It was trade review #193 when I realized how ridiculous the Real Deal Draft really is.
Or maybe it was 194. They all kind of blend together. But it struck me clearly – the RDFL draft brings out the completely irrational in all of us, reveals humanity’s foibles, and conclusively demonstrates why if we actually ran into alien life on that far away planet 9 trillion light years away, they would punch us in our collective faces.
For one, the value of a draft pick fluctuates more than how much people care about Cecil the Lion. Why do first round picks sometimes fly around like Jolly Ranchers and other times we hoard them like they are a real bona fide Saturday without yard work? Why do all these guys get treated like can’t miss gods when they are in draft pick form, and then like worthless rubbish three games into the season?
The draft is fun. It’s awesome. But let’s keep in mind the context as we review it. There’s more sense in a Donald Trump stump speech then in our confident trades and even more confident picks. The draft resembles nothing quite so much as 32 drunken gypsies staggering around trying to tell the future using magic 8 balls.
And so, with that cynical assessment, let’s take a look at the round by round foolishness of the 2015 RDFL draft!
Round #1 – It’s been a bad year for Marcus Mariota. The prevailing story of the real life NFL draft was Mariota NOT getting drafted by the team with all the good WRs (Tampa Bay) or traded to the team with the right system (Philly), but being drafted by that wasteland of offensive talent otherwise known as Tennessee. Instead of Chip Kelly, Mike Evans, or Vincent Jackson, he instead got a fellow rookie with so many attitude issues that his attitude issues play poker with Ryan Leaf and John Rocker and win.
It was just as bad in RDFL, as he watched himself slide all the way down the draft board. Gurley and Gordon made sense as the stud RBs in the class. Jameis Winston had a clearly better landing spot. Amari Cooper and Kevin White were the top receivers in the class. Those five made a ton of sense. And how can you fault the Pittsburgh Steelers for adding TJ Yeldon to pair with Le’Veon Bell in what should be a terrifying RB duo for years to come, particularly with Big Ben already sitting pretty at Quarterback?
But then the fall started. Detroit grabbed Ameer Abdullah to partner with Gurley. Nelson Agholor experienced the “I don’t have a clue who this fool or whether he has any talent or not, but I SAW what happened to Jordan Matthews last year Chip Kelly inflationary effect”. The Tennessee Titans already had Teddy Bridgewater, and knew better than to bet on their host franchise QB, going with a second string RB instead in Tevin Coleman. And the Chicago Bears swiped DaVante Parker rather than grabbing a successor for Jay Cutler (who also plays poker with Dorial-Green Beckham’s attitude issues).
Sidenote here – I LOVE what Pittsburgh did with the double young stud back, and I think a lot of the early picks here were very nice – the league has obviously upped its drafting game in the last couple years. But what I love most about this particular draft is how it has positioned the NFC North to continue to be insane. The Packers have been a powerhouse for the last two years, and the Lions will continue to be good, following the “John Calipari one and done approach” to team-building, but Minnesota and Chicago have struggled. Not too much longer. The Vikings nailed the first round of this draft with Agholor, DGB (character issues aside – maybe they can help on defense), Eric Kendricks, Javorious Allen, Vic Beasley, and even Marcus Peters. If the Vikes can turn AP and next year’s draft picks into a QB of the future and another back, this team could be very, very good in a couple of years. And Chicago’s pick-up of DaVante Parker gives them a receiving core of Parker, Brandon Marshall, and the emerging Martavis Bryant to go along with Matt Forte and Jay Cutler. Love this draft for the NFC North.
Back to Mariota. Just when Mariota was beginning to wonder if he would EVER get drafted, the St. Louis Rams swooped in with a draft pick trade to the Chiefs and sniped him, bringing him in to sit on the bench behind Sam “Ima hurt something” Bradford.
For what it’s worth, I love the value of Mariota as the #11 pick. The questions really revolve around that Tennessee offense. St. Louis could be in the enviable position of having two top 15 quarterbacks and gain a king’s ransom in trade for one of them. Or Mariota could struggle intensely and Bradford could get hurt. I love the aggressive decision making and think it is a good move. But only time will tell.
Other winners from round #1:
Minnesota – I know, I know. I already mentioned him. But man can I just tell you again how much I love this draft for Minnesota? He knows he’s a full year away from competing. And so trades the 1.1 away (Gurley) for multiple picks. Then, he passes on Mariota knowing he still has some time and emerges from the first round with Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Eric Kendricks and Javorious Allen. Just beautiful. Love how this sets up the Vikings. And love further trading away Kelvin Benjamin at the peak of his value for other very strong players. Just good moves all around.
Tennessee – Another team that had good first round draft capital and used it well. While I struggled with the Coleman pick and would have gone with one of the remaining wideouts or grabbed Mariota and traded him away for more picks, I thought the Titans redeemed themselves with value grabs of Devin Funchess at 16 and Stephone Anthony at 29. We’ll talk more about this during the team preview capsules, but the Titans are another team I think are about to emerge from a “rebuilding” period and enter into “contender” mode.
Buffalo – While I’m not massively in love with either Duke Johnson or Jaelen Strong, I AM in love with getting those guys at 19 and 21 on the draft boards. Great value picks from Buffalo – and a great job of putting himself in position to pick the best guys on the board rather than needing to draft for positional scarcity. Of course, the greatest victory for Buffalo came after the draft when Arian “Australian for Running Back” Foster pulled his… ahem… his… WHAT hurts?
San Diego – Another team that scored big with two value picks that fell too far, I really liked San Diego’s grab of Kevin White when he (surprisingly to me) fell all the way to #6. On top of that, scoring Bernardrick McKinney, a likely IDP stud at #30 was a very nice round #1 bookend.
I do have a question here, though. Is Bernardrick just one name? Or is it sort of like the modern equivalent of Jim Bob? Bernard Rick? Bernie Rick? Bernie Dick? I’m fine with whatever. I just need to know what accent to say his name in.
Round #1 Wildcards:
Detroit – If we’ve learned one thing about Detroit over the past years, it is that he loves to zig while everybody else zags. After trading away significant starters from last year’s team, the Lions had a plethora of picks to use in this round. And after going the predictable route with Gurley at 1.1, you knew there were some surprises coming. It’s not that I don’t love Detroit’s draft haul, or trust his acument at nailing surprises, but some of the choices here definitely qualified as surprises.
– Ameer Abdullah at 1.7 with Agholor, DaVante Parker, Tevin Coleman, and Mariota still on the board.
– Phillip Dorsett at 1.12 with DGB and Breshad Perriman still on the board
– Tyler Lockett at 1.17 with Jaelen Strong still on the board
– Garrett Grayson at 1.27 with countless guys who play football in the NFL still on the board
It’s a fascinating strategy – to get enough picks to swing for the fences – and then trade away most of the team to swing for the fences the next year. And some picks (like Brandin Cooks) look inspired. We’ll see there this draft nets out.
Philadelphia – Breshad Perriman. The ultimate in Boom/bust drafting. This guy could either light up the league at 1.14 as Joe Flacco’s stud deep threat. Or he could turn out to the Anti-Odell Beckham. I actually think it is distinctly possible that the two maintain the balance of the universe together. Every time Breshad Perriman drops a ball that hits him right in the numbers, Odell Beckham must make a ridiculous catch, and every time Odell Beckham catches a ball with three fingers, a perfectly thrown ball has to bounce off Perriman’s facemask. I don’t know quite why such a cosmic connection would exist between the two… but it seems very likely to be the case.
Put another way, Perriman is either going to a spectacular value. Or he’s going to implode.
Kansas City – Talk about some super-questionable drafting. The Chiefs passed on Marcus Mariota in return for more future draft picks from the Rams, and then spent 1.15 on Maxx Williams. Maxx is the classic “big fish in a small pond”. He’s the consensus best TE prospect in the class. But does that mean great athletic ability, youth and potential, and an outstanding path to clear playing time? Or does it mean Jeb Bush sucks less next to Donald Trump and by the way Dennis Pitta actually comes back and steals his playing time? Risky draft for the Chiefs.
Round #2: I loved watching round #2 unfold. A warm feeling of pride and appreciation blossomed in my heart. The second round is tough. There’s a lot of value left. But it’s not your grandma’s value. And in the past, we as a league have not always done great work in the second round. But this year, it was obvious that we have collectively upped our draft game. Much much higher pick quality in round #2 this year than in the past – a sure and certain sign that we are getting much, much better.
The second round in 2015 was the round of the big, defensive beef. After only 3 linebackers and no defensive linemen came off the board in the first round, the second round saw 6 Linebackers go and EIGHT defensive linemen, including the likes of Leonard Williams, Arik Armstead, Dante Fowler, Randy Gregory, Mario Edwards, Danny Shelton, and Owamagbe Owhatthehellimgoingtogetlike19fingsacksnowthatJPPblewhishandoffwithfireworksizi.
Interestingly, the second round also saw a startling trend in the neglect of defensive backs, an almost crazy development given how precious good safeties were last year and the opening of the ID position. After the conclusion of the second round, the following were the positional counts drafted through 64 picks:
DB: 4 (2 S, 2 CB)
Despite the neglect of Defensive Backs, it was an exemplary round, with a lot of exceptional players being taken.
My biggest takes on Round #2 Winners:
Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Rowe at 52 and Ty Montgomery at 59. Josh Robinson is a bit of a wild card for me at 58, but when you get the next Packers receiver and an extremely talented, immediately starting host franchise defensive back with a pair of picks outside the top 50, you’ve got to be feeling pretty darn good about your draft.
Miami Dolphins: The Fins struggled a bit in the heart of their defense last year, and moved aggressively in the second round to fill that hole, snaring Randy Gregory and Shane Ray at 43 and 46, two picks I felt were particularly inspired for the position.
The Round #1 Winners: The Vikings kept up right were they left off, kicking off the round by sniping Vic Beasley. And the Chargers also kept a great thing going, grabbing Odigeridoo late in the round as a starting, pass-rushing defensive end. These two squads had very solid draft strategies throughout.
Atlanta: It was the falcons only pick of the round, but I thought that the Shaq Thompson pick at 39 was pure gold. A first round pick with a great defensive pedigree, a great defensive situation, and a clear path to playing time. I love this pick both now and for the future.
Round #2 Wildcards:
QB Grabbers – Houston and San Francisco: Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley. Both potential starting QBs in decent situations down the line. But both looking at a multiple year learning curve, and neither one guaranteed a starting job ever. It’s a tough place to be. Starting quarterbacks are worth their weight in 1st rounders (even more valuable than gold), and if either of these guys finds their way into a starting role, they’ll be steals. Particularly given that original real deal veterans are starting to reach ridiculous salary levels, making a cost-controlled starter an absolute gem. That said, these guys are both relative longshots, and with some of the IDP studs still left on the board… it’s a gamble.
TE Grabbers – Tampa Bay and Dallas: Similar scenario to KC in round #1 – this was not a strong draft for Tight Ends, and while both Pruitt and Walford are talented guys, real questions remain about whether or not either one will achieve a starting role. Like QB, TEs can be very difficult to find if you don’t have one. But taking a risky TE over Randy Gregory, Shaq Thompson, or Denzel Perryman? Sometimes positional fit truly matters, particularly if a team is making a run for it.
Round #3: So remember what nobody drafted in rounds #1 and #2? Yep. That meant that by the time we got to round three, there were secondary studs so ripe they were literally falling out of trees into people’s hands. Nine defensive backs went in round #3. They were, in order, and I quote: Marcus Peters, Kevin Johnson, Byron Jones, Clayton Geathers, Adrian Amos, James Sample, Jalen Collins, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, and Senquez Golson. In the THIRD round. Every single one of those guys has the chance to win a starting slot in training camp. I especially love the Marcus Peters (4 interceptions and 2 passes defensed in training camp today), Byron Jones (you seriously think Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick are going to hold this guy off?), Clayton Geathers (if only his name was Clifton), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (because his name is not Owiuijaboard) and Senquez Golson (already making serious noise in camp at the end of round #3).
Moral of the story – if you swiped an offensive stud in round #1 and a killer LB or DL in round #2, you could still get an immediate top shelf DB in round #3.
So of course, who did that? The ringer of the draft himself, Pedro “I’m not really an expert but then I stay at a holiday inn express and dominate the draft” Fiadeiro of the Minnesota Vikings, who I can’t stop gushing about. He swiped offensive studs and LBs in round #1, Vic Beasley in round #2, and kicked off round #3 with Marcus Peters. Inspired. This team is going to be good in a couple of years. Very good.
Other Winners of Round #3:
New England Patriots: Loved the draft moves here from the Pats. On top of Ekpre-Olomu, the Pats also maximized their round three capital with WRs Jamison Crowder and Vince Mayle. Not sure things by any stretch, but if you can afford them in round #3, this is the place to go for offensive lottery tickets.
New York Jets: Quietly grabbing Stefon Diggs at the start of the round might actually go down as the best pick of Round #3 – long term. He’s already showing outstanding chemistry with Bridgewater, and with a couple of years under his built, there’s no reason that he couldn’t be the #2 to Charles Johnson for years to come. And if Bridgewater turns out to be the stud he appears to be developing into…
Tennessee Titans: Tennessee is usually silent but deadly at these affairs. You see him standing there… and then all of a sudden you smell it… and you fall to the ground screaming. And he somehow walks away with all your best china. Jake Ryan and Danielle Hunter are both some nice wild card picks who could turn in to very strong players if things break right. I can’t say I entirely get the Punter draft pick – but hey, there just aren’t that many new punters who enter the league… you’re right. I’m totally justifying.
Round #4: The round patterns in this draft were pretty clearly established:
– Round #1: Offensive studs (28)
– Round #2: Defensive Linemen and Linebackers (13)
– Round #3: Secondary (9)
– Round #4: Detroit Lions (13) IN A ROW. This goes down in the RDFL guinness book of draft records.
Unfortunately, at this point, my knowledge of which players are going to pan out and which are going to bust is pretty much nil. Which is pretty much the same as for rounds 1-3. The difference is that at this point in the draft, I know it.
Here are the guys in round #5 I think have a shot: Jeff Heuerman, Dezmin Lewis, Trey Flowers, Jordan Taylor, Ramik Wilson, Kaelin Clay, Kwon Alexander, Xavier Cooper, Kennard Blackman
Here are the guys who, therefore, actually have a shot: Everyone else.
Team previews coming out soon, my friends! Keep up the good work, and be sure to trade my sorry butt a kicker!