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Game Theory Post #1: Drafting a Running Back in the 1st Round

game-theory

Game Theory is the study of strategic decision making. One thing I’ve noticed is how the sports world has a dearth of articles through the prism of game theory. That is quite strange to me as I can’t think of a more consensus driven and follow the crowd type industry than sports, the NFL in particular. I will periodically post these type of articles on my website and will title and image them differently so they stand out.

First up in my game theory crosshairs is the running back position and how the NFL undervalues it. One consistent pattern of game theory is that when everyone is doing business one way you probably should be doing it the opposite. Whether it was in the 80’s when everyone ran the 4-3 defense, in the 90’s when everyone ran West Coast offenses or in the 2000’s when everyone reached for QBs in the Top 10 it was usually better to go rogue than stay with the crowd. Currently the most mainstream viewpoint in the NFL is that the RB position isn’t worth squat. Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy are widely regarded as 3 of the 5 best running backs in the world yet all have had rumors surrounding them that their team will force them to take a pay cut. The NFL Draft is no different as 2 of the top 13 players on my board happen to be running backs and most Mock Drafts currently have 1 or both of them available at #27 when my Dallas Cowboys come on the clock. Melvin Gordon is my #1 RB for now but Todd Gurley is close as he has a much higher upside due to his superior size and strength. Gordon reminds me of Jamaal Charles, eerily so actually, while Gurley reminds me of Adrian Peterson not so much in style as in just sheer athleticism for his size at the running back position. Both look like long term stars at the position so it will be interesting to see if either or both crack the first round. It’s an interesting debate as there are a lot of ways to look at it. On one hand you can make the case that a RB should NEVER be drafted in the first round as every year there are plenty of starting caliber running backs going for $2-4 million a year in free agency with Justin Forsett being the most recent example. Few positions in the NFL have as many candidates to fill a team’s starting role as the RB position. Last year 10 of the top 11 rushers were not 1st round picks, the lone exception being Marshawn Lynch. Also there hasn’t been a 1st round pick at the running back position since 2012. This shows that running backs are universally being avoided in the 1st round AND you can fill the position adequately or even impressively in the 2nd round or later. Another defense of this argument is the list of the past 7 running backs taken in the 1st round:

2012: Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson

2011: Mark Ingram

2010: CJ Spiller, Ryan Matthews, Jahvid Best

Not only are almost all of the best running backs in today’s NFL not 1st round picks but almost all of the recent 1st rounders are busts. Two of the seven aren’t even in the NFL anymore (Wilson, Best), three of the seven are free agents (Spiller, Ingram, Matthews) with rumors persisting that their current teams’ won’t even try to keep them and two of the seven (Richardson, Martin) are struggling to just keep their starting job. Arguments like this sure make it seem like a GM should be fired if they spend a 1st round pick on a RB but I will try and explain why there are two sides to the argument and why taking a RB in the 1st round could be a boon for a franchise. First off is the late 1st round contract. The Cowboys are picking at #27. Last year the Cardinals took Deone Bucannon at that spot and gave him a 4 year $7.71 million deal which comes out to approximately $1.9 million a year. In the past two drafts a team in the late first round could have taken any of these backs with their pick:

Jeremy Hill

Carlos Hyde

Giovanni Bernard

Le’Veon Bell

Eddie Lacy

Hill, Bell and Lacy all were in the Top 7 in the NFL in rushing last year. Hyde was held back due to playing time issues and Bernard is a multidimensional threat that impacts the game in more ways than just running the ball (he has back to back +1,000 yard in rushing and receiving combined so he is still quite impactful). All 5 would be slam dunks as late 1st round picks and their franchise would be saving millions every year by taking this approach. The Cleveland Browns gave a 2 year $6.2 million ($3.1 million per year) contract for Ben Tate last offseason. The Jacksonville Jaguars gave a 3 year $10.5 million ($3.5 million per year) contract to Toby Gerhart last offseason. Both were considered shrewd moves by the consensus as they used the modern day approach for the position and filled their RB need on the cheap so they were able to use cap space and draft choices in other spots. Tate was cut midway through the season and had almost no impact on his team, Gerhart averaged 3.2 ypc and had less than 400 yards rushing on the season. I understand why people look at guys like Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy and Lesean McCoy who were taken in the 2nd round and say that no one should take a RB in the 1st but a team taking a RB in the late 1st guarantees themselves the pick of the litter and these RBs available at that pick are superstars in this league while the players taken at other positions are not. Last year the Cardinals took Bucannon at #27 and he didn’t even start for them for much of the season. You don’t think them drafting Jeremy Hill instead would have changed the course of their season? Andre Ellington got hurt but even before he did he wasn’t putting up good rushing numbers (3.3 ypc on the season). Replace him with Hill and the Cardinals likely win 1-2 more games in 2014 which would have secured for them the #1 seed in the playoffs. Also drafting a RB in the 1st round gets you 4 years at around $2 mil per for an elite talent which allows you to avoid the “retread market” where shot in the dark types like Gerhart and Tate mingle with over the hill types like Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, DeAngelo Williams, Steven Jackson, etc. Look at teams with a Top 10 rusher from last year and you will notice that all 10 of those teams had a winning record in 2014. The NFL is a passing league that is focused around the QB but an elite RB can take immense pressure off of that QB which allows him to perform better. Before Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh had a dysfunctional offense yet this year, with Bell being #2 in the NFL in rushing, Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing. DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing and Romo followed him by leading the NFL in QB Rating since he was allowed to pass in more advantageous positions. Andrew Luck’s team couldn’t run the ball or stop the run and they were blown out in the playoffs because of those two failures. The Seahawks were one play away from winning back to back Super Bowls and both years they were led by an offense centered around a Skittles eating beast of a running back. There are questions about whether Melvin Gordon has enough strength and toughness to be a good inside runner and worth a 1st round pick. There are questions if Todd Gurley will be able to stay healthy for a 16 game season and be worth a 1st round pick. Yet if you can answer either of those two questions affirmatively then you should be rooting for your team to draft that running back in the first round. It will be the first time in 3 years that one was taken that high and numerous analysts and commentators will pan the pick as it has become cool to bash the running back position. Yet for teams drafting in the late 1st round there are few places where you can get better bang for your buck than by going against the trend and drafting an elite running back prospect at that point. The Cardinals at #24, Ravens at #26, Cowboys at #27, Broncos at #28, Colts at #29 and Patriots at #32 would all be wise to re-consider their approach to the position and change course. I doubt they will so it will be fun to re-visit their decision to pass on Todd Gurley and instead take a mediocre tackle, a #3 CB or a 2 down linebacker who makes little impact. All the while they will be grinning like Cheshire cats when some “stupid” team like the Bengals takes another RB “too early.” You know those Bengals right? The ones that have stolen an elite talent in the 2nd round each of the past two years simply because he played running back. You know the team that has made the playoffs 5 of the past 6 years despite having a crappy QB behind center? What do they know.

Top 100 NFL Draft Prospects (Non-eligible players included)

Updated 2/21/15 (PR is pass rusher not punt returner)

NCAA Football: Florida State-Spring Game

  1. Jameis Winston QB Florida St. Soph
  2. Leonard Williams DT USC Jr.
  3. Joey Bosa PR Ohio State Soph
  4. Myles Garrett PR Texas A&M Freshman
  5. Marcus Mariota QB Oregon Jr.
  6. Landon Collins S Alabama Sr.
  7. Cam Robinson LT Alabama Freshman
  8. Laremy Tunsil OT Ole Miss Soph
  9. Robert Nkemdiche DE Ole Miss Soph
  10. Kevin White WR West Virginia Jr.
  11. Andrus Peat OT Stanford Jr.
  12. Kendall Fuller CB Virginia Tech Soph
  13. Christian Hackenburg QB Penn St. Soph
  14. Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss Soph
  15. Randy Gregory PR Nebraska Jr.
  16. Myles Jack LB UCLA Soph
  17. Amari Cooper WR Alabama Jr.
  18. Melvin Gordon RB Wisconsin Jr.
  19. Danny Shelton DT Washington Sr.
  20. Vernon Hargreaves III CB Florida Soph
  21. Dante Fowler Jr. PR Florida Jr.
  22. Tre’Davious White CB LSU Soph
  23. Arik Armstread DT Oregon Jr.
  24. Mario Edwards Jr. DE FSU Jr.
  25. Todd Gurley RB Georgia Jr.
  26. Vic Beasley PR Clemson Sr.
  27. Devante Parker WR Louisville Sr.
  28. Paul Dawson LB TCU Sr.
  29. Trae Waynes CB Michigan St. Sr.
  30. Deion Barnes PR Penn St. Jr.
  31. Reggie Ragland LB Alabama Jr.
  32. DT A’Shawn Robinson DT Alabama Freshman
  33. Brandon Scherff OT Iowa Sr.
  34. Jaelen Strong WR Arizona St. Sr.
  35. Nelson Agholar WR USC Jr.
  36. Marcus Peters CB Washington Jr.
  37. Cedric Ogbuehi OT Texas A&M Sr.
  38. TJ Yeldon RB Alabama Jr.
  39. Ifo Ekpre-Olumu CB Oregon Sr.
  40. Duke Johnson RB Miami Jr.
  41. Maxx Williams TE Minnesota Soph
  42. Jaylon Smith LB Notre Dame Soph
  43. Brett Hundley QB UCLA Jr.
  44. PJ Williams CB Florida St. Jr.
  45. Jordan Lucas CB Penn State Jr.
  46. Kevin Hogan QB Stanford Jr.
  47. Karl Joseph S West Virginia Jr.
  48. Owamagbe Odighizuwa DT UCLA Sr.
  49. James Connor RB Pittsburgh Soph
  50. Erik Striker LB OU Jr.
  51. Speedy Noil WR Texas A&M Freshman
  52. Eric Kendricks LB UCLA Sr.
  53. Tyler Johnstone OT Oregon Jr.
  54. Davonte Fields PR TCU Jr.
  55. Tyler Boyd WR Pittsburgh Soph
  56. La’el Collins OT LSU Sr.
  57. Jamison Crowder WR Duke Sr.
  58. Bralon Addison WR Oregon Jr.
  59. Alani Fua PR BYU Sr.
  60. Ereck Flowers OT Miami Jr.
  61. Shaq Thompson S Washington Jr.
  62. Sean Mannion QB Oregon St. Sr.
  63. Jake Fisher OT Oregon Sr.
  64. Shilique Calhoun PR Michigan St. Jr.
  65. Chris Hackett S TCU Jr.
  66. Tony Conner S Ole Miss Soph
  67. KD Cannon WR Baylor Freshman
  68. AJ Tarpley LB Stanford Sr.
  69. Cody Prewitt S Ole Miss Sr.
  70. Dorial Green-Beckham WR OU Jr.
  71. Denzel Perryman LB Miami Sr.
  72. Malcom Brown DT Texas Jr.
  73. Clive Walford TE Miami Sr.
  74. Kei’Varae Russell CB Notre Dame Jr.
  75. Cameron Irving OT FSU Sr.
  76. Tevin Mitchell CB Arkansas Sr.
  77. Sammy Coates WR Auburn Jr.
  78. Noah Spence PR Ohio State Jr.
  79. Corey Crawford DE Penn St Sr.
  80. Henry Anderson DT Stanford Sr.
  81. Michael Bennett DT Ohio St. Sr.
  82. Shaq Lawson PR Clemson Soph
  83. Connor Cook QB Michigan St. Jr.
  84. Hunter Henry TE Arkansas Soph
  85. Brendan Langley CB Georgia Soph
  86. Christian Covington DT Rice Jr.
  87. Mike Davis RB South Carolina Jr.
  88. Bryce Petty QB Baylor Sr.
  89. Atwan Goodley WR Baylor Sr.
  90. Quandre Diggs CB Texas #28 5’10 192 Sr.
  91. Kenneth Dixon RB Louisiana Tech Jr.
  92. Nick O’Leary TE FSU Sr.
  93. Derron Smith S Fresno State Sr.
  94. Johnathan Gray RB Texas Jr.
  95. Andre Monroe DT Maryland Sr.
  96. Josh Shaw CB USC Sr.
  97. Denzel Nkemdiche S Ole Miss Jr.
  98. Kenyon Drake RB Alabama Jr.
  99. AJ Johnson LB Tennessee Sr.
  100. Tevin McDonald S Eastern Washington Sr.

Additional comments:

Non eligible players included-This can be confusing for some as you might see Joey Bosa at #3 and say, “but he’s not even in the draft this year?” Correct! I still include them on my year end list like this because I think it is helpful to see the strengths and weaknesses of a draft class and especially a specific position. As you can see the top 2 pass rushers on my board (Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett) aren’t draft eligible which gives a better perspective on the next tier talents like Randy Gregory and Dante Fowler who are in this year’s draft. Both should have good careers but neither seem like superstar types and that is more easily seen by including freshman and sophomores. Also I only include the non-eligible players on my beginning and end of season lists so a new list for the 2015 entrants will be added to the website later.

Jameis Winston-So Jameis regains the top spot. He had the top spot at the end of the 2013 season, had a terrible offseason in which he was arrested for stealing crab legs, the rape charge was brought up again in a formal investigation by the school and he screamed obscenities on the FSU campus at a woman yet even all of that only dropped him to the #7 spot in my last rankings in the fall of 2014. He’s just too talented to not deserve a Top 3 pick as he reminds me of a later career Steve McNair after he gained more accuracy yet lost a little speed and athleticism. Both could move and buy extra time in the pocket, both were tall and somewhat thickly built men and both had good arm strength but also the ability to put touch on the ball. I just finished watching the QB portion of the Combine tonight and again am sold on Jameis being a franchise QB. That being said he is still a grade A dumbass and I have no doubt that he will cause some PR nightmare for the NFL franchise he goes to. Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler and Brett Favre have done the same over the years and all of them were still given the chance to put a helmet back on for their franchise so I don’t see it being as big of a problem as some people do. I expect Winston to be taken #1, have a very good rookie season and quickly establish himself as a Top 20 QB. He will have a high interception rate but he’s a winner, a leader and is clutch. There aren’t too many franchise QBs out there so Tampa will accept him, warts and all.

WR Class-There were 3 rookie wideouts last year that had +1,000 yards receiving which was historic. Already there is talk of this being a trend due to improve QB play, the proliferation of the spread offense to the NFL, etc. I don’t buy it. I said that last year’s draft was the best WR class I’ve ever graded and it did not disappoint. I fully expect 3 wideouts (Kevin White, Amari Cooper and DeVante Parker) to have good rookie seasons but wouldn’t be surprised if none of them broke the 1,000 yard mark. It is tough to do and will continue to be seen as a rarity once last year’s WR class recedes from memory. That being said Kevin White intrigues the hell out of me. He reminds me of Julio Jones due to his size/speed combination, his long dreadlocks help the comparison too. I’m less intrigued by Amari who I think was force fed the ball a lot this season. Keep in mind he was a borderline 1st round pick going into this year as his sophomore campaign wasn’t very impressive. He isn’t strong, tall or very tough which makes me think he will be a high grade #2 WR more than a top end #1. He could surprise me but I think he will underwhelm expectations and Lane Kiffin will be exposed as a future red flag for prospects. In 2012 he force fed the ball to Marqise Lee who won the Biletnikoff Award that year (118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 TDs) and in 2014 he force fed the ball to Amari Cooper who also won the Biletnikoff (124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 TDs). Do you see any similarity? I do. Cooper will be a very good player and is superior to Lee as a prospect but neither look like #1 wideout material.

Leonard Williams-Tomorrow the DL go through the Combine process and I am excited to see Leonard’s workout. Right now he grades out as the #2 DT I’ve ever graded, only behind Ndamakong Suh who was a once a generation prospect coming out of Nebraska. Williams is that rare prospect who has no holes in his game as he is an elite athlete, fills up the stat sheet, is a leader, has a great motor and has no character issues. I am sold on Winston as a franchise QB otherwise Williams would be an easy choice for the #1 spot on my board. With the QB position getting so much attention there is a good chance that Williams will still be on the board at #3. I suspect the Jaguars would be quite happy with that outcome as Gus Bradley is a defensive minded coach who was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks previously and is a guy who values hard work and toughness. Leonard has that in spades and he will be a great addition to whatever team he goes to.

Landon Collins-He is the highest rated safety on my board since Eric Berry in 2010. I have a Top 5 grade on him which is higher than most scouts so it will be interesting to see where he ends up but I suspect he will end up as at least a Top 10 selection. The NFL has too many elite tight ends who cause matchup nightmares and not enough versatile safeties that can cover them. Collins is the rare type that can play centerfield, move down to cover a tight end one on one or lay a jaw dropping hit on a ball carrier. He is a physical freak who is just learning how to play the game and I expect multiple Pro Bowls from him. I do wonder though if Mark Barron being a bust as a Top 10 selection a few years ago, and both being Alabama alumni, will affect his draft status.

2015 Predictions

2014-2015

With 2014 in the books it’s time to take a look ahead to 2015. What better way to start off the New Year than with a set of predictions. It has also been awhile since I posted on the website so my predictions will have additional commentary by it as I catch readers up with what is on my mind. Enjoy the predictions:

Marcus Mariota will be the 1st Overall Pick: It will be interesting to see if he’s the 1st Overall Pick of the Bucs or someone else but I think this kid has too much value to fall even to the #2 spot. I’m sold on him becoming a quality NFL starter due to his height, speed, accuracy and great decision making (his 1.1% INT rate is the greatest in college football history) yet I’m still not sold on him becoming a superstar. I’m sure more than 1 team will be sold on that though so I expect him to either go to the Bucs or go to a team that gives the Bucs an RGIII type haul for the 1st Pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Jameis-Winston-Crab-Legs-Memes-5

What I would do to you if all of these people weren’t around.

Jameis Winston returns for his junior season and wins his 2nd Heisman: No one believes Winston when he says he wants to return for another season but I do. He gets a lot of grief for being a dumbass, and rightfully so, but the kid is a competitor and I think he wants to end his collegiate career on a high note. He has so many off the field issues for a team to deal with but, purely as a prospect, I think he’s a top level talent. He reads defenses relatively well, has great accuracy and is an emotional leader that teammates seem to rally around. I suspect FSU is again undefeated at the end of the 2015 regular season as Winston joins Archie Griffin as the only two time winners of the Heisman.

Jeremy Hill will be arrested this offseason: I rated him as the #2 RB in last year’s draft because of his elite talent and he’s showing it late in the season yet I was hesitant of the kid’s character and think the success he’s had in his first NFL season will go straight to his head. He won’t kill anyone but he’s my pick to being arrested for a fight outside a club, a DWI or some other lower level offense.

Panthers beat the Cards: I thought this was a somewhat controversial prediction but then I saw that Vegas had the Panthers as 6.5 point favorites. Controversial/playing it safe, however you want to look at it I think that the Panthers are the most underrated team in the tournament. Cam Newton is playing the best football of his career (I was shocked how accurate he was against Atlanta last week) and he finally seems to be healthy enough to be a dual threat again. Their defense is still struggling but they’ve improved the past few weeks and against Ryan Lindley they won’t have to be world beaters to keep them under 20 points. I expect the Panthers to win comfortably.

suh-2

Fuck yo couch N@$ga!

Cowboys beat Lions: This would have been a blowout if the injury/suspension issues were reversed yet with the Lions getting back Suh and Fairley while the Cowboys will be missing Melton and probably Hitchens the pendulum swings back towards the Lions a bit. I still think the Lions are a very flawed team that had to scrap for wins throughout the season while the Cowboys are the most efficient and balanced offense in the league. It won’t be a blowout but I see the Cowboys winning by low double digits.

Bengals beat the Colts: The Colts look like a team that ran out of gas a few weeks ago while the Bengals look like a different team with Jeremy Hill as their lead back. Andrew Luck is #2 on my MVP ballot (for those who care I have Rodgers #1, Watt #3, Romo #4 and Brady #5-yes it is QB heavy but that is the most important position in football so it should be QB heavy) simply because he has so little talent to work with. Even Luck won’t be able to shift the odds in his favor in this matchup as Hill will get his seemingly standard 150 yards and 2 TDs and Dalton will be mediocre throughout yet it won’t matter. What’s funny is how Dalton will be praised by the announcers as “finally breaking through” despite his poor stats and lack of impact on the game.

Steelers beat Ravens: This is the only game I don’t really have a good sense on but I can’t just avoid it right? The Steelers are a much better team and at home but without LeVeon Bell their talent level gets evened out quickly. Also it’s a rivalry game and this rivalry has been tough to predict over the years. It should come down to the 4th Q.

Seahawks beat the Panthers: Shocker I know, though I do think this game could be closer than most people think.

Cowboys beat the Packers: I love Rodgers but if the weather works out, the Cowboys could go into a blizzardy Lambeau Field with the best offensive line and one of the best running backs in the league. I like Eddie Lacy but the weather would still have to be viewed as a negative with Rodgers/Nelson/Cobb all being hurt by it. I think the Cowboys would overcome Rodgers greatness if there is an Ice Bowl 2.0.

LeVeon-Bell

Legs aren’t supposed to bend that way!

Patriots beat the Steelers: I doubt Bell is back next week so the Patriots would likely blow out the Steelers as Belichick would stick Revis on Antonio Brown and the Steelers would have 2/3rds of their triplets invisible in the game.

Bengals beat the Broncos: Peyton Manning isn’t healthy, Julius Thomas isn’t healthy, the weather in Denver is dropping as we speak, the right side of their offensive line is in shambles, Manning isn’t clutch and oh did I mention it’s the playoffs?

Seahawks beats Cowboys: Yes the Cowboys won there earlier this year but the Seahawks didn’t hit their stride until about 4 weeks ago so I expect a very different outcome the second time around.

Patriots beat Bengals: This game is won easily as the Patriots can shut down any team’s run game due to their triangle of Wilfork at 3-4 NT and Donte Hightower and Jamie Collins at 3-4 ILB. Once the run game is shut down the Bengals will be forced to pass and Dalton won’t be outplaying Brady anytime soon in a Conference Finals.

Seahawks beat Patriots: This was my preseason prediction and I feel more confident than ever about it. I think these are clearly the best two teams in the league with the Packers a distant third (yes I have the Packers losing to the Cowboys but I think the weather will play a large role in how that game plays out as on a neutral field I still have the Packers).

Texas A&M goes 11-2 in 2015: A strange prediction after all of the NFL stuff but I think the signing of John Chavis will result in a major turnaround on defense and Sumlin’s offense was held back by the inexperience of Kyle Allen. Allen will be much better in 2015, he was actually turning into a pretty solid QB by the end of 2014, and they will be one of the most balanced teams in the SEC. They’ll lose to Alabama and one other SEC West team yet win the rest of their games, including their top level bowl matchup.

Charlie Strong will be fired in 2016: Yes I know this is an article for predictions in 2015 but I fully believe that the Longhorns will be 8-4 or worse in 2015 and 2016 which will result in him only getting 3 years and the quick boot out the door. Strong is a poor fit for the Longhorn program which seems to be all about hype, finesse and attitude these days. He wants to build a hard nosed, blue collar program and it just won’t appeal to UT fans. Add to that the fact that Texas A&M, Baylor and TCU are in the midst of historic eras for their programs and Strong to be shown the door after two more mediocre and rather boring seasons. UT fans are not patient and when they realize that they aren’t even relevant then the tipping point will have occurred.

Dylon Mack will re-commit to Texas A&M: A lot of old timers hate how kids commit and de-commit at the drop of a hat but I don’t think Mack is that type of kid. He made it abundantly clear that he was uncomfortable staying with Texas A&M since they still didn’t even have a defensive coordinator. Two weeks later they not only have one but they have arguably the best one in the entire country. He will join Myles Garrett in College Station and they will be the best DL in all of college football.

LeBron will be in the NBA Finals for a 5th straight season: The Cavaliers are a mess right now but LeBron is the best player on the planet and I expect him to mesh enough with Irving and Love enough to lead them to the NBA Finals. He’ll get swept by a much more talented Western Conference team but it’ll be a testament to his talent that he took such a flawed team so far.

1416853075_odell-beckham-jr-zoomOdell Beckham will be the #1 WR in fantasy: I’ve never seen a rookie wide receiver play better than Beckham did as his extrapolated numbers for a full season were ridiculous. I think he will get even better with a full offseason with Manning and he will be the fantasy MVP in 2015, especially considering he likely won’t go till the 2nd round in most drafts.

Fantasy Sleepers: Jimmy Graham, Adrian Peterson, AJ Green, Calvin Johnson, Jordan Cameron, and Brandon Marshall are all studs who had issues last year that weren’t really their fault. I would draft any of them in 2015 as I suspect they will unfairly be downgraded due to their mediocre seasons. I also would look to Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Carlos Hyde, Isaiah Crowell, Eric Decker, Mike Evans, Brandon Lafell and Travis Kelce as sneaky picks that look good on draft day but look great by mid-season. All of those guys mentioned above were starting to bust out by the end of 2014 but just ran out of time so the mass publications will likely keep them underrated going into the new season. Try and add 1 or 2 of these guys in the mid rounds though Hyde and Evans could easily blow up with a few choice words by Matthew Berry and turn into early to mid 2nd round types.

The State of the Quarterback Position in the NFL

Recently I read that the NFL just broke a record for the highest combined QB Rating through 3 games of the regular season. I wasn’t surprised about this at all as the NFL is on its fourth straight year of an elite draft class of signal callers joining the league and these recent additions have created a historic level of depth at the quarterback position. I’ve been an avid fan of the NFL for a decade and a half and I’ve always been used to the fact that there were more teams than quality quarterbacks. Every year there were 4-8 teams in the NFL that had little to no chance of competing due to their atrocious lack of talent at the quarterback position. With the advent of 7 on 7 camps and leagues in Junior High and High School as well as the prevalence of spread offenses in the college game the NFL has seen a flux of quality talent in recent drafts at the quarterback position. I am of the opinion that the quarterback position is about to become less valuable as a capable starting quarterback will no longer be seen as a scarce resource by NFL franchises and they will stop overpaying for them. An elite quarterback will still be of the utmost value but a mid level quarterback like Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton or Jay Cutler will see their value, ie salary, drop as teams will have an abundance of cheaper options which would result in only a slight reduction in performance.

3 years later and five of the first six quarterbacks taken in the 2012 draft are still starters (Nick Foles not shown).

3 years later and five of the first six quarterbacks taken in the 2012 draft are still starters for their team (Nick Foles not shown).

In just the last three years the NFL saw 12 teams take a quarterback that has been productive enough to be a regular starter for them (Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III/Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon.) In that 3 year time frame 12 new talented signal callers were added to the NFL as “starter caliber” and by my estimate only 2 left as Vince Young retired and Matt Hasselbeck became a permanent backup with the Colts and will retire at the end of this season.

How did a consummate professional like this end up as a draft bust?

How did a consummate professional like this end up as a draft bust?

It’s pretty easy to do the math when it is +12 and -2 to see that the NFL’s long standing deficit of starting quarterbacks is quickly coming to an end. Add in the 2014 NFL Draft which saw four quarterbacks (Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr) taken in the first 36 picks, three of whom took the majority of their team’s snaps this past weekend, and the depth of talent at the QB position could be considered at an all time high. I went through NFL teams depth charts and found that 23 of the 32 teams wouldn’t even consider a QB change which left only 9 teams “potentially” in the hunt for a QB in 2015. Of those teams 3 (Giants, Cardinals, Rams) have veteran quarterbacks that have been productive at times but appear to be on the decline and in need of replacement, 5 have young quarterbacks that the team (Bucs, Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Titans) pretty recently spent a 1st or 2nd round draft pick on yet are still on the fence about and 1 team (Texans) which had nothing but stop gaps in place and would surely be in the market for a quarterback next year. What does this all mean? I think the first thing it means is that the average starting salary for a mid level quarterback will soon be decreasing. Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick all got extensions this offseason with many analysts being surprised at how mediocre some of the numbers were. I was not as the difference between Alex Smith and Jake Locker is minimal in my opinion so Smith should be praising his agent that he was given a 4 year $68 million extension after his 89.1 QB Rating in 2013 while Jake Locker will possibly be replaced in 2015 as his 86.7 QB Rating in 2013 wasn’t considered good enough. Last year the Bears ran into this issue when Jay Cutler went down with an injury and Josh McCown took his place as the backup actually played better than the starter. I was intrigued at the possibility that an NFL team would finally bite the bullet and downgrade their QB in exchange for an improved salary cap situation yet in the end the Bears were unwilling to be pioneers and test out this new idea. Instead they rewarded Cutler with a 7 year $126 million extension and watched McCown leave for a measly 2 year $10 million deal from the Bucs. This despite Cutler having a middling career QB Rating of 85.1, being 31 years old which usually begins to lead to a decline in performance from most quarterbacks and the fact that McCown’s 109 QB Rating in 2013 easily trumped Cutler’s 89.2 QB Rating while they played with the exact same supporting cast, coaching staff and offensive scheme. The Bears probably thought long and hard about stiffing Cutler and moving on but took the predictable route and who can blame them as NFL franchises have been making similar decisions for decades now. With the number of quality starting quarterbacks closing in on the important number of 32 I suspect that we won’t be waiting much longer for a similar situation to arise and an NFL franchise to finally make the logical choice of going with a $5 mil a year Chad Henne, Matt Cassel, or Josh McCown type over a $17 mil a year Alex Smith, an $18 mil a year Jay Cutler or a $20.1 mil a year Joe Flacco. The improvement from a low 80’s to a mid to high 80’s QB Rating isn’t worth the 3 to 4 fold increase in salary and with so many cheap and talented quarterbacks coming into the NFL via the draft there is no longer a need to pay these ransoms for mediocre talent. My analysis is controversial as it would necessitate a 180 degree change from where quarterbacks salaries are currently heading but if the next 3 NFL Drafts yield a comparable number of “starting caliber” quarterbacks as the past 3 NFL Drafts have then the quarterback position could soon become similar to the running back position where a few elite talents (Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Arian Foster) make big money but the rest of the starters are on rookie contracts or undermarket secondary deals due to the oversupply of talent on the market. Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck will continue to break the bank but in 3 years the current contracts of the mid level quarterback (Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning) will seem laughable and teams will no longer feel abliged to overpay for these mediocre players. The tipping point I suspect would be when there is an NFL Draft with 3 or more 1st round talents at quarterback but only 1 or 2 teams with a legitimate need. A few of those 1st round talents would drop into Round 2 or even Round 3 and suddenly a team would be faced with the decision of whether to keep their good but expensive starter or draft the young, talented quarterback who comes with a 4 year $2.198 million contract like Russell Wilson did in 2012. That would begin a game of musical chairs at the quarterback position as teams would no longer be scrambling just to make sure they had a quality starter but now would have two or three to choose from and could drive a hard bargain in free agency or wait an extra round in the draft before selecting their signal caller. Since this would be an epochal shift it is difficult to time but I suspect that the groundwork will be laid for this shift in the 2015 NFL Draft with Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Brett Hundley, Kevin Hogan and Connor Cook combining with the 4 quarterbacks of this past draft to put further pressure on the job security of mid level quarterbacks. A few teams would begin the experimentation, possibly an innovator like Chip Kelly would be the first as I could see him not being convinced that Nick Foles was worth $20 mil a year since below average quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez put up video game numbers in his system each preseason, and then a glut of quarterbacks would arise in free agency which would lead to salary declines in mass. Restructurings would break out across the league, the franchise tag would only be used on the elite quarterbacks and each new wave of quarterbacks from the college ranks would be less and less promoted as 1st round talents would now almost always be drafted by teams that already had a capable starter in place. Year long mentorships of young quarterbacks would be in vogue again and quarterbacks being injured for a large stretch of games would no longer result in a team’s season being ruined. The NFL would still be a quarterback driven league but I expect it to soon be one in which there is a plethora of talented quarterbacks and the end result will be an even greater level of parity, something the league will love. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees have dominated the league for years and many commentators have talked about how much the NFL will miss them when they retire in a few seasons. I suspect the league won’t miss them at all as the quarterback position will be in better shape than ever due partly to quality like Andrew Luck but mainly to quantity as the NFL is about to be overrun with quarterbacks. The league will never be the same.

Cowboys 2014 Season Preview

The Cowboys season is set to get underway in about 4 hours and I thought I’d preview their upcoming season and what I see in store for them. Unfortunately the Cowboys are about as volatile and complex of a team as there is in the NFL so I had to break it down into two viewpoints. The first vantage point is the pessimistic view of the 2014 Cowboys and trust me it was an easier one to write. The second vantage point is the optimistic view of the 2014 Cowboys. Finally I combined the two views and gave my win-loss prediction and how I see the season turning out. Enjoy!

Glass Half Empty

It's half empty because it's water not beer.

It’s half empty because it’s water not beer.

Living rooms go eerily quiet across the country as the announcer sums it up, “The Saint have scored on their first 6 possessions of the game and now Romo is down after taking a vicious blind side hit. If this is his back the Cowboys season is over.” The headlines the rest of the season would spell it out for everyone: “Tony done for the year, Cowboys season with it.” “Passing on Manziel looking bad in hindsight.” “Jones preaches optimism as Cowboys lose 5th straight by double digits.” “Cowboys sign Tim Tebow to keep AT&T stadium packed full despite 1-10 record.”

Tim Tebow as the Cowboys savior?

Tim Tebow as the Cowboys late season ticket sales savior?

This season could end horribly for the Dallas Cowboys and anyone who doesn’t at least acknowledge that possibility isn’t being honest. Last year the Cowboys gave up more yards than any team in NFL History. This season they will be playing without DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee who were widely regarded as their three best players on that defense from a year ago. The two players the Cowboys are relying on the most on their defensive line, Anthony Spencer and Henry Melton, both missed the entire 2013 season due to injury and have only recently begun to practice. There is a chance that one or both of them never has an impact for the Cowboys this season. Their top defensive draft pick, DeMarcus Lawrence, broke his foot and will miss at least the first 6 games and could miss the entire season if the Cowboys get off to a slow start and the coaching staff plays it conservatively with him. Their top linebacker, Sean Lee, tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. He wasn’t just their best linebacker but he was the defensive play caller and the leader of the defense. His loss was devastating to the team on a physical and psychological level. Their best cornerback, Orlando Scandrick, tested positive for Ecstasy and will miss the first four games of the season. In both the 2013 regular season and the 2014 preseason Scandrick was the one player on the Cowboys roster that could consistently play man coverage at a high level. The Cowboys face the 49ers and Saints during Scandricks’ suspension. Both teams were among the “Final 8” in last year’s playoffs and would have been favored even if the Cowboys had Scandrick starting. The Cowboys safety duo of Barry Church and JJ Wilcox is considered one of the strengths of the team. Neither has made a Pro Bowl, combined they only have 25 starts to their name and neither is expected to be anything more than an average starter. Again, this is considered one of the strengths of the team. Dez Bryant is one of the 3-5 best wide receivers in the game. Everyone knows this and therefore Bryant will face more double teams than at any other point in his career. Jason Witten is 32 years old and on the decline of his career. Terrance Williams is going into his second season and shouldn’t be expected to be an offensive focal point yet in his career. Gavin Escobar was non-existent as a rookie. DeMarco Murray has missed 11 games over the past three seasons due to injury. Cole Beasley is 5’8. These are the five players that will have to play well to keep teams from double teaming Bryant on every single snap. There are issues with all of them. Romo had offseason back surgery. It is the second back surgery of his career. His back does not allow him to practice more than a few hours at a time. He also had to be given numerous days off while he built up his back’s strength. He has missed more days of practice in training camp than in any season of his career. It would be a surprise if the offense was clicking on all cylinders right out of the gate due to Romo’s limited practice schedule. He turned 34 this year. Troy Aikman had back and head injuries which caused him to retire at the age of 34. He has been adamant this offseason that all is not well with Romo and when asked if Romo’s best days were ahead of him he said, “I don’t necessarily think that would be the case with him, not just because his age….the back injuries that he’s had, that’s a big unknown. That’s a significant injury and I know that from experience. No one really knows yet how this back is going to hold up. To say that his best years are ahead of him, I wouldn’t agree with that.” The Cowboys have been 8-8 the past three seasons with a healthy Romo in the prime of his career. What would the Cowboys record be if Romo’s play finally begins to slip? What would the Cowboys record be if Romo has an injury plagued season like he did in 2010 when he missed 10 games? All is not right in Cowboy Country.

Glass Half Full

Now that's a glass that gets me optimistic!

Now that’s a glass that gets me optimistic!

I am often amazed at the pessimism of the Dallas Cowboys fan base. This year it is to new levels as everyone sees the same old terrible defense as last year. I understand the logic behind the argument, “The 2013 Cowboys defense was historically bad. It set numerous records for ineptitude and this year’s version is missing the three best players from that horrific defense. They will be the worst defense in NFL history.” I think there is some validity to that but I also think that it is a biased argument that has numerous flaws in its logic. First off there is the argument that this is a historically bad defense. Yes it did set numerous records in futility yet many of the record set like first downs in a game and yards given up are not nearly as important as the one key factor: points allowed. By this statistic, the most important indicator in my opinion in evaluating a defense, the Cowboys were barely in the bottom quartile. The Cowboys in 2013 were 26th in scoring defense and were only 2.1 points behind the Denver Broncos who were 22nd in scoring defense yet still made it to the Super Bowl. This is not the NFL in the 1980s when every championship level team had to have a dominant defense. This is the era of the spread offense with no contact rules and innovative play calling that has accentuated the skill of numerous elite quarterbacks. I don’t want to sidetrack the discussion but I honestly do think that Dallas still has one of those elite quarterbacks in Tony Romo. Last year the top six teams in scoring defense all made the playoffs. Last year the bottom eight teams in the NFL in scoring defense did not make the playoffs. So obviously you cannot be one of the worst defenses and still make the playoffs yet it then gets hazy as the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos both made the playoffs while being the 9th and 11th worst scoring defenses while the Cardinals and Dolphins both didn’t make the playoffs while having the 7th and 8th best defenses. The difference is that those poor defensive teams had Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning at QB while those good defensive teams had Carson Palmer and Ryan Tannehill at QB. With the Cowboys having one of the Top 10 QBs in the league in Tony Romo they don’t need the defense to be very good for them to still have a shot at the playoffs. Most analysts disagree with me but the numbers prove me right as there is a higher correlation to elite offenses making the playoffs than to elite defenses making it. In 2013 nine of the top twelve defenses made the playoffs while ten of the top twelve offenses made the playoffs. It happened again in 2012 as eight of the top twelve defenses made the playoffs while ten of the top twelve offenses made the playoffs. It is better to have an elite offense than an elite defense in the NFL and the Cowboys have an elite offense. Last year they were 5th in the league in scoring and seemed to finally show signs of becoming the dominant offense they should have been these past few years. Many people have the incorrect notion of Dallas being consistently a dominant offense yet last year was the first time under Garrett that they finished as a Top 5 offense. The previous time it occurred was 7 seasons ago in the 2007 season. Dallas finished 13-3 that year and had the #1 seed in the NFC. We all know how that ended but the point is that Dallas was an elite offense last year and elite offenses can hide a plethora of issues for a team. I fully expect Dallas to be as good if not better on offense in 2014 as the two issues that previously were holding the Cowboys back appear to have been solved. The first issue was the offensive line. At one point the Cowboys had one of the 5 worst offensive lines in the NFL as 22 straight years of Jerry Jones not drafting an offensive lineman in the first round finally caught up with him. To his credit though, he did change his opinion on the concept and has now drafted an offensive lineman with a 1st round pick in 3 of the past 4 drafts. With Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin all in their early twenties and under contract for the next 3 seasons, the Cowboys have a chance to be a dominant offensive line.

This is the Cowboys future

Forget Bryant and Lee, THIS is the Cowboys future.

The other issue was Jason Garrett’s play calling. I’ve always considered him an overrated offensive mind and as a play caller he’s just downright bad. Every year there are at least 2 games where everyone but Garrett knows the Cowboys should run the ball yet they somehow don’t. Every year the Cowboys struggle in the red zone settling for far more field goals than they should. Every year the Cowboys run an offensive system that fails to incorporate crossing routes, rubs and bubble screens which are three of the “newer” aspects of offenses around the college and pro game. Garrett has stubbornly stuck to his Norv Turner/Air Coryell offensive system which is a timing based system that does little to help its receivers get open. It has infuriated me watching Garrett’s medieval offense these past few years while Chip Kelly, Darrell Bevell and Mike McCoy have been so innovative. It is not surprising that both Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers had their careers revived when they met up with Mike McCoy. He calls plays to get guys open schematically and would never force Romo to throw 10 back shoulder throws a game to be successful. Thankfully the Cowboys hired Scott Linehan this offseason and Garrett appears to be completely out of the play calling loop. With the Cowboys having one of the better offensive lines in all of football and Jason Garrett no longer calling the plays I would be surprised if the Cowboys weren’t a Top 5 offense. With that level of production coming from one side of the ball the Cowboys only need to be a below average defense to be legit playoff contenders. Everyone talks about the Cowboys being historically bad last year AND no longer having their top 3 defensive players (DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee) which is true but Ware was banged up all year and largely ineffective. In 2012 the Cowboys had Ware and Spencer yet it was Spencer who was considered the superior player that year (Profootballfocus ranked him as the #1 3-4 OLB in the NFL that year, well ahead of Ware.). I mention this because Spencer returning seems to be completely inconsequential to Cowboys fans and Ware leaving is considered devastating. The fact is that Ware hasn’t been the “old Ware” since 2011 and having Spencer off an injury plagued season might be better than having Ware off his injury plagued season. Also Sean Lee missed 5 games in 2013 and wasn’t himself in 3 other games so the Cowboys basically only had Lee for half a season. Finally, Jason Hatcher was a Pro Bowler in 2013 and Henry Melton, who was signed to replace him, was a Pro Bowler in 2012 so I don’t expect any noticeable drop off in production from that position. If you accept that Spencer and Melton for Ware and Hatcher is basically a wash then the difference between the 2013 and 2014 Cowboys will be whether 8 quality games by Sean Lee is more important than having an improved Morris Claiborne, JJ Wilcox, Brandon Carr and defensive coordinator. That last one might be the most important as I can’t stress enough how bad Monte Kiffin was as a playcaller so I fully expect there will be major improvement in defensive performance just from the switch of Kiffin to Marinelli.

"Jerry why did you hire me?!"

“Jerry, I’m so old! Why did you hire me?!”

I’m not trying to sell you that the 2014 Cowboys defense will be good but I could see them “regress to the mean” and go from a terrible defense to just a below average one. If that occurs the Cowboys could be nipping at the heels of a playoff berth just like they have been the past 3 seasons.

Conclusion

Everyone knows that the Cowboys have a good offense and a bad defense. The question is just how good the Cowboys will be this year on offense and how bad the defense will be. Call me optimistic but I don’t expect the Cowboys to regress from their Top 5 offensive ranking last year and think that many people are being a little too harsh on the defense. My Dad is in full agreement with Bill Simmons, unknowingly of course, with a 3-13 prediction. Profootballtalk has them ranked as the 24th best team in the NFL (the record would be somewhere around a 5-11 mark). Bob Sturm (The Ticket), Calvin Watkins (ESPNDallas.com), Steve Dennis (sideline reporter for the Dallas Cowboys) and Chris Arnold (The Fan) all have them going 6-10. I’m a little more optimistic as I have them going 7-9 yet was waffling on whether to put them higher not lower than that mark as the Cowboys are so absolutely stacked on offense that I could see them pulling off a Saints 2009-2011 type season in which their offense was so dominant that it didn’t matter that their defense struggled. Of course Romo’s back, Linehan taking over the offensive play calling, Marinelli taking over the defensive play calling, health of the offensive line (they have a great starting 5 but almost no depth behind it), health of the defensive line (Anthony Spencer, Henry Melton and Demarcus Lawrence are their top 3 guys and all are coming off major injuries) and Orlando Scandrick’s suspension all are wild cards on this season. It’s funny that the team I’ve watched for the past two decades is also still one of the hardest teams for me to predict. I know the Seahawks will be great, the Giants will be terrible, the Jaguars will be much improved and the Patriots, Broncos, Saints and Packers will all be in contention for the title. Yet the Cowboys, Redskins, Chiefs and Falcons are the four hardest teams to predict for this NFL season as any of them could go as high as 11-5 and as low as 3-13. That isn’t a great place to be as a Cowboys fan but I suspect we will have some clarity early in the season as I am predicting they beat the 49ers in Week 1 and are 2-2 or 3-1 when a quarter of the season is complete. It would immediately put to bed the dire talk about their defense setting NFL records and give the team some hope that the playoffs are a real possibility. Or the Cowboys get blown out by the 49ers in a few hours and we realize that Dallas is in for a long season, something the pessimists have been preaching for months now on talk radio.

Prediction Time!

Prediction

Predictions are always fun as if you get it right you have bragging rights over friends and if you get it wrong, well who remembers? For instance last year I remember quite clearly how I picked the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl yet it then gets a little hazy. Did I really pick the Houston Texans, the team with the worst record in the NFL in 2013, to play the Seahawks in the Super Bowl as the AFC Champs? I’m unsure. I suspect that somewhere there’s documented evidence of that prediction but who really has the time to find it and why bring up such silliness. Let’s just focus on the positives and all be friends, shall we? With the NFL season upon us I am ready for another set of predictions. I used the format here, which is well done by ESPN as it has 16 NFL writers with their predictions, and then I threw in a few additional ones for fun. Enjoy and let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Which of these predictions is most likely to turn out to be the one I regret the most?

Super Bowl Champion: Seahawks

AFC East: Patriots

AFC North: Bengals

AFC South: Colts

AFC West: Broncos

AFC Wild Cards: Chargers, Jaguars

NFC East: Eagles

NFC North: Packers

NFC South: Saints

NFC West: Seahawks

NFC Wild Cards: Cardinals, Falcons

AFC Champion: Patriots

NFC Champion: Seahawks

Coach of the Year: Pete Carroll

MVP: Aaron Rodgers

Offensive ROY: Johnny Manziel

Defensive ROY: Jadeveon Clowney

Additional picks

First runner up for NFC Wild Card: Vikings

First runner up for AFC Wild Card: Ravens

Worst Record in the League: Giants

Cowboys Record: 7-9

1st Overall Pick in 2015 NFL Draft: Marcus Mariota

Pre-Season Top 100 Prospects List

Leonard Williams

Top 100 Updated 8/31/14 (PR is pass rusher not punt returner)

  1. Leonard Williams DT USC Jr.
  2. Joey Bosa DE Ohio State Soph
  3. Todd Gurley RB Georgia Jr.
  4. Marcus Mariota QB Oregon Jr.
  5. Laremy Tunsil OT Ole Miss Soph
  6. Andrus Peat OT Stanford Jr.
  7. Jameis Winston QB Florida St. Soph
  8. Ifo Ekpre-Olumu CB Oregon Sr.
  9. Duke Johnson RB Miami Jr.
  10. Kevin Hogan QB Stanford Jr.
  11. Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss Soph
  12. Arik Armstread DT Oregon Jr.
  13. Vernon Hargreaves III CB Florida Soph
  14. Tony Conner S Ole Miss Soph
  15. Vic Beasley PR Clemson Sr.
  16. Brett Hundley QB UCLA Jr.
  17. Kendall Fuller CB Virginia Tech Soph
  18. Deion Barnes DE Penn St. Jr.
  19. Christian Hackenburg QB Penn St. Soph
  20. Myles Jack LB UCLA Soph
  21. Kei’Varae Russell CB Notre Dame Jr.
  22. Cedric Ogbuehi OT Texas A&M Sr.
  23. Nelson Agholar WR USC Jr.
  24. Mario Edwards Jr. DE FSU Jr.
  25. Owamagbe Odighizuwa DT UCLA Sr.
  26. Landon Collins S Alabama Sr.
  27. Jordan Lucas CB Penn State Jr.
  28. AJ Johnson LB Tennessee Sr.
  29. Tyler Johnstone OT Oregon Jr.
  30. Davonte Fields PR TCU Jr.
  31. Jalen Mills CB LSU Jr.
  32. Dante Fowler Jr. DE Florida Jr.
  33. Desmond King CB Iowa Soph
  34. Shaq Lawson PR Clemson Soph
  35. Quandre Diggs CB Texas #28 5’10 192 Sr.
  36. Robert Nkemdiche DE Ole Miss Soph
  37. TJ Yeldon RB Alabama Jr.
  38. La’el Collins OT LSU Sr.
  39. Jamison Crowder WR Duke Sr.
  40. Amari Cooper WR Alabama Jr.
  41. Jaylon Smith LB Notre Dame Soph
  42. Bralon Addison WR Oregon Jr.
  43. Kenyon Drake RB Alabama Jr.
  44. Damian Swann CB Georgia Sr.
  45. Karl Joseph S West Virginia Jr.
  46. Devante Parker WR Louisville Sr.
  47. Alani Fua PR BYU Sr.
  48. Melvin Gordon RB Wisconsin Jr.
  49. Sean Mannion QB Oregon St. Sr.
  50. Tim Scott CB North Carolina Sr.
  51. Shilique Calhoun PR Michigan St. Jr.
  52. Ty Montgomery WR Stanford Jr.
  53. Marcus Rush PR Michigan St. Sr.
  54. Justin Burris CB North Carolina St. Sr.
  55. Denzel Nkemdiche S Ole Miss Jr.
  56. AJ Tarpley LB Stanford Sr.
  57. Dorial Green-Beckham WR OU Jr.
  58. Denzel Perryman LB Miami Sr.
  59. Clive Walford TE Miami Sr.
  60. Cameron Irving OT FSU Sr.
  61. Randy Gregory PR Nebraska Sr.
  62. Tevin Mitchell CB Arkansas Sr.
  63. Sammy Coates WR Auburn Jr.
  64. Noah Spence PR Ohio State Jr.
  65. Corey Crawford DE Penn St Sr.
  66. Henry Anderson DT Stanford Sr.
  67. Michael Bennett DT Ohio St. Sr.
  68. Connor Cook QB Michigan St. Jr.
  69. Brandon Scherff OT Iowa Sr.
  70. Hunter Henry TE Arkansas Soph
  71. Brendan Langley CB Georgia Soph
  72. Justin Hardy WR East Carolina Sr.
  73. Bryce Petty QB Baylor Sr.
  74. Christian Covington DT Rice Jr.
  75. Erik Striker LB OU Jr.
  76. Mike Davis RB South Carolina Jr.
  77. Atwan Goodley WR Baylor Sr.
  78. Shaq Thompson LB Washington Jr.
  79. Ronald Darby CB FSU Jr.
  80. Braxton Miller QB Ohio St. Sr.
  81. Merrill Noel CB Wake Forest Sr.
  82. Chris Hackett S TCU Jr.
  83. Johnathan Gray RB Texas Jr.
  84. Andre Monroe DT Maryland Sr.
  85. Jaelen Strong WR Arizona St. Sr.
  86. Josh Shaw CB USC Sr.
  87. Cody Prewitt S Ole Miss Sr.
  88. Brandon Carter WR TCU Sr.
  89. Tevin McDonald S Eastern Washington #7 Sr.
  90. Kenneth Dixon RB Louisiana Tech Jr.
  91. Nick O’Leary TE FSU Sr.
  92. Maxx Williams TE Minnesota Soph
  93. Derron Smith S Fresno State Sr.
  94. Keith Smith LB San Jose St. Jr.
  95. Deshazor Everett S Texas A&M Sr.
  96. Eric Kendricks LB UCLA Sr.
  97. Marlin Lane RB Tennessee Jr.
  98. Isaac Gross DT Ole Miss Jr.
  99. Michael Dyer RB Louisville Sr.
  100.  Rashad Greene WR FSU Sr.
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