2017 Real Deal Ultimate Football Playoff Preview

Playoffs?

PLAYOFFS!!!!!

Ok, ok one more

The second season starts Thursday, and the field received a major shakeup this week.
The last three spots were up for grabs, with Dallas, Philly, and New Orleans heavily favored to move on and leaving Chicago watching from home. The predictions would have left the field looking like this:

1. Arizona Cardinals vs. 8. Cincinnati Bengals
2. New England Patriots vs. 7. New Orleans Saints
3. San Diego Chargers vs. 6. Philadelphia Steel Men
4. Carolina Panthers vs. 5. Dallas Cowboys

Boy, did that not happen. Instead, Cincy put up a strong effort behind huge games from the recently MIA Alex Smith and Tyreek Hill to strengthen their record and push them up a few seeds. New Orleans survived an early scare to take down Atlanta. The Steel Men had to sweat until Monday, but used the six players on Monday Night Football to put down a strong challenge from the Washington R-Words.

The big stunner was Carolina upsetting Dallas, leaving the fourth highest scoring team in our league watching from home and wondering what might have been. This upset will not only have major implications for the playoffs, but for the overall Ultimate standings and the run for that sweet, sweet bonus cash. With the Cowboys on the sidelines, the Chicago Bears take their spot and slot in as the 8th seed and will face the juggernaut Cardinals.

With all of the week 13 action, here is the finished bracket:

1. Arizona Cardinals vs. 8. Chicago Bears
2. Carolina Panthers vs. 7. New Orleans Saints
3. New England Patriots vs. 6. Cincinnati Bengals
4. San Diego Chargers vs. 5. Philadelphia Steel Men

Thursday night’s matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints jumpstarts the playoffs for us, and I know we’ll all be watching with baited breath. Let’s congratulate and take a quick look at the teams still alive and their chances for taking the first place Ultimate points, the winner’s purse, and most importantly the title of Ultimate Fantasy Football Champion!

Top Seed & West Division Champion

Arizona Cardinals Jason Clausen

The busiest team this season looks like it’ll end up being the best. It’s no fluke either, as the Cards bring a diverse array of playmakers on both sides of the ball. The defensive line is the scariest in the league, headlined by Defensive MVP candidate Calais Campbell. The offensive is impressive as well, now sporting new acquisition Duke Johnson on top of a bevy of useful flex candidates such as Doug Martin, Bilal Powell, and the brothers Brown (John and Jaron). While Kirk Cousins has shown some holes in recent weeks, that slack has been more than made up by the emergences of Alvin Kamara, Robby Anderson, and the steadying presence of Travis Kelce.

TLDR: This team is good.

The only thing that hold them back is injuries. Martin and stud linebacker Telvin Smith are both dealing with concussions, and starter Deone Bucannon is already out with an ankle injury. Should Cousins get dinged up, Arizona would turn to his last healthy QB, Case Keenum, who is a few bad series away from getting benched for heir-apparent Teddy Bridgewater. There’s a route for a quick exit here, but the Cards get contributions from so many positions that such an outcome is very unlikely. They should be one of the last four alive.

No. 2 Seed & South Division Champion

Carolina Panthers Kyle K

The East Side Atlantic Cats (Editor’s note: No one calls them that) took the reins from a competitive South division and ended the season with the 2nd best record and one of the league’s most imposing offenses. Cam Newton may not look like the MVP he once was on the field, but the numbers don’t care and he is elite in our game thanks to his combo rushing and passing attack. Carolina made two of the biggest free agent moves of the offseason and in-season, nabbing Marshawn Lynch for a mint and getting Dion Lewis at what now looks to be a relative bargain. The Lynch acquisition looked dubious at first, but now that we’re in the playoffs and he’s finally clicking in Oakland, he looks like a bargain for what he’s bringing to the table. On top of that two headed monster at RB, the team brings two explosive Dolphins in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. Both can dominate a game single handedly, even with Cutler throwing them the ball.

The defense is similarly loaded with talent, and Carolina gets contributions up and down. Names like Von Miller and Marcus Peters stand out, but lesser valued players such as Lamarcus Joyner, Lorenzo Alexander, Brandon Marshall, and Michael Pierce are pitching in at a strong clip. This unit keeps Carolina’s floor high, ensuring they won’t fall to weaker teams if an offensive player or two goes missing. This strategy has served them well during the regular season, and should make them a tough out.

There are holes here however. While Jack Doyle at TE can bust out once in a while, he’s inconsistent at best and borderline unusable at worst. With just Denver’s Virgil Green to fall back on, Doyle needs to have run of effectiveness that he’s shown is possible, but maybe not altogether likely. Emmanuel Sanders has been injured for what seems like an eternity, and now seems to be struggling with disappearing when he is on the field.

Further, there is the volatility of the Dolphin and Patriot offenses to consider. While Stills and Landry seem to be getting theirs, it would not be surprising to find out that whoever is passing to them just forgets how to run an offense and the two WRs are left contributing very little. Dion Lewis has been very good recently, but the Pats are notoriously fickle when it comes to runners. Lewis could be left unused in favor of Rex Burkhead or James White or someone we’ve never even heard of, and there’d be no warning. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.

No. 3 Seed & East Division Champion

New England Patriots John Keniley

Currently projected to be the top scorer in the league, the Pats are no joke. They sport one of the leagues’ top scoring defenses and feature a quintet of superstars on offense in Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald, Stefon Diggs, and “king of 69” Rob Gronkowski. They have a unique and potent mix of aging stars and stud youngsters, and the key is that their players’ teams seem to know how best to use their assets. The Pats have consistently been tough to beat, but that doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable.

The most glaring weakness is the RB position, where the delayed suspension of Ezekiel Elliott leaves NE without a viable option until the young rusher returns. If Cameron Artis-Payne gives anything at all, it’ll be a welcome surprise. But the team’s starters at the other offensive positions are so good, it’s entirely possible that this team can overcome the loss of their star runner long enough to get him back in the game.

The most important X-factor is Stefon Diggs. Minnesota’s most talented wideout has dealt with soft-tissue injuries all season. If he’s healthy and clicking, he’s one of the best receivers in football and capable of winning a game on his own. If he’s hobbled in any way, the Pats may be looking at an early exit. They’ll also be without star TE Rob Gronkowski for Round 1, leaving Luke Wilson to man the starting spot. That could be a major blow to NE’s championship hopes.

No. 4 Seed

San Diego Chargers Darren Leung

When Philip Rivers overcame early season struggles and turned it on, he single handedly made the real life and fantasy Chargers much more dangerous. Rivers has been the driver of a ridiculously potent San Diego offense. Gordon and a finally healthy Keenan Allen have been unstoppable much of the season, and especially so over the last handful of weeks. Add in solid production from return man Tyler Lockett, Travis Benjamin, and the occasional breakouts of OJ Howard and Derrick Henry, and you have a devastatingly effective offensive unit.

Not to be outdone, San Diego runs out a contender defensive MVP in Melvin Ingram, who is scoring an unreasonable 15.38 ppg from the LB position. Micah Hyde, Eric Weddle, Michael Bennett and Justin Houston have been solid all season. Solomon Thomas, Michael Brockers, and Mark Barron have also enjoyed breakout campaigns. These two units make this team a real contender.

All that effusive praise aside, it’s one of those squads that I wouldn’t be surprised if they sort of all fell off the map at the same time. Ingram aside, would you really be super shocked for Philip Rivers to throw a temper tantrum and just kind of take the whole offensive unit with him? If Rivers has one of his big duds that he’s been known to have every so often, I don’t know that the rest of the unit can recover. It’s an argument veering on the nit picky, but we do have history of this kind of thing happening. These are the pitfalls to tying too much of your success on one real NFL unit. If one goes, you risk the rest following suit.

No. 5 Seed

Philadelphia Steel Men Pedro Nuno Canteiro

Guess who Philly’s best players are? The Steelers Steel Men are fearsome not because of their depth, but because of who sits atop their lineup. While they’re not quite “stars and scrubs”, they’re as close as we have to that strategy in the playoffs. Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Heyward, and non-Steeler Joey Bosa certainly cover up a lot of sins. This team’s success has been built on those cornerstones. If they don’t perform, Philly struggles. If they do, Philly is almost unbeatable.

The question of whether or not this roster can win when all the teams are good is certainly up for debate. Running out Dontrelle Inman, Keelan Cole, and Deshazor Everett in the postseason is certainly not ideal. If any of the Steelers struggle *Editor’s note: They play Baltimore in Round 1, this team will face a quick hook.

That said, it’s one of those teams I’m just not comfortable passing over. Their lack of depth is concerning, but I have a feeling that, like the real life team, their output will reflect much more than the sum of their parts.

No. 6 Seed & Midwest Division Champion

Cincinnati Bengals Sean Scampton

The once and former Bungles took advantage of a division a lot of studs and an early season run from QB Alex Smith to take a division title and sneak into the playoffs. They were assumed to be the lowest scoring team in the playoffs until Chicago’s upset, but shouldn’t necessarily be written off. Cincy has some real game changing talent, particularly with their top pair of WRs Tyreek Hill and AJ Green. Those two can go off at any point and generate a huge advantage. Of course, as has been the case at times, they can completely disappear and leave the rest of the team unable to make up the difference.

The squad features a talented if inconsistent defense led by Carlos Dunlap, Vontaze Burfict, Myles Jack, and Keanu Neal. Running back, which has been a black hole all season, has been partially shored up by the hit or miss Alex Collins, and rookie Adam Shaheen has finally been given enough playing time to justify some potential value.

Last week’s performances by Alex Smith and Tyreek Hill show just how dangerous can be. They are capable of putting up big numbers, but have been held back by injuries. It’ll take a truly hot run to overcome the top teams, but perhaps the once Bungles can surprise.

All that said, the Bengals are likely facing a quick end to their postseason, but it’s a team that is built well for the future with superstar Deshaun Watson and a bevy of talented youngsters just starting to reach their potential. Don’t expect them to compete for the title, but don’t be surprised if they steal one early.

No. 7 Seed

New Orleans Saints Ben Pearce

I wrote the Saints up in my last piece as being a surprise that they were in danger of missing the playoffs. It turns out that Dallas was the surprise team bounced, and that means the Saints have a shot at the title. Their roster features one of the steadier RBs this season in Carlos Hyde, a top QB in Drew Brees, and plenty of explosive tools on offense. Brandon Cooks, Cooper Cupp, and Kyle Rudolph have combined to produce at a high level, while Devin Funchess and Charles Clay have emerged as legitimate top options at their positions. This squad has overcome the loss of Julian Edelman and the lost season from top pick Mike Williams with aplomb.

The defense is even better stocked, getting production from surprising names that are taking advantage of their opportunities. No one would have picked this unit as a strength of a potential contender, but here we are touting the efforts of Christian Jones, Jahleel Addae, and the former corpses of Michael Johnson and Kenny Vaccaro. Getting production from unexpected sources is critical, and these guys are proving no fluke. If NO makes noise late, this will be the unit that drives them.

Those names also create some reasonable concern about this team’s ability to compete against the strongest teams. Will these surprise performers be able to keep it up when the games matter most? If the studs perform, it’s possible it won’t matter. New Orleans has a squad that may not be built for a deep run, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they get hot and go on a run.

No. 8 Seed

Chicago Bears Tony Cavezza

The last one to the party also happens to be the lowest scorer on the season. But don’t you dare look past them. Chicago’s squad holds upset potential. The season scoring don’t account for the injuries to critical pieces like QB Jameis Winston, WR Will Fuller, and WR Sterling Shepard. But now, as the playoffs kick off, Winston is back, Will Fuller could be on the field for Round 1, and Alfred Morris has taken over as lead tailback for Dallas in Zeke Elliott’s absence. And this is a squad that can run out a combo of Jordan Howard, Ameer Abdullah, and the always dangerous Tevin Coleman at RB. And don’t forget breakout darling Adam Thielen. Hell, even TE David Njoku is starting to come on late in his rookie season. The offense is for real.

The defense offers less splash, but solid producers like Kyle Fuller, Anthony Zettel, and Justin Simmons have kept the unit from lagging too far behind. Tre’Davious White will likely miss at least Round 1 after Rob Gronkowski attempted to behead him last week, but they have breakout DT DeForest Buckner to lean on. The problem here is that there just isn’t much depth, with Chris Jones, Chris McCain, and Elandon Roberts getting playing time. The core is too banged up to be scary, unfortunately. If Chicago falls in Round 1, it’ll likely be the defense that takes the blame.

The Bears may have snuck in, but they deserve to be here. They overcame early season struggles to take the last spot, and they’ll do everything they can to make Arizona wish it hadn’t grabbed the 1 seed.

Predictions

Round 1:

No. 1 Arizona Cardinals defeat No. 8 Chicago Bears
No. 2 Carolina Panthers defeat No. 7 New Orleans Saints
No. 3 New England Patriots defeat No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals
No. 5 Philadelphia Steel Men defeat No. 4 San Diego Chargers

As excited as Chicago must be for making the postseason, they run into a buzzsaw in the form of the AZ Cards. The Bears are clicking now, so an upset is not out of the realm of possibility. But I think the Redbirds have enough to get to the next round. Same for New England, whose matchup with Cincinnati currently projects to be the closest. Too much has to go right for the Bengals to take down the mighty Pats.

The other matchups are more interesting. I’m calling San Diego and the no. 2 seed Panthers to fall in upsets. San Diego has a great collection of talent with a mix of expected producers and pleasant surprises, but I have a feeling that the real life Chargers struggle against the Washington R-words. If Chargers like Rivers, Gordon, Allen, and Ingram struggle, SD would need Tyler Lockett, OJ Howard, Derrick Henry, Mark Barron, and Michael Brockers to step up. That’s a good collection of talent, but their production has been spotty. If enough fail to produce, I can see Philly’s roster of game breakers to sneak past the SuperChagers.

I’ll again note that I highlighted NO as a surprise struggler this season. But their win record does not matchup with their point total, and this team can score. I think Drew Brees, Carlos Hyde, and Brandon Cooks have monster games this week. On the other side of the ball, I don’t see Cam Newton and Dion Lewis making their predicted scores, and I think Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and Marshawn Lynch really struggle despite the matchups. Even production at defense will keep this close, but this is my big upset call.

Round 2:

No. 1 Arizona Cardinals defeat No. 5 Philadelphia Steel Men
No. 7 New Orleans Saints defeat No. 3 New England Patriots

And the Saints keep marching! Some of the analysis for the NO-CAR matchup applies here, with their offensive studs turning it on late (Carlos Hyde especially. That dude is running for a big ole’ contract). On the other hand, New England’s holes may not have been big enough to matter against the Bungles, but they’ll matter against a much stronger opponent.

Arizona overwhelms a depleted Philly squad which put the rest of its juice into the round 1 upset. Instead of running their Steelers out against a beat up Baltimore D, Roethlisberger and Co. must contend with a real life Pats squad that is getting healthy and playing much more solid defense than in the early season. Unless there’s a huge game coming from George Kittle or Joey Bosa, the Steel Men will fall to the class of the league.

2017 Real Deal Ultimate Football Championship:

No. 1 Arizona Cardinals defeat No. 7 New Orleans Saints

That’s right I’m going chalk! Arizona mortgaged its future for this season, and it’ll pay off with a ring. Arizona’s deep roster and ability to get production from every part of the lineup will overwhelm the Saints’ superstars. It’ll be closer than the Cards want, but they’ll walk away with a well-earned W and the 2017 title.

Ok all, enjoy the postseason slate of games and be sure to send good luck and good-natured ribs to the team of your choice. Don’t forget to get on my case when I get every one of my picks wrong. Have fun!

Playoffs Time!!! Real Deal Ultimate Football 2017

Playoffs time gents (and/or gals; I realize I don’t know much about some of you)! Let’s dig in!

This week, the last few spots for the second season are up for grabs. Injuries are beginning to stack up for many of us, so what happened during the regular season barely matters anymore. There have been a lot of surprises, so let’s sum up some of the surprisiest surprises and look ahead to who is in the race for the big money!

Surprise No. 1: New Orleans might miss the playoffs

This is nuts to me. Looking at that lineup coming into the season had me scared, with strong depth at critical positions such as RB, TE, WR, DE, and S. All they seemed to need was a healthy season out of ageless wonder Drew Brees and for one of their high draft picks at WR to hit, a box which Cooper Kupp has ably checked.

But as of right now, NO needs to win against Atlanta in order to secure a spot. The Falcons haven’t exactly been a monster this season, but they get Devonta Freeman and Jay Cutler back this week, Julio Jones is looking like Julio Jones again, and, despite a rough sophomore campaign, Vic Beasley could explode for multiple sacks against a potentially overrated Vikings O-line.

It’s not likely that the Dirty Birds win this week, but New Orleans’ roster is so strong that they shouldn’t be in this position. There is no reason to think that the Saints could get hot and run right through to the championship. Teams heading to the postseason will be watching this matchup intently and crossing their fingers for an upset.

Surprise No. 2: Alex Smith is both MVP and LVP

This one hurts me particularly. Alex Smith has somehow gone from the top passer in our game to a total and complete liability that has pundits widely advising the Chiefs to bench Smith in favor of their shiny new toy, Patrick Mahomes. After the disastrous injury to hot new franchise QB Deshaun Watson (then the top scoring QB for the season), Cincinnati consoled themselves by remembering that no. 3 scoring QB Alex Smith was still there. What happened from there is mind-boggling and nearly completely derailed a playoff run for the Bengals.

Smith had been entirely unlike himself early on, which is to say amazing! He was throwing deep, involving a group of athletic freaks like Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, and providing some of his trademarked scrambling. It was like the potential that made him the 1st overall pick had finally all come together. Then, suddenly it just stopped. If you blinked, you’d realized that the Chiefs are in the middle of a 5 game losing streak. And Smith is a big reason.

In terms of fantasy, this has been brutal for a Bengals team that probably (definitely) was feeling pretty good about itself. Smith was a major reason they opened the season on a tear. But with Watson out and the glaring lack of depth and performance at RB, TE, and DE, it’s not likely that Cincy is primed for a long postseason run. Smith may have gotten them the division title and a playoff berth, but he’ll likely be the prime reason for a quick exit.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 13: Quincy Enunwa #81 of the New York Jets celebrates after a tackle in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Surprise No. 3: New York Jets have the league’s No. 1 ranked offense

No joke. Look at the stats. In our game’s scoring, the overall leader in offensive scoring is the J-E-T-S.

Let’s be clear, there was certainly potential here leading into the season. Carson Wentz showed a little bit last season, Evan Engram and Hunter Henry brings big ceilings at TE, and Davante Adams and Danny Amendola play with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. But NOBODY thought Wentz would go full Roethlisberger and jump to MVP candidate in year 2. Engram, despite recent struggles, has been a target magnet, and Adams has excelled even in the absence of his all-pro QB.

The biggest surprise, of course, was the reemergence of Adrian Peterson in Arizona. Combine that with a savvy pickup of Buck Allen and other pleasant surprises like Austin Hooper, James White, and Brandon Lafell, and apparently that is the recipe for the league’s best offensive production.

A below average defense may be the Greens’ undoing, but they must be thrilled with the ascension of their franchise QB. A core of Wentz, Adams, Henry, and Engram is a hell of a way to go into next season as they build towards real contention.

Ok, so there were way more shockers this season like huge injuries, big breakouts, and massive disappointments that we’ll highlight at year end, but let’s give out some arbitrary and completely meaningless awards!

The Toronto Bills Award for Most Wheeling and Dealing

Arizona Cardinals

Ok, so I’m not listing all the assets that changed hands because mah gawd, but here’s some highlights:

Coming in: Kirk Cousins, Carson Palmer, Duke Johnson Jr.

Going away: Bryce Petty, Jamaal Charles, like all of their draft picks for the next two years.

Zona is going for it this season. It might pay off, too. They currently have scored the most combined points so far and show no signs of slowing down. It’s tough to be critical because how could you have possibly predicted that Carson Palmer was going to go down for the season almost immediately after the Cards acquired him. Giving up two 1s, two 3s, a 5, a 7, and a QB project in Petty total to pickup a starting QB will hurt next year. But if they come home with gold, I’m sure he won’t feel so bad about the loss.

The “Wait, What?” Award for Most Confusing Thing

Denver Broncos

So, this is weird. When I was researching this, I noticed that Denver is the lowest scoring team in the league at 1,754. Ok, that’s surprising in and of itself with that roster, but sure. Stuff happens, I didn’t go through all of the weeks so I’m sure I’m missing context, but yeah it’s been a tough season.

Then I noticed that Denver has had 2,705 scored against them. That is a point differential of -951. The only other team that comes close to that is Green Bay, and they are 4-10-1. Denver’s record is 6-9.

How in the world did they win 6 games? I went back and looked and I’m just surprised. I don’t have any analysis here. That just made me stop and wonder what the heck happened there.

The Not My MVP but Damned if That Ain’t Surprising

Jared Goff, QB (CLE)

Jared Goff’s mom didn’t think Goff would turn into a competent QB overnight. Not only that, he suddenly looks like he might be a good QB! Anyone that watched Hard Knocks or, I don’t know, any LA Rams games last season thought there was anything to Goff. Stamp “LEAF” on him and toss him into the Pacific, he’s done. Amazingly, that hasn’t been the case.

Goff has been downright impressive, currently ranked as the 12th highest scoring QB in our game. That number was much better, but recent surges by Philip Rivers, Josh McCown and Dak Prescott have pushed him down. He may not be a super duper star worthy of the 1st overall pick, but he went from having no value to being a young QB with potential and a pretty good supporting staff. The Browns have a real asset on their hands just a few months after it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to consider dumping the young man.

The Secret Defensive MVP

Adoree Jackson, CB (NE)

It’s a not so well kept secret that defensive players that bring special teams value are great assets. I called out Adoree Jackson as a great value in the 3rd round of my draft piece. *Editor’s note: Dammit dammit dammit dammit I wanted him so bad!!!!! The Titans drafted him to be a potential shutdown corner and to contribute as a return man. Even if he didn’t blossom as a corner early on, his speed was such that he was going to continue to see field time by virtue of the return game, ensuring consistent value.

Of course, all Jackson did was blossom into a true star corner and a good return man. He’s scored more than 15 points per game, unreal production for a CB in our game. Now, it’s true that corner production tends to be a little inconsistent, and Jackson himself only scored 4.5 points last week as Jacoby Brissett avoided throwing to him all game long. But since he sees the field on special teams, he’ll have more opportunities to make a contribution. I’m sure the juggernaut Pats will have no problem keeping him in the lineup during the postseason.

I’ll be back on a quick turnaround for a playoff preview because this is already like 1,500 words. But first, let’s do a quick look as to what the playoff bracket will probably look like.

(1) Seed and West Division Champion – Arizona Cardinals
(2) Seed and East Division Champion – New England Patriots
(3) Seed – San Diego Chargers
(4) Seed – Carolina Panthers
(5) Seed – Dallas Cowboys
(6) Seed – Philadelphia Steel Men
(7) Seed – New Orleans Saints
(8) Seed and Central Division Champion – Cincinnati Bengals

I expect Cincinnati to lose to Cleveland this week, but win the division by virtue of a tie breaker with Chicago. They’ll likely be served a quick exit, but the rest of the bracket is really interesting. You’ll notice that many of the teams are very evenly matched, meaning we’ll have a nice suspenseful playoff run. Literally any of the top seven seeds could run away with it.

This will seem lame, and I’ll go into it more detail later, but I expect Arizona to come out on top. They have the deepest and most diverse roster, and they should considering all of the moves they made this season. It might sound boring to go chalk and pick the top seed, but the team is largely healthy and has such explosive players that they’re tough to pick against, especially with a cupcake like Cincinnati in round 1.

I’ll hold the rest of my predictions for the next article, but I’m actually predicting a surprise for the final. I’m pumped for the postseason and I think we’ll all be watching intently to see how it all shakes out.
Thanks a bunch everyone! As always, if you have criticism, keep it to yourself 😉.

The Ultimate Draft: RDU Football 2017

2017 Real Deal Ultimate Football Draft Recap

Alright gents! It’s that time of year! We finally finished nearly two weeks of drafting and now I have to break down all of the madness and hope I don’t lose my hair in the process. While I wrote this more than 4,000-word breakdown, pre-season games happened and situations changed greatly. I make mention to a few but, for the most part, take this as a snapshot of where things stood immediately following the last pick.

The 2017 draft was a deep one, both in the NFL and in Real Deal. Starters were still being drafted in the 5th round, so most teams came away with guys that will help them now and in the future. You don’t have to squint too hard and see this draft as being a massive turning point in the league, especially with some teams working hard to consolidate as much of the talent available now as possible. If this draft turns out to be an all-timer, as some pundits have predicted, the fortunes of this portion of our game could have changed for all of us.
Without further ado, I present my draft grades and evaluation for Real Deal Ultimate Football 2017. I was going to do awards too, but this is already like 4,100 words.
Feel free to agree and email me praises. If you disagree, save it for the chat board ;).

Arizona Cardinals: B-

Best Move: Trading 1.11, 2.11, and 4.11 for Doug Martin, 2.1, and CHI 2018 1st and 3rd round picks

The Cards draft will be ultimately judged by Doug Martin. AZ got very good value in the future picks, not to mention a legitimate starter at a key position. Many are down on Martin this season, and this trade reflects his depressed value. But if Martin returns anywhere near to form once he is reinstated, Zona’s draft will be looked upon very favorably. Kamara at 2.1 could prove to be a good value and several later picks have great upside, but this draft was about Martin.

Atlanta Falcons: A

Best Move: Dalvin Cook at 1.8

I love this draft. I’m super jealous. Getting Dalvin Cook at 8th overall is an unbelievably steal. I would have never expected it to fall that way, but I’m sure ATL is happy it did. And if that wasn’t good enough, Derek Barnett as the 5th pass rusher off the board, Marshon Lattimore and Budda Baker in the 3rd round, and Isaiah McKenzie in the 6th. The pieces are there to build a very successful team in the near future. Well done.

Carolina Panthers: D

Best Move: Malik Hooker could be good enough to make us forget CAR gave up a 5th rounder to move up one spot to get him.

Sorry bruh, but when you go into a draft with 5 picks and come out with only Malik Hooker, a 7th round wideout, and a 2018 3rd, you get a D.

Chicago Bears: B-

Best Move: Tre’Davious White at 3.1

I’m going to keep the commentary on Chicago’s effort to the draft itself, although special mention has to be made to basically compiling a standout defensive unit overnight by dealing 1.1 to TOR. Beyond that move, this is one of the bigger “upside” drafts. That can be said thanks to dealing Doug Martin and future premium picks for what ended up to be Patrick Mahomes, Jamaal Martin, and Dalvin Tomlinson, none of whom will likely make a start in 2017. And David Njoku is the biggest question mark of all, a physical freak who could blossom into the next great TE or fall into the same pit as Johnny Manziel, Justin Gilbert, and all the other failed Browns first rounders. Tre’Davious White in the 3rd was a great value, and there is a metric ton of talent here. But with all that talent comes one of the more risky drafts in the league.

Cincinnati Bengals: B+

Best Move: Deshaun Watson at 1.13

(I’ll keep it brief since this was my draft, but I’m overall happy with how it turned out) Moving up to grab their guy in Watson, especially with Alex Smith living on borrowed time in KC, may turn out to be an inspired move. Allen and Shaheen represent good value where they went, and talented players like Sidney Jones (despite the redshirt season), Tim Williams, and Fabian Moreau further bolster the future prospects of a team looking to compete.

Cleveland Browns: B-

Best Move: Haason Reddick at 2.7

Cleveland was one of the few squads that went chalk, keeping and using all their picks. No future draft capital, but no lost capital this season. CLE used those picks to get solid players up and down the lineup. John Ross is already making waves in Cincinnati, Chris Wormley figures to receive good workload in BAL, and Jordan Willis was a great value in the 4th round. My favorite was the Haason Reddick pick, the rare guy who will provide value in coverage and in the pass rush, was a steal at 2.7. Knocked them down from a “B” to a “B-“ only because they tried to draft CJ Spiller like fourteen times!! LM was very forgiving.

Dallas Cowboys: C

Best Move: Acquiring Sammy Watkins and Alshon Jeffrey (although the cost was huge)

The draft was not a draft for Dallas. The picks that they held for this year and the next two years were deemed of lesser value than the chance to win today. No criticism here, but that’s the truth of the matter. The Cowboys came out of this year’s draft a markedly better team than they were going in. I hate the cost of Sammy Watkins, but they ended up with two big time WR and the top RB in the draft. They will rank highly in the coming season outlook article. But if bad luck strikes, Dallas won’t have the ability to retool in the next two seasons. Championship or bust!

Denver Broncos: C-

Best Move: Ahkello Witherspoon at 4.19

Without a first or second round draft pick, it was going to be tough to make too much noise. But IMO, Denver didn’t end up with a lot of help. Marcus Williams is a talented guy, but isn’t projected to play much early on and may have been a bit of a reach. Ahkello Witherspoon was good value at 4.19. The fact that Denver didn’t come away with a DE, even just for depth, loses them a half grade for me.

Detroit Lions: B-

Best Move: Reuben Foster at 1.16

The Cardiac Cats had an interesting draft. They made a few deals to net them additional draft capital, moving down in the 1st and grabbing two 4s for a 3rd next year. They used that capital to throw a few darts at the board, using the two 4s they got from Carolina to add not one but two QBs. Foster at 1.16 and Rivers at 2.13 were very solid picks and, while he may have been a slight reach, Taylor has a real chance to have an impact in San Francisco. Anzalone is a nice later round pick, and Donnel Pumphrey may be working his way into reps sooner than later. All in all, a nice collection of talent that fits nicely with the rest of the roster, and the PS guys represent a mixed bag of talent without much current opportunity.

Green Bay Packers: C

Best Move: Vince Biegel at 5.10

The Pack went all D with their draft, starting off with Marcus Maye with their first pick at 3.18. They ended up with two safeties, two corners, a linebacker, and a defensive tackle late. No offense, but I wasn’t a fan of their first pick. Marcus Maye certainly has a chance to produce, but safety was the lowest position of need on that side of the ball. Starting corners, including Gareon Conley and GB’s own Kevin King, were still available. They addressed the need in the 4th with Quincy Wilson, but there is less upside there. The Pack didn’t miss entirely though, nabbing a great value in pass rushing LB Vince Biegel in the 5th. Biegel was a value in the real draft as well, and fills a need for depth at the position.

Houston Texans: B-

Best Move: Acquiring Washington’s 2018 1st and 4.17 in exchange for 2.3 and their own 5th in 2018.

Houston’s draft is defined by the decision to deal the third overall pick for CJ Prosise and, most crucially, Blake Bortles. It’s the kind of trade that we’ll be looking at in two or three years and either lauding the Texans for such a bold move… or shaking our heads. There’s not really an in-between. Headliner aside, there were some really savvy moves here (curiously all with the Skins). Trading away 2.3, 4.3, and a 2018 5th for 4.17, Washington’s 2018 1st,3rd, and 2019 5th in two separate deals are the stuff Belichick’s wet dreams are made of. As far as actual players go, there was good value in Taywon Taylor at 3.3, Jake Butt at 4.17, and Tarell Basham at 5.17. All of these players should make an impact immediately, and Taylor even has a chance to make a push for HOU’s flex spot in the near future. I dinged him a half grade because I’m not a fan of Bortles, but if you are a believer consider this a “B+”.

Indianapolis Colts: B+

Best Move: Obi Melifonwu at 2.15

Say this about the Colts’ draft: they were all about this year. Before the draft was over, the Blue Horseshoe had sent two 2018 2nd and 4th rounders, a 2019 3rd , and Rishard Matthews for 1.24, 2.15, 3.9, 3.16, and another five later round picks. That’s quite a haul, and they flexed that muscle. Perine figures to be starting in Washington before long, Taco Charlton is a dynamic talent, and Obi Melifonwu could be the best pick of them all. I also loved getting Kendall Beckwith at 4.9, who enters the season the starting SAM on a dynamic defense in Tampa. Nabbing Teez Tabor all the way at 5.16 feels like icing on the cake. I don’t typically like trading away so many future assets, and I could whine about the value of some of the early rounders, but this is a very solid haul and gives Indy a very talented defense.

Los Angeles Rams: D

Best Move: Acquiring 2015 3rd rounder Chris Conley for 6.18, 6.21, and 7.21… I guess.

No offense to LAR, but this draft looked like it was run by the Rams’ real life brain trust. Granted, there wasn’t a lot to work with here, only coming into the draft with six picks total and just one before the 4th round. But coming away from what looks to be a deep draft with a 3rd string TE, and 3rd string RB, and a pair of 2015 draftees that have yet to look like anything more than rotational players is a tough sell. There were good players with starting roles left on the board, and LAR didn’t come away with any of them. Don’t mean to be rude, but… dude.

New England Patriots: A

Best Move: Myles Garrett at 1.21 (damn it)

I hate New England’s draft. And by “hate it”, I really mean “I love it and wish I did it”. Getting top overall pick Myles freaking Garrett at the 21st overall pick is such a steal it almost makes me mad. That pick going in reminds me of Tampa Bay’s GM telling the story of how every other team was trying to get their pick but they said “screw off” and nabbed O.J. Howard (go Bucs). On top of that killer pick, New England just cherry-picked great value picks. D’Onta Foreman might take the job from Lamar Miller’s corpse as soon as mid-season. Malik Hooker looks like the real deal*. And everyone let out an audible groan when Adoree’ Jackson was finally sniped at 3.5, ending all our dreams of him falling into our laps. Well done (I hate you).

*Note: Doesn’t account for Hooker’s season ending injury. Still a great pick.

New Orleans Saints: C+

Best Move: Cooper Kupp at 2.14

It may not have been a massive need, but New Orleans ensured they’ll run out a good set of WR for the foreseeable future. Mike Williams at 14th overall was a stretch for me, considering it’s possible he’ll miss most of if not all of the season; not to mention that I hate messing with back injuries. But if Williams becomes the guy the Chargers hope, it’ll be the worth the high pick and the redshirt season. Cooper Kupp at 2.14 was a great value, and he’ll likely end up the no. 2 wide out across from Sammy Watkins. Malik McDowell is extremely talented and only fell due to an offseason ATV injury, but he’s great value in the 5th. Evans and Walker didn’t represent good value for me. The biggest problem here is just that most of these guys won’t play much in 2017. Good talent, but will they play enough to be valuable to NO?

New York Giants: B

Best Move: Duke Riley at 4.20

The G-Men needed depth more than anything in this draft. They run out one of the more complete starting lineups in the league. Behind those starters leaves a bit to be desired. So it was pretty clear from 1.20 one that their goal was to find talented guys to fill out the roster at a couple of particularly shallow positions. Curtis Samuel and Carlos Henderson may have both been a little bit of a reach, but they walk into good situations that could improve their stock in a hurry. Jonnu Smith is blocked by Delanie Walker, but if he is as good as advertised could force TEN into two TE sets that would give him a chance to do some damage. It was a tough choice for best move, but I went with Duke Riley over acquiring DRC and a future 3rd. Riley expects to play frequently for a good Falcons D, and LB was one of the greater needs for the Blue. Dawaune Smoot and Trey Hendrickson were also some of my favorite late rounders.

New York Jets: B

Best Move: Evan Engram at 1.10

Jersey picks up TE (but really slot receiver if we’re all being honest with ourselves) Evan Engram with the 10th overall pick and top safety Jamal Adams at 15th. It’s a solid pair of potential playmakers that figure to be heavily involved immediately. Engram figures to hold a little more value than other TE prospects in our game as no expects him to block much. His job will be to line up near the line and be a sort of under slot receiver. To have a guy like that at TE could be very valuable. Gang Green gave up a third 1st to TOR, netting a 2018 4th, a 2019 1st and 3rd, rotational DE Kasim Edebali, and buy low Adrian Peterson. With guys like Myles Garrett still on the board, this was a risk. But if AP turns in a surprise season and that 2019 1st ends up being high, we might have a much more positive opinion of this draft.

Philadelphia Steel Men: B+

Best Move: T.J. Watt at 2.24

Philly gets a huge bump from making one of my favorite picks in the draft: T.J. Watt. To get a guy that brings that much athleticism to the table at 2.24 is beyond a steal. I’m probably playing my hand because I’d love to trade for him, but this was one of the better picks, fits, and values in the whole draft. The rest of the work done by the franchises of the state of Penn was good but not stand out. James Conner is a talented guy but a bit of a reach. Xavier Woods at 3.24 will likely compete for playing time in a weak Dallas secondary. Kittles was a big reach and has to play with Brian Hoyer. All in all, this draft is all about Watt. Philly did end up with some good future draft capital with minimal value lost as well, which bumps this draft up for me.

San Diego Chargers: A

Best Move: Solomon Thomas at 2.5

The Chargers earned their old moniker “Super” with this draft. The fact that they were able to earn one of my few A’s while also reaching for O.J. Howard at 1.4 is a testament to how many great talents and great values they picked up. Solomon Thomas is another one of my favorite picks, and that he was the 4th DE off the board is unreal. Thomas is projected to be a great all-around DE, able to produce points without big sack days. That level of consistency in our game is extremely valuable. To pair him with a guy like Takkarist McKinney, who’ll be more boom or bust, was really smart. Down the draft, Tyus Bowser should be in the running for playing time soon, DeDe Westbrook could be a spark plug for a Philly team that just lost Jordan Matthews, and Rasul Douglas was great value in the 7th. This was solid draft from top to bottom with no wasted picks.

San Francisco 49ers: B-

Best Move: Trading 1.23 in exchange for 2.19, TOR 2018 2nd, and TOR 2019 2nd

The Gold Diggers’ best moves were securing value for future years. In a trio of moves, Frisco came away with an additional 1st and 2nd in 2018, and two more 2nd rounders in 2019. It wasn’t cheap, but those moves were all about building more future value. For a team that expects to compete, this is smart. To a certain extent, the actual picks made were in this line of thinking. There was a clear priority to snag guys that don’t have a clear role now, but are expected to run with the job once they get their hands on it. Joe Williams at 1.12 is the most obvious example, playing behind a sometimes injury-riddled, sometimes ineffective Carlos Hyde. ArDarius Stewart currently has Christian Hackenberg throwing at him, so there’s precious little 2017 value to be had. Chris Godwin was never expected to be any more than the 4th wideout in Tampa. And Charles Harris, although he was a great value pick, will likely be a situational pass rusher ala’ Noah Spence in 2016 and Vic Beasley in 2015. This lack of present value knocks the draft down overall, but this is one of those grades that change big time by the end of 2020.

Seattle Seahawks: B+

Best Move: Christian McCaffery at 1.2

There may have been no bigger need met in this draft than McCaffery going to the largely RB-less Seahawks. The versatile back was in play for the 1st overall pick, and many of us even expected him to be gone before 2. But Seattle happily scooped up one of the most dynamic talents to come into the league. He walks into a fabulous situation too, with a former MVP quarterback and an option/short pass driven offense that is money in our game. Seattle followed that up by trading back into the first round and snagging potential stud linebacker Jarrad Davis from Detroit. Jabril Peppers, the positionless dynamo, went 2.2. This is a tough pick to evaluate, since we really don’t know where he’s going to settle. Right now, he’s a utility player in the truest sense. This pick may end up being brilliant, as Peppers has the speed and athleticism to produce whenever he’s on the field. He also may end up like a pitcher who hits really well: great for the real team, but not helpful for fantasy. In the meantime, I’m choosing to look at it as a smart pick. He’ll eventually settle somewhere on the field, and watch out when he does.

Tennessee Titans: C+

Best Move: JuJu Schuster-Smith at 2.9

I adjusted this write-up after learning of Spencer Ware’s likely season ending knee injury on Friday. I won’t be redoing my grade or evaluation much, but the massive swing in opinion on Kareem Hunt has to be addressed. When the once and future Oilers made this pick, I didn’t like it. A backup RB, even one who has a shot to take the job by midseason from a largely effective veteran, at 1.9 isn’t a great pick. But now that Hunt likely walks into the starting lineup, the pick looks pretty good. I maintain that I didn’t like the pick, but I can’t deny that Tennessee is sitting pretty with their 1st rounder. Schuster-Smith, whom the Steelers love and will get time in the slot next two Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, was a great value at 2.9. He’s the kind of the guy that can have a bonkers year and take home the rookie crown. The rest of the Titans’ draft was ok, but no one really got me or their home team’s fan base excited.

Toronto Bills: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Best Move: Ummm… Mixon at 1.5? King at 3.22? I don’t know really.

I could write 3,000 words on this draft and still not have time to address everything that happened. I simply can’t break down this whole draft. I think one of the best summaries of what Toronto did here is by looking at their remaining picks in 2018 and 2019. Go ahead and look! I’ll wait. You’ll see there is one, single, lonely first rounder in 2018. Only the late Al Davis knows what it’s like to go this all-in on anything (those things by the way were speed in the draft and well done prime rib). We should’ve all known that this was going to be different right from the jump, when Corey Davis became the surprise 1.1. I had about seven guys I thought could go 1, and Davis wasn’t on the list. Mixon at 1.5 wasn’t a big reach considering how he’s viewed in fantasy circles, but if you say you expected Zay Jones to go in the top 10, you’re either lying or your Toronto’s owner. Trubisky at 18th, Marlon Mack at 23rd, Everett at 2.6, there were so many picks that I didn’t see coming. What compounds on the confusion is that the whole future was leveraged for these picks. All that said, there were some great values here. Kevin King and Gareon Conley in the back of the 3rd were great picks. And building a team in this way may have cost a ton in draft capital, but Toronto should have close to the most salary space going into the season and next off-season, giving them a huge leg up in acquiring big contracts and signing free agents. It seems to me that Toronto felt their team needed a systemic overhaul, and boy did they get it. I didn’t get it, but I’m routinely wrong. This could be mad, this could be genius, I don’t know. I do know this was easily the most fun draft of them all.

Washington Redskins: B(?)

Best Move: Acquired 1.3 in exchange for Blake Bortles and C.J. Prosise

Ok, deep breath. There’s a lot to break down here. Washington had the second busiest draft of the year, just behind our friends north of the border. The R-Words brought in a lot of talent, some I liked, some I didn’t, and some that will never actually score points for them. I’ll start with their best move, and that was acquiring 1.3 for Bortles and Prosise. Bortle’s struggles in the preseason make this look even better, and potential 1st overall pick Leonard Fournette being there makes it look unreal. But then Fournette was dealt along with Vontae Davis and Thomas Rawls for a Reshad Jones, Duke Johnson Jr., Zach Brown, and Xavier Rhodes. Turning around and dealing a selection he got just a week prior for more value was impressive, but time will tell if the haul it brought will have been worth a potential franchise player at a position that seems to always be in demand. Beyond these deals, the D.C.s brought in big talents in Golladay and Gallman, and strong values like Tanoh Kpassagnon, Shaq Griffin, and Larry Ogunjobi. They also ended up dealing a number of future picks, including next year’s 1st and 2nd rounders. I wish I had the time to break down each and every move, but all in all Washington used assets they deemed expendable to completely rebuild a much nastier defense, making them a team to fear in 2017.

Well, that’s all I have for this season’s football rookie draft. We’ll be doing season predictions soon. The moral of the story is: rejoice, for football has returned!