s trade to the Browns.  Jackson is an incredible runner as we all know.  There was rumors that he should switch to WR but that was ridiculous – he’s a good quarterback.  He may have a smaller frame than you would want from a run-first QB but he played 38 games in college and is not injury prone like the narrative suggests.  Could he sustain a freak, season-ending injury?  Of course, just ask Tom Brady.  Jackson’s accuracy needs to improve to truly make it in the NFL (57% career completion percentage).  I think he will start his career as an inefficient, big-play-waiting-to-happen type of quarterback.  It’ll come down to the timing of those big plays.  One last thought, can you imagine Lamar Jackson and LeSean McCoy running the read option together?  My god.

#11 – Dolphins – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said that Smith would be the first linebacker off the board.  Fast forward to April and Tremaine Edmunds has leapfrogged him but the Dolphins would still be getting a Pro Bowl caliber player here.  Smith is slightly faster than Edmunds (4.51 vs 4.54) but is smaller at 6’1″ and 236lbs.  Over his final three games, under the brightest of spotlights in the SEC Championship and the College Football Playoff, Smith totaled 37 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.  Pairing Smith with returners Kiko Alonso and Cameron Wake, the newly acquired Robert Quinn, and a hopefully-healthy Raekwon McMillan would give the Dolphins a fearsome front seven.

#10 – Raiders – Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame

Much like how I picked Nelson for the 49ers to help protect their big money quarterback, I have done the same for the Raiders with McGlinchey.  Incumbent LT Donald Penn is 34 years old and coming off a season-ending foot injury in 2017 which could cause him to miss some offseason time.  Penn also has a huge roster bonus due in 2019, the last year of his deal, so I’ll bet that the Raiders are planning to move on from him regardless of his injury status.  The Raiders offensive line was already a strength of the team (they allowed just 24 sacks, tied for third best in the league) but adding somebody like McGlinchey would solidify the position long term.

#9 – 49ers – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

I was surprised to see that Nelson didn’t fit anywhere earlier for me.  He’s probably a Top 5 talent but teams rarely draft a guard that high.  A guard has only been taken this high four times since 1985 (coincidentally, twice in 2015; one of which is the much maligned Ereck Flowers from the Giants).  Nelson has some fantastic highlights and I love watching them whenever they show up on my Twitter timeline.  I’m not convinced the 49ers truly need to draft a guard this high but I figured that they just invested a ton of money in Jimmy Garappolo so they might as well add a piece to protect that investment.

#8 – Bears – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Tremaine Edmunds has climbed up draft boards since the start of 2017 and finds himself at #8 in my mock now.  He ran very well at the combine (4.54) and has fantastic size as well (6’5″ and 253lbs).  He was very productive in 2017: 108 tackles and 5.5 sacks.  Pair that production with his size and speed and you have a can’t miss linebacker.  He will feature as an ILB in the Bears 3-4 defense but because of his speed and explosiveness, he can get to the quarterback too so he’ll have value as a situational pass rusher as well.

#7 – Bucs – Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama

Tampa has thus far only re-signed one of their four free agent DBs, and have not signed any from other teams, signaling to me that it is a position they plan to target in the NFL Draft.  What better player to target than Fitzpatrick who played both CB and S at Alabama.  He likely factors more as a safety in the NFL but could see time as a strong nickel.  Depending on the matchup, I would expect to see him in shadow coverage against a dominant tight end.  Fitzpatrick struggled through a hamstring injury in 2017 but still managed to play 13 games.  Don’t overthink it.

#6 – Colts – Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State

Before the Colts traded the #3 pick to the Jets, Chubb was a common pick for them in mock drafts.  The fact that the Colts traded back, adding multiple second round picks, and still land Chubb is awesome.  Chubb put together back-to-back seasons with at least 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss.  He finished the year as the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.  Like Barkley, he’s a better player than his draft slot would lead you to believe.

#5 – Broncos – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The Broncos traded QB Trevor Siemian and signed journeyman Case Keenum in free agency.  Keenum is 30 years old and his deal is only for two years so they’ve created a perfect situation to bring in a project QB like Allen.  Keenum can start in 2018 and possibly even into 2019 if necessary.  Allen’s accuracy issues are well documented and I am personally not a fan because of them.  Many who know more than I, however, think he has the tools to be a star in the league.  Coming in behind an established veteran would be the best thing for Allen’s future prospects.

#4 – Browns – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley is possibly the best true football player in the class, at worst he’s second to Bradley Chubb.  However, the quarterback run and general hesitance to draft running backs high lowers Barkley’s stock.  He’s an absolute stud and will be a fantasy monster from Day One.  He has an uncommon combination of size and speed and is a great receiver.  He did struggle at times in 2017 as a runner but when he did, he made up for it in the passing game.  If the Browns do go the direction I have planned for them, they would end up with a formidable offense in 2018.

#3 – Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

The run on quarterbacks continues!  I have read a lot of Mayfield/Jets connections in the last few months and when there is smoke, there is fire.  Mayfield is hyper-accurate and just plain hyper.  His personality has undoubtedly taken him off some teams’ draft boards but I would want him on my team.  My favorite part of the Senior Bowl might have been watching Mayfield on the sideline.  It was a non-competitive all-star game but there he was living and dying with each play, hyping up teammates and helping his fellow quarterbacks.  The only thing that makes me question this pick is the fact that the Jets brought in Teddy Bridgewater.  I have never been a Bridgewater fan so I still think the Jets should go for a QB here.

#2 – Giants – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

I have previously compared Rosen to Giants QB Eli Manning so this seems like a great fit.  In my opinion, Rosen is the most NFL ready quarterback of this class.  He does have injuries in his past and some like to question his “love for the game” but that’s not factoring into my analysis.  He’s a prototypical pocket passer who will have a long NFL career.  It’s not often that you get a chance to draft a franchise quarterback so the Giants need to just make this pick and stop pretending that Manning is anything more than a stopgap option at this point in his career.

#1 – Browns – Sam Darnold, QB, USC

I don’t believe that Darnold is the best quarterback of this class, but I do think that he will be the first overall pick.  Darnold is a confident passer which results in turnovers just as often as it does spectacular plays.  He has an ability to extend the play with athleticism in the pocket and he is a team leader and motivator.  I noticed that he has a long throwing motion which worries me and might be the explanation for the high number of interceptions (the window closes before he actually gets rid of the ball) and the fumbles (because the ball dips so low, it’s a target for rushing defenders).  He has a high ceiling but also has a low floor – a high risk, high reward pick.


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 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

Top 100: RSO Rookie Rankings

Updated: July 23rd 2017

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

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

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

Before we get to the rankings, a few notes:

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

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

 

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

1st Round NFL Draft Trades

Updated: July 23rd 2017

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

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

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

San Francisco gives #2 (435.7)

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

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

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

Buffalo gives #10 (299.1)

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

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

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

Cleveland gives #12 (283.6)

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

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

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

Seattle gives #31 (203)

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

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

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


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

More Analysis by Bernard Faller