With the 2016 Real Deal baseball season in the rear view, let’s take a look back at the year, which was dominated early and often by just a handful of teams.
First, congratulations to all of those who won money this year, led by the championship-winning Chicago Cubs and runner-up Boston Red Sox. And well done to the division winners, the Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Miami Marlins, as well as the Cubs and Red Sox. Lastly, a tip of the cap to the wild card teams, the Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, and Kansas City Royals.
To start, I’ll discuss the divisional races a bit. As a result of team building strategy, patience, luck, and whatever else you’d consider in terms of what makes a fantasy team successful; most divisions were not that close. In fact, four out of the six division winners won by double digit wins: Miami Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, and Houston Astros. In addition, the Cubs won their division by 9, though noting this may not be all that fair, since the runner up Milwaukee had the fifth most wins in the league, and the third most points.
That leaves just the AL Central, which was an interesting to follow in terms of the battle between Kansas City and Detroit. Interestingly enough, the Tigers won the division on the last day of the year despite having scored less points (20,780 vs 21,294) oveall. This was a fun division to watch and should be next year as well, with Cleveland stacking up, a new owner in Minnesota, and a White Sox team that is also making moves in an effort to improve upon 2015’s last place finish.
Despite not being all that close in terms of wins, the NL East was still competitive, as the second place Nationals—a wildcard playoff team—still had 31 wins in the division compared to Miami’s 39, while also scoring more than 23,000 points, a number that I will touch on later in this article. Despite a vast improvement in Philadephia, going from 17 wins to 45, that seems to still be a team that is in the process of rebuilding. The Mets, on the other hand, had a tough go of it, as they went down in wins from 67 (A 1st place finish in 2015), to 45 in 2016. Much like the real-life counterpart, these Mets were bit with injuries to a number of key players.
Unlike last year in the NL West, where the top three teams were within 7 games and less than 1,000 points of one another, this year was not as close. The Arizona Diamondbacks (My team, if anyone is wondering), led the pack with 20 more wins than the second place Dodgers, as well as nearly 4,500 points. Still, things can change quickly, and as I work to get under budget for 2017, nothing is taken for granted.
Next we go over to the juggernaut-led NL Central, which had the highest scoring team, the Cubs, and the third-highest scoring team, the Brewers. While the Brewers were once again a dominant force, the Cubs were something else this year. At 83-10, the best record in the league, the Cubs were also tied for second with Houston (Behind Boston) for division record, at 44-4, while also scoring the most points in the league by 1,365 points. More on the Cubs later, but the two-headed monster at the top of the division didn’t leave much room for the Cardinals, Reds, or Pirates, all of which fell under the .500 mark while failing to reach 19,000 points for the year. Looking torward the future though, let’s not count any of these teams out. If you take a look at the jump that Cincinatti made from 2015-2016 (more on this later), there is room for optimism going into 2017.
Shifting back over to the AL, where the AL East was among the least competitive division in 2015. To put it into perspective, the second-place Rays sold off major MLB-level talent and a slew of prospects all for one top 5 prospect (more on this deal later), and yet still somehow almost made the playoffs. But it’s not really the Rays we should be talking about here, in terms of 2015, as the Boston Red Sox once again had a dominant season, running through the competition all the way until he fell to the Cubs—the second year in a row in which Boston had made the finals, only to fall short. Will 2017 be his year?
Lastly, we had the AL West, which had one of the league’s two 80-game winners in Houston, leading the pack. Behind them was the Texas Rangers, also a 2015 playoff team, who despite having 16 less wins that the division leader, was not a team to be taken lightly. In fact, Texas made it into the playoffs and managed to beat KC in the opening round, then upset rival Houston by less than 4 points in the second round, only to fall to Boston Round 3. Still, an impressive season by both teams. The other teams in the division, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle, will look to improve upon disappointing seasons in 2015.
At this point, I’d like to give out a few different awards from the season. I took a look back at the season from a high level and reached these conclusions, so do try your best to not get mad at me for them!
Let’s get started.
Oakland Athletics send:
Kansis City Royals send:
For my money, the best trade of the year, and one that helped Kansas City make it into the playoffs. At $1.2 and having scored more than 552 points on the year, Villar may be one of the top value-output players in the league, this side of Mookie Betts.
I should be clear in stating that I think this trade was a win for KC. From the Oakland side, I don’t really understand it is as much, as he received 0 prospects from the top 100. Jorge Bonifacio looks like a decent prospect and is ranked #2 in the KC system, whild Tyler Mahle is likely the second best player coming back in the deal, and he is #7 ranked in the Astros system. Villar, on the other hand, was the 25th ranked overall player last year.
That said, prospect rankings are not necessarily gospel, so who knows, maybe this trade looks nice for both teams this year or soon. But in looking right now, it’s a clear win for the Royals.
Biggest /most controversial trade:
I hate to involve myself in any of these superlative mentions, but I would say that this was most likely, in fact, the biggest and perhaps most controversial trade, given the amount of players.
In the deal, I sent Dansby Swanson over to Tampa Bay, who set back:
As well as the following prospects:
Now, to put this deal into perspective, Malcolm and I were engaged in trade talks for a while before it got to this. I basically told him I wasn’t going to trade Swanson to him, but he countered with a deal that I just could not refuse.
If you boil this down, I’ve already dropped Bethancourt and Giavotella, and I traded Chris Davis last year for Todd Frazier, who I traded this year for catching prospect Austin Hedges and Jedd Gyorko. I also plan to keep Greinke. But in return, Malcolm has (what we both believe to be) a young, cheap, cornerstone player at a premium position. Yes, it looked big on the surface, and it was, but ultimately, we both though it to be more than fair.
Least active trader:
This award goes to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who made 0 in-season trades, and only one offseason trade that involved the swapping of draft picks. Still, this is a team that won 55 games last year, so maybe with a few strategic moves, they will be right back in the thick of things in 2017.
Most active trader:
This goes to the New York Yankees. Christian Tobler, who took over in 2015, made a whopping 59 trades. This includes activations of players from the minors to majors, but upon closer look, a vast majority of these moves are actual trades. In 2015, the team was 8-85, and this year, 37-56. A 29-game improvement is a big one, and these moves played a big role in that.
How many more games can the Yankees win this year?
Speaking of big turnarounds, nobody had a bigger one than the Cincinnati Reds, who went from 3-90 in 2015 to 37-56 in 2016.
This was also a team that made a good deal of trades last year. Again, can the rebuild project continue, and gain momentum into 2017? Time will tell.
Lastly, I wanted to recognize the teams that scored 23,000 or more. I chose this number because all teams reaching this mark won money, and were right at the top of the standings throughout basically the entire season. Whether or not this number will be a similar benchmark for 2017 is yet to be seen, but there is no denying that the following teams, which all scored 23,000 or more, had success this year: Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Nationals.
In terms of making predictions for next year, that will come in a separate article later in the offseason. This article was meant to provide a year-in-review type of retrospective, and to hopefully motivate teams who are either looking to repeat upon past success, or to achieve it for the first time.
Regardless of which category you fall into, the 2016 season is now over, and we are looking into 2017 with new hope and optimism. Good luck to everyone in their offseason preparations, and thanks for a great year.
And we’re back for the 3rd of four sets of divisions in our 2016 preview. Good times will be had by some. I spent some time in California when I wrote the initial draft, so you’ll forgive me if I default to the Western divisions in honor of my geography. I’ll finish things up on the East Coast shortly.
The Raiders have played a high-risk, high-reward brand of fantasy football since the inauguration. It’s their style. And while it hasn’t yet put them over the top, it’s come very close – the unluckiest team of 2015 could have been West division champion EASILY if just a couple of points had swung the other way. If I recall correctly, they lost something like 3 games in 2015 by margins of less than a couple points. It was nuts. At some point that luck has to turn. And it might be this year.
But man this squad is risky. Carson Palmer’s solid. But after that? Arian Foster could be a total bust or he could be a top 5 RB again after a veritable year off. Oakland will also trot out Jay Ajayi – but he’s also quite unproven. This could be a hell of a tandem – or it could timeshare itself into oblivion. Eddie Lacy was one of the most disappointing players in the league… but he’s also a contender for top pick if he gets back to form. Josh Gordon has finally gotten away from the devastating influence of Johnny Manziel and looks to put his extensive suspension experience to work in actual football. But will his suspension experience transfer to the field? Possible top 10 WR… possible total bust. Davante Adams? Jordan Matthews out of Chip’s offense? Brandon Coleman? When DOES Tyler Eifert actually return. How does he play when he does? If the offense plays out, Oakland could have two top-5 RBs, 2 top 10 WRs and a top 5 TE. If it doesn’t, they could literally have Carson Palmer and a squad of ineffective backups and timeshares. Oakland has wisely handcuffed RB investments, but still. The range of possible outcomes here is insane.
The defense is really good, but there are still a lot of high-potential low-floor guys here. Jordan Hicks was spectacular at LB as a rookie before going out for the year. Can he stay healthy AND avoid a sophomore slump? Is he for reelz? Preston Brown has a huge role due to a Reggie Ragland injury… but he needed a rookie to get injured to get that role. Can he take advantage? TJ Carrie is a nice young player, but can he translate that to points? Is Karl Joseph ready to produce from day #1?
I will say this – on defense, I think the probability of “yes” answers are very high to most of these questions. This is a team with a good Carson Palmer and a good defense. Whether or not this is the AFC West division champs is going to depend on the wide range of outcomes with the skill players. As it always is, the Oakland Raiders should be an funsquad to follow – and a not very fun squad to play.
San Diego Chargers (9-7):
As I sit here typing on Ventura Blvd, looking out at the Palm Trees and the Poke-mon-ers, contemplating that noblest and manliest of pursuits that is fantasy football, I think it is possible (even likely) that I am sun-poisoned. The San Diego Chargers? Where the HECK did they come from? This team has been bad since day 1, and did not seem to have a real credible path to excellence as early as last year. But as I review this division, lest my eyes deceive me, the Chargers have somehow become good. And not just good, but potentially fantastic – on both sides of the ball.
Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates are back for one more campaign in the sun. With DeMarco Murray gone and Darren Sproles elderly, Ryan Matthews is all of a sudden the bell-cow back for a new look Eagles team. Doug Baldwin somehow turned from a mediocre at best WR on a run-first offense into a star. Travis Benjamin emerged from the Cleveland purgatory of high-potential Wide Receivers come to naught (looking at you Greg Little – which is more than can be said for any of your quarterbacks!) to also become a star. Jermaine Kearse is not half bad either. This offense is suddenly, solidly excellent.
On the flip side, the defense strikes me as sneaky-good. Poor man’s Carolina Panthers sneaky-good. Beyond DeMarcus Ware, the star-power isn’t there, and Rolando McClain’s “purple drank” hurts pretty significantly. But the thing that really is compelling about this squad is that everybody is solid. There’s no real drop off. They can field a team 11 deep and expect to see starter level outputs from all of them – even if the name recognition isn’t quite star caliber.
Here’s the issue for this team – DEPTH. This is a starting 20 that can compete for the division and a playoff spot. The issue, though, is that there is literally NOTHING after it. Jacob Tamme is literally the only piece of value outside of the starting lineup, and that depth is already going to be tested. There’s no good replacement for DeAngelo Williams if Le’Veon can stay off the ganja, and Stevie Johnson’s season ending injury (rumor has it that he picked a fight with Batman. The conclusion is unsurprising) means that there’s no backup at either of the other skill positions either. But it’s worst on defense, where the Chargers are absolutely reeling at Linebacker. Donald Butler, a past star, was surprisingly cut, Rolando McClain is suspended for the entire regular season, and Pernell McPhee will start the season on the PUP list and miss at least 6 games (9 in real deal land). That leaves the San Diego with only two starting linebackers – pending any additional injuries.
The 2016 iteration of the San Diego Chargers should be the best one yet. But every player should live in one of those plastic bubbles that are all the rage in youtube videos (where they roll down the hill and crush stampeding college students), because this team is susceptible to injuries, benchings, and suspensions in a way that very few others are. Below is what I see as the optimal scenario for your 2016 San Diego Chargers.
Kansas City Chiefs (9-7):
The Kansas City Chiefs are in the market for both a good trainer and the fountain of youth. Possibly both. Season-ending injuries to starting Linebackers Justin Houston and Reggie Ragland coupled with uncertainties about Jordy Nelson’s return, Jordan Reed’s status (will he get banged up sleep testing posture-pedic mattresses? Touching feathers? Blowing up balloons? Cuddling kittens or baby chicks? Absolutely everything is perilous when you are Jordan Reed), and the capacity of young linemen Caraun Reid and Dante Fowler to start games and make tackles place some question marks around this year’s Chiefs squad. It’s not just health that’s uncertain for this team, but also roles – where does Giovani Bernard fit in Cincinnati’s backfield tandem with Jeremy Hill? Will Tavon Austin still get touches in a Jared Goff system – and if he does, can he maintain the # of big plays he made last year?
Also, can someone please explain to me why Tavon Ausin is NOT returning kickoffs? Please?!? I can just picture the conversation.
Coach A: So, we have this guy who goes from 0 to 60 faster than the Flash. He’s absolutely deadly in open spaces. Every time he touches it with some room, he is a real threat to take it to the house. He’s also a super tiny for a receiver, which means he’s not going to win a lot of 50-50 balls. Hmm. How can we possibly get him the ball?
Coach B: I have it! Let’s take our rookie quarterback and have him try to throw passes to him while he’s covered by a guy who is 7 inches taller than he is. He’ll probably be able to see him. Or, we can throw telegraphed check passes or hand it off to him and ask him to break tackles with his 73 pound frame.
Coach A: I love it! It’s foolproof.
Coach C: What about returning kickoffs? That way, he would catch the ball in space and could get acceleration…
Coach A: That’s absurd. Go sit in the corner. You’re such a damn fool you probably think zebras are real animals and not just what line judges look like when you get concussed!
The Chiefs should be a good team – Alex Smith is a serviceable scrambler, and the pass-catching group of Nelson, Austin, Reed, Randall Cobb and Pierre Garcon should put up some points. There are starting caliber defenders at every position and even in the absence of Houston and Ragland, the linebacking core of D’Qwell Jackson, KJ Wright, and Derrick Johnson should be strong for one more year. Everson Griffen and Fowler should form a strong pass rush, and newcomers Corey Graham and Malcolm Butler should bolster what was a flagging secondary. The trick isn’t whether the Chiefs will contend – they will – it’s whether they will win. And while the chances are there, Oakland has a higher ceiling and San Diego’s starting twenty may have a lower floor. Only time will tell if the Chiefs can get back to the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season.
Denver Broncos (6-10):
The post-Peyton era is alive and well for the Denver Broncos, who are faced with a bit of a “reload and see what we have” year. Paxton Lynch is safely ensconced as the Franchise QB of the future, and Demaryius Thomas is going to be a stud no matter who is throwing him the ball. And frankly, the defense the Broncos can trot out this year is going to be surprisingly good for a team that’s gotten a “focus on the offense” rap. Guys like Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, George Johnson, Duke Ihenacho, VInce Wilfork, Chris Harris Jr. and Rahim Moore are going to keep this year’s Broncos competitive in a lot of games. And there are young players coming up for this team, with Javon Hargraves, DeAndre Washington and Paxton Lynch portending a promising future.
But the 2016 edition of the Flying Elways is going to feature one prominent question every game they play. Can they score? Demaryius can. Dion Lewis cannot. The reason being that he’s injured. It makes it hard. And after that? Anquan Boldin just celebrated his 93rd birthday, and while he can still make some grabs as a possession receiver, particularly in a Lions lineup seeking to fill the Calvin Johnson void, there’s a real question of just how many catches he can still make. Jeff Janis is fighting with what seems like about 62 other promising young receivers to be a tertiary option for Aaron Rodgers. DeAndre Washington should catch some passes, but isn’t likely to have a starting role as a rookie, and there’s no real TE to speak of. It’s a very real possibility that the Broncos could run out a team with a zero from QB, Nick Vannett, Cole Beasley and Jeff Janis on a regular basis. That would make it very hard to get it done in what is shaping up to be a surprisingly competitive AFC West.
Arizona Cardinals (11-5): “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you.” That should be Arizona’s motto this year. But actually, there’s no bear. There’s more like a chubby little chimpanzee with a stick. Basically, it’s like that old “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing” program where you are driving a car and you have to win by typing a certain number of words per minute. The super-fast typers would set it to like 70 to train for careers in clerical work. The slackers would set it to about 20 wpm so they could hunt and peck and not have to learn. That’s sort of what it’s like for Arizona this year. The pace car is set to about 12 wpm. So Arizona could field a football team consisting of nothing but pygmy otters and lepers and still win the division by about 5 games. Below is a video detailing what I expect the NFC West division race to look like. The dude is Arizona. Unfortunately, I can’t embed this one, but watch it anyway.
This year, Arizona runs away with the division largely by virtue of not having a serious of massive, gaping holes big enough you could drive a tractor-trailer through at major skill positions. Matt Ryan and Shady McCoy give some solid star power on the offensive front, and the defense is good, bordering on excellent, particularly up front. The combination of Calais Campbell and JJ Watt are set to average nearly 30ppg from the Defensive End position alone – which is a very nice built in competitive advantage. An extremely strong secondary (Barry Church, TJ McDonald and Rashad Johnson at Safety, with Josh Norman and DRC doing the covering) should also put up a lot of points. It’s an interesting defensive strategy by Arizona, which has built up a surplus of strength at positions of scarcity (DE and S) throughout the league. Where most teams are scraping by for capable starters, Arizona has loaded up at these positions to bolster a good but not great, linebacking corps.
The offense is sketchier, but actually has a lot of potential. The jury is still out on whether or not Kamar Aiken, is, in fact, good at football. Signs seem to be pointing up for him, though, and he may well be the most productive Ravens receiver this year. The jury does, however, seem to have returned a verdict on Reuben Randle (not good enough for football. Let’s hope he can type!). Michael Floyd continues to be “on the edge of a breakout year” (for the record, I think he gets it) and both Brandon LaFell and Richard Rodgers have solid opportunities on their respective teams.
End of the day, I’m probably being too hard on the poor Cardinals. They are going to win this division by six games again – not just because they are the best of a bunch of bad teams – but because they are a legitimately good team. Lock this one up, it is in the bag.
Seattle Seahawks (7-9):
Being the second best team in the NFC West is a little bit like being the second best quarterback the Browns have had in the last 25 years. It’s not exactly much of an honor. That said, let’s take a second to stop and appreciate what the Seahawks have accomplished in terms of a quick rebuild. One year after selling literally everything, the Hawks are already rebuilding to the point where I expect them to finish SECOND in their division. Now, keep in mind that doesn’t mean a lot. But it is a nice step forward for the rebuilding Hawks.
It’s going to be a show me year for a lot of the young and promising players, starting with #1 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott, who joins Sterling Shepard as high class weapons for Russell Wilson, who literally had NO weapons last year. He had so few weapons that not even Ryan Lochte could have claimed to feel threatened by meeting him in a dark alley (he could, however, have seriously injured Jordan Reed).
This year, Shepard and Elliott alone should provide some rejuvenation for the offense – and for many years to come. With the notable exception of Tight End (where MyCole Pruitt really shouldn’t be anybody’s Cole Pruitt, he’s just not good enough to want), the Seahawks offense is actually filled with some promising young players – Paul Richardson is an absolutely gunner (runs like Usain bolt – though it is unclear how that will work for him to catch passes, as he tops out at 4’3” wearing wooden dutch platform shoes). Pharoh Cooper may find a role in the highly unsettled group of Goff-targets. Alex Collins is pushing for a role in a suddenly Beast-less Seattle backfield, though the re-emergence of pre-season hero Christine Michael puts a little doubt on that. Long and short, there’s young talent on the offensive side of the ball, though most of it will take some time to really develop.
There’s young talent on the other side of the ball too, though not quite to the same extent. Most notably, rookie Kamali Correa (not Kai’oahu’injured’guy, though the names are confusing) joins Denzel Perryman and Bobby Wagner to form a powerhouse linebacking corner. Other young guns with promise include Kenneth Acker, Deon Bush, and Jihad Ward, who join other young guns without promise (looking at you, Cassius Marsh) and stabilizing veterans in Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor. The Legion of Boom this is not, but good enough to be second in this division? Absolutely. Just as exciting for the Seahawks are another trifecta of first round picks (all coming potentially in the top half of the first round) to help complete the rebuild. This team still needs another year to get really good – but its on the right trajectory
San Francisco 49ers (6-10):
So I will say this for the 9ers – this is a team that could surprise. It’s an intriguing plan that’s been put into place, and it could certainly pay off – just like Oakland, this team seems to have captured the bay area penchant for high risk, high reward players. Unlike Oakland though, I have more concerns about these risks – and I’m not sure there are enough sure things to warrant quite as much optimism.
For one, it all starts with the dynamic QB to WR1 duo that every team covets to score major points. RGIII to Corey Coleman. How the heck do you evaluate this pairing? By all accounts, RGIII has looked pretty excellent in camp (dude even SLID the other night – Dayumm! Times, they are a-changin’) and pretty mediocre in the preseason. And also by all accounts (this is actually probably an overstatement, as there are a LOT of accounts. The internet causes accounts to proliferate and everybody has a different one. It’s kind of like Olympians filing police reports. Ooh. Lochte-burn), Corey Coleman is the real deal. But man. Coleman is a rookie. RGIII is a multi-bust. It’s Cleveland. This could be a 20/20ppg pairing and the foundation of a better than expected offense. But the bust chances seem high too. Just hard to evaluate.
It’s like that all the way down the roster. Michael Thomas could catch a lot of Drew Brees passes (there are usually lots of them), or he could be confused for various other Mike Thomas’ and disappear. Austin Seafaring-Jenkins could be the stud we’ve been expecting for years, or he could lose his job to his landlubbing counterpart, Cameron the Brate. Similar story for Matt Jones. Hunter Henry is a very promising TE for the long-term of this team, but he’s also a rookie TE – who traditionally don’t do very much. D-liners Benson Mayowa and Erik Armstead may or may not be all the way back from injury. Slick Willie Young and Duron Harmon’s roles are up in the air in the secondary (or were, before the trade), and it remains to be seen how much the SF IDPers will see statistical bounces due to the preposterous number of snaps Chip Kelly (and his minions Blaine and Colin) will make them play on the field.
The trick for me is that none of these risks feel great for 2016. I like Corey Coleman, and to a real degree RGIII. I like Armstead. But I like Brate over Jenkins, Mike Thomas as a role-player, not a starter, Matt Jones to time share, and Hunter Henry to be a rookie. I don’t like Slick Willie Young. And even if all these risks were to pan out, I think a second place divisional finish is the ceiling for this squad. I don’t doubt that this team can play way ahead of where I expect them to be – and the pieces are there for a nice dynasty squad (oh, and Sheldon Richardson is a vengeful Aztec deity), but my prediction is a 3rd place finish for this team.
Los Angeles Rams (5-11):
The only thing with less dignity than the acronym LARM is potentially going to be the LARM offense this year. Unfortunately, that is going to undercut what could actually be a surprisingly decent defense to keep this team at the bottom of the NFC West pecking order.
In many ways, the Rams seem to be in the same place that the Seahawks were last year, but with a better defense and fewer draft picks. There’s promising young quarterback Marcus Mariota – and not a whole lot else. Interestingly, the Rams second best player on offense is another quarterback – Slammin’ Sammy Bradford. After that? Well, Chris Sims could be ok with the Muscle Hamster’s sloppy seconds. But man. Cordarelle Patterson and Bishop Sankey are two high-profile rookies who have busted HARD looking to resurrect their careers away from the Detroit spotlight. It’s hard to see either one doing it. Sankey has already been cut, along with starting WR Chris Givens. Jared Cook has been a breakout threat forever, but he’ll be about the 11th option on the Packers. Darrius Heyward Bay is another high-profile bust who has shown occasional flashes, but looks stuck behind Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton in Martavis Bryant’s absence. Moritz Boehringer should bring in six or seven German fans, but not nearly as many footballs. And Jeff Cumberland, always a favorite of this author, is both injured and not actually very good at scoring fantasy points, despite his sheer awesomeness. That offense is going to STRUGGLE, a la Seattle 2015.
It’s a shame, because the offense is going to undercut what should be a very nice defense. The Rams have some real riches in the secondary, with Senquez Golson, Rodney McCleod, Janoris Jenkins, Darian Stewart, Marcus Cooper, and EJ Gaines all looking starting caliber. Bob Ayers Jr. and Cedric Thornton provide some nice power up front, and James Laurinitis and Nick Perry are no slouches in the middle, though the Linebacking corps is weaker than either the front-line or the outfield.
End of the day, it’s possible that the defense is enough to put this team up to a third or even a second place finish if things break right. But that offense is going to hamstring this team’s ceiling and keep them in contention for a top five pick throughout the year. The tough part for the Rams is that that pick will be their only real draft asset of value for next year unless a QB can be flipped or they can turn some of that secondary depth into draft capital. It’s a rebuild in SoCal, but it’s not looking like a fast one.
It is 10:21 at night. I’ve worked 87 hours in the last 8 days and my brain is absolute mush. What does that mean? It means that this year’s Real Deal Report predictions are coming at you with ZERO filter. NONE. No filter at all. I thinks it, I types it. Nothing is off-limits. Not politics. Not global issues. Not the many psychological issues of your beloved league mates. I calls it like I sees it. Beware.
You know what else it means? I have absolutely no effective thematic intro to this particular prediction. Nothing. I am eating a Chipotle burrito and typing things. That’s all I got.
We’re starting with the Northern divisions this year. Why? I have no idea. I think I usually start with the East divisions or the West divisions and the North and South end up in the middle. Flyover divisions. Not anymore though. This year, the northern divisions get their due. And they get their due in the Real Deal Report, largely because they probably aren’t going to get it in the Super Bowl. What do I mean?
Well.. here come the predictions!
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5): A super bowl berth. Consistent playoff berths. The Steelers of RDFL are a heck of a lot like the Steelers of the NFL. Consistently good, oscillating between decent and outstanding, but lacking those trips to the garbage heap the rest of us take. It’s going to be another good year in fantasy steeltown, and how good depends on Le’Veon Bell’s lawyer. (UPDATE: Le’Veon Bell’s lawyer got him off for week #4 – which is not, it is a shame to say, a double week).
I will note that injustice is evident everywhere in our society, and nowhere is this more true than in the suspensions handed down to key players. Ray Rice commits an awful and heinous act and is banished from the league forever. Ben Roethlisberger does the same and gets a suspension. Josh Gordon fails multiple drug tests and gets banished from the league for years – moreover, he is forced to room with Johnny Manziel, who never ever does his dishes. Le’Veon Bell fails multiple drug tests and gets… suspensions. It’s almost like there’s an agreement with the league offices that Pittsburgh guys never get huge suspensions – but throw the book at the rest of the division. Well, except for Vontaze Burfict. Who should probably be in jail.
Anyway. Pittsburgh has STARS. Fantrax projects the Steelers to have the #3 QB (Big Ben), the #1 RB (Le’Veon Bell), the #4 WR (Jarvis Landry), and the #7 TE (Coby Fleener). And yes, Coby Fleener should be a huge step up. The TE who catches passes from Drew Brees is always awesome in fantasy. A top 5 skill guy at every single position is a spectacular foundation. The only saving grace for the entire division is that they don’t have Antonio Brown. Because that would be silly. Still, the projections are already preposterous. Fantrax predicts 19ppg for Big Ben, 21 for Le’Veon, 24 for Jarvis, and 13 for Coby. 77ppg from their top four offensive skill players. And of course, the Wild Card – Mr. Albert Wilson. Oh, and did I mention that one of the guys we didn’t talk about is TJ Yeldon (the Jacksonville RB who didn’t randomly drive his car into a pond). That means that the Steelers are likely to hit for the century on offense more often than a bollywood cricket movie.
The Steelers defense lacks the same sense of explosive star power, with the exception of LB Alec Ogletree, but did add DeForest Buckner in a draft day steal. He’ll be even more of a steal when he gains the DE eligibility he lacked in the draft and which scared off so many owners, including the still bitter yours truly. Still, the squad has 6 guys projected for double digit points and no true weaknesses, though the secondary could use an upgrade (it’s unclear who Jamar Taylor is and Brad McDougald, Mike Mitchell, and Byron Maxwell form an uninspiring tandem without a lot of depth).
The Steelers do have some depth issues on both sides of the ball, and don’t seem to this humble author to be in quite the same league as the Fighting AJ Greens over in Buffalo, but this team should walk away with yet another AFC North division title. Same as it ever was.
Cleveland Browns (9-7): Wait. What? NOT the same as it ever was.
Yes. Cleveland. Guys. This is important. There is a spiritual change going on in the world today, a spiritual shift that would have been unfathomable in the time of our forefathers. Something shifted in the heavens over the NBA finals, and nothing will ever be the same again. We should be expecting bad football movies to be made on par with “Angels in the Outfield” and epic miracles to occur like sea partings, plagues of boils, and RGIII making good decisions with the football. Well. Actually. That’s going too far, even for angels. Let’s just stick with RGIII not making horrific decisions with the football.
Observe: Le’Bron James actually looked dominant and aggressive. He rejected Steph Curry. He mouthed off. He would have rejected Riley Curry. Don’t mess with a big man who rides a freaking banana boat. He pulled out one of the greatest finals ever to knock off the team with the best record in NBA history and bring a world freaking championship to CLEVELAND.
Observe: The Cleveland Indians lead the American League Central and are moving aggressively, poised for a an AL Championship.
Observe: The Chicago “Billy Goat named Bartman” Cubs are favored in the National League and running away with the Central division.
Observe: The Cleveland Browns didn’t do stupid ($#*& at the draft.
Next: Wars, and rumors of wars. Signs in the sky. Cincinatti getting obliterated by a fiery volcano hurled down from heaven. The dead rising. Get ready.
I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know how to explain it. Some prince found true-love’s-first kiss, hence breaking the curse upon the land. Some prince tried to give an unconscious princess true-love’s first kiss and a pair of muscular swedes beat the tar out of him for being a perverted creep, hence breaking the curse upon the land. Chris Christie WAS and IS the curse upon the whole damn land, but now he’s out campaigning with Trump and so he can’t manifest. I don’t know.
But guys. Cleveland’s viable. Blake Bortles has hisself an offense that’s the real deal. Some folks think he’ll be a top 10 QB. Isaiah Crowell could end up the work-horse stud back in the Browns offense. Michael Crabtree and Mike Evans are joined by Marvin Jones – who has an inside track to serious work now that Calvin Johnson just happened to retire. Coincidence? I think not! The redoubtable Gary Barnidge is a top 10 TE, and as long as they can find a replacement for the fat, suspended, and now released Karlos Williams, that O could be a force.
Now there are questions in the secondary, where both Bene Benwikere and Joe Haden will start the year on the IR, and where the only non-injured CB has under 100 career points. But the linebacking core is solid between Karlos (the in-shape Karlos) Dansby and Manti Te’o and the safety play is excellent.
Look, on paper, this team doesn’t have the horses to get past Pittsburgh. But man. The times they are a’changin’. Remember when the Boston Red Sox were the team of futility? Cleveland man. They might set the Cuyahoga on fire for actually good reasons this year.
Baltimore Ravens (7-9):
And which will thou be, O Baltimore? City of promise? City of peril? City of pain? I guess this is what happens when I have no sleep and no filter. I get biblical.
I don’t really know what to make of Baltimore. Keenan Allen and Amari Cooper are two of the best young wide-receivers in the league. These two guys are loaded for the bear, and should both be uber-productive #1 WRs for a solid decade. It’s a massive built in advantage for the Ravens. One might label them “the Sons of Thunder”, if one were so inclined. Telvin Smith provides a similar young, valuable stud presence on D.
But man there’s a lot of question marks after that – but some question marks are trending in positive directions. Joe Flacco, like LeBron and others who have recently been glorified, never quite gets much love, despite winning a super bowl with no offensive weapons and being able to chuck the football a good 200 cubits at a toss. Will he be exalted? Or will defensive wrath topple him?
Christine “the archangel” Michael is looking like the surprise favorite in Seattle to replace beastmode. Fitting, if you ask me. Terrelle Pryor appears to have been redeemed from his former sins and reborn as a wide receiver – who might actually be a productive one. Ken Dixon looks good in Baltimore by all accounts, and might ascend to the starting job by the end of the year. There are others – Mychal Rivera, Kendall Wright, Andre Ellington, Zach Miller, Eric Redi. Shaq Lawson. Elvis Dumervil. Kevin Dodd. All these guys have the potential to be studs, or at least starters. But mediocrity or worse is also clearly in the cards for each one.
The problem, for me, comes down to the defensive side of the ball. If we’ve learned nothing over the past couple of years, it is this – the offense looks flashy and fantastic – but it’s those double digit consistent defensive scorers that make good teams great and get mediocre teams into the playoffs. I just don’t buy the Ravens defense. The Pass rush is excellent with Cliff Avril, Olivier Vernon, and Dodd and Lawson. But after all the beef up front, the linebacking core and the secondary are underwhelming. Greg Toler, Bradley Roby, Lardarius Webb, and Isa Abdul-Quddus (a proper unpronounceable biblical name right there) will all need to step up their game for this squad to contend. I don’t think it’s enough to get them over the hump this year – even with Allen, Cooper and Smith – and even if some of the question marks turn into lightning in a bottle – but who knows? Perhaps the meek will inherit the earth?
And the fact that I’m referring to the Baltimore Ravens as “meek” shows you perhaps just how much sleep I actually need.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-11): Ok, i’m tired. So I might be missing something. It’s possible. But I can’t see for the life of me how the Cincinnati Bengals are going to score any points. I also can’t figure out how the heck to spell Cincinnati right the first time. I AM the Cincinnati franchise in Ultimate, and I still can’t figure out how to spell the darn city!
Anyway, let’s start with what’s good here – a downright serviceable defense. The Bengals have populated their defense with strong, starter-level guys who play above their skill level in fantasy. Will Compton. Erin Henderson. Patrick Chung. Reggie Nelson. Shawn Williams. And then they are joined by a couple guys who are truly fierce and talented, like Geno Atkins and Cam Heyward. What it means is that this defense should be able to hold its own with most other defenses. The trick is that none of the defenders truly rise to the level of star power – everyone is a 10-pointer, nobody is a 15 pointer, which keeps the D from being truly exceptional. And this team needs an exceptional defense to overcome what is going to be an anemic offense.
Look, the last time someone with flaming red hair got THIS little support was in the Christmas Story when Ralphie beat up Farkus and his toadie weakly tried to pull him off before running screaming to his mother. Andy Dalton is Scott Farkus. That poor guy is about to get beat up by a snot-nosed kid in classes and a pudgy snowsuit because he’s got no. where. to. go. with. the. football. The excitement of who is going to emerge as Dalton’s number one target features such worthies as Crockett Gilmore, Rishard Matthews, Jeremy Kerley, and Theo Riddick. It’s a collection of serviceable role players – the kind of guys who round out the Steelers bench or maybe even get that coveted bye-week replacement start, but should not be starting for a competitive team. Which leads me to the unfortunate conclusion that the Bengals might not be a competitive team this year.
In fact, the Bengals haven’t really been competitive since AJ Green left town…. Perhaps that’s the new curse if the Browns are entering into a fresh season of blessing… Watch out for that fiery mountain, y’all… and if you should flee Cleveland, don’t look back lest ye be turned into a pillar of salt…
Detroit Lions (10-6): The division of champions has fallen on hard times, y’all. Between Green Bay and Detroit, this division has had a pre-season Super Bowl contender (or two) in every season RDFL has been in existence. The first year, they even won the darn thing. The star power (rookie and veteran) has been top of the line, and with the exception of Minnesota’s long and arduous rebuild, this has always been an outstanding division.
It’s a down year, friends. Even in Detroit, where the Lions are the clear favorites, the trend line is sideways at best. Calvin Johnson has ridden off into the sunset, taking with him the Lion’s biggest star and built in day #1 advantage, and the drop-off from Megatron to Phillip “Hot Rod at best. At BEST.” Dorsett is a big one.
The Lions are still going to be a strong team, by far the strongest in the North. Matthew Stafford has not retired, and while he won’t have Megatron to throw to, he’ll still throw. A lot. Some suspect that his numbers will even improve when he isn’t trying to forcefeed CJ in quadruple coverage 11 times a day. With the exception of Dorsett who is merely good, the receiving corps of Tyler Lockett, Brandin Cooks, and Martellus Bennett (in New England, a place that seems to have a good read on how to use a TE) is outstanding. The two-headed monster of Todd Gurley and Ameer Abdullah is one of the best running back tandems in the league. And any defense that is led by Jamie Collins and Mario Williams can’t be bad. With all that, this team isn’t losing to a diminished GB, a not quite over the hump Chicago, or a still 1.5 years and a QB away Minnesota.
That said, to really compete, Detroit needs a lot of question marks to flash. This is the hallmark of the Lions strategy year after year – rely on upside guys to hit. Sometimes it works (Cooks, Lockett, Collins, Abdullah, etc.). Sometimes, it doesn’t (we hear Bishop Sankey is on pace to score his tenth career fantasy point sometime this year!). But it remains the Lions strategy, particularly on defense, where guys like Todd Davis, Kyle Van Noy, Stephon Tuitt, Tre Boston, Nickell Robey, A’Shawn Robinson, and Tyrunn Walker will need to go above and beyond to get Detroit out of the first round of the playoffs.
Chicago Bears (8-8):
Ahh Chicago. The Belgium of RDFL. A timeless land surrounded by rising and falling great powers, never becoming one of those great powers itself, but never being crushed by them either. Simply maintaining decency, and possibly chocolate, while battles for domination pass by its sleepy hamlet.
The Bears wave merrily as Green Bay plummets by it, having fallen off a cliff, exhausted by its quest to maintain NFC dominance. They chuckle in awe and not a little bit of mortification as those crazy Lions ping-pong around them, one week way up, the next week way down, living vicariously through the thrill ride that never touches their tranquil fantasy existence. They salute and watch with intrigue as the long desolate Vikings erupt from the bowels of the earth and soar towards championships, their star ascendant. The world changes around them as teams rise and fall. But for the Bears… life is as it always is. Tomorrow’s tomorrow will be the same as Yesterday’s yesterday. Just as the Shy-towners like it.
Chicago is not like the one who wore pants.
The Bears, as one would suspect, boast a balanced offense and defense. The team is both old (Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Terence Newman, Desmond Bryant, Tamba Hali), and young (Kwon Alexander, Adolphus Washington, Markus Wheaton, DeVante Parker). There is a decent-caliber starting player at almost every single position (except you, Ronnie Hillman – you suck), but besides Kwon (who I always want to call Tron), there is a distinct lack of starpower. Every defensive starter is projected for at least 7 ppg. Only one (the aforementioned Tron) is projected for double digits. On “O”, every player is projected for double digits (except you, Ronnie Hillman – you suck), but only the ageless but name-duplicated Brandon Marshall is projected for a star-level performance.
There are few things we can count on in this crazy game called fantasy football. But for those of you like who like Hondas, the Bears are your team. Brandon Marshall will be great. Ronnie Hillman will suck. And the Bears will finish around .500. Tomorrow is as Yesterday, passing on into time immemorial…
Minnesota Vikings (6-10):
There’s a fantastic scene towards the end of Naked Gun where the villain is deservedly run over by a steamroller. In the scene, the villain turns and sees the steam roller coming from about 100 yards away, moving impossibly slowly, slower than a sleeping sloth can crawl. I mean, moving Peyton-Manning-avoiding-the-rush slow. The villain has more than enough time to step out of the way. Heck, he could make it to Fiji on a stage coach by the time the steamroller gets to his location. But he doesn’t. He just screams in terror for about 30 seconds, occasionally refilling his breath to continue screaming, before being eventually crushed by the steamroller.
In our analogy, the Minnesota Vikings are the steamroller, the rest of the league is the villain. Minnesota has been rebuilding since the Dawn of Time. The Vikings long-term strategy was firmly in place when the first dynasties rose in ancient China. Hell, the only major setback the rebuild has experienced was when that damn meteor took out the dinosaurs and eliminated some nicely developing draft picks. Dude, they had this Stegosaurus on defense who could GET TO the quarterback. I mean, that tail was CRAZY!
Finally, though, finally the team appears to be on the upswing. Pick after pick after top half of the first round pick has been sunk into this team, filling it with more talent than anybody this side of Buffalo. And now that talent is starting to grow…
It’s starts with the wide-outs: Dorial Green Beckham, Allen Robinson, Nelson Agholor, Tyler Boyd, and Laquon Treadwell could be scary good together. Jace Amaro and Kyle Rudolph are solid at TE. Derrick Henry and Devontae Booker are chomping at the bit to replace Alfred Blue. All they lack is a good quarterback and one more year of development…
On defense, the embarrassment of riches is the same – Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, Myles Jack, Vic Beasley, Harrison Smith, Marcus Peters, Jonathan Bostic, Vinny Curry – the young riches are outstanding. And the Vikings have six more selections in the first two rounds of the 2017 draft to add to the embarrassment of riches.
They aren’t there yet. They lack just a little more maturity. And a quarterback. But they are coming. Inevitably. Inexorably. Invincibly. And there’s very little the rest of the league can do to stop them. Fantasy Football hasn’t looked this exciting and promising in Minnesota since the late Cretaceous.
The question now becomes what happens first – do the Vikings find a quarterback? Or does another extinction level event render such questions moot? That apocalypse in Ohio seems very concerning right about now…
Green Bay Packers (6-10):
Keeping to the ancient dynasties and timeless civilizations theme, it is always painful when dynasties fall. Usually, the ruling power oppresses and dominates its neighbors, enslaving them and crushing them into the dust with a tyrannical hand. Decay, corruption, and complacency sets in. The empire decays from the inside. It clamps down harder, trading away youth for veterans to desperately hang on to its dominant place in society. Until, finally, the rebellion is too strong and too violent, the infrastructure too strained to withstand. The empire falls. Chaos reigns. And like in the French Revolution, the Persian overthrow of the Babylonians, and the ejection of colonial powers from Africa – it does not go well for the ousted tyrants.
Such is the place that the Green Bay Packers find themselves in 2016.
Oh it was a glorious heyday. A Super Bowl. Division Championships. Constant contention. Constant relevance. The golden years of the Green Bay Packers will go down in history. But, all things (except maybe Chicago and/or the curse of AJ Green) must end. And Green Bay must now chart a new and humbler course – with a new and humbler roster.
It’s not that the Packers don’t still have good players – they clearly do with the likes of Tom Brady, Lamar Miller, TY Hilton, and Morgan Burnett – it’s just that they don’t have nearly as many, the ones they do have are stars, not super-stars, and the one super-star they do have is suspended for the first EIGHT games of the real deal season – yep, that’s what makes 4 game suspensions hurt quite a bit more in RDFL than they do in real life.
Beyond that, it’s a major step down to role players like Knile Davis and Dwayne Harris. While other teams like Minnesota and Detroit re-load with power-house rookies, Green Bay’s roster is replete with fossils like Andre Johnson, Vernon Davis, and Marshawn Lynch, memories of a bygone era that has sadly passed us by.
The trend is less palpable on the defensive side, where Aldon Smith could provide a notable boost to the team’s prospects. No, here the issue isn’t age so much as lack of depth. Green Bay currently has only twelve players on defense, and only one is projected for double digits – Morgan Burnett at 10.75. I believe a couple of these players could be better than advertised, but it still projects to be a long season for the Pack. And with only a 5th round draft pick next year, the Packers could face a long and daunting rebuild. Probably not as long as Minnesota’s… But long.
And we’re back to preview the South and the West with T-4 days until the start of the regular season. Rest assured that I’ll have the North and the East up before the season starts. I’ve been delayed by trying to secure a kicker and agonizing about my safety situation. Seriously? Cutting Brandian Ross? Y’all is still NUTS, Oakland!
I really don’t like writing about the AFC South. There’s some sort of foggy haze that hangs around the AFC South that makes my predictions even more wrong than usual (and that’s saying something!). Last year, I confidently predicted that the Houston Texans would cruise through the AFC on the way to a Super Bowl Championship. Instead, they finished 6-10, missed the playoffs and lost their owner.
I also predicted a 7-9 finish for the eventual AFC Champions, and wrote the following:
On the flip side of the ball, though, Indy has some question marks. Free agent signings have threatened the playing time of some core franchise veterans, and secondary playmaker Louis Delmas has already had run-ins with his dear friend the injury bug.
Still, if the Colts can bolster their defense, they have the offensive horses (get it? Haha. Horses. Colts. Because a colt is a horse. See? Yeah, I crack myself up…) to compete for a playoff spot.
Bad jokes aside (yeah, those aren’t going away), not only did I completely miss on the Colts overall talent level, I completely missed on the strength of their team. The Colts Offense was only 16th in the league, while the Defense recorded a top 10 finish over the second half of the year and throughout the playoff run.
This year, I once again struggle with where and how to rank GM Richard Griffith’s squad. On the plus side, the Defense returns intact and even better than last year’s playoff unit. The offensive line is scary good, anchored by Patriots Nose Tackle Chris Jones and featuring strong scoring ends Brian Robison and LaMarr Woodley. The linebacking core is full of proven studs, featuring Jerrell Freeman, Brian Orakpo, and the emerging Jason Worilds, as well as the always polarizing Trent Cole. Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard form a high-pedigree, all-rookie cornerback core that should, for all their youth, improve on last year’s CB group. And Louis Delmas and Antoine Bethea are both secure starters who, while not the strength of the defense, should be serviceable. There are no holes on this unit.
How can I question the defending AFC Champion with a defense that solid?
Well, the Offense has taken a step back. Andrew Luck is still the ridiculously talented young Quarterback, lying in wait to seize the “Best QB in football” title from Peyton Manning, and both Reggie Wayne and Julian Edelman should have nice seasons. Beyond that, though, questions abound. Ahmad Bradshaw may or may not have a starting role in Indy, depending on how things go with the biggest bust that everybody still loves, Trent Richardson. Kellen Davis just got hisself cut, leaving Troy Niklas as the starting TE – a nice rookie, but certainly unlikely to take the league by storm. Jarius Wright remains stuck as a WR4 in Minnesota, and Kyle Jusczyk is both a fullback, and, judging by his name, an Alien.
End of the day, I think that the Colts use that defense and a little Luck to defend their title in a weak division. But with the offensive questions on this squad, it’s no sure thing.
Owner: David White
2013 Record: 6-10
RDR 2014 Projection: 9-7
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… well, I endure enough shame from poor predictions that a little more won’t bother me. Yes, I like the Texans again. Like them enough that I predict they pick up the second AFC wild card and give Indy a run for their money at the top of the division.
Why? Because last year’s Texans weren’t as bad as they appeared. They faced the 5th hardest strength of schedule in the entire league, and scored under 100 points less than the Colts throughout the full season, a difference of only about 5 points per game. Also relevant, the Texans can expect a bounce-back year from Matt Schaub (and/or Derek Carr) and Arian Foster (assuming he stays healthy). The Texans can also expect more production from the bottom of their roster, as Falcons Giant Levine Toilolo should become productive, as should rookie RB Carlos Hyde.
On defense, the Texans get Brian Cushing back, and should have a defense that can rival Indy’s, as Cushing joins the best defensive player in football (JJ Watt) and newcomers with real chances to impress, such as Henry Melton (the savior of Soldier Field), Bjoern Werner (He who replaces Robert Mathis), and Whitney Mercilus (He of the best name in Linebacking). The Cornerback group is already solid and should be even better than last year, as Jonathan Cyprien and Desmond Trufant get a year older and a year better, joining established studs Johnathan Joseph and Earl Thomas.
Are there question marks for this team? Absolutely. The injury bug bit hard last year, and it could bite again this year. The Texans youngsters on both sides of the ball might not take the necessary steps forward, and there are guys on the defense (Jameel McClain, Ziggy Hood, and even Melton and Werner) who could play themselves out of a job by seasons end.
But I still like this team (and their schedule!) enough to predict a nine win season and a wild card birth, even simply on regression to the mean.
Owner: Zach Goad
2013 Record: 9-7
RDR 2014 Projection: 6-10
One of a handful of teams to miss the playoffs on a tie-breaker in the AFC’s 9-7 logjam of mediocrity (Great album title, no?), I unfortunately think the Jaguars are going the wrong direction after a surprisingly competitive 2013 campaign.
The AFC South is a division predicated on smashmouth, hard-nosed defensive football, much like the classic NFC Norris in its hey-day. That’s the “glass half-full” way of looking at it. The other way to look at it would be that most of these teams are not going to be able to find their way to the endzone with a GPS, three seeing-eye dogs, and a Crossing Guard. And that’s assuming they start from the extra point line.
Jacksonville’s Defense is, like the rest of the division, solid. Paul Posluznsky and Mason Foster provide an outstanding anchor in the heart of the defense, and should make approximately 2,892 tackles apiece. The secondary should be outstanding as the Jaguars follow the divisional blueprint: Established safeties (Kenny Vaccaro and Michael Griffin) along with rising young rookies at CB (David Amerson, Xavier Rhodes, Dwayne Gratz). The defensive line is serviceable, if unspectacular, and the Jaguars should field a competitive defense.
The offense, however, also follows the defensive blueprint – which appears to be for a ramshackle hut with an
outhouse. Indianapolis is the only team in this division with a truly strong Quarterback situation (not a small factor in my title prediction). The rest of the division is relying on youngsters who have yet to really prove they can hang (Locker in Tennessee, Carr in Houston, and EJ Manuel right here). The hype for Manuel, his mobility, and his big arm is high, but results last year were mixed. The sophomore QB has looked terrible in the pre-season, and Sammy Watkins has shown a surprising affinity for the trainer’s room, making EJ Manuel a substantial question mark for the Jags. Beyond EJ, it’s more of the same. MJD appears to have successfully fought off DMC for the starting acronym role in Oakland – and laid claim to the glorious privilege of averaging 2.4 yards per carry. Miles Austin is the best thing in Cleveland (an indictment of Cleveland more than an endorsement of Austin). And Jordan Todman and Brandon Tate will struggle for playing team and touches on their respective squads.
Could this team over-perform? Absolutely. IF the light comes on for EJ Manuel. IF Gronk actually stays healthy. IF Austin, Malcolm Floyd, and MJD discover the fountain of youth during a fishing expedition to Peru. IF Cecil Shorts has another solid year and doesn’t suddenly realize he plays for Jacksonville. There’s certainly talent here. But I just can’t see enough of these things happening to put Jacksonville back into the playoffs.
Owner: Bryan Luhrs
2013 Record: 4-12
RDR 2014 Projection: 4-12
You know those high school engineering competitions where promising young nerds build cars and boats and ovens and girlfriends from spare parts? Some unfortunate sponsor lugs random bits of metal, super glue and arts and crafts supplies to the center of a schol cafeteria, and each group tries to duct tape, sauter, and otherwise build something functional from the supplies? It’s super-impressive. A triumph of human ingenuity. But the cars made from such pieces, while impressive, only compete with really terrible cars – Geos, Ugos, Chevys and the like. They don’t really stand a chance on the NASCAR circuit.
I feel like that when I look at Commish Bryan Luhrs’ squad. This team is an actual, functional fantasy football squad, cobbled together from the craziest collection of spare parts this side of Memphis. It runs. It plays. It even has a microwave built into its torso. It will even win some games and give some of its scarier NFC opponents a run for their money. But when it comes to actually competing for a title, or even a playoff spot, it just won’t go. An engine made of duct tape and Gilberry just won’t compete with Denver’s V-36.
Defensively, I’m not even sure who to call out. You’ve got Duct Tape (Charles Johnson and Zach Brown), Poles (Jason McCourty and Nico Johnson), PVC Pipe (Silvester Williams, Brad Jones), some sort of odd adhesive chemical (Nick Fairley, Wallace Gilberry), and a few genuinely useful pieces like LaRon Landry, David Hawthorne, and Stephon Gilmore. And a whole bunch of spare parts that can’t really fit into the machine (Darius Slay, Kam Wimbley, Jared Crick, etc and so forth). It’s a defense that should be surprisingly functional. But probably can’t keep pace with the rock-solid squads in the rest of the division.
Offensively, my comparison breaks down. The Titans will run out Jake Locker at QB, throwing to the ultimate spare part, Kenny Britt. However, after that, I’ll choose a different analogy – making wine. Or smelly cheese. Young players Jeremy Hill, Justin Hunter, Ladarius Green, Andre Williams, Dwayne Allen, and Odell Beckham Jr. are all poised to be excellent players, but aren’t there yet. And therein lies the brilliance of Luhr’s plan.
2014 Offense (Bleh): Locker, Hill, Hunter, Green, Williams, Allen, Britt
2016 Offense (World-beating): Bortles, Hill, Hunter, Green, Williams, Allen, Beckham
Those sly Titans! All they have to do is run that team out there game after game, let it age like a stinky cheese, and they
will be good! Add a few defensive parts with high draft picks… and this team might be a Terminator class robot with a confection oven in its stomach and a gourmet cheese platter.
Owner: Stuart Seraphim
2013 Record: 12-4 (Lost AFC Championship Game)
RDR 2014 Projection: 13-3
Last year, there was the NFC. And then not really much else. The one exception was the Denver Broncos, who exploded out of the gate with a 300 point week one, and rode the arm of Peyton Manning to an easy division title, before being upset by the Colts in the AFC Championship game.
I don’t think anyone quite appreciates how much better than the rest of the AFC Denver was last year. Denver scored the 3rd most points in the league last year, with 3331. The next closest AFC team was Miami, at #10, with 2868. Indianapolis, the team that knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs and took the AFC title, was #13, with 2769. And Kansas City, the closest team to the Broncos within their division, was 14th with 2746. The Broncos won their division by nearly 600 points, which translates out to almost 40 points per game. They were the best team in their CONFERENCE by almost 30 points per game. That’s dominance. In last year’s AFC, there was Denver. Then there was a long, awkward wait, during which you could go to the concession stand, use the bathroom, and cancel your Comcast subscription. And then there was everybody else.
The rest of the league has narrowed the gap a bit, the Broncos did tail off in the second half a bit, and it is unlikely that the Broncos offense will have a season quite so spectacular. But it was such a wide gap that I see no way the Broncos don’t cruise to another division title and first round bye. They have to be considered the heavy favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Let’s take a look at the this team. The immortal Godfather of passing glory, Peyton Manning, captains a team that includes Wide-outs Anquan Boldin (PPR monster), Wes Welker (PPR monster when not concussed), Demaryius Thomas (monster in any setting), and Jeremy Ross (Kick returner. He’s cuddly. A Monsters Inc. kinda monster). Even scarier, the Broncos should be much better at both RB and TE. At RB, Montee Ball should be a certifiable top ten running back this year in PPR. Knowshown Moreno scored a bajillion fantasy points in this offense last year, and Montee (shouldn’t it be Monte? My French lessons suggest that Montee is the feminine form) Ball is much better than Moreno. At TE, the completely mortal Benji Watson will be replaced by either John Carlson or Brandon Bostick, both of whom will be better.
On Defense, however, the Broncos did experience some significant turn-over and were heavy players in free agency, signing EIGHT guys to OFF-FA contracts, including three defensive linemen and three linebackers. As might be expected, all of these guys are talented, but many also have question marks. On the veteran side, Vince Wilfork looks good, but he’s returning from a very challenging injury – will he hold up all year? John Abraham could also carve out a starting role, but is facing a suspension at some point in the season for substance abuse. Malik Jackson and Steven Means are both talented young ends, but both fit the “situational” role more than the starting role, and will need to notch power stats like sacks to really fill up the stat sheet. Calvin Pace and Matt Shaughnessy are also high upside guys and legitimate star power – but it’s fair to wonder if both will truly have a breakout year this year. The Broncos are also waiting for starters Chris Harris and Jon Beason to return from injury.
So let’s recap. The Broncos destroyed the AFC last year. They looked like the Miami Heat of Real Deal, but without an Indiana Pacers to challenge them. The offense looks even better on paper, though a regression to the mean from guys like Peyton and Demaryius should keep it about where it was last year. The defense is full of upside, but with many question marks.
All told, I don’t think this team is quite as good as it was last year, and I think that several other AFC squads are close enough to threaten (Buffalo, Cincinnati and Indianapolis all come to mind as strong threats) – but the schedule is even easier this year than it was last year, and I say that this is the year the Broncos get to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs
Owner: Eric Duncan
2013 Record: 9-7 (Lost AFC Wild Card Game)
RDR 2014 Projection: 9-7
Say what you will about the Chiefs – they are tireless and relentless in their insatiable pursuit of mediocrity. Pulling off a startlingly silly 27 trades since the conclusion of last season, the Chiefs have nearly turned over their entire roster – Alex Smith is the only offensive player who was on the Chiefs roster exactly 1 year ago, and only 6 players on defense were on the roster a year ago. That means that out of 32 active slots, 24 of them have been turned over since the beginning of last year (can’t forget the Punter!)
So what does obsessive and uber-handsome GM Eric Duncan have to show for his efforts? Has his team actually improved in this massive overhaul? The answer appears to be no. Last year’s good luck squad squeaked into the playoffs by dint of an incredibly easy schedule and a few lucky breaks. This year’s version should be better, but the schedule should be much harder. Combined, this means that the Chiefs are looking at the same record and same situation as last year – a Wild Card berth.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Chiefs are relying heavily on return yards, with Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin and Jacoby Jones penciled in as offensive starters, and Travaris Cadet functioning as a key reserve. Giovani Bernard should be a top 10 back, particularly in this scoring system, and if Cardinals WR Michael Floyd can truly break-out across from Larry Fitzgerald, this offense could put up some points. The biggest upgrade is at Tight End, where the inept Fred Davis (It is NOT good to be Fred in Brazil, or anywhere else) is replaced by a pair of Air Jordans – Reed and Cameron.
On Defense, the Chiefs are a bit more stable, with six starting spots taken by players on franchise contracts. Everson
Griffen and Dontario Poe anchor a decent line, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and D’Qwell Jackson form a formidable line-backing core, and Eric Berry and Bernard Pollard team up to make a nice franchise safety tandem. Potential holes exist at Defensive End and in the secondary, however, where KC’s depth has been threatened by Dmitri Patterson, who disappeared for 48 hours to save the world from Kyle Juczczyk, only be castigated and cut by a guy with a foot fetish. It’s a cruel, cruel world.
All told, this team is better than last year, and is loaded with potential breakout players. However, almost every player comes with real question marks, and this team also has the potential to be extremely mediocre. Combined with a much tougher schedule, this team should make the playoffs, but doesn’t have much shot at dethroning the Broncos.
San Diego Chargers
Owner: P. Ackerman
2013 Record: 7-9
RDR 2014 Projection: 6-10
The San Diego Chargers are a team of solid players who have the misfortune to play in a division with Denver. From top to bottom, the word that best describes this team is “decent”. No glaring holes. But very few explosive players. Good enough to be competitive, but probably not good enough to win, even in a watered down AFC.
On offense, Phillip Rivers is a decent quarterback – the closest thing to a star the Chargers have. Ryan Matthews was supposed to be a star – but instead is decent. Antonio Gates once was a star – now he’s only decent. Jacquizz Rodgers and James Jones are the very definition of decent, and even Jermaine Kearse is decent as a seventh man. The one guy I’m having a hard time figuring out is Darrius Heyward-Bey – who was expected to be a star and was never even decent. He doesn’t quite fit the mold. This team is decent from top to bottom – every starter besides Heyward-Bey should get double digit points per game this year. But I’m not sure there’s anyone on this team who gets 20.
On defense, the same story holds true, with the notable exception of linebacker. Corey Liuget, Domata Peko and Shaun Phillips form a decent offensive line, and Nolan Carroll and Robert Mclain (the more motivated and less retirement-prone version of Rolando) should form a nice core secondary along with Eric Weddle, the defensive captain and the only guy on the entire team who is truly far better than mediocre. The second safety spot is likely to be filled by Jets up-and-comer Calvin Pryor, and if he is who Rex thinks he can be, the secondary could be a very strong suit for the Chargers.
That said, the linebacking core is a mess for the Chargers right now. Kevin Burnett was waived in a recent surprise move, which leaves Donald Butler and Jarvis Jones as the only Linebackers on the roster. San Diego, meet Atlanta and Arizona. Atlanta and Arizona, meet San Diego. Y’all should talk. The recent waiving of Alan Branch further hurts the depth of the team, as it means that another DT/LB spot that will need to be filled by a rookie lineman.
This year’s Chargers squad has only one glaring hole. But it also mostly consists of replacement level players. It won’t be as bad in the AFC as it would be in the NFC – but I don’t think those games against the Broncos star-power are going to be much fun.
Owner: Nick Tomanelli
2013 Record: 5-11
RDR 2014 Projection: 6-10
One might read this projected record and assume that the Raiders had not gotten any better. Nothing could be further from the truth – it’s just that this improvement may not show up in the Wins column for another year. Make no mistake though – this team is better. And it is poised to be a serious contender in 2015.
It’s on offense that the big names really jump out at you, and where the Raiders will look to make their biggest jump. Carson Palmer should provide real points at an affordable price on offense, as the Raiders won the off-season Free Agency sweepstakes. Hakeem Nicks should also have a real role and a chance to score some serious points. It’s in the future that this receiving core should really shine, though.
2014 starters: Carson Palmer, Eddie Lacy, Nate Burleson, Hakeem Nicks, Tyler Eifert, Jordan Mathews, Andre Holmes. First guy of the bench De’Anthony Thomas.
2015 projected starters: Carson Palmer (same), Eddie Lacy (even better than 2014), Josh Gordon (back from suspension), Hakeem Nicks, Tyler Eifert (even better than 2014), Jordan Mathews (better), Andre Holmes (better). And De’Anthony Thomas (better).
This team may struggle a bit as guys get accustomed to roles in 2014. By 2015, the Raiders should be an offensive machine. And we haven’t even said anything about Practice Squad stash Davante Adams.
On defense, this team has some very nice playmakers in Charles Woodson, Nick Roach, and Paul Worrilow, but may struggle outside of the top guys. Lamarr Houston is a nice player, but isn’t worth his contract, and Rey Maualuga and Pat Sims are semi-nice players who play football. The rest of the defense, like the offense, consists of guys looking for their big break or guys looking to produce in their first or second year as a starter – Damontre Moore, Jonathan Hankins, Corey Wootton, Tyvon Branch and Melvin While all fall into these categories. Should these guys find their stride, this Oakland defense could look a lot better by the end of the year than by the beginning.
Oakland GM Nick Tomanelli appears to have his run perfectly timed… He’ll give Manning, Welker, and the Denver oldsters another year or two – but when the sun sets on their empire, he’ll have one of his own to raise.
Back soon with the final two divisions and my playoff picks – in the meantime, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know below!
And it’s done. All done. Just like that. And I’ve never had a rookie draft pick. Ever. I’ve now had two years running where I’ve traded away all my rookie draft picks.
It’s not because I don’t value the draft. I think the draft is absolutely the best way to build a strong, cost-controlled team that can be truly outstanding. But like the Apostle Paul, that which I want to do (keep my draft picks) I do not do and that which I do not want to do (trade them all away), that I do. What a wretched man I am!
Some of the rest of you were not wretched men. You fought the good fight. You did your research. You spent hours studying guys most of the universe has never heard of. Many of those will never be heard from again, languishing on benches or practice squads until they are eventually ignominiously cut to take jobs as office stiffs, recreation directors, drug dealers, motivational speakers, or, worst of all, television commentators.
But some will make it. Some will make it BIG. Most won’t make it big immediately – but the potential for excellent players exists. And those will be the types of players who make a good team great.
2013 4th Rounders Poised to Make Noise: Ace Sanders, Levine Toilolo, Darius Slay, Marquess Wilson, William Gholston, Mychal Rivera, Chris Thompson, Earl Wolff
2013 5th Rounders Poised to Make Noise: Brandon Williams, Joseph Fauria, Johnathan Hankins… errr… well, ok, last years 5th rounders pretty much sucked. But there was some real talent to be had in that fourth round class!
How about this year? What are my “Best Picks – Dregs of the Draft Edition?” Well, I’m so glad you asked…
Dezmen Southward, NYG – As last year’s picks have shown us, the late rounds are places to find good draft and stash picks. They aren’t guys likely to play huge roles immediately, but there’s plenty of developmental talent to be had. Southward is one such guy. He’s raw, but he’s toolsy. He’s a physical beast with a lot of athleticism and a path to playing time down the road. Nice stash on what could be a nice starting safety down the road.
Prince Shembo & Ego Ferguson, Detroit – So that thing I just said about you don’t draft starters in the 4th round? I stand behind it. There’s NO WAY you should be able to draft starters in the 4th round. But Detroit just drafted starters in the 4th round. Prince wasn’t meant to be a starter – he was meant to be a good defensive prospect with some time to develop between the Falcons regulars. But then Sean Weatherspoon went down and now Prince Shembo might have a series shot at tackles from day #1. It’s not unheard of for a rookie Falcons LB to put up nice points replacing an injured Sean Weatherspoon – Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow got their start doing just that.
Ego hasn’t had an injury open the way for him – his size might do that on his own. And the fact that he’s playing for a Bears defense that resembled soggy paper towels last year. And not the branded paper towels in the commercials that pick up water without tearing – the cheap generic competitor versions that shred into little sticky annoying pieces at the slightest touch. The line was terrible. Ego is both massive and skilled. Rumors place him as a favorite to get an early down role early. I think his talent and opportunity are such that he’s a three down starter halfway through the year.
Massive steals here by the Lions, and I think the two best picks of the dregs.
Will Clarke, Baltimore – LOVED this pick by Baltimore. LOVED it. Look, the Bengals defense is not the best place for a Defensive End to start right away. It’s crowded with talented young guys – and it’s noteworthy that even a talent like Margus Hunt couldn’t crack the starting line-up last year. So I can see why he fell. But this is an outstanding, attacking defense, Will Clarke has outstanding, attacking talent, and Michael Johnson is gone, making one less competitor. Clarke won’t start right away. But when he does, he’ll be a stud.
By the way, a fantasy lesson – I can’t help but wonder if Will Clarke’s boring name is what made him fall. If his name had been, say, “D’Thurmond” or “Horatio Big Canoe”, I bet he goes 3rd round where he should have. Never overlook the guys with boring names. As a guy named “Eric Duncan”, I don’t at all say this with any sort of chip on my shoulder. I have nothing to prove. Nothing at all. YOU BASTARDS! YOU’LL PAY FOR PICKING ME LAST! I’LL SHOW YOU! YOU’LL SEE!
Ahem. Regardless, great pick by Baltimore.
Anthony Hitchens, Philadelphia – The buzz has dimmed a little bit on Hitchens, who was one of the first guys everybody thought might replace Sean Lee in Dallas. It’s increasingly looking like it’s going to be Justin Durant (sadly, not Kevin Durant – the Cowboys could use the Slim Reaper to get bigger and tougher on that linebacking core), but Hitchens should still have an opportunity. Now that Cowboys defense makes Chicago’s look positively stout. It’s a defense only a mother could love. And she’d love it because she’d tear off 50 yard TD runs against it every freaking night. That means it will be on the field a lot and many tackles will get past the line to the LBs. So even if Hitchens doesn’t start, he should be on the field a lot and absolutely contribute.
Timmy Jernigan, Oakland – Love this pick too. He’ll play with Haloti Ngata in Baltimore and learn from one of the best, before eventually replacing him. While he may not be an immediate impact guy, and may find his way to playing time marginal for a while, I really like the talent level, especially with one of the last picks of the fourth round. Absolute value pick steal by Oakland here.
Kevin Pierre-Louis, Minnesota – Another value pick draft and stash here, Pierre-Louis is not going to play much right off the bat on a stacked Seattle squad. But he will have time to learn and develop on a massively talented defensive squad, and I think he’s a guy with a lot of potential once his chance comes. Plus, the Seahawks brass have made an absolute art form of later picks turning into super stars – over time, I think this could be that.
Bernard Reedy, New England – It’s hard to get an offensive player with decent potential late in the draft. The last offensive player on my board of much value was Robert Herron, who Green Bay snared late in the third round in what I thought was the best third round pick I didn’t cover because it happened between when I finished my blog post on the third round and now. But I like the Bernard Reedy pick here as a developmental player. He’ll be nothing more than a fringe wide-out for the first couple years, but with aging, injuries, and attrition, I think Reedy has as much future potential as you can ask of an offensive player in the 5th round.
Caraun Reid, Detroit, and Jay Bromley, Cleveland – Back to back DTs with potential and a future. Like these picks, and think they both pay off down the line, very much like Jonathan Hankins, another 5th round pick poised to start and having a very strong year.
Overall, an impressive draft by all involved – congratulations on completing in less than ten days!
Coming up next on the Real Deal Report will be my official season preview, where I’ll take my best shot at previewing the season and predicting records and finishes for all 32 teams. Expect to see those roll out division by division during the month of August. Since I hit the AFC first last year, I’ll hit the NFC first this year, and culminate with power rankings and playoff predictions just before the season starts.
Only six weeks until football, my friends! Can’t wait!
Sunday July 20th, it better not take me until almost midnight to write this, because right now it’s 5:37, and I do not want to be writing about the third round of a fantasy draft for 6 and a half hours.
Round three. Fight!
This is what I selected as the introductory phrase for round three’s entry. Other titles I discarded were:
– Three’s a crowd of good picks
– First is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with all the good picks
– Three picks for the elven pricks, under the sky
– This is DRAFT ROOM, not living room! You come. You pick. You go home. You no stay for four hour!
– When auto-pick attacks
You’ll see two themes emerging. The second one is that good picks abounded in the third round. Just an outstanding round of drafting, with a lot of guys who I think we’re going to see emerge if not this year, at least next year and into 2016. Strong work everyone.
Without further ado, my favorite picks and themes from round #3 (so far).
– San Francisco Wins! Finish him. – What a round for the 49ers, who turned three third round picks into a pair of second round defensive talents in Inside Linebacker Preston Brown and Defensive End Scott Crichton, and a possible contributing running back in James White. The defensive guys were both way up my draft board, and San Francisco snared them both.
Why do I like them? Well, there was this guy named Kiko. He had a delivery service, flew around on a broom, had enormous eyes, and made 87 tackles a game as a middle linebacker. His ACLs were severed in the off-season by a maniacal samurai with blue hair, and the Bills are looking for a replacement. His name? Preston Brown – who is also described by rotoworld as a “downhill, thumping, tackle machine.” Starting middle linebacker in the 3rd round who is a thumping tackle machine? That’ll do.
And Scott Crichton. Let’s do a check-list. Mike Zimmer defense? Check. Clear path to playing time? Check. Defensive end eligibility? Check. Likely to play in both base packages and nickel packages? Check. Actually still looks tough while wearing orange? Check. Spectacular drafting by San Francisco here.
James White – If you google James White, you get a football player, a basketball player, and a theologian. Which leads me to so many joke possibilities – “A football player, a basketball player, and a theologian walk into a bar…” But for White himself, the path to playing time is clear. He has skills, and Stevan Ridley is 2-3 fumbles away from living the rest of his unfortunate existence chained to a wall in Bill Belichick’s dungeon of horrors. Shane Vereen only plays on third downs. It’s part of his contract. So while a Bill Belichick back is probably one of the most frustrating creatures to own in all of fantasy, a starting RB is not – and a starting back James White may be. And if not… well, the ministry awaits.
– Josh Huff, St. Louis – I might be in the minority, but I love this pick. The Eagles have a lot of weapons, so I don’t see him getting a lot of playing time right out of the gate. But he’s a playmaker who will likely steal the Eagles returner gig at some point, and he’s the cream of the remaining WR crop. Great value pick for a future-focused squad. And the NFL adds this gem in his draft profile – “Could require emotional support and professional mentorship in order to avoid the pitfalls of NFL trappings.” Hey Detroit… got a job for you…
Lorenzo Taliaferro, Atlanta – The hype on this kid was high after the draft… possible replacement for Ray Rice… and then he got drunk in public and damaged property. And all the hype went away. But let’s remember the NFL’s scale of conduct evaluation:
WORST OFFENSE POSSIBLE: Smoke Marijuana more than once – lifetime ban, solitary confinement, and forced to either date Taylor Swift, do Money Tree commercials, or, for really horrible offenses, work with Chris Berman.
ONLY OTHER MORTAL SIN: Publicly criticize Roger Goodell in any way, and then make a tackle. Punishment is hundreds of thousands in fines.
MODERATE OFFENSE: Drag your wife into the elevator by her hair, beat her up, and then halfway blame her for it in a forced apology. 4-8 games.
MINOR OFFENSE: Get caught in a car with $30,000 cash and illegal mind altering substances. No punishment warranted.
C’mon people. Public drunkenness and destruction of property is EXPECTED of NFL players. If you can break stuff, you can break tackles. This just means that he’s probably ahead of Bernard Pierce in the race to replace the Rice Rocket. Good grab by Atlanta – he would have gone much higher if his hype machine hadn’t been derailed.
Dee Ford, Cincinnati and Darqueze Dennard, Indy – I’m not enormously high on either player compared to some others – but here’s what I like: first round NFL talents that fell to the right place. Dee Ford is a cheap DE who may see serious sacks, especially if Justin Houston’s hold-out continues, and will eventually replace some of Tamba Hali’s pressure production. And I don’t scorn Darqueze as much as I do other Cornerbacks, for two reasons – first, because he has a bad-ass name, which mitigates his shameful Corner-backery. And because he’s a first round talent taken in the third round. If you’re going to invest a pick in a CB, this is how to do it.
Speaking of guys with cool names:
– Ra’Shede Hageman – Love his name. Love his talent. Love his landing spot. He’ll play a little this year. He’ll play a lot in the future. Hageman is the type of guy Detroit loves – and the type of guy who I think the rest of us will come to hate in 2015 and 2016.
– Carolina Panthers – I talked about this in the draft room, but the Panthers draft this year has been masterful – for all the same reasons as San Francisco’s. Kony Ealy and DeMarcus Lawrence mean that the Panthers have their end positions secured for years at a very low price – one might say that both their cheeks are covered. And I love Gaffney as a stash. He’s got skills, and while the Panthers backfield has been one of the most frustrating in Fantasy Football for years, there’s a good chance that both Jonathan Stewart and De’Angelo Williams will skip town about the same time – leaving a plum role for Gaffney. Great job by the Panthers to quietly stock up good players at choice positions.
– Alfred Blue, New England – Arian Foster is like an iphone without a case. He’s schnazzy and fun and you can do all sorts of pass play and running play apps with him, and he goes on social media and probably has an instagram account full of MRI results and he’s just so damn much fun for a fantasy owner to play with. But inevitably, you drop him. And even if you drop him on a floor made entirely of baby bottoms and feathers (think Detroit’s living room), somehow he hits at just the wrong angle and shatters and you can’t use him for like 9 weeks until Apple sends you a new one. When that happens, Alfred Blue only needs to beat out Andre Brown to be like a droid – the iphone’s crappy backup.
Full disclosure: I have a droid. I know of what I speak.
– Chicago Bears – sometimes we get so concerned about sex appeal, that we forget to just draft solid guys. Chicago didn’t. Without drama, he grabbed Chris Borland, a nice ILB, and Terrance Brooks, the safety Baltimore hopes to eventually pair with Matt Elam, and a big interception threat. This pair aren’t going to win rookie of the year awards. But they will help Chicago win, and I give the Bears a big fat A for the round.
– Jared Abbrederis, New York Jets – So Jeff Janis and Jarret Boykin are the two backup Packer wide-outs likely to win a starting role. But it’s been Abbrederis who has stood out at camp. You know who Aaron Rodgers throws to? The guys he LIKES. And right now, I think Abbrederis has as good a chance as anybody at being one of those GB receivers of the future. If so, late in the third of a rookie draft is a great snag.
Alright – not even seven yet, and I’ve drank coffee, taken care of business, checked my emails, and contemplated the universe while writing this.
Tomorrow… hopefully… the piece you’ve all been waiting for – Why DMC is going to break out this year, and why you should all trade me some of these picks for him.
Happy Sunday night!
Friday July 18th, almost midnight
When last we left our heros, it was Wednesday evening and we had just seen the likes of Jeremy Hill and DeMarcus Lawrence come off the board late in the first round. Less than 48 hours later, we find ourselves in round three.
This is where the draft happens. This is where the men are separated from the boys. Round 1 is the big names – the guys who are plastered on magazines and who even your grandma could draft. By the time you hit rounds 4 and 5, most guys are down to “Yeah, that name sounds familiar. I feel like I read a few weeks ago that a position coach mentioned that they were “excited” about this guy once and that he has a 35% chance of making the roster. What a sleeper. I’m taking that guy!”
But this – this is the place where skill and sleepers mesh. For reference:
2013 2nd rounders: Zach Ertz, Sheldon Richardson, Kevin Minter, Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce, Datone Jones, Tyrann Mathieu, Terrance Jones, Mike Glennon, Xavier Rhodes
2014 3rd rounders: Khaseem Greene, Star Lotulelei, Jamie Collins, Marqise Goodwin, Andre Ellington, Kenbrell Thompkins, Damontre Moore, Kenny Stills
Who are those guys in this year’s draft?
First, a few trends from the last couple of days:
1. Developmental Quarterbacks – Four quarterbacks went in the first round – Johnny Football, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr. But interestingly, three more went in the second round – Tom Savage, Logan Thomas and Jimmy Garropolo. It speaks a lot to the need for QBs in our league that guys who aren’t anywhere close to playing team and with no guaranteed role are flying off the board in the second round
2. Offense/ Defense – In the first round, 24 offensive players were selected, compared to 8 defensive players (6 of which were linebackers)…. In the second, 19 offensive players were drafted compared to 13 defensive players.
3. In to the first round, down from the second – So I didn’t actually mathematically tally the trade requests. But if I had, I’m pretty sure it would have been a stark contrast. During the first round, everybody and their mother were all trying to trade in for more picks. Then, the second we left the first round, everybody immediately started offering to trade down. Just goes to show there’s a significant perceived drop-off between the first and second rounds.
So what picks did I find notable from the end of the first round through the second?
1. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – I’m not actually sure that I find him tremendously notable, but I promised Philly I’d mention him – and what Philly wants, Philly gets. Seafaring Jenkins (as opposed to the land-lubbing kind of Jenkins who will be drafted later), has gotten some bad press recently for missing a lot of the off-season and ostensibly falling behind such worthies as Brandon Myers and Timothy Wright. Let me correct this for you. One does not simply “fall behind” Brandon Myers and Timothy Wright. That’s like giving up a touchdown to a Rex Ryan coached offense or selecting a guy as bad as Anthony Bennett with the first pick of the NBA draft – it’s damn near impossible. Jenkins will start. And he will catch touchdowns.
2. Cornerbacks – I am a snob about cornerbacks. I disrespect them. I turn up my nose when they walk by. If my daughter came home and said she was marrying an unemployed biker dude… whatever – she can take care of herself. If my daughter came home and said she was marrying a cornerback… c’mon girl, have some self-respect!
Why? Because I’m seriously convinced they grow on trees. No really. I found Dmitri Patterson growing on a tree. I grabbed him by the foot, yanked him off, and got a hernia. It sucked. But for whatever reason, the fools are everywhere. So I can’t countenance drafting them before the third round. They are like the running backs of RDFL. Let them fall!
3. The Wide-out Book-ends – The first round turned into the second round with a bang as Detroit grabbed Cody Latimer and the Vikings snared Allen Robinson with the first pick of the second round. I had Robinson as a top 20 pick and Latimer not far behind him. This was a deep WR class, and I think both of those picks are absolute steals that far through the round.
4. Second round safeties – Three safeties went off the board in the second round, and I thought all three were great values – Ha-Ha Monica Lewinsky to the Jets, Calvin Pryor to the Chargers, and Deone Buccanon to the Bills. All three will start, all three will play, all three will be targeted, and all three will put up points as rookies. Surrounded by developmental players who will struggle to see the field this year, these are great value picks at key spots on the defense. (I respect safeties. We can dance if we want to… we can leave your friends behind…)
5. John Brown – So first, mad props to the Patriots, who exploded by storm to swing three trades in the span of what seemed like nine minutes, one of which enabled them to swoop in and swipe this pick. Why is John Brown good? He’ll be a fourth receiver on a moderate offense. Because he runs even faster than a self-righteous college hippie can take offense. And he’ll be returning kickoffs. That’s a point foundation you can take to the bank.
6. Ka’Deem Carey – How old will Matt Forte be by the end of the 2015 season? 30. What happens to running backs when they turn 30? They have birthday parties and feel old, just like the rest of us. What else happens to running backs when they turn 30? They FALL OFF A CLIFF. What happens to Ka’Deem Carey when Matt Forte falls off a cliff? He catches screen passes. Lots and lots of screen passes. Top 10 RB in 2016. 2nd round value.
7. Storm Johnson – Storm Johnson is great in two ways..
First, his name is Storm. Let’s not underestimate the impact of a bad-ass name. I want my kids to have bad-ass names. I go for apostrophe’d names. Like De’Anthony Thomas. and Ka’Deem Carey. Did I mention I like him? I like them so much that I’ve decided on apostrophe’d names for my two children. D’Thurmond (pronounced Determined) and You’nikh (pronounced Unique). One boy. One girl. It’s going to be great. I can see it all now: “DAMMIT, You’nikh, you cannot go to the prom with a… a… a… cornerback!”
A side note on “Johnson”. My first job out of college was administering reading tests to elementary school students via grant funding. One test was called DIBLS. One test was called the “Woodcock Johnson” test. You want to know Mr. Woodcock’s full name? Richard William. I know. I hurt for the man. I have never seen such shock as when my grandmother asked what I was doing for work and I informed her that I administered Dick-Willie-Woodcock-Johnson tests to 2nd graders. True Story.
Second, Storm Johnson is the backup to Toby Gerhart (which, by the way, is the opposite of a bad-ass name). Toby Gerhart is not a starter. Couldn’t start a fire in an active volcano. Couldn’t start a car in the Fast and the Furious (even if he was chasing Jordana Brewster). Couldn’t start a Nintendo game with a controller in his hand and the select button covered with duct tape. Can’t start for an NFL Football team. Can’t even start for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Storm Johnson is getting his carries. And if his paycheck is big enough, I might even let him go to to the prom with You’nikh.
It’s bedtime for Bonzo boys. See you for the third round tomorrow. Which is off to a good start by the way. First round cornerback going in the third round? Sounds right. And Huff and Preston Brown are very strong picks. Excited to see how this round shakes out! Good luck with those steals!
Thursday July 17th, almost midnight
I worked all day today. I barely had enough time to post snarky comments on the board. Then, after work, I hung out with a pretty girl. It was a good day. But my blogging suffered. Jobs and women. The devil’s tools to lure men away from the purity of Fantasy Football and associated blogging.
Stay strong brothers. Don’t give in to the lure of gainful employment or the pleas of your wives. Focus only on your draft picks and complaining about other people’s trades. These are the actions of a righteous man who is blameless in all his dealings.
And don’t worry – I’ll post more tomorrow.
Wednesday July 16th – 7:30 PM
Houston just said the word “Hogwash” in context in the draft room. My night has been made.
Wednesday July 16th – 6:30 PM
I learned something today. I learned that I hate following the draft and having no picks! Hate it! It is an agonizing experience to watch the picks slip past, and watch everybody else’s team get better, while knowing my team’s not going to get any better. Horrible. I’ts like what Browns and Cavs fans have seen happen every year even when their team has had picks! Feelin’ for ya, Cleveland.
You know what the worst part of it is? Watching a guy slip and slip and slip and become a bigger and bigger steal, and knowing you’re not going to get a shot at him. It happened yesterday with Mike Evans. It happened today with Jeremy Hill. Jeremy Hill is a top 15 rookie. He’s going to be the the thunder to Giovani Bernard’s lightning in what figures to be a run heavy scheme in Cincinnati. He’s young. He’s healthy. And he’s going to be a solid RB2 in this league for a good eight years.
I love the feeling I get when I watch a stud pick slide. There’s no greater feeling than feeling like you got a draft day steal. And once we hit 25 and no Jeremy Hill, I started to get antsy. I reached out to everybody I could think of. And nobody would trade with me. Nobody was even considering it. Everybody was keeping their pick. (I learned later it was because EVERYBODY was waiting for Jeremy Hill).
And as I realized that there was no way I could steal Jeremy, a cold feeling of despair and bitter regret settled in my chest, and I realized that next year, something has to change. I’m still happy to trade away my rookie picks – but if I do, I just can’t watch the draft. It’s just too painful!
With that, onto my thoughts on what’s happened so far today.
1. The Tennessee Titans are winning the draft. Odell Beckham Jr. at 7. Blake Bortles at 22. Jeremy Hill at 27. Beckham was a good value. Bortles and Hill are GREAT values. The Commish has quietly grabbed a young trifecta of players that should anchor his offense for years to come – and he’s gotten them at very good value for the slot. That’s how you capitalize on draft picks!
2. The creepy parallels between our draft and the actual NFL draft –
In the NFL draft, Buffalo traded away a king’s ransom for the rights to draft stud receiver Sammy Watkins #2. In our draft, the New York Giants traded away a king’s ransom for the rights to draft stud receiver Sammy Watkins #2.
In the NFL draft, the QB needy Jaguars held fast with a top five pick to grab the guy they believed was the QB of the future (Blake Bortles), while the QB needy Browns passed on a QB with their top ten pick only to grab their QB of the future at #22 (Johnny Manziel). In our draft, the QB needy Jets held fast with a top five pick to grab the guy they believe is their quarterback of the future (Johnny Manziel), while the QB needy Titans passed on a QB with their top ten pick only to grab their QB of the future at #22 (Blake Bortles).
In the NFL draft, much loved Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay had a prominent front and center role despite a some apparently serious issues with mind-altering substances. In our draft, much loved Detroit Lions Owner Michael Seraphim also has a prominent role despite some apparently serious issues with mind-altering substances.
3. Wide-outs galore. In the first round of our inaugural 2013 rookie draft, a total of 8 WRs were selected. In the first 20 picks of the draft this year, 10 WRs were selected. Part of that is this is a WR heavy class. And part of that is, to quote Oakland owner Nick Tomanelli “we’re learning the value of WRs”.
Other than the Commish, here are a few of my favorite picks so far today:
– Terrance West, RB, DAL – Dallas owner Robert Walters called him the steal of the draft when he picked him. I think Tennessee and Buffalo may have gotten some slightly better steals. But this WAS a steal. Strong work to snare value at a position of need. It’s hard to get a guy at a position of need who will provide value today and in the future – Dallas got the perfect pick for his team in perfect position.
– Tre Mason, RB, SF – This pick depends on whether or not Tre Mason becomes the Rams running back of the future, or just a little speedster who is stuck behind Zac Stacy his entire career. I don’t know if that will happen. But I love when a team follows a strategy, and SF did so, trading Zac Stacy for a WR1 in advance of the draft and then grabbing his guy in the 20s. If Mason does take the starting job from Stacy this year, then owner Steve Peterson may win an award for this stratagem at the end of the year.
– DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, CAR – Love Pedro’s pick here. And I’ll tell you why. Because he got arguably the best DE in the draft at 26. A franchise DE this year is costing most of us 9.93M. Now the Panthers have a Franchise DE who will cost 1.91M. Phenomenal value pick.
By the way, I like the Linebackers for Baltimore and Washington too. I think that’s part of why today was such a difficult day to simply watch – everybody made good picks and you could see the value fly off the board.
Strong work everybody! Now will some of you please make some terrible picks so I don’t feel so bad about myself???
Off for a run!
Tuesday July 15th
Today was a crazy day right from the start. I walk into the office to check the first pick, feeling pretty confident. This will go just the way all the rest of my rookie drafts have gone. Somebody will take Sammy Watkins as the #1 pick or reach based on RB scarcity and grab Bishop Sankey. Ho hum. And there’s Detroit, with his pick right on cue. WR… looks like Sam…. Wait – Brandin Cooks??? Brandin Cooks? And the draft is already on its ear.
Pick #1, Brandin Cooks, Detroit – This is a creative risk pick. There’s an idea out there that Brandin Cooks might get dual eligibility and fill a sort of Sproles / Colston hybrid role, catching passes and putting up WR points in an RB2 slot. If that turns out, this is a steal. If it doesn’t, this is a reach. Still, I applaud the creativity and the conviction in this pick.
Then, it got more bizarre. NYG moved up with his seemingly never-ending supply of picks and swiped Sammy Watkins from Atlanta at #2. This kicked off for me, the inevitable Mike Evans watch. The dude has been drafted right after Sammy in every rookie draft I’ve been a part of this year. They’re inseparable. It’s like a rule. Once a guy drafts Sammy, the next guy has to draft Mikey. So what happened:
Pick #2, Sammy Watkins, NYG – It’s the perfect player for NYG. Have you taken a look at this receiving core? He’s now sitting on Sammy Watkins, Torrey Smith, Antonio Brown, Victor Cruz, and DeAndre Hopkins. Silly. This was the laughingstock of the league last year. What a turnaround!
St. Louis: Pick skipped. Honestly, I’m worried about St. Louis. I’m reminded of a Mitch Hedberg comedy routine about the DuFrains, who had a table for two reserved at a restaurant. I share the feelings. How can we just “go on with the draft???” How? St. Louis could be locked in somebody’s trunk somewhere! The insane mom who deletes fantasy leagues might have sent him to his room with no supper and not let him out! He might be lying in a ditch somewhere with a broken arm, desperately hoping someone can find him (unlikely in this age of social media, I admit).
But league – I was concerned by our calloused hearts towards our league mate! What HAPPENED to St. Louis? And instead of grabbing our flashlights, lanterns, and GPS systems, we were freaking out about what would happen to his skipped pick?!? C’mon brothers. Instead of it being “Detroit’s pick at #4”, it should have been “Detroit! You can pick once you find St. Louis!”
Pick #4, Bishop Sankey, Detroit. After all that, the Lions take Bishop Sankey. I know – in this league, RBs and QBs matter because of positional scarcity. But the strength of this draft class was at Wide Receiver. And Mike Evans will be a stud. Top 20 receiver for years to come. It’s a good pick for Detroit, who needed to back up the ever-brittle Reggie Bush at RB and had Kenny Stills languishing on the bench. But I thought the top 5 picks in this draft were all receivers. And Mike Evans, man. Mike Evans!
Ok, surely – now we’re going to get to Evans. Nope. We’re not going to get to Mike Evans. Because the Jets need a quarterback. So Johnny Football goes to New York in RDFL – as he always should have done in real life. He was made for the NYC market. Proving that once again, RDFL is more real than the real thing.
But that leaves Buffalo with Mike Evans. Love what Buffalo has done this off-season. But my goodness, Mike Evans is the consensus #2 pick in the draft. The #2. And Buffalo somehow got him at #6.
Pick #5, Johnny Manziel, NYJ: The first QB goes off the board in Manziel. In any other league, I would have said that this was a major reach. But in this league? You can’t win without a starting QB. You are putting yourself in a 15 point hole every single game. That’s hard to overcome. You don’t have to get a great starting QB – but you have to have a starting QB to compete. And there’s only 32 of those beasts. So if you have only one pick… you better get one.
Pick #6, Mike Evans, BUF: Biggest value of the first round, hands down, and a sign that God most likely wants Buffalo to win the AFC. Think of everything that had to happen for this pick to fall this far. First, Detroit had to defy convention to grab Cooks at #1. Then, St. Louis ran into queue difficulties and a skipped pick at #3. Then positional needs pushed Detroit to Sankey at #4 and the Jets to Manziel at #5. Watch out for Buffalo.
The next few picks go pretty quickly as Bryan goes with his heart and grabs NYG wide-out Odell Beckham, Oakland nabs my favorite player in Jordan Matthews, and the Texans continue the 2015-2016 plan by grabbing Carlos Hyde, a guy who should be a #1 RB in a couple of years. Pedro and the Vikings finish out the top-ten by grabbing Kelvin Benjamin, and all seems right wwth the world.
Pick #7, Odell Beckham, NYG: It’s a big step down from Evans to Beckham, but this is a WR heavy class, and Beckham gives the Giants a legitimate stud receiver. It’s a strong pick for die-hard Giants fan and Titans owner Bryan Luhrs, and an on-slot pick-up for the round. Normalcy has resumed.
Pick #8, Jordan Matthews, PHI: Love this pick for Philly. Jordan Matthews is a huge target for a coach who likes to play a hurry up type of offense and loves huge targets in the red-zone. He also goes to a situation where Riley Cooper is the only guy standing between him and a starting gig. Unless the devil has something to say about it, Jordan’s going to get his targets, and he’s going to get him soon. This is a great pick-up for Philly at #8, a player who will help him both now and in the future.
Pick #9, Carlos Hyde, HOU: We start to get to the question marks now, but I like this pick for Houston. Hyde is a stud RB who falls this far in most rookie drafts because he’s still stuck behind Frank Gore and won’t get as many touches out of the gate as Bishop Sankey. For a team like Houston that is gunning for 2015-2016, this pick is perfect, and very valuable. Just about the time Arian Foster breaks for good, Houston will have Carlos Hyde emerging and taking his place.
Pick #10, Kelvin Benjamin, MIN: Another pick that makes sense and fits slot. Benjamin is literally the only guy on the entire Panthers roster who Cam Newton will have to throw to this year, and should see a lot of targets, a lot of yards, and a lot of touchdowns. We’ll see if he can make the most of this opportunity. Strong pick-up for Minnesota, which picked up what should be a strong starter for years to come.
While sanity has been restored by these picks, NYG and San Diego hook up on a swap, and the Giants swoop in to grab #12. After Cincinnati grabs troubled but talented WR Marqise Lee, the Giants bulk up their only potential offensive hole at TE by grabbing Eric Ebron. This line-up really is scary.
The rest of the evening passed in a bit of a blur for me. A friend comes over. We drink a growler of IPA and we talk about life and deep things. He checks how many likes he has on his instagram posts. I check how many picks have passed by. I also realize that nobody believes in DMC the way I do. I file this away in my brain and decide to make a case for him tomorrow.
Davante Adams goes off the board at #13 to Oakland, who has now grabbed two strong WRs in the first round. This pisses me off because I have to play him. He’s in my division. I really didn’t mind when NYG and Dallas were getting good – the NFC is miles away. I didn’t even really mind when Buffalo started getting good, because, hey, there’s room for both of us in the playoffs. But man. Oakland is drafting good WRs. Denver still has an amazing time. San Diego’s new owner does active owner-ial things like make trades and not miss his draft picks. How the heck am I supposed to compete for the division in such conditions?
I watch somewhat bitterly as Tampa Bay checks in via Detroit to grab Jadaveon Clowney. Briefly, I wonder if Detroit is messing with us all, but then I see that Clowney has both DE and LB eligibiligy. Clowney as a DT? Meh. Clowney as a cheap DE with many sacks and tackles? Yes, please.
Then another Buffalo trade comes through. I almost choke on my IPA. How are Buffalo and New York always in the midst of every blockbuster trade that goes through? Buffalo has managed to flip Mike Evans for another passel of picks, including a trifecta of picks in the mid-first round. I immediately make a play for Devonta Freeman and am rebuffed. My IPA consoles me.
The Falcons make a nice grab with Ryan Shazier at #15, possibly the best IDP player in our format coming out of this draft, before Buffalo diversifies by taking Devonta Freeman (I cry), Teddy Bridgewater, and Khalil Mack. Mack and Freeman I love. Bridgewater, I don’t fully understand. Why do you need Bridgewater when you have Foles? Still, there’s some teams you just learn not to doubt, and in Buff I trust, even as I try to figure out how to get him transferred to the NFC.
The night concludes with a pair of receivers going to the Texans (Donte Moncrief) and Bears (Martavis Bryant). I particularly like the Texans strategy tonight. Both of their picks (Moncrief and Carlos Hyde) are goes who will be stuck behind elderly incumbents this year (Hyde behind Gore and Moncrief behind Reggie Wayne). But in both cases, these picks perfectly fit Houston’s strategy and timing, and I applaud him for grabbing the right guys on the right time schedule.
Fittingly, the evening ends with a trade, with Buffalo ONCE AGAIN grabbing picks to move down, this time from Dallas.
Day #1 Best Performances:
– Detroit – Stuck to his principles and grabbed the guys he wanted rather than just going by the draft boards. That’s how you play fantasy football with cojones!
– Tennessee – Sometimes we forget that this game is fun. I’m sure it wasn’t fun for St. Louis when he was stuck in a ditch, his life-blood seeping out into the mud, the cold rain beating down on his face, as his friends coldly cast lots for his draft pick. But it’s fun when you get the best player on your favorite team. Guarantee the Commish has more fun cheering for Beckham than most of us have cheering for our picks – and that makes him maybe the biggest winner of round #1.
– Buffalo – When Mike Evans falls to you at #6, you win. When you transfer that luck into a beautiful pick-haul – that’s a double whammy. Buffalo continues the trend and will be a scary team this year. Freeman and Mack are a beautiful haul for a team that has done a tremendous amount to improve it’s overall talent level this off-season.
– NYG – Another team that will be scary this year, the Giants traded into #2 and #12 and grabbed both the top-ranked receiver and the top-ranked tight end for their title push. This NYG team is closer to a title than they were 24 hours ago – and that deserves props.
– Atlanta – The Falcons have Julio Jones, Roddy White, Mike Evans, Ryan Shazier, and more picks. That’s quite simply not bad for a days work.
No I’m not talking about the Real Deal Draft. I’m talking about Sharknado: The Second One – premiering on SyFy on July 30th.
But it could be our draft. It has the same elements. And if you picture draft picks as sharks and Detroit as the guy with the chain-saw…
I can’t wait! I’ll be keeping a running commentary on this draft – what that means is I’ll be monitoring the draft room, and when I get free time to comment, I’ll provide pick by pick analysis, thoughts, questions, and the incomprehensible inanity that I like to consider humor. Apologies in advance.
Just come back here and refresh this post often – as I’ll be revising each time I post.
Now, with T-11 hours until the draft, here’s three things I’m most interested in seeing:
1. TRADES!!!! – I’m expecting a bajillion of them (technical term).
2. Detroit – The guy has 21 picks in the draft. He’s the John Calipari of our league. That’s pretty close to 20% of the total picks. And they include #1 and #4 overall. The Lions are going to look like a totally different team in ten days.
3. Team Directions – There are a lot of teams who could go in a lot of different directions. The players they take and the trades they make will tell us a lot about who is trying to contend and who is building for the future, who is focused on the receiving core from hell and who is building up a defense.
In any case – it’s going to be fun, and it starts tomorrow at 8! Check back frequently!
With nearly 250 players claimed and 550 Million spent, suffice it to say that the first RDFL off-season free-agency period was nuts. Like Emerald Nuts (note the product placement, and feel free to contact me if you’d like to advertise). 31/32 teams picked up players in the off-season period, with only an already complete and salary capped Seattle team abstaining.
As an aside, I almost wrote “Seattle side”. I need to cut back on my World Cup viewing, or I may start saying things like “Surely a scintillatingly creative effort by the Tampa offending Side” or assigning yellow cards for poor bulletin board grammar. In which case, there are several teams who’d have a longer suspension than Luis Suarez.
Before we get to the team-by-team analysis, let’s take a look at a few observations:
1. Defensive Primacy – 140+ defensive players were signed, compared to just 85 on offense. Further, more than half of the offensive players signed were wide receivers. Moreover, much better deals were available for defensive players, particularly at the higher end of the contract scale. My “all overpaid” offensive team was easy to construct. I couldn’t even get there on defense.
2. Takin’ a flyer – Almost 40% of offensive and defensive players were signed to contracts of 1 Million or less. On the one hand, the vast majority of these players have no guaranteed role on their respective teams – this year or next. On the other hand, it’s probably not enough dead money to matter.
3. No Stars – There was a notable lack of impact players this year in free agency. My guess is that this will change substantially over the next couple years as people are forced to release better players for salary reasons – but when the prizes of the free agency crop are Carson Palmer, Riley Cooper, and LeGarrette Blount, it’s not an impact class.
4. Recouping the Picks – Of the teams that vastly overbid for Free Agents and put themselves peril of cap penalties, most have actually been able to get back in business and score draft picks for guys they picked up. Free Agency can be a gold mine for teams who are willing to work the trade wire hard and have a stomach of steel.
Let’s take a look at some of the notable moves this off-season.
1. Arizona Cardinals (68.73M spent on 28 players)
Appearing to be a perfect picture of moderation, the Cardinals picked up 7 players on the first day of free agency, all on the defensive side of the ball, grabbing solid starters at every defensive position. However, encouraged by their shopping success (and perhaps inspired by that Tina Fey commercial where she gets points for every transaction), the Cardinals were back on day #2, picking up TWENTY-ONE additional guys and making Arizona the immediate destination of garbage pickers everywhere. Even after trading away several pick-ups, the Cards remain 11 players and $11 million over the cap, and have some serious work to do to get ready for week #1.
Still, Cards owner Nathan Reising isn’t panicking. He’s already flipped several of his pick-ups for nice future draft picks, and had this to say about his day #2 aggressiveness.
I had more bids than that on day 1, but grossly underestimated the aggressiveness and caliber of the league members. As you know I had a ton of holes to fill…I was bound and determined to fill them, one way or the other. That being said…it seems I am now the one stop shop for all things defensive, RB, and WR (assuming you value prospects and backup players ).
For those still in the market… Ye olde Redbird Trading Post is open for business!
2. Dallas Cowboys (61.67M spent on 22 players)
The mission was clear. Dallas needed a Defensive End. And when Dallas GM Robert Walters wants something, he
never settles. So rather than getting one Defensive End, he went out and picked up NINE. Yep. Nine. As in the number of innings in a baseball game, the number of lives possessed by a cat, and the number of times I’ve unsuccessfully tried to trade for Alec Ogletree. (Please, Darren??? Please??? I love that guy!).
The ever eloquent Walters reacting to drafting nine DEs: “oh shit”.
Having drafted nine defensive ends, Dallas did what any sane owner would do, and traded them all for nice draft picks. Unfortunately, he was forced to trade TOO many of them and had to make a desperate grab for Chris Clemons midway through Free Agency.
Walters reacting to my request to trade for a Defensive End: “Man, I’ve never had extra defensive ends! I didn’t have enough until I just picked up Clemons”
Umm…. what about those nine…. errr… never mind.
The Contract of Darkness – San Francisco 49ers – Riley Cooper
Of course the story of free agency is the San Francisco 49ers signing Riley Cooper for 13.66M. Now let me be clear. I don’t have an issue with the spending. San Francisco remains under the cap and Cooper fills a need for a serious contender.
But this contract is of the devil. The DEVIL. Let’s break it down, shall we? First, 13 Million. Thirteen. As in Friday the 13th. The number of misfortune. And .66. How much you want to bet that if we saw the rounding, it would be 13.666? The number of misfortune, combined with the Devil’s number, to draft a guy who was nearly out of the league a year ago for screaming drunken racial epithets at a Kenny Chesney concert. And really, what’s more corrupt than a Kenny Chesney concert? Did I mention this contract was going to be almost 20M by the time it stops being guaranteed?
Fortunately, 49ers GM Steve Peterson has a plan. What could it be? Replacing cheerleaders with priests trained in exorcism? Having a mob heavy on call to break Riley’s kneecaps and IR him for life if he needs the salary back? What could it be?
“I am feeling good about the pick. He provides my team with a legit #2 WR. We have the cap space. Our concern for him was around the new rule for use of the N word receives a 15 yard penalty. He is currently enrolled in sensitivitytraining. Detroit is reportedly his sponsor.”
Let’s recap. San Francisco drafts Riley Cooper for 13.66 million, and the plan is sensitivity training with Detroit. What could possibly go wrong?
Fun with First-Rounders
Buffalo Bills – In my off-season preview post, I was very clear. I TOLD you that Buffalo was about to win Fantasy
Football. I pointed you to the roster, the massive amount of cap space, and those number 1 picks. I called him out as the danger to the league he was. But did anyone listen? Nope. All Buffalo did was flip one of those #1 picks and a couple nice pieces for AJ Green. Then, he picked up THREE first rounders for CJ Spiller and change. And STILL has 1.6, which I suspect he is somehow going to turn into LeBron James. He walked into the store with Spiller and two first rounders and walked out with AJ Green and four. That’s like going to the grocery store with six bucks to buy bread and peanut butter and walking out with a deep dish pizza and a 50-spot.
Let’s look at this another way. Buffalo now has AJ Green, Nick Foles, Trent Richardson, Julius Thomas, Torrey Smith, Stevie Johnson, and SEVEN first round picks over the next three years. I’m telling you, this team is FO’ REALZ.
New York and Detroit –
One of the crazy things about life is how things multiply. You put two rabbits together, and all of a sudden, you have more rabbits. You put two cats together and you have more cats. You put two Kardashians together in a bad show and suddenly you have endless hours of crappy TV. This shouldn’t be the case for draft picks. But I suspect shennanigans. Because Detroit and NYG just each traded each other about 34 picks. And it seems to me like they suddenly both have more picks than they started with.
Speaking of which, commendations to both Detroit owner Michael Seraphim and NYG owner Chris Adamson. To Detroit for NOT bidding on 87 free-agents. That was literally the over/under number Vegas had, and he only bid on 8, most of which were other people’s transition tags. And to Adamson, for taking a GUTTED team (and I mean Philadelphia 76ers level gutted) and making it competitive in a single off-season. The three best divisions in football this year are all in the NFC, with the West, North, and East all packing three potential play-off teams.
Vasily Zaytsev Sniper Award – Jeff Hemlick, Cleveland Browns
The first day of free-agency is a bit like the Hunger Games rush to the cornucopia. Everybody charges in to get the good stuff, and most people get killed by offering ridiculous contracts. Then there are the tricky ones. The snipers. The fox-faces. Who watch from afar and then swoop in to grab the bargains after the first-day bloodbath is complete.
This year, it’s Cleveland. After buying only two special teamers on the first day, the Browns picked up 6 more guys on VERY team friendly contracts, including Emmanuel Lamur (0.78), Lavar Edwards (0.75), Theo Riddick (0.75), Jeff Heath (0.85), Tony Jerod-Eddie (1.63), and Chris Houston (1.72). That’s about 6.5 million for some potential stud young players, many of whom could break out this year and be incredible bargains for years to come.
Kansas City’s All Overpaid Offensive Team – As noted above, I tried to do this for a defensive team as well… but really couldn’t. I came up with 2 LBs, 2 CBs, and pair of Safeties who I thought were overpaid. But not a single Defensive Lineman and not too many defensive players at all. The lesson of this years draft – overpay for offense, bargains on defense.
QB – Brian Hoyer (6.0 M, Cleveland) – He could get injured. He could get Manzielled. He plays in Cleveland. That 6M MIGHT be worth it this year. But it ain’t gonna be worth it next year.
RB – Jordan Todman (6.8 M, Jacksonville) – Jamaal Charles is making 4.8M this year. So are Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Doug Martin, and a host of other studs. Jordan Todman is making 6.8M to duke it out with Denard Robinson for the privilege of backing up Toby Gerhart.
WR – Devin Hester (7.1 M, Dallas) – He is absolutely an electric return man. No question. And there was definitely a dearth of solid WR candidates on the market. But he’s on the wrong side of 30 and did not catch a single pass last year. Fortunately, his opportunities this year in the receiving game should markedly improve, as he’s only slotted behind such slop as Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas… Errr… This salary only works if his returning is absolutely dominant. We’ll see.
WR – Mike Williams (6.2 M, Tampa Bay) – I admit it. This is a selfish pick – after having Mike Williams on my team last year, I want to publicly punish him for his terrible showing. 6.2M is not an outrageous price for a starting WR. But rumors have Williams as the #3 WR in Buffalo, and possibly not even that. Williams is a decent receiver. But he’s not a burner. Except for his owners. Them – he burns.
WR/RB – Andre Holmes (4.9 M Oakland) – So I’ll be clear – I’m not against this pick-up. Oakland had the money to spend and Holmes definitely has potential. But 5M to catch passes from Matt Schaub while sitting behind Juron Criner on the depth chart seems like an awful lot.
WR/TE – Riley Cooper (13.66 M, SF) – You know Riley was going to show up here.
TE – Andrew Quarless (5.05 M, KC) –
“Wow! I bid on Quarless too, but only 1.5M. You can have him!” – Another owner to KC on June 4th. Pretty much sums it up.
Best pick by team: What follows is an exhaustive list of my favorite pick from each team. It’s more than 2,000 words long, quite boring, not proofread and contains no pictures. My bad. Read at your own risk.
For those who don’t want to, I’ll be back on July 15th, live blogging the draft from this site. That should be a good time for all of us!
Arizona – Wait and See – Arizona picked up 28 guys, many of whom have flashed pure potential. Let’s see who emerges from this class as a bargain stud – and who Arizona has to trade picks to get rid of.
Atlanta – Moise Fokou (LB, 1.7M) – The other option here was Chris Polk, as RBs in a Chip Kelly offense tend to get a lot of work. If the 63 carries per game Shady McCoy gets ever cause him to miss time, Polk could be an incredible bargain. But I’ll go with Fokou – a reliable ILB is worth his weight in a less expensive metal than gold (say, aluminum) and Fokou has a lot of potential to wrack up the tackles
Baltimore – Will HIll (S, 2.8M) – Yes, he’s suspended. Yes, he’s irresponsible. Yes, he’s probably a creep. But he’s also damn good. He’ll find a home. And when he does 2.8M for double digit FPG at safety will seem like a bargain. Honorable Mentions to Vincent Rey (who will be outstanding when the Bengals lay off the LSD and realize Maualuga is bad at football) and Jeremy Kerley (who will be outstanding when the Jets stop BEING bad at football).
Buffalo – Duke Williams (S, 0.98M) – Buffalo is an example of a rich team spending like a poor team, going into free agency with 30+ M to spend and spending less than 10M. But you can’t say they didn’t find bargains. Duke Williams is going to start sooner rather than later, and less than 1M for an active, starting safety… Yes. Please. I think the Bills could have done a little more to upgrade their Defense now, but this pick is going to look really really nice in a year. Or when he gets franchise tagged.
Carolina – LeGarrette Blount (RB, 6.5M) – Yes, that’s a lot to spend on a backup running back. But everywhere Blount has been, he’s started as a back-up and ganked way more work than he should have gotten, particularly touchdowns. Now rumors emerge from Pittsburgh of a RB time-share… Nice work by Carolina this off-season pouncing on just the right pieces to fill out their lineup.
Chicago – Anthony Sherman (RB, 2 M) – Some nice restraint shown by the Bears this year – they needed a back-up running back and spent 3M on a pair of lottery ticket RBs named Anthony. These feel like the kind of scratch and sniff lottery tickets where the grand prize is a $50 shopping spree at Wegman’s as opposed to riches for life, but still – need a backup RB, get a backup RB. Sometimes, discipline pays.
Cincinnati – Steve Mclendon, Derrick Shelby, John Hughes (.87-.9M) – What’s ALWAYS valuable? Cheap defensive line-men. What does Cincinnati have now in spades? Cheap defensive linemen. There’s no guarantee that any of these folks will start, but paired with Cameron Heyward, Cincy could have the best DL for the value in the league.
Cleveland – Lavar Edwards (DE, .75M) – See my previous point about cheap defensive ends. Lavar Edwards has a very high ceiling on the Titans D, and if he busts out over the next two years, he could be an extremely cheap franchise end for years to come. Cleveland can afford to wait on him, and if he pans out, this will be a beautiful pick-up.
Dallas – Chris Clemons (DE, 3.0M) – I liked this DE snipe when Dallas made it. I liked it better 3 days later when the Jags cut Jason Babin. Clemons is not just a prospective starting DE, he’s a starting DE, and at 3M, he’s a great value. Honorable mention picks to Audie Cole, Sean Lissemore, and Ryan Griffin, who may yet end up as a stud TE in Houston. Love what Dallas has done in the off-season so far – this is one of the more well-rounded teams in the league, and should compete for an NFC playoff spot.
Denver – Matt Shaughnessy (LB, 3.6M) – The Broncos were surprisingly aggressive during free agency, grabbing a bunch of really nice pieces, including Jeremy Ross, Duke Ihenacho, Lance Dunbar, Malik Jackson, Vince Wilfork, and a minimum deal for Brandon Bostick. But the centerpiece is Matt Shaughnessy, who I think has the potential to be a franchise guy for the Broncos for years to come. This was some nice work by a team with Super Bowl aspirations and very few draft picks.
Detroit – Transition Tags – Hard to pick the best guy Detroit selected, because this was such an admirable display of restraint from a team we all expected to pick up 306 guys. But Detroit did drive up the price on no less than 5 team’s transition players, undoubtedly increasing his popularity.
Green Bay – Marcus Sherels (CB, 1.5M) – Why is this a great pick-up? Not just because Sherels is going to be a great CB – but because he may also turn into a spectacular return man. In which case he’s worth three times this much. Great pick-up by the Pack here.
Houston – Griff Whalen (WR, 0.75M) – Not much to talk about here. Had the Texans actually picked up 4th ranked DT Damon Harrison and his 200 FPG, this would have been it by a WIDE margin. But the Saints matched, and Houston came back with a pair of under a million buck flyer picks. Whalen may be a bargain if he seizes the return man role – but he may be a free drop next year just as easily.
Indianapolis – Marlon Brown (WR, 6.3M) – Another team that was not very active in free agency, the Colts chose to conserve most of their 30+M in space for… something. They did add Marlon Brown however, and while I don’t love 6.3M for Marlon Brown, the Colts are not exactly up against the cap, and 12 PPG with upside isn’t something to sneeze at.
Jacksonville – Jordan Todman (RB, 6.8M) – Yes, I think he’s overpaid at almost 7M. But he’s also no slouch. I think he has talent, and ends up starting in Jacksonville sooner rather than later. Mostly, I’m just bitter that JAX outbid me for him!
Kansas City – Mike Quarless (TE, 5.05M) – 5M is a lot. But he’s a starting Tight End. And Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the football. Let’s repeat that. Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the football. Fantasy 101. Anytime you hear the words “He’s starting” in conjunction with “Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the football”, you take the guy. And Jermichael Finley is more likely to suit up for the 76ers this year than the Packers.
Miami – Pacman Jones (CB, 5.3M) – Why is this the best pick for the Dolphins? Because it’s the only pick for the Dolphins. 10 PPG at a position of need is nothing to sneeze at, and they had the money. But the better off-season move may have been releasing Jermichael Finley to free up the space for this acquisition.
Minnesota – Matt Cassel (QB, 1.75M) – Vikings owner Pedro Fiadeiro quietly had a nice free-agency period. Picking up Andre Branch on the cheap is looking better and better in light of Babin’s dismissal, but this is the gem. 1.75M for Matt Cassel. Yes, Bridgewater is the future. But Cassel is good. He’ll keep the seat warm for whoever the Vikings draft, and I think will provide the best FPG / salary of any quarterback in 2014, particularly chucking it to an emerging Cordarelle Patterson.
New England – Cole Beasley (WR, 1M) – Love this pick-up. This is how you build in free agency without spending a fortune. Beasley grabbed 6 PPG last year. This year, he replaces a departed Miles Austin catching passes from Tony Romo. And unlike Miles Austin, Beasley can stay healthy. He’s not Dez, but I think he scores at least 12 FPG this year, making him a great bargain at only 1M.
New Orleans – Rafael Bush (S, 1M) – The Saints were spectacular on both sides of the ball last year. Very few holes to fill. Rafael Bush could be a great get if he grabs a starting role in New Orleans. And if not, Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins should suffice just fine, with Bush adding a spot of depth.
New York Giants – Justin Durant (LB, 0.73M) – The Giants definitely win this off-season’s participation award, playing ping pong with first round picks and actively grabbing players throughout free-agency. Why do I think Justin Durant is a fabulous pick? Because if he even has an even shot at replacing Sean Lee in the heart of a Cowboys defense that will literally never get off the field, he is a starter for any team in this league. And at .73M, you don’t get better bargains. Great snipe by NYG.
New York Jets – Hussain Abdullah (S, 0.73M) – Minimum contracts for starting safeties are really hard to beat. Abdullah will be the straight man to Eric Berry’s gambler, and should rack up the tackles and most likely a few picks. I think Abdullah can average double digits this year. If only Jets ownership in real life was this smart!
Oakland – Carson Palmer (QB, 6.7M) – Don’t laugh. Carson Palmer has a clear starting job throwing the football to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, and 6.7M is a great value for a veteran franchise quarterback. Most of us are paying double digits this year. I thought he’d go for more. Honorable Mention to Matt Asiata, Superman’s understudy. AP is, in fact, mortal, and getting older. He’s capable of getting hurt. If he does, Asiata can be a massive bargain at 1.7M.
Philadelphia – DeVier Posey (WR, 0.72M) – Remember when they were hyping this guy as the Robin to DeAndre Hopkins batman? Doesn’t seem that long ago. He’s been a bust so far, but at a minimum contract, is not much of a risk. If he puts it together and Andre Johnson forces himself out of Houston… we might have a winner on our hands!
Pittsburgh – Robert Lester (S, 2.2M) – Say it with me – starting safeties with small contracts are a very good thing. Write it on the board 100 times. Then do it. I like Lester at this price.
San Diego – Alan Branch (DT, 1M) – 7 PPG from a stable and healthy defensive lineman? Yes, please. Like the Tamme pick-up too. Probably won’t pan out unless Julius Thomas gets hurt – but stud Tight Ends do have this rather annoying tendency to get banged up, and having Peyton Manning’s long-term security blanket is never a bad thing…
San Francisco – Riley Cooper (WR, 13.66M) – Yes, the Devil got his soul. But he got a starting WR who was a touchdown machine for Quarterback Nick Foles last year to fill the one remaining weak spot on his team. Fantasy Football is NOT for the faint of heart, and I love the cojones this pick required. That said, I would have loved it even more for 5M less.
Saint Louis – Delano Howell (S, 5.6M) – Pricey, sure. But he’s going to replace Antoine Bethea in Indianapolis. You just hope he’s still starting when the rest of the Rams young guns are ready to be studs.
Tampa Bay – Carlos Roger (CB, 0.75M) – This pick isn’t sexy. But a starting CB with a guaranteed role for a minimum salary is EXACTLY how you want your CB situation to unfold. While I don’t love the Mike Williams pick, I do like Tampa’s Defensive lottery tickets in Rogers, DE Alex Carrington, and CB Josh Robinson – and I like the risk on Carlson too – there’s no guarantee either Housler or Troy Niklas take that role, and it’s a bargain for a starting TE.
Tennessee – Rishard Matthews (WR, 0.99M) – How do you approach free agency when you’re already over the cap and have too many players? Simple, you pick up bargain after bargain after bargain. Less than a million bucks for an emerging WR qualifies. If he doesn’t start, he’s roster filler. But Miami’s receiving core is in no way sacrosanct, and if he starts, 10-15 FPG is by no means out of the question.
Washington – Brandon Thompson (DT, 0.75M) – Sometimes, you pick for role. Sometimes, you just pick for talent. Brandon Thompson has talent in spades. But he’s stuck behind one Geno Atkins, so he might not get the chance to be talented at anything other than drinking gatorade on the bench for a while. But if he does… watch out!
Abstaining: Seattle Seahawks
Get those cheat sheets ready for July 15th – and join me then, as I’ll be live blogging the draft, Bill Simmons style…
Welcome back to Real Deal Football! Of course, most of you have been back for weeks, setting tags, pulling trades, and desperately trying to figure out which of your marginal players are actually going to get a starting shot this year.
So for you, welcome back to this column. This year, the name will be changed to the Real Deal Report:Questionable Reporting about a Real League. I think that pretty much says it all.
If I write something bad about your team, rejoice, for it probably means you are going to dominate the league (see 2013 Indianapolis Colts). If I write something good about your team, be a little worried (see 2013 Houston Texans), but take it as a compliment anyway.
To kick things off as we all prep for the draft, let’s take a quick look at the work each team has ahead of it in the off-season. To do this, I have divided all 32 teams into very official and professional sounding categories, starting with…
Offseason? Can’t We Just Skip This Part???
Cap Space: 5.73M
2014 Picks: 4-22, 5-27
With just two late round draft picks, 5 MIL in cap space, and few needs, the Seahawks are about as good as they are going to get, barring a nice TE pickup. Unfortunately for the rest of us, that is already pretty darn good, particularly if Escobar starts to take over from an aging Witten.
My Future Was Mortgaged to Pay for Social Security!
Green Bay Packers
Needs: WR, DE, CB
Cap Space: 13.72M
2014 Picks: None
New Packers Owner Matt Minelli knows what it feels like to be a Millennial, as he interits a Super Bowl Champion team with a boatload of War Debt. As a result, Minelli has minimal cap space and no draft picks to address defensive needs, add depth, and hire mafia goons to break Randall Cobb’s knees so Jarret Boykin can start again.
Needs: TE, LB, DE, P
Cap Space: 33M
2014 Picks: None
Two theories exist around Denver. One theory suggests that Peyton Manning will eventually grow old and retire. A second argues that he’s actually a horrible mutant cross of Jeff Foxworthy and the undead male lead in a tween paranormal romance. Assuming the first, Denver will be spending money in a full win-now mode – and trying not to think of the future.
Needs: WR, RB, DT, LB
Cap Space: 12.61M
2014 Picks: 4-21, 5-18
True to real life, the Jags are going for it one more time with a collection of aging veterans. Errr. What? EJ Manuel and the Old Folks have some holes this year, but not much to work with to fill holes at skill positions and add some beef to the Defense. The Jags mysterious owner known only as “The Goad” will need to use all his cunning to position the Jags for a run.
Needs: RB/WR, all things Defense, P
Cap Space: 34.72M
2014 Picks: 4-32, 5-8
The Packers don’t have picks. But they won the Super Bowl and don’t have many holes. The Cardinals don’t have picks. But their entire defense is a hole and they missed the playoffs last year. While new owner Nathan Reising must be salivating over that 128th pick, he also has to be wondering what gives. The Cards do have money though, so expect them to be big players in Free Agency, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
But I Don’t Got No Money, Honey!
New England Patriots
Needs: RB, WR
Cap Space: 7.56M
2014 Picks: 2-11, 4-11, 5-11
The Pats could have fit in either of the previous categories (old and out of resources, but pretty much ready to go). They could stand to upgrade at the skill positions, though, and will need to find a way to swing that with little cash. Much like Miami, the lack of resources means that the question marks on the roster are going to need to turn into exclamation marks to get owner Ric Nowinsky a ring.
Needs: TE, RB, DT, WR, K, CB
Cap Space: 7.68M
2014 Picks: 2-6, 3-28, 5-7, 5-28
Tough off-season for the Fish. Old owner Jeff Hemlick took his talents from South Beach to Cleveland, and raised some questions about whether he may have taken Miami’s bank account too. New owner jkeniley faces a host of question marks and lacks the cash or first round picks to address them all directly. If Miami’s young players take the next step, especially at RB, it might not matter. But the lack of resources means they are going to have to.
Takin’ it Easy
Needs: TE, DT
Cap Space: 14.13M
2014 Picks: 1-9, 1-29, 2-9, 3-9, 4-9, 5-9
After a rough year last year, my 2013 Super Bowl pick is sitting pretty. With only a couple of primary needs and 2 1st-round picks, the Texans don’t need to do much to get back into solid attack position. The return of Arian Foster, Brian Cushing and the rest have already done that.
The Chiefs epic quest for mediocrity has continued with a whirlwind of questionable trades this off-season, but the fountain should shut off soon. Without tremendous cap space, gaping holes, or any picks before #60, it may be time for the Chiefs to sit on their hands before another run at 9-7.
Needs: TE, LB
Cap Space: 16.34M
2014 Picks: 1-20, 3-19, 3-20, 4-20
I’m sensing a pattern here. Mid-teens in cap space, acceptable draft situations, and primary need at Tight End. The Bears, Chiefs, and Texans are mirrors of each other this off-season, though the Texans are in the best situation to improve. The Bears particularly need to plug a couple of holes in the center of their defense to get past Green Bay and Detroit.
New Orleans Saints
Needs: WR, P
Cap Space: 16.34M
2014 Picks: 1-30, 2-30, 4-30, 5-30
When you nearly go undefeated and you only have one positional need besides Punter, the off-season becomes golf season. Such is the case for the Crackerman. He’ll almost certainly be in the market for a Wide Receiver, but can sit back and pick off whatever else comes his way. Who Dat gonna beat da Crackerman?
Bonus Prediction for Best Storyline of the Offseason: NO puts in the winning bid on Riley Cooper and trades three guys because of it. Then Fantrax decides three weeks later he actually lost the bid. Detroit is awarded five extra draft picks for this. No one knows why.
Needs: DT, CB, P
Cap Space: 26.93M
2014 Picks: 1-28, 2-24, 4-24, 5-24
Another scary good team without a lot of holes right now. Eagles owner Mike Stagg is in a very very good place to fill all those holes that his team doesn’t have. Watch for some solid spending on the defensive side of the ball, a nice supplemental draft, and another playoff run.
Needs: WR, DE, P
Cap Space: 15.4M
2014 Picks: 1-32, 2-21, 3-2, 3-15, 3-16, 3-30
It’s hard to take it easy when you need at least two solid receivers, are daily lighting incense and conducting animal sacrifices to try and keep Ryan Williams and DeMarco Murray healthy, watching 24-7 to protect Dez Bryant from himself, and have 6 picks in the top 3 rounds. But injury risks aside, the fact of the matter is that Dallas is well-positioned, and GM Robert Walters can use his resources and picks to select for luxury, not deep needs.
The AFC North (Non-Cleveland Edition)
Needs: WR, LB, S, P
Cap Space: 46.8M
2014 Picks: 1-25, 2-25, 4-25, 5-25
Needs: WR, CB, P
Cap Space: 30.98M
2014 Picks: 2-7, 2-13, 3-13, 4-13, 5-13
Needs: WR, DE, LB, S
Cap Space: 34.93M
2014 Picks: 1-15, 2-15, 2-18, 3-17, 5-15
What is it about this division? The entire division played in lockstep last year, and the entire division finds itself in a similar spot this off-season – moderate level of need, substantial cash to spend, and a solid draft situation. The Bengals are probably most “business-ready”, while the Ravens, courtesy of some extremely valuable contracts, have the most money to play with. But expect another competitive year in the AFC Norris.
The AFC North (Cleveland Edition)
Needs: WR, RB, DT, CB, S, K, P
Cap Space: 34.93M
2014 Picks: 1-19, 2-19, 3-8, 4-19, 5-19
Cleveland is in a similar space to the rest of the division in terms of resources – but the list of needs is much longer, particularly with Josh Gordon’s ganja-rocking exploits. New GM Jeff Hemlick abandoned his Miami pent-house for this, and will apply all his tricks, all his magic to make sure that Cleveland stays competitive.
Today’s Theological Paradox: God hates Cleveland. The evidence has been indisputable for decades. But yet the lottery always gives Cleveland the #1 pick. How does this work? Should the Browns expect divine aid? Or divine retribution? Both? Smiting on odd days, miracles on even days? Discuss.
About to Come out of Absolutely Nowhere and Beat the Crap out of the Entire League
Needs: LB, WR, P, CB
Cap Space: 42.88M
2014 Picks: 1-6, 1-11, 2-20, 3-6, 4-6, 5-6
Ever played a board game where you are playing hard against the guys you think are your main threats and then suddenly realize one guy who you weren’t even thinking about is about two turns away from winning? And you try to warn the other players, but they don’t believe you and the guy just sits quietly and smirks at you? Yeah, that’s Buffalo. Take a look at that roster. This isn’t a complete team yet. But not only is it close, but AJ Sisneros is about to go SHOPPING, with his 2 top-11 picks and 40+ Million in cap space. 2014 AFC East Champions and a deep playoff run. You heard it hear first. By the way – anyone else think the logo looks like a cross between the Bison you hunt in Oregon Trail, Blue Man Group, and Cyclops from the X-men with that uni-glass thing that shoots fire lasers? Bad ass.
Lots to Do!
New York Jets
Needs: QB, WR, TE, DT, P
Cap Space: 17.08M
2014 Picks: 1-5, 2-5, 3-5, 3-21, 4-5, 5-5
Tom Alberg’s team has a lot of needs, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, and particularly through the air. Fortunately, that top five pick will almost certainly be a very good player. The bad news is that 17M is a very limited budget to fix all these needs. Expect the Jets to be offensive buyers, but they’ll need to be judicious about their spending.
Needs: TE, RB, WR, DE, CB
Cap Space: 34.52M
2014 Picks: 1-31, 2-2, 3-10, 4-4, 5-14
The last time I evaluated the Colts, I didn’t love their defense. They responded by posting a top ten defense, obliterating me during the regular season, and booting me out of the playoffs. So realize I’m serious when I say I’m hesitant about writing this. But besides Luck, there’s nobody on that offense that scares me, and while the defense is still strong, there are distinct holes. Expect owner Richard Griffith to be a buyer in free agency and make the Colts a force again this year.
Needs: QB, WR, DE, LB, P
Cap Space: 29.94M
2014 Picks: 1-24, 2-31, 4-10, 5-10, 5-29
Washington needs a LB – but more than a LB, they need some Wide-outs and a Quarterback. The pieces in place on the offense (Jordan Reed, Alf, Celek, Ellington, and Pierre the Little Boy) are strong enough that a couple top receivers could put them in contention in a very tough division.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Needs: QB, WR, DE, LB, P
Cap Space: 10.87M
2014 Picks: 1-14, 2-14, 3-14, 3-29
Where to put the Bucs? Lots of needs. No money. Nice draft picks. They don’t really fit into any category, and could go a number of different directions depending on how “The waterman” wants to play it. Is Glennon the QB of the future? Or are the Bucs looking to draft one? Do the Bucs build on defense or on offense? Go for it now, or build for the future? Fascinating times in Tampa Bay.
Needs: QB, WR, DE, LB
Cap Space: 32.1M
2014 Picks: 1-10, 2-1, 2-4, 3-4, 5-4
Don’t look now, but Pedro Fiadeiro’s Vikings may be major players in free agency, with three top 40 picks, a hefty spending account, and a desperate need for something (anything!) resembling an offense. Expect the Vikes to stock up on young, offensive talent and plug enough gaps to contend.
Wheeling and Dealing? You So Crazy.
San Diego Chargers
Needs: RB, WR, LB, DT, S, K
Cap Space: 29.18M
2014 Picks: 1-12, 2-12, 3-12, 4-12, 5-12
Needs: RB, WR, LB, DT, S, K
Cap Space: 30.51M
2014 Picks: 1-26, 2-26, 2-29, 3-26, 4-26, 5-26
San Francisco 49ers
Needs: WR, CB, S
Cap Space: 26.76M
2014 Picks: 1-23, 2-23, 3-23, 4-23, 5-23
St. Louis Rams
Needs: RB, WR, LB, DE, S, P
Cap Space: 18.13M
2014 Picks: 1-3, 2-3, 3-3, 4-3, 5-3
“Why all this rushing around? This frantic swapping of players and picks? Fantasy Football is a simple game. You end the season. You have your picks. You have your money. You have your players. Why you not happy? Why you not content? Only evil can come of this flurry of ill-considered transactions and talent greed. Take your picks. Take your players. Make your picks. Reflect on our fantasy forefathers. It was good enough for them – why can’t it be good enough for you?”
None of these three teams are in a bad spot, though the 9ers have the fewest needs. The Rams have the best picks -but also the lowest remaining money and most holes to fill.
I Got a Fever… and the Only Cure is More Draft Picks!
Needs: RB, WR, LB, DT, S, K
Cap Space: 2.18M
2014 Picks: 1-7, 1-22, 1-27, 2-27, 3-27, 3-32
Quick trivia question. Which team currently sits closest to the salary cap? If you guessed the Titans before reading this, you are lying like Manziel saying he’s cool as a backup. While the commish will have to jettison some deadweight to pay for his expensive draft picks, three first rounders and 6 picks in the first three should supplement Tennessee’s youth movement nicely.
A big welcome back to owner Chris Adamson! The rest of you may remember spotting him last year at the franchise draft. He was the guy who traded for a bunch of future picks and then disappeared into the mountains while his team was repeatedly thrashed. Some say he pursued yoga and achieved a higher state of consciousness. Others that he devoted himself to ballroom dancing. Still others that he was abducted by aliens and forced to do their laundry. It doesn’t matter now, as Adamson is back and poised to infuse his team with a massive jolt of young talent.
IMPORTANT EDIT: I am told that Mr. Adamson is a new owner. If this is true, a warm welcome! But I wonder… aliens can change a man…
The Falcons need some speed in the secondary – and another playmaker on offense never hurts. And they have the picks to do it. Two picks in the top 18 with another six picks to follow that means that the Falcons will be looking to make some major noise in the draft.
In a rare case of Supply meets Demand, Raiders owner Nick Tomanelli needs a lot of stuff – on both sides of the ball. At the same time, he also has the resources to get a lot of stuff, both in the draft and free agency. The Raiders are likely a year away from Super Bowl contention, but this off-season will likely result in a much-improved Raiders franchise, particularly on offense.
Ultra-active Lions owner Michael Seraphim is poised to be the biggest buyer of the off-season, with an absolute embarrassment of riches at his disposal. One of the most educated owners in the league, there’s nobody better positioned to maximize their value. Of course, the Lions need to buy literally an entire defense – but the resources are there to get a very good one.
Thanks for reading everyone – I’ll be back once free agency is done to recap and get us all prepped for the draft! Good luck in free agency!