OTI NFL Draft Thoughts

OTI NFL Draft Thoughts

The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting events on the NFL calendar for reasons that are quite unexplainable. Surely we have better things to do with our time than watch a middle-aged man read out names on a podium? Clearly not, because millions flock to their TVs every year to watch the excitement unfold, and for good reason. The draft instills hope in the fans of every NFL franchise, bringing new and exciting talent into the league. These players become the building blocks of successful franchises, and will potentially go on to win Super Bowls for the teams that show faith in them by drafting them. Here is what to look out for in this year’s draft.

A tale of two quarterbacks

Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz are widely recognised as the two best quarterback prospects in the draft this year, and it is easy to see why. Goff is a natural thrower of the ball, displaying excellent accuracy and zip on short and intermediate passes. Having taken over the reigns as starter for Cal as a true freshman, the 21 year-old possesses the experience at the college level to make an immediate impact in the NFL. As well as this, Goff shows superb touch on deep balls and can effortlessly pick apart secondaries with clever eye manipulation. He displays an innate ability to manoeuvre inside the pocket, utilising his athleticism to escape defenders and set his feet to deliver passes. Ever since the Los Angeles Rams pulled off a blockbuster trade to grab the number one overall pick, Goff has been linked to Jeff Fisher & co., and he will form an exciting, young nucleus of offensive talent in LA with Toddy Gurley and Tavon Austin if drafted by the Rams

Carson Wentz certainly looks the part of an NFL quarterback, standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing in at over 235 lbs. Wentz possesses elite arm strength and can deliver the ball into tight windows with outstanding velocity. The small-school prospect played in a pro-style offence and showed the ability to execute a variety of designed quarterback runs, displaying his impressive athleticism in the process. Wentz struggles in the area of deep ball accuracy, often overthrowing his intended receiver. He has taken knocks throughout the draft process, with sceptics wondering whether he can translate his skills to the next level having competed against relatively poor competition throughout his college career. It would be a shock if the Eagles did not take Wentz with the second overall pick, and it will be interesting to see how the quarterback room in Philly will shake out if Wentz is indeed their man.

Injured linebackers

Linebackers Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith, from UCLA and Notre Dame respectively, are undoubtedly two of the best prospects in the entire 2016 class. Unfortunately, both players’ final years in college were overshadowed by gruesome knee injuries that have seen them take severe hits to their draft stock. Fortunately for Jack, his injury occurred in September of last year, when he tore his lateral meniscus in practice. Jack is an insane athlete with elite speed, agility and flexibility, and can do everything you could ask of a modern-day linebacker. He flies around the field making tackles and chasing down plays, and can shoot through gaps in a flash to rush the passer. The most intriguing aspect of Jack’s game is his ability to cover not only running backs and tight ends but speedy slot receivers, and his coverage skills really set him apart from the rest of the field. Jack will transform whatever defense he plays on in the NFL because of his versatility, and he epitomises the classic three-down linebacker. Jack really can do it all.

Mike Mayock has said of Jaylon Smith that “if he did not get hurt, he’d be in the conversation for the first pick”, which speaks volumes of his ability when healthy, Like Myles Jack, Smith is a freakish athlete that possesses the talent to be a perennial Pro-Bowler. The Notre Dame standout is an explosive player with an aggressive playing style, both in run defense and in pass-rushing situations. Smith has natural football instincts, constantly finding the football and making game-changing plays. He can stay on the field in third-down situations, excelling in the role of nickel linebacker and displaying fantastic coverage abilities. Smith suffered a gruesome injury in the Fiesta Bowl in January against Ohio State, when he tore both his ACL and LCL. The extent of the injury remains unclear, with some analysts questioning whether he will hear his name called in Chicago at all due to the severe nature of the tears. When the Rams drafted Todd Gurley with the tenth overall pick in 2015, GM Les Snead made the following comment: “Yes, it takes courage, but it could turn out to be a wise decision”. Some teams will undoubtedly have taken Smith off their boards completely but he is simply too talented not to be drafted at some stage.

Lack of elite wide receivers

The 2016 class of receivers lacks top-end talent, however, there are a number of interesting prospects that could hear their name called in the late first round to mid-second round range. Ole Miss pass-catcher Laquon Treadwell, considered by many to be the best receiver in this year’s class, is a powerful athlete who is violent both at the catch-point and after the catch. Treadwell high-points the football as well as anyone in the draft, and despite his disappointing 4.65 40-yard dash time, he poses a significant danger as a deep threat due to his impressive size and build. His long arms allow him to get off of press coverage with ease, and also aid him in the running game, where he bullies and punishes defensive backs with devastating power.

Josh Doctson of TCU is a smooth athlete with natural hands and, like Treadwell, projects as a competent number one receiver at the next level. Notre Dame’s WiIl Fuller is an intriguing prospect because of his blazing speed and his ability to take the top off defenses. Despite this, his small hands (8 ¼ inches) result in too many drops, and he doesn’t catch the ball away from his body. Teams should not expect him to be anything more than a Mike Wallace-type one-trick pony at at the next level. Corey Coleman from Baylor is a quick-twitch athletic freak who is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He ran a limited route-tree in Baylor’s spread offense, but he is exceptional in both the short and deep passing game. Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard is far and away the best route-runner in this year’s class. Showing outstanding attention to detail and precision in his routes, Shepard regularly creates separation from cornerbacks but may lack the size to hold up out wide, being better suited to playing in the slot.

The next Todd Gurley?

Todd Gurley made an immediate impact in the NFL during his rookie season, and Ezekiel Elliott has the talent to have similar production this year, depending on where he lands. The Ohio State running back can do everything, including staying on the field on third downs because of his pass-catching ability and pass-protection skills. Elliott is a smooth runner who displays excellent agility, vision and patience to burst through holes with power, and he looks a lot like Le’Veon Bell in the way he moves. He can take it to the house on any given play but is also able to churn out the hard yards, and he would be a welcome addition to any NFL backfield.

Athletic cornerbacks

Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey is up there as one of the best athletes in the entire draft. The Seminole plays with a physical edge and uses his long arms to violently bump receivers at the line of scrimmage. He only made the transition from safety to boundary corner in the final year of his college career, so he will provide the position versatility that many NFL teams covet. Ramsey also works well in space, possessing the necessary footwork and instincts to make plays on the ball and tackle receivers for minimal gains. Due to his impressive size, Ramsey is a little tight in the hips, but he is a rangey playmaker who can excel anywhere in the secondary. Vernon Hargreaves of Florida lacks in the size department but makes up for it with a tenacious playing style. Hargreaves is very willing in run support but his biggest strength is his quickness, which allows him to keep up with receivers and stay light on his feet to react to throws in an instant. Recent draft buzz indicates that Hargreaves may slide down the draft board due to fears that his size could limit him to a role as a nickel corner, but Jason Verrett, now of the San Diego Chargers, is an excellent recent example of a smaller corner who has thrived playing on the outside. William Jackson III, the big, instinctive corner from Houston, and Eli Apple of Ohio State, who boasts impressive ball skills, are also expected to be taken in the first round.

Deep defensive line class

The 2016 defensive line class is the best we have seen in quite some time. This year’s class includes players with a variety of different skillsets, from big powerhouses to speedy edge rushers. The standout athlete of the lot is Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, who stands at 6-foot-6 and weighs over 290 lbs. Buckner is a freakish athlete with enormous hands and a giant wingspan, and he uses this to his advantage to dominate offensive linemen and force his way to the quarterback with excellent upper-body power. Buckner played at defensive end in the Ducks’ 3-4 defense, but he is more than capable of performing at a high level as a 4-3 defensive tackle in the NFL if needs be.

Joey Bosa has had a glittering career at Ohio State, and is widely believed to be in contention to be a top 5 pick. His production cannot be questioned, having recorded 26 sacks and 51 tackles for loss in his three seasons with the Buckeyes. Bosa possesses phenomenal strength at the point of attack, and he is very sound fundamentally. He does, however, lack elite athleticism that should be expected of a player being drafted with a top 5 selection. There are fears that he may have reached his ceiling already and that he may be ‘just another guy’ in the NFL.
As for interior defensive linemen, Baylor’s Andrew Billings is a monstrous space-eater who would fit perfectly as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defence, but could also function in a 4-3 beside a smaller, more athletic defensive tackle. Sheldon Rankins of Louisville fits this description, and he looks a lot like Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals in that he is undersized but displays great speed and effort to fight past interior linemen. He shot himself up draft boards with an impressive outing in the Senior Bowl in January, wowing scouts in one-on-one pass-rushing drills. Don’t be surprised if at least five defensive tackles are taken in the first round.

This OTI piece was written by By Cathal Keane. You can find Cathal on twitter @whodeycathal

OTIPodcast:Draft Talk w/ Mike Huguenin

 

 

 

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Can any NFL team emulate Leicester City?

Can any NFL team emulate Leicester City?

Anyone with even a passing interest in soccer (the “other football” as some might call it) will be transfixed by the extraordinary story that is taking place in the English Premier League.   Leicester City, a team most had down as definite relegation candidates, have not only cracked the perennially predictable top four but are well on course to win the league outright.  Leicester’s previous highest finish in the top flight of English football was second in the 1928-29 season so their achievement has been compared to Boris Becker winning Wimbledon as an unseeded 17 year old or the Boston Red Sox overcoming the “Curse of the Bambino” to end their 86 year World Series drought.  So with these miraculous achievements in mind, we turn our attention to the NFL and ask if any of its recent strugglers can turn in a fairy tale of their own.

Oakland Raiders

Oakland have become most pundits’ underdog pick for the year after a great 2015 draft and on-field improvements in 2015 added to a very impressive off season.  Through free agency they have added some real class to a secondary group that majorly struggled last year in the form of safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Sean Smith.  Added to that, they picked up former Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin and finally offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele.  These four represented some of the biggest names available in this year’s free agency crop and also filled major needs. Aside for being major needs, these four all came from successful franchises (Bengals, Chiefs, Seahawks and Ravens respectively) and will bring a winning mentality with them. When you pair these signings with the core of talented youngsters (Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper and Derek Carr) that General Manager Reggie McKenzie has put together through the draft, you have a team ready to make a huge leap.  For them to go all the way, they will need to take control of their division.  With the Broncos losing a large numbers of their Super Bowl winning team and the Chargers and Chiefs seemingly treading water through the offseason, there may never be a better time for the Raiders to try and reclaim their glory days of the 70s.

Jacksonville Jaguars

It feels like the Jags have been a step away from real change all throughout the Gus Bradley era but with a record of 12-36 during his tenure, this is surely the last chance for him.  The last thing the Jags head office want is to change management and have their youthful  squad have to learn from a new regime but there is no way you can keep losing 10 plus games every year without change.  When looking for teams to make this kind of jump, two things stick out as important; a good coach and a good quarterback.  Jaguars seem to have finally found their QB in Blake Bortles who has improved through his two years in the league so it is down to Bradley to prove that he is capable of turning this talented roster into a winning franchise.  In contrast to the Raiders, the Jags face an added obstacle since their division has improved since last season with the Texans and Titans making off-season moves to strengthen.  Jacksonville strengthened themselves adding real talent in safety Tashaun Gipson, running back Chris Ivory and defensive linesman Malik Jackson but now it is time for them to take the promise they have shown and take control of this division before they get left behind.

New York Jets

A team coming off a 10 win season may seem an odd choice for this but this is a franchise without a Super Bowl since 1968 and without a playoff appearance since 2010. The Jets face one of the toughest schedules of any team this year and at the time of writing the Jets have Geno Smith pencilled in as their starting QB. However in Todd Bowles, they have one of the most impressive new coaches in the league (last year at the Jets was his first full year as a Head Coach).  He turned a team that was consistently in the news for non-footballing reasons and perennially underachieving into a team that almost made the playoffs and avoided drama off the field.  With General Manager Mike Maccagnan, they have built a solid roster and an offense that could build on their success last year.  They will have to find a way to get Ryan Fitzpatrick back in the building as the chemistry he had with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker was instrumental to their success last year.  Also in signing Matt Forte (one of the most underrated offseason signings), they have provided Fitzpatrick with a top quality receiving back who will provide another weapon in the offense.  As stated above, the Jets could bomb out this year and their aging squad could just run out of steam but with Todd Bowles at the helm, they have a chance to shock some people and really go on a run.

Honourable Mentions

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs were close to this list as they have a talented QB in Jameis Winston and the appointment of Dirk Koetter as head coach is a good move but a tough schedule and an unpredictable defense hold them back.  Another good draft or two and they will be a very interesting team.

Tennessee Titans – If this article was being written next year, the Titans would most likely be on here as they have just picked up a raft of early picks in the trade with the LA Rams and should improve this year. However, it is difficult to get behind a team coached by Mike Mularky after what the team showed under him at the end of the 2015 season.

This OTI piece was written by By Joe Peakin. You can find Joe on twitter @jpeakin .

Fantasy Corner:Free Agency Winners and Losers

Fantasy Corner

Free Agency Winners and Losers

As you will know from my previous articles, there is really no offseason when it comes to fantasy football, especially dynasty. To be at the top of your game you have to monitor all offseason moves, and the free agency period is one of the most important for determining the value of your players. This Free Agency period had a number of interesting moves, and therefore had a number of Fantasy winners and losers.

Winners:

Brock Osweiller – QB (HOU)

Osweiller showed lots of potential in the games he started last season, and actually averaged over 16ppg in his full appearances. He has now moved to another good team that should give him the opportunity to grow and succeed. With a top WR in DeAndre Hopkins and the arrival of Lamar Miller at RB, it should give Osweiller enough weapons to prove himself as a good QB, and I believe he will.

Doug Martin – RB (TB)

Martin opted to stay with his current team, and this should be a beneficial move for both the Buccaneers and his fantasy owners. After enduring a sophomore slump, Martin rebounded last season with over 1600 yards and 7 TD’s. I can see him building on that this year, as even though his yardage may drop a little, I can see him scoring more TD’s. The only downside to Martin is that Sims will take some of his touches, but in the long run that might be beneficial in keeping him going for longer.

CJ Anderson – RB (DEN)

Anderson fully tested the market during FA, and had offers from both the Bears and the Dolphins, however he will remain a Bronco as they chose to match Miami’s offer. This is good news for Fantasy players as Anderson has been productive as the lead back for Denver. He will share some carries but after the Broncos invested so much money in him, he is sure to see plenty of carries. Also, with the Broncos QB situation, I would expect an increased emphasis on the running game.

Alf Morris – RB (DAL)

Morris is a borderline winner in terms of Fantasy. He had been losing a lot of carries in Washington, so the move to Dallas is a good one. However, I still would view McFadden as the lead back in Dallas, and unless he gets injured (which happens a lot) he will be sharing carries, and should see fewer carries than McFadden. However, it is a better situation for Morris and it is a situation to monitor.

Matt Forte – RB (NYJ)

This is another move that I like, especially if the Jests sort out their QB situation. Forte is a great pass catching back, and as we saw last season, there is plenty of targets to go around in NY. He will share some carries with Powell, but it shouldn’t hurt his value, especially in PPR leagues.

Lamar Miller – RB (HOU)

Finally we should get to see what Lamar Miller can really do. In my favourite move of the offseason, Miller has gone to a team that should really utilize his talents. We saw glimpses of what he can do last season when he was given enough touches, but unfortunately Miami just didn’t give him the ball enough. I expect Miller to be a RB1 in Houston and really cement himself as a top RB.

De Marco Murray – RB (TEN)

As Murray himself said, he pretty much had a season off last year and should be fresh and renewed for this season. It is a great move on paper and hopefully he can rediscover his form from 2 seasons ago. With a young up and coming offence he will get every opportunity to excel. I would target him as a good bounce back player, but I wouldn’t overpay as there are some risks involved.

Ladarius Green / Antonio Gates – TE (PIT/SD)

Green is one of the biggest breakout candidates of the season due to his move to Pittsburgh. For the past few years he has been touted as a breakout candidate, but I feel that this year it will finally happen. He has been stuck behind Gates in San Diego for the past few seasons but he has still managed to score 8 TD’s and go for almost 1500 yards. With the retirement of Heath Miller, the Steelers have a gap at the position, and also more targets to go around with Bryants suspension, so I expect a huge season from Green.

Green moving to Pittsburgh is also good news for Antonio Gates, as he should continue to be one of Rivers favourite targets despite his advancing years.

Coby Fleener/ Dwayne Allen – TE (NO/IND)

This was another brilliant move for fantasy purposes, as it frees up 2 good TE’s to perform in good situations.

Fleener has always looked good when he has been used properly in Indianapolis but having to share snaps with Allen has damaged his fantasy value. Now that he is free of that chain, he should excel and become a TE1. It also helps that he has landed on a great team for Tight Ends as Drew Brees has a great history of making stars of Tight Ends; in fact Brees has been throwing an average of over 130 targets to his Tight Ends over the past few seasons. I would target Fleener in as many drafts as possible.

Fleener’s move away is also great news for Dwayne Allen who should see his targets greatly increase. In fact I would target him as a borderline TE1 if everything goes according to plan.

Jared Cook- TE (GB)

Cook has flashed potential over his time with the Rams, but has always been very inconsistent. It hasn’t helped that the Rams QB situation has been dire, so I would hope that the move to GB to catch passes from Rodgers would ignite a spark in Cook, and he could be a very good sleeper TE this season.

Losers

Andy Dalton – QB (CIN)

Dalton lost 2 of his WR’s this Free Agency, which means that he takes a hit in value. However he does still have 2 great options in Eifert and Green, so I wouldn’t be too worried. He is still only a QB2.

Derek Carr – QB (OAK)

Carr had a really good season last year, and we can expect even better this season. He has a nice group of talented playmakers around him, and Oakland did a nice job in Free agency of shoring up the offensive line. This should help keep him upright which should also mean more fantasy points.

Chris Ivory/ TJ Yeldon – RB (JAC)

This move was a real downer of the offseason, as it caps a lot of the potential of Yeldon. He had a decent first season in Jacksonville, and I was expecting good things for him this year. However now he will lose some touches to Ivory (possible around the goalline) and this really hurts his upside.

Ivory’s value also takes a hit as Yeldon is the better back and should see more carries.

Denver Receivers

With the loss of both Manning and Osweiller, the receivers in Denver have taken a big loss this Free Agency. Currently they stand with Sanchez as their main QB, and unless they make some moves in the future this doesn’t bode well. I would downgrade all of the WR’s in Denver, but would be less worried about Demaryius Thomas, as we have seen him perform with bad QB’s before.

This OTI Piece was written by James Maguire. James is a NY Giants fan from Westmeath, Ireland. He is a huge fan of the NFL and watches several games each weekend. He has been playing Fantasy Football for over 10 years with great success in all types of leagues. Most of his articles focus on Fantasy Football covering a range of topics relevant to both Dynasty and Redraft leagues. Check him out on twitter @JamesMaguire21

 

OTIPodcast:Redraft Strategy w/ Chris Harris

OTIPodcast:Redraft Strategy w/ Chris Harris

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OTIPodcast:Dynasty 101 w/ Karl Safchick

 

 

 

OTI Podcast:Dynasty 101 w/ Karl Safchick

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OTIPodcast:2016 Top 10 WR’s w/ Matt Harmon

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OTIPodcast #196 w/ Pat Daugherty

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OTIPodcast #195 w/ Ryan Mc Dowell

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OTIPodcast w/ Ross Tucker

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