…for not being around the past month or so. Real life is a vicious mistress at times. Be back probably by early April, though!

Til then, I’m sorry for picking Adam Muema as my top rookie RB this year. I think that must’ve been his downfall.

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2014 NFL Draft

Here is where you will be able to access all of the information I’ve put together related to the 2014 NFL draft.

Positional Rankings

  • Quarterbacks
  • Running Backs
  • Wide Receivers – coming in the middle of February 2014
  • Tight Ends and Fullbacks – coming late February 2014
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Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State

Sophomore who has declared for the 2014 draft.

Positives: Good height and bulk for the position. Runs with adequate speed and his feet are quick, giving him a clean release off the line. Shows above-average hands and body control, and can usually adjust well to off-target passes. Has quick hands that can snag fast, off-target passes. Highpoints passes well, and consistently wins in jump-ball situations. Fair concentration on contested passes. Follows his blockers well after the catch. Good balance and effort after the catch and contact. Is an adequate, though not powerful, downfield blocker. Willing to lower his shoulder to deliver a hit on the sidelines instead of just ducking out of bounds. Will often slip the first tackler or break tackle.

Negatives: Though he did well on contested passes in college, that seemed to be just a result of his size — in the NFL, he will need to attack the ball in the air more consistently. Seems to double-clutch receptions often. Though he has the off-the-line quickness to get open for quick passes, he isn’t a polished route runner. Though he’s an adequate downfield blocker, he isn’t a very physical one.

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Brelan Chancellor, WR/KR/PR, North Texas

Positives: Though small for the position, he is well built. Runs with above-average speed and quickness. Good acceleration off of the line and after the catch. Is able to stop his momentum and restart well with nice burst. Above-average balance after contact, and runs tough for his size. Slippery after the catch and isn’t easy to bring down despite his lack of size. Fairly nimble on catches near the sidelines. Above-average body control and adjusts well to off-target passes. Can highpoint passes well. Patient, though bordering on hesitant, with the ball in his hands. Even so, he has the acceleration to make up for his hesitation when he sees a seam. Comes back to a quarterback during scramble drills.

Negatives: Short for the position, with slightly below-average bulk. Inconsistent hands as a returner. Is hesitant at times on kick returns.

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Anthony McClung, WR/KR/PR, Cincinnati

Positives: Runs with good speed and above-average acceleration. Has above-average hands and can extend and adjust very well at times. Extends to catch passes at their highest point well and consistently. Good concentration in traffic and when a hit is coming. Fairly strong runner after contact. Reliable punt-return hands.

Negatives: Not very physical with cornerbacks. Inconsistent concentration, and drops some easy passes. Generally poor and risky decisions as a returner – tends to run sideways rather than upfield. Also tried to field a ball on a bounce in traffic and fumbled it. Also let a ball bounce over his head and inside the 10-yard line. Injured hamstring in August 2013 and was limited for a month.

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Ryan Smith, WR/PR/KR, North Dakota State: FCS Division

Positives: Runs with good speed and above-average quickness. Adequate acceleration off the line and after the catch. When running routes, he is fairly quick in and out of his breaks. Above-average hands and extends and adjusts fairly well to catch passes away from his frame. Doesn’t let passes get to his body. Tracks passes over his inside shoulder fairly well. Shows good effort on off-target passes. Okay concentration in traffic. Above-average vision for yards after the catch. Reads downfield blocks well. Makes consistently smart punt return and kick return fielding decisions, and has reliable hands enough that he isn’t afraid to field the ball in traffic. Gets upfield quickly on returns and doesn’t waste much motion.

Negatives: Short for the position and has a slight build. Though his breaks are quick, he isn’t very deceptive in his route running – runs with flailing arms that telegraph his routes. Below-average tracking over outside shoulder. Suspect concentration when a hit is coming. Sometimes is late to look for the ball on deep routes.

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Bruce Ellington, WR/KR, South Carolina

Junior who has declared for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Positives: Though he is short for the position, he has adequate bulk, and is proportioned like a running back. Runs with good speed and quickness, and accelerates off the line quickly. Above-average route runner who is crisp in his breaks. Adjusts his routes well to keep an angle on the ball in the air. Shows good hands and can extend and snag passes away from his frame. Good concentration and body control, and adjusts to off-target and tipped passes very well. Tracks passes well over both his inside and outside shoulders. Not afraid to go over the middle and holds the ball with a big hit. Above-average balance both on the sidelines and after contact. Willing to get in the way as a downfield blocker. Generally very athletic and versatile, and was a wildcat quarterback for the team and the point guard on his college basketball team. Even threw a touchdown in the 2013 bowl game.

Negatives: Short for the position. Makes suspect decisions as a kick returner. Though a willing blocker, he’s not a good one – gets caught flat footed and doesn’t maintain blocks. Injured his hamstring in Summer 2013 and missed a few weeks.

Projection: Round 4. Good ball skills, athleticism and route running give him a good shot at being a fairly immediate starter with the potential to put up WR2 numbers on the right team. Would be difficult enough to cover out of the slot, but is physical enough to play an outside receiver spot, too. Draftable late in the first round of dynasty rookie drafts.

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Brandin Cooks, WR/PR, Oregon State

Junior who has declared for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Positives: Though he’s a smaller receiver, he’s well built. Runs with above-average speed and very good quickness and acceleration off the line and after the catch. Very good stop-and-start ability. Runs good routes, and is very quick in and out of his breaks, getting good separation from defenders. Above-average hands and concentration – even on passes in traffic. Extends and adjusts very well for off-target passes and passes away from his frame, and can snag passes at their highest point. Shows good effort on errant passes and will go to the ground for the catch. Shows above-average body control to come down with off-target passes and is nimble on the sidelines. Good vertical leap, and can go up and get the pass – very effective in jump-ball situations despite his height. Good open-field vision and elusiveness for yards after the catch and is patient as a runner, waiting for blockers. Makes generally smart punt-return fielding decisions. Good downfield blocker despite his size. Smart receiver.

Negatives: Below-average height and bulk for the position. Ankle and knee injuries in 2012 slowed him down for a while. Not very strong, and will probably have trouble with physical defenders if they can stay with him. Injured ribs in September 2013, and it seem to hamper his ball security.

Projection: Round 2. Reminds me a lot of Jarrett Dillard, who was a super-athletic smaller wide receiver with a lot of speed, quickness, and ball skills whose career never took off due to injuries and, well, the Jaguars. With his lack of size, Cooks’s career could see the same flat trajectory. Or maybe he’s a Desean Jackson who will eventually put up WR2 and possibly low-end WR1 numbers depending on the  team he lands on. Draftable in the first round of dynasty rookie drafts.

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Jarvis Landry, WR, Louisiana State

Junior who has declared for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Positives: Above-average height and adequate bulk. Runs with above-average speed. Shows above-average routes, running smoothly and crisply, getting positioning on cornerbacks well. Generally good hands, and can extend for passes away from his frame. Shows fair effort on off-target passes and will go to the ground for the catch. Has quick feet and is dangerous after the catch. Runs tough after the catch and isn’t afraid of contact. When contact happens, he is able to regain balance easily. Gets upfield quickly after catching the ball. Willing run blocker.

Negatives: Has a hard time with press coverage. Below-average focus – will try to make one-handed catch when it isn’t necessary or will turn upfield to get yards before securing the pass. On contested passes, he needs to be more aggressive and fight for the ball. Below-average ball security. Though he’s a willing blocker, he needs work on his technique and strength, and seems to be easy to push back.

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Odell Beckham, Jr., WR/KR/PR, Louisiana State

Junior who has declared for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Positives: Runs with above-average speed and quickness and changes directions well. Difficult to get a hand on in the open field. Pretty good route runner who gets good inside positioning on slant patterns right off the line. Has good, strong and quick hands and is able to extend to snag passes away from his frame. Also has the concentration to be able to make the one-hand catch. Gives good effort on errant passes and will dive and go to ground for the reception. Above-average balance after contact and isn’t afraid to get physical with defenders. Good sense of where the first-down marker is. Works back to quarterback in trouble. Reliable PR hands – even under pressure. Heads upfield quickly on returns and has good vision that lets him pick his way through traffic. Willing downfield blocker.

Negatives: Slightly below-average height and bulk for the position. Runs a little out of control at times and will lose his balance making cuts with the ball in his hand. Makes consistently risky decisions as a punt returner and will try to field and return a ball on a bounce in traffic.

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Ranking the RBs in the 2014 NFL Draft

Rankings are as of February 8, 2014, and will be heavily in flux until the draft.

In fantasy leagues, the ideal running back is one who can do it all – be a workhorse runner, catch everything thrown to him, can block, isn’t taken off the field for third downs. Basically, a guy who gets 25 touches per game, a touchdown or two, and 120 total yards or more.

That guy doesn’t really exist anymore.

Instead, fantasy football GMs (and real-life ones, too) have to find a mix of running backs that fits their system and can do exactly what needs to be done when they’re on the field. The power back who can run 10 times a game in short-yardage and goal-line situations and soften the defense the rest of the time. The smaller back for third-and-long catches and runs to the outside. The in-betweener who can do a little of everything but isn’t strong enough to handle a full workload.

In the 2014 draft, there is only a handful of running backs who look like they’ll be able to handle anything close to workhorse duties, then there’s a long list of power backs and smaller backs best suited for committee duties.

Overall, the first three on this list – Muema, Hill, and Carey – are the most (in my mind) likely to develop into RB1s for fantasy purposes. Muema is at the top of my list (and nobody else’s, I realize) mostly because of the character concerns facing Hill and Carey. Both Hill and Carey have more physical talent than Muema, but I simply don’t trust them to stay out of trouble and on the field.

After the top three is a block of backs, from Mason through Freeman, who also have a lot of potential for fantasy success in the NFL depending on their team. Of this group, the most likely to develop into workhorses are West, Hyde, and Johnson. The rest will most likely be change-of-pace and committee backs who could put up RB2 numbers.

The next block probably runs from White through Sankey, and they are real wild cards whose production, I think, will really depend on the creativity of their offensive coordinator. As of now, they are probably the last group that I would draft in moderately-sized dynasty leagues. There’s a lot of talent later in the list, but I’m less confident they will get a chance on an NFL roster.

So here’s my list, which is going to change a lot in the next few months:

  1. Adam Muema, San Diego State
  2. Jeremy Hill, Louisiana State
  3. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
  4. Tre Mason, Auburn
  5. Terrance West, Towson: FCS
  6. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
  7. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
  8. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon
  9. Storm Johnson, Central Florida
  10. Devonta Freeman, Florida State
  11. James White, Wisconsin
  12. Charles Sims, West Virginia
  13. Dri Archer, Kent State
  14. Jerome Smith, Syracuse
  15. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina: FCS
  16. Bishop Sankey, Washington
  17. Raijon Neal, Tennessee
  18. Andre Williams, Boston College
  19. Franklyn Quiteh, Bloomsburg: D2
  20. David Fluellen, Toledo
  21. Ben Malena, Texas A&M
  22. Roy Finch, Oklahoma
  23. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State
  24. Zach Bauman, Northern Arizona: FCS
  25. Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State
  26. Branden Oliver, Buffalo
  27. Trey Watts, Tulsa
  28. James Wilder, Jr., Florida State
  29. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
  30. Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
  31. Tim Cornett, Nevada-Las Vegas
  32. Prince-Tyson Gulley, Syracuse
  33. Silas Redd, Southern California
  34. Jordan Hall, Ohio State
  35. Jeff Scott, Mississippi
  36. James Sims, Kansas
  37. Orleans Darkwa, Tulane
  38. John Spooney, Brown: FCS
  39. Zurlon Tipton, Central Michigan
  40. Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State: FCS
  41. Sam Ojuri, North Dakota State: FCS
  42. Brennan Clay, Oklahoma
  43. Anthony Wilkerson, Stanford
  44. Kiero Small, Arkansas
  45. Terrance Cobb, University of the Cumberlands: NAIA
  46. Ryan Montague, Louisiana College: D3
  47. Juwan Thompson, Duke
  48. Dominick Pierre, Dartmouth: FCS
  49. Damien Thigpen, UCLA
  50. Vintavious Cooper, East Carolina
  51. Tommy Gooden, Jackson State: FCS
  52. Dareyon Chance, Western Michigan
  53. Darreion Robinson, Georgia southern
  54. Aldreakis Allen, Liberty: FCS
  55. Waymon James, TCU
  56. Rondell White, West Chester: D2

And then there are the others who I liked in limited action, but who I honestly haven’t watched enough of to be able to form an educated opinion:

  • George Atkinson III, Notre Dame
  • Alfred Blue, LSU
  • Marion Grice, Arizona State
  • Brendan Bigelow, California
  • Senorise Perry, Louisville
  • Glasco Martin, Baylor
  • Darrin Reaves, Alabama-Birmingham
  • Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
  • Dillon Baxter, Baker: NAIA
  • Taylor Cox, Kansas
  • Tromaine Dennis, Northern Colorado: FCS
  • Kenny Miles, South Carolina
  • Brian Fields, Western Michigan
  • Otis Wright, Wagner: FCS
  • Kendrick Hardy, Southern Mississippi
  • Wesley Tate, Vanderbilt
  • Jarrell Cooper, William and Mary: FCS
  • Julian Hayes, Monmouth: FCS
  • Keion Wade, St. Francis: FCS
  • Justin Billings, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: FCS
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