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Will the Green Bay Packers win OVER/UNDER 9 games? By University Stats Prof!

1. Introduction

Matt LaFleur’s first season as Green Bay’s head coach has to be considered a success. He led the team to a 13-3 record, which secured the NFC North title.

The Packers held off the Seahawks to a 28-23 home win in the first round of the playoffs, but were ousted by the Niners in a brutal 37-20 thumping (a game in which the Packers dugged themselves into an early 27-0 hole).

2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)

Aaron Rodgers will be entering his 16th NFL season. He had another excellent year with a 26-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio and over 4,000 passing yards. He finished as the 7th-best QB in the league according to PFF ratings.

At 36 years old, he is likely to have a few good years left. After all, Drew Brees and Tom Brady posted nice statistics in their late thirties.

Rodgers has been very durable throughout his career, but he’s not invincible either. Tim Boyle was the backup plan last year, and the team needed to upgrade the position while starting to think about the post-Rodgers era.

Still, drafting Jordan Love was the most questionable and talked-about pick in this year’s draft. People expected the Packers to go with a veteran backup QB. Rodgers has mentioned several times he wants to play in his forties; he can still offer a good five years of solid play in the frozen tundra.

Love has possesses great size, throws with velocity and he’s very mobile. The main knock on him is the decision-making and inconsistency.

As a sophomore, he threw 32 TD passes versus 6 interceptions. He regressed a lot last year by posting a mediocre 20:17 TD:INT mark. Granted, his surrounding cast was very weak and he had to go through a coaching change.

Love can throw from many different arm angles; he reminds people of Patrick Mahomes in this regard. He can throw a fastball or a soft touch pass.

Quick note: he almost quit football when he was 14 years old after his dad committed suicide. However, he knew his dad would want him to keep playing, so he did just that.

2.2 Running Backs (RBs)

Aaron Jones is a top running back in this league. Along with Jamaal Williams, they form a lethal duo.

Including the playoffs, Jones ended up scoring 23 touchdowns in 18 games. His 19 regular season scores were the second most in Packers history. His numbers have increased in each of his first three years as a pro. He is also excellent as a pass catcher.

Despite playing in the shadow of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams still finished as the 17th-best RB based on PFF rankings. He does not seem like a lead back, but he’s a perfect change-of-pace guy. Much like Jones, he can do some damage as a receiver as well.

Williams has been a steady performer thus far in his career. He has rushed for 450-550 yards in each of his three seasons, while catching a minimum of 25 balls. He has 15 total TDs over this three-year span.

If you thought GM Brian Gutekunst made a strange move by drafting QB Jordan Love in the first round, he doubled down with another head scratcher in the 2nd round when he took A.J. Dillon.

Message to Mr. Gutekunst: Aaron Rodgers needed pass catchers, not a third running back! I really don’t get this pick either. I’m not saying Dillon won’t be good in the NFL; only time will tell. However, it clearly wasn’t a position of need for the Packers.

Dillon is a power back who rarely breaks off huge runs. He racked up big numbers in three seasons in Boston College. He’s unlikely to become a three-down starter, especially since he’s not a good pass catcher. He will likely be used sporadically as a rookie.

2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)

Davante Adams is one of the best at his position. He had a streak of three straight seasons with at least 10 TD receptions snapped last year, but he still caught 83 passes for 997 yards in 12 games (he missed four games because of a toe injury).

Outside of Adams, all pass catchers appeared lost on the field. None of them developed a good chemistry with Rodgers.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling was a huge disappointment last year. He showed promise as a rookie with over 500 receiving yards. Here’s a jaw-dropping statistic: after Week #7, MVS did not get more than 19 receiving yards in any meeting. That’s awful.

One of the guys benefiting from Valdes-Scantling’s poor play was Jake Kumerow. He got more playing time than expected, but still only caught 12 passes. He is closing in on 30 years of age and is limited as an athlete, so he’s not a long-term answer for sure.

Allen Lazard was also thrown into action far more than expected. He finished second in terms of receiving yards for Green Bay, but let’s face the reality: the undrafted guy remains more of a #3 or #4 WR for any team.

Geronimo Allison was another bust last year. His top performance over the last 12 games (including the playoffs) was a meager 33 receiving yards. He left for another NFC North team, the Detroit Lions.

In other words, the #2 role is wide open. The team hopes newly acquired Devin Funchess can step into that role. The former second rounder had his best season in 2017 with the Panthers with a 63-840-8 stat line. He signed with the Colts last year, but played just one game before breaking a collarbone. He will be 26 years old this season and provides an interesting prospect for the Packers.

2.4 Tight Ends (TEs)

We’re not done talking about 2019 busts. Jimmy Graham was one of them. He clearly looks washed. He received the lowest grades of his 10-year career, and deservedly so. The Packers released him and he signed a few days later with the Bears (a horrible mind-boggling two-year, $16 million contract).

Marcedes Lewis received surprisingly good marks from PFF. If you look into the numbers, the good grade occurred mainly because of efficient run and pass blocking. He’s not much of a pass catcher and he will be 36 years old when the season begins.

Robert Tonyan will also be in the mix, but the guy that has the best chance to break out as a receiver in 2020 only caught three passes last year (all in the playoffs): Jace Sternberger. Taken in the third round of the 2019 draft, Sternberger was a threat at Texas A&M in college. He missed most of the regular season because of injuries, but the door is wide open with Graham’s departure.

We might also see third-round rookie Josiah Deguara. He has a great motor and plays extremely hard. He’s undersized as a tight end, though.

2.5 Offensive Line (OL)

The Packers had a pretty solid offensive line in 2019. All five starters managed to play at least 84% of the offensive snaps. And they all finished above-average according to PFF ratings!

The bad news, however, is the Bryan Bulaga left for the Chargers. Despite turning over 30 years old, he still played at a high level.

The Packers decided to replace him by signing Rick Wagner, formerly of the Lions. Wagner’s PFF grades from 2016 to 2018 were as follows: 74.0, 75.2 and 71.4. Last year, his play deteriorated a lot and he was tagged with a 59.0 grade. He finished as the #61 tackle among 81 guys.

I like the fact that the team is returning four out of five guys, but replacing Bulaga with Wagner has to be viewed as a downgrade.

2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE

The Packers offense finished in the middle of the pack in points scored per game. Barring major injuries, I expect about the same production in 2020.

The QB and RB situations remain the same.

Adding Funchess is not a huge move, but it won’t hurt. The team clearly needs someone to step up opposite of Davante Adams. At tight end, losing Jimmy Graham means close to nothing since he was so ineffective. Sternberger might bring a nice contribution, but we can hardly expect him to be a game-breaker.

Finally, the OL will take a dip with the loss of Bulaga. I don’t believe Rick Wagner can do better than him.

All in all, I view the additions/departures as a slight negative for Green Bay, but having so many starters returning to the lineup for a second straight season is always a good thing in the NFL. For these reasons, I expect a similar output as 2019 from this unit.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Stable

3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)

Kenny Clark had a fantastic season! He is one of the best interior rushers in the NFL. He recorded six sacks for the second straight year, and PFF ranked him as the 13th-best interior linemen out of 114 qualifiers.

The same nice comments cannot be made about Dean Lowry. He had the worst season of his four-year career as a pro. He did not post a single sack and wasn’t great against the run either.

Reserve Tyler Lancaster is only there to provide some depth. He isn’t particularly good in any aspect of the game.

The team did not make any move regarding this position during the offseason.

3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)

During the last offseason, the Packers acquired two Smiths: Za’Darius and Preston. They burst onto the scene and got 13.5 and 12 sacks, respectively.

Obviously, both received high marks for their pass rushing abilities, but Preston finished as an average linebacker overall because of mediocre run defense and poor coverage.

Kyler Fackrell was a huge disappointment in 2019. After racking up 10.5 sacks in 2018, he only got one in 2019! He signed a one-year deal with the Giants.

First-round pick Rashan Gary wasn’t necessarily impressive during his rookie season. He played 23% of the snaps, while obtaining two sacks but very pedestrian marks from PFF (an overall 55.8 grade, which is near the bottom among edge defenders).

3.3 Linebackers (LBs)

Green Bay lost its leader in tackles from the past three years, Blake Martinez. After starting 61 of the last 64 Packers games, Martinez decided to join the New York Giants. He had the second-most tackles in the league last year, but don’t be misled by that number. Martinez still finished slight below-average (52nd out of 89 LBs) because of poor play against the run.

The Packers also lost some depth at the position when B.J. Goodson left for Cleveland.

Green Bay picked up a linebacker from the Browns roster: Christian Kirksey. He was picked in the 3rd round of the 2014 before being involved in all 16 games from his first four seasons in the NFL. However, he has been plagued with injuries over the most recent two years; he played 7 games in 2018 and only 2 games in 2019.

He is also capable of racking up tackles, as shown by his 2016 and 2017 seasons where he obtained 146 and 138. His PFF grades during his first four seasons varied between 61.9 and 69.3. Just to give you a rough idea, a 65.0 rating would have been good for 29th place out of 89 LBs.

3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)

Jaire Alexander has done the job as the #1 corner. He has obtained 72.4 and 71.2 marks from PFF during his first two seasons, which is well-above average. He’s so-so defending the run, but his coverage skills are very good.

The number two corner, Kevin King had five interceptions last year after getting just one over his first two years as a pro. He did show some improvement after two rocky years. He finished 2019 as a middle-of-the-pack corner.

Tramon Williams played 74% of the snaps and had a surprisingly good season despite his age. He will be 37 when the 2020 season begins. He is currently a free agent and it remains to be seen if the Packers bring him back or not.

In summary, Alexander and King are both pretty young and could still be improving, but Tramon Williams provided quality play and it’s uncertain if someone else can pick up the slack.

3.5 Safeties (S)

Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage were the top two guys here.

Along with Za’Darius and Preston Smith, the Adrian Amos was another excellent signing by the Packers during the 2019 offseason. Amos had been a reliable guy in Chicago for four seasons, and he continued to excel in the frozen tundra.

After being selected as the #21 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Darnell Savage did show some flashes as a rookie last year. He finished as the #47 safety among 87 qualifiers, which is very satisfying for a rookie. He earned nice marks in coverage (77.4), but horrible ones against the run (37.7).

Will Redmond will be back as the number three safety. He’s not starter material for sure.

2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE

Most of the starters are returning in 2020. That’s the good news.

The team lost their leader in tackles, Blake Martinez, as well as pass rusher Kyler Fackrell and CB Tramon Williams.

The only acquisition worth of note is Christian Kirksey. Him not having played very much during the last two seasons brings some question marks.

The Packers defense struggled against the run last year, and there’s no reason to believe that will change in 2020. Green Bay still finished 9th in points allowed, which was a very acceptable result.

Unfortunately, a decrease in effectiveness is expected and I predict this unit will end 2020 as a middle-of-pack defense (12th – 19th in points allowed).

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small downgrade

4. Regular Season Wins

According to sportsbooks, the Green Bay Packers are expected to win 9 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?

Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:

Here are the results (excluding the simulated years where the Pack won exactly 9 games, since in those cases your bet would have tied):

Estimated Probability Sportsbook Odds ROI
OVER 9 WINS 51.4% bwin +115 +10.5%
UNDER 9 WINS 48.6% Heritage Sports +100 -2.8%
Tip: Bet OVER 9 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +10.5%
Rank: 25th-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -106

Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Packers’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: -6 vs ATL, -10 vs CAR, -4.5 vs CHI, -6.5 vs DET, -11.5 vs JAX, -3 vs MIN, -2.5 vs PHI, -3.5 vs TEN.
ROAD: 0 @ CHI, -2 @ DET, 0 @ HOU, +2.5 @ IND, +3 @ MIN, +5.5 @ NO, +6.5 @ SF, +2.5 @ TB.

Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.

TOMORROW: I'll talk about the team whose ROI is the 24th-highest in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Did you like this write-up? If so, comment below! I'd like to know YOUR opinion on what to expect from the Packers' 2020 season!

Professor MJ
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Indianapolis Colts Top 5: Quarterbacks

Indianapolis Colts Top 5: Quarterbacks
With the season (hopefully) on the way I thought I'd put together some lists for top 5 players at each position in Indianapolis (not Baltimore) Colts history. I'll start with QB, and work my way through. This list is purely my opinion as a die hard fan since the early Manning days, and if you think I have no clue what I'm talking about, please feel free to let me know.
Fun fact, out of the 26 QBs to start a game for the Indy Colts there are only 7 players that have a winning record. Three of them are Colts legends Josh Freeman, Gary Hogeboom, and Craig Erickson.

5. Jack Trudeau

https://preview.redd.it/a54mr7g9g3b51.jpg?width=361&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=2d086a51719ff08e2c1a8cb651100c0a37f8458f
Years Record Playoffs Comp % Yards TDs INTs Y/A Rating
198-93 18-29 0-1 52.9 9,647 41 62 6.3 64.4

How He Got Here

After the complete disaster that was attempting to draft John Elway #1 in 1983, the then Baltimore Colts stuck with Mike Pagel at QB, who had just led them to a winless season in 1982. Team owner Robert Irsay decided to move the team to Indianapolis before the 1984 season the team stuck with Pagel as their main QB despite him clearly not being their future at the position. This led to 2 season with losing records and last place finishes in the AFC East. Entering the 1986 draft, the Colts were clearly looking for a franchise player at QB. The obvious choice was Jim Everett out of Purdue, but unfortunately he was selected #3 to the Houston Oilers when the Colts had the #4 pick. Instead of drafting the only other franchise QB in the draft, Mark Rypien, the Colts decided to select promising Illinois QB Jack Trudeau in the 2nd round. Trudeau had shown a lot of promise in his career, leading Illinois to a Rose Bowl in 1984 and finishing 2nd in the Davey O'Brien Award (Best College QB) to Doug Flutie. Unfortunately for him and the Colts, this talent would not translate well to the NFL

Colts Career

After trading Mike Pagel to the Browns the starting job was set for Trudeau entering the 1986 season. Unfortunately the Colts were still a very bad team overall and Trudeau was not set to overcome that. In 11 starts he had 8 TDs, 18 INTs, and a 48.9% completion rate for an 0-11 record. It was immediately clear he was not the savior the Colts needed to bring legitimate football to Indy.
Fortunately, a contract dispute between Hall of Fame RB Eric Dickerson allowed the Colts to trade for Dickerson midway through the 1987 season. Dickerson was an immediate breath of life to the fledgling Indianapolis Colts franchise and helped lead them to their first playoff berth. Trudeau shared starting duties with Gary Hogeboom, and both were successful in not screwing things up too bad, giving the ball to Dickerson, and staying out of the damn way. Trudeau started in his only playoff game and actually played decently well: 251 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT, but it wasn't enough as the Colts lost 38-21 to the Bernie Kosar led Cleveland Browns who would eventually lose in via "The Drive" in the AFC Championship.
It was clear the Colts would need a better QB to compliment their new superstar in Dickerson, and thus they drafted future Pro Bowler Chris Chandler in the 3rd round in 1988. However, Chris Chandler was most definitely not a Pro Bowler for the Colts. Chandler didn't impress despite an 9-7 overall record, and was replaced by Trudeau following a bad start to the 1989 season. Trudeau had his best year as a pro in 1989: 2,317 yards, 15 TDs, 13 INTs, but the Colts still finished 8-8 and outside of the playoffs.
Trudeau was improving, but was still clearly not the QB of the future, which they hoped to get by trading All-Pro Tackle Chris Hinton, Future All-Pro WR Andre Rison, and the #3 Pick in 1991 for the #1 Pick in 1990 which they used to draft QB Jeff George (Wow). Trudeau was kept as the backup and was a spot starter for the Colts from 1990-93. Despite the horrific play of George, Trudeau couldn't muster much better in his limited playing time and was released in 1994.

My favorite highlight

https://youtu.be/kM0APJieAME?t=678

Legacy

Jack Trudeau was at best a mediocre QB you could somewhat rely on to manage the game and allow more talented players to make plays. Unfortunately the late 80s, early 90s Colts didn't have too many of those so his play suffered as well. His numbers aren't great and he wasn't much beloved by Colts fans, but he did help lead the Colts to their first playoff appearance which helped me put him on the list over Matt Hasselbeck and others. Trudeau has actually hung around Indy doing various radio and TV appearances talking about the Colts and even has a couple of DUIs as well.

4. Jacoby Brissett

https://preview.redd.it/96cmm0sag3b51.jpg?width=1200&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=4a578fcdd25c1a0830d6d6b7fc8b5dde43309455
Years Record Playoffs Comp % Yards TDs INTs Y/A Rating
2017- 11-19 0-0 59.8 6,042 31 13 6.6 84.6

How He Got Here

The Colts had their franchise QB in Andrew Luck, but leading up to the 2017 season it was revealed during the preseason Luck had a shoulder injury which would eventually lead to him missing the entire 2017 season. This left the Colts scrambling as they knew QB Scott Tolzien was not the answer at QB, so 8 days before the start of the season the new GM Chris Ballard traded 1st round bust Phillip Dorsett for 3rd string QB for the Patriots Jacoby Brissett. Brissett had looked at least competent spot starting for the suspended Tom Brady and hurt Jimmy Garoppolo in 2016, so he was the best option the Colts had available so close to the beginning of the season.

Colts Career

Bringing in a new QB for a team 8 days before the start of the season and asking him to play is like asking a train engineer to launch a rocket to the moon, so Tolzien started week 1 for Colts. He continued to not impress going into week 2, and was replaced for Brissett. Brissett was an improvement, but it was clear he was overwhelmed by the change of scenery and the rest of the Colts roster and staff was not talented enough to make up for it. He finished with competent numbers: 3,098 yards, 13 TDs, 7 INTs, 58.8% completion rate, 6.6 Y/A, but was merely a game manager for a bad team as the Colts finished 4-12.
Andrew Luck was ready to return in 2018 and the Colts were willing to give Brissett the benefit of the doubt and kept him on as the backup. The Colts saw a major resurgence with Luck and an incredible draft and free agent class by Chris Ballard, leading to their first playoff appearance since 2015, eventually losing to the Patrick Mahomes led Chiefs. The Colts were looking to improve going into 2019, but a now too familiar announcement led up to the season when it was revealed a calf injury was going to cause Andrew Luck to retire 2 weeks before the start of the regular season. The spotlight was once again shown on Jacoby Brissett, who was asked to take over Luck's team. Fortunately this time Brissett was able to get all the first team reps in the preseason leading up to week 1 and was much more familiar with the system.
That familiarity paid off as Brissett led the Colts to a 5-2 start, including wins over playoff teams like the Texans and Titans along with the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Brissett was not putting up All-Pro numbers, but had clearly improved from 2017 and was still not making game losing mistakes. Through week 9 he had 190 YPG, 11 TDs, and 6 INTs, and and the eye test had shown he was a good leader and could occasionally make big plays when needed. However, after a knee sprain in week 10 he was clearly not the same player. His injury either hampered his physical abilities or his confidence but his poor play for the rest of the season allowed the Colts to fall to 7-9, including an embarrassing 34-7 loss to the Saints that I made the trip over to New Orleans for and watched as Brissett sailed the ball over every receiver's head. Brissett will likely be the backup for the 2020 season behind free agent Phillip Rivers, but he's shown enough flashes of ability that his career is long from over, whether that ends up being on the Colts or somewhere else in the league.

My favorite highlight

https://youtu.be/Q1bFNE0CGXY?t=287

Legacy

I believe I'm with the majority of Colts fans in that when I see Jacoby Brissett I see somewhat of a tragic figure. He got thrown to the wolves in 2017 and did the best he could, but was basically set up to fail. It's honestly not too much of a stretch to say his play through week 9 of 2019 was the best QB play by an Indy Colts QB not named Manning, Luck, or Harbaugh. You could tell he was well-liked by both fans and teammates, especially through the first half of 2019, but his limitations as a player were clear. Colts fans have been spoiled in the 21st century by 2 all-time great QBs, so any deviation from that, especially when it's not by a QB we drafted #1 overall, will be seen as a major failure. I think people came down a little too hard on Jacoby by the end of 2019, and that he's still a solid pro capable of being the QB on a winning team in the right situation. However, he showed in the 2nd half of 2019 that situation is probably not in Indy going forward.

3. Jim Harbaugh

https://preview.redd.it/ka0f9imcg3b51.jpg?width=300&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=f34fa86258b0e403bfe000b84ba246bcf11dfc42
Years Record Playoffs Comp % Yards TDs INTs Y/A Rating
1994-97 20-26 2-2 60.7 8,705 49 26 7.1 86.6

How He Got Here

The Colts had come out of the Eric Dickerson/Jeff George era looking like an absolute dumpster fire. The Colts had been in Indy for 10 years and Indy was still very much a basketball town. The only signature player the Indy Colts had was Eric Dickerson, and he had a very sour exit in 1992 after 2 bad years. The Indianapolis Colts were still in the woods, searching for the player that could give their franchise hope that they would be treated as a legitimate threat in the NFL and generate significant interest from the fanbase. That hope came from an unlikely source in Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh had led the Chicago Bears to 2 playoff appearances in the late Mike Ditka-era, but his play had fallen off and by 1994 he looked somewhat washed. The desperate Colts made a surprisingly wise decision in not drafting QBs Heath Schuler or Trent Dilfer. Instead they drafted future Hall of Fame RB Marshall Faulk to replace Eric Dickerson (this is the "Who the hell is Mel Kiper?" draft) and signing Jim Harbaugh.

Colts Career

Harbaugh didn't come out guns blazing in 1994 as he traded starting duties with Green Bay castoff Don Majkowski. Harbaugh put up decent numbers but the Colts finished 4-5 in games Harbaugh started, 8-8 overall. Harbaugh entered the 1995 season as no sure thing, the Colts actually traded their 1996 first round pick for young Tampa QB Craig Erickson in another baffling trade for an unproven QB. Erickson and Harbaugh competed for the starting position in training camp and Erickson was selected as the starter by head coach Ted Marchibroda.
Erickson played poorly the first 2 weeks, being replaced and outplayed by Harbaugh in both games. By week 3 Harbaugh was the full time starter and didn't look back. Harbaugh was showing that he meshed well with new Offensive Coordinator Lindy Infante as Harbaugh put up some of the most efficient passing numbers of any QB in the NFL in 1995: 2,575 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs, 63.7% completion rate, and a league leading passer rating of 100.7 (ahead of guys like Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, and Dan Marino). Even more importantly he was a becoming the tough effective leader to energize the entire team, leading the Colts to 4 game winning drives that season, including one over the 1994 Super Bowl champion 49ers. The Colts were just outside of the playoffs going into week 17, but Harbaugh led the Colts to a win over the Drew Bledsoe led Patriots in the RCA Dome to sneak the Colts into the playoffs at 9-7. Harbaugh earned his first Pro Bowl appearance along with NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
The Colts were going into the playoffs as 5.5 point underdogs against the San Diego Chargers, a team they had just lost to in week 16. However, thanks to 3 TDs from Harbaugh and an out-of-nowhere 147 yard, 2 TD performance from rookie FB Zach Crockett, the Colts overcame the odds. They were heading into a gauntlet of Arrowhead stadium against the best defense in the league and a Marcus Allen led 13-3 Kansas City Chiefs. In an ugly game where the wind chill was -15oF, luck worked in the Colts favor. Harbaugh didn't throw well, but picked up several key 1st down with his legs. He had 1 INT and 3 fumbles, but fortunately lost 0. Chiefs QB Steve Bono had 3 INTs and K Lin Elliot went 0/3 on field goals in a season where he made 80%. Colts K Cary Blanchard made 1/3, and that was enough to upset the heavily-favored Chiefs 10-7. Harbaugh's most defining moment as the Colts QB would come in the AFC Championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Harbaugh's cinderella story continued on against Bill Cowher and Neil O'Donnell's Steelers. The Colts and Steelers traded scores throughout the game. With 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Harbaugh threw a dime to WR Floyd Turner for a 47 yard touchdown to put the Colts up 16-13. Unfortunately the Colts couldn't run out enough clock on their next drive and the Steelers rushed down the field for the go-ahead score to put them up 20-16. Harbaugh wasn't done yet. With 88 seconds needing 84 yards, Harbaugh willed the Colts down the field to the Steelers' 29-yard line for a hail mary shot with 5 seconds left. Harbaugh tossed up a prayer that was very nearly caught by Colts WR Aaron Bailey, but he couldn't come up with it. The Cinderella story was over, but it was a defining moment for the Colts franchise. The 1995 Colts were within a hair of making the Super Bowl, and that 1995 playoff run led by Harbaugh created a real fanbase for them.
Harbaugh's stats regressed some in 1996, but he still led the Colts to a 9-7 record and the playoffs, this time getting whooped by the Steelers in the wild card. In 1997 his stats improved some but the wheels fell off of the team as they started off 0-10, eventually falling to 3-13. Fortunately their record would net them the #1 pick in the 1998 draft. After it was clear the Colts were using the pick on QB they traded Harbaugh to the Ravens.

My favorite highlight

https://youtu.be/FT4vF24WanE?t=155

Legacy

“A lot of people use (the word) ‘culture,’ but the attitude, everybody was team-first, from the front office, together with the coaches, together with the ownership, together with the players, the equipment staff, the training staff, I mean it felt like we were family.” - Jim Harbaugh on 1995
I don't think enough can be said about the effect of Harbaugh and that 1995 team had on the Colts. He gave us our first source of pride in the Colts and set the tone for the franchise to not be the laughingstock of the league. He paved the way for the decades of excellence that came after. Harbaugh will never be a HoF QB, but his effect on the Colts is severely underrated.
For more details on the 1995 Cinderella season, read this IndyStar article: https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nfl/colts/2016/01/21/1995-indianapolis-colts-jim-harbaugh-aaron-bailey-afc-championship-game-ted-marchibroda/78291676/

2. Andrew Luck

https://preview.redd.it/8nh7p6pdg3b51.jpg?width=1800&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=bc67a67720b82f9294b9283924f61d9f261e4d85
Years Record Playoffs Comp % Yards TDs INTs Y/A Rating
2012-18 53.33 4-4 60.8 23,671 171 83 7.2 89.5

How He Got Here

After a serious neck injury to franchise stalwart Peyton Manning, the Colts went from perennial playoff contender to nearly winless in 2011. It was unknown if Manning would ever be the same QB again, so the Colts opted to release their most valuable player and use their #1 pick in 2012 on a QB. There was some debate on possibly drafting the Heisman winner out of Baylor, Robert Griffin III, but new GM Ryan Grigson made no doubt in the fact that he was drafting Andrew Luck. Son of former Oilers QB Oliver Luck, Andrew Luck blossomed under head coach Jim Harbaugh to revitalize the Stanford football program while also graduating with a bachelor's degree in architectural design. Luck was hailed by nearly every scout as a can't miss prospect, having nearly every physical tool you want from a QB along with a clear handle on the mental and intangible aspects of the game.

Colts Career

Expectations for Luck were high going into 2012, but not so for the team overall. Many experts put the Colts at or near the bottom of all power rankings. Not only had the team lost Peyton Manning that year, but also many key pieces from the Manning era such as Pierre Garçon, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, and Gary Brackett. To make matters worse, new head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and missed weeks 5-16. However, despite all odds, Luck led the Colts to an 11-5 record. Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians proved to be a diamond in the rough by helping Luck turn a 2-14 team that lost multiple starters into a playoff team. Luck's stats weren't always pretty: 23 TDs, 18 INTs, 54.1% completion rate, and a 76.5 rating, but he could clearly make plays happen with an absurd 7 game winning drives. The miracles came to an end with a shellacking by the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs, but this season proved Luck would be no bust, he was a force to be reckoned with.
Luck continued to grow in 2013 and 2014, improving in every category to crescendo in 2014 with a league-leading 40 TDs, 16 INTs, 61.7% completion rate, and a 96.5 rating. In 2013 he led the Colts to his first playoff victory in spectacular fashion. After being down 38-10 early in the 3rd quarter to the Alex Smith led Chiefs, Luck led a furious and unbelievable comeback 45-44 victory. Any Colts fan could tell you after seeing all the comeback victories Luck had led to never count him out, and he cemented that in this game. In 2014 Luck led the Colts past their old god of Peyton Manning in Denver in the divisional round, but were given a thorough ass-whooping in the AFC Championship by the soon-to-be Super Bowl champions New England Patriots in what is now infamously known as the "Deflategate Game."
Andrew Luck was a very physical player and was known to take many hits, sometimes making spectacular plays through those hits. However, that punishment started to pile up and wasn't helped by GM Ryan Grigson's poor draft classes and inability to build a competent offensive line to block for Luck. This culminated in the injury plagued 2015 and 2016 seasons. Luck only played 7 games in 2015 and severely regressed in every statistical category, clearly hampered by various injuries such as a lacerated kidney. Luck's stats improved in 2016, but the team did not as they finished 8-8, partially due to an astounding 7% sack of Luck. Either some of Luck's good fortune had finally run out or the team and culture built by GM Grigson had completely failed to support their superstar QB. Owner Jim Irsay bet on Luck and fired Grigson after 2016.
Hopes were high heading into 2017, but unfortunately an unknown snowboarding accident aggravated a previous shoulder injury for Luck. News was very slow to come out, but fans were shocked to find out he would likely miss the entire season 8 days before week 1. New GM Chris Ballard made a quick trade for Jacoby Brissett, but fans were worried after 3 years of being hampered by injuries Luck may never be the same player.
In 2018 we believed those doubts were proven wrong. Luck had an incredibly resurgent season, leading the new look Colts back into the playoffs for the first time since 2014 with a 10-6 record. Luck's numbers were back to form: 39 TDs, 15 INTs, and career bests of 67.3% completion rate and 98.7 rating. Fans were pleased to finally see Luck playing behind a solid offensive line that prevented which prevented him from being sacked for 5 weeks and giving him a career low 2.7% sack rate. Luck led the Colts to a Wild Card win over the Deshaun Watson's Texans, but were stopped in the cold in Arrowhead against Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs. However, hopes were high leading into 2019 that the structure given by GM Chris Ballard would protect Luck and allow him to lead us to our Super Bowl.
Sadly that did not work out as Luck appeared to have a calf injury leading up to the 2019 season. Fans held out hope he would be ready to go for the start of the season, but after the years of rehabbing Luck had finally had enough. 2 weeks before the season opener during a preseason game against the Chicago Bears it was leaked that Luck planned to retire. Fortunately his backup Jacoby Brissett was put in a better position to take his place as opposed to 2017, but the sudden and unexplained retirement of their franchise QB right before the season led to some fans to boo Luck as he left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for the last time.

My favorite highlight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teNLH0p6WHs
or
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBHhO2yWRMo
or

Legacy

Andrew Luck will forever be one of the greatest "what if?" stories in American sports history. Unlike many "what if?" stories, we got to see what we could have had with Luck. What the Colts had in Luck from 2012-14 along with 2018 was nothing short of incredible and it was clear he was improving to potentially become one of the greatest QBs in NFL history. Instead he's a tragic story where fans will forever be left to wonder what could have been with Andrew Luck. Would Luck have brought the Colts back to the Super Bowl if he he didn't play the majority of his career under the poor management of GM Ryan Grigson and HC Chuck Pagano? All we do know is that his sack rate under Grigson was 5.5%, and in one year on GM Chris Ballard's team it was 2.7%, coincidentally also one of his best statistical seasons. Peyton Manning's sack rate for his career? Tied for the NFL record with Dan Marino at 3.13%. Maybe if Luck had been better protected and coached better to avoid hits he could have made it up there with Manning, but as fans he'll forever be a "what if?" Luck seems like a smart and content man who's just starting a family, so I doubt he will ever return for any team. Even if he did we'll forever be robbed of what the best version of Andrew Luck could have been. However, in his short time here, he delivered enough incredible moments to give us hope and make us love the team. I, along with hopefully many other fans, will forever love Andrew Luck for his time with the Colts and am grateful for a helluva run.

1.Peyton Manning

https://preview.redd.it/5lr1v2heg3b51.jpg?width=1200&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=0b42edf31a7f2e4910e9adc0dcceb11b045a8630
Years Record Playoffs Comp % Yards TDs INTs Y/A Rating
1998-11 141-67 9-10 64.9 54,828 399 198 7.6 94.9

How He Got Here

The Indianapolis Colts under Jim Harbaugh had finally established themselves as a legitimate team, but the Colts knew Harbaugh wasn't the long-term answer at QB. He was 35 going into the 1998 season and had just led the Colts to a 3-13 season, bad enough for the #1 overall pick. There was some debate about drafting Heisman finalist out of Washington, Ryan Leaf, but new GM Bill Polian made no doubt in the fact that he was drafting Peyton Manning. Leaf had some incredible athletic abilities, but there were some doubts raised about his ability to handle the mental aspects of the game. He also basically made the decision for the Colts when he skipped their draft interview, a passive-aggressive declaration he wouldn't play for the Colts. Peyton Manning, son of former Saints QB Archie Manning, was also a Heisman finalist out of Tennessee. No scout doubted Manning's ability to become a franchise QB in the NFL, but some wondered about his potential ceiling due to a complete lack of running ability and some arm strength concerns. However, he was clearly one of the most mature and mentally ready players to ever come out of college for any position.
"I'll leave you with this thought. If you take me, I promise you we will win a championship. If you don't, I promise I'll come back and kick your ass" -Peyton Manning to Colts GM Bill Polian on the day before the 1998 draft

Colts Career

The 1998 Colts were still a pretty bad team overall, and the rookie Manning was not enough to overcome that. He had one of the best statistical rookie seasons ever: 3,739 yards, 26 TDs, 28 INTs, 6.5 Y/A, and a 56.7% completion rate, setting records for yards, TDs, and INTs (yards and TDs are currently held by Andrew Luck and Baker Mayfield respectively). However, the deficiencies of the team and Manning's record number of interceptions helped give the Colts a 3-13 record, including a week 5 win over Ryan Leaf's San Diego Chargers.
Fortunately Manning helped lead one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history in 1999, turning the 3-13 Colts in 1998 into the 13-3 Colts in 1999. People weren't exactly ready to give up on Manning after 1998, but 1999 was critical for showing Manning could improve and be at the helm of a winning team. Partially this was helped by sending Hall of Fame RB Marshall Faulk to St. Louis in exchange for the draft pick to select Hall of Fame RB Edgerrin James, who had a phenomenal rookie year. The Colts ended up losing to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, who had just completed the Music City Miracle the week before and would come within an ass hair of winning the Super Bowl against the Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams.
Manning was up and down from 2000 to 2002, still posting good stats but missing the playoffs in 2001 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oSFYxDGKy8 ) and having first round exits in 2000 and 2002. Whispers started turning into legitimate arguments about how Peyton Manning was a good stats, dome team, regular season QB that just didn't have it in the playoffs. In 2003 Manning started his absurd streak of 12+ win seasons (7 years) and picked up his first MVP award, the first (and still only) Indy Colt to win it. He also got his first playoff wins in 2003, but was quickly put to shame in a 4 INT performance in the AFC Championship against the Patriots, now known by Colts fans as "The Ty Law Game."
The 2004 season is well known by Colts fans for cementing Manning among the all time greats. Manning was white hot all year, throwing for 4,557 yards 49 TDs, 10 INTs, and a 121.1 rating while only getting sacked 13 times. The 49 TDs was a record, which has since been broken by Tom Brady and Manning again while a member of the Broncos. Manning won MVP for the 2nd year in a row, but once again disappointed in the playoffs with a 0 TD, 1 INT performance against the Patriots in the divisional round, losing 20-3. Those arguments of Manning's postseason jitters were starting to feel more and more like reality for Colts fans. They knew they had their franchise QB, but his inability to perform in the playoffs continued to be baffling.
2005 was supposed to be the season that changed all that. Manning's numbers came back to earth somewhat, but he still posted a very efficient performance (104.1 rating) for a much improved overall team. GM Bill Polian had proved his days building the "Four Falls over Buffalo" Bills dynasty was no fluke, he now had a team with the #2 scoring offense and the #2 scoring defense. This was the year to break the Manning postseason curse. Unfortunately in one of the most upsetting games of my life, the Colts could not break that curse against the Steelers in the divisional round. Manning played relatively well: 58% completion rate, 290 yards, and 1 TD with no INTs, but watching the game the Colts struggled to maintain momentum and get stops against the rookie Ben Roethlisberger. Despite the inconsistent play, the Colts still had a shot. Steelers HoF RB Jerome Bettis attempted to ice the game with a goal line carry, but fumbled for the first time all year. With the entire Steelers offense stuffing the line, Colts CB Nick Harper was free to pick up the ball with a nearly open field ahead of him. Normally Nick Harper is one of the faster players on the field, however, as every Colts fan knows, Harper had been stabbed in the leg by his wife in a "supposedly accidental" altercation the night before. This possibly allowed the falling down Ben Roethlisberger to catch Harper by his shoe strings, preventing the nearly sure thing TD by Harper to put the Colts ahead. Instead Manning led the Colts into basically chip shot field goal position for one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history (Mike "Idiot Kicker" Vanderjagt) to tie the game. We all know what happened next. It was a shocking loss to say the least, and it was hard to blame it all on Manning, but it still felt like there was some sort of mystical VooDoo curse hanging over Manning and our franchise.
If the Colts couldn't win it all in 2005 it felt like they never would. 2006 wasn't looking like anything special compared to the past few seasons, especially considering the defense regressed from #2 in scoring in 2005 to #23 in 2006. Manning was still putting up great numbers, but those were starting to feel like an exercise in futility. Fortunately the Colts caught fire at the right time, with oft-injured All-Pro Safety Bob Sanders getting healthy towards the end of the season and the trade deadline addition of Buccaneers DT "Booger" McFarland. That momentum pushed them to an AFC Championship, where Manning would match up against the source of his ultimate playoff failures, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Fortunately, this time it was in the RCA Dome, not Foxborogh, MA. Manning and the Colts started off cold, being down 21-3 at one point after a Manning pick-6, but the Colts rallied behind some incredibly orchestrated drives by Manning to finally get the monkey off his back. On a last second drive, Manning drove the Colts down the field to put them ahead 38-34 with 1 minute to go. A Marlin Jackson interception of Tom Brady sealed it, Manning and the Colts were going to the Super Bowl for the first time in Indy history. Manning played well in the Super Bowl, winning the MVP against the league-best Chicago Bears defense.
Manning continued his solid play in 2007 and 2008, including his 3rd MVP in 2008. Both seasons ended with heartbreaking first round playoff exits to the San Diego Chargers, 2008's being the "Sproles and Scifres Game." 2008 also showed the first signs of physical weakness from Manning, having a knee surgery before the season that led to a slow start for the Colts. That was not the case in 2009, as Manning led the Colts to start the season 14-0. In a decision that's still derided today, new head coach Jim Caldwell decided to effectively bench Manning along with many other starters rather than go for the perfect season to prevent any injuries. Many had seen the Patriots in 2007 nearly complete the perfect season, but fall in heartbreaking fashion in the Super Bowl against a less talented Giants team. Caldwell, like many others, decided that any rust from not playing for nearly a month was worth the decreased risk of injury to his stars. That decision nearly backfired in spectacular fashion as the Colts were behind the New York Jets (a team they effectively let into the playoffs by letting them win in week 16) in the AFC Championship game until Manning led a furious comeback. It all ended poorly in the Super Bowl however as Manning threw a pick-6 to Tracy Porter that still haunts my dreams to Tracy Porter, allowing the Colts to lose to Drew Brees and his stupid baby and the New Orleans Saints.
2010 was one of the first signs of weakness from Manning. He had apparently injured his neck on this play in 2006 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gjdmww3vgM ) on a hit that would now be extremely illegal. Manning apparently aggravated that injury in the lead up to the 2010 season, and it showed in the stats as he had how lowest rating since 2002 (91.9). For most other QBs a rating of 91.9 is a pretty solid season but for Manning it was a massive fall. This led to a quick playoff exit to the Jets in the first round. In the lead up to the 2011 season, Manning had several surgeries to relieve the pain in his neck which led to him missing the entire season. It was unknown if he would ever be the same QB again, or even play again. Manning's absence showed how incredibly important he was to the franchise, the only major difference between the rosters in 2010 and 2011 is Manning, yet the Colts went 10-6 in 2010 and 2-14 in 2011. This poor record led to the Colts earning the #1 pick in the 2012 draft, which fueled their decision to release Manning and draft a QB in 2012 (Chandler Harnish...and Andrew Luck).

My favorite highlight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DttfyOeU3vw
or
https://youtu.be/al13DoOFp78
or
https://youtu.be/UE4UgMc2QqA?t=581

Legacy

"Fellas, if 18 goes down, we're fucked, and we don't practice fucked." -Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore on why the backup QBs don't get more reps
Nothing to me cements Peyton Manning's role in Indy as much as this quote. Even his first 5 years before he became an all-time great, that was still the best sustained stretch of QB play in Indy Colts history. Once he ascended to another level in 2003, it was clear we needed to put every egg we could find into his basket. Manning was the perfect franchise QB: a steady presence on and off the field, consistent delivery of either incredible numbers or game winning performances (usually both), and he made nearly everyone else on the team a better player. His drive and commitment to team victory made him the guy every franchise needs if they want to field a consistently great team. Peyton had somewhat of an authoritarian leadership style, my way or the highway, but you can do that when you show that you're willing and able to give every ounce of yourself to the team and deliver the kind of results that he can.
I think some people are disappointed in the Manning Era considering how historically great his stats are but he was 1-1 in Super Bowls in 12 years here. Honestly I think that's not too far off for any all-time QB. Drew Brees is 1-0, Brett Favre is 1-1, Aaron Rodgers is 1-0, Fran Tarkenton is 0-3, Jim Kelly is 0-4, Dan Marino is 0-1, all of these guys are all-time great franchise QBs but it's not abnormal for them to only win 1 or lose several. There are some exceptions: Tom Brady (6-3), Joe Montana (4-0), Terry Bradshaw (4-0), and Troy Aikman (3-0), but honestly you could trade any of the former QBs for Terry Bradshaw and they would also probably be 4-0. There's lots of luck in every playing career, and some get luckier than others. The only season I'd say the Colts were "robbed" of a Super Bowl is 2005, otherwise I think Manning's Colts career went about as good as it could have.

Honorable Mentions: Matt Hasselbeck (5-3 record, probably our best backup ever) and Dan Orlovsky (just for saving us from a completely defeated season).
Dishonorable Mentions: Jeff George and Kerry Collins (being very bad at QB isn't very uncommon for Indy Colts QBs, but these guys were so bad and toxic they dragged down the abilities of everyone on the team and are actively hated by most fans)
submitted by chadowan to Colts [link] [comments]

Will the Detroit Lions win OVER/UNDER 6.5 games? By University Stats Prof!

Will the Detroit Lions win OVEUNDER 6.5 games? By University Stats Prof!

1. Introduction

After firing Jim Caldwell following a 9-7 record in 2017, the Lions posted a 6-10 in Matt Patricia’s first year as a head coach. Things got even worse last season with a 3-12-1 record.

This is a critical year for Patricia. The team has talent for sure. If he does not right the ship, he may be gone sooner rather than later.

2. Regular Season Wins

According to sportsbooks, the Detroit Lions are expected to win 6.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?

Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:

Here are the results:

Estimated probability Sportsbook Odds ROI
OVER 6.5 wins 55.9% Sports Interaction -125 +0.6%
UNDER 6.5 wins 44.1% Heritage Sports +130 +1.4%

Tip: Bet UNDER 6.5 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +1.4%
Rank: 31st-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): +127

Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Lions’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: -1.5 vs CHI, +2 vs GB, -1 vs HOU, +1.5 vs IND, +2 vs MIN, +5.5 vs NO, +2.5 vs TB, -6 vs WAS.
ROAD: +3 @ ARI, +4 @ ATL, +1 @ CAR, +5 @ CHI, +6.5 @ GB, -1.5 @ JAX, +7 @ MIN, +6 @ TEN.

Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.

3. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

3.1 QUARTERBACKS (QB)

I feel bad for Matthew Stafford. He has to be one of the best quarterbacks to have never won a playoff game. He’s 0-3 in the postseason and has played for many terrible teams in Detroit during his 11-year career.

He had yet another good season in 2019. He finished as the 8th-best QB in the league based on PFF rankings. He missed half the season because of injuries, but still threw 19 TD passes versus 5 picks. Prior to last year, he had not missed a single start over eight seasons, which is unbelievable! He’s a durable and tough guy.

David Blough and Jeff Driskel didn’t do very well in Stafford’s absence. That’s a big reason why the team led Driskel go, while acquiring backup Chase Daniel from the Bears. I was stunned to realize that after spending 10 years in the NFL, Daniel has only thrown 7 TDs and 5 interceptions (most of them in 2018 and 2019 with Chicago). He received decent grades from PFF and he looks to be a definitive improvement over Blough and Driskel.

3.2 RUNNING BACKS (RB)

I like what I’ve been from Kerryon Johnson over his first two seasons in the NFL. In each of those years, the former running back from Auburn was on pace to be close to a 1,000 rushing yard season, but his pro career has been marred by injuries thus far.

Beyond the stats, I thought he passed the eye test. Upon seeing him play several games, he looked like a good back. In his third year, the main goal will be to prove he can make it through a full season.

Johnson received a 66.7 grade from PFF last year, which put him in the #37 spot out of 58 RBs. I believe he can make a nice jump in 2020.

Bo Scarbrough finally saw some action last season. He did “okay”, but his main limitation is in the passing game. He’s not much of a receiver. He’s still a decent weapon to have when running between the tackles because of his big frame.

J.D. McKissic was the opposte of Scarbrough; he is undersized, but a good pass catcher. He still managed to post a lofty 5.4 yard per carry average, while catching 34 balls. However, he left for Washington.

Considering Detroit’s backfield was already crowded, drafting D’Andre Swift in the 2nd round was a puzzling move. It probably means the Lions will go with a committee approach with Johnson and Swift being the RB 1A and 1B.

Swift is a smart RB who has good vision and runs with patience; he understands and evaluates block timing very well. He is also pretty good out of the backfield; he caught many passes in college and was tagged with just three drops across 73 receptions.

3.3 WIDE RECEIVERS (WR)

Can you believe Kenny Golladay’s salary was under one million last year? What an astonishing bargain for the Lions!

Golladay solidified his position as one of the top wideouts in the league by posting a second consecutive 1,000-yard season. He also doubled his TD production by catching 11 last year versus 5 the year before.

He has a great combination of size and athleticism, which allows him to stretch the field and make contested catches in traffic. His numbers have the potential to increase even more if Stafford can stay healthy for the whole season, and considering Golladay is only 26 years old.

Marvin Jones posted a very nice 62-779-9 stat line despite missing three games. He has been a steady producer in this league, both with the Bengals and now with the Lions. A very reliable guy.

Danny Amendola has never been a top wideout: his career best is 689 receiving yards back in 2010. However, having him as your #3 receiver is a nice luxury. The main concern pertains to his age, as he is now 34. His level of play has not deteriorated yet, but we should keep an eye on this situation.

The team added even more depth by signing a younger guy: Geronimo Allison. The former Packer showed flashes during an injury-shortened 2018 season, but he really fell flat last year by catching just 34 balls despite a wide open #2 WR spot in Green Bay. He received poor grades from PFF and finished as the #111 receiver out of 122 qualifiers.

3.4 TIGHT ENDS (TE)

Was T.J. Hockenson’s rookie season a success? The jury is still out on that one.

Everyone got overly excited about his first career game, where he caught 6 passes for 131 yards and 1 TD. However, he surpassed 50 yards just once in his final 11 games (an ankle injury put him on injured reserve for the last four contests).

He was the #8 overall pick in the 2019 draft, so the expectations were high for the former Hawkeye. The adaptation to the NFL-level is not always easy for rookie tight ends, so let’s cut him some slack. He is a candidate to improve his numbers greatly in his second season, especially with Stafford back under center.

Both Logan Thomas and Jesse James caught 16 passes last year. Thomas left for Washington, which leaves James as the clear-cut #2 TE. He is an adequate backup for Detroit.

3.5 OFFENSIVE LINE (OL)

Right tackle Rick Wagner provided respectable protection to his quarterbacks during his first six seasons, but his play tailed off dramatically last year. The team released him and signed Halapoulivaati Vaitai to replace him.

Vaitai has only started 20 games in four seasons, but he played pretty well in spots with the Eagles last year and that earned him a jaw-dropping five-year, $50 million contract. That seems like a high price for a career backup, but he did grade as the 22nd-best tackle among 81 qualifiers in 2019. We’ll see if the Lions made a wise investment or not.

The other four starters all received good marks from PFF: Taylor Decker (19th out of 81 tackles), Frank Ragnow (6th out of 37 centers), Graham Glasgow (12th out of 81 guards) and Joe Dahl (27th out of 81 guards). Yet, the team finished below-average in terms of sacks allowed (19th out of 32 teams).

The bad news is Detroit also lost Graham Glasgow via free agency. He signed with the Denver Broncos. He has obtained grades above 70 by PFF in each of its past three seasons. His replacement is unlikely to match that performance.

One potential replacement is third round selection Jonah Jackson. He needs to improve as a run blocker since he tends to struggle sustaining blocks. On the other hand, he’s more comfortable in passing situations, while also excelling at processing blitzes.

2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE

The Lions scored the 18th most points in the NFL last season. That output is much more likely to go up than down.

Except on the offensive line, we notice a potential upgrade over the 2019 season at all positions.

At quarterback, having Stafford back is obviously a big boost. Also, Chase Daniel is a better back than the Blough-Driskel duo.

At running back, Kerryon Johnson missed half the season. He also has two years of experience under his belt and is ready to explode. Rookie D’Andre Swift offers an additional potential deadly weapon.

Adding Geronimo Allison to an already talent WR group won’t hurt. Golladay-Jones-Amendola will provide good targets for Stafford.

Hockenson is now more familiar with the NFL speed and it was reported he played through some pain before landing on injured reserve. Again, an improvement seems a more likely scenario than a regression here.

As mentioned above, the OL play will be a source of concern, though. Replacing Wagner with Vaitai could be a plus. However, Glasgow’s loss will be difficult to compensate.

Still, overall I can see the Lions jumping to the 7th-12th rank on offense in 2020. You read this right; the Lions could have the number 7 offense in the NFL. They have a very talented and underrated group (with nice depth at all positions!).

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Moderate upgrade

4. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

4.1 DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (DL)

The interior of the line has been completely revamped. That may not be a bad thing.

Both Damon Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson are gone after a subpar year. They both graded as below-average last year, which was a big surprise in the case of Harrison. He obtained a grade above 90 as a run defender in each of its past four seasons, but cratered to 63.2 last year. What the heck happened?

The newcomers are Danny Shelton, formerly of the Patriots, and Nick Williams, coming over from the Bears.

Shelton has done very well in all five of his seasons in the league and is entering his prime. He’s a solid addition and he’s good a plugging up running lanes.

I’m not so high on the Williams acquisition, though. He didn’t get good grades throughout his career until last year where he finally got some starts and posted six sacks. He could be a one-year wonder. He had been a journeyman thus far and is a former 7th-round pick.

Mike Daniels is also off the team. The former didn’t do much in his lone season in Motor City.

4.2 DEFENSIVE ENDS (DE) / EDGE (ED)

Both Trey Flowers and Devon Kennard recorded seven sacks last season. Kennard left for Arizona; his leadership as team captain will also be missed.

Flowers is a vital piece of this defense. He will enter his age-27 campaign and he has racked up between 6.5 and 7.5 sacks every year since 2016.

Who will step up in Kennard’s absence? Romeo Okwara will need to come back to his 2018 form, where he posted 7.5 sacks. Only getting 1.5 last year was a big disappointment.

Another alternative may come from Romeo’s younger brother, Julian, who was taken in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. Considering Julian’s speed and strength (the bull rush remains his favorite move), you would have expected him to produce more in college. He still needs to learn good techniques to beat experienced offensive linemen.

4.3 LINEBACKERS (LB)

Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones and Jahlani Tavai all played a bit above 50% of the defensive snaps last year. They ranked as the #84, #82 and #44 linebackers out of 89 guys. That’s bad.

The position will get a lift with the acquisition of Jamie Collins. He led the Patriots with seven sacks last season, which was a career-high for him.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful for him, but I believe he’s overrated. He enjoyed great 2014 and 2015 seasons in New England, but his played tailed off big time in his time away from the Patriots in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He came back with a pretty good season when reuniting with Belichick’s squad last year, but will he revert back to mediocre play in Detroit?

Super Bowl champion Reggie Ragland also joins Matt Patricia’s team. He adds depth to the team and may play behind Jarrad Davis.

4.4 CORNERBACKS (CB)

Last year, the trio made of Darius Slay, Rashaan Melvin and Justin Coleman saw the field pretty often.

Slay and Melvin are gone to other teams. Slay had a very bad year as opposed to his previous five, but that may have been an outlier. He’s 29 years old and he’s likely to rebound in Philly. He asked to be traded after fights over contract negotiations.

Unlike Slay, Melvin won’t be missed too much. He was an undrafted guy who is more of a rotational corner.

In order to alleviate Slay’s loss, the Lions signed Desmond Trufant, formerly of the Falcons. His best days are behind him, but he has never received a grade below 69.5 by PFF over his seven-year career, which is remarkable. Last year’s 70.3 grade put him as the 32nd-best corner out of 112 qualifiers.

The team’s instant #1 corner is rookie Jefffrey Okudah, who was taken with the third overall selection of this year’s draft. He’s a true lockdown corner who is likely to perform at a high level right away.

Over the last two seasons at Ohio State, he held every wideout he faced to fewer than 50 receiving yards. He also surrendered just two touchdowns during that time frame. Those are outstanding numbers!

Okudah is a blue chip prospect whose mental makeup and physical traits are elite.

4.5 SAFETIES (S)

Safeties Tracy Walker and Tavon Wilson led the team in tackles last year. They both played close to 75% of the snaps and obtained similar marks from PFF. They finished 22nd and 26th out of 87 safeties in the league. As of now, Wilson has yet to sign with a NFL team. He is open to re-signing with Detroit, but that has yet to happen.

The team decided to upgrade the position by acquiring Duron Harmon, yet another ex-Patriot. He can play safety or as a corner; he is likely to be on the field often. He may not be the best against the run, but his skills in coverage are way above average.

2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE

There’s been a lot of shuffling with this unit during the offseason.

The biggest acquisitions are Danny Shelton, Nick Williams, Jamie Collins, Desmond Trufant, Duron Harmon, as well as #3 overall pick Jeffrey Okudah. The biggest losses are Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Devon Kennard, Darius Slay and Rashaan Melvin.

My own assessment of those moves is a moderate upgrade.

However, I value continuity as a key factor in the NFL. Knowing how your teammates are going to react in game-time situations is important in such a fast sport like the NFL.

Considering the impact of COVID-19 on offseason preparation, having numerous new faces will likely penalize offenses/defenses even more.

Detroit’s defense finished 26th in points allowed last year. They will remain the team’s Achilles heel, but a significant improvement is doable.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Moderate upgrade

MOST LIKELY RECORD: 7-9
(based on the one-million simulated seasons using BetOnline’s 2020 point spreads)

Tomorrow, I'll discuss the team whose ROI is 30th in the league; the New Orleans Saints!

Thanks for reading, I hope you found it insightful!

Professor MJ
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2020 NFL Draft Review - Analysis and Career Predictions for Each Team's Draft Class - AFC East

If you missed the first three installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series, you can read the NFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.
Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.
Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level. I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.
Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.
Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.
As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.
So here is the first installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:
5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.
Next up, the AFC East.

New York Jets

The Jets came into the draft with well-defined needs at tackle, wide receiver, and as usual, edge rusher. They moved around a bit and still filled those needs with the No. 12, No. 24, and No. 53 ranked players on my board. This Jets draft class will undoubtedly be defined by two of the riskiest boom-or-bust prospects in the entire draft. Their first and second-round picks arguably have the highest ceilings at their respective positions but are both extremely raw.
Mekhi Becton (4) was my top-ranked tackle in a good tackle class. His film shows inconsistent technique, somehow getting driven back into his quarterbacks' lap by bull rushes. Becton's size-to-athleticism ratio is folklore at this point, and he has the physical traits of the best tackle in the NFL. One of my notes: "you have to teach him everything." Jets offensive line coach Frank Pollack has his work cut out for him, but Becton will be a dream to coach if he's willing to put in the work. Joe Douglas' strength is supposed to be offensive line, so in some ways, his reputation is at stake with this pick. Scouting draft prospects is not just about the film - NFL teams do a ton of research on projecting work habits, character, and intangibles. My main concern with Becton is keeping his weight in check. I want to believe in Douglas here.
Trading back to 59 and still getting my No. 24 overall player in Denzel Mims (4) was one of the best moves in the entire draft. Mims' fall was one of the few things that actually surprised me, and it's interesting that even the team that ultimately picked him passed on him in the mid-second. I couldn't find any character or medical flags with Mims so why did a prospect who was super productive and aced the draft process fall so far? After watching his film, I just don't have an answer. He's sloppy and raw, but scouting is about traits, and he has the traits of a WR1. They teach the wide receiver position a little different at Baylor - round most cuts, find grass rather than run precise routes - so teams may have been spooked by Corey Coleman and the like.
Mims is going to have to be coachable, but his ceiling is undeniable. His mix of strength, physicality, and ball skills pops off the screen, with frequent high-points and flashes of tremendous hands. There are very few reps that display 4.38 speed, but it's not like he's slow on film either. A huge part of route-running at the pro level is subtle hand fighting and push-offs. To me his mid-route handwork was advanced, and his traits to use his hands to gain separation make him a potential contested-catch warrior. The one trait that wasn't elite was his lack of suddenness, but his 6.66 3-cone suggests he has well above-average change of direction. Someone please explain to me why Denzel Mims lasted until pick 59.
Ashtyn Davis (3) in the third was a curious pick and probably raised some eyebrows after months of Jamal Adams rumors. However, the draft isn't just about filling needs for the upcoming season, it's about building for the future, and it's clear the Jets are preparing for Marcus Maye to walk in free agency next offseason. A case can definitely be made that Davis was the best player available at pick 68. His film showed excellent speed, instincts, and the ability to play center field in single-high looks. He's a smart player with good tackling technique and showed nice pass-breakups and interceptions on film. His film wasn't flawless, as he took some bad angles in the Washington game, giving up a 4th-and-1 touchdown to their running back. I project Davis as a Jim Leonhard-ish starter down the road next to Adams.
The Jets used their final day-two pick on a pass-rusher I wasn't high on in Jabari Zuniga (2). I also would have liked for them to add another receiver at some point. For the most part, however, they nailed this draft, mostly because Mims fell so far. Passing on CeeDee Lamb was probably a mistake, but if Becton and Mims live up to their ceilings, watch out. In three years it will be clear if Lamb/Josh Jones should have been the move instead of Becton/Mims.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins played the smokescreen game beautifully. The Chargers basically admitted they wanted Tua, and while there's no proof they had him ranked higher than Justin Herbert, common sense says they were fine with both but preferred Tua. After all the smoke about Herbert, a tackle, and trade-ups, the Dolphins stood pat at No. 5 and got their franchise quarterback.
Tua Tagovailoa (4) is a fascinating study in draft value as it relates to risk. Every doctor or agent that came out declaring his injuries as non-stories had an agenda. There is no doubt that his durability is a huge question mark after suffering a myriad of ailments, including a very serious hip injury, over his short career. His injury history is horrifying, and if I was a general manager I would have been terrified to take him and terrified to pass on him. The main reason for concern isn't just about his history, it's about his tendencies on film to hold onto the ball too long or try to make plays that just aren't worth it.
Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray are amazing at not taking unnecessary hits. They know how to contort their bodies, slide, step out of bounds, and just wisely give up when they need to. Tua does not have this sixth sense. The situation reminds me of RGIII coming out. Amazing prospect, but major concerns about his ability to stay on the field.
As a football player on the actual field, Tua is special. His best trait is his ball placement, as he mastered the RPO-heavy attack at Alabama, routinely throwing dots to his star-studded receiving corps. He is athletic and creative outside the structure of the offense, making plays with his eyes downfield. He also has excellent mechanics which points to coachability. There are some on-field question marks - a terrible pick on the goal line against Tennessee and some missed throws against New Mexico State. However, his 69.3 career completion percentage and 87/11 touchdown-to-interception ratio are for real. I don't feel confident predicting his NFL career due to injury concerns as it relates to playing style. If he's healthy, he'll be a star.
Austin Jackson (2) was a bad pick. He's young with some upside, but there were much better players on the board at 18. If any team can afford to take on a project it's Miami right now, but I would have preferred Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones. I saw Jackson get beat by a spin move and generally struggle to place his hands. He has the size and physical ability, but I wanted to see more consistency. His kickset is natural but he turns his shoulders too much against speed rushers. I expect him to get victimized early and often. I don't think he's quick enough.
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My final note on Noah Igbinoghene (2): strong and long, get him in zone. Igbinoghene got beat twice by J'Marr Chase, but also laid the wood on Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He's physical enough, ran a 4.48, and returned a kick for a touchdown against Arkansas. His biggest weakness is that he doesn't get his head around down the field. He'll be much better playing facing the quarterback in zone coverage than in man. I would have taken one of the safeties over him at 30.
Quick thoughts on their other picks: Robert Hunt (2) could start at guard but isn't powerful enough to be more than average. Raekwon Davis (3) was highly underrated for stupid reasons like stat production. He's a starting run-stuffer right away and has all the traits you want. I thought New England would take him. Brandon Jones (1) didn't strike me as a pro. He was a big-time recruit and has some speed, but got beat too much. I liked Solomon Kindley (2), but his body just might not work, and I noted Curtis Weaver (1) as "one-dimensional, only speed rush" so I'm not hugely surprised by his fall. He can bend and run the arc, but he has no moves in terms of handwork. Too jag-ish versus Colorado State for me.
I expect people to warn us about sleeping on the Dolphins, but the reality is they traded a great young safety and great young left tackle that would have been building blocks for Brian Flores. I expect most of this draft class to underwhelm, but what matters most is Tua's health. If he can stay healthy, he'll be a franchise quarterback that will keep the Dolphins contending in the AFC East for years to come. What Flores did with that Miami roster last year was extremely impressive.

New England Patriots

My next project is an even more comprehensive updated study on the value of draft picks, which will eventually lead to an evaluation of teams' drafting. My guess is that it will reveal what I have always thought: Bill Belichick is not a great drafter and is probably below average. He is the best coach in history and does a phenomenal job of developing a winning culture, but a lot of his draft picks have underwhelmed or busted. Part of that is due to a small draft board and focus on players that fit their organization specifically. I did not like this Patriots draft class. They took a division-two safety, situational edge rusher, the fifth-best player on Alabama's defense, two tight ends, and a probably racist kicker.
Kyle Dugger (3) clearly didn't belong in D-II. He plays fast, can run and hit, and did some flat-out dominant things on film. His breaks on the ball were at a different speed, he knocked down tight ends, and had some pick-sixes that made him look like Deion Sanders. Obviously, it's all about how he'll react to a jump in level of competition. Dugger's great Senior Bowl week was definitely a huge factor in his ultimate draft slot. He's not fundamentally there yet, but being mentored by Devin McCourty and coached by Belichick gives him a real chance to develop into a pro bowl player.
I did not see it with Josh Uche (1). The Iowa offensive line had no problem with him, and the only sack I saw in the games I watched was on a free rush. Michigan didn't even rush him in big spots. He's thin with no plan. His only translatable trait is a great first step, which is not that difficult to mitigate if he has nothing else. I actually like Anfernee Jennings (2) better. He's stiff and can't bend, but he's stout at the point of attack and can be a solid stand-up run defender right now.
I thought the Patriots should have taken a shot with one of the quarterbacks, and they drafted two tight ends in a terrible tight end class. It will be fascinating to see how Belichick fares without Brady, but it wouldn't shock me to see them focus on player development and position themselves for a quarterback in next year's draft. Their roster just isn't that talented right now.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills traded their first-round pick for Stefon Diggs, adding a much-needed weapon for Josh Allen. They ended up getting huge values, landing the No. 16 player on my board a 54, the No. 54 player on my board at 86, and the No. 65 player on my board at 207! Teams that draft close to the consensus internet rankings usually end up with better drafts than teams that don't.
A.J.Epenesa (3) has a high floor and terrific film but I wasn't shocked to see him fall to 54. His poor 3-cone time is extremely disturbing, and teams were clearly spooked by his lack of athleticism. However, "traits" doesn't always pertain to purely physical attributes, as his football traits are tremendous. Epenesa looks much twitchier on film than his testing numbers suggest, and his strength is unquestioned. He walked back the Michigan left tackle, displaying his obvious plus power. He has a good get-off and his physicality plays in the league. He can knife in on inside moves and uses his length to make plays. Probably more of a left end than right end, he's a solid pro edge in the mold of a bigger Patrick Kerney.
Zack Moss (3) made the Utah offense go. He has the potential to be a true 1A running back for the Bills, but his long injury history clouds his future. Moss' film is fantastic. He has terrific burst, change-of-direction, and always falls forward. His technique is poor but he gets it done in pass protection and as a receiver. As a pure runner, he's right up there with Jonathan Taylor, and only lacks that home-run long speed. He's twitchy, patient, and shows quick jump cuts that play in the league. His lack of production against Texas and Washington did concern me. I still expect him to unseat Devin Singletary and emerge as a fantasy stalwart assuming he can stay healthy.
I prefer Isaiah Hodgins (3) to Gabriel Davis (2) but I love doubling up on wide receiver in this loaded class. Hodgins having success would be somewhat of an outlier. He has the size and tremendous hands, but a lot of his film probably doesn't translate . He was a double-move beast, but his 4.61 shows. I'll take a stab with great hands. Davis played inches off the boundary as an outside receiver at UCF, so he'll need to adjust to real alignments and actual routes at the next level. He was incredibly productive but doesn't have the speed or technique of anything more than an average pro. He was schemed for one-on-one matchups against spatially-confused corners.
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With a solid head coach and talented roster, the Bills will enter 2020 as the favorites in the AFC East. Josh Allen's accuracy remains a concern, and with more weapons there will be no excuses. He needs a big year. The defense has building block pieces at all three levels and the solid additions of Epenesa and Moss should support the foundation.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more divisions in the coming days.
AFC East Full Article with gifs: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-afc-east/736202
NFC East: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-nfc-east/735919
AFC North: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-afc-north/735564?src=cat_feat_9954
NFC North: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-nfc-north/734932
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Check out my first rookie mock draft!

This was my first fantasy football rookie mock draft. Let me know what you think!
Mock Draft Mania: Kevin’s Rookies
June 30, 2020 - by Kevin Wilson
Each Saturday afternoon, the contributors here at Belly Up Sports get together for a fantasy football draft and this week’s theme was a fantasy rookie mock draft. I have never been involved in a draft such as this so it was definitely a learning experience. Here are the selections I made in the draft held on 6/27 and the reasoning behind the selections. Keep in mind that this draft was a 10 team draft that lasted for five rounds, of which I had the second pick. And away we go!

Round One: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

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I used the second pick in the draft on Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the rookie running back out of LSU. I would have considered his Tigers teammate QB Joe Burrow, but he was the first player selected. Edwards-Helaire has everything going for him- he is a three down back and lands in the best offense in football. His final season in college says it all- 1,414 yards rushing, a 6.6 YPC, 16 touchdowns, 55 receptions for 453 yards and another TD.
The catches are two more than his chief playing-time rival, veteran Damien Williams, has in the last two years. Additionally, Williams has played in 16 games only once in the last three seasons. He has never rushed for more than last season’s 498 yards. All of that really gives the edge to the former LSU Tiger. The Chiefs will get Edwards-Helaire involved early and often and you have to like that. I felt it was a no brainer to take Edwards-Helaire with the second overall pick. Book it!

Round Two: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Round two was where I really had a decision to make. Do I take a WR or the player that I have been harping on seemingly since the draft? In the end, I decided that Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the running back out of Vanderbilt, would be the pick. There seems to be a lot of people that are looking for Bucs RB Ronald Jones to have a big season. I am not one of them. If Tampa themselves were sold on Jones, they wouldn’t have used the 76th pick in the draft on Vaughn. They are similar in size- (Jones 5’11”, 208) (Vaughn (5’10”, 214). Their styles of running and receiving look a lot alike.
The question is who can withstand the punishment that running backs have to take in the NFL? Coming out of the tough SEC for a team that wasn’t elite, it would seem the better bet would be Vaughn. Additionally, I think that the starting job will comes down to who meshes with all-world QB Tom Brady better and I think that player will be Vaughn. His 1,028 yards rushing, 5.2 YPC and 12 TDs indicate big things await in Tampa and I drafted him with that in mind. Vaughn is definitely a legitimate fantasy rookie mock draft candidate.

Round Three: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Washington Redskins

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After taking running backs in the first two rounds of the draft, I was looking for a receiver that I thought would get a legitimate chance to get significant playing time this season. The answer was clear to me- Antonio Gandy-Golden, out of Liberty University. The fact that the Redskins drafted him was the key to the selection because of their lack of impact receivers on their roster. True, they have Terry McLaurin, but name another receiver. You can’t huh? Don’t worry, neither can I.
There is no question that Liberty is a small university, but his numbers were still noteworthy. Gandy-Golden caught 79 passes for 1,396 yards and 10 touchdowns. The significant number, though, is 17.7. That was his average yards per catch, which is outstanding. He has every chance to be a starter for the Redskins, and that is exactly what you seek as a third round pick. I was extremely pleased he was there for me to snatch him up.

Round Four: Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona Cardinals

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For my fourth pick, I was simply looking for someone that could not only make the team, but make plays on the field. I turned to Eno Benjamin, the former Arizona State Sun Devil running back, as my choice. The landing spot is the key here as the Cardinals have Kenyan Drake and perhaps Chase Edmonds. Edmonds should inspire no one. After Drake became the starter, Edmonds had two touches total in five games.
Benjamin has every chance to take Edmond’s place on the roster. He was surprised that he wasn’t selected until the seventh round in April’s draft and carries a large chip on his shoulder into the preseason. He rushed 254 times for 1,083 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. Benjamin also caught 42 passes for 347 yards and another two TDs. A fourth-round pick that as a rookie could see plenty of playing time with major growth for the future? All I can say is yes, please.

Round Five: Javon Leake, RB, New York Giants

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That leads us to the final pick of the fantasy rookie mock draft. At this point, there may not be a lot to choose from. After some research, I decided on Javon Leake, the running back out of the University of Maryland. I made this pick even though that gave me four running backs selected because the opportunity is there for playing time. That is not something that can be said for every player drafted at this point.
His stat line of 102 rushes for 736 yards and eight TDs wasn’t the significant factor. It was that he averaged 7.2 yards per carry in the tough Big 10 conference. Let’s face it, not much else went well for Maryland after last season’s 3-8 finish. Of course, the Giants have Saquon Barkley, but what else? Leake has a chance to get on the field as a backup running back and to make plays on special teams. There’s nothing else to look for this late in a rookie draft.
Thanks for taking the ride with me into this first round fantasy rookie mock draft. Please feel free to make a comment about the selections and the reasoning for them. I welcome any and all input as this was my first. Let the debate begin! Follow me on twitter @kevin62wilsea, and make sure to turn to Belly Up Sports and Belly Up Fantasy Sports and Picks for all the latest NFL and sports news!
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The Truth About Most NFL Or College Football Picks

I know you've seen them. I run across them every day with banner ads and sometimes bombardments of spam email claiming to have guaranteed NFL or College football picks. They flash up some type of ridiculous record with no actual proof of the record. That's exactly why I wanted to clear the air about most of these sports handicapping services. Keep in mind I say most because just like any tainted industry there are still diamonds in the rough.
The first thing that ropes people in are the so called professionals teaser picks that they give away. Which actually reminds me of a Simpson's episode where Homer is scammed by free picks through the mail. They sent different picks to different people so that a certain percentage of those people would always get winners, but this was of course by blind luck. This is exactly what these teaser picks boil down to most of the time. They are strictly a promotional method to get you to buy the very expensive premium picks. Which often are not much better than the free picks.
So lets say you actually find a good service that you feel will give you the picks you need to become a regular winner. The fact about these premium picks is that they are so expensive you have to then bet way more than you normally do just to cover the cost of the pick. This in turn completely destroys your bankroll strategy and your profit margin. The guarantees also cause some controversy. Most of the guarantees you see come with a "If your pick doesn't hit you get your money back" guarantee. The only problem here is that you just raised you betting unit to cover for the cost of the pick and wiped you out. So getting that money back doesn't always mean it's a good deal. The second downfall to the guarantee is that most of the time in order to avoid a refund they usually offer a few premium picks for free instead of the refund.
So if you can't find a quality service that actually gives good picks what's the alternative? The alternative is simply putting in the effort to analyze each game like a pro. This can take up to 3 hours per day which most people would rather be spending with their family instead of in front of a computer screen looking at stats. Or you could continue to be an average bettor with the ups and downs and never getting ahead. But there is another alternative. And that is hooking up with a professional that will give you all their picks for free.
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Offseason with Cidolfus: Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks

There’s no way to discuss the Miami Dolphins looking ahead to the 2020 season without addressing the elephant in the room. Ever since Ryan Tannehill was shipped off to the Titans, a single question has loomed large over the future of this franchise: who is the long term answer under center? As we head into the 2020 draft with a top-five pick, it’s a question we’re going to be hearing an awful lot over the next few months.
I’ll be blunt from the outset: a great deal of this series this year is going to deal with that question. I understand that this is going to cause contentious debate, just as it has throughout the season and will continue to throughout the offseason. I understand also that some of my takes about our strategy this season are going to be controversial.
I’ve tried to stay out of the pro-/anti-tank arguments throughout the season as much as possible. I have not always been successful. Spoiler alert for those who hadn’t already caught on: Cidolfus was pro tank. I understand that this position makes many of you viscerally angry just as I understand that many who supported tanking were annoyed at those celebrating “meaningless” wins. So before we get going, I want to ask everyone to keep one thing in mind not only in regards to my own commentary to follow, but for any discussion in this series or in the many other posts that are sure to occur over the next several months:
Let people be fans in whatever manner makes them happy.
I understand that we have emotional reactions to this sport. Nevertheless, it bears reminding: football is a sport and watching is supposed to be fun. If someone wants to win every Sunday because it’s just more fun to win? Good for them. If someone is willing to trade losses now for a perceived advantage in the long term and is happy to see us lose now because they think it’ll be better later? Good for them. If someone wants to bandwagon a team because they just like to watch winning football on Sundays? Good for them. If someone wants to pick the Dolphins as their team for the future because they like the animal? Pity the poor fool, but good for them.
It’s not my job, your job, or anyone else’s job to tell someone else how to enjoy watching sports, so we should all just try and live and let live. That’s not to say that we can’t discuss these differing viewpoints. The whole point of this series is to generate discussion. Just keep it respectful.
Like last year, I plan on posting one of these each week throughout the postseason, and then when I can find time as appropriate through the offseason I’ll try to follow up with an additional free agency and draft discussion. I’m expecting a lot of real work to hit me beginning on March, though, so we’ll see what happens. As always, this series will be primarily geared towards team-building with a focus on contract management under the salary cap. I don’t pretend to be any great evaluator of NFL talent and instead rely pretty heavily on other sources for that type of analysis. This analysis is pretty statistics heavy, by which I mean the math part. Disclaimer: I’m not a statistician and I’m pretty far removed from what little stats I took in college at this point, so as far as the real math goes, it’s still going to be pretty rudimentary.
With all that said, let’s start The Offseason with Cidolfus III.

The Quarterback Conundrum

Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic of Flores as the coach to drag this franchise kicking and screaming out of mediocrity, I hope it is not too controversial to suggest that getting a quarterback should be our first priority from a roster-building standpoint.
But of course it is.
Especially due to the recent uncertainty regarding Tua Tagovailoa’s intentions to declare for the 2020 NFL draft, this subreddit has seen enthusiastic suggestions from using any of our three first round selections all the way to not even drafting a quarterback in the first three rounds at all and instead rolling into the 2020 season with Fitzpatrick and Rosen. Some suggest faith that Rosen can still develop into the heir apparent. Others recommend punting to the 2021 draft where we can try our chances at Lawrence or Fields. Still others suggest that first round quarterbacks are overrated and point to successes found in the middle and later rounds.
Those who have read these posts in previous years know that I’m a numbers guy. So I spent a good chunk of my holiday vacation this year compiling statistics on every quarterback drafted since 2000 to see what we can learn to inform a strategy as how to best find your future quarterback in the NFL. The data has mostly been culled from Pro Football Reference cross-referenced with Wikipedia for information on when players were rostered but did not play. Being a numbers guy, I would have liked to get into some more advanced metrics like ANY/A+ (which is useful for comparisons over a long period of time since it’s normalized to the league average over a three year period). Unfortunately, this information, and many other stats (like QBR) were not available going back the full twenty years, and I wanted to be as consistent as possible. Instead, I decided on 12 different values across three broader categories:
Activity: Availability is the best ability in the NFL. How many games did the player start? How many seasons was that player on an active roster? What percent of their possible games played did they start? What was the QB win percentage in starts?
Accolades: How many accolades did the quarterback acquire over their career? A lot of people will make appeals to these accolades when determining a player’s value, and while I find them the least helpful for this discussion, it’s good to know for argument’s sake. How many Pro Bowls, First Ballot All Pros, and MVPs did the player receive? How many Super Bowls did they win?
Stats: Nothing too fancy here. How did the player perform over their career? We’re looking mostly at career completion percentage, touchdown to interception ratio, adjusted net yards per attempt, and passer rating. These are some easily-digestible, high-level metrics on a quarterback’s general passing performance. I intentionally omitted rushing performance from this analysis because it’s so extremely skewed in favor of a small handful of quarterbacks that the data wouldn’t be particularly useful.

Some Caveats and Acknowledgments

I tracked total attempts initially as a metric to exclude or weight individual quarterback stats. For example, when calculating the average ANY/A, I wasn’t satisfied with simply taking the simple mean of the stat across all quarterbacks in a given round. After all, why should Tyrod Taylor’s 5.96 ANY/A on 1362 attempts be weighed just as heavily as Jordan Palmer’s -2.50 ANY/A on a mere 18 pass attempts?
On the other hand, weighing these stats would vastly overinflate the value of any single long-time player to skew the averages of any single round. Tom Brady’s 9959 career attempts, for example, account for more than 50% of passes thrown by sixth rounders drafted in the past 20 years. Tom Brady is obviously an outlier in the dataset: to weigh his 7.08 ANY/A as over 50% of the entire sixth round would dramatically skew the results even further.
As a result, I have not weighted any of the stat averages based on attempts or games player or any other metric of longevity. I admit that this skews the results the other way. Sticking with the sixth round, 26 of the 43 players drafted threw 50 or fewer attempts their entire career. Many of them never threw a pass in an NFL game, which I evaluated as straight 0s across the board. I decided that this is very much the point for this analysis: if a quarterback never throws an NFL pass, that is a completely unsuccessful draft pick.
I do not expect NFL drafting behaviors in general to change. Most sixth-round quarterback selections will never get a legitimate chance to start, so tracking averages in such a way that devalues a sixth-round quarterback by scoring them as straight 0s while allowing even bad first round selections to put up marginally better numbers is at least an acceptable reflection of a team’s actual attempts to draft quarterbacks.
There are going to be variables I can’t account for, at least not with the data available to me. Rules changes and general trends in the NFL have resulted in the bar moving pretty dramatically upwards especially in the past couple years.
With that all out in the open, let’s take a look at the past 20 years of drafting quarterbacks. As a quick note, I’ve made the assumption that Lamar Jackson wins the MVP this season (because obviously), but I’ve not projected a winner of the 2020 Super Bowl.

Round by Round

The quick and dirty: 242 quarterbacks were drafted between 2000 and 2019. Let’s start with a simple breakdown of the averages.

Means by Round

Round Players Drafted Games Started Seasons Rostered Start % Win % Pro Bowls All Pros MVPs Super Bowls Completion % TD:INT ANY/A Passer Rating
7 36 8.44 3.86 5.31% 6.39% 0 0 0 0 22.86% 0.28 1.06 24.87
6 43 15.53 4.58 8.86% 13.87% 0.39 0.14 0.08 0.17 36.67% 0.67 2.34 43.02
5 34 3.50 3.74 4.77% 15.27% 0 0 0 0 27.38% 0.35 1.81 31.80
4 26 16.08 5.35 14.57% 21.05% 0.12 0 0 0 50.07% 0.72 3.17 60.43
3 26 22.42 6.08 19.42% 22.41% 0.35 0 0 0.08 50.17% 0.98 3.64 62.03
2 21 41.38 7.29 30.83% 35.97% 0.48 0.19 0 0.05 53.18% 1.07 4.28 67.06
1 56 70.52 7.38 58.57% 46.68% 0.93 0.11 0.11 0.13 60.12% 1.59 5.50 82.68
ALL 242 28.16 5.41 23.02% 23.96% 0.36 0.06 0.04 0.07 43.10% 0.95 3.18 53.88

Medians by Round

Round Players Drafted Games Started Seasons Rostered Start % Win % Pro Bowls All Pros MVPs Super Bowls Completion % TD:INT ANY/A Passer Rating
7 36 0 3.00 0% 0% 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
6 43 0 3.00 0% 0% 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5 34 0 3.00 0% 0% 0 0 0 0 35.80% 0 0.11 17.05
4 26 3.00 4.50 4.48% 5.00% 0 0 0 0 56.80% 0.59 4.37 63.95
3 26 10.00 5.00 13.28% 22.22% 0 0 0 0 59.00% 0.89 4.45 74.10
2 21 21.00 6.00 26.79% 38.71% 0 0 0 0 58.60% 0.86 4.68 72.70
1 56 50.00 7.00 63.54% 47.54% 0 0 0 0 60.30% 1.43 5.47 81.70
ALL 242 7.50 4.00 93.11% 20.00% 0 0 0 0 56.20% 0.71 4.11 69.00
A couple things to note looking at both of these tables in tandem: accolades are a poor metric by which to judge the worth of a quarterback pick in each round. This is easy enough to explain: the same few players have won the same awards multiple times in the past 20 years and there are also a limited number of each award per season. Only one quarterback can win MVP or win the Super Bowl, but multiple players can post a solid ANY/A over 6.00 each season. This scarcity is reflected by the median where the vast majority of players never win any of these awards. Case in point: Tom Brady accounts for 13.63% of all Pro Bowl nods, 33.33% of all First Team All Pros and MVPs, and 37.5% of all Super Bowl victories in the entire population examined. That doesn’t change that drafting a quarterback in the sixth round is functionally worthless.
Similarly, the number of seasons rostered and games rostered correlates very strongly to draft position. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, as even poorly performing players often get more opportunities to start draft position. The steadily increasing seasons rostered also indicates that the higher drafted a player is, the more likely they are to play a second contract. A median seasons rostered of 3.00 for rounds 5-7 indicates that quarterbacks drafted in those rounds are more often than not cut before completing a standard rookie contract.
At a glance, the data confirms what most probably suspected already: the higher a quarterback is drafted, the more likely it is that the team got it right and the quarterback in question was a successful pick. What can be observed from above is the general trend that all statistical measures trend positively with the round the player is selected. In general, from the data here it should be pretty obvious that a team is not likely to find their franchise quarterback after the third round as the means for nearly every category for all of those are lower than the means of all quarterbacks drafted. Shocker: quarterbacks in the back half of the draft are, on average, worse than the average of all quarterbacks drafted. So the question then becomes: how do the top three rounds stack up?

Completion Percentage

Round Mean St. Dev. St. Dev. of Mean From Mean of All
1 60.12% 3.82% 0.64
2 53.18% 17.81% 0.38
3 50.17% 21.73% 0.27

TD:INT

Round Mean St. Dev. St. Dev. of Mean From Mean of All
1 1.59 0.81 0.42
2 1.07 0.80 0.08
3 0.98 1.02 0.02

ANY/A

Round Mean St. Dev. St. Dev. of Mean From Mean of All
1 5.50 0.98 0.79
2 4.28 2.09 0.38
3 3.64 2.15 0.16

Passer Rating

Round Mean St. Dev. St. Dev. of Mean From Mean of All
1 82.68 9.89 0.79
2 67.06 27.33 0.36
3 62.03 29.78 0.22
Again as expected, the first round selection is, in aggregate, better. Importantly, though, first round selections are better not just because they have higher mean values for the stats we’re tracking here; they are better because they typically have less variance and also because they’re notably better relative to an average quarterback from the entire draft. Not only is the average ANY/A of a first round selection much higher than that of a second or third round, the standard deviation within its own population is dramatically lower. It’s a safer pick. The standard deviations of the mean from the mean of all draft selections also suggest that the average first round pick is, in general, better relative to the average of all picks than the second or third is. Again, that shouldn’t be a surprise given what we’ve already seen and the positive correlation between draft status and performance.
The takeaway from this should not be that you can only find success in the first round of the NFL draft for QBs or that top-selected quarterbacks are locks (more on that later). This is obviously and demonstrably not true. The takeaway should be that in the aggregate, quarterbacks in the first round are more successful than those drafted in any other round, and it’s not particularly close.
This brings me to the first of the draft suggestions proposed that I want to directly address.

But the best quarterback from the 2011 draft was a third rounder!

Look at Russell Wilson! Look at Dak Prescott! Drew Brees! Tom Brady! They are some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and they were all drafted outside of the first round. Tony Romo was a really good quarterback, and he even went undrafted! You don’t need to draft a quarterback in the first round to find your quarterback of the future.
Let’s look at all the teams in the NFL and who was projected as the team’s starting quarterback headed into the preseason and what round they were drafted in.
Team Quarterback Round
Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray 1
Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan 1
Baltimore Ravens Lamar Jackson 1
Buffalo Bills Josh Allen 1
Carolina Panthers Cam Newton 1
Chicago Bears Mitch Trubisky 1
Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton 2
Cleveland Browns Baker Mayfield 1
Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott 4
Denver Broncos Joe Flacco 1
Detroit Lions Matt Stafford 1
Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers 1
Houston Texans Deshaun Watson 1
Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck 1
Jacksonville Jaguars Nick Foles 3
Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes 1
Los Angeles Chargers Philip Rivers 1
Los Angeles Rams Jared Goff 1
Miami Dolphins Ryan Fitzpatrick 7
Minnesota Vikings Kirk Cousins 4
New England Patriots Tom Brady 6
New Orleans Saints Drew Brees 2
New York Giants Eli Manning 1
New York Jets Sam Darnold 1
Oakland Raiders Derek Carr 2
Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz 1
Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger 1
San Francisco 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo 2
Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jameis Winston 1
Tennessee Titans Marcus Mariota 1
Washington Redskins Case Keenum Undrafted
Only 10 of 32 teams planned to start a quarterback drafted outside of the first round at the beginning of this season. Of those teams planning to start a quarterback drafted outside the first, three of them were rostering quarterbacks drafted in the first who were expected to start at some point of this season (Josh Rosen, Dwayne Haskins). A full 75% of NFL teams went into 2019 planning to start a first rounder at quarterback at some point.
Tom Brady is one of 43 sixth rounds who has amounted to anything. Minshew has a chance at being the second, but his head coach won’t even commit to him as the starter for next season despite his solid performance. What Brady and Minshew have in common is that both got their first opportunity to start because the guy ahead of them on the depth chart who had just inked a massive new deal got injured.
Drew Brees had an up-and-down start to his career in San Diego before he started lighting the world on fire in New Orleans. Dak Prescott, like Brady, got the nod to start because Tony Romo got injured. He looked good in pre-season and flashed there, but if Romo doesn’t go down, is Prescott still the heir apparent? Does he survive two seasons on the bench, or do the Cowboys bring in competition when Romo retires?
Even Russell Wilson wasn’t projected to be the starter when he was drafted. The Seahawks had just inked a deal with Matt Flynn and he was expected to be their starting quarterback. Nobody was betting on the undersized guy to beat him out for the starting gig. Wilson came in and started playing extremely efficient football, sure. But without Beastmode pounding away on the ground and the Legion of Boom keeping scores low, how does that story go?
To be clear, I’m playing devil’s advocate here. I’m not saying this to discredit these players, but rather to demonstrate the reality of the circumstances in which they were drafted. The Patriots and the Seahawks didn’t outsmart everyone by drafting Brady and Wilson late. They got lucky. If Bill Belichick really, truly believed that Tom Brady would lead the Patriots to six Super Bowls, he wouldn’t have waited to the sixth round to draft him.
Banking on getting lucky is not a valid team-building strategy.
Tom Brady, Gardner Minshew, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Drew Brees are the only quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round in twenty years to have a completion percentage of 60%, a TD:INT ratio over 2.00, and an ANY/A rating over 6.00. That’s a pretty low bar for franchise quarterbacks these days, and only eight out of 186 quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round qualify.
I’ll say it again for those in the back: banking on getting lucky is not a valid team-building strategy.

First Round Breakdown

So Cidolfus, you might say, what about within the first round? Top quarterback picks are overrated. Look at the past few seasons: the top QB drafted often isn’t the best QB in the draft. This is often true, so let’s take a look at the numbers here, too. I’ve broken down the quarterbacks selected in the first round by those taken in the top 5, those with picks 6-15, and those with picks 16-32.

Means by Pick

Picks Players Drafted Games Started Seasons Rostered Start % Win % Pro Bowls All Pros MVPs Super Bowls Completion % TD:INT ANY/A Passer Rating
16-32 17 50.76 7.41 38.59% 44.77% 0.59 0.18 0.18 0.12 58.99% 1.60 5.12 76.70
6-15 14 55.14 6.07 56.32% 45.94% 0.79 0.07 0.07 0.14 60.19% 1.59 5.45 82.87
1-5 25 92.56 8.08 73.42% 48.39% 1.24 0.08 0.08 0.12 60.85% 1.58 5.74 84.22

Medians by Pick

Picks Players Drafted Games Started Seasons Rostered Start % Win % Pro Bowls All Pros MVPs Super Bowls Completion % TD:INT ANY/A Passer Rating
16-32 17 33.00 7.00 32.64% 41.67% 0 0 0 0 58.10% 1.19 5.12 76.70
6-15 14 33.50 5.00 57.29% 46.22% 0 0 0 0 59.20% 1.40 5.38 78.95
1-5 25 73.00 7.00 76.79% 50.00% 0 0 0 0 61.50% 1.57 5.80 86.10
The first round plays out similarly to the entire draft. In general, quarterbacks taken in the top five (which, in this data set functionally means quarterbacks drafted in the top three, as only Philip Rivers and Mark Sanchez have been drafted at fourth and fifth overall respectively) are better in the aggregate than those selected elsewhere in the round.

Completion Percentage

Round Mean St. Dev. St. Dev. of Mean From Mean of First
1-5 61.50% 3.16 0.36
6-15 59.20% 4.00% -0.24
16-32 58.10% 5.00 -0.53

TD:INT

Round Mean St. Dev. St. Dev. of Mean From Mean of First
1-5 1.58 0.47 -0.01
6-15 1.59 0.91 0
16-32 1.60 1.14 0.01

ANY/A

Round Mean St. Dev. St. Dev. of Mean From Mean of First
1-5 5.80 0.78 0.31
6-15 5.38 1.32 -0.12
16-32 5.12 0.93 -0.39

Passer Rating

Round Mean St. Dev. St. Dev. of Mean From Mean of First
1-5 86.10 7.71 0.34
6-15 78.95 12.45 -0.37
16-32 76.70 10.85 -0.60
Like before, nothing too surprising here. We already knew that first round picks had relatively low variance, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see statistics clustered really heavily here. Only the touchdown to interception ratio doesn’t outright favor the top five picks, and even then the first five picks have the lowest standard deviation and a difference of 0.02 on a touchdown to interception ratio is only one extra touchdown for every fifty interceptions. That the standard deviation of the means for the 6-15 and 16-32 picks are below the mean of the entire first round in general also isn’t too surprising when considering that nearly half of the quarterbacks taken in the first round in the past twenty years have been taken in the first five picks.

What This Means About the Draft

So, to summarize so far: quarterbacks taken in the first round tend to be better than quarterbacks taken in any other round. They generally post better aggregate stats and there’s also a trend of decreasing variance among draft picks the higher you pick. The same applies to the first round itself but on a smaller scale. In the aggregate, a top five pick on an NFL quarterback not only typically yields the highest average performance, it is also the safest place to draft a quarterback as those who are drafted in that position exhibit the lowest variance of their performances. All of these numbers support what conventional wisdom already tells us.
What should definitely not be ignored in this conclusion, however, is that the data also tells us one other very important thing, and it’s yet another thing that conventional wisdom tells us: drafting a franchise quarterback is really, really hard. If we conclude that the average top five pick is the best chance we have in the aggregate, we also have to come to terms with the fact that the average top five pick also isn’t a great quarterback.
A career completion percentage of 60.19%, a touchdown to interception ratio of 1.59, an ANY/A of 5.45, and a passer rating of 82.87 for a player who wins 46.22% of their games and starts for not even three and a half seasons of games is not great. For some perspective: those numbers are worse than Tyrod Taylor’s career numbers.
A top five quarterback pick is obviously not a lock for a franchise quarterback, but it offers the best chance to find your guy.

What About Free Agents or Trades?

All right, so that’s the draft, but that’s only part of how you put together a roster in the modern NFL. What about our options in free agency or on the trade market? Historically speaking, starting quarterbacks who hit free agency or are traded do so for a reason. You don’t have to go back nearly as far as 2000 to demonstrate my point here. Just look at the last several seasons of transactions:
  • Josh Rosen traded to the Dolphins for a 2nd and a 5th
  • Ryan Tannehill and a 6th traded to the Titans for a 4th and a 7th
  • Nick Foles signed by the Jaguars, 4 years, $88 million
  • Joe Flacco traded to the Broncos for a 4th
  • Case Keenum and a 7th traded to the Redskins for a 6th
  • Case Keenum signed by the Broncos, 2 years, $36 million
  • Kirk Cousins signed by the Vikings, 3 years, $84 million
  • Alex Smith traded to the Redskins for Kendall Fuller and a 3rd
Hindsight on most of these has looked pretty bad for the team acquiring the quarterback. Cousins and Tannehill have been the most successful of the bunch, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Tennessee is obviously glad to have Tannehill this year (as are we all), but in 2019 Tannehill and Derrick Henry had a combined salary cap cost under $4 million. The Titans have $48 million in cap space in 2020 and Ryan Tannehill, Logan Ryan, Jack Conklin, and Derrick Henry are all unrestricted free agents. Cousins hasn’t lit the world on fire in Minnesota, and I don’t think anyone is rushing to call his fully-guaranteed contract the deal of the century, but it hasn't been the worst deal in the world.
Teams do not generally let good quarterbacks go unless they have a clear successor ready to roll in their absence. When you see names like Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, or Jameis Winston thrown around this offseason, take a look at who’s replacing him on that roster and ask why we would want to pay veteran quarterback money for someone another team is ready to walk away from.

Okay, So What?

That’s all great, but what does this tell us? There are three prime takeaways from this:
In the aggregate, quarterback performance appears to correspond with draft position. The higher the quarterback is drafted, the better the in general he is likely to be. Most quarterbacks drafted aren’t very good. Busts are common even at the top of the draft where a team has the best chance to find their guy. Free agents are free agents for a reason. If a team is willing to let a quarterback go, odds aren’t good that he’ll be someone substantially different with another team.
With all of this in mind, how should it inform our strategy moving forward? The first takeaway suggests that we shouldn’t bet on beating the system by passing on quarterbacks until later in the draft. It takes a special kind of hubris as a general manager to believe that you’re smarter than everyone else and will be able to find your guy that all the other teams slept on. In the hunt to find a quarterback, most teams will have to invest meaningful draft capital into the position. We have the fifth overall pick, and if a guy we think can be our franchise quarterback is available at that position, we’d be foolish to wait until one of our later firsts or even our seconds to draft him. The only reason that we should be passing on a quarterback in the first round this year is if we do not think that guy is there.
The second takeaway suggests that the single most important thing that we can do to maximize our chances to find our quarterback of the future: keep drafting them. Since Dan Marino left, the Dolphins have drafted six quarterbacks:
  • Josh Heupel (2000; Round 6, Pick 177)
  • Josh Beck (2007; Round 2, Pick 40)
  • Chad Henne (2008; Round 2, Pick 57)
  • Pat White (2009; Round 2, Pick 44)
  • Ryan Tannehill (2012; Round 1, Pick 8)
  • Brandon Doughty (2016; Round 7, Pick 223)
That’s fucking scandalous. In the twenty years since Dan Marino retired, the Dolphins have drafted only six quarterbacks, and only one of them in the first round. We’ve relied heavily on free agents and castoffs from other organizations trying to replace one of the greatest pure passers of all time.
Last year we spent a second round and fifth round selection to trade for Josh Rosen, a first round pick only a year removed from being selected 10th overall. He hasn’t been able to supplant the textbook definition of a journeyman quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. There’s no indication beyond wishful thinking that we should be willing to allow Rosen to be the only young quarterback developing on our roster right now. I believe strongly that unless our front office truly, truly believes that our quarterback of the future isn’t in the 2020 draft, we should be spending our fifth overall pick drafting a quarterback. And even if we don’t love anyone enough to take them at five, we should still be open to drafting someone in the second or third if anyone falls.
As mentioned earlier, the hiring of Chan Gailey as our offensive coordinator probably suggests some level of commitment to Ryan Fitzpatrick as a starting quarterback for at least the beginning of the 2020 season, but no sane fan believes that the 37-year-old journeyman is our future. That said, keeping him on does allow us to avoid throwing a quarterback right into the fire. The reality is that quarterbacks drafted in the first round rarely sit for their rookie seasons anymore. Mahomes only played the last game of his rookie season after the Chiefs had already clinched and Rodgers obviously sat behind Favre, but they’re the two notable exceptions in more than a decade. Even though I expect Fitzpatrick to kick the season off, it’s a good bet that he won’t start the full season.
And then, until we are absolutely certain that our young starting quarterback is the future of our franchise, we should continue to draft quarterbacks. Obviously you don’t need to continue to invest high picks every single year, but until a team has committed to a quarterback on a long-term, veteran contract, it’s in the team’s best interest to continue to invest picks in rounds 2-4 on quarterbacks at least every other year.
One of the biggest mistakes the Dolphins made during Ryan Tannehill’s tenure was ignore the quarterback position after drafting him. The front office should have been drafting quarterbacks if not to push him then to have a young, cheap back-up quarterback with upside. When Tannehill went down with an ACL injury, it’s an absolute travesty that our front office made no effort to augment our QB room until Tannehill reinjured the ACL and missed the season and instead overpaid to bring Jay Cutler out of retirement.
Tannehill’s injury not progressing as expected or being reinjured should have been a scenario we planned for, and that we signed Cutler so late suggests that we never had a serious conversation about what a season of Matt Moore would look like. With Tannehill recovering from injury, we should have used that as an opportunity to add a young guy with upside to our quarterback room. Would it have worked out any better? Given the quarterbacks who came out of the later rounds of the 2017 draft, probably not, but that’s something we know in hindsight, and given the results of the 2017 season and the cap cost of Cutler, it’s a move we should have made.
This team shouldn’t make the same mistake again. The Miami Dolphins have pussyfooted around investing in finding a quarterback for the future through the draft for years, and it’s time that changes. I’ll address my specific thoughts on our options in the draft later in this series. Frankly, until Tua Tagovailoa makes an announcement tomorrow, it’s really too early to say anything for sure. Even if you’re skeptical of Tua for whatever reason, his availability likely shifts how other quarterback-needy teams act (including the possibility of jumping us as the Cardinals did to secure Rosen). In the meantime, to sum up my thoughts on general strategy:
We should almost certainly draft a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft. Probably at fifth overall unless we really, truly, do not believe in any of the guys available. We should continue to spend middle-round selections on quarterbacks in subsequent seasons until we’re absolutely certain we have our quarterback of the future. Even after we have our quarterback of the future, we should continue to invest in selecting quarterbacks in the later rounds regularly (although not every year) to try to develop talent from within.
What are we looking to find? Based on the numbers, in order to meet what most people would expect of a starting quarterback in today’s NFL, expect the quarterback to hit the following benchmarks at minimum:
  • Completion percentage of at least 60%
  • TD:INT ratio of at least 2.0
  • An ANY/A of at least 6.0
Typically, if a player manages to hit all three of those benchmarks, he’s well on his way to being a winning quarterback, although not necessarily an elite one. And as we’ve just seen in the wildcard round, having a quarterback who’s good enough can sometimes be enough.
Next week, I'll be continuing with where I usually start with this series, the season review including thoughts on the coaching staff, player performance, and a review of in-season transactions. Enjoy the rest of wildcard weekend, all.
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