The idea behind this series is to show you how to evaluate your team by using mine as an example. Decisions will differ, but the general concepts will remain.
My team, the Cleveland Steamers, isn’t what it used to be, a perennial playoff contender and former champion, as hard times have hit the club. Last season was a bottoming-out of sorts as I have the glorious distinction of having the first overall pick. Today I will focus on my offense and what I can do to improve. With Picks 1, 3, 9 and 12 in the upcoming rookie draft, there are a lot of paths I can take. Below is my current depth chart with starters in bold:
QB (3 max) –
Robert Griffin III, Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins
RB (5 max) –
Maurice Jones–Drew, Trent Richardson, Dion Lewis, Jacquizz Rodgers
WR (7 max) –
Reggie Wayne, Robert Woods, Mohamed Sanu, Sidney Rice, Charles Johnson
TE (3 max) –
Vernon Davis, Jordan Reed, Owen Daniels
Taxi – Stepfan Taylor (Arizona RB), CJ Anderson (Denver RB), Denard Robinson (Jacksonville RB), Dennis Johnson (Houston RB), Dwight Jones (New York Jets WR)
With the exception of Andre Ellington, under achievers galore from last year, right? According to The Machine, it isn’t going to magically get better, either. Their injury adjusted projected points for each of my starters are suboptimal across the board. They actually have Roethlisberger ahead of Griffin III, but both are below the average goal, anyway. The Machine likes my running back depth, which will help during the season, but starters? Not surprisingly, The Machine isn’t a fan. Ellington, Jones-Drew and Richardson all come in as below average RB2s with Rodgers another step down, and the rest behind them.
Wide receiver? All three starters are projected suboptimal, and unlike my running back depth, is not pretty, either. Woods is rated as a fifth receiver and Sanu is an afterthought. Like running back, The Machine likes my options at tight end, but no one hits the starter benchmark.
So, how to fix this? Hopefully, this week’s draft answers some questions, but I can promise you one thing. A wide receiver will be selected with at least one of my first two picks. I would be very surprised if I leave the first round with less than two. Rookie projections won’t be uploaded until later, and I will be projected in the bottom half of the standings, but I am curious how my depth will stack up after adding rookies to the pool. With Cousins hancuffed to Griffin III and with Roethlisberger in tow and depth at both running back and tight end already in place, the newfound depth at wide receiver should take care of my last depth problem on offense.
Finding breakout candidates, ones that exceed The Machine’s expectations, that’s what will make or break my season. Most championship teams rely on breakouts that overproduce and mine will be no exception. Who seems like the most appropriate candidates?
Percy Harvin – If you forgot how special of a talent he is, he reminded you in the Super Bowl. The Machine has him projected as a WR4, but recent bias seems to be ignoring that he was the third-highest per week scorer in 2012 before his hip ailment derailed him last season. He’s absolutely a dice roll to stay healthy, but when he is on the field he is not a WR4. The key to my success is making sure one of the rookies I pick is ready to fill-in when he inevitably is forced to miss time since my current depth is not reliable.
Larry Fitzgerald – This is less a needed breakout, but more of a disagreement on projections. He bounced back from a horrendous 2012 to average more than 15 points per game last year, which is still well below career averages, yet The Machine has him down for 12.3 this year, which would make him a good third receiver. Unless Fitzgerald is headed towards a cliff, and there is no reason to believe he is, he will beat those expectations. He may not be a No. 1 anymore, but a good No. 2? Absolutely.
Trent Richardson – Let me be clear, I am not expecting him to be my savior. His mind has not been right since he got to the league and it has translated to the field. What he’s shown on the field in the past is also why there is that glimmer of hope he gets it together this year though. In a redraft, I am bearish on his prospects; the potential is there, but you cannot expect it. As a dynasty wait-and-see stash, though? Absolutely worth it. Indianapolis is going to come in with a Plan B, but he is going to be given every opportunity to prove the Colts right about trading for him last year. Even if he doesn’t succeed in the run game, if he is used more in the pass game (as he was towards the end of 2013), he will average more than the nine points per game The Machine has projected. Will he be starting caliber, though? My team may need it, but I am not counting on it.
Robert Griffin III – Last, but not least. After a star-studded 2012, he face-planted in his return from a blown-out knee in 2013. Will he return to the 26 points per game player from 2012? Maybe, maybe not, but even in last year’s abysmal campaign he still accumulated more than 21 points per game, which is in line with current year expectations. Last season was his floor; it is not going to get worse than that. Yes, my team needs him to improve, but Griffin III owners should not be worried about anything worse than last year. The Machine is selling Griffin III short here. I may have my solution at starter, but I won’t know until the games are played.
So, there is hope for this team, but a lot of it depends on what I do in our rookie draft later this month. Stay tuned, but in the meantime if you want to check out all The Machine has to offer check it out here