Thursday, September 03, 2015

2016 NFL Draft Watchlist - Version 1.0

Yes, I absolutely agree that it is way too early for this.  But, it is possible that you might want to use this sometime this weekend, so I want to be here for you, if you are a draft eager beaver.
This is my first list of 2016 NFL Draft Prospects.  My personal list is much longer than this one, but let's just go with a Top 50 list for public perusal.  According to my small amount of research dedicated to this, the following is a list of 50 names.  These 50 names are believed to be candidates right now for the Top 2 rounds in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Admittedly, by the actual draft, if even 30 of these end up in the Top 2 rounds, we should be pleased with the results.
THIS LIST IS ALPHABETIZED BY SCHOOL AND THEREFORE HAS NO RANKING WHATSOEVER AT THIS JUNCTURE.  (this means your guy is not ranked too high or too low because it is only September 3rd.  He is not ranked at all.  He is either on this list or he is not.  And this list is completely arbitrary because no games have been played and no players have been watched yet).
This list is only constructed for your added viewing enjoyment as you pop on your college games early in the year and want to know who might be high in the draft. I even included jersey numbers to help you with your own scouting.  But, of course, the draft will be determined based on how these gentlemen perform this fall which means - nobody has any idea who will actually be in the the 1st and 2nd round in 8 months.
NamePosSchoolJersey #
Derrick HenryRBAlabama2
OJ HowardTEAlabama88
Reggie RaglandLBAlabama19
A'Shawn RobinsonDTAlabama86
Scooby WrightLBArizona32
Carl LawsonDE/LBAuburn55
Andrew BillingsNTBaylor75
Spencer DrangoTBaylor58
Shawn OakmanDEBaylor2
Jared GoffQBCalifornia16
Gunner KeilQBCincinnati11
Mike WilliamsWRClemson7
Jalen RamseyS/CBFlorida State8
Vernon HargeavesCBFlorida1
Leonard FloydLBGeorgia84
Nate SudfeldQBIndiana7
Vadal AlexanderGLSU74
Tre'Davious WhiteCBLSU18
Shilique CalhounDEMichigan St89
Jack ConklinTMichigan St74
Connor CookQBMichigan St48
Chris JonesDE/DTMississippi St98
Corey RobinsonWRNotre Dame88
KeiVarae RussellCBNotre Dame6
Jaylon SmithDE/LBNotre Dame9
Ronnie StanleyTNotre Dame78
Joey BosaDEOhio State97
Taylor DeckerTOhio State68
Ezekiel ElliottRBOhio State15
Cardale JonesQBOhio State12
Darron LeeLBOhio State43
Michael ThomasWROhio State3
Adolph WashingtonDTOhio State92
Emmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma St38
Zack SanchezCBOklahoma15
Tony ConnerSMississippi12
Robert NkemdicheDTMississippi5
Laquon TreadwellWRMississippi1
Laremy TunsilTMississippi78
DeForest BucknerDEOregon44
Christian HackenbergQBPenn State14
Anthony ZettelDE/DTPenn State98
Tyler BoydWRPittsburgh23
Pharoh CooperWRSouth Carolina11
German IfediTTexas A&M74
Kenny ClarkDTUCLA97
Myles JackLBUCLA30
Su'A CravensSUSC21
Kendall FullerCBVirginia Tech11
Corey ClementRBWisconsin6
Surely, there are names included that shouldn't be, and names not included that should be.  But, this is only our first draft and we will be changing this often as we go.  Nevertheless, college football 2015 begins tonight, so here is the list at this particular moment according to this particular draft nerd.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Our 2015 Version of "Annual Playoff Reminders"

With just 9 days until the first game of the 2015 NFL season, perhaps we should take a minute to identify some things to consider when putting your NFC playoff field together.

Here is a fancy grid below which keeps a rolling 10-year grid on NFC playoff participation.  Below, you can see that 7 years in the last 10 is the high total for playoff appearances for Seattle and Green Bay, while a sad squad hasn't been in the post-season in the last decade - those St Louis Rams.  

Dallas, strutting around with new-found confidence is at 4, which is out paced by 5 NFC organizations (Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, New York Giants, and Philadelphia), but finally broke its 5 year drought with its berth last winter.  You can see by looking at the grid how it seems everyone gets a turn in the playoffs every few years.  Only 3 teams have not been in the playoffs since 2011 in the entire NFC - Chicago, Tampa Bay, and those Rams.  Parity!  

Green Bay has been to the playoffs 6 consecutive years which is the highest for any NFC team.  Seattle has now been to 3 straight playoff years - and 2 Super Bowls in a row - and then the only other team that has put consecutive years together would be Carolina.  San Francisco's streak was stopped last season.  

Team 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 Total
Sea X X X X X X X 7
X 7
NO X X X X X 5

X X X X X 5
X X  X X X 5
Dallas X X X X 4
X X X X 4
Car X X


X 4
X X X 3
Minn X X X 3
Arz X X X 3
X X 2
Det X X 2
St L

(a Bold "X" denotes a Super Bowl appearance)

So, now you know who has made it and how many times.

Here is the AFC -

Team 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 Total
NE X X X X X X X X X 9
Ind X X X
X X X X X X 9
Bal X
X X X X X X 7
Pit X
X 6
Cin X X X X

X 6
Den X X X X

X 5

X X X X 5



X X 3



X X 2






The AFC is actually way more top-heavy.  New England and Indianapolis have 9 berths each in the last decade?  So, yeah, having a franchise QB definitely seems to help.  Meanwhile, 7 AFC teams have gone 2 or less times, so the bottom of the conference is quite awful.

But, what about this annual game where we try to project who the participants in the 2015 Playoffs will be? We all enjoy it every August, but most of my research seems to show that most of us just pick the same 6 teams who made the playoffs last year. They just look too good to reel in.
But, if you are planning on picking the Seahawks, Panthers, Packers, and Cowboys to all win their divisions and then the Lions and Cardinals to grab the Wildcards, then you need to know about this number -


What does the number 5.7 represent? Well, that is the average number of new teams that make the playoffs each year since the playoffs expanded in 1991.  Now, if only 12 teams make the playoffs each year and 5.7 (or pretty much half) are going to be teams that were NOT there last year, as history tells us, then who is going out of these 12 teams?

NFC: Seattle, Green Bay, Dallas, Carolina, Arizona, Detroit
AFC: Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore

So, at this point last year, most of us had Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New Orleans returning to the playoffs.  None of them made it.  Same with the Chiefs and Chargers on the other side.

By the way, although we do believe this to be a truth that will stand the test of time, obviously if 5.7 is the average, there are years where we go to the high end and the low end of this. In 2003, we actually had 8 new teams enter the playoffs in a year that seemed completely upside down and random. Then, in 1995 and last year, only 4 new teams made the tournament - just 1 new team in the AFC - making some believe that this thing is determined before the season even begins.

Here is the chart for your examination of the year-by-year progression:

Year# NewNew Teams making Playoffs
20145Dal, Arz, Det, Pit, Bal
20135NO, Phi, Car, KC, SD
20124Was, Sea, Min, Indy
20116NYG, SF, Det, Cin, Hou, Den
20105Sea, Atl, Chi, Pitt, KC
20096Dal, GB, NO, Cin, NE, NYJ
20087Phi, Atl, Car, Min, Arz, Mia, Bal
20076Was, TB, GB, Pit, Ten, Jac
20067Phi. Dal, NO, SD, Bal, NYJ, KC
20057Was, Car, TB, NYG, Chi, Cin, Jac
20045Min, Atl, SD, Pit, NYJ
20038Stl, Car, Dal, Sea, NE, KC, Bal, Den
20025NYG, Atl, Ten, Cle, Ind
20016SF, GB, Chi, Pit, NE, NYJ
20006Phi, NYG, NO, Den, Bal, Oak
19997Det, TB, StL, Was, Sea, Ten, Ind
19985Arz, Dal, Atl, NYJ, Buf
19975NYG, Det, TB, KC, Mia
19965Min, Car, Jac, Den, NE
19954Phi, Atl, Ind, Buf
19945Chi, Mia, Clev, NE, SD
19935Det, GB, NYG, Oak, Den
19926Min, SF, Phi, Mia, Pit, KC

Last year when I did this study, I wrote, "Is that your greatest case for Dallas getting into the 2014 playoffs?  The fact that every year the NFC seems to put 3 new teams in the tournament?"

I am still working on my picks.  But, the annual reminder of 5.7 certainly makes this exercise more complicated than we are willing to admit.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cowboys Roster Report - August 27

Congratulations, football fans.  You have made it to the 14 day mark.  In 14 days, the NFL will kickoff its next season with real football of great significance when the Steelers visit the Super Champion Patriots (with or without their QB) for the NFL's kickoff.  This means we are 17 days from the Cowboys hosting the New York Giants.  It is finally within sight.
But, the teams still have plenty of work to accomplish in that they have 2 more games and countless more employment decisions to work through to determine who makes it to the final 53.  September 1 - next Tuesday - will be the cut down day to 75 players and then September 5 - next Saturday - is the day teams drop to 53.
Since the last time we did this study on August 11th, the Cowboys have been pretty busy. It is a bit of a simplistic misnomer to claim that the team simply drops from their original 90 players to 53.  In reality, every day the scouting staff is trying to find the right 90 players and if someone is an "easy cut", then shouldn't we just cut them today and bring in someone else to examine?  32 teams are cutting players periodically, perhaps the discard in Houston or Atlanta is better than player #89 on the list in Oxnard.  If you spend time at training camp, you can often see the team working out men who hope for just a chance to suit up.  It is quite amazing to consider the full player pool that teams cast their nets into to fill out their roster.
Anyway, since August 11th - just 2 weeks ago - the Cowboys have signed 9 new players and waived 10 - because one of their new players, Brandon Smith, was then waived 9 days later.  But, since we last did this chart, the Cowboys have bid farewell to Chris Whaley, Jason Wilson, Ray Vinopal, George Farmer, Lache Seastrunk, Deontay Greenberry, Reggie Dunn, and Cody Clay.
New to the chart below are Ben Malena, Michael Hill, David Porter, Rod Sweeting, Dakorey Johnson, Clyde Gates, Phil Bates, and Carlif Taylor.  All of them will go directly to the longshot column for now.  So let's see how the chart looks, divided into 3 categories - "Made the Team", "On the Bubble", and those who are the "Longshots".
PositionAlready Made TeamOn The BubbleLongshots
QB(2) Romo, Weeden(2) Vaughn, Showers
RB(4) Randle, Dunbar, Clutts, McFadden(1) Johnson(3) Agnew, Malena, Hill
TE(2) Witten, Escobar(2) Hanna, Swaim(1) Barden
WR(5) Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Street, Whitehead(6)  Jenkins, Porter, Harwell,  Goodley, Gates, Bates
T(2) Smith, Free(2) Weems, Gibson(2) Wetzel, Dill
G-C(5)  Leary, Frederick, Martin,  Collins, Bernadeau(2) McDermott,  Patrick
DT(4) T Crawford, Hayden, T McClain, J Crawford(2) Bishop, Coleman(1) Taylor
DE(4) Lawrence, Gregory,  Hardy, Mincey, Russell(3) Boatright, Gardner, Edwards(1) Obada
LB(6) Lee, Wilber, Brinkley, McClain, Hitchens, Wilson, Gachkar(2)  K SmithNzeocha(4) Brown, Baggs, Glaud, Johnson
CB(5) Carr, Claiborne,  Jones, White, Patmon(3) Steeples, Ross, Sweeting
S(4) Church, Wilcox, McCray, Heath(1) Scott
ST(3) Bailey, Jones, Ladouceur(2) Hornsey, Kreiter
Totals46 + 21426
(Bold names in the middle column are my picks for the team that I have added to the 46 players on the left if I had to pick the 53 this morning).
Chaz Green and Orlando Scandrick have been taken off the chart.  They will not count on the 53 now because of injuries.  Also, Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain will not count immediately because of suspensions.  So, for the original 53, you can take them off, too.
Mark Nzeocha, the draft pick LB who has yet to really make an appearance is more of a practice squad consideration at this point.
Technically 46 (but 48 with the suspensions are locked up).  I confess that of the 26 "Longshots", I may be misreading a few of the new signings, but until I get a better handle on those new 8 names, I will leave them over there.  Let's just say a big game against Minnesota may not be a horrendous idea for those guys.
Let's go position by position:
QB - You likely have heard my riffs about the 3rd QB spot.  For what it is worth, I think Showers is the most interesting of the 3 men behind Romo.  I can't tell you how impressive his interest and willingness in special teams work generally is to the front office. He literally is doing anything he can to stay.  With Weeden and Vaughan, there are strengths, but also considerable weaknesses.  But, Weeden has the Cowboys affection, so he is safe.  For me, I think if you really like Showers, you would prefer the practice squad, but you also realize that if you try to slide him through, he might get grabbed.  This is a tough call, but I think PS for Showers is my call right now.
RB - I moved McFadden off the bubble, because let's be honest - they aren't cutting him for now.  They believe he can really make a difference this year and until they have a better option, I am not going to argue.  There are simply no upgrades.  Gus Johnson has separated himself from the others, but I also think his ultimate home is the practice squad in 2015.
TE - Again, this is one of the real either/or decisions of camp.  James Hanna is a NFL player for sure and if the Cowboys don't employ him, somebody will.  But Geoff Swaim has been featured plenty in the preseason and they like what they see.  Swaim is under contract through 2018, Hanna through December.  That might make the difference, but in this case, it might not be either/or.  It might be both.  They could keep 4 Tight Ends and dedicate the back 2 to special teams.
WR - I think Lucky Whitehead is in and off the bubble.  The other 6 WRs who are in the longshot column are going to have a tough time convincing the team to keep 6.  PS is a real option for a few - especially TCU's Porter.
T - You have your 2 starters.  But, is the best reserve tackle La'el Collins or Zack Martin?  If so, do you dare keep only 2 tackles?  No.  Darrion Weems or Gibson stay.  Weems on the 53 and Gibson to the PS seems likely.
G-C - Easiest spot on the team.  The 5 are clear and easy.
DT - It is pretty clear now that the Cowboys see Jack Crawford as the best replacement for Tyrone Crawford at the 3-technique (leaving Greg Hardy out of the discussion for now). I think Jack has flashed quite a bit at every opportunity this year and has made the team after trying to find the right fit positionally.  Hayden and Terrell McClain are both on at the 1-tech spot and I believe the final spot will go down to Davin Coleman and Ken Bishop.  Personally, I would lean towards Bishop because I love his style and motor, but Coleman does offer a little more flexibility.
DE - I think Ryan Russell has made the team since we did this last.  That leaves Ben Gardner and Lavar Edwards fighting for the last spot.  If Gardner can prove he is a special teams option, the edge goes to him.  Otherwise, this is a photo finish.
LB - 7 Linebackers are in.  But, Rolando McClain being suspended makes it 6 on opening day.  Keith Smith is interesting for sure and squarely on the bubble.  I see he is being used on all special teams so they might go heavy there to save him.
CB - With Orlando Scandrick's news hurting the team, this is a real job opportunity for the next man up.  Tyler Patmon and Corey White are on the squad for sure and now, you wonder if there is a spot for one of the long shots through special teams.  Is that Joel Ross or Rod Sweeting?
S - The two starters and the two special teams leaders in McCray and Heath.  I think all 4 are locks.
ST - Bailey, Jones, Ladouceur.  Easy as can be.
For reference, here is a chart I have used since 2007.  It is the final 53 man roster for the Cowboys based on the numbers they have used at each spot.  Of course, you should be aware of the scheme affecting this as when they went from 3-4 to a 4-3, the DL/LB numbers were impacted.  Otherwise, this might be useful if you choose to try to make your own roster.

2007: 26 Offense/24 Defense/3 Specialist
2008: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist
2009: 25 Offense/24 Defense/4 Specialist
2010: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist
2011: 26 Offense/23 Defense/4 Specialist
2012: 25 Offense/25 Defense/3 Specialist
2013: 24 Offense/26 Defense/3 Specialist
2014: 24 Offense/26 Defense/3 Specialist
Ok.  46 are locks (not including Rolando or Hardy).  Let's add the final 7 names as of this morning:  Hanna, Swaim, Weems, Gibson, Bishop, Gardner, and Smith.  Of course, the fact is the Cowboys will sign a handful of players in early September that will make their 53 that are on another roster right now, but using the info we have, those are my 53 as of this morning.
Set me straight with your comments below.