On Tuesday, I discussed the RSP Football Writers Project, a 32-team start-up draft of every player in the NFL. I was assigned the 32nd pick, which does bring with it one advantage. In order to balance the values assigned with the random draft order, the selection picks for the third round is “reversed”, a common fantasy football technique known as 3rd Round Reversal. So while I picked last in round one after 18 quarterbacks had been drafted, I got to pick first in rounds two and three.
- I think it’s hard to overestimate the value of a great passing game, so adding a receiver or tight end isan attractive option. That’s doubly true when Brandon Marshall and Aaron Hernandez were still available. Marshall was my highest-ranked receiver from last year and is relatively young; he turns 29 this month. Hernandez is 23 and is an incredible asset in the passing game.
- If you think of the big positions in the NFL as quarterback, pass rusher, and left tackle, then you probably want to fill those slots as quickly as possible. At left tackle, Duane Brown, Joe Thomas, Matt Kalil, and Nate Solder are gone. Michael Roos is a solid pick, but at 31 in October, does he fit my model of fielding a young team? Ryan Clady was a player I might have taken, but he was selected just a few picks before I was up. I didn’t see an elite player available, so I crossed this off the list (a few picks later, Matt Waldman selected Russell Okung.)
- On the pass-rusher front, Von Miller, Aldon Smith, Clay Matthews, Cameron Wake, Jason Pierre-Paul, DeMarcus Ware, Charles Johnson are all gone, as are 3-4 defensive ends J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell, Muhammad Wilkerson and Justin Smith. While there were some attractive options out there, my hope is one of them will be around when I pick again. The most interesting option was Mario Williams, a player I really wanted to take, but his struggles in 2012 were too significant to overlook.
Ultimately, I knew I needed to grab an elite player since I won’t pick again for 62 picks. And there’s no more elite player on the board than Brandon Marshall, whom I have written about frequently over the last two months. I noted that Marshall led the league in yards per team pass attempt and was responsible for an incredible 46% of the Bears’ receiving yards in 2012, the first receiver to do so since 1975. He also ranked 2nd in yards per route run according to Pro Football Focus, behind only Andre Johnson. I’m a believer in targets as indicators of quality, and Marshall lapped the field by absorbing 40% of Chicago’s targets last season. With 118 catches, 1,508 yards, and 11 touchdowns on just 529 team pass attempts, he was easily my number 1 receiver in 2012.
And, of course, Marshall fits perfectly into my plans. Josh Freeman is an intriguing prospect at quarterback but he needs to be surrounded by talented weapons to reach his massive potential. With Julio Jones and Brandon Marshall, even a quarterback with accuracy issues like Freeman is going to put up big numbers. These are two receivers with incredible catch radii, each of whom is capable of running the short, intermediate, and deep routes. Defenses will be in the unenviable position of having to double both players or leave one of them alone in single coverage. Marshall is one of the top three receivers in the league today and in the prime of his career, while Jones will be a top-three receiver soon. Despite having the last pick in the draft, I’ve managed to build the cornerstone of an elite passing offense for the next five years.
I’m happy with how this draft has turned out so far, although we’ll see if the players I’m hoping will slide are still around at the end of round four. What do you guys think? You can review the full draft here. Had Freeman been off the board in round one, I would have selected Darrelle Revis and Jason Pierre-Paul at the round 1/2 turn. I even considered doing that with Freeman there, but was too concerned that there wouldn’t be any quarterbacks left for me in round 3. How did that play out?
Not exactly as I expected, as I overestimated how desperate my fellow owners would be. Several owners who skipped on quarterback in round 1 did the same in round 2, which I found surprising. Since there are not 32 starting-caliber quarterbacks, I figured the excess demand would leave the other owners scrambling for the final few chairs before the music stopped. But After Freeman, only Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub were selected, which means Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Michael Vick, and a few other quasi-starter types were still available with my third pick. Freeman was the 19th quarterback selected, and now 21 are off the board. Even if you consider all six of the above quarterbacks as capable starters (and I’m not sure if you do), that still leaves five teams that will be left out in the quarterback cold (i.e., forced to go with Mark Sanchez, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Kevin Kolb, or Matt Flynn). Had I known that Smith or Dalton would still be available in round 3 (and perhaps Schaub would have been, too, if I hadn’t taken Freeman), I might have changed my plans. I think Freeman and Cutler were the last in that tier, but you can get by with players like Schaub, Smith, and Datlon. They may not be special, and I prefer Freeman’s upside, but Revis, Pierre-Paul, and Smith would have been an interesting start to a team. I don’t think I’ll be able to fully compare how that would have turned out until we’re deeper into the draft. For now, I’ve drawn my line in the sand as a pass-happy team. If nothing else, Freeman (6’6), Marshall (6’4), and Jones (6’3) should give me a leg up in the pick-up basketball games. And I got to use the word radii.