I might have been able to pick up Clay Matthews in the second round and instead used my first round pick on a more experienced QB than Blake Bortles, but I needed a solid anchor for my Vic Fangio 3-4 defense and JJ Watt was already off the board. I’m glad I made that move because defensive stars were flying off the board.
I was drafting from the middle, so I knew I wasn’t getting a top head coach, but that was ok. I knew my man Chip Kelly would be there, and that set me up for drafting offensive players that fit his style. I didn’t have to have the NFL stars and I could wait and get younger players to build a strong five year team. When Vic Fangio fell into my lap I knew I would have one of the best coaches for the 3-4 defense Chip prefers. I stocked up on good, young defense men early, then waited until the later rounds where offensive players that fit Kelly’s system would still be available.
I had a better overall draft on the defensive side. Several of the offensive players I thought I could get in later rounds where snatched up (WR Sammy Watkins and TE Dwayne Allen would have been perfect for my team). There were a couple mistakes I made early. Desmond Truffant I probably could have waited another round or two to grab, and I should have chosen a younger LT than Duane Brown. Overall, however, I met my goals of building a team of the future.
Coaching Staff: HC Chip Kelly, OC Kevin Sumlin, DC Vic Fangio
The Chip Kelly Experiment™ was a success in its first year, racking up yards even before Kelly has had a chance to solidify his team. No worries, I drafted the types of players he needs. So where does Sumlin fit in? He and Kelly are a lot alike in that they believe in making the offense fit the personnel (hence the reason Kelly was successful in his first year), and they both love read option football. Sumlin , however, can teach Kelly some of the spread offense he had at Houston and TAaM.
What’s there to say about Vic Fangio other than he is the master of the 3-4? His 49er defense is rock solid, and he should also work well with Kelly.
QB/RBs: QB Blake Bortles (age 22), RB Gio Bernard (22)
I’m not going to hide my desire for Johnny Manziel, but he was chosen very early (1st round!). It wasn’t because of Sumlin being my OC, but because Manziel’s mobility is perfect for the Kelly offense. I was surprised when Blake Bortles fell down the draft board and I was able to get him so easily. To me he is a Foles clone – a big pocket passer who is more mobile than he appears. Bortles isn’t fast, but the Kelly system doesn’t need a fast QB, just a smart, mobile one. Can you imagine the secondary trying to haul down a 230 pound QB if Bortles breaks through the front seven? He’s built like a tank.
DL/LBs: NT Kawaan Short (25), DE Gerald McCoy (26), DE Sheldon Richardson (23), OLB Clay Matthews (27), OLB Jerry Hughes (27), ILB Sio Moore (24), ILB Alec Ogletree (22)
Young, but not inexperienced, my three linemen are solid
Gio Bernard was my first pick of an offensive player. Bernard’s receiving ability and vision to find running holes is perfect for the Kelly offense. He and Ed Lacy tied for the #4 spot in PFF RB rankings for 2013, and they even had the same yards after contact (2.3) and yards per attempt (4.1). Bernard is a future NFL star.
TE/REC: TE Eric Ebron REC (21), Jerome Simpson (28), REC Jordan Matthews (22), Colt Lyerla REC/TE/RB (21)
In Kelly’s system a tight end must be able to do a lot of things, but most importantly have the speed to get out and block anywhere on the field. Ebron can not only do that, but he may just become one of the best receiving tight ends the NFL has ever seen. A cross between Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham.
You may be wondering why I chose Colt Lyerla to back him up. Well, Colt may be a wildcard when it comes to his maturity off the field (they said the same about Kiko Alonso), but on the field he is an athletic freak. He gives Kelly a lot of offensive options because Colt can play TE, receiver, or even FB (he averaged 5.9 YPC at Oregon).
Jerome Simpson might be a bit old for this young squad, but the guy is a hell of a blocker, which we all know is a requirement for receivers in the read option. Jordan Matthews fits the description, too, with his big body for blocking and dominating smaller secondary on pass routes.
DL/LBs: NT Kawaan Short (25), DE Gerald McCoy (26), DE Sheldon Richardson (23), OLB Clay Matthews (27), OLB Jerry Hughes (27), ILB Sio Moore (24), ILB Alec Ogletree (22)
Young, but not inexperienced, my three linemen are solid. Short graded well his rookie season and anchored a tough Panther defense. McCoy rated #1 in 3-4 lineman and #2 the previous year. Richardson graded #5 3-4 DE his rookie year.
Clay Matthews was banged up a bit in 2013 and missed a few games, but still graded out as the #2 3-4 OLB. Jerry Hughes was the #8 OLB. Both are 27, but I could still see both playing in 5 years. Ogletree and Moore come from the 4-3 OLB position, but both have the rushing ability to play the ILB in the 3-4. Both were rookies, and Moore had a great year playing only 500+ snaps. Ogletree played twice as many snaps for a Rams defense that was 9th in rushing yards allowed.
Secondary: CB Desmond Truffant (23), CB Logan Ryan (23), FS Eric Reid (22), SS Johnathan Cyprien (23)
Desmond Truffant ranked #7 among all CBs his rookie year, just behind Richard Sherman at #6. Logan Ryan played all over the field as a rookie and started a handful of games. He is very athletic and the Pats are high on his potential.
Eric Reid had a pretty good rookie season at safety, ranking #16. Cyrprien had a rough rookie year in the first half of the season for the awful Jax defense, but turned it around and played very well in the second half. Expect a big year for him in 2014.
OL: C Mike Pouncy (24), RG Larry Warford (22), LG Kyle Long (25), RT DJ Fluker (23), LT Duane Brown (29)
Pouncy is a good, mobile, young center who graded #13 for 2013 and #8 for 2012. I wanted him for his ability to get out on LBs. Larry Warford rated #3 overall guard by PFF. Kyle Long didn’t rate well his rookie season at RG, but he made the Pro Bowl, so I’m not going to argue numbers in his case. He was incredibly versatile at Oregon, so I see no problem switching him to right guard. Bonus: Long knows Kelly’s offense.
DJ Fluker didn’t rate well, but a closer look shows that his numbers tanked in the four games he was forced to play left tackle. His numbers at right tackle were pretty good for a rookie. Duane Brown was a top 5 LT until last season, but the entire Houston offense was in shambles so I expect a bounce-back year.
Coaches (Y1: B-) (Y5: A) The Godfather of the “Air Raid” offense Hal Mumme, is somewhere smiling with Kelly and Sumlin coming together to further develop the offensive philosophy. With Kelly proving he can adjust his offense based on his QB being a runner or better suited in the pocket, Sumlin being able to further simplify the offense making it even more efficient in the vertical passing game, making it difficult for defenses to read the routes that the the WRs run. Simplicity is the highest form of sophistication, and with Sumlin being able to perfect only a handful of plays, the offense will be better at executing, which a lack of had people thinking Kelly’s offense had been figured out. Scheme, disciplined coaching, play-calling and a total understanding of each player will contribute to the fluidity of Vic Fangio’s defense. On top of knowing their strengths, Fangio understands how to use the players’ strengths to complement each other’s games.
QB/RB (Y1: C+) (Y5: B+) Bortles has an impressive frame, but its his underrated athleticism that will add an extra potency to the offense. He won’t have to worry about keeping plays alive with his feet in this offense. He will be looked upon to make throws on time and on target mastering throws to the fade, out, dig, flag and flare routes. With the offense being called around players like Bortles, it will thrive more as experience is gained. Bernard is a back that instinctly “runs to the green” and keeps his cutbacks tight getting to the second level. In an offense that looks to not only keep the defense on their heels but also spread them out, Bernard will have plenty of lanes to attack and get up the open field. His services as a target getting into the flat will be a favorable matchup most of the time with the backer being stranded in a one on one open-field situation.
TE/WRs (Y1: C) (B+) The supplement of Lyerla is going to benefit the running game more than the passing because of the flexibility that running uptempo provides. You have to play that based off of your personal and when he is running routes that will be problematic. Ebron is a TE suitable for this offense: he has a combination of speed and power that will be an instant impact and as he further develops become the dominant target for Bortles. Jordan Matthews possessed some of the best hands in the nation this past season breaking the SEC receiving record, but its what he does after the catch that is more impressive. He possesses the ideal speed necessary to stretch the defense and make plays when he is called to do so. Jerome Simpson serving as a vet will shine doing more of the “little” things outside of pass catching but while his role may not be big in the passing game, he just had a season where he amassed 726 yards on 48 receptions, showing he can make a big play. He will be a quality over quantity bunch and make the best out of the reduced looks he receives.
OL (Y1: B-) (Y5: B+) This line has its athleticism and strength in the running game starting at Pouncey and continuing left ending at Duane Brown. Brown will also have to bulk back up to restore that ability that lead to a 2012 pro bowl appearance. Fluker was one of the few 2013 rookies that saw extensive time at LT, but his strength and ability to punch outside rushers is better suited on the right side. Warford fought to win a starting guard spot as a rookie, and will have partners in crime in years to come with Pouncey and Fluker. He possesses ability to maintain the block in small space but struggles with quicker defenders.
DL/LBs (Y1: B- ) (Y5: A-) Vic Fangio Has great anchors to build his 3-4 off of in McCoy, Richardson, and Matthews. He showed great ability to sustain success with an injury riddled 49ers defense a couple years ago, and will be even more calm and collected finding the strengths that the young remaining players possess and see how it can make the defense even better. Until he puts all the pieces together, the can perfect the “Texas Stunt” with Richardson and Matthews and cause mismatch issues for opposing blindsides.
Secondary (Y1: C+) (Y5: A-) Trufant and Logan had their share of lumps as rookies, but Trufant was clearly the better performer starting all 16 games, 17 pass deflections, 2 INTs and only 47 completions out of 82 thrown his way. Reid and Cyprien complete what will be arguable the best secondary in the SFL within the upcoming years. Cyprien is the better tackler, where Reid sometimes overcommits and misses the target completely. Reid is the better coverage safety, where Cyprien must capitalize of balls thrown his way. Reid must also redirect the teammate/self imposed harm to opponents.
Coaches (1 year B, 5 year A-) Nice staff with the potential to improve with more time in the league. The only reason this grade isn't higher is Chip has been there for one year and Sumlin has never had a taste of the NFL. The one year of decent success isn't enough for me to consider Chip an elite HC, and there will surely be a learning curve for Sumlin as he adjusts to a faster, more complex league. No reason to knock Vic. He's coordinated one of the top defenses in the league since he arrived in SF in 2011.
QB/RB (1 year C+, 5 year B) I'd first like to note Bortles gets extra points because when you google him, most of what comes up are pictures are of his smokin' hot girlfriend. I like what I've seen of Bortles. He's big, can make all the throws, scans through his progressions like a robot. One thing I think he does better than scouting reports give him credit for is that he has a quicker release than the "experts" say. All that said, he'll have an adjustment period in the NFL coming from the AAC, and I don't think he's as hard to bring down as you think he is. I'm not that high on Gio. I see him as a poor man's Ray Rice, but also as a guy who gets lost trying to find the hole sometimes.
WR/TE (1 year B-, 5 year B+) Ebron is a scary threat, and to think (and also make me feel old), he's three years younger than I am. The Simpson and Matthews combo is interesting. Simpson actually had a half-decent receiving year with no QB certainty in Minnesota, and like you said, he's a good blocker to fit the system. Matthews is a high character guy who makes some athletic plays. I don't think he's got breakaway speed to beat faster NFL corners like he did in college. Then on the other hand, you've got a guy with no character in Lyerla. I can't help but see comparisons to Aaron Hernandez, both in his versatile game and his crackpotiness (that word should absolutely be in the dictionary). I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt and assume he won't murder several people, although it's very possible he ends up in a cell at either a jail or mental hospital.
OL (1 year C+, 5 year B-) I don't share the PFF obsession many of you other Sideliners do, so to be honest, I completely ignore those numbers when somebody posts them with their players. Give me a report written by somebody close to the team and the eye test any day of the week. Off that, this line is young and busting with potential - to play well or blow up into a big pile of flabby arms and egos. Pouncey and Long have well-documented off-field troubles. Brown looked awful in Houston last year. I don't care that the whole offense was a mess, he was royally bad. Fluker is the best all-around guy here entering his second season, one in which he'll continue to prove his beastliness. Young line with more weak character guys, but again I'm giving the benefit of the doubt they don't kill each other.
DL/LB (1 year A-, 5 year A-) That's my kind of defensive line. All three are young and have proven themselves. The linebackers will be a gnarly group as well. You got two of the three best linebackers from last year's draft in Ogletree and Moore. Hughes is overrated in my opinion. Obviously Mathews is one of the best OLBs in the league. The drop from Matthews and Hughes in the fifth year and the improvement from Moore and Ogletree balance each other out.
CB/S (1 year C, 5 year B) The non-existent veteran presence in this secondary is not good. As a Pats fan, I've got to say Logan Ryan's success was largely a product of the system. You let anyone float around in that scheme and they'll grab a few gift interceptions, which is what Ryan did. He also got beat and was out of position a lot, which you hear less about. He's a decent nickel corner, but not much more. The other three guys are big potential guys, but it's hard to reach that potential when everyone in your unit is also learning on the fly.
Overall, this team has a ton of potential and a ton of uncertainty - also a ton of bad apples that could rip the locker room apart.
Coaches (1-Year B+, 5-Year A-) Best coaching staff in the draft. With the combo of Kelly and Sumlin your offense is going to be prolific and unpredictable. Kelly was able to make the playoffs his first year, granted it was in the worst division in the league, but he's an offensive genious and can make the necessary changes to win some coaches are reluctant to make. I don't want to face the offense. Fangio is one of the best DC's in the league and with the players you surrounded him with it'll be great.
QB/RB (1-Year B-, 5- Year A-) There'll be some growing pains with Bortles under center but with time he's going to be a top 10 guy in this league imo. At first I didn't think he would fit the system but he's got the accuracy, arm power and ability to break out of the pocket if needed. Bernard, one of my favorite guys in last years draft, is a clone of Shady McCoy. Great strategy.
WR/Hybrid (1-Year C+, 5-Year C+) Simpson isn't a #1 guy and in 5 years he'll be 33 and not anywhere close to being better. Matthews will need a few years to get in a groove in the NFL but will be pretty good in the future. Ebron has potential to be an elite TE and he's a great fit in this offense but all he has now is the potential. I'd give Lyerla an F grade because he doesn't even deserve any shot to be in the NFL. Between a drug possession and calling parents of Sandy Hook victims "liars" there's no room for the guy.
OL (1-Year B+, 5-Year B+) I see Warford, Long, and Fluker progressing through the 5 years and Pouncey staying the same and Brown regressing. Like my line it has three very young guys with tons of potential.
DL/LB (1-Year A+, 5-Year A) My first A+ grading goes to this unit. LOVE the line as Short is highly underrated, Mccoy is a best and Richardson could have been rookie of the year last year. Matthews is one of the best but saw injuries plague his 2013 season some. Hughes still has a high ceiling but it doesn't mean he'll take advantage of it. Moore was probably the 2nd best player on a poor Raiders defense last year. Ogletree, my favorite player in last years draft, really played well in the Rams defense last year and is going to be elite.
Secondary (1-Year C+, 5-Year B) This group has a lot of potential but will all be better in 5 years. It's not fair to judge Cyprien because anybody playing in that secondary will have a lot of work to do.
Coaches (Y1: B,Y5: A-) I really liked what I saw from Kelly's transition to the pro level, but I wonder if it is sustainable. I think this crew is good to start and firing at a high level in short order.
QB/RBs (Y1: C, Y5: B+) I like Bortles, especially in this scheme but having never played a down in the NFL, I have to be cautious. Not sure what the ceiling is for Bernard but he is young and talented.
TE/RECs (Y1: C, Y5: B-) This is very intriguing group that I honestly don't quite know how to grade. I too have questions about Lyerla.
OL (Y1: C+, Y5: B) Potential to go either direction, but athleticism and youth abounds.
DL/LBs (Y1: B+, Y5: A-) Young, nasty, very exciting group.
Secondary (Y1: C+, Y5: B) Young and raw but should be very solid with time.
Coaches (Y1- B-, Y5- B+) I’m not sold on the Chip Kelly experiment quite yet. Sumlin will have to make some adjustments but it’s hard to argue against Fangio.
QB/RB (Y1- B, Y5- B+ ) Rookie QBs are a little too risky for me. Luckily for you I’m drinking the Bernard Kool-Aid and see good things for his future.
WR/TE (Y1- B-, Y5- B) A young group that has some growing pains. Swiss Army knives don’t tend to do great in the NFL but if Kelly proves to be successful it will likely be with players like him.
OL(Y1- C+, Y5- B-) In the interest of consistent grading, young lines do poorly on year 1 for growing pain reasons. I give the benefit of the doubt that they grow from there but I still don’t see this being a great line. Dan Moberger totally with you on PFF statement.
DL/LB(Y1- B+, Y5- A) Likely the strength of your team. Lots of young talent but several who have proven they can handle the position. Under Fangio should be able to disrupt opposing offenses.
Secondary (Y- C, Y5- B) Nobody here is ready to lock down opposing receivers. The talent is there but they will have to come into it. With everybody growing together this group will have its fair share of screw ups in the first season but should come around in 5 years.
Coaches (Y1: B-, Y5: B+) Chip Kelly pulled last season out of no where with Foles. It didn't look like it was going to go to well at first but I'm not 100 percent sold on him. Sumlin will have a learning curve, but Fangio is a nice pick.
QB/RB (Y1: B-, Y5: A-) I actually think Bortles will be a really solid starter in the NFL. Gio Bernard already showed he is an excellent compliment back, and earned more playing time and probably the starter role for next season.
WR/TE (Y1: C-, Y5: B-) I haven't even heard of Colt Lyerla or Eric Ebron. I really like Jordan Mathews but Jerome will be 33-34 in 5 years. You have a lot of ifs on this unit so it's pretty difficult to grade highly.
Oline (Y1: C-, Y5: B-) A lot of young guys with a lot of potential. They most likely won't keep Bortles or Gio upright in the first two seasons or so, but could get very good as a unit in the 5 year mark if Duane Brown is still around.
DL/LB (Y1: A-, Y5: A) I don't think there is a single unit in this draft that is as young and as beastly as this one. I'm a Packers fan so naturally I love Clay Mathews, and other than a bit of inexperience, this is a pretty flawless front 7.
Secondary (Y1: C-, Y5: B+) It's clear that your goal in this draft was to have a very solid team in 5 years, which I think you did successfully. Eric Reid and Cyprien both have tons of potential but Truffant might be more a product of the system, granted he is young and has plenty of time to learn, as does most of your team.
Coaching Staff - 1yr: B+, 5yr, A- I really like the Kelly pickup and Fangio is a nasty defensive coordinator. The only thing is that Sumlin and Fangio might both be poached in 5 years, but this grade is assuming that they stick around.
Offensive Backfield – 1yr: D+, 5yr, B- Two rookies in the backfield is way more of a risk than I would take. Both Bortles and Bernard have talent and potential, but I can’t see anything other than a rough first year.
Receivers – 1yr: C-, 5yr: C+ Again, way too many players here that one hopes will develop and maximize their potential, but the odds are against them all turning out to be quality NFL players (and even more strongly stacked against them all becoming stars).
Offensive Line – 1yr: B, 5yr: B+ Like @Dan Moberger, I don’t really share the obsession with Pro Football Focus. Although I do consult the site, it’s in conjunction with other analyses (Advanced NFL Stats, Football Outsiders, etc.) and my own eyes. That said, this is an athletic line that should develop well. Its oldest starter is 29 and should still be effective in 5 years.
Defensive Front Seven - 1yr: A-, 5yr, A- That’s a great defensive front, with everyone but Matthews likely to still be performing at or near their peak in 5 years but all already excellent players. Very well drafted.
Secondary – 1yr: C+, 5yr, B+ Trufant and Reid are both already solid starters in the league, and this young line should eventually turn into a solid unit. So much youth here, though, that there are bound to be some pretty ugly mistakes as part of the learning process.
Coaches (y1 A/y5 A) Very exciting and innovative staff. Good luck keeping your coordinators from being persuaded to leave by future coach needy teams.
QB/RB (y1 C -/y5 B) I love Gio and if he can hold up physically I think he could play the Lesean McCoy role very well for Chip Kelly. Bortles, while I'm not as high on him as most people, I feel can be a good QB in the NFL in time. I don't see him immediately playing well enough to win a lot games early on especially with so much youth on this roster. It's pretty much a college team at the skill positions. Early struggles have to be expected.
WR/TE (y1 D +/y 5 B-) Again so young that I can't see this team instantly struggling and when Jerome Simpson is your veteran presence, I'm not too optimistic early on. I can't see Bortles being that much better than the Vikings QB's were in 2013 -- and Simpson didn't exactly shine in that situation. Eventually this team has the potential to be very good but because we have no idea how much of their college performance will translate to the NFL. Its really hard to say how exactly how good.
OL (y1 B-/y5 B+) I like this unit -- young athletic and should be better, not worse 5 seasons from now.
DL/LB (y1 B+/y5 B) Again another unit that is good now and should be even better 5 years from now. Great group of players
Secondary (y1 C/y5 B) And Again.. another unit that will be better in 5 years lol... Should hold its on at times year one but will have it's share of getting exposed when playing some of the better offenses in the league. Raw talent everywhere on this team. Could be really dangerous in a couple seasons.
Coaches Y1 A-/Y5 A Kelly is a helluva lot more flexible than people realize- he embraced a very non-Oregon QB in Nick Foles and was more than happy to combine his up-tempo play calling with a pocket passing game. He and Sumlin will get on very well. And Fangio, as you say, speaks for himself.
QB/RB Y1 B-/Y5 B I like Bernard a lot and think he is the next Ray Rice. Not as high on Bort, who incidentally reminds me a lot of Joe Flacco. Both will get a bump from this staff.
OL Y1 B/Y5 B+ They'll gel considerably- like the rest of the offense they will benefit from the coaches.
REC/TE Y1 C+/Y5 B+ It will take a while for this attack to fully gel, but when they do they could be very dangerous. Lyerla is a huge risk and you'll have to put a lot on Kelly's familiarity with him.
DL/LBs Y1 B-/Y5 B Another aspect of your team that is more attractive down the road than at present. Skeptical of Moore and Ogletree as ILBs, but under Fangio the ceiling is high.
CB/S Y1 B-/Y5 B+ I love all of these picks. Overall this is a team that, when it comes into its own, will be frightening.
Coaches: (Year 1: A Year 5: A ) Your philosophy was clear from the get-go. Nice mix of coaches.
QB/RB: (Year 1: B Year 5: B+ ) I can't say for sure whether Bortles will turn into the next Big Ben, but with the supporting cast you've given him, he will have every chance to do so. Bernard is a versatile runner who will provide Bortles with a nice option in the backfield.
OL:(Year 1: B+ Year 5: A) All of these guys are either Pro Bowlers or have Pro Bowl ability. Nice pickups.
WR/TE:(Year 1: C Year 5: B-) Simpson isn't the greatest receiver there is, but he does know how to block pretty well. Receiver is one of the toughest positions to evaluate as far as college prospects go, so very tough to say whether the rest of this group will be boom or bust.
Front 7: (Year 1: B+ Year 5: A) McCoy, Richardson, and Matthews on the same defense? That will elevate any unit. Short wasn't given enough credit for how well he did as a rookie last year. I like this group a lot.
Secondary: (Year 1: B Year 5: A) In year 5 I see this group being among the best in the game. Cyprien is underrated, as is Trufant. Ryan still has a ways to go, but I like his upside. Reid made 49er fans forget about Dashon Goldson.