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» Week 11 DVOA Ratings

DVOA has finally climbed on board the Wentz Wagon! The Eagles move into the No. 1 spot, but they aren't the only strong, well-balanced team in the NFL this year. New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and the Los Angeles Rams make this one of the best seasons ever for multiple teams over 30% in DVOA, and Minnesota isn't far behind.

01 Dec 2014

Week 13 Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei

The last time we broke down a receiver's big day in Quick Reads, it was Week 6, when T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts shredded the Houston Texans for nine catches in nine targets for 223 yards and a touchdown. It was the best game for a wide receiver in eight years. And it goes without saying that it was one of the best games of 2014 -- the key word there being "was." In a bit of karmic revenge on the universe, seven weeks after Houston's defense surrendered that big day to Hilton, it was one of their own, DeAndre Hopkins, who surpassed it.

After Hilton scorched Houston, a few readers noted that many of his plays were based on bad performance by Houston as much as anything special Hilton had done, and the same is certainly true for Hopkins' dominance against Tennessee. The Titan's top cornerback this weekend was Jason McCourty, of course, but he spent most of the game trailing Andre Johnson around the field. This left Hopkins to face off against Blidi Wreh-Wilson, a 2013 third-rounder in his first year as a starter, and Brandon Ghee, a 2010 third-rounder with only one start in his first five seasons. Wreh-Wilson was listed as probable in the game with a back injury; the fact he was playing at less than 100 percent certainly didn't help matters. Neither of these was an even matchup for Hopkins, the former first-rounder who is starting to blossom late in his second season. Hopkins knew it, they knew it, and it was pretty clear the Tennessee coaches knew it too. Tennessee favored a very soft coverage scheme designed to allow small plays and prevent big plays. They succeeded in the first task, but failed miserably in the second.

Hopkins' raw numbers against Tennessee (nine catches in nine targets for 238 yards and two scores) were nearly identical to Hilton's against Texas. So why does he have a higher DYAR? Well, he gained 15 more yards and one more touchdown, which isn't a massive upgrade, but every little bit helps. He also gained 12 yards on one of the funnier DPIs of the year. More to the point, though, was that every pass thrown in Hopkins' direction resulted in a completion or a DPI, and every one of those completions gained a first down or touchdown (including four third-down conversions). Hilton, meanwhile, had eight first downs, but also a 7-yard gain on first-and-10. What a slacker.

The following table shows the circumstances and results each of Hopkins' targets against Tennessee:

Qtr
Time
Down
To Go
Yd Line
Result
Yards
1D/TD
1 13:52 3 4 HOU 26 Catch 10 FD
1 8:17 3 4 TEN 15 Catch 7 FD
1 6:46 1 10 TEN 20 Catch 11 FD
2 10:11 1 10 HOU 1 Catch 31 FD
2 0:53 1 10 HOU 30 DPI 12 FD
2 0:47 1 10 HOU 42 Catch 58 TD
3 7:34 2 7 HOU 23 Catch 8 FD
3 4:47 3 8 TEN 34 Catch 34 TD
4 11:57 3 7 HOU 40 Catch 56 FD
4 9:47 1 10 TEN 24 Catch 23 FD

Let's break down those plays one at a time.

Third-and-4 at the HOU 26: 10-yard catch
Third-and-4 at the TEN 15: 7-yard catch
First-and-10 at the TEN 20: 11-yard catch

These three plays were all very similar and not very interesting schematically. Wreh-Wilson gave Hopkins enormous cushions at the line, and Hopkins exploited said cushions on out routes or curls to get open for what should have been easy throws. Ryan Fitzpatrick, though, was under-throwing everything, forcing Hopkins to make spectacular plays just to avoid incompletions. This was his first catch:

And this was his second:

There was no good shot of the third catch (a midrange defender ran in front of the camera), but I assure you that once again Hopkins was forced to leave his feet and dive back at his quarterback to catch a pass. None of these throws went more than 11 yards past the line of scrimmage, but all were thrown so short that Hopkins couldn'd do much with the ball in his hands; the three receptions gained 1, 1, and 0 yards after the catch.

First-and-10 at the HOU 1: 31-yard catch

Pinned deep in their own end after a Tennessee punt, the Texans needed a big play, and it was Hopkins who came through. He lined up in the slot on the left-hand side and ran a simple short curl route. The Titans played a Cover-2 zone, with linebacker Avery Williamson and Wreh-Wilson both in position to make a tackle on a short throw. As the play broke down, though, Fitzpatrick began to scramble to his left. For reasons that escape me, the Titans defenders shadowed Fitzpatrick towards the sideline, while allowing Hopkins to run free downfield. Gotta make Fitzpatrick beat you with his arm, I guess.

I didn't want to clog up this page with a giant GIF, but watching the full play makes you realize how much everything depended on the chemistry between Hopkins and Fitzpatrick. As the quarterback started to run, Hopkins looked back over his left shoulder and saw wide-open turf. He then looked back, made eye contact with Fitzpatrick, and only then turned and ran downfield. Fitzpatrick, for his part, kept his head facing a well-covered receiver on the left sideline, only turning at the last second to throw back to Hopkins. It was virtually a no-look pass, a fast break on grass.

First-and-10 at the HOU 30: 12-yard DPI

Our own Cian Fahey Tweeted this GIF without comment on Monday afternoon:

Wreh-Wilson, despite giving up a 10-yard cushion, is fooled so badly by Hopkins' stutter-step that he has no choice but to tackle the receiver to prevent a 70-yard touchdown. The announcers, Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon (an outstanding duo, by the way), openly laughed at Wreh-Wilson's flagrant penalty, then acknowledged that, under the circumstances, it was probably the smart thing to do.

First-and-10 at the HOU 42: 58-yard touchdown

Hopkins and the Texans spent most of the first half taking what the Titans gave them. Late in the second quarter, though, they realized they could really do whatever they wanted and there was little the Tennessee defense could do to stop them.

In the first image, we see Hopkins lining up behind Damaris Johnson in something of a stack formation. Both receivers then run deep posts, with Johnson breaking his route off about 10 yards downfield, while Hopkins runs about 5 yards deeper before making his cut. Note that Wreh-Wilson is again giving Hopkins a 10-yard cushion.

The second image was taken just after Fitzpatrick released the ball; you can just barely make it out on the right side of the screen. Tennessee's defense looks like man coverage, though it's not clear what the safeties are doing. If it's a two-deep look, then why has the safety to Hopkins' side (I believe this is Daimion Stafford, though it's hard to make out the uniform number) drifted to the middle of the field to cover Johnson running the shorter route? If Stafford has Johnson one-on-one, then why has the other safety stepped up towards Johnson and not followed the deepest receiver?

Whatever the scheme, Wreh-Wilson was left alone against Hopkins, and that's a loss every time. You can see that at the time of the pass, Hopkins had already run 24 yards in the time it took Wreh-Wilson to cover 14. Needless to say, Hopkins soon put a lot of space between himself and Wreh-Wilson. Fitzpatrick, to his credit, threw a perfect pass in terms of both timing and placement. Hopkins' score put Houston up 24-0 at halftime and largely ended the competitive portion of the game.

Second-and-7 at the HOU 23: 8-yard catch

After halftime, the Titans gave up any hope that Wreh-Wilson might slow Hopkins down, and decided to try Ghee on Hopkins instead. Little changed. Once again, Hopkins ran a short curl against a soft cushion, a classic take-what-the-defense-gives-you play. My favorite thing about this play is that here, in this meeting between Houston's current team and the city's old one, the Texans paid tribute to Warren Moon's Oilers by busting out the classic run 'n' shoot formation. When I am commissioner of my own league, I am going to require one team to run a run 'n' shoot offense. (I am going to require another team to run the wishbone. This league is going to rule.)

Third-and-8 at the TEN 34: 34-yard touchdown

Although the route was run down the sideline and not down the middle of the field, this was very similar to Hopkins' first score: facing a soft coverage cushion, Hopkins ate up that cushion, caught up to Ghee, whizzed by him and headed for the goal-line. Once again, Fitzpatrick underthrew the ball, forcing Hopkins to turn back to make the reception, but fortunately for Houston, Hopkins was open enough to adjust to the badly thrown ball and score anyway.

Third-and-7 at the HOU 40: 56-yard catch

There is a lot going on in this image:

Tennessee is running a Man-2 defense on this play, and Houston has the perfect play called to exploit that scheme. Ryan Griffin, at the bottom of the screen, has helped Hopkins get open (like he needed it) against Wreh-Wilson on a rub route. Meanwhile, Andre Johnson has run a curl route in the middle of the field and shielded off his man, while Damaris Johnson has taken his man (Coty Sensabaugh) out of the play with a fly route down the sideline. Better yet, Johnson has kept Sensabaugh in front of him, and does a great job of blocking him even further upfield. Hopkins shows off natural runner's instincts, following his blocker instead of plunging blindly into defenders. Stafford eventually tracks Hopkins down, but then misses a tackle and Hopkins romps along until he is gang-tackled inside the 5, gaining 50 yards after the catch on this play.

First-and-10 at the TEN 24: 23-yard catch

The Texans here were ahead by 24 points with less than ten minutes left in the game and might have just been rubbing it in. Houston fakes a bubble screen to Damaris Johnson. The Titans are not particularly fooled, and Coty Sensabaugh follows Hopkins (a "blocker" on the bubble screen) downfield. Fitzpatrick then says to himself "Wait a minute, they're covering DeAndre Hopkins with Coty Sensabaugh?" and throws a back-shoulder fade. Hopkins catches the ball at the 11. Sensabaugh is beaten so badly that he's not even in position to make a tackle. Wreh-Wilson misses a tackle (why not?) and Hopkins carries on his way until he is tackled at the 1.

When all was said and done, Hopkins finished with not only the best total DYAR that any wide receiver has had this year, but the best regular-season game in 14 years and one of the top ten games we have ever measured. And remember that his last two catches both ended with tackles near the goal line; if he had scored on one or both plays, he might have finished on top of this list:

Top 20 Regular-Season Wide Receiver Games by Total DYAR, 1989-2014
Rank
Year
Player
Team
Total DYAR
Rec DYAR
Rush DYAR
Total YAR
Rec YAR
Rush YAR
Pass
Rec
Yds
TD
Runs
Yds
TD
Wk
Def
1 1989 Flipper Anderson LARM 160 160 0 154 154 0 20 15 336 1 0 0 0 12 NO
2 2000 Jimmy Smith JAC 141 141 0 129 129 0 21 15 291 3 0 0 0 2 BAL
3 1995 Jerry Rice SF 136 124 12 137 126 11 16 14 289 3 1 10 0 16 MIN
4 2014 DeAndre Hopkins HOU 133 133 0 139 139 0 9 9 238 2 0 0 0 13 TEN
5 2006 Chad Johnson CIN 133 137 -4 126 130 -4 12 11 260 2 1 0 0 10 SD
6 2000 Terrell Owens SF 131 133 -2 134 135 -2 22 20 283 1 1 5 0 16 CHI
7 1989 Henry Ellard LARM 130 130 0 122 122 0 15 12 230 3 0 0 0 2 IND
8 2001 Randy Moss MIN 129 112 16 133 118 15 13 10 171 3 1 18 0 10 NYG
9 2010 Kenny Britt TEN 127 127 0 123 123 0 10 7 225 3 0 0 0 7 PHI
10 1994 Andre Reed BUF 122 114 8 108 100 8 19 15 191 2 1 4 0 12 GB
11 1995 Kevin Williams DAL 122 104 18 126 108 18 11 9 203 2 3 21 0 17 ARI
12 2011 Calvin Johnson DET 118 118 0 114 114 0 17 11 244 1 0 0 0 17 GB
13 2013 Josh Gordon CLE 117 117 0 110 110 0 17 14 237 1 0 0 0 12 PIT
14 2006 Reggie Wayne IND 116 116 0 106 106 0 11 10 138 3 0 0 0 8 DEN
15 2014 T.Y. Hilton IND 115 115 0 117 117 0 9 9 223 1 0 0 0 6 HOU
16 2013 Eric Decker DEN 115 115 0 111 111 0 12 8 174 4 0 0 0 13 KC
17 2001 David Patten NE 115 47 25 123 54 26 5 4 117 2 1 29 1 6 IND
18 2007 Terrell Owens DAL 114 114 0 97 97 0 11 8 173 4 0 0 0 11 WAS
19 2013 Andre Johnson HOU 112 112 0 116 116 0 13 9 229 3 0 0 0 9 IND
20 2011 Wes Welker NE 112 100 12 120 108 12 20 16 217 2 1 19 0 3 BUF
* Hopkins edges Johnson's 2006 game in Total DYAR, 133.34 to 133.28, and Terrell Owens' 2000 game in Rec DYAR, 133.3 to 132.7.

(Ed. Note: My mistake for not including this on a list I sent to Vince, but we left off Reggie Wayne with 137 DYAR in the 2004 Wild Card game against Denver. He caught 10-of-11 for 221 yards and 2 TD. -- Aaron Schatz)

Eagle-eyed readers will note that Hilton's game has dropped six spots since Week 6. That's partly because Hopkins out-performed him, but mostly because we know that Houston's defense has dropped in the rankings, and as result Hilton's boost from opponent adjustments has plummeted.

As for Hopkins, is it too early to name him one of the best receivers in football? Going into the Jets-Dolphins Monday night game, he ranks fifth this season among wide receivers in total DYAR, and the four men ranked ahead of him have benefited from playing with former Super Bowl champions Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. Hopkins, meanwhile, has mainly been catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick -- and as we have seen, that is often a heavy burden to bear. In all likelihood, Houston will make a move at quarterback after this season, and then we might get to see the kinds of things Hopkins can really do.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Ryan Fitzpatrick HOU
24/33
361
6
0
252
253
-1
Throwing to players not named DeAndre Hopkins, Fitzpatrick went 15-of-24 for 123 yards and four touchdowns.
2.
Philip Rivers SD
34/45
384
3
1
185
177
8
On third downs, Rivers went 8-of-8 for 156 yards with seven first downs. His only failed third-down play was a 16-yard gain on third-and-22.
3.
Matt Ryan ATL
30/41
361
2
1
136
134
2
Ryan has a well-earned reputation as a checkdown artist, but he blew up the Cardinals with deep passes, going 7-of-7 for 167 yards and a touchdown. Five of those passes went to Julio Jones, two went to Harry Douglas.
4.
Drew Brees NO
19/27
257
5
0
133
133
0
Brees had a quite bizarre distribution of pass plays across the field. Breaking the field down into 20-yard segments, he had three plays in the deep zone, 19 in the back zone, one in the mid, one in the front, and four in the red zone. All four of those red-zone passes resulted in touchdowns, for a total of 33 yards.
5.
Aaron Rodgers GB
24/38
368
2
0
118
108
10
A good day overall for Rodgers in a win, but a terrible day in the red zone, where Rodgers went 2-of-9 for 17 yards with no touchdowns, one first down, and one sack.
6.
Andrew Luck IND
20/27
370
5
1
115
106
9
Luck was good on his own side of the field, but downright dominant across the 50, going 7-of-8 for 140 yards with three touchdowns and three other first downs.
7.
Matthew Stafford DET
34/45
390
2
0
115
115
0
In case you've forgotten, Stafford and the Lions beat the Bears in Detroit 34-17 in the early Thanksgiving game. He played his best on Detroit's half of the field, going 19-of-23 for 239 yards with 14 first downs, and one sack-fumble. On Chicago's half of the field, he went 15-of-22 for 151 yards with only five first downs (including two scores) and one sack.
8.
Joe Flacco BAL
19/31
225
2
0
111
108
3
Flacco did better in long-yardage situations than he did in short yardage. With 10 or more yards to go for a first down, he went 6-of-7 for 77 yards with three first downs, including a touchdown. With less than 7 yards to go, he went 3-of-8 for 27 yards and two first downs, plus a 22-yard DPI.
9.
Tom Brady NE
22/35
245
2
0
100
100
0
When Brady failed to move the ball on first or second down, he usually struggled to keep drives alive on third or fourth downs, when he went 6-of-8 for 40 yards and only four first downs (including a touchdown, plus one sack.
10.
Shaun Hill STL
13/22
183
2
0
98
90
8
If I ever go back to looking at streaky quarterbacks, remind me to examine this game. On St. Louis' first five drives (all touchdowns) Hill went 11-of-14 for 171 yards with two touchdowns and seven other first downs, and also ran for a touchdown. From that point forward, he went 2-of-8 for 12 yards with no first downs and a sack, including six incompletions in a row, though his final pass resulted in a 28-yard DPI.
11.
Jay Cutler CHI
31/48
280
2
2
77
77
0
Cutler's best receiver against Detroit was his tight end. Throwing to Martellus Bennett, he went 8-of-11 for 109 yards, plus a 9-yard DPI, for seven total first downs. He only had 10 first downs on 37 throws to other players.
12.
Russell Wilson SEA
15/22
236
1
0
70
81
-10
Wilson, as usual, played better on deep balls than he did on short throws. On passes that traveled at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, he went 4-of-6 for 131 yards. He was also sacked four times, fumbling once. He also has seven runs (all after halftime) for 35 yards, with one first down and another fumble.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Zach Mettenberger TEN
13/19
184
1
1
46
42
4
Mettenberger only had five plays on Houston's side of the field, none in the red zone. The first four plays resulted in two completions, one incompletion, one sack, 4 net yards, and no first downs. The fifth was a 36-yard touchdown to Kendall Wright, that made the game 45-21 with 1:06 to go in the game.
14.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
32/57
435
2
2
41
37
4
Roethlisberger did a lot garbage-time stats padding. From the point the Steelers fell behind by 19 points in the fourh quarter, he went 17-of-23 for 196 yards with 12 first downs, including two scores, plus one sack.
15.
Johnny Manziel CLE
5/8
63
0
0
34
21
13
Manziel's first four passes produced three completions, all for first downs, for 54 total yards. His last four passes produced two completions, 9 total yards, and no first downs. He also ran for a touchdown.
16.
Mark Sanchez PHI
20/29
217
1
0
28
14
14
I hope you like dumpoffs. Sanchez averaged 5.0 yards to go on third and fourth downs; only Kyle Orton (4.8) had fewer yards to go on third/fourth downs. And yet Sanchez still threw short of the sticks over and over again. His average third-/fourth-down pass only traveled 2.7 yards past the line of scrimmage, fewest of any starter this week. For all passers this season, the average third-/fourth-down pass has come with 7.7 yards to go, and has traveled 9.3 yards past the line of scrimmage.
17.
Eli Manning NYG
24/34
252
1
0
23
23
0
Four sacks and two fumbles (both lost) will get you down here despite decent enough numbers otherwise. He did, however, struggle on screen passes. On throws to receivers behind the line of scrimmage, he went 7-of-8, but only gained 33 yards, and more of those plays lost yards (two) than gained first downs (one).
18.
Peyton Manning DEN
17/34
179
2
0
6
15
-9
This was the rare occassion where Manning was carried to a win by his teammates. After halftime, he went 4-of-14 for 43 yards and only two first downs, with one sack-fumble.
19.
Teddy Bridgewater MIN
15/20
140
2
0
1
-2
4
Bridgewater also had a lousy second half, going 6-of-9 for 48 yards, with only one first down and three plays (one completion and two sacks) that lost yards.
20.
Drew Stanton ARI
24/39
294
1
2
-3
-5
2
First nine drives: 10-of-16 for 86 yards, only four first downs, and one interception. Last drive, which started with the Cardinals down by 19 points in the fourth quarter: 6-of-7 for 80 yards and five first downs, including a touchdown.
21.
Josh McCown TB
15/29
190
0
1
-4
-4
0
McCown only threw for four first downs all day, none of them on the Cincinnati side of the field. Across the 50, he went 2-of-7 for 22 yards with a sack.
22.
Colt McCoy WAS
31/47
392
3
0
-12
-2
-10
McCoy actually played very well when he got the ball off, but he was also sacked six times and fumbled three times, one of them recovered for an Indianapolis touchdown. Take away all quarterback's sacks this week, and McCoy would have been a top-ten passer. He did, however, get off to a very bad start. On Washington's first five drives, he went 4-of-8 for 18 yards with no first downs, three sacks, and a fumble. By that point, Washington trailed 21-3.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Brian Hoyer CLE
18/30
192
0
2
-25
-25
0
Poor Brian Hoyer. No, this was not a good game, especially the way he finished (in his last 15 dropbacks, he had six completions for 47 yards and one first down; five incompletions; two sacks; and two interceptions), but he was playing a very good defense. No quarterback gets a stronger boost from opponent adjustments this week, even though he didn't finish the game.
24.
Blake Bortles JAC
21/35
194
1
0
-36
-64
28
The Giants sacked Bortles seven times, including four times in the third quarter alone. On New York's side of the field, Bortles went 4-of-6 for 43 yards and only one first down, though that one first down was a 30-yard touchdown to Marqise Lee.
25.
Geno Smith NYJ
7/13
65
0
1
-40
-33
-7
26.
Cam Newton CAR
18/35
194
1
1
-42
-70
28
Newton didn't have a lot of success throwing to his right, going 8-of-14 for 45 yards with only three first downs.
27.
Ryan Tannehill MIA
25/35
235
0
1
-44
-48
3
28.
Alex Smith KC
15/23
153
2
1
-49
-43
-6
The Broncos sacked Smith six times, four of them in the fourth quarter, and four of them on third or fourth downs.
29.
Kyle Orton BUF
17/30
190
1
2
-56
-56
0
On third downs, Orton went 3-of-9 for 47 yards and only one first down, while giving up two interceptions in a sack. He did convert both of his fourth-down throws, though, gaining 3 yards on fourth-and-2 and 34 yards on fourth-and-3.
30.
Tony Romo DAL
18/29
199
0
2
-70
-70
0
On Philadelphia's side of the field, Romo went 3-of-9 for 48 yards with two first downs, two sacks, and two interceptions.
31.
Andy Dalton CIN
19/27
176
1
3
-108
-122
13
Dalton's first three deep balls against Tampa Bay were all intercepted. His next two were incomplete, and his final deep throw resulted in a 30-yard gain on third-and-11. Progress!
32.
Colin Kaepernick SF
16/29
121
0
2
-120
-124
4
Kaepernick had no success on deep balls. No, I mean it, no success. On throws that traveled at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, he went 0-for-10 with two interceptions. He was also sacked four times.
33.
Matt Schaub OAK
5/9
57
0
1
-125
-125
0
In only 12 dropbacks, all of them down by 45 points, Schaub was sacked three times, fumbling twice, and also threw a pick-six.
34.
Jake Locker TEN
6/12
91
1
2
-136
-136
0
In only 14 dropbacks, all of them down by 17 points, Locker was sacked twice, fumbling once, and threw two interceptions.
35.
Derek Carr OAK
24/39
173
0
2
-150
-147
-3
Carr did not pick up a third-down conversion until the Raiders were down by 21 points; that conversion was a 1-yard gain on third-and-1. Although 36 of his 42 dropbacks came with a deficit of at least 21 points, he threw only three deep balls; all were incomplete. Carr had only seven plays on St. Louis' side of the field, and none of those plays came inside the St' Louis 40. Those seven plays: three completions for -4 total yards, one sack, and three incompletions.


Five most valuable running backs (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Le'veon Bell PIT
21
95
1
8/11
159
0
65
14
52
Bell had three 10-plus-yard runs and five total first downs, while being stuffed for no gain just once. Six of his receptions gained at least 13 yards and a first down, including gains of 30, 33, and 48 yards.
2.
Tre Mason STL
14
117
2
3/4
47
1
57
26
31
Mason ran for touchdowns of 89 and 8 yards, but otherwise averaged only 1.7 yards per carry, with five stuffs for no gain or a loss. His best catch was a 35-yard touchdown that put the Rams ahead for good with 12:17 left in the first quarter.
3.
Robert Turbin SEA
4
8
0
2/2
47
1
37
-1
38
Turbin makes this list only due to his two receptions: a touchdown on second-and-goal from the 13, and a 34-yard gain in the second quarter.
4.
Joique Bell DET
23
91
2
2/2
16
0
36
30
7
Bell's two rushing touchdowns were 1-yard gains on third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal. He had three 10-plus-yard runs on the day, capped off by a 22-yarder, though he was stuffed for no gain or a loss four times.
5.
Roy Helu WAS
1
5
0
4/4
61
1
30
2
28
Helu's receptions included a 21-yard touchdown and a 31-yard gain on third-and-8.


Five most valuable running backs (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Dan Herron IND
8
88
1
2/2
8
0
23
41
-18
Herron's 49-yard touchdown was his best run, but not his only good carry. Six of his eight carries gained 5 yards or more.
2.
Joique Bell DET
23
91
2
2/2
16
0
36
30
7
3.
Tre Mason STL
14
117
2
3/4
47
1
57
26
31
4.
Lamar Miller MIA
13
56
1
2/3
11
0
21
25
-4
5.
Chris Johnson NYJ
17
105
0
0/0
0
0
19
19
0


Least valuable running back (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Alfred Blue HOU
7
6
0
0/0
0
0
-32
-32
0
Six of Blue's carries gained 1 yard or less, including zero-yard gains on second-and-2, third-and-2, and second-and-four. His longest carry was a 5-yard gain on second-and-10 -- still an unsuccessful play.


Least valuable running back (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Alfred Blue HOU
7
6
0
0/0
0
0
-32
-32
0


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
DeAndre Hopkins HOU
9
9
238
26.4
2
133
2.
Julio Jones ATL
10
12
189
18.9
1
95
Eight of Jones' ten receptions picked up first downs, including conversions on third-and-12 and second-and-24. The other two catches: an 8-yard gain on first-and-10, and a 16-yard gain on first-and-20.
3.
Kenny Stills NO
5
6
162
32.4
1
76
Each of Stills' receptions produced a first down, including a 69-yard touchdown and gains of 44 and 21 yards.
4.
DeSean Jackson WAS
5
6
84
16.8
1
63
Jackson's biggest play was a 42-yard touchdown. He also picked up a 28-yard DPI on second-and-1.
5.
Kendall Wright TEN
7
9
132
18.9
1
60
Wright's biggest play was a 36-yard touchdown. He also had gains of 27 and 35 yards.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Pierre Garcon WAS
3
9
9
3.0
0
-47
His three receptions: 4-yard gain on first-and-15; zero-yard gain on first-and-10; and a 5-yard gain on first-and-10. And of course his other six targets were even worse than that.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 01 Dec 2014

159 comments, Last at 05 Dec 2014, 1:49pm by ZDNeal

Comments

1
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:26am

Where would Derek Carr + Matt Schaub rank on the all time bad game list if you combined their performance together?

3
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:17am

I just found the list of the worst games and to answer my own question, their -275DYAR would rank only behind David Klingler's disasterpiece against the 1994 Oilers (10/30 for 115 yards with 7 sacks and 3 picks) and Rex Grossman in the infamous "the Bears are who we thought they were" game against the Cardinals.

I knew they sucked, but wow, I didn't know it was historic.

4
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:57am

Ryan Leaf and Craig Whelihan must have teamed up for a similarly bad game in '98

7
by Insancipitory :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:04am

I'm pretty sure the 90s never happened, but if they did the Headless Garbage Voltron of QBs would be some combination of Kelly Stouffer, Dan McGwire, Stan Gelbaugh. They would surely have established the bar all other QBs have so easily stepped over.

15
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:21am

The '91 Eagles would like a word with you.

The 1990s are rightly remembered for Aikman, Young, Favre, Elway, Warner, ect, but it was also a magical time for fans of godawful quarterbacking.

50
by Jianfu :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:47pm

Rich Gannon hears ya. He spent nearly the entire decade losing training camp battles to the likes of Wade Wilson, Sean Salisbury, an off-the-cliff Marc Rypien, and Elvis Grbac (despite playing average-to-well much of the time he saw action).

He's sort of the Radiohead of QBs: indistinguishable from everyone else until Ok Computer/Raiders to close the 90s.

51
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:06pm

I like your idea of QBs as 1990's musical acts. I think Marino would be like Weezer..awesome to start with, then started slowly fading into averageness. Elway would have been a great comp for U2, if U2 had retired before they became irrelevant. Ryan Leaf would be whoever it was that made "Macarena".

60
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:58pm

Ryan Leaf would be more like Milli Vanilli. He looked like he *should* be a good quarterback, but beyond physical tools there was just nothing there. Also had a rapid rise and fell really hard and really fast.

I think comparing Marino to Weezer is a bit unfair. I'd say he's more like Pearl Jam. He peaked very early, but he was still one of the best for a while after that even if his early success set the bar unrealistically high.

61
by TomC :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:00pm

Wait, Milli Vanilli looked like they should be a good band? Based on what?

70
by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:31pm

Who would Bledsoe be?

76
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:17pm

I've reached the edge of my knowledge of 90's recording artists, but it would have to be somebody who was good,not great, but recorded a ton of albums (some of which turned out to be good, overshadowing the stinkers).

79
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:26pm

Pete Best? Edit - Oh wait, 90's.

Maybe the exact opposite of Peter Gabriel?

86
by tictoc :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:01pm

Ok, while not a QB I'll posit that Bo Jackson was Nirvana.

56
by TomC :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:33pm

He's sort of the Radiohead of QBs: indistinguishable from everyone else until Ok Computer/Raiders to close the 90s.

Aw, come on, Pablo Honey was far better than anything Gannon did pre-Raiders. "Creep" alone is worth at least a trip to the League Championship Game. And OK Computer (imho) is like multiple Super Bowls, or at least one massive Super Bowl beat-down win. Gannon's few years of almost-greatness are more like ... hmmm ... Soundgarden?

75
by Jianfu :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:54pm

Alright, alright... Too controversial.

Gannon hung around the league forever as a journeyman acceptable starter (I'll bet he got 50+ starts prior to Oakland) before weirdly peaking as an afterthought under Gruden... How about Fat Boy Slim? Does "Rockefeller Skank" translate to an MVP, 4 pro bowls, and throwing 3 pick-sixes in the Super Bowl?

98
by TomC :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:10pm

Only if Gannon had previously played another, less glamorous position on a great, under-the-radar 80s team.

8
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:07am

Damn you, you sent me down a wormhole!

One contender I can find is vs Oakland where they went 10/24 97 yards, 3 sacks, 4 picks and one fumble. That was a remarkable game. Each team had a staggering 19 drives because they kept going three and out over and over again. Neither team picked up a single first down in the third quarter (6 drives each). The Chargers kicked one field goal after a three and out following a 50+ yard punt return and another in the fourth when they simply gave up on passing (12 plays for 57 yards, all of them runs) for a 6-0 lead. Then backup QB (the immortal Wade Wilson who was in for the even more immortal Donald Hollas) suddenly threw a 68 yard touchdown on third and 10 with 1:30 left. Then a personal foul gave SD the ball at midfield. They miraculously threw for a first down, but the game ended when, on the edge of field goal range (the Oak 38), Whelihan threw a five yard pass on fourth and 6. What an instant classic of a game that must have been.

Looking further, they also combined for 17/42 for 235 yards with 7 interceptions, 4 sacks and 2 fumbles against Seattle. They must have been the most frightening tag team since the Road Warriors for Chargers fans.

21
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:52am

Great stuff, thanks for digging that up. Donald Hollas...I had forgotten all about him. Didn't the Raiders have Bobby Hoying as a backup soon after him?

Can you imagine being Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, and company? You play great defense and put your team in a position to win week after week, but your offense trots out that two-headed monster to undo all of your good work.

5
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:21am

where does Jake Delhommme's 6TO game rank?

--------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!

6
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:57am

The list is regular season only.

69
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:28pm

that's too bad

--------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!

2
by TimK :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:15am

Would be interesting to know CJ Anderson's DYAR for the KC game, was there opponent adjustment or too many clock running plays keeping him off the list this week?

25
by Danimal :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:03am

agree, I was expecting to see him appear on this list again 2 weeks in a row given the yardage he was eating up on almost every play.

9
by TomKelso :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 8:29am

That Jimmy Smith game from 2000 ... wow. To have a game like that against the 2000 Ravens is reminiscent of Marino against Da Bears. I know you include opponent adjustments, so at least Smith gets credit. And Smith's team LOST a shootout!

That was a bizarre game in several ways. Tony Banks' performance against an above-average Jacksonville defense -- this was a time when Jacksonville was a championship contender, if you can believe that -- prolonged his stay as a starter, which led to the infamous "five games without a TD" streak. Hard to bench a guy who had shown what he COULD do, until he made it obvious that he wouldn't repeat it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

12
by Guido Merkens :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:08am

The 2000 Ravens had a good pass defense, but not a great one. They allowed 5.3 NY/A, which was seventh in the league that year, and finished eighth in the league in total passing yards allowed. What made them into a great defense was the combination of their good pass defense with an absolutely impenetrable run defense (2.7 ypc allowed).

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2000/opp.htm#team_stats::16

So while Smith's game is still damn impressive, it's not comparable to Marino's game against the 1985 Bears, who were hell on opposing QBs.

18
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:27am

I wonder if in today's NFL, with more coaches being wiser about the fallacy of "establishing the run", and not being afraid of being pass-happy, the 2000 Ravens still would have won a championship. The Raiders may have beaten them in the AFC Championship game that year if Tony Siragusa hadn't sat on Rich Gannon.

26
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:04am

The Ravens were behind 10-7 with four minutes left in the 3rd quarter against the Titans in the Divisional round. They were about to fall behind 13-10 with 12 minutes left in the game, when they blocked a chip shot field goal that was barely more than an extra point, and returned it for a td. Then Ray Lewis made a great play when Eddie George got careless with the ball, which resulted in what was called a 50 yard int return, with about 6 minutes left.

That Ravens team had a historically great defense, obviously, but it was far from a dominant team overall.

17
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:25am

Those late '90s Jaguars are kind of like the late '70s Oilers and early '80s Seahawks...really good teams that are mostly forgotten because they came close to, but never made the Super Bowl.

23
by herewegobrownie... :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:02am

I think their recent struggles being as severe as they are help magnify that forgetting, much as few people remember that the Browns have had 9-7 and 10-6 seasons recently (and part of why the current team is regarded as a paper tiger by so many.)

34
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:09pm

Seeing Jimmy Smith at #2 in the all-time games ... begs the question is he the most underrated WR of all-time?

62
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:02pm

Chase Stuart would say that it's either him or his namesake who used to play for Carolina. And I'd agree with him. He put up really strong yardage numbers on teams that were very run heavy.

10
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 8:57am

Surprised to see Bridgewater rank so high; the 2nd half was pretty much an exercise in avoiding ints, after two blocked punts for tds (somewhere, Bud Grant was smiling) against a team with a bad offense meant the game was over at halftime. I guess 9 for 11 for 90 yards in the first half is pretty good, however.

13
by Guido Merkens :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:11am

DVOA question: once a punt is blocked, does DVOA reward/penalize special teams for recovering the ball and/or returning it for a TD? I'm not sure, but my guess is that DVOA treats a blocked punt like a fumble, where credit is given for the block but not for the recovery. But I'm not sure this is as accurate in the case of a blocked punt; a clean block will almost always be recovered by the defense, while a partial block isn't as good.

16
by SFC B :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:22am

I'd imagine some of the reason for not treating it any different is that blocked kicks of all types happen infrequently, and clean, easily recovered and returned blocks even rarer.

22
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:52am

The return is very random, so I imagine DVOA only factors the block.

I don't care how bad an NFL team's talent is, in this era it is simply inexcusable for a team to get two punts blocked in a game, absent a 2nd string long snapper having a bad game.

11
by Dr. Mooch :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 9:27am

Hopkins had the best game of this century. 2000 was the last year of the last century.

31
by RickD :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:53am

I thought this argument retired 14 years ago.

Yes, you can say that the year 2000 was the last year of the "20th century". Or you can say it's the first year of the 20**s. After all, we commonly refer to decades as the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. In any case, unless a person specifically uses the phrase "20th century", it seems a bit pedantic to insist that he was using the former framework, but incorrectly.

116
by techvet :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:54pm

Nonetheless, Dr. Mooch is correct. The 21st century began on 01/01/2001. The 2000s began on 01/01/2000.

Either way, Hopkins did well and I wonder if he can be picked up on waivers anymore.

57
by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:38pm

I remember when my uncles debated endlessly about that point. I really don't want to even start thinking about it, but it brought back memories.

------
Who, me?

14
by ammek :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:14am

David Patten's entry doesn't add up. Are there some special teams DYAR included in the total?

Very impressive to notch -125 DYAR on 12 dropbacks. Good old Raiders.

19
by Anonymouse :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:43am

I believe he had a passing TD that game too. He had a rushing/receiving and passing TD in the same game at some point in his career, I believe it was that game (I remember the game being the first "test" of Brady, and I was at work, thinking it didn't matter if I listened to the game because the Pats were going to get smoked, and they won like 44-19 or something).

20
by SageofDiscord :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:49am

"When Brady failed to move the ball on first or second down, he usuall [sic] struggled to keep drives alive on third or fourth downs, when he went 6-of-8 for 40 yards and only four first downs."

How is a 50% conversion rate on third and fourth downs "struggling"? Three for seven on third down is pretty much exactly the Patriots' season average (which is already fourth best in the league), and 100% on fourth down is even better. Or put differently, 50% on third and fourth is what the Saints average, and they lead the league in third-down conversion rate.

44
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:50pm

Actually he converted 44%, since he was sacked once, but that's still not struggling. Maybe it's in comparison to Rodgers who converted 9 out of 15 attempts (minus the kneeldown)?

24
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:02am

As a Bills fan, I find it comical that Kyle Orton finished behind Brian Hoyer (though that jives with the eye test), yet Hoyer was the QB in this game that got benched. Kyle Orton is absolutely horrible. Its a shame that the Bills get such poor play from the QB position essentially wasting one of the best defenses the team has had in 20 years.

Now, we go into December with a murderers row of games (@ Den, GB, @ NE, with an @ Raiders to soften the inevitable death strike) and will no doubt have to rely on our defense against these power house offenses to have any shot at making the playoffs. Yeah, good luck with that huh.

On the flipside, if we can beat those teams by some miracle, then I guess the Bills have proven that not only do they belong in the playoffs but they are also a Super Bowl caliber team. Ahhh, one can dream, at least until reality strikes around 7:00 pm on Sunday night.

27
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:09am

It's amazing on what a season turns on, in terms of December relevance. If the Vikings get a stop on a fourth and very long, on the last possession of the game, or otherwise prevent a last second td, and beat the Bills, they now stand 6-6 and still have a realistic, if still not good, chance at the playoffs. I knew that game would haunt them after Thanksgiving.

29
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:43am

Given what Mike Zimmer has had to deal with this season, between ineffective parenting by his star player, a still raw rookie quarterback, an underperforming offensive line, and Christian Ponder appearances, finishing with 6 or 7 wins is an impressive job by him.

43
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:22pm

I really think that if Peterson doesn't get indicted, they are now at least 7-5, and perhaps 8-4, and in the thick of things. Maybe even 9-3. The major reason I would have liked Goodell to not have lied to Peterson, as to what would happen after the charges were adjudicated, is that it would have provided a real examination of the value of a HOF running back in the current passing environment. He would have been coming back, after a bye week, against the Bears, and then been on the field against a team he has had great success against, the Packers, in what was a reasonably close game. Even getting him back in week 11 may have made a dramatic difference.

30
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:47am

The Bills are a better version of the Rams, a team that's only a consistently above-average quarterback away from being really scary. Maybe they can use the Rams' patented upset formula of weird special teams/defensive plays to pull off an upset against one of the powerhouses. I certainly wish them luck against the Packers.

37
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:15pm

I agree 100% with that comparison, the Bills are the AFC version of the Rams.

I try to look for all the (homer) angles when assessing the Bills next match up, doing everything that I can to trump up reasons that they can win. Regardless if its an ill-fated routine. I honestly like the spot the Bills are in here this week. The Broncos are coming off of a very physical divisional game against KC. The Broncos ran the ball 45 times (on 80 total plays) on Sunday Night in 13 degree weather. That takes a physical toll on the offensive line and the RB's (Louis Vasquez the Broncos RT was injured in the 4th quarter of that game and looked banged up when he did return). In the Dolphins game the week before the Broncos ran the ball 35 times (on 71 total plays). That is 80 rushes in 8 quarters, so I can see the Broncos OLine being worn down. Enter the Buffalo Bills defense and the front 4 specifically. The Bills DLine is as dominant of a unit as any across the league and can create pressure without blitzing (and as you know JHP, Schwartz doesnt blitz very much anyway) which will allow secondary and LB'ers to sit in coverage. Most teams dont have a DLine that allows this type of game plan against Manning. But it has been proven to be the most effective plan for containing Peyton Manning. There is a zero percent chance that Denver will be able to run the ball as effectively against the Bills as they have against the Chiefs and the Dolphins, and even if there was a chance, the 80 carries over two games is going to take a toll on that offense as a whole.

The Bills also have the advantage of being sandwiched on the schedule between KC who is a division rival and SD another divisional rival that the Broncos have the week after the Bills on the road. Do the Broncos look ahead? This bills fan sure does hope so.

Anybody buying the "Kyle Orton revenge game"? Nah, me neither lol. But it is an angle... I guess.

As far as GB goes, the current angles are GB coming off of a short week as they play Monday Night against the Falcons, and GB hasnt been as dominant on the road (the game is in Buffalo). Thats about the extent of what I have for that right now, at least until I see what happens after this weekends games.

The Bills should beat Oakland no matter where the game is held.

The NE game is a week 17 game. Maybe, just maybe we get lucky and it can be Garroppolo time as the Pats have already wrapped up HFA and the Bye.

Being a Bills fan is tough y'all lol.

38
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:33pm

Got to be feeling positive about the Bills. Team seems to be improving under Marrone from where it started and ownership situation is now settled.

40
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:48pm

Absolutely!! The team is trending up, even with the frightening QB situation, the overhaul of the roster over the past 3 years has been excellent because the team actually has NFL caliber talent throughout, and its refreshing that the relocation talk has been subdued with the Pegula purchase.

I love Marrone and his coaching staff. The GM Doug Whaley has been incredible IMO and the owner seems to be the type of guy that you can win with because he will keep his nose out of the football side of team operations.

The real test for Marrone is going to be in the development of EJ Manuel. The Bills do not have a 1st round pick this year so the kid has to show signs that he can become "the guy". When a new regime takes a QB with their 1st ever pick and said QB doesnt develop in a passing league, it wont matter how many Jerry Hughes for Kelvin Sheppard type trades you make because you have tied yourself to the QB.

If you go to any Bills message board though, the amount of "fire everybody on the team" is overwhelming. Its one of those instances where you just become dumber by reading the drivel where the lowest common denominator over run the population.

45
by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:08pm

"I love Marrone and his coaching staff. The GM Doug Whaley has been incredible IMO and the owner seems to be the type of guy that you can win with because he will keep his nose out of the football side of team operations."

I think this makes us the only two Bills fans in the universe (or at least that actually post on the internet) that like Marrone and his staff, especially Hackett.

I actually think they've done quite a bit to make the team better. This is not the prevailing opinion.

48
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:21pm

What are these fans comparing to? The vaunted Buddy Nix era?

53
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:21pm

The lowest common denominator my dude. George Carlin said it best when he said "think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that".

I think that quote pretty much applies to all general "fan" message boards.

55
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:32pm

I can confirm that it is just you and I Mike B.

Hackett gets a raw deal from the fans because they arent bright enough to understand the intricacies of the game. The Bills, for the most part do not even get replacement level QB play from that position, have one of the youngest WR's corps in the league, were playing musical chairs on the OLine until the bye week when Kraig Urbik was reinserted into the lineup at LG and were down their starting RB (Spiller) and their 1B option in Fred Jackson (groin injury). How many teams go 4 deep at any position, let alone the RB position? Fred is back now, but they have slowly been bringing him back after he tore the meat from the bone in his groin. Oh and our QB is the Great and powerful "Neckbeard". YUCK. bills Walsh would have had problems with that offense.

The Bills offensive struggles have come down to player execution and its that simple. Its not the coach, its not the OC, its not the scheme. Its player execution, but you cant change the mind of a dullard once their minds are made.

63
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:07pm

"How many teams go 4 deep at any position, let alone the RB position?"

I'm guessing lots of teams go 4 deep at running back. Finding running backs is easy.

64
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:12pm

I agree with the general sentiment, but name a team that is better off having their two best RB's injured and having no drop off in production.

66
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:16pm

I don't think the Patriots would. Jonas Gray anyone?

There are a lot of backs on the waiver wire who probably aren't any worse than a lot of "established starters", they just haven't had the opportunity or the opportunity they did get came behind a bad offensive line.

73
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:36pm

I would argue that Jonas Gray was the benefactor of having a HOF QB taking the pressure off of the running game, a very good offensive line and his match up against a very poor Colts run defense. Which would seem to make more sense than saying Jonas Gray is the next "insert great RB here".

I hate to qualify my post, especially when I generally agree with what you're saying, but the Bills played the Dolphins the week after Spiller and Jackson went down and rushed for 54 total yards because they do not have a QB that scares anyone, were playing a top rushing defense on a short week (Thursday Night game) on the road, and were down their two best backs. The situation for Gray was altogether different.

After reading through my posts today, I see that I have heaped entirely too much praise on the Bills which means the inevitable fall from grace is imminent. Dammit.

74
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:52pm

"would argue that Jonas Gray was the benefactor of having a HOF QB taking the pressure off of the running game, a very good offensive line and his match up against a very poor Colts run defense. Which would seem to make more sense than saying Jonas Gray is the next "insert great RB here"."

Well, yes. The same is true for Blount, Vereen, Boldin and whoever else the Patriots have at running back this week. Pretty much every back is exactly as good as the players around them which is why spending money and high draft picks on them is so very stupid.

78
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:22pm

I couldnt agree with that more. I think this is also true of non-quarterback offensive skill positions as whole.

77
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:22pm

This sort of formulation seems to imply that there is some manner by which you can devote your money to a really good qb, other than having the really good fortune to pick one or sign one. You literally have to spend the money (to a certain level) on players, and if you don't have a good qb on which to spend the money, then you still need to spend on players who can help you win games. Now, obviously, what needs to be avoided is spending a lot of money on guys who aren't productive, and in the worst case scenario, end up saddling you with substantial dead money. However, not paying guys market rates, when those guys are good players, because they aren't qbs, and you don't have a good prospect for qb to spend money on, really isn't advisable, either.

83
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:40pm

"You literally have to spend the money (to a certain level) on players, and if you don't have a good qb on which to spend the money, then you still need to spend on players who can help you win games."

I agree with that, but the players that I am talking about (RB/WR/TE - non-QB offensive skill players) havent been the catalyst to a great team or a Super Bowl winning team without that great QB. You can have as many Calvin Johnsons on your receiving corp as you like, you can have as many Adrian Petersons in your RB stable as you like, but without a top QB or a dominant defense those players do not do enough for the success of a football team to make them worth the number that they will command in FA.

I guess I was referring more to the fact that if I were a GM, I dont think I would ever draft a non-Quarterback offensive skill position in the 1st round. My hypothetical 1st round pick would be used strictly on QB or defense as I know that I can build a "good enough" quality offense to win in the NFL with a standout QB and mid to late round picks at the skill positions.

87
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:03pm

What, you really wouldn't take Randy Moss's rookie contract production, and the effect he had on defenses, if it was available to you? I think Dennis Green in 1998, and Belichik in 2007, thought Moss was an important part of their Super Bowl aspirations. I can guarantee you that Brett Favre in 2009 was very thankful that the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson in 2007 with a number 1 pick, and that team was a play or two away from getting to a very winnable Super Bowl, and the Vikings were very glad to have drafted Harvin in the 1st round that year.

You need a lot of good players to win championships. You should obtain the players who are most obviously good, when afforded the opportunity.

89
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:23pm

Yet none of the teams that you mentioned won a Super Bowl Will. If I put together a team of skill players that I drafted no earlier then the 2nd round through UDFA's all while having an above average QB and a defense littered with 1st rounders I could win a lot of games.

As an example I would say an offense that boasts Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and say Jordan Matthews at WR, with an Arian FOster (UDFA) at RB (all guys drafted from the 2nd round on), I could win a lot of games on a consistent basis without having to spend 1st round picks on these players.

The current rules structure in the NFL favor the offense quite heavily. I think the rule changes should devalue offensive skill positions in the draft. OR maybe I am in the minority here.

92
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:37pm

Oh, c'mon. David Tyree pins a ball to his helmet, after Eli Manning miraculously escapes a sack, so that means Randy Moss wasn't worth a 1st round pick? Gary Anderson misses one field goal, from about 30 yards, all season, and thus the Vikings don't get to the last game, so the selection of Moss is devalued? The Vikings lose in ot on the road to the Saints, after outgaining the Saints by about 250 yards, so that means Peterson's selection is devalued?

With hindsight, I could find great players for every position after the 1st round. That doesn't inform us who should be picked in the 1st round.

104
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:22pm

I am not trying to devalue your point Will or those draft picks. What I am saying is that taking those positions in the 1st round isnt conducive to Super Bowl success and I would say that recent history has proven that point.

I can win games with mid round picks at the skill positions if I am using my 1st round picks stacking my defense.

I am sure every Lions fan here can attest to the stupidity of drafting Wr after Wr in the first during the Millen era.

The Lions are just now starting to become a complete team because they are spending draft picks on the defensive side of the ball as opposed to chasing offensive skill positions.

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by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:27pm

I think it is to entirely misunderstand the meaning of "history" to take the winner of the past 10 or so playoff tournaments as a reasonable facsimile of "history".

What Lions fans can can attest to is that drafting guys who can't play in the 1st round will lose you a lot of games.

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by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 8:45pm

I think you're correct that his examples are shaky, but is your argument anything beyond "if you draft game-changing players at any position, they will change the game!" Yes, putting a once-in-a-generation talent like Randy Moss on your team will have a big effect... unless that team is the Raiders? Anyway, the "don't draft skill position players with high picks" idea is kind of interesting because the NFL and most intelligent fans have accepting that line of think at least when it comes to RB. And as much as Peterson "deserved" his draft spot, everyone can remember Trent Richardson being touted as Peterson 2.0.

Only draft great players like Adrian Peterson and Randy Moss is a fine idea, but I think the question is "assuming a certain % of players will underperform their draft spot and some will be total busts, how do you maximize your choices and are there positions inherently more valuable in terms of the first half of the first round." The NFL agrees that "you should not take RB's." They also tend to agree that there are only a handful of positions worth taking #1 overall, a few more worth taking in the Top 3 and a few more worth taking in the Top 10 - so the basic premise that you're arguing against doesn't seem to be wrong. At least as far as the people paid to make these decisions are concerned.

The poster is taking it one step farther and saying maybe skill position players other than RB should never be taken in the Top 16 slots. That's an interesting idea, although I agree he's trying to prove it unconvincingly by citing only SB results. That's too small a sample size, of course - but is there (and I genuinely don't know the answer) any relationship to awful teams drafting RB, QB, TE and WR in the Top 16? The Lions are an interesting case there because their turnaround is so clearly tied to their decision to start taking d-line with their top picks instead of skill position players.

They went from taking skill position players in the first round in 8 out of 10 drafts to taking taking defensive linemen in 3 out of the last 4 (they also had one pick that was not in the top half of the draft.) They went from being awful to competitive in the same timeframe. I don't think it's as clear cut as that might make it seem, though. For example, their last two skill position players taken in that 8 out of 10 run turned out to be their best: Stafford and Johnson.

But what's interesting and what goes against your "just draft Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson and you'll be good" concept (just joking - I get that you're saying the quality of the player matters more than the position!) is that while those defensive players in Fairley and Ansah have been good, they haven't been Moss/Peterson (or even Stafford/Johnson) level All-World super-pro's. There's an interesting discussion there - can the "don't draft RB's" consensus be taken even farther and apply to all skill position player. Surely Lions fans wouldn't regret a do-over on Eric Ebron and taking Kyle Fuller (or Clinton-Dix) instead.

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by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 9:46pm

My argument isn't anything more than hard and fast rules, as to what positions to draft in the 1st round are dubious, other than the obvious fact that qb is the most important position. The argument put forth said "don't ever", and hardly any arguments about evaluating complex human behaviors are well constructed, when employing the term "don't ever".

The Lions stunk when they drafted bad players like Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, and Roy Williams, in the 1st round. Drafting bad players in the 1st round, whether it is a bad qb, a bad wr, a bad ot, or a bad de, is inadvisable.

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by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:33pm

I was trying to be generous, but "don't draft bad players" is a useless/pointless statement. Obviously, no team intends to draft a bad player, so your statement might be even worse than hard and fast rules about first round drafting. No arguments about human behavior can be well constructed when based on an intentional misrepresentation of the basic premise of the argument.

No team, even the best, hits at 100% in the draft, so thinking about the relationship between draft position and (skill) position is interesting and potentially useful (to the extent that any of this has any purpose whatsoever.)

I don't know if there's anything you meant to say that you just expressed poorly, but come on man "drafting bad players is inadvisable" can't be where you're at with any of this... it's just so... it's weak, man, even by some low standards... And it looks a little bit, like - hey wait, a hard and fast rule that begins with "don't ever" massaged so that you don't say "don't ever!" Please, let me know the times in which it would be "advisable" to draft bad players in the first round. You might say "don't ever do it," if you think about it...

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by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:23pm

"Don't draft bad players" is a more useful statement, with regard to building a good football team, than "don't ever draft an offensive ball handling player other than qb in the first round". The former statement is purely sarcastic, and not really meant to be a guide to any actual individual decision. The latter statement is actively harmful, if followed in specificity, because it will mean actively avoiding players who can help you win games, due to the position they play. I'll be more clear, if it is helpful. Saying any position,other than possibly a kicker or punter (due to the limited snaps they will ever play) should never be drafted in the first round, is a poor way to approach roster construction, because "never" encompasses way too much territory when actually making a specific decision.

I'm sorry my sarcasm was so subtle. I will avoid it in the future.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 12:18am

Being subtle in your sarcasm doesn't work when you're making an argument that (at least in superficial ways) appears to be wrong. It's tough to be effectively sarcastic about an open issue. Also, sarcasm works better when you aren't making the obvious argument against a more subtle, nuanced one. It's intelligible, but can only produce a sigh...

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 1:02am

"Don't ever draft a (insert position here) in the fist round" is neither subtle or nuanced. I'm sorry this had to be explained to you. My sarcastic statement with regard to not drafting bad payers was merely in response to the supposition, mostly specious, that the Detroit Lions in the Millen era could illuminate positional drafting strategies, when all it really does is show that drafting bad players in the 1st round will likely result in a lot of losses. The only argument I actually was making was that hard and fast rules, with regard to who should never be drafted in the first round, are unwise. If you think this is wrong, fine.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 2:22am

Yes "don't ever draft a skill position player in the first half of the first round" is a simple statement. The argument behind it subtle and complex. Certainly more subtle and complex than "it is advisable to not draft bad players." It relies on an analysis of opportunity cost, the relationship between productivity and position, a reviewing draft history and looking at current trends in drafting.

I'm not saying it is correct, only that it is interesting and the argument in favor of it is subtle and complex. It is likely a good idea being taken too far (some positions simply cannot be worth a certain draft positions) and, even if proven (and as I say, it is far from proven thus far) it is probably more useful as a rule of thumb than as an absolute.

"It is inadvisable to draft bad players" is nothing. It's not an argument. It's assumed before any part of the conversation begins. It is an exceptionally low bar to clear for another argument to be more subtle and complex than.

But I'd rather talk about the idea than argue about the argument. There's part of me that feels like you're more caught up in the Vikings angle - they have two draft picks in Moss and Peterson that represent their only meaningful homegrown success in the past 15 years and don't want to consider that their failure to build a consistently winning franchise is related to their only significant recent drafting home-runs. You have an emotional invest in the argument that's tinting your reaction to it.

(Of course, you'll say "no, the problem was drafting christian Ponder" and it's tough to argue with that.)

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 3:25am

Adopting the wholly baseless conceit that you can accurately mind-read the motivations behind what people have written is inadvisable. It is also inadvisable to be so dishonest as to continuously assert that "don't draft bad players" was an argument put forth to counter the "don't draft non qb offensive ballhandlers in the first round", as opposed to a mildly sarcastic remark to counter the specious argument that Matt Millen's drafts could illuminate positional drafting strategy. Why you so frequently choose to be dishonest is puzzling.

If someone had put forth the argument that some positions are less worthy of a first round pick than others, and thus any particular player at such a position had a higher bar to clear to garner such a slot, I'd have no disagreement. That wasn't what was asserted, however.

In any case, at the risk of having my motivations questioned again, I'll note that you don't know what you are talking about, with regard to the Vikings, if "homegrown success" in the past 15 years is to have meaning. Matt Birk was drafted the same year as Moss. He was selected for 6 Pro Bowls and 2 All Pro teams. Kevin Williams was selected to the NFLs 2000s All-Decade team. Percy Harvin was enough of a success for the Seahawks to give up a ton of draft value. Harrison Smith made the All-rookie team for Pro Football Weekly,and has been excellent. Bryant Mckinnie was a very frustrating talent, but started 162 games at left ot in the NFL, including a Super Bowl champion. There are other guys drafted by the Vikings who have made significant contributions. Yes, they have whiffed as well, most notably at qb. Finding good qbs is very hard, and largely a matter of luck. Actually, there is not a lot of evidence that anybody's success in drafting is mostly skill based, as opposed to a random outcome.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 10:06am

I joined this thread late, but just wanted to add my 2 cents regarding Millen's drafting strategy.

Millen's problem, IMO, wasn't that he eschewed linemen/defense and fell in love with the skill positions. It was that the skill position players he took weren't any good.

Admittedly, this in hindsight, but if he took Andre Johnson instead of Charles Rogers (2003), Steven Jackson instead of Roy Williams (2004), or Roddy White instead of Mike Williams (2005), he might still be employed by the Ford Family. And of course nobody is complaining about him taking Calvin Johnson in 2007.

Yes, the draft is mostly a crapshoot (which is why Belichick stockpiles picks), but that doesn't mean there isn't some element of scouting and preparation that can tilt the roulette wheel in your favor. Some franchises consistently draft better than others. Cincinnati's recent run of consistent relevance correlates with Mike Brown actually spending money and expanding his scouting department beyond two guys sitting in a back office.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 1:08pm

Sure, a good evaluator is better than a dart board, and I actually agree with the proposition that some positions warrant a great deal of caution before using a first round pick to fill, especially a 10 pick. It is precisely because I think a good evaluator is better than a dart board, however, that I think it is very unwise to have a hard and fast "Don't pick a non-qb ball handler in the 1st round" rule. If you see a rb or a receiver as obvious as Andrew Luck was a qb, that's a guy who needs to be considered.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 2:20pm

I'm in agreement with you there. So rather than heaping scorn on Cleveland for taking an RB 5th overall, we should be heaping scorn on them for not realizing that maybe Trent Richardson would have a tougher time at the next level without the Alabama offensive line destroying all before it.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 2:29pm

Yeah, like I said in the audible thread, Trent Richardson pretty obviously wasn't going to cause a d-coordinator to fear a long td run every time he took a handoff, and very rarely had to make significant positive yardage, in college, after getting behind or at the line of scrimmage. How they evaluated him so highly is a mystery.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 4:40pm

Look, there are reasonable questions beyond the talent-level of a draftee. "How much more downside is there if Trent Richardson underperforms vs. if a defensive or non-skill position player underperforms?" Also, "how much can a running back ever be worth in today's NFL?" Finally, "Can the likely performance of Trent Richardson be produced without spending a 5th overall pick?" That last one is probably the biggest issue - if you can reasonably expect to find guys to produce at the level you hope your highly drafted RB performs (that is, a reasonable expectation, not the level at which you hope he performs in your wildest dreams) without spending that pick, spending a that pick on him is inadvisable.

And the majority of the best backs in the NFL (Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray and Jamal Charles, to name a few) were not taken with picks in the top half of the first round, there's reason to believe spending a pick there is sub-optimal. None of those guys are even first rounders. If most of the best backs were taken in lower rounds or undrafted altogether, there is no reason to spend a high pick on any RB. I would say the difference between their level of production and the finest home-run highly drafted RB pick of the past 15 years (Adrian Peterson) is arguable at best. So, attempting to draft Adrian Peterson with the 5th overall pick is suboptimal even in the event you end up with Adrian Peterson and not Trent Richardson - that's without even factoring in that there's a decent chance that even a reasonably productive RB taken that high will not turn out to be Adrian Peterson. Even in the best case scenario (Adrian Peterson) it's tough to argue it was an optimal use of the draft pick.

Almost all GM's agree with me that taking a RB is the top half of the draft is sub-optimal. TE has definitely not been a consistent top half of 1st round pick for a while. I think it's probably coming that you see fewer WR's taken that high as well. Which... more or less confirms the NFL's GM's agree with the original poster's point about skill position players and the draft. It's not a question of "should you draft Adrian Peterson or not" but "does taking any RB, even Adrian Peterson, with the 5th overall pick represent an inefficient and counter-productive use of a draft pick?" As a Vikings fan, you likely love Peterson, but don't let that get in your way...

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by tuluse :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:01pm

I would bet the opposite. That tight-ends and receivers valuations go up as the league becomes more and more passing dominated.

Everyone is going to want the next Gronk, Graham, J. Thomas, etc.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:18pm

But you can get Julius Thomas in the third round. You can get Rob Gronkowski in the second round. You're right that the bad GM's will chase potential Gronkowski's into the Top 15, but good ones will move on to exploiting other inefficiencies. That's what bad GM's do: they jump up for the next Adrian Peterson and end up with the next Trent Richardson, they salivate over the next Gronkowski and take a TE in the top 5. Meanwhile, Belichick will dig up another Gronkowski or Welker that nobody sees coming. But regardless of the future, right now, those positions are on a downswing as far as draft position is concerned.

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by tuluse :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 6:22pm

You can *now*, but not necessarily in the future.

Without one of the top 2 QBs in the game, I'm not sure you can just ignore skill position players. Look at Kurt Warner playing with 2 great receivers vs none in his career. Look at how Drew Brees has fared based on his offensive teammates.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:12pm

The poster's point was that a running back or receiver should never be taken in the 1st round. "Never" is a poor word to use in a context such as this.

Again, your going to motive, in response to what other people have written, is extraordinarily tiresome.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:20pm

First off, he said in the top half of the first round. Big difference. And why can't you admit you're a fan of Peterson and Moss which colors your opinions? It's not a slight to suggest somebody has feelings and emotions, you know...

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:28pm

In this thread, the quote was...

"I dont think I would ever draft a non-Quarterback offensive skill position in the 1st round."

Why do you find it useful to be so dishonest as to pretend to know what motivates a person to write what they have? It really doesn't add any strength to your argument, you know..

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:32pm

You're mistaking that I have an argument. I'm curious about an idea and exploring it because the NFL's drafting trends seem to support its legitimacy. I only question your motives because you seem to get really upset and I'd like to calm you down to continue a discussion that I think is fun. I'm trying to figure out why you're upset and I personally don't think I'm being dishonest, so I'm trying to communicate with you. Relax man, this is all fluff.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:46pm

Again with the mind reading. Noting your dishonesty, and the tiresome nature of speculating about motive, is not proof of being upset.

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by nat :: Thu, 12/04/2014 - 10:52am

At
times
like
this
I
miss
the
old
unthreaded
comments!

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by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 12/04/2014 - 2:23pm

I think there's too much tension between those two, they should just kiss and get over it.

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by chemical burn :: Thu, 12/04/2014 - 6:16pm

If it would make Will understand there's no animosity, I would do it!

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by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 12/04/2014 - 6:29am

Re: Good evaluator vs dart board. It occurs to me that "taking the best player available" is a system akin to the dart board. When you look at many things you finding have a system usually outperforms most humans and almost certainly does in the longterm. If you pick the best player available you are in theory guaranteeing the greatest chance of succeeding. (Of course how you then evaluate b.p.a. is another matter entirely).

As for your 2nd ("Andrew Luck") point - I agree. Have a rule that says "don't do it" but occasionally be willing to break the rule. Which is why I semantically tend to stay away from rules and prefer to go on guidelines!

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by chemical burn :: Thu, 12/04/2014 - 6:46pm

Look, the best player available thing is a fantasy and everyone knows it. Even if all of the wr's that Matt Millen drafted had panned out, taking that many in a row with your first pick is a failing strategy. Hell, it's worse if they're all Calvin Johnson's because the value of a #3 wr is never going to be worth the second overall pick. If you already have 2 Megatrons on your roster and you take a 3rd, you're wasting a top pick on a #3 wr! That obviously won't be maximizing your chances of winning. And again, definitely won't be maximizing the value of your pick, which is your primary goal as a GM.

In a draft, all of your competitors are also drafting, which makes things more complicated than simply taking the best player. It's a competitive scenario, not a neutral one. It's not the Pro Bowl. Everyone knows this - it's so obvious as to be indisputable. Find me a single team that has consistently inarguably drafted the best player with no other considerations - the closest I can think of is the Matt Millen Lions. If you want that to be the GM your team's GM imitates, you're welcome to it.

And another point being over-looked here is that any given pick has a a range of possible productivity that influences the meaning of the word "best" - most players will never live up to what you perceive as their ceiling and most will not perform down to their talent-floor. When you say "best player" do you mean "player with the highest upside" or "player you believe with the highest upside in your team's system" or "player most likely to deliver above average production" or "player most likely to have the biggest impact on your team's success?" They're all different ideas and they're all things that could easily be influenced by a player's position.

I'll concede the hard and fast "no hard and fast rules" rule, but player position is something that it seems like should be (and in the car of RB's already is) related to draft position. We know teams like to take LT's, QB's, DT's and DE's with the very top picks - what's their thinking? These positions the best balance of upside and downside? That they are most likely to have the biggest impact on a team's success? That Luke Joeckel, Eric Fischer and Lane Johnson are literally 3 of the best 4 the best players available in that draft? If, "well, duh, BPA is shorthand for all that!" then what are we arguing?

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by RickD :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:10pm

If you have a high quality QB, a high quality defense, and no receivers, you have the 2006 Patriots. If you add Wes Welker and Randy Moss to that team, you get the 2007 Patriots. Need I say more?

Based on recent production from high QB picks, it would be quite easy to argue that most early picks of QBs high in the first round are themselves wasted pick. We've had this discussion many times at FO. For every Peyton Manning there's more than one Ryan Leaf.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 2:24am

But we're talking about drafting. (It really was amazing that they got Welker and Moss in that 2007 draft!) That they actually bought low (extremely low) on Welker and Moss outside of the draft is in favor of the argument being advanced above, not against it.

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by tuluse :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 12:02pm

I think the Colts were pretty happy drafting Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, and Tarik Glenn high.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 3:08pm

Were they? The original (specious) argument being advanced was that teams built around high draft of skill position players win championships at a surprisingly low rate while teams using high draft picks on defensive players win championships at surprisingly high rates. Certainly, those Colts teams that were repeatedly undone in the playoffs by their defense aren't an argument against what the original poster was saying.

Not that I agree, but in trying to disprove it, you're echoing the original argument. This is the idea: an ostensibly dominant team like the Manning Colts theoretically should have won more championships than they did and didn't specifically because of how they were constructed. Once upon a time, FO even had an article entitled "Why Doesn't Polian's Shit Work in the Playoffs?" looking at this phenomenon, so it's not like this is a totally out of bounds perspective.

(And remember the argument is all about drafting...)

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 3:18pm

And this ties in to the conversation with Will above, where obviously teams are happy drafting players like Randy Moss and Peyton Manning, but is there something totally counterintuitive going on where maybe taking players like that are getting in the way of winning championships (the strange lack of championships for those amazing players being a weirdly glaring recent phenomenon and somewhat at odds with the rest of NFL history where the best offensive players - Rice, Favre, the 90's Cowboys - all won a bunch of championships.)

I'm not saying the idea is correct and it's definitely somewhat incoherent and reliant on small sample sizes, but there's something there - again, see the recent trend of GM's refusing to take RB's in the top half of the first round. The 2007 Patriots coming up is actually fascinating because it supports the original poster's argument: you can get world-class offensive skill position players for small potatoes. Moss, Welker and Brady were all had on the cheap. The flipside of the argument, which I haven't seen discussed one way or the other is that world-class defensive players generally can't be had with the "modest shopper" mentality.

Hence: take defensive players in the top half of the first round and don't take skill position players. If you can build a team like the 2007 Patriots without using top picks on skill position players, why would you ever go the Harrison/Glenn/Manning Colts route and find your players that way? Again, not sure there's only one way to do things, but it's an interesting take on a seemingly exploitable market function...

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 4:36pm

It is not predictable that you will get a chance to put a HOF receiver, at near the pick of his abilities/performance, for next to nothing, after he has been in the league a decade. It's great when it happens, but it can't be counted on, just like you can't count on drafting a HOF qb in the 6th round, or drafting cb performance like that delivered by Richard Sherman in the fifth.

What is happening today is no more weird than Marino never having won a championship, or Elway not having won one by his 37th birthday, or Dan Fouts never winning one, or Tim Brown never winning one, or James Lofton never winning one, etc., etc.

The hardest and fastest rule is that it is a lot easier to win a championship with a great qb, and even that isn't completely hard and fast, and, more importantly, nobody has a repeatable successful strategy for obtaining a great qb. If you do stumble into one, however, then a lot more paths open up for successfully filling out a roster that will win a lot of games, and the environment gets a lot more forgiving of mistakes made elsewhere. In contrast, get stuck with bad qb play for a long time, then you need to be almost flawless with your other decisions.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 4:52pm

I disagree - you should always be trying as a franchise to find the Marshawn Lynch, Randy Moss, Corey Dillon obviously-talented malcontents available on the cheap. You can't find Randy Moss with any regularity because he's a once-in-a-generation talent, but you can consistently get Darren Sproles or Lynch or Welker or Danny Woodhead for less than their true value. As I point out above, the vast majority of the best backs in the NFL are not first-rounders.

If you can build the Manning Broncos and 2007 Patriots without spending a single pick in the first half of the first round on a non-QB skill position player, that's what you want to do. Yes, a guy like Luck or Manning or Marino is always going to change a team's fortunes, but beyond that a good GM should be asking himself constantly "where are the market inefficiencies?" And high draft picks on non-QB skill position players right now seem to be one of the most inefficient uses of a pick out there.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:04pm

Of course, I didn't say you shouldn't try. I said that it was not reliable way to pick up HOF-caliber performance. You can't develop useful rules based upon tiny samples. What you see as market inefficiency may be nothing more than a random outcome. By all means, sign players for cheap when you think they can help you win. Don't fool yourself into seeing a pattern in a tiny sample, however.

134
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 3:40pm

To be honest, I reject the entire idea of using Super Bowl wins a reasonable metric for success.

135
by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 3:59pm

Yeah, it is almost depressing that such a dubious metric is so persistent, among people who actually devote a lot of time to thinking about the topic.

136
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 4:13pm

Sure, but what if you expand it to playoff wins? A more significant swath of samples, but with stiffer competition than the regular season. Also, the basic idea of "you can build the 2007 Patriots without using a high draft pick on any offensive skill position player, therefore building a team the way the Colts did is sub-optimal" doesn't rely on playoff or Superbowl success to be true.

Conversely, I can't think of any team with any excellent defense that didn't build mainly through the draft: all of the recent Ravens, Buccaneers, Steelers and Bears teams to have consistent defensive success all built through the draft (although not sure about draft position of the major players for those teams like Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu, Urlacher, Warren Sapp -which is really the most important aspect.) And again, the Lions are a recent example of a team on the upswing that has used recent high picks on defensive players...

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 4:56pm

At most, a team can win four playoff games in a year, and it has to be bad enough to not get the bye to accomplish that. Catch a bad break in the 1st playoff game, and you don't get a chance to get back to .500 for the year. Change a few plays, and even the best playoff records, like Belichik's, changes dramatically The one and done format makes performance evaluation by playoff wins problematic.

Two of the Seahawks key starters on defense were drafted in the 5th round. That's luck married to good coaching. James Harrison was undrafted and cut 4 times before he stuck with a team; that's not a repeatable way to obtain a HOFer. I actually agree that given the problematic nature of getting a great qb, one must be open to building a roster with a defensive orientation. Overall, I'd say guys like Belichik and Parcells have the most sound approach; don't fall in love with one way to build a roster which wins games.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:10pm

The relationship between coaching and drafting is a separate issue: no matter who Pete Carroll puts in his secondary, they look amazing and no matter who Dick LeBeau lines up at LB, they looks amazing. There are those quirks of individual teams that should effect their drafting strategies.

I wouldn't lump Belichick in the "great" category in any discussion of drafting - for a coach clearly as brilliant as he is, he's blown a strange amount of picks. I don't know what to make of it and since his teams are always good, I would never second-guess him, but he really doesn't seem like a useful model to imitate. And for a guy putting forth the "just draft good players!" argument, he seems like a particularly weird example to cite. Whatever he's doing, he's not just trying to find the most talented players available with his picks (he's very willing to risk doing the inadvisable thing and, for whatever reason, take bad players with his high picks) - he's probably the paragon of counterintuitive draft strategies.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:16pm

Of course, I wasn't referring to drafting alone when referring to Belichik, and I'll note again that you have chosen once again to be dishonest in discussing what I've written. Why don't we just end this, ok?

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:24pm

It's not dishonest to mention Belichick's drafting history during a discussion of drafting strategies. It would be exceptionally weird not to. And if you're not talking about his drafting history and reject his "small sample size" success in finding guys like Moss, Welker and Dilllon, what are you bringing him up for? I think you're over-reacting to a conversation - I'm exploring an idea. It's not something I had thought about much before it got brought up. I like responding to the counter-arguments not because I'm interested in "winning" but as a way of exploring the idea. Don't get upset, it's all cool, man!

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:42pm

No, you are lying when you put forth the assertion, using quotation marks, that my argument is "just draft good players!" , when what I've actually written is that there is inadequate data to form hard and fast rules as to what positions should be reserved for the 1st round. Noting that you consistently misrepresent, for some unfathomable reason, what has been previously written is not an example of being upset. Also, why a person who is interested in exploring an idea would consistently speculate about the motives of the person they are engaged with is beyond bizarre, if you aren't interested in "winning" above all else. Look, it seems whenever you and I discuss something, I end up noting on several occasions that you have misrepresented what I've written. I'll really try to keep my promise; if you don't engage with me, I'll be very happy to not respond to anything you've written. I do this for fun and to kill time, and the former part of the equation is missing for me.

97
by RickD :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:05pm


Pretty much every back is exactly as good as the players around them which is why spending money and high draft picks on them is so very stupid.

That's what the Patriots thought when they let Curtis Martin go. It's really not that simple. If it were that easy, Laurence Maroney wouldn't have been the object of contempt for many years. Guy refused to simply hit the hole and run!

Not all RBs are equal. I agree that there are plenty of serviceable backs, but there's still a need to differentiate between the good and the bad and the few very good.

Adrian Peterson deserved to be drafted early, and so did Marshall Faulk, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith.

84
by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:42pm

I found the "Kyle Orton, Savior" mentality to be frankly hilarious, as he's usually below replacement level. Last year when they were a run-first-second-and-third team playing uptempo, they were moderately successful. This year they've been more successful by letting the defense win the battles for them and getting just enough offense to get it done (unless they're playing the Jets).

Manuel was not seeing open receivers. Orton makes better reads, but inexplicably brainlocks a couple of times a game in key situations (is this a QB Chicago thing?)

Really, I think completely changing the offensive complexion of a team and having it be even moderately successful is usually the sign of good coaches, not bad ones.

I expect them to drop at least two (and probably three) of the next four, but I'll take 8-8 given the surroundings.

94
by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:46pm

FWIW I'm not a huge Bills fan but I do like Marrone. I'd be very interested in seeing what he would do with that offense if he had a good quarterback.

I'd need a lot of selling to be convinced Whaley's not an idiot, though, even if you assign 100% of the Manuel blame to Nix . And that goes well beyond trading this year's pick for a WR when he knew (or should've known) he didn't have a QB.

128
by Mike B. In Va :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 12:31pm

I think given the other roster moves Whaley's made (trading Sheppard for Hughes, making the draft day trade for Bryce Brown with the pick he got for Stevie Johnson, signing Corey Graham, etc.) that it's hard to say he's an idiot. He's completely remade the roster with talented guys, most of whom have contributed in one way or another. They haven't all worked out, but a lot of them have. The real test will be to see if he can keep the core together long enough to get passable QB play from somewhere.

If ownership isn't changing, I don't think that trade gets made. I'm not as concerned about it, anyway - the "franchise QB" isn't going to be there when they draft (if there's more than Mariota in this draft), although you could argue that an end to replace Hughes might be missed out on because of it, or a better O-Lineman. Watkins will be a good player, and with the way Woods is rounding out those two could be a good pairing for a reclamation QB (RGIII? Bradford? Not that I'm in love with either idea).

At least there's a plan. Nix always seemed to be flailing.

39
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:34pm

It would be interesting to go back and look what the Schwartz-coached Tennessee defenses did against Manning. Of course, that was last decade, so things have changed quite a bit. Manning will definitely have to win that game. The Buffalo run defense is not the Kansas City run defense.

As far as Green Bay, not blitzing, staying back in coverage, and generating pressure with your front four is the only hope to stop Rodgers when he's on his game. Schwartz knows that better than anybody given his time in Detroit.

46
by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:11pm

Yeah, I think the Bills are built pretty well to handle the Packers, although losing McKelvin for the season really hurt that.

I have no idea how Manning will handle them, but I suspect it will be by picking on the safeties.

52
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:13pm

Slow day in car sales today so I went to PFR to find the statistics.

Schwartz was hired as DC in Tennessee starting with the 2001 season. Because the divisions wouldnt realign until 2002, Schwartz didnt game plan Manning until 2002 when they both joined the AFC South.

14 games they played from 2002-2008 (of course Schwartz went on to coach your Lions in '08). I think this is great BTW because Schwartz has to "know" Manning more than any other coach not named Jeff Fisher. I think this is an advantage for Schwartz, as small as it may be. Anyway, Mannings record against the Titans was 9-5. Mannings raw numbers look like this over that same time span:

297-422, 3,477 yards, 23 TD's / 12 INT's. Mannings average numbers against a Schwartz-led defense read as follows:

21.2 completions on 30.1 attempts. A 248 yard average with 1.6 TD's per game and .8 INT's.

I think the most important number there is the number 14, which is the number of times that Schwartz has game planned a Peyton Manning offense. After that many games, I would think that Schwartz has a very good idea of what Manning is going to do i.e his tendencies, what works and what doesnt, etc. If the Bills can hold him to 1-2 TD's and force an interception or two, I like their chances all things considered. Schwartz has the ability and the defense to replicate the type of game plan that STL used in holding the Bronco offense down. A Bills/Broncos "Any Given Sunday" article would really make me smile.

54
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:27pm

The reverse is true too. Manning has played a Schwartz-led defense 14 times as well.

BTW, those numbers are really good. Now other than maybe the 2007 Titans, none of those prior teams were as good defensively as this Buffalo team, but I can't see them limiting Denver the way STL did in Denver.

58
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:40pm

That's a fair point, but I find solace in the familiarity that a good DC like Schwartz has with a very good defense like the Bills have in at least containing a QB of Mannings standing.

Manning is going to be Manning, but there were some really bad Tennessee teams throughout those 14 meetings.

Full disclosure, I am trying to find whatever sliver of hope I can cling to while the games still matter for Buffalo. Its been a VERY LONG time since the Bills have played meaningful football in December lol.

82
by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:35pm

Yes, and the last two times didn't end well, sadly.

85
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:51pm

Well, there's no shame in losing to Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and/or Aaron Rodgers to get knocked out of the playoffs, as opposed to losing to Tommy Maddox and his Steelers Backups Band at home.

91
by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:35pm

I'm not even a Bills fan and that hurts...

93
by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:37pm

The last playoff game?

The Music City Miracle.

106
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:36pm

AS a die-hard football fan/geek/nerd... Those two games are incredibly difficult to think about.

There is not a more gutless, heartless team in NFL history than that of the 2004 Buffalo Bills. To lose that game to a Steeler squad of backups and also rans, on your HOME turf no less, is about the most embarrassing display of professional athletics anyone will ever witness. Three turnovers, twelve penalties and going 0-6 on 3rd down in a must win during a 6 game winning streak? Embarrassing and I am still not over it.

125
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 9:40am

Heh, sorry to touch a raw nerve.

As Lions fan, I had a similar situation in the 2000 season. The Lions were 9-6 and held the tiebreaker over the 9-6 Greatest Show on Turf Rams for the 6th seed. They only had to beat the Shane Matthews-led 4-11 Bears to secure a playoff spot. So of course, Charlie Batch gets injured, his backup Stoney Case plays terribly, Herman Moore drops an easy TD pass, and they lose on a last-second 54 yard field goal and miss the playoffs. Ownership responds by firing everybody, and bringing in....Matt Millen.

Yea, that game still haunts me.

159
by ZDNeal :: Fri, 12/05/2014 - 1:49pm

Ouch.

41
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:53pm

double post

117
by techvet :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 12:00am

As a Packers fan, I looked it up. Orton lifetime against the Packers is 4-2 and beat them in their only loss in the 2011 regular season (KC). Aaron Rodgers is 1-0 lifetime against the Bills, but has never played against them at RWS.

28
by RickD :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:32am

"Hopkins and the Texans spent most of the first half taking what the Texans gave them"

edit check

32
by SFC B :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:54am

He also called "Hopkins" the name of college teammate "Watkins" in one of the 3rd down catch paragraphs.

47
by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:12pm

I was thinking that Sammy must have run a really impressive route...

33
by Paul R :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:04pm

Probably not the best idea to put Hopkins on my Loser League team.
I knew he would get lots of targets, but I didn't think it was possible for anyone to catch that many Fitzpatrick/Mallett/Savage-quality passes.

42
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:18pm

Watching film of that game was probably not fun for the Tennessee secondary. Yeesh.

59
by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 3:43pm

If it makes you feel any better, I drafted by Hilton and Hopkins on my regular FF team this year, and both were on the bench for their respective awesome games.

115
by Paul R :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:48pm

Ouch!

Hey, do a Colts fan a favor and bench Hilton for the playoffs, okay? You might have a good reverse jinx going.

35
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:13pm

Almost every week Derek Carr seems to be at the bottom of the QB table yet the general commentary is that he's looking good as the face of the franchise.

I assume that it is the lack of running game / WR talent that is pushing him down rather than genuinely being bad and the commentators just being hopeful

65
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:13pm

It will be interesting to see what the Raiders do with the number 1 pick, which I assume they have just about locked up. I don't watch college ball so Mariota (who seems to be the consensus number 1) is a blank slate with me.

If he's good, passing him up because "we just took Derek Carr" would be a massive mistake, similar to how teams like the Vikings, Jags and Titans passed on Russell Wilson because they'd just taken an inferior QB with a higher pick the year before.

Carr's total numbers aren't that bad for a rookie, especially one on a talent poor team, but he doesn't look promising. His horrific yards per attempt numbers are scary. I normally prefer bad rookies to be decent on a per attempt basis, but turn the ball over too much e.g young Peyton Manning. The most similar rookie QB to Carr would be Joey Harrington and I can't find a good QB who had anywhere near such bad Y/A and NY/A numbers as a rookie as Carr has.

67
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:26pm

Russell Wilson was a 3rd round pick. Teams were not passing on him just because they had drafted a QB recently.

71
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:33pm

I think one of the Jags / Vikes / Titans would have taken him before the Seahawks if they weren't "committed" to a prior year first round QB. Hell, Jacksonville took a punter before WIlson because "we want a starter, not a backup".

72
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:35pm

I'm pretty sure the Vikings were not going to take a qb in the 2012 draft, because they had taken one in the first round of the 2011 draft, and still thought he pick was decent.

88
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:12pm

I dont see how any GM in his right mind could give up on Derek Carr after one season, especially on a talent poor team like the Raiders.

You said yourself that Carrs numbers aren't that bad for a rookie, and that is true, but comparing Carrs situation to "young" Manning is apples and oranges IMO. "Young" Manning had Marshall Faulk in the backfield and Marvin Harrison at WR and Mannings AY/A is only .2 percent better than Carrs (5.2 to 5.0).

There is a lot to like about Carr IMO. He has the arm to make all the throws, he is mobile enough to use his feet as weapon, the guy doesn't take sacks and barely turns the ball over. I think he has been as successful as one could hope in a situation as poor as the Raiders. I mean with their insistance to start Darren McFadden and MJD over a stud in the waiting Latavious Murray is baffling to say the least and quite the "Raiders thing to do". The fact that the raiders have absolutely no one worth mentioning at WR, that is unless you think James Jones who should be a 3 or a 4 in your receiving corp, is actually a capable 1 (he isnt) and the fact that their defense consists of Khalil Mack, Sio Moore and the corpses of once great veterans. I think he has done a pretty good job with the deck so heavily stacked against him.

The best thing for the raiders to do with that pick is to mortgage to a team in desperate need of a QB for a RG3 type of trade, or simply select the best defensive player available. I wouldnt give up on Carr yet.

95
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:50pm

I don't think they should give up on Carr, but QB is an important enough of a position that I think what the Seahawks did to end up with Russell Wilson (or the Chargers to end up with Philip Rivers) is not a bad way to go, especially considering how much of an impact a QB has in today's pass-friendly NFL. I don't think it's a bad thing to have a handful of unproven QB's with upside on your roster - if they bring in Mariota and he decisively wins the starting job over Carr, that's great. Vice versa, that's also great. And it' not like this year's draft (the draft coming after the 2014 season, I mean) is like last year's where the consensus seemed to be "eh, are any of these QB prospects even any good?" and it's not clear there's a QB even worth taking in the first round, let alone Top 3.

Mariota and Winston are both standout prospects (although I would be happy if Winston died in a fire!) so what's the harm in letting Carr beat either of them out for the starting job? And if he only edges them in training/camp preseason and then is so-so again in 2015, then you've got a back-up with some on-the-bench learning time to insert into the line-up ASAP and won't have to worry if the 2016 draft features a lot of Blake Bortles/Teddy Bridgewater type prospects. And the new CBA structures contracts so that taking a #1 overall won't be the millstone that Sam Bradford or Alex Smith's contracts were. (Speaking of Smith, there's another good example of bringing in high upside players to compete with the unproven starter - although Kaepernick has hardly looked like a world-beater recently.)

The Raiders are a talent-poor team, so I understand wanting to try to flip to the pick and fill as many holes as possible on the roster, but a franchise QB is worth more than collection of three B/B+ players. Maybe Carr's that guy. Maybe Mariota's that guy. Carr and Mariota's talent levels are questions both far from being settled. Wouldn't you prefer if your team maximized their chances of bringing in the next Aaron Rodgers (a first rounder taken when the HOFer starting for them was still playing at an All-Pro level) or Russell Wilson (taken after the Seahawks had just invested in the hottest free agent QB of the off-season) or Chargers (who got rid of Drew freakin' Brees!?) You don't want to be the Jaguars or Rams or pre-Harbaugh 49er's who wasted half a decade or more giving their top prospect time to conclusively fail without significant competition for the starting job.

100
by D2K :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:11pm

My problem with that is if the Raiders take Mariota or god forbid Winston, the general consensus from the fan base and the media is going to be Mariota was drafted number 1 overall, he should be the starter, or how can you start the 2nd round prospect over the number 1 overall pick? I just dont think it would be a very fair evaluation, especially when you consider who the owner is in Oakland.

If the Raiders cant fix the roster outside of the QB position, it simply wont matter who the QB is because he isnt going to get a fair shake.

IMO, I dont know how much stock to actually put into Mariota as a "top prospect" anyway. mark Helfrich (Oregon Coach) runs the exact same offense that Chip Kelly was running as Helfrich was Oregons OC under Kelly. Its hard for me to think that Mariota is a transcendent talent when we have seen the success of that offense with MULTIPLE QB's at both Oregon (NCAA) and in Philly (NFL).

What happens when Oakland drafts him and he is running a system that is completely foreign to Mariotas' skill set?

I also dont think that if the Raiders can move the pick that they would have to drop out of the top 3-7 picks, which in turn would potentially bring a better player then a B/B+ type of prospect.

103
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:21pm

If the Raiders can't get a great offer, they should take whatever player they think will be most likely to earn multiple All Pro honors. I don't think there's a qb that qualifies.

107
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 8:11pm

Just a minor quibble about Kelly and only because I've had to bring it up so much on this website: Kelly has produced exactly one above average passer in the NFL: Nick Foles. Vick, Barkley and now Sanchez have all according to DVOA been somewhere between bad and awful as passers. I know nothing about Mariota other than that people love him. To me, he resembles Wilson, a prospect that some people were passionately touting was one of the best QB prospects of the past 15 years and that other people very casually dismissing as an NFL prospect.

But to answer your questions, if they draft Mariota and he stinks, then he's not named the starting QB. Carr is. Which means Carr can at least win a starting job, which is something. Carr stinks even worse, that's a problem that won't be solved by giving him another year at the helm or by slipping their pick for an additional pair of first round picks (which I think teams are going to be very hesitant to do this year of all years just because the Griffin disaster is so fresh in people's minds.) If the Raiders fans are crying for Mariota/Winston to get a chance over Carr, that means Carr isn't performing well enough. You don't want a QB who is just barely good enough winning the starting job. You want one who has removed all doubt, a la Wilson. Or at least making it a battle between potential HOFers, like River and Brees. If your team's problem is "we have to get rid of Drew Brees to start Philip Rivers," you do not have a problem. And it's not like the Chargers were a powerhouse then: they, too, had a ton of holes on their roster and were frequently a Raiders-esque punchline. Maybe having a hole at QB is simply a bigger issue than definitely having a hole at CB or G. Or T or RB or literally anywhere else on the roster.

Look at it this way: if the Raiders take Mariota/Winston in the draft, the worst case scenario is probably Cleveland this year. They have an incumbent who showed (very limited) potential last year in Hoyer. He takes the starting job decisively, comes out and wins a bunch of games and pins Manziel to the bench. In those wins, Hoyer never looks amazing and at times looks absolutely awful. Then Manziel starts getting brought into games and doesn't look very good either.

This is not actually a terrible situation for a bad-to-mediorce team to be in: they don't feel bound to stick with Hoyer "because he's winning" and deserves a chance to be a starting QB, nor do they have to then have to worry about what to do with signing/flipping him in the off-season despite his apparent shakiness. This is something that frequently happens to bad franchises like the Browns/Bills/Raiders: they give a longterm contract to a mediocre-to-bad QB because of a few wins and feel the pressure to luck the guy up from a fan-base desperate for any semblance for winning ways. You don't want your team to get trapped in those Fitzpatrick/Derek Anderson deals. Because they have Manziel in their pocket they don't feel the pressure to lock up Hoyer. That's good - premature "this guy is our future!" declarations about shaky players are almost always a disaster. You don't want to Raiders doing that with Carr if they get out to a 6-3 record next year after upsetting the Broncos in week 9 if he's still playing at the level he's played at thus far. Trust me, plenty of Browns fans were calling for that sort of thing right after the Steelers blowout - a lot of "we should flip Manziel now while his stock is still high" talk that assumed Hoyer was a very good player.

The downside is that Manziel has looked terrible in both the preseason and just now in his first action of the regular season. (Also: he seems to be a bit of a clown.) Has he looked worse than Hoyer? (Or Carr?) That's debatable. But he's young and if they decide to give him the reigns next year, there's still plenty of room for growth and reason to believe he might pan out. If the Raiders take Winston, that's basically their worst-case scenario. A more upbeat scenario is that Mariota is a better prospect than Manziel in terms of having no off the field issues and his reputation not being partially the product of the hype that inevitably surrounds bigtime college football programs.

You're watching the Browns begin to work their way out of a decade and a half of mismanagement, the Raiders can learn from it. The Browns' unwillingness to use their constant high picks on non-QB's because they have needs in all areas and already have marginal talents like Derek Anderson, Kelly Holcomb and Brady Quinn on the roster didn't save them, it doomed them. To me, Carr is exactly the kind of Brady Quinn/Brandon Weeden-esque prospect you don't want to stake your future on without a back-up plan. That's the kind of move the Jaguars and Raiders continue to make. Moving on from Weeden with a swiftness that was as surprising as it was necessary is the kind of move good teams make.

You might say "Carr and Mariota both turn out to be terrible is the worst-case scenario, isn't it?" but I'm not so sure. If both are apparently awful and without potential, then the Raiders can draft a QB in the 2016 draft... which is exactly what they'd be doing if Carr by himself didn't pan out. Missing the opportunity to maximize talent at the QB position is the real disaster. If either Mariota or Winston becomes a HOFer and the Raiders pass on them, you as a fan will spend the rest of your life as a fan saying "I can't believe we passed on that guy because we had Derrick freakin' Carr." The decision will simply be added to the annals of horrible Raider managerial incompetence...

(And remember, my opinions on what they should do are heavily influenced by the consensus that this upcoming draft is a strong one for QB's. If this conversation were happening over a notoriously bad crop of QB prospects like last years, my attitude would be a little different.)

36
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:14pm

Lots of spelling errors fixed. Sorry about that, Vince finishes this up very late at night on Mondays.

I also changed above to note that the list of best games I sent him was missing the playoffs. Whoops. My fault.

I'll answer the blocked punt question in the DVOA commentary later today.

And yes, David Patten threw for a touchdown in that game, one of the great Brady-Manning classics that few people outside of New England remember because Brady-Manning wasn't "Brady-Manning" yet.

49
by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:38pm

Can we give Geno Smith an honorary extra negative 50 DYAR or something for his team not even trusting him to throw the ball 15 times (with 4 of his attempts coming when they absolutely HAD to pass!).

I had the pleasure of attending the game and a very large contingent of Dolphins fans chanted "Here we go, Geno! Here we go, Geno!" whenever the Jets offense took the field. It was a crappy game, but great to see the Jets fail in such comical fashion.

90
by Led :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:34pm

The kicker is that they did their darndest to keep Geno from losing the game, and he basically did anyway by taking two killer sacks that forced long FGs (whick Folk missed).

96
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:52pm

That was entirely the fault of coaching. If you don't trust the QB to pass against a stacked box on first down, what do you expect to happen against a heavy blitz behind an OL that couldn't pass protect worth a damn?

They run on those two plays and NY walks away a winner.

68
by 09dgceph :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:26pm

So am I misunderstanding, or are the updated playoff odds showing me that the Patriots got a significant WEI DVOA bump from their loss, while the Packers fell back a bit? Very interesting, and to me unexpected.

80
by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:27pm

Without taking a closer look, I'd guess this has more to do with the early bad NE games (especially the Chiefs game) declining in weight than it has to do with the last game.

Maybe GB is also losing some contribution from their earliest blowout victories?

81
by 09dgceph :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:33pm

Smart, thanks Arkaein. I hadn't considered that, really curious to see the breakdown. GB started poorly, which is the only thing that has me still wondering. But yes, there is much more context to be considered.

101
by RickD :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:15pm

Yes, this is the week the Chiefs game starts decreasing in importance, IIRC. Eight weeks out. GB blew out the Bears in Week 4.

102
by 09dgceph :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:19pm

Thanks RickD. So the Packers 1-2 start was already behind them, so to speak, but now they 'lose' a big win over the Bears, while the Patriots put an atrocious loss behind them. Makes sense. Still, weird to see the Packers slip and the Patriots gain overall, but that's how it goes.

110
by Mountainhawk :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 9:51pm

No Lesean McCoy?

Kind of surprised. I guess the defense adjustment holds him back.

111
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:12pm

Where would Derek Carr + Matt Schaub rank on the all time bad game list if you combined their performance together?

Very very high indeed, as others have pointed out. Here is the list of worst all-time games (regular season only); CarrSchaub would have slipped past Brandon Weeden for third place.

I'm pretty sure the 90s never happened, but if they did the Headless Garbage Voltron of QBs would be some combination of Kelly Stouffer, Dan McGwire, Stan Gelbaugh. They would surely have established the bar all other QBs have so easily stepped over.

The '91 Eagles would like a word with you.

OK, this one sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole.

First of all, for those who were not aware, the 1992 Seattle Seahawks had the worst passing offense ever. EVER EVER EVER. It is not close. It is not close to being close. Even as we go back through older seasons, the gap between those Seahawks and their peers is so vast, it's hard to imagine how they could ever be topped. Their passing offense DVOA that year was -71.0%, a number so poor we must use both bold and italics to emphasize it. The 1991 Eagles -- a terrible offense, to be sure -- surpassed that -71.0% 13 times in 16 games.

However! As it turns out, in Week 5 of 1991, in a 23-0 loss to Washington, the Eagles' QB trio of Pat Ryan, Jim McMahon, and Brad Goebel went a combined 9-of-22 for 62 yards with no touchdowns, three picks, and five sacks. That comes out to a passing DVOA of -139.3%, and that is in fact a worse single-game mark than even the 1992 Seahawks could produce. However, between the three of them, that still comes out to only -180 DYAR combined. That's partly due to the difference in baselines between replacement level (which is used in DYAR) and league-average (which is used in DVOA), and partly because they only had 27 total passing plays.

where does Jake Delhommme's 6TO game rank?

-220 DYAR, second-worst playoff game in our database.

Would be interesting to know CJ Anderson's DYAR for the KC game, was there opponent adjustment or too many clock running plays keeping him off the list this week?

Only 13 DYAR, actually. He had six 10-yard runs, yes, but was also stuffed for no gain or a loss five times. His big problem wasn't the fourth quarter, it was the second, when he had negative DYAR on six carries that went like this:

  • 0-yard gain on second-and-2
  • 0-yard gain on third-and-2
  • 3-yard gain on first-and-10
  • 13-yard gain on fourth-and-1
  • 5-yard gain on first-and-9
  • 1-yard gain on first-and-10

"When Brady failed to move the ball on first or second down, he usuall [sic] struggled to keep drives alive on third or fourth downs, when he went 6-of-8 for 40 yards and only four first downs."
How is a 50% conversion rate on third and fourth downs "struggling"? Three for seven on third down is pretty much exactly the Patriots' season average (which is already fourth best in the league), and 100% on fourth down is even better. Or put differently, 50% on third and fourth is what the Saints average, and they lead the league in third-down conversion rate.

Yeah, that was just bad, "I am very tired and need to get this published" writing. I could take it out or redo it, but at this point, why bother?

If you have a high quality QB, a high quality defense, and no receivers, you have the 2006 Patriots.

And, to a degree, the 2014 Seahawks.

No Lesean McCoy?
Kind of surprised. I guess the defense adjustment holds him back.

Blame Monday night; he was on the list of top rushers before Miller and Johnson knocked him off. The biggest issue, though was his one fumble. Take all fumbles away from all players, and he would have finished second behind Herron.

112
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:18pm

I thought McCoy had two fumbles - one that he recovered. Maybe it wasn't listed in the play by play since he juggled it to himself?

123
by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 5:27am

Play by play only lists the one, so I guess you're right.

124
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 6:06am

I could also just be remembering it wrong. Which is very possible considering how confused I got about the Seahawks/Saints game on the other thread...