Wednesday - Jan 23, 2019

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ON SECOND THOUGHT: Draft Board Substitutions

With all the excitement that is building as we near our draft dates, we find ourselves feeling like a nervous middle schooler at the semi-formal dance. While we’re ready for the big dance, we find it very nerve racking. We’re up against the wall building up the guts to make a decision and ask someone to dance. But instead of the blonde from social studies, we’re looking at some who seem like that may be too disco for the slow songs. There’s a lot of ADP numbers flying around and to be honest, some are a little too rich for our taste. Here, we’ll break down some of the most popular names that we’re simply too shy to ask for a dance.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

There was a great article on Sharks by Gary Davenport not too long ago about all the dangers associated with Le’Veon Bell. Whether it’s hold out potential, foot and knee injury history, suspension probability, or the fact that one could easily argue that he’s been largely overused, there’s a ton of shade surrounding a consensus Top 2 pick. There’s looming doubt around all the backs going in the first round. Will Todd Gurley maintain his 2017 level or regress to what we saw in 2016? Will Ezekiel Elliott avoid off-the-field issues while also carrying the entire offense with almost no threat of a passing attack? Will David Johnson play all 16 games after missing almost the entire 2017 season? There are valid questions involving every one of the top name runners to a certain degree; there just seems to be more questions with Bell than the other backs. At the number 2 spot we feel there’s a very high potential for a large clip of missed games. You’d be hard pressed to pass on him so ideally, hopefully you end up drafting 4th or 5th and Bell becomes someone else’s problem.
Keenan Allen, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Bad luck can strike anyone at any time. Even the invincible Larry Fitzgerald has been cut down at times due to injury. As the Patriots’ Julian Edelman once explained, football has a 100% injury rate. So one might discount Allen’s ACL and kidney issues to bad luck. That’s fine and we get it, but we still just don’t feel comfortable using a second round pick on a guy that has played one 16 game slate. The opportunity is there as Philip Rivers has an established connection with him and the Chargers will be able to hang points on anybody. Then there are the added targets with Hunter Henry already lost for the year. We completely understand why people will be more than happy to land the man that just reeled in over 100 catches in 2017. We just feel that a second round pick is too much of a cost given the the track record of injuries. Much like Bell, we hope that someone ahead of us is willing to make it a non-issue for us and take him off the board before we calculate a risk versus reward selection so early in the draft.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Let’s lead with the fact that no one appreciates the added benefit of rushing numbers for the quarterback more than us. In fact, we’ve used Cam Newton in our own personal format for the last three years. There’s nothing like seeing those bonus numbers pop up and put you over the top for the week. With that out of the way, quarterbacks need to produce for us each and every week. We’ve grown so used to the numbers that guys ranging from the likes of Drew Brees to Matthew Stafford put up, that anything else isn’t really roster worthy. Then we look at Newton’s passing last year and we begin to question if he’s really worth the investment. Newton had nine games in 2018 where he failed to break 200 yards passing. He also had six games where he failed to pass for a touchdown. The final number to really let sink in, is that he had four more games where he passed for just one lonely score. So ten games out of the year, he had one passing touchdown or none at all. Ten games with one score or less and nine games with under 200 yards. Nope. We’re all set. Here, we don’t need someone to make up our mind for us; we’re content with saying no to Newton in any draft this year.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, San Francisco 49ers

Sometimes when the only thing you chase is opportunity you end up running head first into a concrete wall. That’s the exact comparison we’d use for anyone that is selecting McKinnon as early as the second round in hopes that they’re securing RB1 value. The new 49ers’ offense has a lot of things to be optimistic about with their new franchise quarterback and developing talent at wide receiver. But McKinnon has done nothing in the past for us to use as a measuring stick for future performance. His average over the last two seasons is 3.6 yards per carry. His highest carry total was still marginal by the other running backs going in the second round as 159 is a back up type of total. It also just so happens that that the season where he saw the most touches was his lowest single season yards-per-carry average. Simply saying that McKinnon will be Devonta Freeman is a dangerous and downright stupid approach to drafting. Don’t sleep on Matt Breida either. He’s nothing super special but his talents are quite similar to McKinnon. NEWS FLASH: You don’t want to draft a guy in a timeshare who could be easily phased out with your second pick in the draft.
Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens’ back put up the right numbers to deserve a sniff around the early third round. With a 4.6 YPC and just under 1,000 yards in 15 games, Collins should shine as the de facto back entering week 1. But wait a second… haven’t we seen this movie before? It’s the one where the unwanted back comes to Baltimore and comes out of nowhere and knock the ball out the park. But doesn’t that movie have the running back fall off in his second season with the Ravens? What was the name of that film again? Oh yeah it was called “The wasted draft pick: The story of Justin Forsett.” Baltimore goes through running backs like NASCAR does tires. They use them, abuse them, and then lose them. Running back has been a disposable razor type of commodity for Baltimore since the running back that we refuse to name, was taken off the field by the NFL. We understand the upside to Collins and the fact that in a perfect scenario with a full workload that the math adds up to RB1 totals. But just don’t come crying to us when this plays out the same way once again.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Have you ever heard the expression that “too much of a good thing is a bad thing?” That’s the approach we’re using with Baldwin. There is nobody left in Seattle to help out quarterback Russell Wilson. Tyler Lockett remains a special teams stud who struggles to stay on the field. Jimmy Graham left the best attempt the team made at trying to replace him was bringing in Ed Dickson to fill his vacant spot. But don’t worry, the team did Wilson a solid by bringing in a 6’5 monster at wide receiver. Too bad he’s 34 coming off a season where he stayed healthy for five whole games and brought in an insane 18 catches with no touchdowns in 2017. The Seattle offensive line is terrible and the only hope to salvage their running game was Rashaad Penny and now he’s missing time with hand surgery. With no one else to command targets from Wilson, the majority “sheep” approach is that Baldwin will be in for all he can handle with targets and catches. That’s great but unfortunately by putting it to print we just tipped off every defensive coordinator in the league. By blitzing Wilson and toppling a sub par line and double teaming Baldwin, Wilson will find himself fighting for his life outside the pocket with no one left to help him out. Baldwin will see the most defensive attention he’s every faced. Now, a Julio Jones or a Demaryius Thomas type of physical beast could still thrive in this kind of situation. But a 5’10 guy who does his best damage from the slot is going to find this to be a tough egg to crack.

So who would we recommend instead?  Read on dear reader.

About Patrick White

Have been with Sharks for seven years. Been printed and published. Have been copied by, faced off against, and beaten some of the fiercest competition and abbreviated outlets in football. If you read RnF and live by the old "If you're not first, you're last" mentality, you'll be just fine.