Friday, May 15, 2015

The 2015 Ozzie Newsome Challenge

Because of some annoying distractions at home, and the unpleasant realities of everyday life, Reilly and I have been a bit slow updating the bloooooog after the draft.  I also have to admit that this year's draft struck us as one of the most boring ones in recent memory, which somewhat diminished our enthusiasm.  There just weren't many prospects, or much wildly unexpected bits of drama, that caused us to feel overly excited this year.  All of this combined to make us want to spend the past couple weeks taking a long nap.

Still, it is time to post the results from this year's Ozzie Newsome Challenge, just like we have done in the past.  This is where we set ourselves up for failure and ridicule, and reveal the degree to which Reilly and I might actually be idiots.  I have to admit that I have rather strong doubts about whether our picks for this year will produce the sort of immediate results that Ozzie's early selections will probably offer.  This year's crop of Kangaroos might just require a little more patience.  This also might have been a good year to switch the title of this post to the Doug Whaley Challenge, or perhaps the David Gettleman Challenge.  Regardless, with a little luck, I suspect our players will end up performing rather well, if they are given an opportunity, though some of the teams our players landed with were possibly less than ideal.

Reilly and I are feeling slightly intimidated by the selections that the Ravens made with their first 3 picks.  The path to early playing time is much clearer for some of Ozzie's early selections, which should give him a bit of an advantage.  While we have some concerns about these prospects individually, what they might offer in combination could be more interesting than the sum of their parts.  We can't be too critical of the Breshad Perriman pick, because the computer did think he presented a reasonable likelihood of becoming at least an average wide receiver.  While we still think he has some potentially significant flaws which would have worried us, as an immediate drop in replacement for the departed Torrey Smith he should do fine.  The Ravens' use of the Pass Interference Offense seems likely to continue.  Whether Perriman will end up justifying his selection in the 1st round, and whether he will become the sort of receiver that makes the team want to commit to him when it is time for a 2nd contract, is a very different question. 

With Maxx Williams, we had very different concerns.  Athletically he was a very average/unimpressive prospect, which isn't something we generally like to bet on.  On the other hand, his production in college was reasonably impressive, and he does appear to possess some reliable hands.  In the end though, he just didn't check off enough boxes to make us feel incredibly confident of an exceptional outcome.  We do think Williams should benefit from the Ravens sending Perriman deep, leaving a fairly wide open area underneath, where he should be able to produce respectable results, even if we wouldn't bet on him being spectacular.  Our main gripe with Williams related to the question of whether he was likely to outperform some of the TEs that could have been acquired in free agency, as well as the question of how high of a ceiling he might possess.  When we looked at tight end production in 2014 (adjusting the data a bit to account for missed games), the average starting tight end produced about  586 receiving yards and 4.4 TDs.  Even the rather affordable former Ravens' tight end, Owen Daniels, was on pace for 562 yards and 4.2 TDs, if we adjust things for the one game he missed.  In 2005, only 9 tight ends appeared to reach or surpass that yardage mark, while in 2014 there could have been as many as 16 (again, when adjusted for missed games).  It seems to be easier than ever for players at this position to put up seemingly impressive numbers.  Unfortunately, I think this all sort of devalues what would have been seen as a rather good year for a tight end a decade ago, and raises the standards for what we should expect from such a relatively high pick like Maxx Williams.  So, yes, we wouldn't be shocked if Williams is productive, but will he be exceptional, or able to justify a 2nd round pick?  It seems debatable, though we certainly wouldn't expect him to become a bust.

The interesting thing with these first two picks, is that it largely tosses the Ravens' repeated claims of taking the 'best player available' into the garbage bin, though these sorts of claims are almost always nonsense.  These were clearly selections based on need.

Then we come to the selection of Carl Davis, whom we also selected for Team Kangaroo.  When we were discussing defensive tackles, we said that if he fell to the 3rd round we would probably be interested in selecting him, though we were somewhat surprised that it actually worked out this way.  We think the Ravens probably made a rather solid pick here.  Unfortunately, from the 4th round onwards, the rest of the team's selections struck us as highly questionable, except for some minor interest we might have in Javorius Allen.  The rest of their late round picks seem destined to become forgettable bozos, though most people don't seem to care about squandering late round selections as much as we probably do.  With almost all of these late round picks there was no clear argument for why the team would have desired these players at all.  If given a chance to compete, I'd probably have to bet on their undrafted free agent acquisition DeAndre Carter to outperform all of the Ravens' picks from the 4th round or later, though the obstacles to this outcome are significant. because of biases related to draft status.

If we were only concerned with making this a silly game of one-upping the Ravens, we could have simply chosen to mirror their selections for the first 3 rounds.  It would have pretty much eliminated the bulk of the risk for us, as those were the only picks they made that the computer felt had a reasonable chance of performing to a respectable level.  That tactic struck us as a bit boring and cowardly.  It also would have reduced the fun of presenting more of an entertaining 'What if....." scenario, even if this increased our chances of looking stupid.  Maybe things will work out for us, or maybe they won't.  Like I said, I do expect the Ravens have a reasonably good shot at getting some immediate results from some of their top picks.  So, perhaps this year we should set our sights on hopefully just doing better than some of the other NFL teams.  It shouldn't be that hard, since there were certainly some very questionable decisions being made in this year's draft.

Now, on to our results for this year.

Team Kangaroo Team Ozzie
Round 1

Pick #26 Jake Fisher, OT Breshad Perriman, WR

Round 2

Pick #55 We Don't Trade Up Maxx Williams, TE

Pick #58 Trey Flowers, DE Ravens Traded Up

Round 3

Pick #90 Carl Davis, DT Carl Davis, DT

Round 4

Pick#122 Tre McBride, WR Za'Darius Smith, DE

Pick #125 Mark Glowinski, OG Javorius Allen, RB

Pick #136 Cedric Thompson, FS/SS Tray Walker, CB

Round 5

Pick #158 Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT Ravens Traded Up

Pick #171 Darryl Roberts, CB Nick Boyle, TE

Pick #176 Quayshawne Buckley, DT Robert Myers, OG

Round 6
Pick #204 Austin Reiter, C Darren Waller, WR

The computer felt that this year's crop of defensive tackles and offensive linemen was rather interesting, so we sort of loaded up on these positions.  We still think Jake Fisher has a rather strong likelihood of eventually outperforming several of the offensive tackles that were chosen ahead of him, including Cedric Ogbuehi who was also chosen by the Bengals with their 1st round pick, but we might need to wait a bit before we see him get an opportunity to play.  Rakeem Nunez-Roches was a defensive tackle that we liked a fair bit, though landing in Kansas City's 3-4 defense was a bit of an unfortunate surprise.  We really thought he was destined for a team that used a 4-3.  Regardless, it was actually Quayshawne Buckley who was one of our favorite defensive tackle prospects, though he went undrafted before being picked up by the Buccaneers.  It will be very interesting to see whether he can overcome the challenges that this presents, but we think he should do well if given a chance.

Really, we have rather humble expectations for most of our higher draft picks.  Trey Flowers isn't really someone we expect to become a star.  We just view him as a solid run stopping defensive end.  Basically, we think he is probably a much better version of what the Ravens think they have in the underwhelming Courtney Upshaw.  Flowers' selection was more a product of our lack of interest in the other prospects who were projected to be selected in that portion of that draft, rather than a sign of our outrageous enthusiasm for him.  That he would actually fall to the beginning of the 4th round is probably fairly appropriate, and something we discussed as a more reasonable area of the draft in which to select someone with his skill set.  So, yes, this pick will be viewed as a a bit of a reach, but we don't really care too much about that.

It's really with our selections from the 4th round onwards, that we had the most fun.  Buried in this odd pile of late round prospects, are the players we actually probably enjoyed the most.  Obviously, the odds of success in that portion of the draft are rather long.  The role that draft status has on a player's ability to get on the field is huge, and generally dwarfs any consideration of actual ability.  Despite that, if someone we chose is going to emerge as a star, we suspect they might come from this oddball group. Whether a player gets an opportunity to compete can be tough to predict, so we just have to hope for the best.

If there is one peculiar regret we had this year, it wasn't with the occasional reaches we made with our selections.  That sort of thing is inevitable, since we never really can tell where players will be selected.  No, the issue that still stings a bit was that we missed the opportunity to select cornerback Craig Mager.  There were only a small handful of corners we really desired in this year's draft class, and Mager was one that we were very interested in acquiring.  We seriously considered selecting Byron Jones or Eric Rowe in the 1st round, but at the end of the day we generally just don't place that much value on defensive backs.  So, we had been planning to grab Mager in the 3rd or 4th round, where many people projected he would still be available.  That the Chargers chose him before our selection in the 3rd round really caught us off guard, and somewhat screwed with our overall strategy for the draft.  It's hard to say whether he will become a quality player or not, but we like the potential value and upside he would have presented as a mid-round pick.

We also chose to pass on selecting Jake Waters, though we still think he is a rather interesting QB prospect.  It wasn't because of a lack of interest that we didn't select him, but more a lack of confidence in the idea that any other team would choose him, or give him an opportunity.  So, as things turned out, Team Kangaroo could have theoretically picked him up for free as an UDFA.  While we still doubt he will be given a real opportunity to compete, his signing by the Jaguars does put him into a position where his competition is highly questionable.  Honestly though, if we were going to actually select a QB in this draft, it would have been difficult to pass on the more conventionally acceptable Brett Hundley, who slid all the way to the 5th round.  At that price, his upside significantly outweighs his risks, and it remains a bit of a mystery why he was allowed to fall that far.

Since we feel a bit more pessimistic about this year's crop of players (even beyond our own selections), and have no control over how they are utilized or the opportunities they will be given, we're feeling much more inclined to cross our fingers and pray for some positive outcomes.  Despite that, we wanted to carry over last year's idea of having a theme song for this draft, and we think we've found just the right tune to capture our sense of confidence.

Oh well, I guess all we can do now is sit back and see what happens.

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