All posts by Baasil Ebrahim

The Banter Sports 2017 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

The Browns shouldn’t be drafting for needs, but should rather be looking for the best player available, and that is Myles Garrett.  Garrett was the top performer at his position in the combine after an outstanding season for the Aggies and should be the first name called on April 27th.

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2. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

The 49ers went to the Super Bowl based off of their defense and after signing Brian Hoyer and Pierre Garcon in the offseason, they are free to address the defensive side of the ball in the draft.  Thomas will disrupt the passing game and provide the versatility on defense that the Niners are looking for.

3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams, S, LSU

The Bears lack offensive talent, but there are no players talented enough to go this high. Chicago should in turn try to address their defense. Adams is a safety who will be able to lead the Bears secondary to a drastic improvement.

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4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama

The Jaguars probably would have addressed their secondary with this pick, but they have done so in free agency.  Defense is still the issue, though, so they can try to fix the defensive line to create more of a pass rush next year with Jonathan Allen.

5. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Titans are in a really good spot this season with two picks in the top eighteen. This should allow them to work both sides of the ball.  Lattimore is by far the best CB in the draft (without a scandal) and has to go at this pick so that they can bolster their secondary.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Oklahoma

6. New York Jets: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

The Jets have a defensive minded head coach and a best-player-available type of GM, which would likely lead to a clash between Malik Hooker (With Gareon Conley’s recent accusations) and Leonard Fournette at this pick. However, with Matt Forte already in the fold in New York, Hooker can be brought in to sure up the defense.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

The Chargers could look to add depth on the defensive end of the ball after drafting Joey Bosa in the first round last year.  However, with the top defensive prospects off of the board at this point, they look to the best offensive threat in the draft and bring in O.J. Howard to create a killer tight end tandem with Hunter Henry. Them, along with Tyrell Williams and Keenan Allen, should provide Phillip Rivers with plenty of options to throw the ball to, even if someone gets injured (like they always do on the Chargers).

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8. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

The Panthers defense will be as consistent as they have been for the last few years, but the offense truly struggled to move the ball last year. After Cam Newton’s spectacular 2015-2016 MVP season, the Panthers don’t know what to expect on the offensive end.  Leonard Fournette will come in and be groomed to replace Jonathan Stewart for years to come.

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9. Cincinnati Bengals: Cam Robinson, OT, Auburn

The Bengals lost Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler on the offensive line and need to try to fill those holes.  They could trade down in the draft with a team looking for Mike Williams. Since there are no trades in this mock draft, the Bengals take Cam Robinson who has faced a lot of top tier defensive talent in the SEC and dominated.

10. Buffalo Bills: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

The Bills lost Stephon Gilmore to free agency but brought in Micah Hyde to beef up their secondary.  They will draft Mike Williams to join fellow Clemson product Sammy Watkins and give Tyrod Taylor another option to throw to after losing Robert Woods.

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11. New Orleans Saints: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

The Saints perpetually need help on the defensive end of the ball and after not getting Malcom Butler this off season they will look to address this need in a secondary deep draft.  Marlon Humphrey out of Alabama is a very polished prospect who can contribute immediately, Alabama cornerbacks typically have difficulty adjusting to deep passes in the NFL but with Kenny Vaccaro in the secondary Humphrey should be able to adjust.

12. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC

The Browns have been waiting for a QB to come in and turn around the franchise. After several different attempts at drafting the savior of the Browns franchise at the quarterback position to no avail, I expect Cleveland to take one more shot at finding their man in the draft. Trubisky is the best quarterback in the draft and a hometown guy. Mitch could be the man to turn this franchise around even if he has to sit a year to learn, the Browns need him.

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13. Arizona Cardinals: John Ross, WR, Washington

The Cardinals offense is getting old, being spearheaded by Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald.  John Ross will be brought in to be the successor to Larry Fitzgerald and provide a deep threat for Palmer. The Cardinals receiving corps have been known to be injury prone and Ross will give Palmer another elite option.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

The Eagles were a sure bet to take a receiver in the draft until signing Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith.  They could look to improve their secondary, but with the eleventh pick in the second round, they could still get a very good cornerback such as Adoree’ Jackson or Teez Tabor.  It is in Philadelphia’s best interest to try to bring in another option to take some of the pressure off of Carson Wentz, and Dalvin Cook would be able to do so.  His versatility will allow him to eventually become an every down back and take the reins from an aging Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles.

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15. Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Andrew Luck is the star of this franchise and his offensive line has not been very good to him. Ryan Ramczyk is a no-brainer with the fifteenth pick and will come in and be a tough offensive lineman to try to protect him.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Joe Flacco needs people to throw to besides Kamar Aiken so that the Ravens can find their way back into the playoffs. Corey Davis was one of the most productive receivers in college football last season. Although he has faced some weaker competition, Davis has shown all of the skills necessary to be an elite receiver in the NFL.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan

17. Washington Redskins: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

After losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon this offseason, the Redskins would probably like to go receiver with this pick. Unfortunately, with the top three wideouts off the board, they turn to the defensive side of the ball.  Reuben Foster is the most talented linebacker in the draft and is worth this pick despite his injury issues.

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18. Tennessee Titans: David Njoku, TE, Miami

The Titans need to bring in a weapon for Marcus Mariota so that they can improve their passing game to complement their DeMarco Murray-powered attack.  With the top three receivers off of the board, they go to David Njoku, who had a very long workout with the team before the draft.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan

The Buccaneers could use some more weapons for Jameis Winston but he will make do with the emerging Cameron Brate, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson as they address their defensive woes.  Jabrill Peppers is a versatile option who can change the defensive side of the ball.  He entered the draft as a LB but projects as a safety.

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20. Denver Broncos: Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky

The Broncos have an elite defense, a strong receiving corps and a solid running back. Despite their talented roster, they lack an offensive line or a proven QB.  They will probably live with Siemian and improve their line with the big and strong Forrest Lamp.

21. Detroit Lions: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Matthew Stafford leads a great offense, but the Lions defense is nothing special.  Taco Charlton will provide another great pass rusher to pair with Ziggy Ansah and should disrupt the rhythm of many quarterbacks next year.

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22. Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri

Ryan Tannehill, Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry provide the Dolphins with a formidable offensive attack from all ends of the spectrum, so they should try to address their defense. Harris is one of the most complete linebackers in the draft and should be able to fill a hole on the defense as a pass rusher. This can clean up in the running game as Ndamukong Suh and company slow opposing running backs down.

23. New York Giants: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

The Giants had one glaring weakness last season at the offensive line, and in particular, Eric Flowers.  Garett Bolles is an offensive tackle who can come in and try to replace the Miami product.

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24. Oakland Raiders: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

The Raiders have a great offense with solid play from their defense last season, especially with Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack coming off of the edge.  However, Irvin isn’t as strong as Mack in the run game, which teams would react to by directing their backs to run at him in most attempts last year. Jarrad Davis will help to sure up the run game and keep this from happening.

25. Houston Texans: DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson

The Texans may have been hoping for Tony Romo, and after his retirement, they have to call an audible (literally).  Some consider Watson to be the best QB available in the draft, and Houston will pounce on the opportunity to fully recover from the Brock Osweiler deal.

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26. Seattle Seahawks: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

The Seahawks have a Russell Wilson-led offense that seems flawless at times, and a defense that has always been spectacular.  However, with a defensive mindset, expect Seattle to stick to that side of the ball and take Reddick who is an edge rusher with a motor that doesn’t stop.

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Houston

The Chiefs have been notorious for their great defense and slow-moving offense, but rookie phenom Tyreek Hill is helping to slowly break that stereotype.  Alex Smith is getting older and the Chiefs will need to groom a replacement, and Mahomes has the talent to be that man down the road, especially behind a coach like Andy Reid.

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28. Dallas Cowboys: Kevin King, CB, Washington

The Cowboys offense had a deadly combination of running and passing, but ultimately fell to the Packers because their receivers were able to get open.  Also, being in the same division as the deadly receiving corps of the Giants requires more secondary depth, so the Cowboys will buckle down and snag the long and athletic Kevin King. He has the physical skills to succeed and make an immediate impact in the NFL.

29. Green Bay Packers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Last year, the Packers couldn’t find a steady hold at running back until Ty Montgomery made somewhat of a transition to the position from receiver.  McCaffrey is a true running back who will provide the dangerous offense with yet another diverse weapon. He can do a similar job to what Montgomery did last year, but at a higher level.

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30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tre’davious White, CB, LSU

The Steelers offense got them to the AFC Championship before Tom Brady methodically picked apart their secondary.  Bringing in Tre’davious White out of LSU will provide them more depth in the secondary so that they can go and challenge for the AFC title again.

31. Atlanta Falcons: Dion Dawkins, OG, Temple

The Super Bowl will always be a sour memory for this Falcons team that does not have many holes.  However, in the second half of the championship game, Matt Ryan was under too much pressure, without much room for their running game to maneuver.  Dawkins will help solve that problem as he has some of the most potential for an offensive lineman in this draft.

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32. New Orleans Saints: Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi

After addressing the defense with their first pick, they could double down with somebody like Budda Baker at the safety position. It is more likely, though, that the Saints bring in a big weapon for Drew Brees to throw to after losing Brandin Cooks in the offseason.  Between Engram and Michael Thomas, if Brees can keep the ball high, the offense should be as prolific as usual.

Analytically Ending the NBA MVP Conversation

Chris Paul was my favorite basketball player to watch growing up. He could get anywhere on the court whenever he wanted to, was unselfish enough to set up his teammates and didn’t force anything.  I tried to model my game after him, always working on my passing, dribbling and midrange shooting. I currently stand an unimposing five foot seven inches tall and still can’t shoot to save my life, so that didn’t necessarily go as planned.

Back to Chris Paul though, I had always felt that he was worthy of MVP honors, especially in the 08-09 season when he was the only good player on his Hornets team that he carried to a 49-win seven-seed in the playoffs.  Due to my belief that Chris Paul should have been an MVP, I have always felt that the MVP should go to the best player on the team that over-performed most drastically and would have been terrible without them.  For example, I thought that the NFL MVP during the 2016-2017 season should have been the Cowboys offensive line, because they were the reason that Dak and Zeke played the way they did.  In the 2014-2015 season, I thought that Anthony Davis deserved the MVP because that Hornets team would have ended up top five in the lottery had he not been on the team, and instead made the playoffs over a Thunder team that was then limited to Russell Westbrook just like this season.

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This season’s MVP award is really down to two main candidates: Russell Westbrook and James Harden. My personal opinion is that Russell Westbrook should be the MVP, but my gut tells me that James Harden will win it because of his team’s success.  Westbrook plays on a team of significantly inferior talent than that of Houston and has still carried them to victory, averaging a triple double and leading the league in scoring in the process.  Harden’s team has the three seed in the West, he leads the league in assists and is second in scoring, only to Westbrook.  Statistically, Westbrook leads the league in points produced with 2931, but Harden leads in win shares with 15.

Here are the stat lines for each of our two major candidates:

  Wins PPG APG RPG SPG BPG TPG FG% 3P% FT%
James Harden 55 29.1 11.2 8.1 1.5 0.5 5.7 44 34.7 84.7
Russell Westbrook 47 31.6 10.4 10.7 1.6 0.4 5.4 42.5 34.3 84.5

From a basic perspective, both players have had incredible scoring and passing seasons and neither of those statistics can be utilized to differentiate the two of them.  Rebounding, though, has a wider margin.  Westbrook rebounded at an incredible rate for a point guard, despite the fact that Steven Adams and Enes Kanter are both good rebounders in their own right.  While Harden was a great rebounder, what Westbrook did was truly spectacular.

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I decided to put this to the test by running the numbers, using every MVP’s stat line since 1980, when the 3-pt line was introduced.  Given that it starts in 1980, we miss out on all of Bill Russell’s, Wilt Chamberlin’s and all but one of Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s MVP seasons.  Also, with two lockout shortened seasons in 1998-1999 and 2011-2012, the total win shares numbers were projected for those seasons based off of an eighty-two game season and the win totals for Karl Malone’s Jazz and LeBron James’ Heat were projected by their winning percentages.

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Despite this differentiation, the trend in recent MVP years demonstrates a lowered value being placed on rebounding.  So, while what Westbrook did was special, the transition that the league is taking from a big man’s league to a small-ball centered league has resulted in a diminished impact on voters.

Picture21Being that wins set the MVP candidates apart more than many other statistics this season do, win totals have been a core point of discussion when thinking about the MVP race. In 2016-2017, Westbrook’s team only finished 5 games above .500.  Traditionally, players on teams with higher win totals do better as the only player since 1980 to win the MVP with a win total under 50 was Moses Malone in the 1981-1982 season when he won 46 games.  Russell Westbrook would be a huge exception to what has transpired in recent times, and it seems as though it would make more sense for voters to  choose Harden.  However, how does one account for a player who averaged a triple double the entire season? Could Westbrook be an exception to the trend, despite the fact that Oscar Robertson didn’t win the MVP when he averaged a triple double?

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There is an argument to be made for each of these candidates within the two main differentiators, so with these arguments being presented, we may move to what it means to be the Most Valuable Player.  Everybody has their opinion of what being the MVP in basketball means, but to me, it is the person with the biggest impact on their team.  Harden led the Rockets to the biggest positive win differential against pre-season totals put out by the book makers in Vegas this season.  The Rockets were given 41.5 wins and the Thunder had 45.5. Harden’s team far exceeded their number by 13.5 wins, and Westbrook’s team only over-performed by 1.5.  This acts as a check for Harden. Once again, Westbrook is able to respond due to the poor shooting of his team. Both Westbrook and Harden positively impacted their team’s shooting performance from two point range as their teammates shot better off of assists from them (10.1% and 9.6% respectively).  However, Westbrook is the only one who positively impacted his teammates on a three-point shooting capacity in an increasingly three point shooting league. Despite this, Harden’s teammates shot 8.3% better than Westbrook’s teammates on wide open thees, leading to a record-setting three point shooting season for the Rockets. This can partially be credited to the fact that GM Daryl Morey has built a team completely designed to shoot the three and to make layups.

So, who is the MVP this year? According to my theory, while it is my strong opinion that Russell Westbrook had a greater positive impact on his team, based on the history of MVP voting and the impact that James Harden has made on his team this season, Harden is likely to receive this year’s trophy.

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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Which Players Get you the Most Points?

The Jets are a sad franchise.  All they have to show for their 51-year existence is one trip to the Super Bowl and thank god Joe Namath won it.  This means that Sundays in my household very often consist of sitting around, watching our favorite team lose.  I had to jets.pngfind a way to make football interesting for me again, so I started playing fantasy football.  Soon, fantasy football became a huge part of my life (maybe too big in my mom’s opinion), much like that of millions of Americans of all ages.  I’ve played in a ten-team ESPN standard scoring league for years now and the draft has always been the weakest part of my game.  My obsession with fantasy football meant that I read enough articles to do well with free agents, but I could never nail a good draft.

Traditional draft strategy has long included taking running backs first, waiting on quarterbacks, really waiting on defenses and kickers, and finding receivers when you can get them at good value.  I have taken a running back in the first round of every draft that I have ever been a part of, but last year marked my first year questioning this strategy.  The top three ranked players for the draft that year were Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr., with DeAndre Hopkins following not too far back. The early talent at the wide receiver position produced questions for my first pick. By the time my pick came around, all four of these receivers were off of the board and I luckily ended up with RB David Johnson.  I also took Lamar Miller next, meaning my first two picks were running backs, and with Melvin Gordon being scooped up by me in the sixth round.  Half of my first six picks were running backs, which eventually translated into a league title for this lowly Jets fan.  This solidified my opinion that the old strategy still worked, but I remained curious as to whether the secret was in the draft formula or if the people in my league were simply incompetent.

So, I decided to run the numbers, running linear regressions for total scores based off of each position’s score.  Here is the output of the slopes and R–squared values for each position:

Position Slope R-Squared
QB 1.094 .1656
RB1 1.1886 .231
RB2 1.2828 .1363
WR1 1.4139 .2232
WR2 1.9002 .2164
TE .7431 .0452
D/ST .9873 .0918
K 1.5052 .1116

Now, none of the R-Squared values are very high, so they must be looked at relative to one another.  In the case of this study, the R-squared values act basically as consistency scores for each position.  What we see is that a team’s best running back will likely perform relatively consistently over the course of the whole season, but it is not a huge difference maker in terms of the team’s week-to-week performance as a whole.  On the other hand, both receiver positions, especially the second receiver on the team, make a huge impact on the team’s final score and are almost just as consistent.  This backs the new idea that having elite wide receivers will prove to be more beneficial than having elite running backs.  This is where the owner’s managing style comes into play.  I would personally rather have a running back who performs consistently and doesn’t completely determine the outcome of my week than have a less consistent wide receiver whose performance can make or break my team’s performance every week.  With that being said, this means that an owner with a strength at running back would have to have a complete lineup, whereas the owner with a boost at receiver could likely get away with having more holes on the roster because of their star player’s ability to explode.

I then tried another test that basically confirmed that I was plain wrong.  If we use the sum of the RB1 and RB2 scores and the sum of the WR1 and WR2 scores and use them to create a linear regression against the total scores, we can see that the sum of wide receiver’s scores have both a higher slope and an R-squared value than the sum of the running back’s scores.  This essentially meant that wide receivers are both more consistent and have a bigger impact on one’s score than running backs, which solidifies the argument that elite wide receiver performances will help a team more than elite running back performances on a week to week basis.

One other concept that can be taken away from the study is that kickers, yes kickers, are very valuable. Yes, the position that we all leave to draft untilvinateri.png the last round (except that one “stupid” guy every year who seemingly drafts a kicker way too early) is a vital part of any fantasy football team’s performance.  I was shocked, but despite the general inconsistencies displayed by most kickers, the numbers are there to back it up. Adam Vinateri had a 23-point game last year, helping a lot of people win their matchup that week.  In fact, the numbers say that kickers have a bigger impact on one’s overall performance than a quarterback does. However, they are wildly inconsistent and cannot be counted on from a week to week basis.  The only conclusion that can be made from that is that if there is a kicker who you think will be extremely consistent and perform well, don’t hesitate to take him before the last round, but don’t take him too early either.

I still wasn’t completely sold on the idea that wide receivers were more valuable that running backs, so I went to check what works better at the FLEX position (no, it is not tight ends). Admittedly, running backs are at a natural disadvantage given that there are only 32 of them who start on any given week, and many are part of a running back-by-committee situation.  The statistics back up this idea as the FLEX receiver has a slope of 2 and the FLEX running back has a slope of 1.23, with both of them having low R-Squared values (although the receiver is higher in that case again).

All in all, wide receiver depth is more valuable than running back depth, despite the common misconception that loading up on running backs is the route to victory. However running backs are far more consistent, which is also important to take into account when thinking about one’s fantasy football strategy.  Also, building a team around an elite running back requires a complete roster full of many elite players, whereas having a receiver as your best player means that they alone can carry you to some victories.  It works like three-pointers in the NBA; they might be harder to make, like an elite receiver performance, but are a more efficient shot due to how many more points they provide if they are hit at a certain rate.  With that being said, I think that the reason I was able to win my league was because I had three running backs who qualified as RB1-level players, providing me with a full roster that performed consistently, effectively finding the exception to the general premise.  It is up to the owner to choose which strategy to employ, but I don’t think I will be changing mine.

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