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Draftageddon 2016: The Norfleet Clone Army

Four_Horsemen_by_MarkWilkinson1

We are drafting Big Ten teams because the one sure way to get us to do our homework on in-conference players is to make it a competition and rip on each other.

Previously on Draftageddon:

  1. A Heisman candidate QB and the reigning Thorpe winner go after two members of Michigan's secondary. (Peppers, Lewis, & Butt)

  2. An underwhelming first swing through receivers, and lots of linemen. (Chesson, Cole, Wormley, Glasgow)

  3. A Michigan second-teamer goes before Purdue-Matt Godin. (Charlton, Hurst)

  4. Hodor.

How things stand:

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If we hadn't taken the entire first team of Ohio State and Michigan State last year we'd be homers.

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ACE: Round 9, Pick 1: Jalen Myrick, cornerback, Minnesota

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[Patrick Barron]

OFFENSE: QB CJ Beathard (IA), RB Saquon Barkley (PSU), WR Jehu Chesson (M), OG Jacob Bailey (IU), WEAPON Jabrill Peppers (M)

DEFENSE: NT Ryan Glasgow (M), DT Jake Replogle (PU), DE Sam Hubbard (OSU), OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers (M), CB Jalen Myrick (MN)

SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers (M), PR Jabrill Peppers (M)

We’re starting to reach the end of the guys who graded out really well on PFF, but we’re not quite there yet. Jalen Myrick has been overshadowed in Minnesota’s secondary by Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, but with both of those guys off to the NFL, he’s set to break out this year. In fact, he graded out better than both of them last year, when he managed to push his way into the starting lineup for seven games and would’ve played more if injury hadn’t cut short his season:

Myrick ranked ninth nationally in our cornerback grades through week nine, until a rib and lung injury knocked him out of the Ohio State game in week ten and prematurely ended his regular season. Opposing QBs had a NFL rating of 34.8 on targets thrown his way, ranking him third among all returning CBs with at least 250 coverage snaps in 2015. His deep speed and ability to play the ball in the air made him an effective defender downfield, and as long as he maintains his health this year he should be one of the Big Ten’s best at his position.

In addition to strong ball skills, Myrick has great top-end speed, and he’s a tough SOB:

Myrick's breakout 2015 season hit a speed bump because of a freak injury at Ohio State on Nov. 15. While being tackled on the opening kickoff of that game, he suffered a collapsed lung. The injury forced him to stay in a Columbus hospital for two days and be driven back to Minneapolis. But say this about his toughness: Myrick played most of the first half with one working lung, believing at first he only had a back spasm.

JESUS. That article also mentions Myrick played so well last year that the coaches stopped shadowing the opponent’s top receiver with Murray (a fourth-Round Pick this year); they felt they had two legit #1 corners. He’s also a very capable kickoff returner—he had a 100-Yard touchdown against Northwestern in 2014 on which he showed off some serious wheels. I had Myrick above Likely on my draft board—definitive, I know—and I’m quite pleased he fell to me here.

[After the jump: cornerbacks we wouldn't take before Will Likely, a few offensive steals, and a true freshman you can probably guess which]

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ADAM: Round 9, Pick 2: Matthew Harris, CB, Northwestern

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[Bryan Fuller]

Offense: Pat Elflein (C/OG-OSU), Dan Feeney (OG-Indiana), Amara Darboh (WR-Michigan

Defense: Jourdan Lewis (CB-Michigan), Dawuane Smoot (DE-Illinois), Taco Charlton (DE-Michigan), Maurice Hurst (DT-Michigan), Vince Biegel (OLB-Wisconsin), Matthew Harris (CB-Northwestern)

If any of these pass rushers I've drafted are going to get home then I'll need to make passing to either side a really bad decision, and that's what Matthew Harris does with regularity. Harris had a team-high four interceptions along with 13 PBUs in 2015, a season in which Harris played well enough for the coaching staff to stop exclusively using Nick VanHoose to shadow the opponent's best receiver. His PBU and interception numbers were good enough for third in the Big Ten in each category, though other corners around the conference ended up with the postseason awards you might expect from such a performance; of the awards issued by traditional outlets, he was named to just the All-Big Ten third team.

PFF took notice, however, naming him to their All-Big Ten second team and the no. 7 corner in the nation.

Harris is putting together a strong finish to the season, grading out as the second-best cornerback in the nation over the last three games (+7.2). For the year, he has the fourth-highest coverage grade (+13.8) and has intercepted three passes, refusing to give up a single touchdown in the nine games he’s played.

And that was written before he finished with an interception and PBU against Illinois and a PBU in NU's bowl game against Tennessee; Illinois threw for 5.8 yards per attempt and Tennessee 6.4 in those games. The coverage grade is what sold me on Harris, but I won't complain if he continues to rack up flashier stats (for a CB, at least) as well.

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SETH: Round 9, Pick 3: Simmie Cobbs, wide receiver, Indiana

Offense: QB JT Barrett (OSU), WR Chris Godwin (PSU), WR Simmie Cobbs (IN), OL Mason Cole (M), OL Sean Welsh (IOWA)

Defense: NT Bryan Mone (M), DT Darius Hamilton (RU), LB Nyeem Wartman-White (PSU), CB Desmond King (IOWA)

Special Teams: KR/PR Des King

If we're already digging into Indiana lineman who look good against 1-tech Tom Strobel it's only a matter of time before somebody unearths, you know, the non-offensive lineman star on Indiana's offense. That is 6'4 junior Simmie Cobbs, who joined just Aaron Burbridge and my other receiver in cracking the 1,000 yard barrier last year.

The 6'4 true sophomore did the bulk of that in the second half of the season, highlighted by 190 yards in Will Likely's face:

You'll note a lot of early Funchess with that ridiculous catching radius from the slot, plus a very non-Funchess asset: blocking, which Simmie seems to enjoy nearly as much as sharp comebacks against terrified corners and making them whiff on his orbital step after.

With a full season as alpha receiver and ballistic 6'6" JUCO transfer Richard Lagow set to take over at quarterback (at least I think that's what Kevin Wilson hinted to me when I cornered him at SMSB), Cobbs is a fair bet to pace the conference this year and head to the NFL the next.

If you're into trial stats, Bill C is still playing around with RYPR, which seems to do a pretty good job of identifying receivers who had a good year relative to QB play and whatnot. Last year's top 5 in the Big Ten were, in order, Burbridge, Godwin, Alex Erickson, Cobbs, and Chesson.

I worried Cobbs was going to disappear right after I took Godwin. Now JT has two unfair weapons to punish safeties who try to step up, and that extra downfield blocking will come in handy when those defenders do something silly like leaving the box.

Also I would seriously like to know who's doing Wilson's receiver scouting.

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BRIAN: Round 9, Pick 4: Tyquan Lewis, DE, OSU

O: TE Jake Butt(M), WR Jordan Westerkamp (NEB)
D: DE Chris Wormley(M), DT Malik McDowell(MSU). LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU), LB Anthony Walker (NW), CB Gareon Conley(OSU), CB Will Likely (MD).

I hate you idiots.

I guess Ace gets a slight pass since he took Hubbard. The rest of you ignoring Buckeyes to take wide receivers with a 55% catch rate and dudes returning from brutal year-long injuries and freaking interior linemen can go to hell. Because I gotta take the dude who led Ohio State in sacks last year over a guy named Joey Bosa.

As a true sophomore, Tyquan Lewis had eight sacks, 14 TFLs, and did this despite playing much of the year with a torn labrum. PFF had him around +11 for the year and credited him with 26 pressures. With Hubbard on the other side opponents won't be able to pay him excessive attention, and since he's entering just his third year in college he has considerable upside left to reach.

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BRIAN: Round 10, Pick 1: Rashan Gary DE, Michigan

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O: TE Jake Butt(M), WR Jordan Westerkamp (NEB)
D: DE Tyquan Lewis(OSU), DE Rashan Gary(M), DT Chris Wormley(M), DT Malik McDowell(MSU). LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU), LB Anthony Walker (NW), CB Gareon Conley(OSU), CB Will Likely (MD).

Ah, hell. LEZZGO.

Sam Webb reports that Michigan's plan this fall is to start(!) Gary with Hurst backing up Wormley at three tech. Jadeveon Clowney had 8 sacks and 12 TFLs en route to second-team All SEC status as a freshman. Triple those numbers and you're looking at Rashan Gary's freshman year.

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SETH: Round 10, Pick 2: Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin

Offense: QB JT Barrett (OSU), RB Corey Clement (WI), WR Chris Godwin (PSU), WR Simmie Cobbs (IN), OL Mason Cole (M), OL Sean Welsh (IOWA)

Defense: NT Bryan Mone (M), DT Darius Hamilton (RU), LB Nyeem Wartman-White (PSU), CB Desmond King (IOWA)

Special Teams: KR/PR Des King

For the third year in a row I can't let Corey go. After his freshman season I saw Melvin Gordon's backup doing most of the things Gordon used to do behind White and White used to do behind Ball, and Ball behind Clay...yada yada yada Ron Dayne. In 2014 that worked out for 949 yards (6.5 ypc) and 9 TDs plus another 119 yards as a screen target behind Gordon, and looked for all the world like the running back train would continue through the Chryst era.

That lasted 8 snaps against Alabama before Clement was sidelined by a sports hernia. Clement tried playing with it starting in late October, but he tweaked it again while putting 10.5 YPC on Rutgers and wasn't the same after, getting just 29 snaps against Northwestern and USC. In his absence, the Wisconsin rushing machine that hadn't averaged less than 5 YPC (sacks removed) since 2006 sputtered.

This year Clement has switched to #24 and adopted the same focus regimen that Joey Bosa used. MGoShutterbug Patrick Barron was at their spring game and confirmed the obvious: Clement is the man.

Patrick also noted a mean stiff-arm and that they had to whistle Clement's carries dead because nobody (Biegel included) could tackle him. Add that to the same combo of ridiculous acceleration, cuts, catching, breakaway speed, and most importantly vision that made him a Heisman contender going into last year and this is a steal at Pick 42. The bad year gave us all pause, but the upshot is one of the nation's top running backs in a ridiculous year for running backs.

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ADAM: Round 10, Pick 3: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern

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[Eric Upchurch]

Offense: Pat Elflein (C/OG-OSU), Dan Feeney (OG-Indiana), Amara Darboh (WR-Michigan), Justin Jackson (RB-Northwestern)

Defense: Jourdan Lewis (CB-Michigan), Dawuane Smoot (DE-Illinois), Taco Charlton (DE-Michigan), Maurice Hurst (DT-Michigan), Vince Biegel (OLB-Wisconsin), Matthew Harris (CB-Northwestern)

Devine Redding will be running behind a better offensive line, but Justin Jackson—who continues the "we take the guys we take every year" theme—put up more yards per carry and a better Opportunity Rate en route to over 1,400 yards and second-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore.

A quick note on Opportunity Rate: Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall has attempted to find a way to measure a running back's production beyond what his offensive line gets for him; the first four yards are credited to the line in his system, so Opportunity Rate is how often a back ran for five or more yards. 33.2% of Jackson's runs met the criteria. Of returning backs, Jackson outpaces just about everyone in the Big Ten not wearing a Michigan State uniform, and Jackson got almost three times the carries each of State's RBs did thanks to their by-committee usage last season.

Redding's Highlight Yards Per Opportunity, which looks at how many yards are credited to the back per 5+-yard carry, was indeed better than Jackson's in 2015. Jackson, however, had nearly 5% more of his carries go for more than five yards; Redding breaks big runs but does it rarely, whereas Jackson picks up fair chunks of yardage more often.

Though Michigan fans may remember Jackson finishing with just 25 yards on 12 carries in the Big House, he closed the regular season with four straight 100+-yard games, including 186 yards on 28 carries against Penn State's 39th ranked Rushing S&P+ defense and 139 yards on 35 carries against Wisconsin's 14th ranked Rushing S&P+ defense.

He's a workhorse despite being just 5'11 and 190 pounds, and I'm perfectly fine with him hovering around 4 YPC against good run defenses because of the upside his speed, vision, and athleticism lend him.

Jackson's productivity is even more impressive considering Northwestern's offensive line was riddled with injuries and just not very good in 2015; they finished 84th in adjusted line yards and 89th in stuff rate. If they find a starting five that can play a few games together without someone getting hurt, and if Clayton Thorson can do something crazy like throw for more than 4 yards per attempt, then Jackson should have an even better 2016 season.

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ACE: Round 10, Pick 4: Josey Jewell, ILB, Iowa

Round 11, Pick 1: George Kittle, TE, Iowa

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OFFENSE: QB CJ Beathard (IA), RB Saquon Barkley (PSU), WR Jehu Chesson (M), TE George Kittle (IA), OG Jacob Bailey (IU), WEAPON Jabrill Peppers (M)

DEFENSE: NT Ryan Glasgow (M), DT Jake Replogle (PU), DE Sam Hubbard (OSU), ILB Josey Jewell (IA), OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers (M), CB Jalen Myrick (MN)

SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers (M), PR Jabrill Peppers (M)

Josey Jewell has the tackling numbers you’d expect from a run-stuffing middle linebacker; he paced the Hawkeyes with 126—including 62 solo stops and 7.5 TFLs—as a redshirt sophomore in 2015. He brings a lot more to the table, too. PFF gives him the highest grade of any returning Big Ten linebacker in large part because of his coverage:

Jewell has great closing speed, which is apparent against the run and on blitzes. He’s earned the nickname “The Outlaw” and the approval of a Hawkeye legend:

Certainly there are a lot of people in Iowa that agree with that assessment, including another Hawkeye who wore No. 43 — former first-team all-American Pat Angerer.

During the Big Ten Conference championship game Dec. 5, in which Jewell intercepted Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook and recorded eight of his 119 season tackles, Angerer tweeted: “Best 43 in Iowa history #TheOutlaw” — the hashtag ending a reference to Jewell’s nickname.

In a solid year for Big Ten ILBs, Jewell gets the nod after Raekwon McMillan and Anthony Walker because of his complete set of skills—I can keep him at MIKE to strengthen the pass defense or slide him out to WILL, where he got time as a redshirt freshman, if I prefer adding a run-stuffer. CBS has him as the #4 ILB prospect for the 2018 draft.

George Kittle was “by far” the top run-blocker at tight end in the Big Ten last year according to PFF, which graded Kittle as the conference’s top TE despite him playing behind starter Henry Krieger Coble:

Not included in the list of high-snap returnees is TE George Kittle, who despite only 383 snaps posted the second-highest grade of returning TEs in FBS. While he was used primarily (and effectively) as a run blocker, he turned 25 targets into 20 catches (just one drop) and six touchdowns, and his 3.09 yards per route run ranked No. 1 in the country for all TEs in FBS last year.

No, I wouldn’t take Kittle over Jake Butt—PFF appears to weigh blocking quite heavily in their grading. He’s still remarkably efficient and should see his role grow substantially now that he takes over full time for Coble. Iowa leans hard on their TE in the passing game—I’d expect Kittle to at least match Coble’s 50 targets from last year—and he was already their go-to red zone threat, leading the team with six receiving TDs. It’s not hard to see why he’s so efficient with his targets; put the ball in his general area and there’s a good chance he’s coming down with it:

Kittle is a major plus on both the run and the pass, and in today’s era of the flex TE that’s not easy to find.

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Seth: It was too much to hope Kittle would stick through the turn.

Brian: You guys are not factoring in the philistine nature of the readership. Kittle might as well be a doorstop to them. I'm drafting five slot receivers for my OL.

Adam: Wow, I didn't think the Norfleet clone army would be ready by fall.

Smoothitron:

10.4

Seth: If that wasn't a terrifying offensive line already, throwing bits of ref appendages and torso into the gaps really keeps the DL sitting back.

Adam: I'm taking Brandon Reilly. I'll write it up in a bit.

Seth: Adam now courting the GPA Matters corps.

Adam: Looking for success on the field, in the classroom, and in the community

Seth:

Adam: Just don't google him more than you already have or that community thing is gonna blow up in my face


ADAM: Round 11, Pick 2: Brandon Reilly, WR, Nebraska

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Offense: Pat Elflein (C/OG-OSU), Dan Feeney (OG-Indiana), Amara Darboh (WR-Michigan), Justin Jackson (RB-Northwestern), Brandon Reilly (WR-Nebraska)

Defense: Jourdan Lewis (CB-Michigan), Dawuane Smoot (DE-Illinois), Taco Charlton (DE-Michigan), Maurice Hurst (DT-Michigan), Vince Biegel (OLB-Wisconsin), Matthew Harris (CB-Northwestern)

I've been looking for a guy who can take the top off a secondary on the off chance Darboh doesn't add that rumored extra dimension to his game, and I think I've found him in Reilly. Last season Reilly averaged 11.1 yards per target on about 16% of Nebraska's passes; he caught 58.8% of the balls thrown his way. Per the school's website:

Reilly had eight receptions of at least 30 yards in his junior season, highlighted by a 30-yard game-winning touchdown in the final seconds against Michigan State. Reilly's 18.9-yard per catch average ranked sixth in the nation and first in the Big Ten among players with at least 40 receptions.

A game-winning touchdown catch against Michigan State, you say? I think I remember it, but I guess we should watch it again.

That's just a wily veteran shrewdly assessing the situation and acting accordingly. And to think Seth made fun of Reilly being named Academic All-Big  Ten three times.

In all seriousness, Reilly's not going to catch everything thrown his way but he's fast enough to burn most of the conference's secondaries. Seth mentioned RYPR earlier; it's a Bill Connelly stat that sort of lumps together all the ways to evaluate receivers into one mega-stat. Reilly's the last of the Big Ten receivers on my board who was in the top 100. He also graded out well in PFF's evaluations last season, finishing the year with an overall double-digit net positive grade. Nebraska's the only team in the Big Ten returning a receiving corps with more than one player who finished with a double-digit positive grade, and with Tommy Armstrong Jr. back in the fold Reilly's stats shouldn't dip.

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SETH: Round 11, Pick 3: Billy Price, OG, Ohio State

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Offense: JT Barrett (QB-OSU), Corey Clement (RB-Wis), Chris Godwin (WR-PSU), Simmie Cobbs (WR-IN), Mason Cole (OL-Mich), Sean Welsh (OC-Iowa), Billy Price (OG-OSU)

Defense: Bryan Mone (NT-Mich), Darius Hamilton (DT-RU), Nyeem Wartman-White (MLB-PSU), Desmond King (CB-Iowa)

Specialists: KR/PR King

Brian was going to lose it if we left him one more obvious Buckeye so rather than lose my job, I'll just add the third guy returning from the core of an offense that's ranked 1st and 8th the last two years in rushing S&P+. Price won the crucial left guard spot as a freshman, but wasn't ready for Virginia Tech to roll out a Bear Front. Since then he's been literally in the center of college football's most brutal power B-gap offense. His thing is being SKRONG; even as a freshman Price was the strongest dude on the team.

But the agility is still a plus. SI's Andy Staples credited Price for 94 percent of "85 Yards Through the Heart of the Southland":

But few 300-pounders could pull through so much line of scrimmage trash as quickly and find the most immediate threat to the play in the second level. That’s what Price did when he pulled left from his left guard spot, turned the corner ahead of Elliott and shoved away Alabama’s Nick Perry before Perry could slow Elliott. Spencer’s block assured a gain of at least five yards. Price’s block sprung Elliott for an 85-yard touchdown.


American announcers are so boring.

Elflein justifiably deserves credit for his awesomesauce pulling, but the pivot man is just as important, and in two underclassman seasons Price has established himself as one of the best. He did pick up a bad (PFF gave him -2.2) day against Michigan State and Malik McDowell, but that's understandable given State was bringing their SAM up to the line every play and OSU kept running anyway. The following week Price gave Maurice Hurst his worst day yet, routinely blowing the miscast NT downfield and handing off to Decker for the pancake. Billy the Slob also got a few licks in at Wormley's expense as Ohio State broke tendency by having Price trap a ton. We'll see a lot more of that combo blocking and pulling this year with Elflein beside him instead of a vastly overrated Boren.

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Round 11, Pick 4: Cole Croston, OT, Iowa

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Fact: Iowa offensive tackles don't have arms.

Here is the state of offensive lines in the Big Ten: Off Tackle Empire ranked Michigan's the best in the league and they might be right and nobody in this draft wants anyone off the M line except Mason Cole. Also, this is the end of round 11 and zero (zero!) tackles have gone off the board.

If there's value in them there hills it's probably in Croston, who was a major part of the decent to good Iowa ground game a year ago. Despite having an array of backs so pedestrian they wear two pairs of shoes and zero rushing threat at QB, Iowa averaged a respectable 4.5 YPC a year ago, fifth in the league. PFF foreshadowed our lack of tackles in this draft by naming him first team All Big Ten despite a relatively paltry +6.5 overall grade. He gave up 19 pressures a year ago, which is... good. It's not amazing. But it's not bad!

Croston's getting some mid-round NFL draft buzz, and in this league that's as good as it's going to get.

How Things Stand

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This post first appeared on Mgoblog, please read the originial post: here

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Draftageddon 2016: The Norfleet Clone Army

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