Positional Trade Value: Offense and IDP

Updated: June 23rd 2022

A topic that has always interested me is trading IDP assets for offensive ones (and vice versa). Because let’s be honest, the best kind of fantasy football is a league with both offense and defense. However, no one has genuinely mastered league scoring that is perfect and balanced across all positions. If the scoring is, inconsistent at best, how do we determine when a trade makes sense or is “fair”? When I want to break these IDP/offensive trades down, I want to have a strong grasp of what the value of each position is within the context of my whole league (duh!) and the tiers within those. What is the ability or likelihood you can replace that position (via waivers or rookies)? Lastly, how long do positions generally maintain their value?

Let’s talk through this process and hopefully set you up with a thought process to help with those trades!

First, how big is your league, on average leagues commonly range from 10-12 teams but can obviously go way beyond this, but we will use a 12-team league for this discussion. Next, what does your starting roster composition look like, we will assume a 3-3-3 for starting IDP (DLs, LBs, DBs) and a Superflex offense, with 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, Flex. The next piece for your league understanding is the scoring tiers you for each of these positions. See below for a sample scoring of a league I have played in (it’s a tackle-heavy format, so only use the numbers as hypothetical for this discussion).

What is this showing us? The average points scored of the first 12 (tier 1), second 12 (tier 2) and so on for each position group. I recommend doing this at least once a year if you can get the data from your platform to help you better understand the general positional value in your leagues (especially if you play in multiple leagues with varying scoring settings). Knowing this arms with you a baseline to say, “Hey! An LB1 in my league scores roughly the same as a WR1 in my league” and so on across all the different groupings. Now I got you thinking, “Dang! That was easy!”

But hold up my friend, because we aren’t done yet. WRs can very easily be our apples and LBs can very easily be our oranges… and I have been told not to compare those things to each other. However, if we add some additional context and understanding, we can get them a lot closer in understanding. And the steps to getting there, are our next two things. The repeatability of success at a position group and the replaceability of a player from a positional group. Let’s take a quick look at even just the last two years at each level of the defense to see consistency from year-to-year.

So what does this mean here? In the DL position group, we saw 17 of 2020’s top 36 performers, not even get back into the top 36 the following year. For the LB position group, we saw this number hit 20 and for the DB position group it was 22. Now, a handful in each group is due to injury (which we see in every position in the NFL), but you can only attribute maybe 15-20% of turnover due to that. And we are not looking at a super high bar to try and achieve either with the top 36 for each group. And if you were to expand this exercise out to more years, you would continue to see the same situation.

It is worth noting though, that the ones that ARE able to repeat top 36 success year-over-year have a stark talent gap over a large amount of the ones we see on the lists above, missing out on repeated success. There are obviously exceptions to this observation, but I would say it is a safe assumption when evaluating talent. But this does give us a bit of a better understanding that value sustainable value does tend to flow DL >> LB >> DB in the general sense.

As for the other side of the coin, the offensive skill positions (which I leave TE out of, because it generally has its top 3-4 and then fluctuates like crazy beyond that year-to-year) we take a look at how this breaks down for QB, RB, and WR.

We see a little less volatility year-to-year across these positions than we do in the IDP space with 7 out of 24 not repeating at the QB spot. 17 out of 36 for running backs. Then 14 out of 36 for WR.

As for our last piece of information, what does it look like when you try to replace these positions with rookie performers? Some quick looks back at the last few years show us that there are performers (some of them very high-end, thanks Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase) but also some solid fantasy contributors for your lineups as well. What I looked at was the last two draft classes and saw how many rookies (or 2nd year from 2020 class) that had to a top performance (24 for QB, 36 for others). Because if you are going to make a trade, can you use existing draft capital or DB obtained in the trade to replace your expected performance of that player?

Looking at QBs, we saw 3 top-24 performances between 2020 and 2021.
RBs was 10 top-36 performances.
WRs was 11 top-36 performances.
DLs was 1 top-36 performance.
LBs was 4 top-36 performances.
DBs was 5 top-36 performances.

This gives us an idea of where we can potentially find the most value within rookie draft picks and those rookie contracts to try and replace talent lost or given away / obtained in trades. Offense clearly seems to be the spot to find immediate impact for your roster, specifically at the RB/WR positions. There is value to be found on the IDP side for sure, but replacing that in the rookie draft might be a little trickier.

I know this is a lot of information when considering trading pieces, but having this baseline understanding should give an initial comfort level when considering trading across different positions, most specifically, how does an IDP asset compare or stack up against an offensive one in terms of pre-trade and post-trade. Additionally, the age of the player has a significant role as well, but I didn’t dive into that factor as most likely that is potentially considered in since on our favorite platform, Reality Sports Online, you are making smart contracts anyway!

Hoping this helps you make it through the minefield that is off-season trading! Happy trading everyone!

More Analysis by Jake

2022 NFL Draft IDP Risers and Fallers

Updated: May 28th 2022

The 2022 NFL draft is in the books. 262 rookies have new homes with NFL teams now. With these landing spots known for the talented IDPs, let’s take a look and look at some of the biggest takeaways from the draft. Biggest risers. Biggest fallers. And some additional key takeaways. It’s draft time!

Since we are going through this stuff to try and win all of our leagues, let’s start with our biggest winners from the NFL draft, one at each level of the IDP.

Lewis Cine, Minnesota Vikings, Safety (Pick 32 overall)

The Minnesota Vikings had Xavier Woods depart in free agency and he was the only player to play 100% of his defense’s snaps. He played over 1,200 total snaps and those are completely up for grabs. The only other real player in that safety room prior to the addition of Lewis Cine was Camryn Bynum. While Bynum is still there and a solid contributor, he fits more into Harrison Smith’s role and is a strong backup and third safety when needed. One of the biggest questions is how Ed Donatell will utilize them and what they see for Lewis Cine.

Cine was a strong presence in the box and near or at the line of scrimmage. His tape shows very clearly that he struggles in coverage, especially man coverage. He has the athleticism and explosiveness to read and react in zone coverage for plays in front of him, but otherwise, this will be his most prominent area of concern. This said, it points us to the fact that Minnesota most likely has a role for him, especially early on, as box safety is his primary role. This role is one of the more valuable IDP positions, especially for the defensive backfield.

Additionally, Minnesota had its pick of quite possibly the best IDP player in this draft in Kyle Hamilton when they were first on the clock with pick #12 in the first round. A safety who has all the tools, to play quite literally, anywhere on the field. They passed on this opportunity and still saw their opportunity at pick #32 in Cine still. All of this is a strong indication that Cine is their guy and he will play!

Quay Walker, Green Bay Packers, Linebacker (Pick 22 overall)

This is may seem super “chalky”, but Quay being the first linebacker taken off the speaks volume about what Green Bay believes about him but even more, is exactly what they told us about why they drafted Quay! They believe their team needs to be subbing less and keep the same defensive packages on the field. And looking at who the talent was behind De’Vondre Campbell last year in Krys Barnes and the lack of depth at the linebacker position for the Packers, Quay should have the clear path to LB2 on the Packers and what could be an upwards of 800+ snaps as a floor. Paired with a strong defensive front, Quay has a chance to be a relevant LB3 with LB2 upside.

Quay was possibly in most people’s top 5 LBs for the incoming rookie class, but he has the upside of being the LB1 or LB2 from this rookie class. And why wouldn’t he with a RAS (relative athletic score) of 9.67 along with a build of traditional run-thumping linebackers of years past? This jump in value is a strong one for Quay and I don’t know that this has truly been reflected in his total value in rookie drafts just yet. Quay is someone who should be a target for you in rookie drafts in terms of providing year 1 value and long-term value as well. If you are looking for a reason to not draft Quay, he doesn’t have a stand-out weakness at this point. He is more than just a safe pick, he is a good pick at this point!

Arnold Ebiketie, Atlanta Falcons, Defensive End (Pick 38 overall)

Ebiketie has a wonderful cross-section of talent and opportunity with his film, production, and landing spot with the Atlanta Falcons. Ebiketie’s college production has shown us that he can win and produce as a pass-rusher (90.5 PFF pass-rushing grade) but he holds up in run defense too (78.3 PFF run-defense grade) which is ideal for an Atlanta Falcons defense that is pretty much depleted of talent along their defensive front, Ebiketie should find a way to snaps early and often.

Now, just because Ebiketie may see a large number of snaps in year 1, he still has some work to do to ensure he continues to grow as a well-rounded rusher. He has the ability to win on one move and get to the QB, but he is not effective if he doesn’t win on the first pass-rush move so there is still a good amount he can do to continue to grow as an NFL defender. These things said, he should have a clear path to high-volume snaps right away, worth the upside for what he can be long-term as well. He has moved up into the 4-5 range of DL in this year’s rookie class.

Now for the unfortunate flip side of the rookie draft, the fallers! Let’s get to it.

Bryan Cook, Kansas City Chiefs, Safety (Pick 62 overall)

Cook was an exciting prospect from his last season at Cincinnati. He was a large part of why the Bearcats had as much success as they did defensively. His sure tackling and ability to move around through different alignments when needed where crucial. While he did shift around, he still took the bulk of his snaps from the deep safety spot (or “free safety” as some people more affectionately call it) which on average, tends to be a lower value position of IDP.

You are probably asking, why does this make him a faller then? Well, for me, it is paired with the uncertainty around what Kansas City has in its safety room. They had Juan Thornhill already, brought in Justin Reid early in free agency, a move that states they are looking to use him a valuable piece of their defense, and now Bryan Cook. Where does everyone end up in a Kansas City Chiefs that has used 3 safeties enough in the past for them to be relevant? Does Thornhill keep his deep safety role? Does Reid take the Matheiu “star” role and move around the defense? Does Cook get that? Are they more rotational? For me, Cook is a great upside swing if your roster composition allows for it, as he might be someone you could wait on to carve out a more full-time role or he might earn day 1. But the uncertainty weighs too much on me and there is better options we stronger chances of success in the same range you would say Cook going.

Chad Muma, Jacksonville Jaguars, Linebacker (Pick 70 overall)

Muma was flipping between LB3 and LB4 for me pre-draft, and man, do I still love the talent and instincts he showcased at Wyoming. I would have been happy with him at LB1 in this rookie class with some of the better landing spots available this off-season as well. However, we saw the literal, worst-case scenario happen for Muma. He landed on a team that JUST paid an average NFL linebacker 25 million dollars over the next two years without a true out on the contract until 2024. Now, with the new defensive coordinator, Mike Caldwell, the Jaguars are going to presumably be running out 2 LBs pretty consistently (based on what they did in Tampa Bay). Except for one little problem, the Jaguars spent late, first-round draft capital on Devin Lloyd too!

All these things point to Muma being relegated to LB3 on the depth chart and waiting for an injury for any consistent or meaningful snaps for IDP purposes. If you have the luxury of sitting on a talent for one, but most likely two years, then this will be a value steal in almost all rookie drafts for you as he is quickly falling behind many other year 1 upside LBs like Troy Anderson and Christian Harris. If you want to take the injury swing and/or stash approach with Muma, you could be sitting on a potential strong LB2 or better in a couple of years.

Travon Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars, Edge (Pick 1 overall)

Walker impressed everyone with his combine and RAS of 9.99 so much that he made his move all the way up to #1 overall in the 2022 NFL draft! While this is a great accomplishment for Walker and his NFL value, this, unfortunately, left him in a situation where he is being slotted in as an OLB on a lot of site platforms, most specifically, for Reality Sports Online. While Travon certainly has the athleticism to make an impact on a real NFL game, the limited value for what Jacksonville has produced for edge pass-rushers (outside of Josh Allen) is inconsistent and limited at best. Couple that with the challenge of being ranked among other LBs that will produce value much more consistently, he presents a very low ceiling given his situation.

As a fun side note, the discussion around positional designation on RSO has come up in the Twitter-sphere and there are some initial discussions around leagues having the power to shift this on a case-by-case basis, so this could go away (potentially!).

As for Walker’s pure production profile as an NFL edge rusher, he is someone that has showcased the ability to make plays in both the run and passing games, but, not so at a level to expect immediate contributions. In watching Walker’s approach to attacking in the passing game, his assignment (I assumed) was to take a step laterally or a greater focus on edge setting, versus getting upfield. This very likely is a product of the defensive scheme, but the limited amount I saw of him getting upfield and winning early against his blockers worries me about what he can do for IDP production. Walker is someone who might be great for NFL, but limited, at best, for fantasy football.

As always, would love to discuss anyone’s thoughts and you can do so by reaching out to me on Twitter, @jakekohlhagen.

More Analysis by Jake

2020 RSO Writer’s League Rookie Draft

Updated: May 13th 2020

Rookie drafts for Reality Sports Online teams involve a number of considerations different than a normal dynasty league.  Selected rookies are typically given three or four year contracts at, hopefully, a below market contract.  RSO GMs then have the option of extending a player with franchise tags, extensions, or final year options (depending on the chosen settings in your league) which usually are near or above market value for a given player.  This makes the initial rookie contract years potentially extremely valuable and the real measure of worth for a rookie player.

The RSO Writer’s League recently finished our three round rookie draft with results posted below. The league is a 10-team Superflex PPR format.  This article analyzes some of the interesting decisions with the help of fellow RSO Writer Nick Andrews and Matt Goodwin plus discussion throughout the league.  It focuses more on team-building, draft strategy, and trades rather than player evaluation.  The reader may find more specific player analysis in the pre-draft Writer’s League Mock (1QB).

 

2020 RSO Writer’s League Rookie Draft

Notes on Selected Picks

1.01, Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Nick:  For a rebuilding team it was the intent to trade down a couple spots and try and accumulate more talent. Unfortunately, trade partners were tough to come by as other owners felt the same way. The thought of having Clyde Edwards-Helaire and building around a stud running back was a hard option to pass on but when the cupboard is bare I tend to lean towards the QB in Superflex. Joe Burrow is a solid prospect and as long as the Bengals don’t ruin him he should be a valuable dynasty asset for multiple years. With the new resign feature also available, if Burrow becomes an elite player it is great to have control of a quarterback for a whole decade.

1.06, D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions & 1.07, Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

Bernard:  No wide receivers have been drafted at this point.  Lamb and Jeudy were definitely in play here for me.  I went with the running backs for a couple of key reasons.  Swift and Akers were the last of the running backs in my tier with “three down” workload potential and capabilities that I felt fairly comfortable with.  Conversely, I felt confident of obtaining quality wide receiver prospects later in the draft given the depth of this wide receiver class. League free agency also played a big role in this decision.  The free agent running back position is a dumpster fire in this league with Melvin Gordon and Raheem Mostert the likely top –two options.  Available free agent wide receivers look far better and deeper including Mike Evans, Allen Robinson, Odell Beckham Jr., Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp.  My team possesses the second-highest amount of cap space ensuring I should be able to land one or two quality wide receiver options in free agency.

2.03, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Nick:  Taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn early in the second round will be a regular in rookie drafts this offseason but I think this is a slight overvalue. In other drafts I have seen Vaughn creeping into the late first round which is even more of an egregious act. While being drafted to the Buccaneers is considered a bonus, I don’t consider it enough to take Vaughn over other better talent, some in equally valuable landing spots. Receivers going after him such as Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, and Brandon Aiyuk may not become immediate fantasy players but I can see their value being more in two or three years.

2.06, AJ Dillion, Green Bay & 3.01, Zach Moss, Buffalo Bills

Nick:  Several veteran running backs are likely to see their value drop due to incoming rookies but there are also a couple rookies who are being valued less due to their being a strong veteran ahead of them. Two examples of this are A.J. Dillion behind Aaron Jones in Green Bay and Zach Moss behind Devin Singletary in Buffalo. Few offenses feature a single running back as the ball carrier that is on the field for eighty percent of the plays anymore. Niche skillsets and fresh legs along with the devaluing (contract wise) of the position has allowed for multiple running backs to have fantasy value for many teams in the current NFL. Sean McDermott looks to build a complimentary backfield and over the last two seasons the ratio of carries has been 166:155 and 161:115. Dillion may need to wait a year before his path to touches is clearer but Moss should be a compliment to Singletary right away and will have his weeks of fantasy relevance.

3.02, Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers

Nick:  Brandon Aiyuk is a player that seems to be getting similar treatment in 2020 as Marquise “Hollywood” Brown did in 2019, a receiver drafted in the first round of the NFL draft but isn’t receiving the same value in fantasy community. Aiyuk is currently the 15th ranked rookie on DLF in standard leagues and 17th in Superflex but he is regularly going later in actual drafts, as seen here. Eventually, the value of a player that you may not have been interested in becomes a bargain and he just has to be drafted. Only in a draft this deep could a first round receiver fall this far in a rookie draft. While I wouldn’t trade up to get him, if you are sitting there at the end of the second round or early third he is a steal that you can stash on your team.

3.04, Jordan Love, Green Bay

Bernard:  The Love scenario will, undoubtedly, perplex RSO GMs this offseason.  How much of his RSO rookie contract does he actually play, if any?  I believe Love likely plays no later than year three.  Green Bay not only took Love in the first round but traded up to make sure they got him.  The Packers save cap space as early as 2021 trading Rodgers who should still have considerable trade value.  We should also remember Aaron is entering his age-37 season.  Not every quarterback plays into their 40s despite what Tom Brady and Drew Brees have done.  At this stage of the draft, Love’s voluminous arm-talent gives high-upside value at near no-risk cost.

Matt Goodwin’s Takes on the Draft

Immediately following the NFL draft Day 2, I realized at 1.05 that I was likely not going to get a QB I was excited about in the rookie draft (I’m just not sold on Herbert playing behind what was an amazing OL at Oregon and his lack of production there). Anyways, this being Superflex, I traded my 1.05 pick and two 2021 1sts for a combination of later draft picks and Russell Wilson on a $22M a year average. I remain very high on Lamb, but I didn’t think 1.05 was where I should nab either him or JK Dobbins prior to making a trade, the top players on my board there.

I tried to trade D.J. Chark on a third round rookie deal when seeing that Lamb was available at 1.08 and 1.09, but others believed in the value at that point and said, “fair offer, but no”. Totally understandable as the upsides of Lamb and Jeudy are pretty enticing.

With only picks 3.01 and 3.02 heading into the draft (I had traded 3.08 for Matt Breida on day 3 of the NFL Draft), I had my heart set on trading up to the mid-second round to draft Michael Pittman Jr. I was able to do that with Bernard by packaging 3.02 and a future pick for 2.05. WR is a big need of mine and I believe Frank Reich when he professes his love for Pittman, who should get serious run from day one and even more if T.Y. Hilton leaves as a free agent following this season.

At 3.01, I was on deck and hoping that Laviska Shenault, the playmaking WR from Colorado would last until my pick. However, defending champion Jaron Foster is a savvy GM and picked Shenault right before my pick at 2.10. I then grabbed Zack Moss and I think he’ll be in a timeshare at worst in Buffalo and love the value at a scarce position in our league at 3.01 and especially behind AJ Dillon who went earlier. Post draft I was able to grab Shenault and assume Tyrod Taylor’s salary by trading Nick Foles to Jaron in a rare three way trade in which my podcast co-host Luke Patrick was looking to shed salary.

So in the end, my draft ended up being Russell Wilson, Pittman Jr., Shenault, and Zack Moss in 30 total picks. I was able to get back a perceived high second round pick in 2021 for trading my two firsts which figure to be playoff teams if everything goes as planned. So all in all, a fun draft where everyone made picks and got involved.

Biggest values in draft: Lamb, Jeudy, Higgins, Shenault, Moss

Pick I’m least sure about: Cam Akers where he went and Vaughn’s role in Tampa Bay if he can’t pass protect for Brady

Late flier: Eason was practically free at end of draft and I do think he’ll succeed Rivers at some point before Love takes over for Rodgers

Notes on my Trades

Send 1.04 for 1.07 and 2.05

My top choices at 1.04 included Tua and Dobbins while Akers and Swift filled out this second tier for me.  I needed significant talent added to my roster with Gurley, Tyreek Hill and Courtland Sutton as my only notable starters at RB/WR.  I had a strong feeling @FantasyDocOC was probably looking at Tua here.  He dumped a lot of cap space and talent in what looks like the start of a re-tooling effort this offseason. Many people have a big tier drop at quarterback after Tua which makes the move very understandable.    In the end, I move back to get another mid-second round pick in this incredibly deep wide receiver class.

Send 2.05 for 3.02 and 2022 2nd

Unfortunately Jaelen Raegor, my first choice, went one pick before.   This spot started another tier of players for me, a wide grouping primarily composed of wide receivers.  One primary lesson for any fantasy draft is to never pick at the start of your tier if one can feasibly trade back and remain in that tier or trade up into a higher tier.  Another note: the depth of talent in this rookie class made extracting what would normally be considered fair trade value difficult.  This is not a trade I would have accepted in many other years but was OK with it in this particular season.

Send Darrell Henderson for 3.04 and 3.06

This move may seem odd to some considering I drafted Akers earlier.  Two 3rds also doesn’t seem like much value for a player drafted as high as mid-first territory as the season approached last year.  I don’t see Henderson as a direct backup or potential lead back, but more of a change-of-pace / situational player who likely splits work even if the lead back were to be injured.  The potential upside of Love, at a 3rd round contract price, was well worth Henderson to me.   The uber-productive Edwards placed a nice cherry on top.

Effective draft day trade tally:  Sent Tua and Darrell Henderson for Cam Akers, Brandon Aiyuk, Jordan Love, Bryan Edwards, and 2022 2nd.


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

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2020 Rookie Rankings Explained: Part I

Updated: May 4th 2020

This was my fourth year creating the rookie rankings for Reality Sports and it was as rewarding as ever in 2020. I look forward to the rankings each year because it’s such a unique experience and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help inform literally every single RSO rookie draft. Since my rookie rankings can have a large impact on roster composition, I shy away from “hot taeks” and am more risk-averse than I might be in my own personal rookie drafting. I view the rookies through the lens of an RSO league and how a 3- or 4-year rookie contract can change the value of a player compared to dynasty formats. In order to create rankings that are representative for the majority of RSO leagues, I made a few assumptions on rosters and scoring (i.e. 1QB, offense scores more than defense and IDP scoring heavy on tackles/sacks). Each year there are a few themes and surprises that emerge as I’m ranking and over the next two articles I will share those with you. First up are my notes about this historically deep wide receiver class.

Click here to view the 2020 Reality Sports rookie rankings, compiled by Robert F. Cowper

Judged Jeudy

I had settled on CeeDee Lamb over Jerry Jeudy a few months ago in my personal rankings but I knew their final ranking would rely heavily on opportunity and team fit. Jeudy joins a Broncos team that has invested much draft capital in the offense the last two years. Jeudy certainly has the potential to be a fantasy stud but Drew Lock has a significantly smaller sample size of success than Dak Prescott. Your initial reaction to Lamb might have been “but they just re-signed Amari Cooper to a long-term deal” but the details are important to examine. Only $40mil of the $100mil is guaranteed and the Cowboys can cut Cooper with minimal dead cap after the 2021 season. By then I fully expect Lamb to be the alpha boundary receiver I think he’s destined to become.

ShRuggs at 1.08

In the RSO Writer’s League mock draft, I took Ruggs at 1.06 and argued that his upside was worth the reach at that point. I still believe in his blazing speed and big play ability but the fact that he was the first receiver drafted, and drafted by the Raiders, gives me pause. There’s going to be pressure on the Raiders to have Ruggs produce early and I think that that will be difficult for an undersized receiver who made much of his impact by stretching defenses horizontally before gashing them vertically. As good as those SEC defenses were, they don’t compare to the speed and skill in the NFL. I would have felt more confident in Ruggs as a rookie draft pick if he was drafted to a more stable quarterback situation and with less expectation.

Later Reagor

I vacillated on Reagor more than any other top thirty player and I ultimately ranked him lower than I expected. He’s a fun player to watch who has track athlete speed and a leaping ability that belies his 5110 height. His 2019 season, however, was a disappointment (43-611-5) as was his 40 yard dash at the combine. I ultimately put Reagor behind Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson because Jefferson is bigger, tested faster and his trend line jumped off the page after a stellar season. The Eagles have featured a strong passing offense under Doug Pederson, despite injuries to QB Carson Wentz and just about every receiver, so there is an opportunity for Reagor and I wouldn’t be upset if he proved me wrong.

 

Pitt the man in 2021?

Michael Pittman Jr. was the beneficiary of the biggest bump in my rankings post-draft among the top receivers. Pittman will be joining the new look Colts offense who are likely to start veteran QB Philip Rivers and rookie RB Jonathan Taylor this fall. The Colts had the NFL’s 30th ranked passing offense last season but that will be buoyed by the high-volume RIvers, a healthy TY Hilton and the emergence of Pittman. Pittman has prototypical outside receiver size at 6040/223 which should allow the offense the flexibility to predominantly line Hilton up on the inside to best showcase his abilities. Hilton is on the last year of his contract and it seems unlikely the team would re-sign the then 31 year old to a lengthy deal. I expect Pittman to have a fantasy-relevant role in 2020 with the chance to lead the Colts passing attack in 2021.

Flexy and They Know It

Two players who are likely to be drafted in most RSO leagues have great flex appeal for the NFL teams, but what does it mean for your fantasy team? Lynn Bowden Jr. was the do-it-all Wildcat that led Kentucky to a late season winning streak and a Belk Bowl victory. Bowden, who was previously a receiver and returner, was pressed into service under center early in the season. He ended the year as both the team’s leading rusher and leading receiver and had a 6-2 record as the starting quarterback. Mike Mayock of the Raiders said that they project Bowden as a running back, rather than a receiver. He never played as a true running back so I presume he’ll be deployed more as a gadget player taking wildcat snaps, running sweeps, receiving screens and returning kicks. Considering the Raiders drafted somebody like Henry Ruggs earlier in the draft who should succeed in some of the “in space” roles it remains to be seen how many touches Bowden can expect in 2020. Antonio Gibson of the Redskins has a similar skillset but is bigger, faster and more explosive than Bowden. Last year at Memphis his touches were an even split between receptions and rushes. He also served as the Tigers main kick returner. If Gibson landed on a squad other than the Redskins I would probably be more bullish on his versatile potential. Bowden and Gibson were tough to rank so I ultimately placed them one-two at the end of a standard three round rookie draft.

 

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

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2020 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

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

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

2020 Pre-Draft RSO Writer’s League Rookie Mock

Updated: April 19th 2020

The NFL Rookie draft is less than a week away.  Rookie drafts for Reality Sports Online teams involve a number of considerations different than a normal dynasty league.  Selected rookies are typically given three or four year contracts at, hopefully, a below market contract.  RSO GMs then have the option of extending a player with franchise tags, extensions, or final year options (depending on the chosen settings in your league) which usually are near or above market value for a given player.  This makes the initial rookie contract years potentially extremely valuable and the real measure of worth for a rookie contract.

The RSO Writer’s League crew produced a 1QB PPR 10-team mock draft recently to help demonstrate some of these concepts and how we viewed players pre-draft.   Writers Matt Goodwin (also Co-host of the All About Reality Podcast), Nick Andrews, Bob Cowper, and myself also give takes on our selections in the mock.  The article notes a few interesting items from this mock and differences from what you might see in other dynasty mocks and rankings:

  1. The top-5 is a tier similar to other mocks and unlikely to change much after the draft. It consists of strong wide receiver prospects and running backs with 2nd round or earlier NFL draft projection plus early big volume potential.  Perhaps the fabled high draft-pick Kansas City running back changes this somewhat but I do not see a lot of difference post-draft.
  2. The shorter window of RSO contracts, earlier production of running backs, and depth of wide receiver this year moved running backs up the board in our mock relative to other mocks. A lackluster tight end group and the long development window almost pushed TEs completely off the board.
  3. The projected depth at wide receiver in the NFL draft will give a lot of variation in how fantasy drafts play out. There are many players who did not even make it into this mock who I would have a lot of interest in putting on my RSO rosters.  2nd and 3rd round picks, in particular, gain value when compared to previous seasons.

1.01      Jonathan Taylor  RB

1.02      DeAndre Swift  RB

1.03      Ceedee Lamb  WR

1.04      JK Dobbins  RB  (Matt)

I’ve started to highlight my love for Dobbins on the All About Reality podcast and it’s all in the family as even my 10 year old son Jory came on the podcast to sing Dobbins’ praises. I love the strength and burst that Dobbins provides as an every-down back and his ability to get to the second level quickly is a differentiator. Additionally, he’s the best pass-blocking back in the class which will keep him on the field. Lastly, he had over 20 receptions in each of his three seasons at Ohio State, which is what you look for in a complete back. He was dominant against Clemson with 174 yards rushing a TD and 6 for 47 receiving, in spite of getting injured that game.

This tweet sums up Dobbins best:

https://twitter.com/BallBlastEm/status/1250291529232437251

While he weighed in one pound short of this at the combine, he meets all the other markers in pretty select company. If Dobbins lands in a place like Kansas City, he may be RB1 in the draft. Other landing spots that would be favorable include Tampa Bay, and much to my chagrin, Pittsburgh.

1.05      Jerry Jeudy  WR  (Nick)

Standard 1QB leagues will be more routine than their Superflex counterparts, and will likely figure to have the same five (5) players go off the board in various combinations. If you are drafting in any of these spots you can sit back and feel good about taking any of these players. That is what I did when selecting Jerry Jeudy out of Alabama without hesitation. What should be one of the safest picks in this year’s draft, Jeudy has the tools to be a day one NFL starter for all but the deepest of teams at receiver. Everyone notes how strong of a route runner he is and it shows. When he gets space off the line he can put the defender on skates if they commit to an early move in the route. My only concern at the present is that Jeudy is lighter (193lbs) than what I usually am looking for in a receiver and coupling that with his average shuttle time (4.53) means that if defenders get physical at the line he could struggle to get deep enough in the route tree to use his long speed. I don’t see his weight being an issue though, most guys put on 5-15lbs of muscle with the increase in professional training so select Jerry Jeudy at 1.05, chomp on your cigar like Iron Mike, and leave the draft knowing you got a solid talent at the mid-point of your first round.

1.06      Henry Ruggs  WR  (Bob)

To me it feels like there’s a tier break between picks 1.05 and 1.06 this year in standard leagues. The order of Dobbins, Jeudy, Lamb, Swift and Taylor will likely be contested all Summer long but I think the more interesting question is who comes next. It seems that consensus is settling on RB Cam Akers as the sixth player off the board but I decided to swing for the fences and went with Henry Ruggs instead.  Ruggs has elite speed, his 4.27 40 time was the best at the combine, and will be a home run threat from Day One in the NFL. He’s not without question marks – namely his size and ability to play against more physical pro corners – but I don’t mind taking a risk if there isn’t a no-brainer pick on the board.

1.07      Cam Akers  RB  (Bernard)

This is the stage of drafts where opinions really vary.  I decided on a potential three-down back in Cam Akers.  He generally shows good patience, taking a slower pace, as a runner and adds a second-level gear when openings appear.  His feet move in a nice quick motion to make cuts.  Florida State’s much-talked-about struggles on the offensive line led to Akers taking a bad approach sometimes bailing outside.  Akers displays plus feel for routes as a receiver against man and zone with reliable hands.  Akers is also extremely young at 20 years old which provides upside with more development.  Plus size, plus athleticism, plus receiving ability, and scheme diversity give Akers the chance of a huge running back role on Sundays.

1.08      Jalen Reagor  WR

1.09      Tee Higgins  WR

1.10      Justin Jefferson  WR

2.01      Clyde Edwards-Helaire  RB

2.02      Joe Burrow   QB

2.03      Denzel Mims  WR

2.04      Laviska Shenault  WR  (Bernard)

Perhaps no receiver embodies the “boom-bust” mantra more than Shenault.  The wide receiver in a running back’s body was Colorado’s offense breaking off big plays with breakaway speed.  He was a man among boys with the ball in his hand.  Like a lot of college receivers, he mainly ran vertical routes with quick screens limiting his route tree, but does display nice breaks for a man of his size and plus skills attacking the football.  Shenault was also used extensively in the run game, particularly around the goal line. A lengthy injury history and an injury-shortened NFL combine potentially push him down NFL and fantasy boards.

2.05      Tua Tagovailoa  QB   (Bob)

I feel less confident in this pick now in mid-April than I did back in mid-March because the most recent news surrounding Tua Tagovailoa has been more negative than positive.  However, I still think there’s a lot to love about Tua — his improvisational ability, his effortless-looking arm talent, intangible leadership qualities — and believe there will be at least one team who is enamored with him. I like to leave every rookie draft with a quarterback because if they hit the value is fantastic. Despite his injury concerns, Tua is still likely to be the second or third passer off the board and that means he’ll be a factor in your 2020 RSO league so I’d be happy to grab him in the mid-second.

2.06      Justin Herbert   QB  (Nick)

In standard leagues, I always like to grab a QB in the second round if I think a talented enough one is still on the board. While not as valuable as in Superflex, quarterbacks still seem to be overpaid in 1QB leagues due to their gaudy point totals and longevity of careers, compared to the other positions. Grabbing rookies that make <$2M per season gives a great advantage to a team over one with a costly veteran. With that being said Justin Herbert from Oregon is an ideal candidate to take if you are a team drafting in the back half of the second round. While he is not in the same tier as Tua Tagovailoa or Joe Burrow he is likely going inside the top 15 and maybe even top 10 of the real draft if a team finds a trade partner. For a guy who is 6’6” he has surprising mobility and just enough speed (4.68-40YD) that he wouldn’t be a liability if the offensive line that he is drafted behind isn’t a superbly talented group. Landing spot will be key for his development but with many current starters nearing the final years of their careers it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Herbert as a top 15 QB in a couple of years.

2.07      Jordan Love  QB  (Matt)

Basically just going Konami Code upside for someone with raw talent at the QB position in a one-QB league. Showed poor decision making in his final year at Utah State, but if he finds the right system has the arm strength and athletic ability to be more like Patrick Mahomes than DeShone Kizer.

2.08      Zack Moss  RB

2.09      Anthony McFarland  RB

2.10      Ke’Shawn Vaughn  RB

3.01      Eno Benjamin  RB

3.02      Lamichel Perine  RB

3.03      Brandon Aiyuk  WR

3.04      Antonio Gibson  RB  (Matt)

Just a playmaker who can play both RB and WR and could be drafted as either. He’s electric and shows fantastic vision and route-running ability. Coming from Memphis, which has a recent history of producing playmakers like Darrell Henderson, Gibson feels like a nice pickup in the third round of RSO rookie drafts.

3.05      Bryan Edwards   WR  (Nick)

Bryan Edwards is a player that somehow every time I am researching who people like as a flyer in the mid-rounds his name somehow always keeps coming up. Edwards broke his foot before the combine so other than basic height/weight metrics we don’t have a lot of comparables to go off of. Watching tape on him however and I see a lot of what N’Keal Harry was at Arizona State. He is a big, physical receiver who can go up and “Moss” a defender in jump ball situations. Like Harry though he has trouble with separation which may not translate well to the pros if teams place their “Brandon Browner” type of physical corner opposite him. Nevertheless, with his injury possibly fluctuating his NFL draft value it will be interesting to see how far down the draft he falls. If he is picked before the end of day two he might be a fringe second-round selection in standard leagues but in Superflex, he’s going to fall to the third. At less than $1M/year, I will gladly take a flyer on Edwards especially if he lands in an idea receiver situation.

3.06      Antonio Gandy-Golden  WR  (Bob)

Gandy-Golden didn’t test well at the NFL Combine but I’m not deterred, I want him on at least one of my fantasy teams. AGG has a wide catch radius and the size to body smaller corners thanks to his 6’3″/223 frame. Despite playing without a star supporting cast, he still put up great numbers and averaged 6.25 receptions and 101 yards per game last year. In four games against higher level opponents in 2019 (Syracuse, Rutgers, BYU and Virginia), Gandy-Golden actually surpassed those numbers so we know he didn’t feast only against other Independents. He’s a mid-major guy who I’ll bet on making a mark at the next level.

3.07      A.J. Dillon   RB  (Bernard)

Many will see Derrick Henry comps here.  He tested very similarly athletically to Derrick Henry at the NFL combine at about the same size while also having reasonably close college production profiles.  Dillon will get drafted much later in the NFL, however.  Scheme and team fit is more important for Dillon’s fantasy prospects than most prospects.  He needs real commitment as the lead back in a run-based attack for him to have fantasy success (see Henry for most of his first three years).  I find the gamble well worth it this deep in the draft to hit on the ever-scarce running back position.

3.08      Jalen Hurts  QB

3.09      Thaddeus Moss  TE

3.10      KJ Hamler  WR


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

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The Watch List: 2019 Pac-12 Season Preview

Updated: August 9th 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.

Storylines to Watch

Heisman Contender: Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona.  According to betting markets, Oregon’s Justin Herbert is the top Heisman hopeful in the conference and if I was looking for a safe bet, I would agree.  However, if you’re looking for a dark horse candidate (+6000) that could help you cash in, go for Tate.  In 2017, Tate earned the starting job mid-season and still managed to rush for 1,411 yards and 12 TDs to go with 1,591-14-9 as a passer.  His future looked bright heading into 2018 but an ankle injury and a coaching change conspired against him to limit his impact.  If anybody has 4,000 yard and 40 TD upside, it’s Tate.

Underclassman to Watch: Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State.  As a true freshman last season, Jefferson showed his promise in the second game of the season, going off for 238-4 against Southern Utah.  He finished with 1,380-12 and added 25 receptions.  I watched two highlight reels and my first thought was that he looked like David Montgomery.  I don’t like giving comps, especially this early, but once I thought it, I couldn’t unsee it.  Jefferson has ideal size for a running back at 5110/211.  He’s an elusive runner, displaying dynamic cuts and effective spin moves, and runs with above average power.  Like Montgomery, he appears to lack top-end speed but that’s not his game so it doesn’t worry me.  Oregon State won’t get much national attention this season but don’t let that stop you from eyeing Jefferson.

Newcomer of the Year: Bru McCoy, WR, USC. McCoy had a topsy-turvy start to his collegiate career.  He first committed to USC before switching to Texas (in response to Kliff Kingsbury leaving) only to transfer back to USC (because he was homesick).  He was the consensus top receiver in the 2019 recruiting class and based on his Hudl highlights, it looks like he could play in the NFL tomorrow.  I’m excited to see him play, sadly it might not be until 2020 unless his immediate eligibility waiver is approved.  (Looking for a true freshman who might make a difference in 2019?  Phil Steele predicts that QB Jayden Daniels will win the Arizona State job.  Daniels was Steele’s sixth ranked quarterback in the class.  Per 247Sports, Daniels is the highest rated prospect the Sun Devils have landed since Vontaze Burfict in 2009.)

Coaching Carousel: With just one head coaching change in the Pac-12 this offseason (Mel Tucker taking over at Colorado), the coaching carousel focus has to be on USC.  The aforementioned Kliff Kingsbury was hired in early December to take over as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator, but jumped ship about a month later to take the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job.  Fans who weren’t sold on head coach Clay Helton must have been thinking, “if Kingsbury is good enough for the NFL, why didn’t we hire him as our head coach?”  Another former Texas Tech quarterback, Graham Harrell, was brought in to be the new-new offensive coordinator.  Double-digit win seasons in 2016 and 2017 haven’t earned Helton much job security because he’s often mentioned as a coach on the hot seat.  If Kingsbury starts strong in Arizona, the pressure will mount from the fan base who will want Helton fired so that a similarly-minded coordinator like Harrell can finally take over.  (When I researched articles to back-up my assertion about Helton’s job security, I was actually surprised just how prevalent Helton-on-the-hot-seat sentiment was.  These three articles all featured Helton either as their header image or atop their list.)

Players to Watch

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Get ready to hear a lot about Justin Herbert as the 2019 season progresses. He was a top prospect in last year’s class before returning to school and is pegged by most, myself included, as a future NFL quarterback. Herbert doesn’t have the buzz of some of the other quarterbacks right now in college football (i.e. Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence) but I think he shows enough traits, and has enough experience, for draftniks to feel comfortable with him at, or near, the top of their respective draft boards.

Let’s start off by looking at Herbert’s stats and game logs. Herbert took over the starting gig midway through his freshman season in 2016 and then was limited to just eight games in 2017 due to injury. He played a full slate of thirteen games in 2018. He has a career 63:18 TD:INT ratio and averages nearly 250 yards passing per game. His career completion percentage of 62.5% is just good enough but dipped last season. He’s a capable short yardage runner who has a career rushing line of 173-510-9. Strangely, if you remove Herbert’s games against subpar opponents (FCS and Group of Five [except Boise State]), some of his rate stats actually increase. His completion percentage increases to 64.4% and his interception rate decreases. His yardage and touchdown marks drop slightly but not significantly. I can’t say that I have seen Herbert play in many of these “big” games so I’m just looking at context-less numbers, but protecting the ball well against higher quality opponents is a good sign. Speaking of protecting the ball, I noticed that Herbert has only thrown five career interceptions in one possession games. With 367 attempts in those close moments, Herbert threw an interception just 1.3% of the time. (For comparison, Kyler Murray threw five interceptions on 225 attempts in those situations last season, for a 2.2% rate.)

Since Herbert was a top prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft, I had studied him prior to last season.  With an extra year of playing experience, I was interested to see how my initial observations stood up.  My high level takeaways then were: good speed and athleticism, throwing well on the run, average accuracy and arm strength, inconsistent footwork, positive field and situational awareness, and great pump and play fakes.  Add in elite size at 6060/237 and you can see why I had him atop my rankings.

I’m pleased to share that I was much more impressed with Herbert’s arm strength and accuracy when I watched his 2018 film against Stanford and Arizona State.  His ball placement, especially against Stanford, was impeccable.  There were numerous plays where he led his receiver away from coverage and put the ball in a safe spot away from the defender.  I don’t think his arm strength is his best attribute but it’s above average, at worst.  He’s able to throw short yardage fastballs and has ample power to drive the ball across or down the field.  This play against Stanford was a beautiful illustration of his combination of “arm talent.”  The Cardinal drop into a zone defense so his receiver settles into the void.  Herbert throws the pass with enough touch and enough mustard to get it over the first defender but have it hit the receiver before the converging safety.

In my 2018 study, Herbert’s athleticism factored in frequently.  He’s quick getting out of the pocket, has enough burst for short yardage, and can still throw with accuracy while on the move.  I’m glad I watched the Stanford game because that gameplan featured Herbert as a weapon on the zone read.  He rushed for a few key first downs, including one late in the game that totally fooled the defense (but not the commentators).  I planned on sharing one of those designed runs but instead chose a scramble so I could also touch on Herbert’s pocket presence.  Frankly, he needs to learn to feel the rush better than he did in the two games I watched because he was sacked too many times.  When he does scramble from the pocket he can be dangerous, as seen on this play.  He runs with pace, makes a corner miss and stays in bound long enough for a big gain.

It’s difficult to quantify, but I keep leaving Herbert’s study with the impression that he is composed and situationally aware.  Much of the Oregon offense is predicated on quick passes or zone read running, however when given the chance, Herbert is able to read the field and create extemporaneously.  My favorite of the plays I saw of Herbert was a key play late in the Stanford game where he showed off this composure and experience.  The Ducks were up by three and going for it on 4th and 1 to hopefully seal the game (spoiler alert: the defense let Stanford back in it and the game ultimately went to OT).  The play is busted from the start: either Herbert or the running back mess up the play fake as Herbert starts to roll to his right.  He doesn’t panic and instead waits for his wide receiver, Dillon Mitchell, to uncover.  Mitchell realizes his quarterback is in trouble so he takes a subtle step away from the defense and squares his shoulders to give Herbert a target.  Herbert, running out of field on his half-field read, delivers the ball across his body and Mitchell does the rest.  (The Mitchell touchdown was ultimately called back but Oregon converted on 1st and Goal to take a ten point lead.  In the end, they lost the game but that was more on the defense and a late fumble by a running back than it was on Herbert.  This key play was likely the peak of their win-probability graph for the game).

Justin Herbert ended 2018 as my QB1 for the 2019 NFL Draft class and starts the season as my QB1 again.  Herbert showed me how much he could progress in a season, so I think his decision to return to Oregon for his senior season was a positive one.  He’ll be pushed by Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, but I think Herbert’s NFL-worthy combination of size, arm and athleticism will earn him the first overall pick next April.

 

Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

Laviska Shenault is a versatile player who filled a number of roles for the Buffaloes in 2018.  He’s deployed as a wide receiver, h-back and wildcat quarterback and often finds success in each role.  In nine games as a sophomore (he missed three games midseason with a foot injury), Shenault had a receiving line of 86-1,011-6 and a rushing line of 17-115-5.  If he played a full twelve games, that production would extrapolate to 1,501 scrimmage yards, which would have put him near the top of the Pac-12 in overall production.

As a receiver, Shenault shines as a hands-catcher with strong hands that he places well.  After the catch, he is a powerful runner in close quarters and near impossible to tackle.  He also has the acceleration to break away in the open field.  In my opinion, this is what gives him such a high ceiling as a prospect: it’s rare to have such a mix of power and explosion.  This play exemplifies all three points: Shenault catches the ball with his hands, avoids the first tackler, stiff arms the second and then sprints to the end zone.

In addition to using his talents as a receiver, Shenault is a dangerous red zone weapon as a runner.  Four of his five rushing scores came from inside the red zone, and on just seven attempts (RB Travon McMillian also had four but on twenty attempts).  Shenault’s thick lower body and play strength let him succeed in these high-leverage situations near the goal line.  In the below example, Shenault lines up as the wildcat quarterback on 4th and 1 from the 3 yard line.  He’s surely stopped before the line to gain but he keeps his legs churning and keeps moving forward.  He ultimately drags the pile close enough to the end zone so he can reach across for the score.  Wide receivers aren’t supposed to be able to do that!

Shenault is a jack-of-all-trades prospect whose versatility will appeal to NFL teams.  I’m hopeful that the Buffs manage his touches so he can stay healthy for a full season.  It feels like Shenault has Top 50 upside so expect him to be in the first round conversation come 2020.

 

Honorable Mentions

Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State: With the ball in his hands, Benjamin is a dynamic whirling dervish. He’s elusive in the open field by utilizing myriad cuts, jukes and spins. He’s not a power back but does have enough pop to win the extra yard in a one-on-one situation. His blocking definitely needs to improve, as does his decisiveness. It’s great that his feet never stop moving, but in some circumstances, like near the goal line, that can be a liability. Benjamin is a high-volume back who could top his 335 touches from last season (300 rushing attempts, 35 receptions). The Sun Devils offense is bound to look different in 2019 with the departures of QB Manny Wilkins and WR N’Keal Harry so I’m anxious to see what that means for Benjamin. If he approaches 2,000 scrimmage yards again, Benjamin will be a lock to declare for the NFL Draft.

Aaron Fuller, WR, Washington: One of my favorite Twitter follows, Brad Kelly, recently tweeted that he thought Fuller was going to be a Top 10 receiver in the 2020 class.  Even though I didn’t know much about Fuller I thought I should learn more and include him in this preview, Brad being the receiver guru and all.  Fuller led the Huskies in receiving last season with a 58-874-4 line.  His highlights feature a few spectacular one-handed catches that would be enough to get attention on their own.  What also caught my eye was how well Fuller tracks the ball.  His reels are littered with high-arcing deep balls which he’s able to bring in despite defensive distractions.  Fuller is quick and can be a handful after the catch: he reportedly ran a 4.36 coming out of high school and ran a 4.45 at last year’s Huskies Combine event.  If he continues to progress, I can see Fuller as a starting NFL slot receiver.

Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington: Bryant is a ballyhooed tight end prospect who garnered attention as a true freshman for the Huskies. He’s listed at 6020/241, short for a tight end, and looks lighter to my eye. I watched some of his 2018 Ohio State tape and some highlights to get a feel for both his ability as a receiver and as a blocker. He’s been gifted with great hands and is a bear to tackle. However, he’s lacking as a blocker; he was frequently knocked back at the point of contact by Buckeye DBs. Injuries have impacted Bryant’s first two seasons, perhaps a combination of his size and playing style, limiting him to just fourteen games and 33 receptions. I know he will be a popular name this draft season but for a number of reasons I’m not ready to buy in yet.

Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford: Like Bryant, Parkinson is a similarly unknown commodity at the tight end position. In Stanford’s offense last season, Parkinson played more of a big-receiver role than an in-line role, at least in the mid-season film I checked against Washington. When I say “big-receiver,” I mean it: Parkinson checks in at 6070/240 with room to add more heft. His size makes him a redzone threat and a difficult assignment for smaller corners. I didn’t see many plays where Parkinson was tasked with blocking but from the few times I did see him blocking downfield, I believe he’ll at least be a functional in-line blocker. If his four touchdown game against Oregon State is any indication, we could be looking at a defensive-gameplan-out-the-window type of player.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When studying a player I rely on game film “cuts” which are most frequently found on Youtube. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels.  Keep in mind these highlight reels are the best plays of that player. When I have the option, I will choose to watch a game versus the better defense. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2020 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

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

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