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Thursday, 07 May 2015 00:00

Draft Grades: NFC South

My second installment of the Fantasy Football Helpers Draft Grades features one of the more peculiar divisions in the NFL, the NFC South. Like many of you know the NFC South was the only division in football to not have a team finish the season above .500

Atlanta Falcons

Players Drafted

1 (08). Vic Beasley LEO/Clemson

2 (42). Jalen Collins CB/LSU

3 (73). Tevin Coleman RB/Indiana University

4 (107). Justin Hardy WR/East Carolina

5 (137). Grady Jarrett DT/Clemson

7 (225). Jake Rodgers OT/Eastern Washington

7 (249). Akeem King FS/San Jose State

While the Atlanta Falcons did not do as much to protect franchise quarterback Matt Ryan as I would have liked, I absolutely love what they were able to acquire on the defensive side of the football. With three defensive players selected in the team's first five picks it is clear that former Seahawks defensive coordinator, and new Falcons Head Coach, Dan Quinn has made it his objective to fix one of the league's worst overall units. 

There was some hype early on in the week prior to the draft that the Falcons may actually invest a top-10 pick on Georgia running back Todd Gurley. While I believe Gurley is one of, if not the best players, available in the 2015 NFL Draft the Falcons have more pressing needs than running back. Turns out Dan Quinn was awarded a toy for his new defensive scheme when the team selected Clemson EDGE rusher Vic Beasley. While Beasley alone does not possess much value in standard leagues he will add some juice to a group of pass-rushers that managed only 22.0 sacks as a team, ranking 30th in the NFL. 

In addition to adding the former Clemson Tiger, the Falcons invested their second round pick on LSU CB Jalen Collins, a personal favorite of mine in this cornerback class. There is no doubt that Collins was inconsistent in his time in Baton Rouge, Collins possesses the size (6'1", 203 lbs) and speed (4.4) that it takes to excel in Quinn's press-man defensive scheme. If Collins is able to overcome a foot injury that will cost him some of the offseason training program, there is the possibility Collins could be starting day 1 as the compliment to third-year cornerback Desmond Trufant. 

While the Falcons did a lot too address their putrid excuse for a defense they could not help themselves from investing on some young, offensive talent. Third round selection Tevin Coleman is a player that I expect to have a major impact during his rookie season. With Steven Jackson officially out of town there is a gaping hole in the Falcons that is just waiting to be filled by either the aforementioned Coleman or Devonta Freeman, who the team invested a 4th round pick in last season. If Coleman is able to win the starting running back job during training camp/pre-season I believe he has the ability to reach every week RB2 value in Kyle Shannahan's zone-run scheme. 

Grade: A

 

Carolina Panthers

Players Drafted

1 (25). Shaq Thompson OLB/Washington

2 (41). Devin Funchess WR/Michigan

4 (102). Daryl Williams OT/Oklahoma

5 (169). David Mayo ILB/Texas State

5 (174). Cameron Artis-Payne RB/Auburn

While the Panthers did not do lot from a quantity perspective, the Panthers added some very intriguing pieces that possess some sneaky fantasy potential next season. The Panthers made it clear they wanted to add some youth to their linebacking corps, adding Washington Husky S/OLB hybrid Shaq Thompson. While it is unclear how Thompson will be used, he possesses a unique skill-set with the ability to be a major asset in nickel and sub packages.

Second round pick Devin Funchess is one of the most intruiging draft picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Equipped with a massive frame the thought is that Devin Funchess is going to plug in immediately as the Panthers no. 2 receiver, however I expect the team to find more creative ways to use the athletic playmaker. The former Wolverine was used both inline as a tight end, flexed out in the slot, and out wide as a boundary receiver during his college career. While Funchess was held back by suspect quarterback play, he still displayed improved route-running, the ability to be a red-zone mismatch, as well as improved body control with the ability to make contested catches. 

The best pick, and the one that I believe fantasy football owners need to take note of is the Panther's second 5th round pick Cameron Artis-Payne, the running back out of Auburn. While slightly undersize (5'10, 212 lbs), I believe Payne is in a position to see major playing time during his rookie season. However I believe Artis-Payne will be forced into action due to the inability for veteran running back Jonathan Stewart to stay healthy. During Stewart's 7-year career he has only been able to stay healthy for all 16 games four times, and has never carried the ball more than 225 times in any season. For fantasy owner's looking for a late round stash in re-draft formats this is a guy that I would take the gamble on, for the price, over guys like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon

While the Carolina Panther's did not make the biggest splashes during the draft, they were able to add some quality pieces that should contribute sooner-rather-than-later. Thompson should fit in immediately next to Thomas Davis as the team's WLB, and should prove to be a major asset in nickel and sub packages in the pass-happy NFC South, while 5th round tackling machine David Mayo should make an impact on special teams. 4th round pick Daryl Williams will likely battle with veteran Mark Remmers for the starting right tackle spot, and could potentially kick inside to guard if needed. 

Grade: B-

 

New Orleans Saints

Players Drafted

1 (13). Andrus Peat OT/Stanford

1 (31). Stephone Anthony ILB/Clemson

2 (44). Hau'oli Kikaha OLB/Washington

3 (75). Garrett Grayson QB/Colorado State

3 (78). P.J. Williams CB/Florida State

5 (148). Davis Tull OLB/Chattanooga

5 (154). Tyeler Davison DT/Fresno State

7 (230). Marcus Murphy RB/Missouri

This was a very interesting offseason for the Saints. In the middle of "cap hell" the Saints were forced to make some head-scratching moves, including the trade sending All-Pro Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks in exchange for a first-round pick in 2015 and center Max Unger. With Drew Brees getting another year older, and the team making it an emphasis to improve an offensive line unit that was decimated by injuries, the Saints could potentially make the switch to a run-based offense.

In my opinion, the three biggest needs that the Saints needed to address this offseason was the offensive line, defensive back, and linebacker. The Saints started off the draft with the selection of Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat, a massive tackle that possesses road-grading run blocking ability that needs to improve as a pass blocker. Peat's outlook is likely protecting a team's blindside, but I believe Peat could supplant veteran Zach Strief as the team's starting tight tackle during his rookie season. 

The Saints used their second first-round pick on Stephone Anthony, an athletic middle linebacker out of Clemson University. While Anthony was overlooked by prospects like Paul Dawson and Eric Kendricks, Anthony was considered by some to have the highest ceiling out of the 2015 linebacker class due to his elite athleticism, and ability to stay on the field in nickel and sub packages. 

Perhaps the most perplexing pick the Saints made was 3rd round selection of Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson. While I like Grayson's skill-set he will likely not see the field unless Brees' suffers an injury, or retires for some reason. 

Overall I thought that the Saints had a very good draft. While the selection of Washington Hau'oli Kikaha was perplexing due to his lack of measurables and potential injury red flags, the Saints clearly wanted to add some youth to one of the oldest defensive units in the NFL. 

Grade: B-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Players Drafted

1 (1) Jameis Winston QB/Florida State

2 (34) Donovan Smith OT/Penn State

2 (61). Ali Marpet OG/Hobart

4 (124) Kwon Alexander OLB/LSU

5 (162) Kenny Bell WR/Nebraska

6 (184) Kaelin Clay WR/Utah

7 (231) Joey Iosefa FB/Hawaii

With the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston, the former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Florida State University. While Winston possesses some of the most pro-ready talent of a quarterback prospect in recent memory, Winston also come with some interesting off-the-field maturity issues leading people to question whethe or not Winston can be trusted as the face of an NFL franchise. 

Aside from adding my no. 1 quarterback prospect, the Buccaneers did a great job adding some talent to one of the worst offensive line units in the NFL. The re-build started when the Buccaneers invested the 34th overall pick on Penn State tackle Donovan Smith. While Smith battled some inconsistencies with pass protection in college, he possesses the frame and athletic ability to be a starting left tackle at the NFL level. The Bucs did not stop their when adding offensive line depth, as they added one of the most popular players for #DraftTwitter in DIII Hobart's Ali Marpet. Although Marpet played his college football against weaker competition then most prospects, Marpet was able to prove himself as one of the top interior lineman prospects during the Reese's Senior Bowl. With the addition's of Marpet and Smith, the Buccaneers offensive line took a positive step in the right direction if they want Winston to develop into the quarterback they envision. 

The most underrated draft pick by the Buccaneers, in my opinion, came from the team's 5th round selection Kenny Bell. During Bell's time at Nebraska he was regularly held back by the quarterback play of Taylor "T-Magic" Martinez and Tommy Armstrong, but was still able to flash legitimate deep play ability and an underrated ability to run a full NFL route tree. With the twin towers of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson drawing the attention of defenses down the field, Bell is in a great position to see single coverage on a weekly basis. If Bell is able to win the job as the team's slot receiver I would not be surprised to see Bell reach low WR3-WR4 value in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's pass based offense.

Grade: B

 

Catch up on all of our NFL Draft Grades by clicking on the links below:

NFC North

 

Photo Courtesy of MGoBlog Flickr Page

Monday, 04 May 2015 00:00

Draft Grades: NFC North

The 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone, and while fans eagerly wait the start of rookie mini-camps I feel it is the appropriate time to grade how teams fared in the draft.  The first edition of the Fantasy Football Helpers draft grades will feature the NFC North, with the rest of the NFC/AFC to come shortly there after.

 

Chicago Bears

Players Drafted

1.     (7) Kevin White WR/West Virginia

2.     (39) Eddie Goldman DT/FSU

3.     (71) Hroniss Grassu OG/Oregon

4.     (106) Jeremy Langford RB/Michigan State

5.     (142) Adrian Amos S/Penn State

6.     (183) Tayo Fabuluje OT/TCU

 

New Bears General Manager Ryan Pace was stuck with the task of bringing some ferocity back to the Monsters of the Midway. With the 7th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and a new coaching staff that is switching from Lovie Smith’s 4-3 Tampa Two defensive scheme, to Vic Fangio’s aggressive 3-4 defense. After trading Brandon Marshall to the Jets in exchange for a 5th round pick the Bears were left with a massive hole at wide receiver opposite Alshon Jeffery. The addition of Kevin White with the 7th overall pick should provide the team with an instant impact player. Although White may not be as refined as Amari Cooper, who ended up getting drafted by the Raiders, White’s blend of size/power/speed make the Bears wide receivers one of the top young units in football.

As far as the defensive side of the football Pace did a great job of adding some meat to the defensive line. Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman should fit in immediately at the 0, or nose tackle position in the Bears 3-4 front. Although Goldman does not possess elite pass rush skills, he is a massive human being that should allow the Bears linebackers to run free to the ball.

The most underrated drat pick for the Bears in my opinion came in the 4th round with the selection of Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford. Despite not showing elite athletic ability on tape, Langford lit up the NFL Scouting Combine after posting the lowest 40-yard dash time out of running backs (4.42). Despite having great long-speed, Langford is a versatile back with the ability to make plays in both the passing and running game. With veteran running back Matt Forte entering the last year of his contract and rumors swirling that Forte could hold-out,  Langford could be in a position to take over the bulk of the carries in Chicago as soon as next season.

Overall, the Bears did not make a lot of splash move outside of the selection of Kevin White, but they were able to add some much needed depth along both the offensive and defensive line. While the Bears rebuild was never considered a one-year process, new GM Ryan Pace did a good job adding some quality young talent that has the potential to become starters.

Grade: B-

 

Green Bay Packers

Players Drafted

1.     (30) Damarious Randall S/Arizona State

2.     (62) Quentin Rollins CB/Miami (OH)

3.     (94) TY Montgomery OW/Stanford

4.     (129) Jake Ryan LB/Michigan

5.     (147) Brett Hundley QB/UCLA

6.     (206) Aaron Ripkowski FB/Oklahoma

6.   (210) Christian Ringo DE/Louisiana-Lafeyette

6.   (213) Kennard Backman TE/UAB

 

As long as Aaron Rodgers is around the Packers should be one of the elite offenses in the NFL, but if they want the Lombardi Trophy to come home again it is essential to improve on the defensive side of the ball.

With the departure of Tramon Williams and Davon House to free agency the Packers were left with a gaping hole in their secondary. With the team’s first round selection the Packers drafted Arizona State safety Damarious Randall, an athletic safety who has the ability play deep as a single-high safety as well as the ability to roll down into coverage against slot WR’s and TE’s. Packers GM Ted Thompson did not stop there when adding young talent to his secondary as he invetsed the team’s 2nd round selection into the intriguing Quentin Rollins, a former 4-year starter on the Miami (OH) basketball team who has played just one year of college football. Despite the lack of experience playing football at a high level Rollins showed great ball skills and impressive instincts.

After the first two picks for the Packers I really started to question the moves the team made. The team drafted Stanford offensive weapon Ty Montgomery with their third round selection. Although Montgomery possesses some unique skills with incredible athleticism, he is extremely raw as a receiver and will most likely be relegated to KOR or PR duties during his rookie season.

Despite the selections of Ty Montgomery and Brett Hundley I feel the Packers had a solid, but not great, draft. Randall and Rollins should be day 1 starters for the Packers, and 4th round selection Jake Ryan could see some playing time during his rookie season now that A.J. Hawk has signed with the Bengals. Although the draft was not as flashy as teams like the Titans, Vikings, or Jaguars, the Packers did add two starting caliber players and should continue to be one of the premier teams in the NFC this season.

Grade: C+

 

 

Detroit Lions

Players Drafted

1.     (28) Laken Tomlinson OG/Duke

2.     (54) Ameer Abdullah RB/Nebraska

3.     (80) Alex Carter CB/Stanford

4.     (113) Gabe Wright DT/Auburn

5.     (168) Michael Burton FB/Rutgers

6.     (200) Quandre Diggs CB/Texas

7.     (240) Corey Robinson OT/South Carolina

 

As much as I miss the days of Matt Millen being the GM of the Lions and investing in wide receivers year in and year out, the Lions have shed the laughing stock label and become one of the better drafting units under Martin Mayhew.

Under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi the Lions passing offense took a step back, finishing outside of the top-3 for the first time in three seasons. Part of the issue with the Lions offensive inconsistencies lay within the deficiencies along the offensive line. With the addition of first-round pick Laken Tomlinson the Lions have an immediate upgrade in terms of pass-protection. During Tomlinson’s last season at Duke he established himself as one of the top pass-protecting lineman in the nation, allowing 0 sacks and 0 QB hits during his senior season. If Matthew Stafford is going to make the jump from being an above average quarterback into the upper echelon the addition of Tomlinson to one of the better offensive lines in the NFC North should help immensely.

For all of the dynasty owners that thought the departure of Reggie Bush to the 49ers would mean an increased role for Theo Riddick, those thoughts were quickly put to bed after Lions invested their 2nd round pick on Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. Despite not having the frame of a typical 3-down running back, Abdullah runs with underrated power between the tackles and is matchup nightmare when used as a receiving option out of the backfield. With Joique Bell struggling to hold onto the ball consistently (11 fumbles lost since 2012) and just one more year left on his current contract, Abdullah could push Bell for the starting job as soon as next season.

While the Lions draft does not possess a lot of fantasy relevant draft picks, they once again filled plenty of needs. The additions of Alex Carter and Quandre Diggs to the secondary should provide some quality depth behind Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis, as the Lions continue to have one of the best defensive units in all of football.

Grade: B-

 

Minnesota Vikings

Players Drafted

1.     (11) Trae Waynes CB/Michigan State

2.     (45) Eric Kendricks ILB/UCLA

3.     (88) Danielle Hunter DE/LSU

4.     (110) T.J. Clemmings OT/Pittsburgh

5.     (143) Mycole Pruitt TE/Southern Illinois

5.   (146) Stefon Diggs WR/Maryland

6.     (185) Tyrus Thompson OT/Oklahoma

6.   (193) B.J. Dubose DE/Louisville

7.   (228) Austin Shepard OT/Alabama

7.  (232) Edmond Robinson OLB/Newberry

 

Teams of the NFC North beware; Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is building a juggernaut on the defensive side of the football. After investing in Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, and Shariff Floyd in the first round over the last 4 years, the defense is loaded with young talent just waiting to take off.

Although I thought the Vikings would go with wide receiver DeVante Parker or defensive end Bud Dupree in the first round, the team made the wise move and added the physical press-corner Trae Waynes out of Michigan State. Waynes, if all goes well, should fill in immediately as the team’s no. 2 CB this season opposite Xavier Rhodes.

The addition of Waynes was just the start for the Vikings, as they added ILB Eric Kendricks and LSU DE Danielle Hunter with the teams 3rd and 4th round selection. Kendricks, an “undersized” linebacker from UCLA should be an immediate starter for the purple at either WLB or MLB.  Despite being a tad bit undersized for an NFL ILB, Kendricks has a nose for the football and is underrated in coverage. Guys like Chris Borland have gotten me to realize that linebackers who are tackling machines in college, translates very well to the NFL game. Hunter is an intriguing defensive end prospect with elite size (6’5”, 252 lbs.), speed (4.57), and incredibly long arms (34 ¼). Despite being raw as a pass rusher Hunter has all the physical tools to be a dominant RDE at the NFL level. If Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson Sr. can get Hunter’s physical tools to show up on the field, the Vikings could have one of the steals of the 2015 NFL Draft.

If second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is going to take the next step into being one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, the Vikings have to find a way to protect him better. With the additions of Pittsburgh tackle T.J. Clemmings, Oklahoma’s Tyrus Thompson, and Alabama’s Austin Shepard, the Vikings added some much needed depth to the offensive line.

Of all the teams in the NFC North the Vikings had the most impactful draft of any team. With two players that will step in and be day one starters (Waynes, Kendricks), and four players that have the ability to develop into starting caliber players (Clemmings, Hunter, Diggs, Pruitt) the Vikings not only had the top draft in the NFC North, but one of the top in all of football.

Grade: B+

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Neon Tommy Flickr Page

Thursday, 30 April 2015 00:00

Fantasy Football Helpers Mock Draft

 

 

Team  Pick Player School Explanation
Tampa Bay 1 Jameis Winston FSU Best quarterback in the draft. Tampa Bay hopefully gets the franchise QB they have been searching for
Tennessee 2 Marcus Mariota Oregon Ultimately the decision comes down to Mariota or a trade. If they do stay I assume they take Mariota to give the Titans fans a little hope for the future
Jacksonville 3 Dante Fowler Florida Gus Bradley needs some young pass rushers to bring some ferocity back to the Jaguars defense. Immediate starter at LEO
Oakland 4 Amari Cooper Alabama Most polished recevier in the draft. Immediate starter for the Raiders offense, no. 1 receiver for the future for Carr
Washington 5 Leonard Williams USC If Williams fell into the laps of the Redskins I would expect this pick to take all of 20 seconds to be in. Williams is potentially the best overall player in this draft, and would be an immediate impact player for one of the leagues worst defenses
New York Jets 6 Vic Beasley Clemson Todd Bowles likes to send pressure from everywhere, and with a freak athlete like Beasley he gets a young chip
Chicago 7 Trae Waynes Michigan St. Bears have needs all-over the defensive side of the football. Waynes, although not my favoirte CB will be overdrafted due to his elite long speed
Atlanta 8 Brandon Scherff Iowa Atlanta needs to protect Matt Ryan if they want to take the next step in the NFC South. Scherff gives the Falcons a day 1 starter who can play on interior or on an island at tackle
New York Giants 9 Kevin White WVU Someone will fall in love with Kevin White's freakish athletic ability. While I rank White as the #3 WR behind Parker and Cooper, the pairing of ODB and White would be enticing
St. Louis 10 DeVante Parker Louisville The Rams have a lot of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Parker gives the Rams the no. 1 WR they have been looking for 
Minnesota 11 Bud Dupree Kentucky Like the Titans I expect the Titans to trade down and accumulate more picks. With Parker off the board and Adrian Peterson still on the roster, the Vikings add another freak pass-rusher.
Cleveland 12 Danny Shelton Washington Massive nose tackle that fills the most important position in the 3-4 defense. Should be a starter for the next decade and dramatically improve the Browns putrid rush defense. 
New Orleans 13 Marcus Peters Washington Back-to-back Huskies go as the Saints add the talented cover corner in Peters. While he does come with some off-field baggage, Peters could potentially be a shut-down corner very soon
Miami 14 Todd Gurley Georgia My favorite player in the draft, and without an ACL injury Gurley likely goes in the top-10. Has the skill-set to be a 3-down RB immediately
San Francisco 15 Arik Armstead Oregon Probably the most physically gifted player in the draft. Elite movement skills on a 6'7" frame, potential to be the steal of the 1st round. 
Houston 16 Kevin Johnson Wake Forest Underrated CB in this class w/ plus ball skills, and crazy short area quickness. Improves one of the league's worst secondaries immediately. 
San Diego 17 Melvin Gordon Wisconsin I doubt SD makes the move to no.2 for Mariota, and with the lack of a running game the Chargers take the gamble on the electric Melvin Gordon. Immediately becomes the focal point of the Chargers running game, and a center-piece for the future.
Kansas City 18 Nelson Agholor USC One of the more underapprecaited WR's in this draft. Has a well-rounded game, and the ability to play immediately in the slot, as well as on the boundary.
Cleveland (From Buffalo) 19 Maxx Williams Minnesota The best TE in the draft. Has the ability to up and get the football in traffic, as well as make plays after the catch. Not quite Jeremy Shockey athletically, but plays with the same nastiness
Philadelphia  20 Byron Jones UCONN Physically gifted athlete w/ glimmering off-field record. Chip Kelly likes these types of players, and should fit in nicely opposite Byron Maxwell
Cincinnati 21 Malcolm Brown Texas With Texas football out of the national spotlight many didn’t get the chacne to see Brown play. He has the aggressiveness to fit in behind Geno Atkins and add some depth to a depleted pass rush
Pittsburgh 22 Landon Collins Alabama The loss of Polamalu to the Steelers secondary is going to be a major impact, despite Troy not being as physically gifted as he was earlier in his career. Collins would be an immediate replacement, and bring back the tough, hard-nosed attitude associated w/ Steelers football
Detroit 23 Cameron Erving FSU Versatile lineman with the ability to play 4 of the 5 spots on the OL. If the Lions want Stafford to succeed they have to add some young depth to the offensive line. 
Arizona 24 Eric Kendricks UCLA With Daryl Washington's future in limbo the Cardinals add another tackling machine in Kendricks. There have been some reports of a knee issue, but Kendricks has a nose for the football and is underrated from a coverage standpoint
Carolina 25 D.J. Humprhries Florida Athletic offensive lineman for a team that desperately needs one. When signing Michael Oher is considered an "upgrade" you still have work to do
Baltimore 26 Devin Smith Ohio St The best deep ball receiver in the draft, and with Flacco's big arm this is a match made in heavan. Smith is definitely not a one-trick pony like many portray him as
Dallas 27 Owamagbe Odighizuwa UCLA Yes this is a real name folks. Better known as Owa, has the size/strength/athleicsm to play in any defense as a 3-4 DE, or a 4-3 DE. Check out his game tape from USC if you have any questions about his game. It speaks for itself, this kid is legit.
Denver 28 Ereck Flowers Miami Peyton Manning is getting older, and likely will not be around much longer. For the best success the team needs to add offensive lineman to help keep Manning upright. Despite not being a great fit for Kubiak's zone-run system the talent was too much to pass up. 
Indianapolis 29 Eric Rowe Utah One of the most underrated players in the draft. Has the ability to line up at safety as well as CB. Should fit in well opposite Vontae Davis
Green Bay 30 Benardrick McKinney Miss St.  A.J. Hawk is gone, could go with Stephone Anthony or CB here, but McKinneys potential is too much to pass up for Dom Capers and the Packers defense.
New Orleans (from Seattle) 31 Dorial Green-Beckham Oklahoma New Orleans could add a WR earlier and could potentiall add a pass rusher here, but the potential of Green-Beckham is too much to pass up for the Saints offense. If he can stay clean off-field Green-Beckham has the potential to become the no. 1 WR in the class
New England 32 Carl Davis Iowa Such a Patriots pick. They could add a WR or add depth to the OL, but instead add the Hawkeyes pass-rusher with loads of potential. Some people may object, but Bellicheck always does the unexpected

 

Photo Courtesy of Kathy Vitulano Flickr Page

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There is no other quarterback, or player for that matter, in the 2015 NFL Draft that has been inspected under the proverbial microscope by scouts and media members than Florida State redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston. Although Winston possesses talent that in my opinion puts him right up there with Andrew Luck and Teddy Bridgewater as elite quarterback prospects, his lack of maturity off the field have led to questions about whether or not Winston possess the mental makeup to be a franchise quarterback. 

Player: Jameis Winston

School: Florida State University

Position: Quarterback

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 230 lbs

Class: RS Soph

Position Rank: 1

Scouting Report

From strictly an on-field evaluation you will be hard-pressed to find a quarterback that is more prepared to run an NFL offense than Winston. Standing at 6'4" around 230 lbs Winston possesses the ideal frame of an NFL quarterback. While Winston will never be placed in the same class athletically as RGIII, Cam Newton, or Andrew Luck, Winston possesses more than enough athletic ability to make plays on the boundary of a defense.

Due to the experience in a pro-style system that Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher employs I believe that Winston could make the transition to the pro game relatively quick. Not only does Winston have experience taking 3, 5 and 7-step drops that the pro system requires, but Winston does a great job anticipating when his receivers are going to break and throwing them open. While this sound simple a lot of young quarterbacks struggle to develop the timing/trust that those throws require. 

Take the clip above for instance. Notre Dame is playing man-man coverage on the outside and the two FSU receivers are running a high-low combination route. When the ball is snapped Winston realizes that the slot receiver has single-coverage and throws the ball towards the boundary as the receiver is at the top of his route. This timing allows for the receivers to be able to catch, turn, and make a move that turns into 6 points for the Seminoles. While the play may seem elementary, the timing and placement of the pass are crucial if you want your receivers to have any chance to make a play after the catch.   

The biggest issues that I see when evaluating Winston are his elongated release, as well as his tendency to have "what-the-hell" type plays far too often (most notably the play below). While Winston may not have the tightest throwing motion I believe a lot of these issues can be attributed to his time as a pitcher for the FSU baseball team. Now that Winston is no longer apart of the FSU baseball program I believe that working with an NFL quarterbacks coach on mechanics should be able to tighten up his delivery. 

 

The other glaring issue that I see with Winston on tape is his tendency to try and do too much, resulting in a lot of negative plays/turnovers. Like I mentioned I do not think this issue is a result of Winston lack of preparation, or inability to read the coverage in front of him, but more that Winston is trying to hit the home run every play, instead of taking the check-down and living to play another down. If the biggest problem with a rookie quarterback is his aggressiveness, I think coaches can live with that. 

 

Strengths:

  •       Experience in Pro Style Offense
  •       Premier Arm Strength
  •       Exceptional Accuracy/Ball Placement
  •       Stands Tall in the Pocket
  •       Athleticism to Make Plays Outside the Pocket
  •       Consistent Footwork
  •       Still Room to Grow Mentally/Physically
  •       Knows Where Check Down is 
  •       Keeps Eyes Downfield
  •     Anticipates throws exceptionally well
  •     On-Field Leader

Weaknesses:

  •       Off-Field Concerns
  •       Weight Gain 
  •       Mechanics worsened as year progresses
  •       Elongated throwing Motion
  •     Increase in Interceptions
  •    "What the Hell" Throws

Player Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger QB/Pittsburgh Steelers 

Collegiate Career

Winston signed with the Seminoles as the #1 quarterback prospect according to Rivals.com, though the Seminole faithful would have to wait to see the talented young gunslinger due to the presence of senior quarterback E.J. Manuel. However, once Winston took over as the Seminole starting quarterback it proved to be worth the wait. 

Winston was introduced to the national stage after shredding the Pittsburgh Panthers defense completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. This was just the first of stellar individual performances that Winston had during a freshman season that included a ACC title, BCS National Championship and to put the icing on the cake, a Heisman Trophy. 

Winston finished his freshman season with an absurd 40 touchdown passes compared to just 10 interceptions. On top of the 4:1 TD:INT Winston also averaged 10.6 yards-per-attempt. Think about how incredible that is for a second, Winston averaged a first down every time he completed a pass.

The offseason into Winston's redshirt freshman was littered with off-the-field incidents, most notably rape accusations stemming from an incident between Winston and a FSU student during his freshman season. To top off the offseason from hell for Winston he was caught on camera shoplifting crab legs from a Tallahassee grocery store, resulting in his suspension from the FSU baseball program.

Now with all the off-field shenanigans involving Winston going on it may be hard to believe that he was actually preparing for his redshirt sophomore season. Winston was not as sharp during his redshirt sophomore season, seeing his touchdown passes(40-25), yards (4,057-3,907), and YPA (10.6-8.7) all dip. While some draftniks and fans may be worried about the dip in production you have to remember the Seminole offense lost their no. 1 receiver (Kelvin Benjamin), starting running back (Devonta Freeman), and starting center (Brian Stork) to the NFL. Could Winston have done better his redshirt sophomore season, sure, but with the loss of a lot of talent off the offensive side of the football I can understand why Winston took a step back this past season. 

Fantasy Value

In my opinion Jameis Winston has a chance to come in an establish himself as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL. If Winston lands with the Buccaneers like anticipated he will will have plenty of weapons around him to help with his development, headlined by second year wide receiver Mike Evans and veteran Vincent Jackson. Along with the talented wide receivers the Buccaneers have they also have a tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins that is gaining some serious buzz going into his sophomore season. 

While Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, and Charles Simms are "serviceable" running backs the team needs more consistent production out of their backfield. It is rumored the Buccaneers are interested in Minnesota all-pro running back Adrian Peterson. Vikings GM Rick Spielman has been adamant about receiving at least a first-round pick, but with the no. 2  pick in the 2nd round, Spielman could pull the trigger and send his disgruntled RB to Tampa.

In standard leagues Winston should be viewed as a mid-level QB2 from day one, especially in an offensive system run by Dirk Koetter. With the lack of a consistent running game, and talented pass-catchers the Bucs could turn into one of the more pass-happy offenses in football. 

In dynasty drafts Winston is my no. 1 quarterback target in rookie/free agent drafts. While I would have a hard time selecting him in the top-5 over the top WR's (Cooper, Parker, White), RB's (Gurley, Gordon), with talented skill-position players around him the no. 6 overall pick is the highest I would consider taking Winston. If you are like myself and drafted a veteran quarterback (Drew Brees) to fill the need for a couple of seasons and find yourself in a position to land Winston in your rookie drafts, it would be a dream scenario in my book. 

Draft Projection

There is no doubt in my mind that Winston possesses the skill-set of a franchise NFL quarterback. Despite the well-documented immaturity issues Winston has dealt with while at Florida State, Winston is the odds-on favorite to be the no. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota may possesses a more intriguing skill-set from an athletic skill-point, but with Winston's experience in a pro-style offense, and his ability to anticipate throws into tight windows gives him the edge in my 2015 quarterback rankings.

While it has been reported that the Glazer family will have final say in the no. 1 overall draft pick I doubt there is anything at this point that would  prevent Winston from being the no. 1 overall pick when the Buccaneers are officially on the clock. 

Grade: Top 3 Pick 

 

Photo Courtesy of Kathy Vitulano Flickr Page

 

Thursday, 16 April 2015 00:00

Buy/Sell QB Edition v 2.0: Ryan v. Brees

In my first installment of Buy/Sell I broke down the fantasy value between Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and the Broncos Peyton Manning. For my second installment, I am going to dissect the fantasy potential of two of the league’s most prolific passers, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and the Falcons Matt Ryan. 

Buy: Matt Ryan

When Dirk Koetter signed on in 2012 to be the Falcons offensive coordinator one thing was for certain, Matt Ryan was going to throw the ball all over the yard. In the three seasons that Koetter was in charge of play-calling, the Falcons had one of the more pass-happy offenses in the NFL, finishing in the top-10 in passing attempts and passing yards every year.

Despite having one of the best offensive units in football the Falcons were held back by sub-par offensive line play, and arguably the worst defense in football. Due to these deficiencies the Falcons finished the 2014-15 season with a 6-10 record, leading to the dismissal of head coach Mike Smith and the rest of the Falcons coaching staff.

New Coaching Staff

Despite Kyle Shannahan taking over for Dirk Koetter as the Falcons offensive coordinator, I do not expect the Falcons offense to take a step back in the 2015-16 season. 

During Shannahan's 7 seasons as an offensive coordinator in the NFL with the Texans, Redskins, and the Browns, Shannahan has been one of the most pass-happy coaches in the NFL, ranking in the top-10 in 5 out of 7 seasons in total passing attempts. The only two times that Shannahan did not rank in the top-10 in pass attempts was in 2013, one year after Robert Griffin III suffered a torn ACL, and in 2015 in Cleveland when he had to deal with the sub-par quarterback talent of veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny "Football" Manziel.

Offensive Weapons 

Aside from having one of the worst offensive lines in football, the Falcons offense is still littered with playmakers that have the potential to make even an average quarterback look like a Joe Montana.

Julio Jones has finally taken over as the focal point as the Falcons passing attack, with Roddy White shifting to more of a possession. Despite ranking third in the NFL in both targets (154) and receptions (103) Jones only found pay-dirt 6 times causing Jones to be an elite PPR asset, and a low WR1 in standard formats. 

Although "Rowdy" Roddy White (as my buddy Paddy refers to him as) is getting closer to the twilight zone of his career he still proved to be a reliable receiver for fantasy owners. Despite missing two games in 2014, White still ranked in the top 20 in targets (122), receptions (80), and touchdown receptions (7), ranking White as the 24th  overall wide receiver (Low WR2) in ESPN standard scoring leagues.

Sell: Drew Brees

Just like with Peyton Manning, I am not telling you that Drew Bress is a player you should completely avoid in fantasy football, but should definitely temper your expectations for the former MVP. After losing Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks and the team investing a large amount of money to stabilize the running game, the Saints could be looking at a shift in offensive philosophy in 2015.

Jimmy Graham Departure

Normally the loss of a tight end would not be something that scares me off from drafting a quarterback in fantasy football, but when that tight end is Jimmy Graham you have to take note. 

As you can see by the table below Graham has been one of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends over the last three seasons. Last year, in what could be considered a "down year" by the standards that fantasy owners hold Graham to, Graham was still able to post double-digit touchdowns and almost 900 receiving yards, ranking him the no. 3 overall tight end in fantasy football. 

Graham TA Rec. % Ct Yds Yds / Rec. YAC YAC / Rec. LG TD
2012 131 85 64.9 982 11.6 310 3.6 46 9
2013 145 90 62.1 1267 14.1 433 4.8 56 16
2014 121 85 70.2 889 10.5 292 3.4 29 10
  397 260 65.73 3138 12.07 1035 3.98   35

With Graham's departure to Seattle, it leaves a gaping hole in the Saints receiving corps. All-purpose receiver Brandin Cooks showed promise during his rookie season, but would be more effective as a slot receiver than a player that predominantly plays on the boundary. Marques Colston re-structred his contract to stay with the team but is in no way capable of being a no. 1 WR at this point in his career.

Little known second-year tight end Josh Hill will be given the opportunity to fill the void left by Graham in the Saints passing game. Saints head coach Sean Payton has raved about Hill this offseason stating in an interview with ESPN, "This Josh Hill is another player that I love. I love," Payton said "When you look at his runs, jumps, height, weight, speed, you look at his measurable ---- and he didn't go to the Combine, thank God.

While it is fair to assume that Hill will see an uptick in production in 2015, I highly doubt that the will come anywhere close to the production Graham posted aside from his 31/356/5 that Graham posted his rookie season. 

With the draft quickly approaching, and the Saints in possession of two first-round picks the Saints could be in line to add wide receiver early in the draft for the second year-in-a-row. 

Photo Courtesy of Football Schedule Flickr Page

 

Every season I like to put fantasy players into two different categories. The first category is a player that I BUY, or that I believe is going to possess above average fantasy value for the 2015 season. One the other hand, a player that I SELL is deemed as a player that I feel is either going to be a bust, or fall to live up to the expectations of their draft slot. 

Quarterback

Buy: Teddy Bridgewater QB/Minnesota Vikings

If you follow me at all on twitter (@JoshMenschNFL) you will know that I am a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan, but I promise you my love for the fantasy potential of second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is not just a case of myself drinking the purple cool-aid. Going into the 2014 NFL Draft, a lot of people questioned Bridgewater from a number of ridiculous aspects including his preference to wear gloves, his "skinny knees" or my personal favorite — that he wasn't tough enough to play QB in the NFL (Played with a two severely sprained ankles and a broken wrist in college).

Bridgewater came out scorching hot in his first career start as he picked apart the Falcons defense for 317 yards passing and a rushing touchdown, a performance good enough to win him Pepsi's Rookie of the Week. In the next 7 weeks, Bridgwater definitely had the look of a rookie adjusting to the pace of the NFL game, sporting a worrisome 3:5 TD:INT as well as ranking in the bottom 10 in the NFL in yards-per-attempt (6.6).

With those numbers some of you may be wondering why someone with numbers like this would be a quarterback that you would want as a QB1 in fantasy football. In the second half of the season Bridgewater looked like a quarterback that was finally becoming comfortable running an NFL offense.  In weeks 11-17 Pro Football Focus graded Bridgewater as the no. 3 quarterback in all of football (9.6), trailing just Drew Brees (13.6) and Aaron Rodgers (17.3), posting a much improved 11:7 TD:INT and a quarterback rating of 95.2. 

Going into his sophomore season Bridgewater has a chance to take a major step forward, for a fraction of the price of some of the premier quarterbacks in fantasy football. Disgruntled running back Adrian Peterson's status is still unknown, but if he is still in a Vikings uniform that will no doubt relieve some pressure off of the young quarterback. Besides the charades that have been going on with Peterson the Vikings have been very active adding potential playmakers to the offensive side of the football this offseason. The Vikings acquired Mike Wallace and a 7th round pick from the Dolphins in exchange for a fifth round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.  Although Walace was not able to match the production in Miami that he did in Pittsburgh, Wallace is still a legitimate deep threat and should benefit from the downfield passing game Vikings' offensive coordinator Norv Turner likes to employ. 

According to Fantasy Football Calculator's average draft position chart, Bridgewater is currently being drafted in the middle of round 10. At this position Bridgewater is being drafted after players like Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Tannehill. Not to say Kaepernick or Tannehill cannot be successful fantasy options, but they do not possess the natural passing abilities, or offensive weapons Bridgewater does.

Sell: Peyton Manning QB/Denver Broncos

Now before anyone rips my head off for telling you to SELL Peyton Manning I just want to let it be known that I am not telling you not too draft the soon to be first-ballot Hall of Famer. What I am telling you fantasy owners is too proceed with caution with the soon-to-be 40 year-old quarterback for two reasons.

      1.  Gary Kubiak Offense

Anyone that has followed Gary Kubiak's career knows that there are a couple of things his teams features on offense. The first is a running back that possesses the ability to be successful in a zone-blocking system, and with C.J. Anderson they definitely have that. 

Due to the presence of a strong rushing attack, Kubiak has not been one to feature a quarterback that puts up gaudy passing numbers. Just for comparison's sake, while Matt Schaub played under Kubiak in Houston he only surpassed 4,000 passing yards three times, a number that Manning has reached in all but two of his 17-year-career.

The second aspect Kubiak likes to feature is a mobile quarterback that has the ability to make plays outside the pocket on bootlegs and roll-outs. I think it is safe to say that Manning is not going to make many plays on such plays. 

Despite posting the second-highest yardage total in his career in 2014, Manning saw his average yards-per-attempt drop below 8.0 for the first time in three seasons. In an offense that will be predicated on short throws that rely on the receivers ability to make plays after the catch Manning could see that average continue to slide.

 

      2.  Departure of Julius Thomas

I expect Julius Thomas' departure to Jacksonville to have major impact on the Broncos offense next season. When healthy, Thomas was one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL, posting a 108/1,277/24 line over the last two seasons. 

The biggest downside of Thomas' game lies in his ability to stay healthy for an entire season. In the three games that Thomas missed last season Manning and the Broncos offense took a step back in terms of productivity. In the three games that Thomas missed in 2014 Manning averaged only 203 yards-per-game, and two touchdown passes a game, equating to about 14 fantasy points-per-game with Thomas sidelined. While some of the struggles could be attributed to the quad injury Manning suffered, it was clear that he missed his safety blanket in the middle of the field. 

Overview

Obviously Peyton Manning is going to cost a premium pick in fantasy football drafts, but I urge fantasy owners (Who are not in 2QB leagues), to wait too address arguably the deepest talent pool in fantasy football.

Like I said earlier I am not telling you guys that Manning is a player who will bust, but I do think that he is line for a dip from his normal production. Manning is currently being drafted as the third quarterback of the board in fantasy football behind Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, coming of the board at the end of round 3. While there are still plenty of weapons on the Broncos offense to think they will be one of the top-10 units in football next season, I think there are better values at the quarterback position in fantasy football.

 

Photo Courtesty of Jeffrey Beall's Flickr Page

 

Adam Inman of FFLockerroom.com and I recently debated the long-term potential of Vikings third-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Inman took the stance that the offseason trade speculation surrounding the talented, yet raw, Patterson were valid and could potentially moved by April's draft. I on the other hand am of the opinion that Patterson is still well within the long-term plans of the Vikings offense, and have layout two main reasons why I believe Patterson will take a step forward in the third professional season.

To read the complete article of FFlockrroom.com take the link here:

 

Image Courtesy of Rick Burtzel Flickr Page

 

Player: Nelson Agholor

School: University of Southern California

Position: Wide Receiver

Height: 6'0"

Weight: 198 lbs

Class: Sr.

Position Rank: 6

While I try and watch as much college football as possible, being from the midwest it makes it hard to watch sports that take place on the west coast due to the late start times. Because of the limited viewing possibilities I cannot form a proper opinion of some draft prospects. This year, USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor is a player that I may have been late to the party too, but after watching left a major impression on me. 

Strengths:

  • Exceptional Route-Runner
  • Legitimate Deep Threat
  • Well-Rounded Game
  • Hands Catcher
  • Special Teams Capabilities
  • Ability to Line Up at Multiple Places in an Offense
  • Attacks Top of Stem Well
  • Sinks into Breaks
  • High Motor Player
  • Should be Day 1 Contributor
  • Recognizes Soft Spots in Zone Coverage
  • Quick Twitch Player
  • Works Back to Football Well

Weaknesses:

  • Slight Frame, Lacks Prototypical No. 1 WR Size
  • Mediocre Run Blocker, Absorbs Hit Rather Than Deliver It
  • Struggles with Contested Catches
  • Lacks Elite Trait
  • Not a "Vertical"/Jump Ball Threat
  • Will Struggle in Red Zone

Collegiate Career

Although Agholor did not have the heralded college career like Alabama's Amari Cooper or Eastern Carolina's Justin Hardy, Agholor quietly established himself as one of the most pro-ready wide receivers during his final season as a Trojan. Through his first two seasons Agholor posted a total of 74 catches for 1,259 yards and 8 touchdown receptions in mostly a reserve role for the Trojan offense. 

During his sophomore season Agholor earned a starting spot opposite eventual Jaguars draft pick Marquise Lee. While Lee was battling lingering lower-body injuries, Agholor made the most of his opportunities, posting a team-high 918 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns.

Not only did Agholor become the focal point of the Trojans passing offense with Lee sidelined but also displayed electric playmaking ability as a punt returner, averaging over 19 yards per return and bringing two back for scores. 

Agholor used the momentum gained from a strong sophomore season to become the clear-cut no. 1 receiving option for the Trojans passing attack his junior year posting a 104/1,313/12 line. Despite posting his lowest YPC average during his junior season Agholor showed more versatility to his game than being a situational deep-threat, showing the ability to use his quickness in the slot against safeties and linebackers.

    Receiving Rushing Scrimmage          
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
*2012 USC Pac-12 FR WR 13 18 341 18.9 2
2013 USC Pac-12 SO WR 14 56 918 16.4 6
2014 USC Pac-12 JR WR 13 104 1313 12.6 12
Career USC         178 2572 14.4 20

 

Player Comarison: Jeremy Maclin

As far as Agholor's physical skill-set goes, I think that he will be better off as a high-end no. 2 wide receiver as opposed to being the focal point of a team's passing attack. Equipped with quick feet and an explosive burst off the line Agholor has the ability to not only beat defenders down the field, but make an impact on crossing routes and other routes designed to take advantage of players skills after the catch. 

 

The instant I turned on the tape of USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor I was immediately reminded of Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Like Maclin, Agholor does not possess any elite traits that scouts look for in a no. 1 wide receiver at the next level, but does possess a well-rounded game that I believe translates to a high-end no. 2 receiver with the ability to make an impact in the slot.

 

 

Due to a dislocated finger suffered during on-field drills at the NFL Scouting Combine Agholor did not participate in any of the speed and agility drills, but like many expected showed above average speed (4.42/1.53) for a player with his his size.

Although Agholor was the main target of the Trojans passing game his Junior season (104 receptions) I do not see his skill-set translating to that of a bon-a-fide no. 1 wide receiver at the NFL level. That is not to say that Agholor can not become a valuable asset for an NFL offense as he possesses quick feet and the ability to run a full NFL route tree right out of college.  

One of the main reasons I see Agholor having early success in his career is because oh his refinement in the finer point of being a wide receiver, i.e. using leverage, route-running, and knowledge of the soft spots in zone-coverage. 

The benefit of playing at the University of Southern California is that it gives offensive players experience playing in a pro-style offensive system. Due to this experience Agholor has experience running a complete NFL route tree. Not only does Agholor have experience running NFL route concepts, but he is very polished as well, as Agholor runs each route with the same intensity and ferocity.

Fantasy Outlook

Like the majority of rookie receivers immediate fantasy success is largely dependent on the situation they are drafted into. However there are a few teams that I am going to out line that I believe Agholor could provide instant on-field production. 

  • Chicago Bears

Going into the 2014-15 season the Chicago Bears were a popular sleeper Super Bowl pick out of the NFC. However, "Smoking" Jay Cutler once again proved unable to take the reigns as a franchise signal caller, and the Marc Trestman experiment proved to be a disaster leading to a complete face lift for one of the leagues storied franchises. 

Going into the 2014-15 season the Bears wide receivers were considered to be one of the top units in the league. With Brandon Marshall and second-year wide receiver Alshon Jeffery catching passes in the Bears offense there was no reason to believe that they would be in a position to draft a wide receiver, unless it was for depth purposes. However, with Marshall now in New York playing for the Jets and Jeffery taking over as the team's no. 1 wide receiver the Bears could be in position to draft some young playmakers in the draft. 

New offensive coordinator Adam Gase has some experience with players of Agholor's skill-set. Last season Emmanuel Sanders posted 101 receptions for 1,404 yards and 9 touchdowns with Gase calling plays, all new career highs. While it would be foolish to expect the same kind of production from Agholor in his rookie season that Sanders did in his 6th season, I do feel there is room for Agholor to see extended playing time during his rookie season. 

  • Philadelphia Eagles

There is no better replacement in my mind for Jeremy Maclin than to replace him with a player that I feel nearly mirrors his playing style in Nelson Agholor. 

Head Coach Chip Kelly has made his fair share of head scratching moves this offseason. First Kelly shipped the franchise's leading rusher in LeSean McCoy to the Bills for Kiko Alonso, a talented linebacker who missed the 2014-15 season with an ACL injury. It was thought with the extra cap space the Eagles front office would lock up wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. However Maclin decided to re-unite with former Eagles head coach Andy Reid to the tune of $11 million per season. 

With Maclin now gone the only two receivers that the Eagles have on the roster that saw significant playing time are second-year wide receiver Jordan Matthews and veteran Riley Cooper. Matthews showed some promise during his rookie season posting 67 receptions for 876 yards and 8 touchdowns, but he will need some help around him if he wants to take the next step in his development. 

In my opinion Agholor would be the perfect fit for Chip Kelly's up-tempo offensive scheme. Not only does he posses the ability to beat defenses vertically, but possesses a well-rounded game that has the ability to make plays at all three levels of the field. Due to his on-field awareness and ability to process things quickly I feel playing in a system that has multiple reads built in to each play like Kelly's does would do wonders for Agholor's progression in pro game. 

Draft Projection

I currently have Agholor rated as my number 6 wide receiver for the 2015 NFL Draft, and feel he possesses the ability to provide an instant impact to which ever team is lucky enough to land his services. Regardless of where Agholor ends up in the draft I feel he has the skill-set to be a day one contributor to an NFL offense due to his crisp routes and experience playing in a pro-style offensive system. 

For the most success I would like to see Agholor land in a system that emphasizes his versatility, lining him up at several different positions within their offense. While Agholor may never be the no. 1 wide receiver that teams look for, there is no doubt that Agholor has a skill-set that makes him valuable commodity around the league.

I expect Agholor to hear his name called anywhere on day 2 of the draft. Due to the concerns I have about his inability to be the bon-a-fide no.1 wide receiver for an offense, and his struggles making catches with defenders around him, I do not feel I can list Agholor in the same tier as guys like White, Cooper, Parker, and DGB. While Agholor may not possess the elite measruables that scouts and fans fall in love with, he does possess a very polished game for a college receiver and should provide instant production for whichever team draft him.  

Grade: 2nd Round

Photo Courtesy of Neon Tommy Flickr Page

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Rick Spielman and the Minnesota Vikings front office are not known for being big spenders in free agency. Last season the team "splurged" on Linval Joseph and Captain Mannerly, two players that had ups-and-downs during their first season with the Vikings. This season the splash for the Vikings came in the form of the disgruntled Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace, after the team acquired Wallace and a 7th round pick for the Vikings 2015 5th round pick. 

After missing out on guard Clint Boling and defensive end Michael Johnson, both of whom re-signed with the Bengals, the Vikings turned their attention to improving the weakest position on the roster, the wide receiver position. Despite the near-diva attitude of Wallace, there is no doubting his ability to stretch defenses vertically.

If Wallace is able to keep his head on straight, and more importantly develop chemistry with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, this could turn into one of the more underrated acquisitions of the offseason. 

Offensive Fit

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is known to employ the Air Coryell offense, an offensive system predicated on a vertical passing game. If there is one thing Wallace has it is the ability to get behind defenses with his world-class speed.After being acquired by the Vikings for a late round pick Wallace will step in and become the team's no. 1 wide receiver, manning the "X" or vertical role in the Vikings offense. 

Early on this offseason it seemed as if third-year wide receiver Charles Johnson was going to become the focal point of the Vikings passing game, as offensive coordinator Norv Turner called Johnson "far and away our best receiver". Despite having the measurables of a no. 1 receiver (6'3) Johnson struggled mightily during his first season with Minnesota making contested catches.  

Although many people question Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s ability to drive the ball down the field, Bridgewater showed massive improvements during his rookie season.

Over the first 9 weeks of the season Bridgewater struggled with is accuracy and timing on vertical passes, completing just 9 of 26 attempts on balls 20+ yards down field.

From week 10 on, Bridgewater started to develop good timing with his receivers on vertical routes. In the last 8 weeks of the season Bridgewater ranked 2nd in the NFL on deep passes, completing 7 of his 15 pass attempts.

 

Weeks 1-9

Deep Passing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#

Name

Team

Att.

Comp

Drops

Yards

TDs

INTs

Att. %

Acc. %

20

 Teddy Bridgewater

MIN

26

9

1

233

2

0

13.2

38.5

Weeks 10-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 Teddy Bridgewater

MIN

15

7

2

234

3

3

7.3

60 

The biggest improvement in Bridgewater’s game came in his accuracy rating. During the first 9 weeks of the year PFF only charted 38.5% of Bridgewater’s deep passes as accurate. In the second half of the year Bridgewater seemed like a different quarterback, posting an accuracy % of 60. 

As you can see from the table above Bridgewater was becoming a very efficient QB on deep throws, posting more yards and touchdowns on fewer attempts than he did the first half of the season. Bridgewater's progression in the second half of his rookie season has to be promising for Vikings fans and coaches for a team that has been held back by paltry quarterback play since Brett Favre retired.  

The addition of Wallace to the Vikings finally gives the Norv Turner the vertical threat that he need to make his offense successful. As long as Wallace is able to stay committed and Bridgewater is able to continue his progression from his rookie season, the Vikings offense could be in a position to take a major leap forward next season.

Quarterback/Wide Receiver Disconnect

During Wallace's time in Pittsburgh he established himself as one of the premier deep threats in football averaging over 17 yards-per-reception during his his four years in black and yellow. 

After signing a 5 year/$60 million deal with the Dolphins in 2013 the hope Wallace would bring his electric speed to South Beach and become the focal point of their passing attack. It seemed as if Wallace was starting to develop into an all-around wide receiver after posting a career high 73 receptions in his first season in Miami. 

Despite posting a new career high in receptions, Wallace saw his yards-per-reception and touchdown receptions drop for the third straight season.  

According to Pro Football Focus’ metrics that separate receptions by direction Wallace and Tannehill only connected for 6 out of 24 attempts for 199 yards and one touchdown on passes travelling 20+ yards down the field. The most staggering statistic I noticed was of the 24 attempts that Tannehill threw 20+ yards down field, only 7 of those passes were deemed “catchable”.

 

 

Games

Receiving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year

Tm

Pos

G

GS

Tgt

Rec

Yds

Y/R

TD

Lng

R/G

Y/G

2009

PIT

WR

16

4

72

39

756

19.4

6

60

2.4

47.3

2010

PIT

WR

16

16

98

60

1257

21

10

56

3.8

78.6

2011*

PIT

WR

16

14

114

72

1193

16.6

8

95

4.5

74.6

2012

PIT

WR

15

14

119

64

836

13.1

8

82

4.3

55.7

2013

MIA

WR

16

16

141

73

930

12.7

5

57

4.6

58.1

2014

MIA

WR

16

16

115

67

862

12.9

10

50

4.2

53.9

Career

 

 

95

80

659

375

5834

15.6

47

95

3.9

61.4

 

Fantasy Implications

Last season Wallace scored a total of 170.5 fantasy points (.5 PPR leagues) a total good enough for the 21st highest wide receiver in fantasy football. In layman's terms, even with Tannehill's inconsistencies throwing the ball down the field, Wallace was still able to post number equating to a solid WR2 in fantasy football. 

The move to Minnesota could be a blessing for Wallace's fantasy outlook. Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner loves to throw the ball down the field and with Bridgewater's improved accuracy on deep passes, and the addition of Wallace's speed is just what the Vikings offense needs to make Turner's system go. 

According to fantasyfootballcalculator.com's ADP calculator Wallace is on average the 31st wide receiver drafted in fantasy drafts, slotting Wallace to be selected at the beginning of round 7. In my opinion that is incredible value for the speedster as he will likely be the Vikings leading receiver in 2015, and has a chance to produce his first 1,000 yard season since 2011.

 

The NFL's new year has not even officially begun and fireworks are going off around the league with transactions including some of the premier players in the league. There is no bigger trade than the one being finalized between the Saints and the Seahawks. According to Jay Glazer, the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints have agreed in principle to trade Jimmy Graham and a 4th round pick to the Saints in exchange for Max Unger and a 2015 first-round pick. 

This trade certainly came out of left field. If you recall the Saints just agreed to a four-year/$40 million contract extension with Graham last offseason, and Graham was the teams most productive receiving option over the last few seasons.

Seattle Perspective

From the Seahawks perspective they acquire the thing they needed most, a bonafide no. 1 receiving option in their offense, and with the acquisition of Graham they get exactly that.

Over the last three seasons there arguably not been a more dominant player in the NFL than Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. For comparison's sake I wanted to look at the production between the two premier tight ends in the NFL, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

 

Graham

TA

Rec.

% Ct

Yds

Yds / Rec.

YAC

YAC / Rec.

LG

TD

2012

131

85

64.9

982

11.6

310

3.6

46

9

2013

145

90

62.1

1267

14.1

433

4.8

56

16

2014

121

85

70.2

889

10.5

292

3.4

29

10

 

397

260

65.73

3138

12.07

1035

3.98

 

35

Gronkowski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

78

55

70.5

790

14.4

311

5.7

41

11

2013

64

39

60.9

592

15.2

198

5.1

50

4

2014

152

98

64.5

1328

13.6

535

5.5

46

15

 

294

192

65.3

2710

14.11

1044

5.4375

 

30

As you can see by the chart Graham has been an terror for opposing defenses to try and contain. The statistics are skewed slightly towards Graham due to the various injuries Gronkowski has dealt with, something Graham has been able to avoid at this point in his career.

The biggest improvement that Graham will bring to the Seahawks offense is Graham's ability to stretch defenses down the middle of the field. Over the last three seasons Graham has averaged over 12 yards-per-reception, an absurd number for a tight end. 

Looking at the history of the Seahawks wide receivers it is clear that Wilson has never had a receiver with the talent that Graham possesses. Over the last three season the only player on the Seahawks roster to amass 90 targets was Golden Tate, who signed with the Detroit Lions last offseason. 

Graham's playmaking ability in the red zone is not only going to help the Seahawks passing attack, but should help Marshawn Lynch and the running game open. Due to Graham's ability to get up the seam and attack defenses vertically defenses are going to be forced to play a lot of nickel packages (5 DB's) in order to attempt to match up in coverage. The downside of these substitutions for defenses is that the Seahawks offensive line is going to have more space to get up to the linebackers allowing Marshawn Lynch one-on-one match-ups against defensive backs, a match-up Lynch will win more times than not. 

Saints Perspective

It is never easy to replace a talented player that accounted for over 3,100 receiveig yards over the last three season, but it was a move that the Saints needed to make.

Prior to the offseason beginning the Saints cap situation was a mess, as the team needed  to clear $20 million in cap space just to be within the leagues threshold.

By trading Graham the Saints cap space is now in a place where they can make some move too address their needs. With the acquisition of Max Unger the Saints get one of the best young centers in football, but also acquire a first-round pick in the 2015 draft.

It is safe to assume that the Saints offense is going to transition form one of the most pass happy offenses in the leauge, to one that is centered around a strong offensive line and running game. Pro Football Focus has graded Unger as +36.7 over the last three seasons, including a +36.8 rating in the run game.  

In the trade the Saints also acquired the Seahawks first-round pick in the upcoming draft. This may not seem like a lot since the Seahawks are picking 31st overall, for the Saints it is very important.

The Saints currently hold the 13th and 31st overall picks in the 2015 NFL Draft and have several needs to fill along the defensive side of the ball. With two first round picks the Saints would be in position to acquire a pass rusher like Alvin Dupree (Kentucky), a nose tackle like Danny Shelton (Washington), or even a cornerback (Peters, Waynes, Darby). If the Saints were able to land any of these players I mentioned it would go along way towards revamping one of the leagues worst defenses.  

Conclusion

Despite the big price tag for each team I consider the trade a win-win for each team. For Seattle, they fill a serious need at the tight end position, as well as a player that can step in and be the focal point of their passing game.

For the Saints the impact that Max Unger has may not show up directly in the box score, but trust me it will be major. Since being drafted Unger has consistently been graded as one of the best centers in football. There is injury concern with Unger, but in my opinion the risk is well worth the reward.

For Seattle not only do they fill a serious need in tight end, but they also get a player that can step in and be the focal point of their passing game. It is no secret that the Seahawks receivers are a below-average unit, and the addition of Graham should not only help improve their offense between the 20’s, but their red zone efficiency as well.

Like I said earlier this trade looks like a win-win for both sides. The Seahawks finally have a guy they can gameplan there passing game around, and the Saints gain assets while repair one of the worst cap situations in recent memory.

 

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