Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The 2015 Little Big Board

Well, we're down to the last week before the 2015 NFL Draft, so that means we are busy preparing for our annual game of delusional egomania, the Ozzie Newsome Challenge.  For this year's Little Big Board, we've narrowed down our preferred draft targets to 56 prospects, which is coincidentally the same number that we had last year.  It's just like before, only different.

The hardest part of this annual process, is the challenge of coming to some sort of agreement with Reilly over who we should include in the final list.  In the end, Reilly probably wins in most of our arguments over which prospects to consider, but we do tend reach a common ground fairly frequently.  It's almost as if we have developed some sort of mind meld, making it very difficult to tell us apart from one another.

We're sort of like a very poor man's Voltron.

We're never really satisfied with any list we end up making, and keep wanting to rearrange things.  As we have done in the past, we've left out some prospects we might be interested in, simply because we felt it was incredibly unlikely that they would fall to a point in the draft that we would be comfortable/capable of selecting them.  We also end up having to include a fair number of 'filler' players, who we might not really want, simply because we want to have some fallback options.  Regardless, this is where we are at for now, though we'll undoubtedly change our minds in the next five minutes.

1st Round
Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon*
Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA* 
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut* 
Eric Rowe, CB, Utah* 
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Cameron Erving, OT/OG/C, Florida

2nd Round
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest  
Preston Smith DE, Mississippi St.
Stephone Anthony, ILB, Clemson
Ali Marpet, OG, Hobart
Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas
Xavier Cooper, DT, Memphis 
T.J. Clemmings, OT/OG, Pittsburgh

3rd Round
Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary*  
Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson
Carl Davis, DT/NT, Iowa
Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Miss.*
Henry Anderson, DT/DE, Stanford 
Adrian Amos, FS, Penn State

4th Round
Mark Glowinski, OG, West Virginia*  
Mitch Morse, OG/C, Missouri 
Ben Heeney, ILB, Kansas 
Craig Mager, CB, Texas State* 
Cedric Thompson, SS/FS, Minnesota*  
Darryl Roberts, CB, Marshall 
Quayshawne Buckley, DT, Idaho*
Clayton Geathers, SS, UCF
Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon State
Ibraheim Campbell, SS, Northwestern
Alex Carter, CB/S, Stanford

5th Round
Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan
Austin Reiter, C, USF* 
Bobby McCain, CB, Memphis 
Justin Coleman, CB, Tennessee
Kyle Emanuel, DE/OLB North Dakota State
Corey Grant, RB, Auburn
Shaq Riddick, DE/OLB, West Virginia
Davis Tull, DE/OLB, Chattanooga
Casey Pierce, TE, Kent State

6th Round
DeAndre Carter, WR, Sacremento St.* 
Geremy Davis, WR, Connecticut 
Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State* 
Brian Suite, FS, Utah St.
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Louis Trinca-Pasat, DT, Iowa
Jarvis Harrison, OG, Texas A&M 
Terrell Watson, RB, Azusa Pacific

7th Round
Dreamius Smith, RB, West Virginia 
Brian Parker, TE, Albany
Micheal Liedtke, OG, Illinois State
Ryan Murphy, SS, Oregon State
Brian Mihalik, DT/OT, Boston College
Kristjan Sokoli, DT, Buffalo
Laurence Gibson, OT, Virginia Tech
Frank Clark, DE/OLB, Michigan
Cameron Ontko, LB/SS, Cal Poly

We actually had a fairly difficult time cobbling together our shopping list for this year.  Part of the problem was that we don't think this year's crop of players is really that exceptional, which makes it difficult to feel comfortable with using a high draft pick on many of the prospects.  As we roll through the upcoming week, we'll probably reshuffle this list a fair bit, and maybe add some new names, but for now we're just trying to make up our mind as to how we would use up our 10 draft picks. 

Since we have to weigh our own opinions against the general perception of where players are likely to be selected, this forces us to elevate many prospects higher than where we feel they probably deserve to be selected.  This is a very tricky problem.  On the one hand, we don't have a problem with the idea that the hive mind is probably a fairly accurate predictor of where players will be chosen.  It tends to be reasonably accurate from year to year, particularly in the first few rounds.  Perhaps even more important than selecting a player based on their abilities, we are really forced to take the 'popularity contest' aspect of the draft into consideration.  So, when we are picking, we aren't necessarily trying to choose the best player, as much as we are trying to choose the best player who we think won't be available at our next pick.  That's a very different sort of problem to solve, and it causes us a great deal of annoyance.

After all, when most people are projecting that Florida State defensive tackle, Eddie Goldman, is going to be a 1st round pick, this creates some confusion for us.  We don't think he's the least bit interesting, but we sort of have to embrace the lunacy that suggests he is highly regarded, though we wouldn't take him even if he fell to the 7th round.  Honestly, we think here is likely to be a much higher bust rate this year among the players projected to be taken in the first two rounds, at least relative to an average draft.  So, is the public's perception of the draft off the mark this year?  Or, are teams really going to be taking a lot of potentially foolish gambles?  It's hard to say, but we have to approach this as if a lot of madness is going to unfold, and adjust our rankings accordingly.

The plan, so far, is to play things a bit safe in the first 3 rounds.  Then, from the 4th round on, we're probably going to start pursuing a lot of prospects who frequently aren't even projected to be drafted.  It will be interesting to see how this works out.  Either way, it all start with the 1st round, so here are some of the options we are currently considering.

The Boring And Conservative Pick, Jake Fisher
Among the players who will likely be available at the 26th pick, Jake Fisher is probably one of the safest possible choices.  The odds that he won't become at least an adequate right tackle seem fairly slim.  In fact, we suspect he will probably end up becoming a better player than half of the people who will be selected before him, assuming that the general projections of where his peers will be picked is correct.

The problem is that we are simply getting tired of choosing offensive linemen, and it just isn't a pressing need for Team Kangaroo.  We would really prefer to aim for a different position, to help round out our roster, even if it means taking a bit more of a risk.  In the end, however, we might be forced to select Fisher, simply because the odds are so strongly in his favor, relative to the other prospects who will be available when it is our turn to pick.  It would be a boring pick, but slow and steady wins the race.

Another Cowardly Option, Eric Kendricks
Taking an inside linebacker probably wouldn't sell a lot of tickets for Team Kangaroo, but this is a pick that wouldn't make us the least bit uncomfortable.  Yes, non-pass rushing linebackers aren't a terribly valuable commodity.  Yes, Kendricks is sometimes criticized for being a slightly smaller prospect than some of his peers.  Yes, finding a linebacker isn't a huge pressing concern for our imaginary roster.  Despite all of that, we still like him quite a bit compared to the other prospects who might be available to us at the 26th pick, and think he has a pretty good chance of becoming the best linebacker in this draft class.  Choosing Kendricks might not be exciting, but he doesn't strike us as a player that would keep us up at night feeling regret over his selection.

The Gamble On Potential, Byron Jones & Eric Rowe
Depending on what the Ravens choose to do, and how foolish their selection ends up being, we might be willing to do something that the computer feels is a bit riskier by choosing Jones or Rowe.  We have very mixed feelings about this option.

In the end, we still don't think either of these players deserve to be selected before the late 2nd or maybe 3rd round.  Reilly and I view them both as potentially better gambles than last year's Phillip Gaines (who we also liked), who was selected in the beginning of the 3rd round, but there is still a limit on how highly we would value them.  Like Gaines, Jones and Rowe are mostly interesting because of their physical potential, with some lingering concerns about their experience and the quality of the opponents they faced.  We also don't generally place as much value on cornerbacks as many people do, and feel this is a bit of an overrated position.

Despite all of that, this is a position that we are going to have to address at some point, and the market seems to be shifting to where we feel it is increasingly unlikely that either of these players will be available at our 2nd pick.  So, we might need to reach a bit.  We also can't deny that the history of how teams give starting opportunities to cornerbacks plays a role in this possible decision.  If a corner isn't selected in the first 2 rounds, it can become quite a bit more unlikely that a team will demonstrate much faith in them, or give them a real opportunity.  It's very frustrating.

The drawback to being cautious, and passing on both of them, is that there probably won't be any other cornerbacks available who have nearly the same upside.  With both of these players, it is all about potential, of which they have an abundance.  They both possess an ideal combination of size, speed, power, agility and explosiveness that puts them in an excellent position to succeed.  When it comes to making a play on the ball, we think Jones has the edge.  We think Rowe is probably the better tackler, and of the two of them has a better shot at moving to safety, if playing at corner doesn't work out.  While we're not thrilled with the way these players' draft projections are being pushed higher and higher, we'd probably be willing to take a shot on them at the end of the 1st round, if the Ravens themselves do something that we feel is overly risky.

Late Round Madness
While we feel a fair bit of pessimism about many of the players who are projected to be high draft picks this year, we wouldn't say that this is a bad draft class.  We just think it is maybe a bit average.  Overall, we're not thrilled with the fact that this is the year in which we have 10 draft picks to spend, though we do think there are a fair number of interesting mid-to-late round picks that are potentially as interesting as some of the higher selections.  This is where we could start to behave very recklessly.

The tricky thing here is that some of the players we find to be the most interesting, might not get drafted at all.  That's a huge concern for us.  Should we use our late round picks on players that we expect will get drafted, even if we don't feel as strongly about them?  There is a good argument for this, since those sorts of players are more likely to get an opportunity, even if they will eventually fizzle and disappear.  Or, should we aim for the players that the computer believes have legitimate ability and upside, even if it doesn't appear that they are likely to get as much of a chance to play?  Right now, we are kind of leaning towards the second option, even though we realize that this could severely hurt our chances of success.  We would just have to hope that the players' talents eventually shine through and get them noticed in training camp.

Take Quayshawne Buckley, for example.  Most sites rank him as a player who is unlikely to be selected before the end of the draft, if he even gets selected at all.  While there are some aspects to Buckley that worry us, the computer still thinks he is potentially one of the 5 most interesting defensive tackle prospects in this year's class, and is conceivably worth a 3rd or 4th round pick.  If we chose him that high in the draft, it would probably be viewed as a massive reach, and a waste of draft capital.  At the same time, if he is even half the player we think he could be, it would seem foolish to ignore the possibility that some other team isn't giving him greater consideration than many people might suspect.  Should we just trust what the data suggests, and make the pick?  Or should we count on the possibility that teams could be overlooking him?  While we will try to resist the urge to do something stupid here, we can't make any promises.

Jake Waters and Austin Reiter are some other players that fall into a similar position.  Most people don't seem to expect them to get drafted at all.  The computer thinks they are probably among the five most interesting prospects at their respective positions. Should we select them, or should we simply aim for a player for whom we suspect NFL teams currently have a high opinion?  While I might think that players such as Bryce Petty and Reese Dismukes, who play the same positions as these less talked about prospects, will have a much greater likelihood of getting an opportunity, I don't really have any confidence that they won't be disappointments in the long run.  In the end, I suspect we are going to spend a lot of our draft picks on players that don't make much sense to many people.  That's why we are very fortunate that so few people actually read anything that we write.  The possibility for embarrassment and criticism is greatly reduced by our insignificance.

That's where things stand for now.  Anybody who wants to make an argument for the inclusion of another prospect, or to promote/demote one of the players in our list, is welcome to make suggestions.  This week is your final chance to convince us to change our minds, before we do something stupid.  We're not feeling terribly excited about this year's draft anyway, so we're definitely open to some last minute ideas.

As we suggested last year, if anybody ends up feeling like doing their own version of the Ozzie Newsome Challenge, with whatever team interests them, we'd be curious about seeing your results.  So, feel free to email us the outcome, or post the results in the comments section.


  1. My team is Berlin blitzkrieg and this is a BDL draft on a forum where we build our own teams through the draft,free agency etc. This is our draft from 2015 there are 2014,2013,2012 drafts as well. I was curious if you'd be intrested into looking into it and possibly joining (As a co-owner or consultant or something) I figure it would be intresting come 2016. *Shrug* Been following your blog since its inception and I enjoy it hope you consider joining.

    The master list has all the picks

    The original post and rules etc of the whole BDL.

    Hope you find it intresting.

    1. That actually looks like a pretty neat little league. Unfortunately, I think if I get into any more NFL hobbies I'll probably go nuts.