Combined Draft Board
By Jene Bramel
May 1st, 2012

The consensus rookie rankings at Footballguys are one of the strongest features we produce each season. But, despite the addition of staffer comments in recent years, the consensus rank list often leaves out crucial context and the inner monologue that's such a vital part of our drafting approach and philosophy. Though you may see splits and clusters if you look at the rank lists carefully, it's still difficult to compare and tier players both within and across positions.

Knowing that Player X is the consensus RB3 is clear from the rank list, but knowing how nearly that player was to ranking as the RB2 or RB6 or how he compares to the WR5 or TE1 or LB2 is often much less clear. I prefer a more visual approach, one that tiers players by position, but also allows me to compare the value of the positional tiers to every other position on the draft board.

Please Note

  • I'll be updating this feature frequently during the coming weeks, as coaching comments, minicamp observations, your comments and discussion, and the inevitable clarity that comes from putting this draft board into practice in my own drafts helps to sharpen the focus of the board.
  • This draft board is built with the following league in mind: 12-14 teams, PPR and balanced IDP scoring, full IDP lineups including DT and CB. I'll address a few minor modifications for those in DL/DB inclusive leagues, TE bonus scoring, etc. in the discussion to follow.
  • There may be more than 12-14 players that carry a given draft round grade. That's common when using a tier-based approach to set your draft board. It's also a natural reflection of the wide range of ADP valuations as a rookie draft progresses.
  • This board reflects my own drafting philosophy. I tend to prioritize upside without worrying about risk and players I think are likely to be successful sooner. And I'm not afraid to trust my evaluations of defensive players and draft a second tier IDP over a third tier offensive prospect, regardless of positional scarcity concerns.
  • The draft board can be read top to bottom and left to right. Each position is tiered from top to bottom in its own column. Separations in the column represent relative tiers, but the players are ranked by preference within those tiers. Relative values between positions and my target draft rounds for all players can be tracked from left to right. I'll provide lots of context on the positional tiers and relative values and draft grades in the positional discussions that follow the board.

    Rd
    QBs
    RBs
    WRs
    TEs
    DTs
    DEs
    LBs
    CBs
    Ss
    1
    T Richardson
    R Griffin
    D Martin
    J Blackmon
    A Luck
    D Wilson
    M Floyd
    K Wright
    R Hillman
    S Hill
    2
    I Pead
    A Jeffrey
    C Fleener
    L Keuchly
    R Tannehill
    G Childs
    B Quick
    L Miller
    M Jones
    R Lindley
    R Randle
    A Jenkins
    R Broyles
    L David
    3
    L James
    M Sanu
    B Wagner
    C Givens
    M Kendricks
    D Davis
    M Barron
    R Wilson
    J Criner
    Z Brown
    B Weeden
    N Toon
    L Green
    B Cunningham
    4
    D Wylie
    C Polk
    D Coale
    E Rodriguez
    A Branch
    B Pierce
    L Brazill
    M Ingram
    R Turbin
    J Adams
    O Charles
    C Upshaw
    H Smith
    R Matthews
    D Allen
    N Perry
    K Martin
    B Irvin
    J Johnson
    5
    C Gray
    T Hilton
    S McClellin
    A Morris
    M Egnew
    F Cox
    C Jones
    N Foles
    V Ballard
    D Hightower
    B Osweiler
    C Rainey
    V Curry
    W Mercilus
    K Cousins
    Q Coples
    S Spence
    J Hanna
    J Crick
    K Robinson
    6
    B Coleman
    M Smith
    D Posey
    A Robinson
    O Vernon
    B Taylor
    T Ganaway
    T Benjamin
    T Thompson
    C Owusu
    T Streeter
    J White
    V Burfict
    D Kirkpatrick
    M McNutt
    T Lewis
    S Gilmore
    7
    C Harnish
    E Baker
    T Clemons
    B Smelley
    M Brockers
    J Worthy
    A Cole
    M Claiborne
    C Thompson
    K Moore
    D Herron
    J Hemingway
    D Wolfe
    M Jackson
    T Manning
    J Robinson
    T Wilson
    L Creer
    J Wright
    M Martin
    R Lewis
    J Kaddu
    J Jenkins
    B Hardin
    L Lewis
    D Poe
    K Reyes
    T Carder
    J Jenkins
    G Iloka
    J Fuller
    D Still
    T Crawford
    D Trevathan
    B Boykin
    M Martin
    B Winn
    C Johnson
    T Johnson
    C White
    N Bradham
    J Norman
    T Robinson
    C Hayward
    J Bush
    A Allen

    The Big Picture

    Last year, I felt that the second and early third rounds were a bit of a wasteland. I wasn't ready to sell out for any of the receivers in that group or reach for a third tier running back prospect so I advised moving up into the back of the first round or trying to roll that pick into this year's draft. This year, I think it's much the opposite. Unless you're sold on Stephen Hill, Coby Fleener, Luke Kuechly or Ronnie Hillman, I think the third tier of wide receivers and the second tier of linebackers are deep enough that I'd move out of the 1.09-1.12 range and add value picks in the mid-second through third rounds.

    After the third round, however, things dry up quickly. Though there are lots of targets at which to throw your darts, I think the chance that any one of them will hit is lower than usual. If you're in a league that regularly gives you a one round premium for deferring this year's pick to next, i.e. you can get a 2013 4th for your fifth round pick this year, I'd be rushing to accept even more quickly than usual.

    It's another sparse year for top IDP prospects. Though the linebacker tiers include a first round value in Luke Kuechly and run a little deeper in the second tier, there's arguably only one impact DL (and that's questionable) and possibly two impact DBs (if you include Harrison Smith) worthy of a pick in the first four rounds. If you can get a marginal starting IDP for a fourth or fifth round pick this year, it's likely a smarter use of the pick than many of the rookie alternatives.

    Quarterback

    I thought I saw enough concerns in Cam Newton's pocket play and surrounding cast to ignore my bias toward upside and slot him as a second round value last year, while giving Blaine Gabbert a late first round / early second round grade. It's now clearly evident that I should've kept the same text and arguments but changed the names. I have RG3 slotted higher than Andrew Luck on my draft board, but I don't believe it's an over-reaction to the poor decision I made last year. I like Griffin's pocket passing game more than I did Newton's last year and the bootlegs and other Shanahan-preferred passing concepts match Griffin's game well. The value of Griffin's potential rushing yards should also not be ignored. Luck is arguably the higher floor pick and deserves mid-first consideration, but I think Griffin is an easy top five selection this year.

    I like the upside of Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Lindley more than I liked Andy Dalton and Jake Locker respectively last year and would be comfortable taking either in the second round as developmental prospects. Russell Wilson would interest me in the third, while Nick Foles, Brock Osweiler and Kirk Cousins aren't more than later round flyers for me. I like B.J. Coleman's overall game and his situation. I've given him an early sixth round grade on the strength of Aaron Rodgers' better than average durability, but I'll probably lean toward Coleman over the Foles/Osweiler/Cousins tier if I'm looking for a NFL backup worth developing late.

    Running Back

    Trent Richardson is the top overall rookie on my board, but Doug Martin is not far behind. I have him on the same line as Blackmon and RG3, but he's probably a fraction higher than both and would be my 1.02 pick today. David Wilson will have the luxury of gaining a little weight and learning to refine his decision-making as a runner behind Ahmad Bradshaw, whose offseason attempts to heal his troublesome foot fracture are reason to worry that his health may force him to transition to a lesser committee role in 2013 and beyond. The depth chart and first round draft pedigree suggest that the Giants likely see Wilson as a 250+ touch player. A similar argument could be made for Ronnie Hillman, though I'm not as convinced that he can carry a near feature back load.

    I think I'll be around consensus on Isaiah Pead and Lamar Miller, but I'm likely taking a chance on a wide receiver in those respective tiers. Pead would have more of my attention in deeper PPR leagues. I might've gotten behind Chris Polk, Bernard Pierce or Robert Turbin more strenuously, but their situations are ugly. Give them a full round bump if you own the starter ahead of them, but don't reach otherwise. Later round prospects Alfred Morris (a one-cut runner in Washington's zone blocking scheme), Cyrus Gray (depth chart might not be as bad as it appears) and Edwin Baker (an UDFA with a shallow depth chart behind a runner with some durability questions in Ryan Mathews) may be higher on my board than others.

    Wide Receiver

    As the players came off the board last week, I was disappointed in some of the landing spots and thought that this might be a shallow group. But as I went through the slotting process, I found I could tell a promising story for lots of players in the third and fourth tiers. And it's a good thing: the third and fourth tiers at RB and second tier at TE is much weaker than usual.

    It may take Justin Blackmon longer than many hoped to reach top 20 WR numbers with Blaine Gabbert under center, but his ceiling is high and he'll be productive enough while you wait to support a top 3-5 rookie pick. I think he's a half tier ahead of Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and Stephen Hill. If you buy into the argument Matt Waldman made on our live podcast during the draft last Thursday and think Wright has a chance to see lots of snaps outside the slot, he's worth considering as early as 1.05. I'm not ready to push him that far up my board yet, though.

    I've got Hill and Alshon Jeffrey at the end of the second tier, but I feel like the end of that tier stretches through to the end of the deep third tier. It's that third tier, as noted in the Big Picture section above, that intrigues me this year and I'm expecting that the order of the names will shuffle frequently as we hear more about their likely roles. For now, I have Greg Childs and Brian Quick ranked just above Marvin Jones and Rueben Randle. Childs (injury) and Quick (technique, consistency) have a little more upside should they hit as potential number one receivers on open depth charts with quarterbacks that should improve. I really like Jones and Randle, but their ETA may be delayed and they aren't likely to ever be their team's top receiving option. I'm not as high on the talent of the next four in the tier, but all should be given a chance to earn snaps quickly.

    I think we'll see 2-4 players in the next tier emerge as viable WR5 or better in time. Juron Criner would be in the third tier if his situation were slightly better. BJ Cunningham, Danny Coale, LaVon Brazill and Keshawn Martin also have good arguments for success.

    Tight End

    Coby Fleener isn't an elite fantasy prospect, but the scarcity of options at other positions and any competition at his own position earns him a late first - high second round grade. Ladarius Green, Dwayne Allen and Orson Charles have varying degrees of Joker-like TE ability, but each is blocked on the depth chart and won't be on my radar until the late third round or later. Evan Rodriguez may be the second best fantasy option in this group in time, but his upside isn't quite as high as Green. I'm not a fan of Egnew and my board makes it more likely that I'll be risking a developmental pick on James Hanna, Adrien Robinson or Taylor Thompson, with Robinson a particularly interesting mix of raw ability and depth chart upside.

    Defensive Tackle

    I love Fletcher Cox and the Philadelphia defense is a perfect fit for potential statistical success. But the top of the fifth round is as high as I'll go for a DT prospect and that's pushing it. Michael Brockers, Derek Wolfe and Mike Martin are the only other tackles I'd consider and only with a spare seventh round pick.

    Defensive End

    I'm somewhat out on my own on Andre Branch. I argued on Twitter before the draft that I thought he was being underrated by those who felt he was a one-dimensional straight-line pass rusher. I'm not going to stand on the table for him as I did Jabaal Sheard last year, but I think he can handle an every-down 4-3 DE role and I think the depth chart is as favorable for Branch as it was for Sheard. If he's there in the late third - early fourth and the top half of the fourth tier of WRs is gone, take him.

    Bruce Irvin and Shea McClellin will take time to grow into every-down, statistically consistent fantasy options, but both should have some situational/matchup upside until they do. I like Vinny Curry, but doubt he'll get enough snaps in the deep DL rotation in Philadelphia to have value until at least 2013. Rex Ryan has backed off his initial statements about how the Jets will use Quinton Coples, but I'm not touching him until the fifth round. If you disagree and want a shot at him, you'll have to slot him much closer to Branch.

    Linebacker

    I'll be surprised if Carolina slots Luke Kuechly anywhere except as the full time MLB. His upside may be capped somewhat by the strong OLB group, but he's a very safe late first - early second round pick and clearly the class of this year's IDP group.

    The next tier of linebackers is tightly packed. Lavonte David is a high floor, late second round pick that should hold LB3+ value right away. But I'm not sure he has LB1 upside. Bobby Wagner, Mychal Kendricks and Demario Davis do have that upside, but their floor is more problematic.

    I think Wagner can succeed as the every-down MLB in Seattle, but he may not start there immediately and will have competition for tackles outside the box. I love Kendricks and would have had him alongside Kuechly if he landed in a better role. Should he ever get a look at the MLB job in Philadelphia, he'd be a top 20 fantasy linebacker, but you can't spend more than a high third round pick while you wait. I'll keep beating the drum for Demario Davis, who I think earns a full time ILB role (and produces) by early 2013 at the latest. Zach Brown has tackling issues that will impact his bottom line, otherwise he'd be a consideration earlier.

    If you're looking for a 3-4 OLB option in big play leagues, bump Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw and Nick Perry into consideration in the third. I'd really like to get behind Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, but the situations are murky and even the best case argument yields a low ceiling. Consider James-Michael Johnson (could threaten to fill an every-down WLB role in time) or Keenan Robinson (capable of replacing London Fletcher as an every-down SILB after this year) if you're looking for a 2013 stash in the fifth or sixth round. And don't be afraid to take a very late flyer on Vontaze Burfict. I didn't like his tape at all, but there's enough talent there to risk a late pick on given the shallow Cincinnati depth chart.

    Cornerback

    There's no clear CB1 in this class, but many potential CB2+/DB3 players to look at in the later rounds. Dre Kirkpatrick, Stephon Gilmore and Morris Claiborne probably won't last long enough to be reasonable draft values, but Josh Robinson will. Keep the other names on your watch list to move on when and if they earn starting jobs and show themselves box score capable.

    Safety

    Mark Barron is the class of the group and is worth a look in the late second round if you're willing to spend the capital on a defensive back. Harrison Smith will play early and should put up good numbers, but he's not elite enough to risk more than a mid-fourth pick. There's a deep watch list on my board, but until training camp tells us otherwise, the only other safety prospect worth drafting is Brandon Taylor, who fits well as an interchangeable prospect next to Eric Weddle.

    I'm targeting a weekly update to this feature through the minicamp months. Your comments and discussion will be very helpful as I continue to refine this draft board. Please ask questions or send comments to me by email at bramel@footballguys.com or on Twitter at @JeneBramel.

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