Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012 NFL Power Rankings: Week 16

I almost did a reverse power rankings on, "Who really deserves the first overall pick in the draft?" inspired by that horrendous Monday Night Football game that got Trent Dilfer and Steve Young all sorts of riled up.  Seriously, if the Jets and the Titans, talent wise, was not enough of a suck salad, the thick bleu cheese dressing on top was the fact that it was on Monday night and there simply was no other place to go for football. Now that I have that rant out of the way (there's more if you want me to go into the Arizona Cardinals that even the Cardinals hate the Cardinals), it's time to look at teams that look like they are really going to make some noise in the second season.  To all Redskins fans: start getting giddy now.

  1. New England Patriots (10-4): Yes they were beaten at home by the 49ers this past week, but that does not shake my confidence in Brady, Belichek, and the rest of the Patriots.  When Gronk comes back, the vertical element that has been lacking will return to the Patriots offense because so much attention has to be paid to the two TEs in the middle of the field.  San Francisco is one of the few teams that can dare the Patriots to throw the ball deep and not get burned.  Gronk will end that upon his return.  I'm still a buyer in Patriots stock.  Last Week: 1
  2. San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1): If David Akers makes two very makable field goals against the Rams, the Niners would easily be 12-2.  If Colin Kaepernick can match the efficiency (not the 4 tds, but that'd be nice) he showed against New England (in bad weather, mind you) by having a 107.7 rating (79.5 QBR), the San Francisco will have the quarterback play that can win them games instead of not losing them.  It's a big if, but I was high on Kaepernick since the draft process, and thought he landed in the perfect spot to develop both as a runner and a passer.  Last Week: 3
  3. Denver  Broncos (11-3): Tell me if this sounds familiar: A Peyton Manning-led offense establishes a lead, and then the defense is filled with sack artists who terrorize opposing QBs who are constantly in comeback mode and forced to pass.  Substitute Von Miller and Elvis Dumervile in Denver for Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney in the Indianapolis days and the teams are a virtual clone.  John Elway will not get it, but he deserves mention for NFL Executive  of the Year.  The transition from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning took three games.  That's it.  Great work by the organization.  My Chargers can learn something from this....  Last Week: 4
  4.  New York Giants (8-6): This may be my last week on the Giants bandwagon, but I simply trust them when their backs are against the wall.  Yes, they put up a huge stinker in Atlanta.  Yes, they scored zero points.  But I simply chalk it up to a terrible week with two more to go.  I'm a holder of Giants stock: neither buying more or selling off.  One of the few teams that rarely has to blitz to get quarterback pressure.  Throw in a two-time Super Bowl MVP in Eli Manning and you got a good formula for success.  Last Week: 2
  5. Green Bay Packers (10-4): Would be the #2 seed in the NFC if not for that horrendous call against the Seahawks that ended the reign of the replacement referees.  Could prove very costly if they have to face San Francisco in San Fran rather than the friendly confines of Lambeu Field.  They won't cry about it too much for they are going to start getting healthy at the exact right time.  Made the Bears look like the Cubs (see what  I did there?) they really are.  If an Aaron Rodgers-led team can fly under the radar, then this it.  Last Week: 5
  6. Atlanta Falcons (12-2): Great statement win by Atlanta over the Giants this week.  Again, a home game during the regular season does not an elite team make.  Show me this kind of effort in the playoffs, then we'll talk.  They don't have much to play for (can lock up #1 seed this weekend) going forward, but their true test will be in the playoffs, where even their Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez has never won a game (couldn't believe that when I discovered this).  Last Week: 7
  7. Houston Texans (12-2): Good job by them locking up the division against Indianapolis, but still needs to show it in the postseason.  If all they were missing last year was Matt Schaub, then we will hopefully see if that's true in a few weeks.  Would love to see someone other than Andre Johnson step up in their passing attack.  Could be Achilles Heel in the playoffs.  Last Week: 6
  8. Seattle Seahawks (9-5): Almost put them ahead of a division leader in Baltimore last week, and will do so this week.  I know they likely won't play a home game in the playoffs, but good defense travels well.  The pending Robert Sherman suspension could also be a real killer, but as of right now, he's playing.  Russell Wilson is really progressing nicely as a quarterback and, I can't believe I'm saying this, but Pete Carroll has done a fantastic job coaching up this team.  They play hard for their coach and their effort has afforded them a 9-5 record.  Last Week: 9
  9. Baltimore Ravens (9-5): They are trying to revert back to their super bowl winning strategy of playing zero offense and count on their defense to set the offense up.  One problem: Their defense isn't that great.  Firing Cam Cameron this late into the season will prove to be a huge mistake.  That offense looked horrendous last week, and not even Ray Lewis potentially returning from a Triceps injury can do anything about it.  I want to know what the Baltimore medical staff is doing that both Lewis and fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs returned so early from what are normally season-ending injuries.  Roids/HGH alert here.  Last Week: 8
  10. Washington Redskins (8-6): How bout them Redskins?!  Big win last week without their stud QB Robert Griffin III (or, as I like to call him, Bobby "Three Sticks").  Kirk Cousins is an NFL-Starter quality quarterback.  I wrote when he was drafted, "Too bad he went to RG3's Redskins...his promising career is now over."  I still believe that as long as he is in Washington when RG3 is, his career is meaningless.  I just hope that he doesn't pan out like how Kevin Kolb in Philly/Arizona did.  The Redskins need to shore up their pass defense for them to even have a sniff at the super bowl, but RG3 will keep them in a bunch of games with his playmaking ability.  Like Seattle's Defense, the Redskins running game travels nicely in the playoffs.  Last Week: NR
Others Receiving Consideration (in order): Indianapolis Colts (9-5), Dallas Cowboys (8-6), Chicago Bears (8-6), Minnesota Vikings (8-6)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2013 NFL Mock Draft #1: Way Too Early To Mean Anything

Now that I've ranked everyone in top 5s by position heading into next year, time to throw them out and arbitrarily pick the first 32 people picked (yay).  This draft board will look very, very different heading into the real draft in April.  Things like the Senior Bowl and the Combine need to happen before any picks are made with any kind of certainty.  Also, the draft order will change three more times (at least) before the draft.  So enjoy this fun, but useless bit of research.  Try not to be too devastated over who I think your team will pick.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith (QB) West Virginia: Need a QB, only worthwhile QB in class
  2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjoern Werner (DE) Florida St: Best overall DE, even if Babin returns
  3. Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore (DE) Texas A&M: Versatile DE, like Richard Seymour
  4. Arizona Cardinals: Matt Barkley (QB) Southern Cal: Because Leinart worked so well....
  5. Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei (DT) Utah: Haven't had real DT since Kris Jenkins
  6. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel (OT) Texas A&M: Protect Foles > Protect Vick
  7. Detroit Lions: Dee Milliner (CB) Alabama: They simply can't cover a statue
  8. Tennessee Titans: Jarvis Jones (OLB) Georgia: Best player available on the board
  9. San Diego Chargers: Chance Warmack (OG) Alabama: Beast Mode: O-Line style
  10. Cleveland Browns: Taylor Lewan (OT) Michigan: Protect last year's first rounders
  11. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te'o (ILB) Notre Dame: Finally have a captain for the defense
  12. Miami Dolphins: Justin Hunter (WR) Tennessee: Brian Hartline is not a #1 WR...
  13. New Orleans Saints: Barkevious Mingo (DE) LSU: Need.More.Pass Rush.
  14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sam Montgomery (DE) LSU: Need a corner, but Milliner is gone.
  15. New York Jets: Dion Jordan (DE) Oregon: see New Orleans Saints
  16. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews (OT) Texas A&M: Give Bradford a chance back there...
  17. Cincinnati Bengals: Eric Fisher (OT) Central Michigan: Needs not available, so protect QB
  18. Minnesota Vikings: Johnathan Hankins (DT) Ohio State: Kevin Williams is getting old...
  19. Dallas Cowboys: John Jenkins (DT) Georgia: D needs interior toughness.
  20. St. Louis Rams (via WSH): Keenan Allen (WR) Cal: Give Bradford another weapon
  21. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ezekiel Ansah (DE) BYU: Freak athlete: think JPP-type pass rusher
  22. Chicago Bears: Sheldon Richardson (DT) Mizzou: Desperately need OT, none available
  23. Seattle Seahawks: Cordarrelle Patterson (WR) Tennessee: Give Wilson more weapons
  24. New York Giants: Xavier Rhodes (CB) Florida St: Always have multiple corners injured...
  25. Indianapolis Colts: Jesse Williams (DT) Alabama: Need NT in new 3-4 defense
  26. Baltimore Ravens: Tavon Austin (WR) West Virginia: No better way to get explosiveness
  27. Green Bay Packers: Jonathan Cooper (CB) Miss. St: Woodson can't live forever
  28. San Francisco 49ers: Shariff Floyd (DT) Florida: Versatility on the DL always a plus
  29. Denver Broncos: Sylvester Williams (DT) North Carolina: Best Athlete available, by far
  30. New England Patriots: Barrett Jones (OG) Alabama: Versatile offensive lineman
  31. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Eifert (TE) Notre Dame: Best Tony Gonzalez Replacement project 
  32. Houston Texans: Zach Ertz (TE) Stanford: Another receiving option to distract D from Andre

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

NFL Power Rankings: Who Looks Super?

Week 15 is a good time to start doing power rankings, right?  Either way, The following are my power rankings in who is most likely to win the super bowl.  Overall win/loss record is one of the least heavily weighted stats that I am looking at for this (as you'll clearly see).

  1. New England Patriots (10-3): They are my preseason Super Bowl pick, and I'm certainly not wavering from that now.  Tom Brady now has 14 games with 4 (or more) TD and 0 INT, the most in NFL history.  Their offense remains as lethal as it's ever been (even has a running game), and their defense has gotten significantly better since last year (leads league in takeaways).  No reason why they can't get back to the big game, and win it this time.
  2. New York Giants (8-5): That's right.  An 8-5 team is ranked second.  When a team beats New Orleans, Green Bay, and San Francisco in the same regular season, that shows me all I need to know.  The Giants know how to beat the best teams.  No one has a better pass rush and, as much as it pains me to say it, they have one of the best 4th quarter quarterbacks in Eli Manning :::cringe:::.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1): I am all in on Colin Kaepernick.  Was high on him during the draft process, and will not waver from that assessment.  He is just as good of a runner, if not better, than Tebow, AND HE CAN THROW THE FOOTBALL AT AN NFL LEVEL.  With his arm, San Francisco can unleash this hidden weapon they've had all year, but never used with Alex Smith: Randy Moss.  Add a vertical element to their power running attack on offense, and that will provide leads that their elite defense will not squander.  Fun Stat: After playing San Francisco, the number of players landing on the injured list is higher than when playing any other opponent.  They are physical at every position on the field.
  4. Denver Broncos (10-3): Started the year against PIT, ATL, and HOU (1-2).  Since then, 9-1.  After Peyton Manning started to gel with his dynamic duo of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside and with familiar faces Jacob Tamme and Brandon Stokley in the slot, the Broncos offense is simply dynamic.  On the defensive side of the ball, Von Miller can't stop sacking quarterbacks and the unit, as a whole, looks very effective when playing with a lead.
  5. Green Bay Packers (9-4): When you have Aaron Rodgers and that offense, it can hide a lot of bad things defensively.  The Packers are missing their best defensive back (Charles Woodson) and pass rusher (Clay Matthews).  Once they return and are healthy, that defense can tighten up enough to make a run at the super bowl.
  6. Houston Texans (11-2): At one time, I thought they were one of the most complete teams in the NFL, but I can't back that up after looking at their schedule and seeing who they've beaten.  Their most impressive win against a team ranked ahead of them here is the week 3 win against a Denver team that had played Pittsburgh and Atlanta in the weeks leading up to the game.  Plus, Peyton had not yet gelled with his receivers.  This is largely a paper giant with the caveat that they are the best at tipping balls at the line of scrimmage, which can really neutralize any opposing offense.  Also, need to see Matt Schaub be successful in the playoffs.
  7. Atlanta Falcons (11-2): There is not one thing that the Falcons do that is "elite."  Furthermore, this is largely a finesse team with zero toughness on either side of the ball.  Cannot win big games away from home, either.  Lost @ New Orleans and @ Carolina (could have easily lost both games vs. the Panthers).  Credit to the Falcons, they have won a ton of close games and know how to close out teams.  Don't really see the Falcons winning a single game in the playoffs this year.  Highly doubt they'd be favored in the playoffs, even at home, against the Packers, Giants, or 49ers.
  8. Baltimore Ravens (9-4): There is no more fraudulent division leader than the Ravens.  @davegot astutely points out the Ravens ability to either play up or down to their opponents.  So much so, that they have fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron this week.  While watching their game against the Redskins, I was easily able to detect their playcalling tendency on important plays: throw the ball no more than five yards past the line of scrimmage to Ray Rice and have him do the rest.  Yikes.
  9. Seattle Seahawks (8-5): Almost slotted them above the Ravens, but their dependency on home field will not go far when they are likely are going to be a wildcard team in the playoffs.  Likely one year away from being a real threat in the playoffs.  Must improve passing game consistency.  Also, got gifted a win against the Packers.
  10. Chicago Bears (8-5): Remember when people thought they were the best team in the league?  Yeah, me neither.  When a team depends on its defense scoring points, that is NEVER a good thing.  Defensive touchdowns are nice, but are icing on the cake, not the cake itself.  Could easily drop out of  a playoff spot this week if they lose to Green Bay.
Others receiving consideration (in order): Washington Redskins (7-6), Indianapolis Colts (9-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6), Dallas Cowboys (7-6) 

Monday, December 10, 2012

2013 NFL Rookie Rankings: Defensive Players

In conjunction with my top 5s for 2013 NFL Rookie Offensive Players, here are the top 5s for all 2013 rookie defensive players by position.

*=Draft Eligible Underclassman

Defensive Tackles: If your league has DT spots, this is a great draft for this position.  Should easily see at least three and possibly even five defensive tackles taken in the first round alone.

  1. Star Lotulelei, Utah: There is not a better run stopper in this draft at any position.  If you run at him, he will cause problems.  That simple.  Needs to develop some pass rush moves if he wants to be a three down lineman in a 4-3 scheme, but can start right away as a run stuffing NT in either a 4-3 or a 3-4.
  2. Johnathan Hankins*, Ohio State: Another brute strength run stuffer that has the looks of a 3-4 NT.  Like Lotulelei, needs to develop better pass rush moves, but is stout against the run.  Demands a double team at all times.  Could return to school to compete in a bowl game for what will be a highly rated Buckeye squad.
  3. Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia: One could argue that there would be no Alec Ogletree or Jarvis Jones without the prowess of Johnathan Jenkins.  He is a terror on opposinging interior offensive lines given his wide frame and superb strength.  Has a good enough burst to even generate a good bull rush on passing downs.  Can start right away for more than a few teams (can be considered as early as wherever Carolina picks).
  4. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina: Will have to prove his quickness and agility at the combine.  If he does prove to be as good of an athlete as advertised by ACC fans, then he will climb up the draft board.  Quickly.  Has the ability to stop the run while already having a small arsenal of pass rush moves (swim move, specifically).
  5. Sheldon Richardson*, Missouri: Along with Williams, has the ability to quickly climb draft boards after the combine.  He is extremely quick with his first step and is explosive with his first contact on offensive linemen.  Would not be surprised if he’s the second DT taken in this draft.

Defensive Ends: There are no surefire pass rushers like an Aldon Smith in San Francisco, but there is a Jason Pierre-Paul-type player who just needs the right coaching to get the most out his raw abilities
  1. Barkevious Mingo, LSU*: Tall (6’5), lean (240 lbs) and flexible for a DE.  Has dropped in some people’s eyes, but not mine.  Still will be the cream of the DE crop.  Best suited as a 4-3 defensive end.  Best when pass rushing, but can fly down the line to chase down RBs in the run game.  
  2. Bjoern Werner, Florida State*: Could the most complete of all of the DE in this draft, but is not a standout at any facet of the game.  Has a never ending motor and looks to be a solid three down lineman in a 4-3 or as an OLB in a 3-4, but should not be asked to drop back and play in space much, for he is not that naturally athletic.
  3. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU*: He has played NT, DT, DE, and OLB in his very short time playing football.  Ran track for BYU in 2009 (that’s how quick he is).  He is drawing comparisons to Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul in that he is raw, but freakishly talented.  In fact, scouts are saying that he is more raw than JPP, but MORE talented and athletic.  I’ll say that again, Ansah is being touted as MORE TALENTED AND ATHLETIC than Jason Pierre-Paul.  If he declares for the draft, teams will be salivating for his raw talent and a bidding war could erupt for his services.  Stay tuned on him for he is my “player to watch” in terms of how meteoric his draft stock will rise throughout the process.
  4. Corey Lemonier, Auburn*: His game reminds me of Justin Smith’s in San Francisco.  What he does not have in natural athleticism, he makes up for in brute strength and determination.  Quick off the line, which really benefits his relentlessness when tracking down opposing RBs in the run game.  His motor is what gets him to the quarterback more often than any exception pass rush move.  Needs to refine his hand placement, but should shine in the draft process.
  5. Dion Jordan, Oregon: Like Mingo, he is tall (6’6) and lean (239 lbs) and has the ability to get around opposing offensive lines in pass rush situations.  He looks to be a hybrid DE/OLB for a 3-4 front due to his ability to lift his hand off the ground and play in space.

Inside Linebacker: After the top-2 ILBs, the class is very thin so get them while they’re hot!
  1. Manti Te’O, Notre Dame: There’s a reason why he was a legitimate Heisman candidate: he’s really effing good.  Can play every down, every game, for every team.  Emotional leader of the #1 ranked team in the college landscape.  Not the most athletic linebacker you’ll ever see, but that does not stop him from getting to the ball carrier first...no matter where they are.  Very much like Carolina’s Luke Kuechly.
  2. Alec Ogletree, Georgia*: Most impressive defensive player in the SEC Championship game against Alabama.  Made huge plays all over the field.  Impressive in both pass coverage and in pass rush.  Very rare trait for an ILB.
  3. Arthur Brown, Kansas State: Needs to lift well at the combine to prove that he can handle the rough and tough nature of the NFL, but has the speed and instincts against the run and the pass to play at an NFL level.  Could very well be a three down starter in the NFL as early as next year.
  4. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina: Can get lost among the blockers in a more complex running scheme, but shows good instincts to get to the point of attack.  Adequate tackling skills once he gets there, but needs to shed blockers in his way better before being a reliable run stopper.  Can play in space with his above average speed.
  5. Shayne Skov, Stanford*: Did well coming off of ACL surgery in 2011.  All the measurables are there from Skov, but he is not stellar at any one particular thing.  Could be a solid rotation guy for a team looking for depth at ILB.

Outside Linebacker: Jarvis Jones is a treasure.  The rest could be someone else’s trash.
  1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia*: By far the best OLB in the class.  Elite pass rusher/backfield disruptor.  His pass rushing skills are equalled by his non stop motor.  Never takes a play off.
  2. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State: Like Jones, Jenkins can get after the quarterback.  He loves to play in the opponent’s backfield, and does so often.  Can work on shedding blocks when the offense runs at him, which is the only thing that is limiting him from being a top-15 pick.
  3. Chase Thomas, Stanford: Athletic dude that can play with his hand on or off the ground in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.  Very similar to Chicago’s Shea McClellin in his versatile play while in college.  Could be a late first round pick, but likely to slide to the second or third given the depth at more premium positions like offensive tackle.
  4. Jelani Jenkins, Florida*: Can flat out fly.  Runs like a defensive back, rather than a linebacker.  Has good enough instincts to survive at the next level, but simply isn’t strong enough for my taste.  Needs to add some bulk in the offseason and lift well at the combine in order to raise his draft stock.  The tape doesn’t lie though, the man is fast and can be very disruptive.
  5. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers: A converted safety, but Greene wound up leading Rutgers in tackles in 2011 in his first full season as a linebacker.  Has good instincts and athleticism to get to the point of attack quickly.  Shows solid wrap up skills when it comes to tackling.  His inexperience at the position leaves him with room to grow at the next level, given the right coach.  Would not be surprised if his former Rutgers coach and current Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano drafts him in the middle rounds.

Cornerback: After Dee Milliner, there may not be a single first rounder.
  1. Dee Milliner, Alabama*: Prototypical man-to-man shutdown corner.  Has superior speed for a CB that can save him even if he’s slightly beaten by a WR.  Loves to make plays in run defense as well.  Can consistently be seen making plays on RBs trying to stretch a play out wide.  Needs refinement if going to be utilized in zone schemes.
  2. Xavier Rhodes, Florida St.*: Very physical at the line of scrimmage.  Constantly knocks his receiver off his route.  Has the agility and quickness to stick with receivers should he not jam the receiver as much as he would like.  Willing to support the run and tackles effectively
  3. Desmond Trufant, Washington: Has a great pedigree being the brother of Marcus (Seattle) and Isiah (New York Jets) Trufant, Desmond has shown flashes of elite coverage skills.  He tends to shy away from the physical game, especially in run support, but makes up for it with speed and quickness to keep up with almost every receiver to face him.
  4. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi St.: May have the best ball skills of any defensive back in the draft.  Loves to make plays intercepting balls and forcing fumbles.  Has good size (6’1), but tends to shy away from making proper tackles, and opts for arm tackles.  That simply won’t be acceptable at the next level.  Can’t argue with a three year starter for an SEC defense, though.
  5. Logan Ryan, Rutgers*: Not as talented as New England’s Devin McCourty (and fellow Rutgers alum), but he’s still really good.  Has the tools to cover at the next level, but lacks the consistency needed to be an elite DB.

Safety: Class is deep, but not elite.
  1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: Has the size (6’1) and speed to play at either safety spot in the NFL, which makes him really valuable.  Texas pedigree makes him dependable.  His numbers (all conference team) make him talented.  Should be in the top-40 picks.
  2. Matt Elam, Florida*: Whenever the Florida defense needed a big play, Elam was the one who made it.  Time and time again it was elam making the big hit, tackle, sack, strip, pick in the big games against Texas A&M, Florida State, LSU, Georgia, etc.  Loves to make big plays and does.
  3. Eric Reid, LSU*: Needs to improve his coverage skills to be a consistent presence on an NFL field, but he did not have tons of help from an LSU defense that lost studs like Brandon Taylor (San Diego), Morris Claiborne (Dallas), and Tyrann Mathieu
  4. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma*: The most consistent player on what was a really disappointing Oklahoma team.  Production inflated due to terrible play from the rest of the Oklahoma defense, but shows great instincts and athleticism to make the plays required of him.
  5. Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse: A linebacker in a safety’s body.  Loves to throw his body around and make HUGE hits.  Needs to show more discipline on fakes so he is not constantly out of position, but the physicality for a safety is very desirable, especially in run support.

2013 NFL Rookie Rankings: Offensive Players

Besides for Army/Navy, there are no more significant college football games until Alabama and Notre Dame battle for the BCS Championship (even though Oregon vs. Alabama would have been the best game if you trust vegas point spreads, but that’s another argument for another day).  Seriously, look at how bad the bowl games are.  It’s atrocious.  The most interesting part of the bowl games to me is the SWAG the players get.  No wonder why the better teams don’t care about the game.  It would not surprise me if Northern Illinois wins the Orange Bowl simply because there is zero motivation for the Florida State players to play hard.  Just play good enough to maintain your NFL Draft stock heading into the senior bowl, combine, etc. where you really strut your stuff.  It is with this in mind that I am providing my initial Offensive Rookie Rankings for Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues.  Defensive prospects still to come.  Enjoy!

*=Draft-Eligible Underclassman
Quarterbacks: Overall, not even close to last year’s crop of QBs so if you’re looking for one, I’m sorry.

  1. Geno Smith, West Virginia:  He is not in the same class as Robert Griffin III (why is he not called ‘Bobby Three Sticks’?) or Cam Newton, but he is cut from similar molds.  He can really help himself if he runs well and if he demonstrates accuracy on deep passes at the combine.  Has to show teams with high draft picks that he will be a better option than likely free-agent-to-be Mike Vick.
  2. Matt Barkley, Southern Cal.: The Anakin Skywalker of the group.  Truly disappointing in terms of his physical development.  Cannot stretch the field with his arm strength, and his accuracy with deep balls is not at an NFL level.  His knowledge of the game is second-to-none, but any team that drafts him must know that he comes with physical limitations.
  3. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: On the shorter side (6’2 ish), but possesses good pocket mobility to find throwing lanes.  Natural born leader who has the ability to pick up an NFL offense quickly.  The loss of Bobby Petrino last offseason really hurt Wilson’s development, but his talent should shine with better coaching at the senior game and in the NFL.
  4. Mike Glennon, NC State: Simply put, he’s a giant (6’7+).  This could lead to an elongated delivery.  Will rarely have to worry about balls getting batted down at the line of scrimmage, if he’s protected.  When protected, shows good accuracy.  May be the best deep ball thrower of the bunch.  However, accuracy tends to slip when he’s forced out of the pocket, for he is not the greatest of athletes.
  5. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Remember me?  I used to be the best thing since sliced bread.  Now?  Not.  Average across the board.  Accuracy is overrated given system and lack of good defense played in the Big 12.  Looks like a mid-rounder at best in the NFL Draft and a fantasy football non-factor.

Running Backs: One word.  Ouch.  No Trent Richardson or Doug Martin in this year’s draft.

  1. Le’veon Bell, Michigan State*: At 6’2, he has tremendous size and strength, but his top-end speed will not allow him to break away from anyone.  Shows promise as a pass blocker and as a pass catcher, if need be.  Reminds me of a more agile version of Oakland’s Marcel Reece.
  2. Giovanni Bernard, North Carolina*: Considering that North Carolina is not eligible for a bowl game this year, Bernard is likely to return to the Tar Heels for another season for a chance to win a bowl game.  If he declares for the NFL, he has the talent to even be the #1 RB off the board (albeit likely in the second round).  Lacks in pass protection, but is an above average receiver for a RB.  Also served as UNC’s primary punt returner and has home run ability whenever he touches the ball.
  3. Montee Ball, Wisconsin: The one thing you can say about Ball is that he has made the most out of the average mix of height/weight/speed he was given.  The all-time NCAA leader in touchdowns is a nice title to have, but he simply is not an elite talent for the NFL.  Can maybe latch on somewhere that needs help running the ball at the goal line (Green Bay is the first team that comes to mind).
  4. Kenjon Barner, Oregon*: An absolute burner that has a lot of Darren Sproles in him.  Although he is undersized, he can be dangerous in the screen game.  Too small to be a reliable pass blocker, but his lateral agility and top-end speed are too much to ignore altogether.  Likely to return to Oregon, though, to make another run for a championship.
  5. Andre Ellington, Clemson: Another undersized guy with top-end speed.  However, unlike Barner, Ellington just cannot stay out of the medical staff’s office.  Constantly dealing with nicks and nagging injuries and, when combined with his body frame, adds up to being more of a risk than a reward.

Wide Receivers: Good, not great crop.  If you’re in need of WR help in your leagues, might be able to find a gem.  No Calvin Johnson’s though.

  1. Justin Hunter, Tennessee*: Depending on his 40-yard dash time at the combine, could draw lots of comparisons to A.J. Green.  Lots to like about his length, mobility, and ability to go up and get the ball at the highest point possible.  Needs to have a good workout to show that he is not too wiry for the NFL.
  2. Keenan Allen, California: Good size (6’3) for an NFL receiver and showed the ability to separate in the Pac 12.  One problem: NFL defenses are much better than Pac 12 defenses.  Will need a phenomenal combine to launch himself into top-10 consideration, but could find himself being drafted in the middle of the first round.
  3. Robert Woods, Southern Cal.*: Suffered greatly from Matt Barkley’s regression this season, but he might be the most gifted of the WR class.  Has decent size (6’1) and has showed the ability to make every catch an NFL receiver needs to make.  Has suffered an occasional spell of the dropsies, but has far too many skills to be overlooked.  Can jump Allen and possibly Hunter with a low 40 time at the combine.
  4. Tavon Austin, West Virginia: If he’s even, he’s leavin.  His quickness and top-end speed are, by a wide margin, the best among WR, and possibly every player in this draft class.  I have not seen a player get to top gear faster than Austin.  He’s fast.  He’s quick.  He’s short.  Very, Very, short (5’8 on a phone book).  Can also make plays on special teams.  Needs to be drafted to the right team for him to have fantasy significance (Houston comes to mind).
  5. Marquess Wilson, Washington State: Has good height (6’4), but needs to add some bulk to his frame in order to deal with the rigors of NFL life.  If he shows good running abilities at the combine, can skyrocket up draft boards given his abilities to get open and use his big hands and catching radius.  If he adds some bulk while maintaining speed, that should be more than enough to combat opposing pressing cornerbacks.

Tight Ends: There are a couple of elite TEs in this draft class and could be top-10 TEs in their first year of fantasy football.  But remember, they’re tight ends.  Don’t go crazy.
  1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame: Good all-around pass catching tight end.  Can line up in-line, in the slot, or out wide.  Fast enough in seem routes to get behind MLB in cover 2, but does not have elite top-end speed.  Can block, but should not be consistently kept in to pass protect.
  2. Zach Ertz, Stanford*: Life Eifert, is a significantly better pass catcher than pass protector or run blocker.  Gets off the ball well and shows the ability to separate.  Competes well in jump ball scenarios.
  3. Dion Sims, Michigan State: A better blocker than the two top TEs in the class, but does not run anything resembling as good of a route.  Might be a late riser if his top-end speed is as advertised as the best at the position, but he rounds off too many routes and can leave his quarterback out to dry with ball-hawking safeties in the NFL.
  4. Levine Toilolo, Stanford: Anyone who is 6’8 and can run is an automatic threat, especially in goal line situations.  Can easily think of him as an offensive lineman that can run and catch given his ability to block inline and in space.  Might have the longest career of all of the tight ends in this class due to his versatility as a blocker and receiver.
  5. Jordan Reed, Florida*: The former quarterback is still transitioning to his new position, but is an extremely talented athlete.  Likely to go back to school for one more year to continue learning how to play tight end.  Can also look to improve his blocking, but no other TE prospect is a better athlete.