I love this draft. It has defensive-minded Jene Bramel taking gunslinger Jay Cutler, yours truly ditching offense for two monolithic bad boys with wheels on the defensive line, and Football Outsiders’ founder Aaron Schatz talking intangibles.
I have to admit, this project is a lot more fun that I even anticipated. The writers we have on board are excellent and Sigmund Bloom has done a fantastic job of setting up the free-flowing, conversational draft room on Twitter – hash tag #RSPWP2. If you’re new to the RSP blog, I encourage you to look around. I update content at least 3-4 times a week with analysis that my regular readers love.
To follow the second annual Rookie Scouting Portfolio Writers Project at the blog, you can access the draft room any time and choose a team to read commentary on their selections.
One of the biggest questions I see about this project is What is the purpose?
- Build a winner this year?
- Build a long-term winner?
- Beat everyone else drafting?
The primary answer is we want discussion. Takes on players and how they fit into scheme. Interaction among some of the best people writing about football online in a variety of formats: news, strategy, advanced stats, and fantasy sports. Yes, fantasy sports writers have a rightful place at the table.
As for the three bullet points, I see the secondary purpose of this exercise as open-ended. I want to build a long-term winner. Another writer like Sam Monson – who will likely disagree with me about my view of his team thus far – may choose to win now with such urgency that he’ll make Peyton Manning a priority selection. Marc Lillibridge is bent on beating everyone else – I think he’s few seconds away from challenging someone to a race as we speak.
There are a lot of requests for us to determine a winner. Lots of ideas coming our way from readers about this. I’m sure we’ll figure something out. I’m in favor of selecting a peer group of writers not affiliated with the project to judge the teams on these categories.
- The 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs.
- The four teams most likely to play in a conference championship.
- The eight teams with the best long-term promise to contend.
- The eight best offenses.
- The eight best defenses.
I can think of more. In fact, I’d love to get some peer writers to provide a commentary where we take these teams through the playoffs and there’s a written discussion on how the games might play out. Feel free to tell me what you think of these ideas.
It’s way too early to judge any team, including Cian Fahey’s squad – which has come under fire on Twitter for selecting a very good defensive end in Calais Campbell with the ninth overall pick. However, I want to share some early-round thoughts now that we’re a pick away from completing the first 64:
- Bargains: Of the first 20 picks, 15 were quarterbacks. No surprise. However, once I let Jay Cutler slip past me at pick No.27, Cutler dropped another 17 spots. As maligned as Cutler is for his attitude, his lack of technical and conceptual discipline, and not producing stats commensurate with his promise, he’s still capable of 35-40 touchdowns in a good offense. In fact, I’m still a little surprised Tony Romo and even Philip Rivers dropped as far as they did. Especially Romo. If he was there at 27, I would have taken him. Ryan Clady is another. Lance Zierlein couldn’t believe the left tackle – who might be the best pass protector in the game – was still on the board at the bottom of the second round.
- Favorites: Josh Liskiewitz taking shutdown corner Richard Sherman headlines my list. Youthful, confident, skilled, and capable of covering up a lot of defensive holes. This is the type of pick that will make multiple teammates better as opposed to the team working to make one player better. To me, that’s what I think a first-round pick should do. Here are some of several picks that I think met this criteria:
- Sam Monson’s selection of Peyton Manning – Sure, he needs a line but more than any quarterback I think he makes skill players and linemen better.
- Lance Zierlein’s pick of J.J. Watt - Do I need to explain this one? I’ll let Zierlein do the talking.
- Aaron Schatz taking Calvin Johnson - The guy beats double teams and can make bad-ball throwers look like vertical geniuses.
- Ryan Riddle’s selection of Rob Gronkowski – His team will be able to run to the edge, throw down the middle, and win in the red zone. Gronk is why.
- NFLosophy’s pick of Vernon Davis - One of the biggest bargains of the draft. I think he’s the best tight end in the league and I almost took him at the top of the second round.
- Mike Tanier taking Earl Thomas - There may be better bargains at this position relative to where Tanier took Thomas, but he can erase defensive mistakes as a center fielder.
- Scheme-Heavy: I think these picks could be excellent but readers may question them because they won’t look as good unless the player, the scheme, and the personnel taken to complement them lock into place.
- Chris Burke’s selection of Colin Kapernick - A terrific, young player who I think is a little more pistol-dependent at this stage of his career than I’d like to see. I think he lacks touch as a passer, especially in the red zone. Make fun of Randy Moss all you want, but give last year’s incarnation of No.84 a good touch passer capable of throwing receivers open and the Ravens lose handily. He’ll get better, but I think at this stage of his career he’s scheme dependent.
- Cian Fahey’s pick of Calais Campbell - I think Fahey is well on his way to making the selection of Campbell worthwhile. Although I don’t think anyone will buy that taking Campbell ninth was good value, it’s easy to harp on that point when we have an understanding of what these players are capable of doing in the NFL. Pairing Campbell with Justin Smith is a good foundation for a 2-4-5 defensive scheme that Fahey intends to use.
- Ian Kenyon’s picks of A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas - In contrast to the reaction Fahey received for Campbell, most readers loved Kenyon’s picks. I do to. However, I can see the downside if Kenyon doesn’t make sure he has the talent to get them the ball – especially down the field. Imagine buying a Porsche or a Shelby, parking them in a bad neighborhood, and then getting locked in the building you entered. Or, driving either of these cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic on an eight-lane highway with the speed limit of 80 and everyone is going 3. It could piss you off quick.
- Jene Bramel taking Aldon Smith - I think this has to do with Bramel relaying Monson’s point that pressure inside is more dominant than pressure outside. Smith is a great, young player. As long as Bramel does what I bet he’ll do, there will be little risk of having a double-teamed OLB with little else on defense to make an offensive pay for doing so. Still, it forces Bramel into a path early on.
Your Turn Coming Soon
Stay tuned, I’ll have a poll for readers to share what they think of the opening rounds of this draft.
The RSP Writers project is brought to you by the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Learn more about the 2013 RSP Writers Project and check out the completed 2012 RSP Writers Project where we built teams under a realistic salary cap. You can try it yourself.