The All About Reality Podcast League Rookie Draft Results

Updated: May 17th 2019

Hey Folks, Matt Goodwin here coming out of writing retirement to compile this article summarizing our All About Reality first rookie draft in our second season of the league.

Here GMs will divulge their strategy and picks in our 2 round, 16 team, 32 pick rookie draft which started almost a week after the draft on May 1st and concluded on May 2nd. Please note that our world-class Chief Technology Officer Kyle English has developed a slick new slow rookie draft interface which enables trades during the draft and removes the pesky 3 day no trading window prior to league rookie drafts. A big collective shout-out from the rooftops to Kyle for that enhancement.

First item of note was that there were a whopping seven draft day trades as noted in the table below. For context for all Reality Sports Online GM’s who want intel for their upcoming rookie drafts, here were the exact trades that went down with my podcast co-host Luke Patrick O’Connell making several trades including trading 1.02 and 1.03 to stock up on what many believe is a super-talented and deep 2020 class (our own Bob Cowper included as he’s already starting scouting the 2020 potential rookie class.  Feel free to reach out on Twitter with thoughts on who won trades, if picks went down as expected, etc.

Trade # Headline Team Names Traded Received Player Contracts Pick Made
1 Luke Trades Down 1.02 for Players/Picks Pontifex Minimus (Luke) 2019 Pick 1.02 Hunter Henry
2019 Pick 1.07
2020 Mistress of Mayhem Jenna (1st)
Hunter Henry 2 yrs, $7.21MM N’Keal Harry, WR
1 Luke Trades Down 1.02 for Players/Picks Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna) 2019 Pick 1.02 Josh Jacobs, RB
2 Luke Trades Down 1.03, Hunter Henry for 2019/2020 Picks Pontifex Minimus (Luke) 2019 Pick 1.03
Hunter Henry
2019 Pick 1.08
2020 Pickyouoff24 (1st)
2 Luke Trades Down 1.03 for 2019/2020 Picks Pickyouoff24 (Stacy) 2019 Pick 1.03
Hunter Henry
Hunter Henry 2 yrs, $7.21MM Dwayne Haskins, QB
3 Ryan N Trades Up to get his guy Miles Sanders The Teal Curtain (Curtis) 2019 Pick 1.05 2019 Pick 1.09
2019 Pick 2.06
3 Ryan N Trades Up to get Miles Sanders Karl Hungus and the Nihilists (Ryan N) 2019 Pick 1.09
2019 Pick 2.06
2019 Pick 1.05 Miles Sanders, RB
4 Bubble Boy Gets a QB (Drew Lock), Luke gets his first RB Pontifex Minimus (Luke) 2019 Pick 1.08 Derrick Henry
2020 McAfee’s Canal Swimmers (1st)
Derrick Henry 2 yrs, $26.78MM
4 Bubble Boy Gets a QB (Drew Lock), Luke gets his first RB Bubble Boy and The Moops (Pat) Derrick Henry
2020 McAfee’s Canal Swimmers (1st)
2019 Pick 1.08 Drew Lock, QB
5 Ashley Gets Her Coveted Darnold/Robby Anderson stack, Jenna Gets 1.16 House Stark (Ashley) 2019 Pick 1.16 Robby Anderson
2019 Pick 2.07
Robby Anderson 1 year, $7.14MM
5 Ashley Gets Her Coveted Darnold/Robby Anderson stack, Jenna Gets 1.16 Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna) Robby Anderson
2019 Pick 2.07
2019 Pick 1.16 Irv Smith Jr., TE
6 Bobby Trades 2020 1st with Devonte to pick Hockenson RSO PodFather (Devonte) 2019 Pick 1.13
2019 Pick 2.13
2020 RSOooo Super Chargers (1st)
2019 Pick 2.09
6 Bobby Trades 2020 1st with Devonte to pick Hockenson The New Hampshire Waterboys (Bobby) 2020 RSOooo Super Chargers (1st)
2019 Pick 2.09
2019 Pick 1.13
2019 Pick 2.13
T.J. Hockenson, TE
7 Ryan N Trades Up in 2nd The Teal Curtain (Curtis) 2019 Pick 2.05 2019 Pick 2.08
2021 Karl Hungus (2nd)
7 Ryan N Trades Up in 2nd Karl Hungus and the Nihilists (Ryan N) 2019 Pick 2.08
2021 Karl Hungus (2nd)
2019 Pick 2.05 Andy Isabella, WR

Following, here are picks 1-16 of each of our two rounds in the All About Reality Podcast league rookie draft with context and commentary from the GMs who made these moves.

Round 1 Teams Picks POS Round 2 Teams Picks POS
1.01 Teal Curtain (Curtis) Kyler Murray QB 2.01 Teal Curtain(Curtis) Kelvin Harmon WR
1.02 Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna) Josh Jacobs RB 2.02 Bubble Boy and The Moops (Pat) Noah Fant TE
1.03 Pickyouoff24 (Stacy) Dwayne Haskins QB 2.03 Lucha Vikings (Ryan S) Deebo Samuel WR
1.04 Brian Brennan’s Stadium Shakers (Goody) David Montgomery RB 2.04 Barkley Owner (Ashley) Darrell Henderson RB
1.05 Karl Hungus (Ryan N.) Miles Sanders RB 2.05 Karl Hungus(Ryan N) Andy Isabella WR
1.06 Waterboys (Bobby) Daniel Jones QB 2.06 Teal Curtain (Curtis) Josh Oliver TE
1.07 Pontifex Minimus (Luke) N’Keal Harry WR 2.07 House Stark (Ashley) – from Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna) Devin Singletary RB
1.08 Bubble Boy & The Moops (Pat) Drew Lock QB 2.08 Teal Curtain (Curtis ) Will Grier QB
1.09 Teal curtain (Curtis ) Parris Campbell WR 2.09 RSO PodFather (Devonte) JJ Arcega-Whiteside WR
1.1 The Fantasy Affliction (Tim) D.K. Metcalf WR 2.1 Brian Brennan’s Stadium Shakers (Goody) Jace Sternberger TE
1.11 Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna) A.J. Brown WR 2.11 House Stark (Ashley) Ryan Finley QB
1.12 The New Hampshire Waterboys(Bobby) Hakeem Butler WR 2.12 RSO PodFather (Devonte) Damien Harris RB
1.13 The New Hampshire Waterboys(Bobby) TJ Hockenson TE 2.13 The New Hampshire Waterboys (Bobby) Justice Hill RB
1.14 House Stark (Ashley) Mecole Hardman WR 2.14 RSOooo Super Chargers (Marcus) Alexander Mattison RB
1.15 Bubble Boy (Pat) Marquise Brown WR 2.15 Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna) Preston Williams WR
1.16 Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna) Irv Smith Jr. TE 2.16 Waterboys(Bobby) Riley Ridley WR

 

Team name: The Teal Curtain (Curtis Burleson)

Team needs: RB,WR,TE,Flex

Team picks: 1.01, Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

1.09, Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts

                          2.01, Kelvin Harmon, WR, Washington Redskins
                          2.06, Josh Oliver, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
                          2.08, Will Grier, QB, Carolina Panthers
With so many holes to feel I wanted to get a player of every skill position and max out my QB’s with the position  being so important in this league. So with no trade partners for the 1.01, Kyler Murray was my no-brainer pick. At 1.09 Parris Campbell was the top wide receiver on my board and again no trade partners to be found to keep me in range of my target players. 2.01 Kelvin Harmon was one of my favorite receivers pre-draft and landed in a great situation/fit. I felt I could not risk losing him after missing on Irv Smith going off the board one pick ahead of me. With my favorite and last target at RB, Darrell Henderson, again going off the board one pick ahead of me, I chose to finish my draft taking the last two players on my shortlist. At 2.06 I took Josh Oliver my 4th and last TE on my board and at 2.08 I took Will Grier, my top QB in the class.

Team Name: Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna Davis)

Team Needs: RB, 2nd QB, depth

Team Picks: 1.02, Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders

                           1.11, AJ Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

                           1.16, Irv Smith Jr., TE, Minnesota Vikings

                           2.15, Preston Williams, WR, Miami Dolphins

I set two separate strategies up heading into the draft (Murray first or Jacobs first).  When Murray went first, it was go time. I knew I had to make a play for Jacobs. I hated trading away my future, but I had to make a play for him given my RB situation, what is left in free agency, and the contracts other RBs had.  There was no way to afford 2 RB’s in free agency even with my cap situation.  My 1.11 pick was the stuff of dreams.  I got way too excited about all the talent that was left on the board, and I made a play for the 1.16 because Ashley had already shown interest in Robby Anderson on my roster.  I went with Irv Smith for the simple reason that his quarterback Kirk Cousins loves TE’s.  Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, and even Niles Paul were fantasy relevant with him under center.  I should have taken Miles Boykin with the 2.15 pick, but I was driving and thought he went off the board already. I ended up taking Preston Williams.  He would have been in the top prospect conversation if not for off-field issues.  If he can keep himself in check, he could end up being my favorite pick in this draft.

Team Name:  Pickyouoff24 (Stacy Hess)
Team Needs: QB, Flex, RB
Team Pick:  1.03, Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington

I went into the rookie draft with only 1.08.  I Knew I needed a QB as first priority or I was grabbing Miles Sanders or N’Keal Harry.  Luke had sent out several offers about trading down leading up to the draft.  I was not sure how the draft was going to play out and did not want to make any moves until after the NFL Draft commenced.  During the draft, Luke hit me up again about trading down.  Having already been a part of two separate rookie drafts before our listener league, I had a solid feel that Murray, Haskins, Sanders and Harry would all be gone.  I assumed I would be sitting on Daniel Jones at 8.  I felt the opportunity cost of trading up to 1.03 could not be avoided.  I ended up trading Luke 1.08 + my 20 1st to move up to 1.03.  Having a young QB on a rookie contract is a huge advantage both in reality and Reality Sports Online leagues.  Haskins becomes an immediate starter, assuming he plays majority of games in 2019.  I tend to err on the side that future picks are typically bad because I expect to compete at a high level every year. Hunter Henry at 3.5 was also a very welcoming throw in.

Team Name: Brian Brennan’s Stadium Shakers (Matt Goodwin)
Team Needs: Tight End, Flex Talent, Salary Cap Relief
Team Picks: 1.04, David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
                           2.10, Jace Sternberger, TE, Green Bay Packers
Coming into the rookie draft with most of my starting lineup intact, my philosophy kind of mimicked a Phife Dawg lyric on Midnight Marauders as my goal is to win “not now, but RIGHT now!”. I was hoping to either trade down to land a starting TE and save cap space or that Dwayne Haskins would fall to me at 1.04 so I had a Tom Brady succession plan, as Brady’s large contract expires after this season. My podcast co-host Luke appropriated good trade value with 1.02 and 1.03 ahead of me, so I figured someone would snipe and take a quarterback. While Harry was on the board, I didn’t feel he addressed a large team need and his lack of separation speed makes me fear that he is Josh Doctson 2.0. So, fresh off watching film of Montgomery, I went with traits I usually bank on–elusiveness and pass catching ability, as well as liking the signaling when a team trades up to get their guy. Enter Montgomery, who I think can contribute this season and take the reins next season, which essentially is when I need him to be a fantasy starter for me. After some more obscure TEs went in the second round, I went with Sternberger as a flier as a hopeful future key cog in Aaron Rodgers aerial attack. Lastly, post draft, I traded Keenan Allen and his 3 years remaining around $100 million for T.Y. Hilton and his 2 years, $41 million remaining and a 2021 2nd rounder to get out of my 2019 cap issues and then traded Devonta Freeman on a 1 year, $25 million deal for Jameis Winston on a two year, $34 million deal to complete my Brady succession plan. While I’m now carrying three starting QBs in this Superflex league (Jared Goff is my other), I’m confident I can get solid value for Brady for a QB needy team either now or after a league QB gets injured.
Team Name: Karl Hungus and the Nihilists (Ryan Nicholson)
Team needs: RB, WR depth
Team Picks: 1.05, Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

                          2.05, Andy Isabella, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Going into the draft, I evaluated my team as a strong contender this coming season. My core lineup containing quarterbacks Jimmy G and Mitchell Trubisky, Alvin Kamara and Nick Chubb, Amari Cooper, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chris Godwin and then George Kittle at TE, gave me some urgency to get players that would have the talent, draft capital, and landing spot to be instant contributors. With Miles Sanders available at 1.05 (as the RB1 on my own board) and with there being no viable RBs left after 2 had already gone off the board, I traded from 1.09 to 1.05 by way of including the 2.06.  Depth was not the hallmark of this draft so getting specific players when they fell within trading range was key. I anticipate Sanders gaining an increasing share of the backfield, in a proficient offense, as the season progresses.  Watching the rest of the draft unfold, Andy Isabella continued to slide to the point where I felt there was a massive gap between him and the remainder of the players on the board, so trading up to 2.05 by packaging the 2.9 and 2021 first to get my WR5 made perfect sense. In the end, I was able to acquire two players in my top 10 and feel good about their ability to put up points this season.  I look forward to drafting at pick 16 in 2020!

Team Name: New Hampshire Waterboys (Bobby Hoyt)

Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Tight End, Flex talent, and a QB succession plan.

Team Picks: 1.06, Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

                           1.12, Hakeem Butler, WR, Arizona Cardinals

                           1.13, TJ Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions

                           2.13, Justice Hill, RB, Baltimore Ravens

                           2.16, Riley Ridley, WR, Chicago Bears

Coming off of a 9-win season last year (just missing the playoffs) I began to feel a sense of overwhelming dread coming into this year with a team that was possibly destined for the “middle of the pack purgatory,” that many dynasty players fall into. Therefore, I pre-emptively traded many of my big-name, big-salary players that helped me compete last year for a culmination of some younger talent and a lot of draft picks. Some trades were decent, others I regret entirely – but what’s done is done. On draft day, everyone kind of knew who my target would be at 1.06 as I wore my Giants fandom firmly on my sleeve. This knowledge culminated many trade talks to move up in the draft allowing me to secure Daniel Jones, knowing the other top two QBs would probably go in the first three picks. After some agonizing debate – I decided to stay put and Jones ultimately fell to me at 1.06 (which I had a feeling might happen anyway because everyone but me seemed to be hating the pick for the Giants).  That said, I still took him with great consternation, because fantasy darling Harry was also on the board. However, I also knew Jones wouldn’t last to 1.12. Having Eli Manning on a one-year deal, Jones made sense for me in case Eli got injured or the team was not in contention due to poor team play. It ensured I would have his successor in place. Plus, I love having guys I can root for on my team – so, Haskins was out for me anyway. Suck it Washington. Working the overnight shift proved a bit problematic as I woke in a sleepy haze and perhaps mistakenly picked Butler over Hollywood Brown (who would have a more secure role in the Ravens offense) but, I still believed in the reverence of experts like Evan Silva, Matt Harmon and Matt Waldman, plus I enjoyed watching Butler’s tape – so, you know, no ragrets…not one letter. Devonte (Podfather) was next on the clock and he messaged me as I was about to fall back asleep with an offer to move out of my next 2.09 pick back up to the 1.13. I haggled for a bit and settled for maybe a little too much to climb back into the first round. I had a TE need and one of my favorite players in the draft, TJ Hockenson, had not been picked yet. I loved the kid’s game and I think the landing spot is just fine despite the critics balking. I rested easy until I had to return to work that night. When the next morning broke, I still had 2 second round picks left to go and I went onto make my next two selections at 2.13 and 2.16. I went with Justice Hill first, envisioning the speed demon as having a poor man’s Alvin Kamara type role in the Ravens backfield with Mark Ingram (those other guys on the roster don’t scare or concern me). My Mr. Irrelevant pick, I felt was a massive steal as I grabbed Riley Ridley and exited the draft room guns blazing. Personally, I thought the younger Ridley brother was one of the best route runners in the class (a trait I value very highly) and his competition on the Bears roster is not something I’m afraid of. I think he will be lining up opposite Allen Robinson week one with second year guy Anthony Miller running the slot. I think he’s got potential to make some big plays this year. Really happy with my overall draft haul, and while I don’t anticipate making a huge run this year – I’m hoping next year I will be primed to push for the playoffs and contend with the big boys. Providing I don’t sabotage myself before them, which I am want to do from time to time.

Team Name: Pontifex Minimus (Luke Patrick O’Connell)
Team Needs: Running Back, Flex
Team Picks:  1.07, N’Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots (after many trades)
There are few things that prompt more unadulterated fun than a fantasy football draft, trading in fantasy football, and the esteemed luminary of 90s rap – Coolio.  So, like the aforementioned lyrical master I entered the “All About Reality” Podcast League with a newly minted doctorate, feeling like “an educated fool with money on my mind/Got a 10 in my hand and a gleam in my eye.”  In this case the “money” was 2019 draft picks and the 10 in hand were the 1.02 and 1.03. My partner Goody was prescient enough to know that such assets would change hands a few times and so they did. 1.02 went the way of Mayhem making moves to net a starting RB in Josh Jacobs.   For her efforts I landed the 1.07, a 2020 1stand Hunter Henry.   The 1.03 was also a person of interest with Haskins still on the board for a 16 team superflex league.   So I flipped that and the 1.03 to Pickyouoff24 for the 1.08 and a 2020 1st and he promptly landed Washington’s presumptive starter.   The picks broke right for arguably the top overall dynasty asset to fall to 1.07 so I took the inestimable N’Keal Harry before QB thirst drove another trade up for Drew Lock at 1.08.  Moops offered Derrick Henry and a 2020 1st in what is likely a winnable bet against the “elite” Joe Flacco’s tenure in Denver.  My draft began with a team largely devoid of RBs but set at all the other starting spots and ended with Derrick Henry for $13 million per year for two years.  Harry on a rookie deal at 1.07 and 3 newly minted 2020 1sts.   The new draft features on RSO will make all future drafts painless as we witnessed in the Writer’s League, and much credit goes to our tireless listeners that made fearless offers and kept the action going across 32 picks.  As Coolio would say…a gangsta’s paradise.
Team Name: The Fantasy Affliction (Tim Aylesworth)
Team Needs: Tight End, Wide Receiver
Team Picks:  1.10, DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Due to some serious salary cap concerns, the off-season saw the Affliction trading away future Hall Of Famer Julio Jones and unable to retain the services of Tight End Eric Ebron.  And with only one draft pick to their name, it was going to be difficult (ie impossible) to fill all the team’s needs.  The expectation was that the top 5 players on my Draft Board would be long gone but pick 1.10, and serious consideration would have to be given to trading down to acquire more picks.  The TFA roster is a contender, with star power at the top, but absolutely zero depth behind it. As the draft began to get through the first round, we began to feel that maybe we might be able to get a top WR after all.  The major run on QBs and RBs meant that our top 2 choices at WR fell all the way to pick 1.09, and we knew we would get one of them at 1.10.  DK Metcalf, The Fantasy Affliction’s #1 rated WR brought Christmas early to Coach Aylesworth and the Afflicted Fans.  It was only one pick, but it was better than we dared hope for. Some people have asked if consideration was given to outstanding TE Noah Fant, but Tight Ends take longer to develop than Wide Receivers and the Affliction believe we are ready to compete now.
Team Name: Lucha Vikings (Ryan Svenson)
Team Needs: Starting WR, More FLEX Depth
Team Picks: 2.03, Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Unfortunately, I came into the draft with very little draft capital.  I traded my 1st round pick pre-draft in a deal to acquire Julio Jones.  But with a high 2nd round pick I had hopes that somebody I liked would fall to me.  And thankfully, I was correct.  I had a bevy of options available to me when I was on the clock at 2.03 (19 overall), which can be attributed to the cut-throat nature of a 16-team Superflex league (4 QBs were taken in the first 8 picks) allowing positional players to fall further than they would in a different type of league.  I considered 3 players at the pick, which also made me explore trade-back options.  There were no trades to be made, so I had to make a choice between the 3 guys on my board; Andy Isabella, Deebo Samuel, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside.  Now I know rookie WRs don’t typically make a big impact, but I need SOME impact from mine at the least.  And I like Isabella but feel like he’s got a slightly longer road to success than the other 2 guys.  Ultimately, I just like Deebo better as a prospect over JJ, and I think he has a legitimate chance of carving out a big role in the SF offense in year 1.  It didn’t hurt that Deebo was the #5 WR on my board heading into the draft and I got him as the 9th WR drafted.
Team name: House Stark (Ashley Bowling)
Team needs: WR/RB (Flex)
Team Picks: 1.14 Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
                          2.04 Darrell Henderson, RB,  Los Angeles Rams
                          2.07 Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills

                           2.11 Ryan Finley, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

My goal coming into the rookie draft was finding a player I felt could possibly start for me throughout the year. Based on where my picks were, I felt I had a handful of darts and hoped someone would hit. My first order of business was getting Robby Anderson via trade with Jenna, Mistress of Mayhem. He’s had a special place in my heart the last couple years and I felt like he could start for me on a weekly basis. I moved the 1.16 for Robby and 2.07. I had in my mind if Mecole Hardman was there at 1.14 that’s who I planned on taking. There were a couple other WRs here I was looking at, but the possibility of Hardman being on the field with Mahomes and that KC offense was one I didn’t want to pass up. I had pretty much the same mindset at the 2.04 with Darrell Henderson. I’m not sure any of us know what is going on with Todd Gurley, so just the possibility of Henderson getting carries in the Rams offense was intriguing. I’ve got very little cap space, so I was thrilled getting those two in hopes one of their situations worked in my favor. Now at the 2.07 I was still torn between taking a RB or WR. Being the RB lover that I’ve always been, I had to go with Singletary here and his running behind a couple of old men in Buffalo. I finished my draft off with the 2.11 pick of Ryan Finley. I live in the greater Cincinnati area, and a couple of the radio personalities kind of talked me into this pick here. With this being a superflex league, I felt he was a solid grab, and if things don’t go well for the Bengals and Dalton, maybe he will make some starts.

Team Name: The RSO PodFather (Devonte Cleveland)
Team Needs: Starting RB, WR depth, and picks for depth/upside
Team Picks: 2.09, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
                           2.12, Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots
Before the draft started, The RSO PodFather possessed the 1.13, 2.12, and 2.13. Going into the draft I figured I would be trading the 1.13, to either move up, move back, or move out. As the draft moved forward, I didn’t start actively trade talking until 1.10 when I noticed DK Metcalf dropping. There was an agreed trade that I backed out of last minute that involved all 3 of my picks for the 1.10. Though DK would have been a great addition to my team as I start my 2019 rebuild, I couldn’t get myself to go all in on him. Finally, the 1.13 came and at this point had 5 different way I could have gone… I debated on taking (in this order) Noah Fant, Samuel, Hollywood Brown, or JJAW. I was completely indecisive and felt so overwhelmed, I looked to trade out. Once again, being in a rebuild mindset, and already having (4) 2020 1st, why not make it five and moving up a tad in this years 2nd? 2.09 finally came around the next morning and I SCREAMED!!! The guy I was genuinely considered taking at 1.13 is now here at 2.09!!!! (do not ask me how or why….) One of my major needs is WR, though, Arcega-Whiteside may not get a ton of targets this year, next year I hope he sees a ton of red zone catches. When 2.12 came around, I saw plenty of upside WRs that would be a great pick ups, but I understand RBs are much more valuable, so I took the guy I had pretty high on my board. I know better not to draft Alabama RBs, but I trust New England to do this man right, if not this year, than next. Post draft: I have a couple expiring contracts that (if I’m not a playoff contender) I’ll sell for picks in 2020 to teams that are contenders.
Team Name: RSOooo Super Chargers (Marcus Corbould)
Team Needs: Starting RB, TE, WR depth
Team Picks: 2.14, Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings
I had traded my 2019 and 2020 1st rounders along with Russell Wilson and Leonard Fournette for Aaron Rodgers/OBJ earlier in the offseason. Steep price, but it gave me a then-elite core of OBJ/Tyreek (highest scoring WR in our format) and Rodgers/Rivers. That left me with just the 2.14 for this draft. Once JJAW miraculously fell into the 2nd, I tried to trade up to the 2.03 onwards but no one wanted to trade as far back as the 2.14. It didn’t help that one person ended up holding the majority of the picks at one time or another from 2.03-2.09. Once JJAW went, I was content to just take the player with the highest chance at a return on investment. RB Alexander Mattison was my choice because he has good draft capital and went to a landing spot where the primary backup has had a fair amount of opportunity in Minnesota. He is also being pegged as a better Latavius Murray. It also helped that there are 2 Vikings fans in our league who were both interested in picking him. I expect him to have some flex value in a league this deep and be a bargaining chip in future trade talks.
More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

The Watch List: 2019 NFL Mock Draft, Picks 17-32

Updated: April 21st 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.

For the first time in my mock draft career, I decided to do a mock NFL Draft using draft pick trades.  Let me tell you, it was incredibly fun!  In addition to doing a full two round mock, I included some “best of the rest” players that I expect to outperform their late round draft stock.   Over the next two weeks, you’ll see the full mock broken into four parts, released in reverse order.  At the end of this post I have included a number of important notes that you may want to read before diving in.  To view the other parts, click here.

1.32, New England Patriots | Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Lawrence doesn’t really fill a positional or schematic need for the Patriots but I think Bill Belichick would have a hard time passing on somebody with his combination of size and athleticism. One of the most beloved Patriots of the Belichick era was DT Vince Wilfork who anchored the team’s 3-4 for years. Since the team doesn’t have a defensive coordinator at the moment it’s possible they could draft a player like Lawrence and then mold a scheme, or at least sub-packages, around him.

1.31, Los Angeles Rams | Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina St

The Rams have a lot of money invested in their two starting tackles but not much on the interior. C John Sullivan left in free agency leaving 2018 fourth rounder Brian Allen the only center on the roster. It’s not an exciting pick but Bradbury would be an instant starter, so it’s a prudent selection given how strong the rest of the roster was in 2018.

1.30, Green Bay Packers | AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss

The Packers tried to give QB Aaron Rodgers some new toys last year by drafting three mid- to late-round receivers, none of which emerged. Brown, a dominant slot receiver at Ole Miss, would be the second pass catcher drafted by the Packers in the first round and could instantly replace Randall Cobb’s production.

1.29, Kansas City Chiefs | Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware

The Eric Berry era has ended in KC after the team designated him as a June 1st cut. Per Spotrac, the move saves them nearly $10mil each of the next two years so the move was worth it even it was bittersweet. Adderley could also line up at corner in certain situations and offer much needed flexibility for the Chiefs who had a putrid pass defense in 2018.

1.28, Los Angeles Chargers | Andre Dillard, OT, Washington St

QB Phillip Rivers doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon so the Chargers should heavily invest in the offensive line to protect him. LT Russell Okung is 31 and nobody has the RT spot locked down. Dillard, who showed his supreme athleticism at the combine, is a little light to be a starting LT but could work on the right side or shift inside.

1.27, Oakland Raiders | Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

Simmons had a rough winter. He ended the season as a potential Top 10 pick but had his combine invite rescinded due to a 2016 incident and then suffered a torn ACL. Simmons may not be a factor in 2019 so few teams would still consider pulling the trigger in the first round. The Raiders can because they have three first rounders. The four DTs already on the depth chart can all be cut with little or no cap penalty after the 2019 season so I think this could be a smart pick for the future. Imagine starting the 2020 season with a healthy Simmons alongside Quinnen Williams? (Note: grabbing Simmons in the first also means you get a fifth year option, even more valuable when he’s likely to miss all of his first season.)

1.26, Indianapolis Colts | Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

Mocking a receiver to the Colts at 1.26 has been a popular choice and it makes sense now that Andrew Luck is back on track. It may be a reach based on my positional rankings, but I like the idea of Butler to the Colts. Butler has the measurables of an elite outside receiver but found great success as a big slot at Iowa State. Butler and TY Hilton can alternate who lines up in the slot, making it tough for defenses to account for their different skill sets. Or, they can set the newly signed Devin Funchess and TE Eric Ebron outside and put both Butler and Hilton inside. The more I think about it, the more I love the potential of Butler on the Colts.

1.25, Philadelphia Eagles | DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia

The Eagles have the fourth lowest cap total invested in corners and gave up the third most passing yards per game last year. So, it’s time they spend a little at the position. Earlier in the process it seemed that Baker might challenge for the CB1 spot but his stock has since fallen, in part due to mediocre combine measurables.

1.24, Oakland Raiders | Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

The Raiders signed RB Isaiah Crowell to a one-year deal and just resigned pass catching back Jalen Richard. I’m not sure either move precludes the Raiders from taking a running back with one of their first three picks. My preferred RB is David Montgomery but it seems that the NFL leans towards Jacobs.

1.23, Houston Texans | Cody Ford, OG, Oklahoma

The Texans priority must be protecting franchise QB Deshaun Watson. I can see them going for a tackle or center here too, just so long as it keeps Watson upright. Ford has the size of a tackle so he may be able to move back outside once he gains some experience.

1.22, Minnesota Vikings | Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

The Vikings have LBs Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks locked up for a few years each but I still had a hard time ignoring Bush at this spot. I can see his speed being valuable in nickel situations, freeing up Barr to rush the passer (a role that nearly led him to leave for the Jets in free agency). The Vikings should probably look at the OL too but otherwise they feel complete enough as a team to go BPA rather than reach for need.

1.21, Seattle Seahawks | Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

The name brand defensive line that the Seahawks had for so many seasons is gone. Frank Clark is the lone remainder but he may not be around long term if he doesn’t sign a long term deal (unlikely if the team resigns QB Russel Wilson). Wilkins would be a good interior presence to help pull attention away from Clark in 2019.

1.20, Washington Redskins | Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

The Redskins managed to hold onto the 1.15 pick by dealing their 2nd and 5th for QB Josh Rosen. Rather than picking at 1.15, they traded back and are still able to get the second tackle off the board to help protect their newest investment.

1.19, Tennessee Titans | Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

The Titans aren’t drafting for need here and instead are trying to build their roster to suit their changing division. The passing outlook for all three AFC South opponents has improved since this time last year so the Titans should double down on a position of strength and add a corner with good ball skills in Byron Murphy. Murphy was PFF’s top rated corner in 2018.

1.18, Baltimore Ravens | Rashan Gary, DT, Michigan

As the Vikings GM, I didn’t see anything must-have at this spot so I traded back to the Ravens. Baltimore seems like a team that would love to take a chance on a physically gifted work in progress like Gary. He was the darling of draftniks for the last three seasons who thought his production would catch up with his raw ability. Unfortunately, Gary feels like a project at this point, albeit one with a very high ceiling.

1.17, New York Giants | Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

The Giants should leave the first round with future starters at both QB and DE. I would argue that Haskins + Ferrell is a best case solution, and a better duo than what the Giants would get if they waited on quarterback and went for the edge rusher first.

A few housekeeping notes:

  • The full mock draft was written between April 4-10.  Any moves or news released after that point would not be taken into account.
  • To help me track my mock draft, I used a very useful tool I found on Reddit called RST’s 2019 Draft Tracker.
  • This spreadsheet lets you easily trade draft picks and uses a pick value chart so you can try and keep trades fair.  All of the trades except for Washington/Arizona were pick for pick and I required that the team moving up offer more value than the value chart suggested was fair.
  • Since the trades all included late picks not covered in this mock I didn’t bother noting each individual trade.  Instead, I described my general thinking for the trade.
  • For each pick, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the GM.  If given the chance, I would not necessarily make all of the same picks as I value some players and positions differently.
  • Keep in mind that my predicted draft order does not necessarily correspond to my personal positional rankings.
  • I could not have put together the roster and contract notes without the help of two invaluable sites: Our Lads and Spotrac.

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

The Watch List: 2019 NFL Draft Previews, WRs Harmon & Metcalf

Updated: March 8th 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 Winter and Spring 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 week’s entry in my NFL Draft Previews series, we’ll be taking a closer look at receivers Kelvin Harmon and DK Metcalf.  I decided to highlight Harmon because I am currently higher on him than the consensus.  I vacillated on who else to include until it recently became evident that I must include Metcalf too, because, well, dude is swole.  Harmon and Metcalf are actually a perfect duo for this piece because they are names that casual NFL Draft fans became more familiar with at the combine. Let’s get to it!

 

Kelvin Harmon, WR, North Carolina State

  • Combine measurements:

  • Stats:
Receiving & Rushing Table
Rece Rece Rece Rece
Year School Class G Rec Yds Avg TD
*2016 North Carolina State FR 10 27 462 17.1 5
*2017 North Carolina State SO 13 69 1017 14.7 4
*2018 North Carolina State JR 12 81 1186 14.6 7
Career North Carolina State 177 2665 15.1 16
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2019.
  • Film watched for this profile: Clemson 2017, Syracuse 2018

Full disclosure: Kelvin Harmon has been my WR1 or WR2 all season long.  I fell for him in the preseason and his great 2018 season only bolstered my confidence.  That’s saying a lot because this receiver class could be historic and on par with 2014 (my god: Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry).  The other leading receivers in the class, such as Metcalf and N’Keal Harry, all exhibit elite traits which they showed off at the combine.  Harmon, on the other hand, is less physically dominant and performed poorly at the combine.  Harmon shows, however, two traits that I value highly: route running and technique in the air.  He runs smart and varied patterns, and while he isn’t physical at the line, he uses his hands well at the top of his route.  While in the air, he shows an ability to adjust to the ball, uses his body well and catches the ball with his hands.  In such a congested class, I look for ways a player can differentiate himself.  Harmon does that with a nuance that some lack.  It would be easy to cast Harmon aside after his combine performance but I’ve seen enough on tape to still rank him highly.

My favorite route of Harmon’s came in the second quarter of the Syracuse game while the Pack were down 14 and needed a big play.  Harmon is set up on the outside to the field with plenty of room to work towards the sideline.  He sells the corner on an out-breaking route and cuts inside, using his head to sell the feint.  He’s free and clear immediately and nearly outruns the pass.  After he slows and makes the nice over-the-shoulder catch, he accelerates just enough to avoid the pursuing defender.

This replay angle from the 2017 Clemson game shows another great route by Harmon.  He puts in a lot of work before the ball is in the air so it’s unfortunate that the quarterback misses him so badly.

Awareness was something that I kept coming back to when watching Harmon’s film.  On this next play, Harmon makes a great effort as a blocker to give his running back a lane to the end zone.  The run ultimately fails, but you can see that Harmon is patient enough to let the play develop before he abruptly turns his body to put it between the defender and where the back should be.  I’ll bet they worked on this play frequently at practice and if the timing were right, that sudden turn would have been the reason the back made it to the goal line.  It was subtle but showed me that while he may not be the strongest blocker, he is an intelligent one.

Speaking of putting his body between the defender and the ball, Harmon continually showed me what my high school soccer coach called “ball-side, goal-side.”  Basically, he wanted us to keep ourselves, as defenders, between the player with the ball and the goal.  Harmon does that on nearly every route as he uses his frame to shield the defender from the ball.  On the play below against Clemson from 2017, most receivers would have body-caught the ball but Harmon makes the grab with his hands.  He quickly peeks over his shoulder for the nearest defender before he lands and turtles to protect the ball from the converging tacklers.

In addition to showing well on tape, Harmon also shows well in the boxscore.  He had a solid sophomore season in 2017 and improved further in 2018.  In fact, he led the ACC in receiving yards over the last two seasons with 2,203 (the next best was Olamide Zaccheaus with 1,953) and helped lead the Wolfpack to the 8th best passing offense in the FBS.  Harmon can be a compiler, as we saw in his game against Syracuse this season (he has eight career games with 8+ receptions), which is great for fantasy owners.

I’m disappointed that Harmon did not show better at the combine.  If he had, I would have locked him into my WR1 spot.  For now, I’ll pencil him at WR2, between Harry and Metcalf.  Hopefully he finds a favorable home in the NFL and I can keep him atop my rankings.  Draft Prediction: Round 2

 

DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

  • Combine measurements:

  • Stats:
Receiving & Rushing Table
Rece Rece Rece Rece
Year School Class G Rec Yds Avg TD
2016 Ole Miss FR 2 2 13 6.5 2
2017 Ole Miss FR 12 39 646 16.6 7
2018 Ole Miss SO 7 26 569 21.9 5
Career Ole Miss 67 1228 18.3 14
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2019.
  • Film watched for this profile: Kentucky 2017, Louisiana-Monroe 2018
Even the most casual of fans has seen Metcalf’s name pop-up on social media lately.  Metcalf, along with his well-defined six-pack, is like a modern day Atlas, holding up the #DraftTwitter world.  Fortunately for Metcalf, and his agent, the buzz before, and especially during, the combine has elevated his NFL Draft stock significantly.  Heading into the 2018 season, Metcalf could usually be found in the WR5 range, now he’s leading many rankings.  “Hold on Bob,” you say, that’s not such a big leap from WR5 to WR1.  You’re right, but you’re also forgetting that Metcalf suffered a broken neck in October.  I don’t know how similar the injury is, but I dinged Clemson WR Mike Williams’ draft stock for his neck injury, and that was after he returned from surgery with a full 98-1361-11 season.  Instead of rehabbing at school and showing his resiliency as a Rebel, Metcalf decided to go pro.  If I were an NFL decision maker, that would worry me.  Plain and simple.

Due to Metcalf’s injury history, he also missed most of his freshman year due to a broken foot, he doesn’t have much on the stat sheet.  His 67 career receptions are less than many receivers in the class have in their second-best season (like Harmon).  His rate stats are encouraging, though they aren’t pulling from a large sample size.  In 2018, nine of Metcalf’s 26 receptions went for 20+ yards, including four 40+ yard touchdowns.  That’s an impressive big play rate for somebody of his size.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by his penchant for big plays given his combine measurables.  Metcalf undoubtedly stole the show in Indy when he put up great numbers in everything but the 3-Cone and Shuttle.  One of the knocks I often hear about Metcalf is that he’s not a great route runner and that may presaged by those poor 3-Cone and Shuttle scores.  He may have sacrificed some agility and change of direction ability to get as big and straight-line fast as he is.

When I watched his tape I was not that concerned about that impacting his game at the next level. The first thing that stood out in the Kentucky game was how often Metcalf had a decent release but was not targeted.  He repeatedly has quick feet at the line and uses his hands well to knock the corner off him.  In this play, which did not result in a target, you can see Metcalf’s quick feet off the snap which helps him get outside of the defender.  You can’t clearly see it in the clip, but he also smacks the defender’s hand off him.

Metcalf showed how well he uses his hands and strength to get free on this play as well:

On this next play, Metcalf strings all of the above into one great play.  If you are looking for a reason to draft Metcalf at 1.01 in your league, this is the only play you’ll need to see.  He stems outside and chops the defender’s hands to get himself free.  He then cuts inside and turns on his straight-line afterburners.  By the time the ball arrives, he’s comfortably ahead of the corner as he makes an over the shoulder catch.  The defender makes a last ditch dive but Metcalf keeps his feet and scores.  Watching the wide-angle replay lets you get a birds-eye view of DK checking off all the boxes.

The ending of that play was similar to a play I noted against Louisiana-Monroe.  In this one, Metcalf capitalizes on a bad read by the corner, stays in bounds, and uses a combination of speed/balance/strength to get to the end zone despite two attempts at taking his feet.

Despite the run-after-catch that Metcalf displays on these two plays, I did not notice that as a larger piece of his game.  Unfortunately, he did not run many different routes, primarily go routes and comebacks, so there wasn’t ample opportunity for him to get gone unless it was along the sideline.  Similarly, I would have loved to see a more varied deployment to show that he could fill multiple roles; he was almost exclusively used on the left side, at the line of scrimmage.  The film I watched did not show much of Metcalf blocking but there was one particularly bad example.  Somebody of his stature should do better than this.  It wasn’t just poor technique, it was poor effort.

I don’t want to end on a negative note so I’ll leave you with this last great play.  This one showed Metcalf’s ability to win in the red zone with his size and body control.  He also uses strong hands to secure the ball and survive the ground.

Paired with the earlier score against Kentucky, you can see why fantasy GMs are eager to draft Metcalf.  It’s clear that he has tremendous physical potential, but potential often gets NFL coaches fired.  I tend to be risk-averse in my evaluations, so if it were up to me as an NFL GM, the earliest I would pull the trigger on DK would be in the 25-35 range.  Honestly though, there’s no way he makes it that far unless he fails a physical.  I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that I will likely own zero shares of Metcalf and I’ll have to be okay with that.  Draft Prediction: Round 1

 

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 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, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.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, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.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
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com, the media home for FWAA members
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: oddsshark.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

The Watch List: 2018 AAC Preview

Updated: July 21st 2018

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players, storylines and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  Check back throughout the Summer for previews on each conference and my preseason predictions.  During the regular season, The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Storylines to Watch

  • Heisman Favorite:  McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF.  Milton thrived under coach Scott Frost last season, throwing for 4,037 yards and 37 TDs.  It remains to be seen how Milton progresses under new head coach Josh Heupel but I assume he’ll do just fine with such a strong supporting cast.  He may be the next in the line of “great college quarterbacks who can’t make it as a pro” but that won’t diminish my enjoyment watching him in 2018.
  • Darkhorse Heisman Candidate:  Ed Oliver, DT, Houston.  Picking a defensive lineman for the Heisman is about as darkhorse as it gets.  Oliver is a beast who will be in the conversation for a top draft pick so it stands to reason he may earn a Heisman vote or two like Roquan Smith received in 2017.
  • Offensive Player of the Year:  Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis.  Henderson will have a strong season but will never get the publicity of Milton so I wanted to honor Henderson here while giving Milton my AAC Heisman vote.  Per Phil Steele, Memphis ranks 11th in the nation in offensive line starts returning for 2018, so Henderson will have an experienced line blocking for him.  Add in the fact that the Tigers lose their star QB and WR and we’ll be looking at an offensive attack more focused on the run this season.
  • Defensive Player of the Year:  Ed Oliver, DT, Houston.  I hope you’re not getting tired of hearing Ed Oliver’s name because there is more of him to come in this preview and I’ll be talking about him all season long.
  • Newcomer of the Year:  Tavion Thomas, RB, Cincinnati.  Thomas was a highly sought recruit who earned offers from the likes of Ohio State, Oklahoma and Alabama.  Thomas committed to the Sooners before changing his mind in January.  He was the 17th ranked back according to 247Sports and was #29 per Phil Steele.  Thomas has a shot at emerging from Cinci’s young but crowded backfield.  The Bearcats return two sophomores in Gerrid Doaks and Michael Warren who had 520-2 and 334-1 respectively as freshmen.
  • Underclassman to Watch:  Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF.  The Knights are losing two of their top three receivers (Tre’Quan Smith and Jordan Akins) so the door is open for Davis to take on a bigger role in 2018.  In 2017 as a true freshman his line was 27-391-4.  He has a big body at 6’3″ and 219lb so it’ll be interesting to see if the high volume offense of UCF vaults him into 2020 draft consideration.
  • Best QB-WR Tandem:  McKenzie Milton and Dredrick Snelson.  I thought about being flippant here and selecting Zach Abey and Malcolm Perry, see below, but I figured I should give some real analysis instead.  Ultimately I chose Milton and Snelson more out of necessity than desire.  The AAC only returns one of its top ten receivers from last year so my options were quite limited here.  That sole returner, East Carolina’s Trevon Brown, will be playing with a new passer this season so I couldn’t go with that tandem.  Snelson is the Knights leading returning receiver; he had 46-695-8 last year.  Snelson was Phil Steele’s 35th ranked recruit in his class so he has some potential and could land on NFL Draft radars as a junior.
  • Best RB Corps:  Navy.  I haven’t had such an easy choice yet in my season preview research.  The Midshipmen return two 1,000+ yard rushers in Zach Abey and Malcolm Perry.  They also return FB Anthony Gargiulo who rushed for 424 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry.  Notice that I left off position designations for Abey and Perry because there’s an interesting battle, forgive the pun, between them heading into this season.  They both had starts at QB last year but Perry is the better athlete (Perry played at WR while Abey started at QB).  Reports are that Abey will be moving to WR which we know is not a premier assignment in a triple option offense.  I’ll bet that head coach Ken Niumatalolo has been game planning all offseason and keeping both players on the field at the same time will make Navy even harder to defend.
  • Coach on the Hottest Seat:  Randy Edsall, UCONN.  I don’t really get the allure of Randy Edsall.  He left the Huskies back in 2010 for a five year stint at Maryland that netted him just 22 wins.  Then Connecticut brought him back in 2017 after firing Bob Diaco.  Edsall has a 73-72 career record with Connecticut but the team was dreadful last year at 3-9.  Those three wins were by a combined seventeen points and one of them was over 4-7 Holy Cross from the FCS.  Not exactly a winning resume.  When I researched Edsall for this preview, I was reminded of his recent tirade about paying college players.  While I agree with the idea, going off on that tangent probably isn’t the best way to keep your job with an NCAA member institution.  Neither is suing the school’s Citizen Ethics Advisory Board.

Teams to Watch

 Memphis (10-3 in 2017)

I’m really interested to see what Memphis can do in 2018 after losing so much with QB Riley Ferguson and WR Anthony Miller moving on.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere in this preview, the Tigers have a number of offensive weapons leftover including RB Darrell Henderson, do-everything dynamo Tony Pollard and TE Joey Magnifico.  The Tigers won the West division last season with a 7-1 record.  They return 15 starters from that team and have a favorable non-conference schedule (easily winnable home games against Mercer, Georgia State and South Alabama).  An odd midseason matchup against SEC foe Missouri could end up being the make-or-break contest.  Memphis will easily hold onto the division mantle but a sneaky win against Missouri would catapult them into playoff contention (it would be a better Power 5 win than UCF had last year over Maryland).  Memphis may have the widest range of possible outcomes this upcoming season in the AAC, because of the uncertainty of replacing two huge pieces of the offense, but if I had to bet (and hey I may soon be able to, thank you New Jersey!) I would take the over and pick them to improve on last year’s 10 wins.

 Cincinnati (4-8 in 2017)

What is a Bearcat anyway?  Nobody seems to know for sure, unless you accept this tenuous explanation from the school.  One thing I do know about Cincinnati is that they will be on the come this season.  Per Phil Steele, Cinci returns 78% of their offensive yards, the most in the conference.  They also have a soft non-conference schedule after opening at UCLA.  They have an annual game against Miami Ohio which the Bearcats have won every season since 2006; two weeks later they have another winnable, albeit more difficult, MAC matchup against Ohio.  Between those two, Alabama A&M comes to town which Cincinnati should beat easily.  They get Navy and USF at home which will help them steal a win against one of the higher ranked AAC teams.  The offense features a number of underclassman running backs that could be either a blessing or a curse for head coach Luke Fickell.  The experienced QB Hayden Moore returns but may be beat out by true freshman Ben Bryant.  It may be a big if, but if Fickell can juggle his myriad backfield options, Cinci could surprise in the East and get to eight wins.  Even if that may be a stretch, I like Fickell’s chances of getting to 7-5 in his second season at the helm.

Players to Watch

Honorable Mentions

  • McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF:  Milton was fantastic in 2017 and should light up AAC defenses again this season, even under a new coach.  Jeff Heupel was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for fellow NFL prospect Drew Lock at Missouri; Heupel also worked closely with NFL quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Landry Jones at OU.  So, Heupel’s quarterback coach credentials could help increase Milton’s stock.  Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be an uphill battle for Milton as he is severely undersized at 5110/180.  It’s a shame because he has a great arm and makes some of his throws look effortless.  Another 4,000 yard and 35 TD season should be expected.
  • Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple:  Armstead followed up a promising sophomore season (919-14) with a disappointing junior campaign (604-5).  Interestingly, he had the exact same number of carries in each season (156).  One positive of 2017 was that Armstead got involved with 14 receptions, although for only 75 yards.  Armstead has good size (5110, 205) but needs to show that he can be the lead back and wrest carries away from veteran David Hood.
  • Adrian Killins, RB, UCF:  Listed weights for Killins range between 150-170 but either way he’s light and slight at 5080.  What Killins lacks in size, he makes up in speed.  He offered up some bulletin board material last year leading into the Peach Bowl when he boasted that Auburn hadn’t seen speed like he and the Knights had.  DraftScout.com predicts Killins speed will range between 4.40-4.59.  After watching some highlights, this one specifically, I’m going to guess he’s safely in the 4.40 discussion.  Killins was involved as a receiver with 25 receptions in 2017; he totaled 959 yards and 11 TDs from scrimmage on 148 touches.  He also has some limited experience returning kicks which is where he could be deployed early in his pro career.
  • Tony Pollard, WR/RB/KR, Memphis:  Pollard is an all-purpose threat.  In 2017 he had 10 touchdowns: 2 rushing, 4 receiving, 4 kick return.  He only had 66 touches from scrimmage but averaged over 11 yards per touch.  He’ll still be behind RB Darrell Henderson in the offensive pecking order but with WR Anthony Miller gone, Pollard will see more snaps.  It’s not impossible that Pollard could parlay his size (5110/200) and versatility into a “Jaylen Samuels lite” draft profile.
  • Justin Hobbs, WR, Tulsa:  Hobbs finished 2017 with a respectable 55-830-3 line on a bad Tulsa team that averaged just 173 yards passing per game.  Hobbs has not showed a knack for finding the end zone (just 9 career TDs in three seasons) but has a redzone worthy frame at 6040/218.  I watched a 2017 highlight package of Hobbs and was disappointed to see how infrequently he used that size to his advantage by playing in the air.  I’ll monitor Hobbs this year to see if he improves in that regard.
  • Joey Magnifico, TE, Memphis:  Here we have another player who stands to benefit from Memphis WR Anthony Miller leaving for the NFL.  You may be quick to counter that I’m attributing too much added production to Henderson, Pollard and Magnifico but you need to remember what a black hole Miller was in this offense.  He had 100+ touches in both 2016 and 2017 that need to be replaced.  Magnifico is listed at 6040/235 which puts him on the smaller side of the last two tight end classes.  Size wise he comps to Evan Engram or Gerald Everett but DraftScout.com predicts he’ll be significantly slower.  Magnifico has just 30 career receptions (365 yards, 5 TDs) so this is pure speculation here but he’s likely the best TE in the conference so so let’s keep an eye on him.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Regardless of what source you’re looking at, Ed Oliver is about as unanimous a selection as you’ll find for the nation’s best at their position. He checks in at 6030/290 and is projected in the 4.90 range.  He ran a 4.87 as a high school prospect and in my experience, guys tend to get a tick faster once they are on campus and start training at a higher level.  NFL.com quotes some sick athletic feats as well in the vertical and broad jump categories.  No prospect in 2018, at 290+ pounds, would have a better profile.  Taven Bryan and Kolton Miller would come close, and both were first rounders, but Oliver would have them beat by nearly a full tenth of a second in the 40 yard dash.  Oliver is in the running for the top pick and I’ll bet that some team is going to get tremendous value for him at #2 or #3 after a quarterback inevitably rises up the draft board.  By no means am I an expert when it comes to defensive line play so I’m not going to try and break down his technique but it’s impossible to watch Oliver and not see the impact he has on the game every single snap.  Considering the attention offensive lines pay him, his stats are great: 73 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2017.  I watched a fair bit of Oliver last season so I did not do a new round of film study for this preview (honestly, seems kind of pointless… he’s good), but I encourage you to take four minutes and watch this highlight reel entitled “Absolute Domination” which just about sums him up.

Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis

Henderson is a 5090/200 running back who made fantastic use of his 154 touches last season.  On those touches, 24 of which were receptions, Henderson averaged 8.96 yards per and scored 11 TDs.  In my database of nearly fifty running backs for this class, Henderson led them all in yards per carry, by nearly a yard too.  He also had a productive freshman season with over 700 scrimmage yards and 8 TDs.  As I’ve mentioned ad nauseam in this preview, Memphis has a lot of offensive production to replace in 2018.  I expect to see Henderson’s touches creep closer to 200 and while his rate stats will surely decrease he will still be productive and could be a fast riser.  Henderson uses his squat body type to run with a balanced combination of speed and power, often pinballing off defenders.  He showed me great contact balance and an ability to stay upright, especially while avoiding ankle tackles.  He accelerates well and has a top speed in the 4.50 range, in my opinion.  His hands need some work and he appears to be a hesitant (and inexperienced) blocker but that may improve with experience.  Henderson offers the Memphis offense versatility which they used to create mismatches for Henderson and his teammates.  In one perfect example against SMU, Henderson motioned out of the backfield to line up in the slot.  The linebackers shift and it’s clear there’s some confusion.  Amidst that confusion, WR Anthony Miller splits the linebackers and scores on a touch pass over the middle.  If the defenders were not concerned about Henderson playing out of the slot the touchdown never would have materialized.  If I were ranking today, Henderson probably cracks my Top 20 at the position but I was impressed enough with his power/speed combination to reserve final judgment.  (Film watched: UCF 2017, SMU 2017)

Trevon Brown, WR, East Carolina

Brown was not on my radar when I started researching the AAC for this preview.  He stood out, however, when I realized how few productive receivers were returning to the AAC this season.  Brown finished 2017 with a line of 60-1,069-7 for the Pirates, making him the only one of the conference’s top ten receivers coming back to campus.  His 17.8 yards per catch average led the conference by receivers with 60+ receptions.  Brown had a solid sophomore season in 2015 (41-496-4) but was forced to sit out 2016 after being declared academically ineligible.  Since he’s not a buzzworthy name, there was not much film of Brown to find online.  I was able to watch one full game and a highlight reel package.  His game against Cinci ended up looking good on the stat sheet (9-270-2) but it was buoyed by a huge 95 yard score.  It concerned me that a number of Brown’s best routes went untargeted by the quarterback.  Part of that is likely the fact that Brown lines up almost exclusively on the left and his right handed QB just didn’t have the time or ability to read the full field.  Brown shows strong hands, in fact I did not note a single drop.  He runs a limited route tree but found success on numerous post routes.  On those posts, he used his body to shield the defender while making the catch with his hands.  In general, he has average speed and acceleration but he does have an extra gear when he wants to shift into it making him dangerous after the catch.  It did concern me that Brown appears to be uninterested on plays that are designed to go away from him, rarely did I see him try to sell a route or hold a block when he knew he wouldn’t see action.  I’m hoping that Brown’s upward statistical trajectory continues because he has decent enough size and speed (6020/211, DraftScout.com predicts in the 4.55 range) to get drafted as a late round flyer a la Cedrick Wilson from this year.  (Film watched: Cincinnati 2017, Highlights 2017)

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.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  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.  Then watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  For top prospects I may add a third game, while for long shots I might only devote the time for one. 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.  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 college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

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

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

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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