WHAT IS THE POINT OF DRAFTAGEDDON
This has been asked by some readers.
What is the point of anything? We're all just moths in a tornado, trying to hold on for one more rotation before our wings are torn from us and we still continue ascending in violation of all expectation. A grapefruit on a bicycle rises through the dust and says "I'll get you, my pretty HAHAHAHA."
In non-existential terms, the point of Draftageddon is to assemble a football team from available players in the Big Ten this year. At the end, the winner is the team that seems the most impressive, as judged by people who want to vote on these things. All participants are winners in their own mind, especially Heiko.
The point of Draftageddon is also to preview the Big Ten. By the time we're done we have a grasp of the various high points of the Rutgers defensive line and Maryland receiving corps that would not happen otherwise; after it is done we do a roundtable post about what we've learned about the upcoming Big Ten season.
ROUND 7 - PICK 1: DE Frank Clark, Michigan
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), RB Melvin Gordon (UW), WR Stefon Diggs (MD), OT Rob Havenstein(WI)
D: DE Frank Clark(MI), DT Carl Davis(IA), CB Trae Waynes (MSU)
BRIAN: One of the reasons I was rather lackadaisical about getting a DE is the fact that the Big Ten just has them in spades this year. I did make note of Cockran because I love grabbing Minnesota DL I can taunt you with for decades, but there is another, older, more established guy available. Despite four DEs going off the board already I'm able to select Frank Clark, who was second-team All Big Ten a year ago with 12 TFLs and 4.5 sacks.
He's poised to break out again as a senior, as his numbers don't quite reflect how well he was playing once the light went on midseason. I watched him develop from looks-like-Tarzan-plays-like-Jane into a legit plus player over the course of last year. By late his combination of power and agility allowed him to make certain tackles look downright silly.
He still has plenty of ceiling left to reach at 270 pounds; incrementally better performance over the course of the year should see him hit the mid-teens in TFLs, 8 or so sacks, and get drafted somewhat high by the NFL. The gap between Clark and the guys already off the board is not that big.
ROUND 7 - PICK 2: Andre Monroe, DE/DT, Maryland
O: RB Ameer Abdullah (NE), WR Devin Funchess (U-M), TE Maxx Williams (MN), LT Brandon Scherff (IA)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DE/DT Andre Monroe (MD), LB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah (NE)
ACE: I've been thinking about making this pick since the fourth round, but I waited, banking on the fact that he plays for Maryland and has generated zero draft hype to cause him to fall. I can't wait any longer.
Andre Monroe is a senior who's played nose tackle and five-tech DE in Maryland's 3-4 scheme, but he's moving to the edge as a senior. There's good reason for this: he was by far the best player on a solid D-line, tallying 42 tackles (23 solo), 17 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles last season after missing all of 2012 with a knee injury. In 2011, he earned freshman All-American honors with five sacks in just nine games. He's not just capable of standing up to double teams; he's an accomplished pass rusher.
Those stats weren't just compiled against the dregs of the ACC, either; he had 3 TFLs with a sack against Florida State and 3 sacks against Virginia Tech in 2013. The VT game shows off his diverse pass-rushing arsenal. Here's an outrageously quick swim move to the inside that momentarily paralyzes the left guard. Here he uses his hands nicely to get off the line clean before one-arm power-rushing the left tackle into the quarterback. Here a straight bull-rush off the edge does the trick. Here the video inexplicably starts a half-second after the snap, but whatever the hell he did left the LG performing a befuddled pirouette.
Okay, VT's line wasn't very good last year, but... I be like dang anyway. If you're not convinced, here he is as a nose guard sacking Jameis Winstonafter blasting the center off the line. If you're still not convinced, here's a video of him showing off some surprisingly nimble dance moves at a fundraising event.
I assume you're convinced by now.
So why isn't he getting draft hype? Simple. He's 5'11", 275 pounds. An NFL scout takes one look at those measurements, bugs out his eyes, and moves on to a prospect with a remotely decent fit in a pro defense. This is college, however, and Monroe has proven he can be productive at two different spots on the defensive line, and his pass rushing ability gives me little doubt he'll succeed this year as a destructive rush linebacker. He can provide a great deal of versatility in any defense.
As for where he'll fit on my team, we'll see—I could use him as a disruptive, undersized three-tech or let him blow up double teams and use his edge-rushing skills as an SDE. (Given the lack of top-end linebackers, a 3-4 isn't something I'm really considering.) Either way, I know this: as a solid run defender and consistent backfield presence, he's the ideal complement for Shilique Calhoun.
I can't snark here, both because I'm shedding a tear for the lost reuniting of the Aceconsin Cheesebenders and I'm hopeful this is the year Frank Clark puts it all together.
[AFTER THE JUMP: everyone takes my guys because they're jeeeeeeerks.]
Draftageddon is upon us. We will delight half the readers, irritate the other half, and learn much more about Big Ten football than we ever thought possible; along the way Seth will issue terrible snark about players like they will always be what they were last year and ignore it when Jack Mewhort ends up drafted in the second round.
THE OCEANS WILL BOIL, THE LAND WILL BE BESET. And so forth and so on. Devin Gardner knows what's up.
Everyone drafts a QB, 5 OL, and six skill players on offense. Heiko is not with us but yes you can take a QB to be a skill player other than your QB. The sixth skill player is for flexibility. Please denote RB/FB/TE/WR when you draft, and sure you can draft six tailbacks if you want to feel the wrath of the voters.
On defense, everyone drafts 4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, and 2 S and one wild card intended to be a hybrid space player. The extra guy is because nickel packages are important, and defending the spread is important. But yeah he could be whatever you want, you loons.
A punter and a kicker are also drafted.
Standard snake procedure.
Imaginary points are awarded for PR/KR skills amongst your draftees.
Once everyone has filled a particular slot the last remaining guy who has not filled the slot has to take a guy at most three rounds later, to prevent three QBs from going off the board in the first round and no one for the rest of the draft until the very end (although with this group that would be dangerous and leave you with Andrew Maxwell).
Kyle Prater must be drafted far too early.
I get to gloat about Rashede Hageman every third round.
As randomly determined by RANDOM.ORG the order is
Brian, you are me, and also on the clock.
ROUND 1 - PICK 1: Braxton Miller, QB, OSU
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU)
BRIAN: While I don't think there's that huge of a gap between Miller and Devin Gardner since neither of them are likely to be around when things get back to me I have to grab one now. The clear choice is Miller. The only guy to finish in the top ten in both rushing yards and passer efficiency last year, Miller is by far the most explosive QB in the Big Ten and has steadily progressed as a passer, going from 54% to 58% to 64% completions over the past three years and steadily increasing his ability in the pocket. Will he ever be great there? No. But, uh...
...he doesn't have to be. Main concerns here are dual: OSU revamps its OL and loses Carlos Hyde, which may make things generally less efficient and put more burden on Miller; this leads to concern #2: Miller seems to be bionic with the hits he can take but the was knocked out of enough games last year to get Kenny Guiton 109 attempts. He's not exactly fragile but neither can you expect him to get through a season totally unscathed.
ROUND 1 - PICK 2: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
O: LT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
ACE: As tempting as it is to build my offense around Devin Gardner and a functional offensive line, I think in a four-person draft the Big Ten has enough talent at quarterback to hold off on picking one here. Meanwhile, I'm not convinced the conference is as deep at tackle (at least for this exercise), and there just happens to be one—and only one—that could've been a first-round NFL Draft pick had he left early: Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who's present in the top ten of just about any 2015 mock draft you can find.
At 6'5", 320 pounds, Scherff has pro-ready size, and he's a monster of a run blocker with a size/quickness combination that's truly impressive on film. At the very least, watch the first clip from this video of him absolutely dominating Northwestern for a series:
Sure, I'll take the guy who can escort a defensive lineman ten yards downfield with one arm. Also, in a league that features some talented pass-rushers, Scherff provides a reliable blindside protector—Iowa finished first in the B1G in fewest sacks allowed and, since that number is skewed by pace/style, third in adjusted sack rate last season.
While my heart told me to pick Gardner, my brain remembered what happens to quarterbacks that aren't properly protected. With this pick, I've got easily the best run-blocking tackle in the conference, and probably the best pass-blocker, too.
ROUND 1 - PICK 3: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
O: QB Devin Gardner (Michigan)
BISB: I don't think Gardner is the best player remaining, but in my mind there's a bigger drop-off from Gardner to the next quarterbacks than there is between the top-flight defensive linemen I'm tempted to grab. Seth can't take all of those.
[@ RIGHT: Bryan Fuller]
Gardner threw for 2960 yards (in only 12 games) at a 60.3% completion rate. His 8.6 YPA was the best in the Big Ten, and more than a yard per attempt more than Cook and Hackenberg. Ha accounted for 32 TDs (21 throwing, 11 rushing) against 11 INTs. He threw for 14 TDs against 3 picks and 8.85 YPA in Big Ten play. And he did that with absolutely no running game (at least of the 'forward' variety). He did it without padding his yardage numbers with bubble screens. He did it with a strained everything. And the next time he sees a pocket will be the first time.
The last time he stepped onto the field, he threw for 451 yards and 4 TDs with no picks and ran for another score. On a broken foot. And when he was healthy? Boy howdy.
Gardner lost pocket-sized safety blankets Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo, but Devin Funchess is a legit #1 receiver (I swear, if anyone drafts him as a TE I will force-quit the draft), and between him, Freddy Canteen, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Dennis "DENNIS NORFLEET" Norfleet he will have plenty of targets, He should be productive once again. Now, if he can just get a liiiiiiittle time to throw the ball...
Uh oh crap forgot about that.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Alarming quantities of opposition defensive linemen]
Since the draft deadline is now past, it's time for a three part early Big Ten basketball preview, starting from the top. After scouring Kenpom and my memory I have grouped the Big Ten teams like so:
OBVIOUS FAVORITE: Wisconsin
CONTENDERS: Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa
ONE IN, THREE ON THE BUBBLE: Michigan State, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana
NOPE: Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue
And tackle them in approximate order, except I haven't really ordered the tiers. I am projecting a relative down year for the conference, because they've added one middling ACC program and Rutgers while MSU is poised for a major drop and Indiana/Illinois are still muddling along.
THE FAVORITE: Wisconsin
Generally excellent outside of a shocking run of five losses in six games—including two at the normally impregnable Trohl Center—Wisconsin was, like Michigan, downed by an improbable Kentucky three-pointer. In their case they'd already taken down Arizona to reach the Final Four.
WHO'S GONE: SG Ben Brust (all positions approximate)
WHO'S BACK: C Frank Kaminsky, PF Nigel Hayes, SF Sam Dekker, SG Josh Gasser, PG Traevon Jackson, PG Bronson Koening, PF Duje Dukan
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): sophomore C Vitto Brown
From that team Wisconsin loses only Ben Brust, who was mostly a three-point gunner (39% on 244 attempts). With Josh Gasser back and Kaminsky capable from the perimeter, Wisconsin won't be shooting deficient. Gasser was a deference machine last year, taking only 11% of Wisconsin's shots while he was on the floor despite hitting 44% from three over the past two years. If he leaps up to Brust's level the Badgers only have to replace about 100 efficient threes—very manageable.
- Experience. Wisconsin will start three seniors, a junior, and probably sophomore-to-be Nigel Hayes.
- Kaminsky. Developed an intimidating back to the basket game to go with his shooting en route to a 124 ORTG while taking 27% of Wisconsin's shots. Shockingly few TOs for a big man. Idea that senior bigs are surprisingly good downright frightening when applied to Kaminsky.
- Point guard. Traevon Jackson's actions in the late stages of the Arizona and Kentucky games were appalling, repeatedly going into isolation despite being a terrible isolation player when Kaminsky was on the block against guys much smaller than him. With a TO rate of nearly 20 and a 2PT% of 42%, Jackson is the primary weak point in the Wisconsin offense. Worse, he does not seem to know this.
THE QUESTION: Can Hayes and Dekker play at the same time? Nigel Hayes looked like a star to be at certain times this year and does bring a lot more banging and rebounding than the slight Dekker. But Hayes's face-up game does not extend to the three-point line and Wisconsin cannot have more than one non-shooter in the game at a time. Dekker's a mediocre shooter right now… he needs to have a leap there if Wisconsin can play what seems like their best lineup.
THE OTHER QUESTION: Is Wisconsin tolerable now? Yes, yes I think so. I am deeply alarmed by this development but with the FF run and the changes to defensive rules Wisconsin is way less annoying than they used to be. No longer does their good league record make the Big Ten look silly when they exit the tournament quickly.
PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: With Payne gone and Amir Williams probably not having an epiphany as we speak it's hard to see who in the league is going to match up with Kaminsky. (Hammons you say? 16 and 22 last year against Hammons.) Meanwhile Wisconsin's outside shooting should only dip slightly. Defense should improve if The Question above is answered in the affirmative. Wisconsin wins the league at 14-4 and gets a one seed.
Iowa fell off a cliff late last year after finding themselves in the top ten for a brief period, but it was still a little tiny bit of a breakthrough season for the Hawkeyes. While Iowa fans may feel that a First Four exit is hardly a tourney appearance at all, their game against the Volunteers felt more like a Sweet 16 battle than Dayton fluff and the Kenpom rankings of the participants suggested as much.
WHO'S GONE: SG Roy Devyn Marble, PF Melsahn Basabe, PF Zach McCabe.
WHO'S BACK: PF Aaron White, C Adam Woodbury, C Gabriel Olaseni, SF Jarrod Uthoff, PG Mike Gesell, SG Josh Oglesby, PG Anthony Clemmons
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): SG Peter Jok, JUCO PG Trey Dickerson
With 6'9" guys falling all over themselves for playing time the departures of Basabe and McCabe should be manageable, possibly even beneficial. Iowa had a whopping 11 guys average at least seven minutes and was in the unusual position of having two guys designated "starters" by Kenpom who were off the floor more often than not. This is a team that could stand to tighten its rotation.
- Hugeosity. Despite losing a 6'6" guy and two 6'7" guys, Iowa projects to play six guys 6'5" or above, with only the PG spot below. This served Iowa well on the boards last year as they were 19th on offense and a respectable 68th on D; they finished in the top 40 at blocking shots as well.
- Depth. Iowa will still have the option to go ten deep and can sustain foul trouble to its front line better than anyone in the league.
- Shooting. Iowa typically plays a two-big formation with White at PF, and he is not a threat from deep. No one on the team was particularly accurate except Oglesby, who was buried down the depth chart… and he was coming of a THJ-like sophomore year during which he hit 27%. With Marble gone, Iowa has to have a prominent and functional Oglesby.
- Defense. More on this later, but Iowa fell apart on D late in the season, tried to dig themselves out with a zone that hurt more often than it helped, and project to have some of the same issues this year.
THE QUESTION: Who picks up Marble's playmaking and "oh crap do something" shots?
After initial flashes of promise, Anthony Clemmons became very turnover prone and has now settled into a limited, defensive role. Meanwhile Jok and Oglesby, the most likely replacements, are shooters, not creators. That puts an awful lot of weight on Mike Gesell to create shots in the half-court, which was already a struggle a year ago.
Iowa's best hope here may be an explosive debut from JUCO PG Trey Dickerson, who's averaging 20 points a game in North Dakota and is on JUCO AA lists after one season.
THE OTHER QUESTION: Can the Hawkeyes match up on D?
The big lineup caused defensive issues, as anyone who watched White try to stay in front of Nik Stauskas remembers.
Late in the year, Iowa tried a zone defense. It got shredded.
MSU shooting at 70.4% effective rate. This is no longer a coincidence. The zone is a miserable failure.
— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) March 7, 2014
Now down their best perimeter defender, Iowa has to figure out whether they're going to double down on the zone or hope Olaseni and Woodbury can erase enough perimeter mistakes to keep their head above water.
PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: Iowa leaned heavily on Marble to fill in the holes in their offense and he has no obvious replacement. That'll drag down both Iowa's transition and half-court offense. But big guys develop slowly and one of Woodbury or Olaseni seems likely to bust out, providing back-to-the-basket shot generation that will help paper over those issues.
Assuming that Iowa either figures out the zone or figures out they should abandon it and gets their defense in order, they should poke their head above .500, especially in a weakened league. 12-6, 4 seed.
Another year, another beating taken from the NBA draft. The falloff last year was microscopic, if it even existed, thanks to massive sophomore leaps from Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert. Can Beilein do it again?
WHO'S GONE: C Jordan Morgan, C Jon Horford, C Mitch McGary, PF Glenn Robinson III, SG Nik Stauskas
WHO'S BACK: PG Derrick Walton, SG Zak Irvin, SF Caris LeVert, PG Spike Albrecht
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): C Mark Donnal, C Ricky Doyle, PF DJ Wilson, PF Kam Chatman
That is an awful lot to lose from the one true post spot in the Michigan offense and not very many guys in the "who's back" spot, but those first three are doozys. LeVert had a massive leap, essentially replacing NBA ROY candidate Tim Hardaway Jr's production, except with more efficiency. Irvin and Walton are the first top-50 guard recruits John Beilein has ever had and look to make the patented Leap after promising freshman years. And Spike's not bad either.
- Shooting. The four guys returning shot 41%, 41%, 43%, and 39% from three on piles of attempts. To that Michigan adds a starting center with true three-point range and a couple of Beilein-standard stretch fours.
- More shooting. That previous bullet probably deserves to be mentioned twice.
- Diversity of weapons. Few teams in the conference will have as many places to go for shots as Michigan. LeVert is obvious; Walton is likely to come into his own in year two; Irvin just launches when given a sliver of space. Five-star-ish recruit Chatman is regarded as a point forward who can get his and set up his teammates. And Donnal adds a pick and pop element Beilein has lacked since the days of Pittsnogle expired. While the departure of Stauskas is a blow, he only took 23% of Michigan's shots. That's extremely low for a go-to lottery pick and is a testament to the pieces surrounding him.
- Rough 'n' tough stuff. Michigan seemed a little flimsy inside last year, and now they've lost their entire center corps and starting PF. They'll be taller, with two 6'8" PFs and Cs an inch or two taller than Morgan, but unless Max Bielfeldt presses his way into the lineup the vast majority of Michigan's minutes in the frontcourt will go to freshmen—three of them true freshmen. Rebounding and meanness have never been Beilein strengths; this year will really push the limits of what you can do with a fleet of B-52s.
- THE QUESTION: Is this an infallible assembly line? Based only on the returning gentlemen, Michigan is probably not a contender. But that's what everyone thought last year when Michigan sat at 6-4 and McGary went out for the year. Then Stauskas, LeVert, and Morgan blew up and when the dust cleared Michigan had won the conference by three games. It is irrational to expect that sort of improvement on an annual basis, touted recruit or no. Or is it?
- THE OTHER QUESTION: Is the defense really going to be worse? Michigan's D took a huge step back last year, from 48th to 109th. They were 10th in the conference, down from 6th, and the absolute worst at preventing two-pointers. They had the second-worst defense in the league over the course of the entire season, ahead of only Iowa. It might not get better but since it was already scraping the bottom of what a non-Rutgers Big Ten D might do, there might not be much of a drop.
- PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: The offense is a given what with Beilein and at least three plus guys on the back end. The defense… well, it's not going to be great. It may not be as bad as you would think, at least relative to last year. 12-6 after a rough nonconference schedule sees Michigan enter the tourney a 5 seed.
Indeed. Plaque up at Crisler.
Michigan's started preseason practice, looking less skinny or more skinny as appropriate. Stauskas in particular looks a lot more likely to power through contact this year:
YOU ARE DOING A BAD JOB AT DEFENSE, FOREGROUND
Unfortunately, Mitch McGary's got a lower back thing that's limiting him. A big guy getting a nagging old person injury is a thing that turns out to be chronic unfortunately often, but the noises from Beilein about it are encouraging:
"It's been day-to-day, pretty much all fall, and we're moving forward from there," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I'm very hopeful it'll be gone before too long.
"He's done some on-and-off things this fall."
McGary blew up various skills camps this summer, so whatever it is it's a recent thing.
Soldier on. Michigan does not change its depth chart on the OL. That probably means nothing; FWIW.
Bo's phone call. Mason relates what happened after the 38-35 Buffalo Stampede game in which Minnesota ran rampant on Michigan:
“We ended up basically being able to run the ball against anybody,” Mason said. “When we blew that game against Michigan in ’03, after we had a 21-point lead, my secretary took a call on Monday and said, ‘[Former Michigan coach] Bo Schembechler’s on the phone.’
“I picked up and Bo said, ‘Mason, I never thought I’d see the day when Notre Dame or Ohio State rushed for 424 yards against Michigan, much less Minnesota,’ and then he hung up.”
Bo probably threw in some other words that Mason left out.
Also, Glen Mason's take on what Minnesota's doing is relevant to our current interests:
“There are less moving parts with the read option"
Brace for impact. Michigan is currently a whopping 21 point favorite over Minnesota after opening at 16.5. It is unclear whether that projects turnover margin or final score.
Minnesota did look completely terrible against Iowa, losing 23-7 and barely getting across the line of scrimmage on its 27 rushing attempts. For the game they had 27 yards rushing, 135 passing, and threw two picks. The jury's still out on Iowa's defense, which seems improved but ceded 30 to NIU and 21 to Iowa State; Minnesota looks like a product of its schedule.
Yes, even more so than Michigan does, sheesh. Thus the line cited above.
Meanwhile, across the triangle of hate Iowa fans are feeling rather chipper after matching last year's win total in week 5. Highlights:
Iowa's athletic department has figured out how to use the "upload" button on YouTube
Rudock has some decent wheels; Mike Patrick can be boring about a 74-yard touchdown; Michigan's nose tackles watched this game and said "FINALLY WE WILL BE ON THE FIELD" to themselves.
Jacobi points out that Iowa is actually a slight favorite(!) for this weekend's matchup against Michigan State. Projected final score: 1.
You kickstarted this. Martavious Odoms's thing bears fruit (HA!):
We have brought you low. Michigan instrumental in midseason firing of Paul Pasqualoni. Yes. That is the ticket. Ignore the 41-12 loss to Buffalo behind the curtain. Also in expectation-dampening sad things: Akron loses by lots, Notre Dame loses by lots, Central Michigan loses by lots. I liked this season better three weeks ago.
Why fire Pasqualoni now?
It's all happening.
60 minutes of unnecessarily rough pass interference somewhere else. Actually, various folks are chattering about Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi taking the UConn job:
Spoke w some coaches re: UConn. Strong feeling among group I spoke w that Pat Narduzzi will get good look.
This tweet gets a hilarious set of responses that are exactly what you'd expect: MSU fans painting the UConn program as a deathtrap and saying things like…
Unless he gets offered a place like Texas I honestly don't see it happening. His kids love it hear and he is very close
The opposite of Indiana. In a not good way. Via Chantel Jennings, the dichotomy of Michigan State in stark relief:
Indiana | Oct. 19
Big Ten rank:
Total offense: No. 1
Total defense: No. 11
Michigan State | Nov. 2
Big Ten rank:
Total offense: No. 11
Total defense: No. 1
Who is State ahead of? Purdue, obviously. Obviously Purdue. Indiana is ahead of Nebraska. Think about that when you consider the depths to which Bo Pelini's defense has sunk. #Kiffin4Nebraska
Etc.: Details of the Harmon exhibit at the Bentley. Boy, do I not care about Michigan's spot in the polls right now. Illinois pounds Miami (Not That Miami). I don't understand this thing about a dog named Jake Butt. The history of Michigan decals.