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In a must-win game for the AFC West title, and a bye in the first round of the playoffs… the Raiders fell flat. It was ‘just desserts’ in my book. Possibly, no team had a more overrated season than the Oakland Raiders. They faced four playoff teams this season and went 1–3 against them (KC 2x, ATL, and HOU). The one game they won – the MNF game in Mexico where the refs robbed the Texans blind, and handed the Raiders the win. I can point to at least two wins this season where Oakland should have lost but were saved on horrific calls by the referees (Houston and opening week vs. New Orleans). Oakland was sloppy and lucky much of the 2016 season.
Denver goes from Super Bowl champs to out of the playoffs the following season, and now without a head coach. The unraveling of the Broncos begins. Wade Phillips has been the real MVP of the Broncos – did what Jack Del Rio couldn’t do with the same Denver defensive unit…made them into a defensive force of nature. Phillips has a special working relationship with Gary Kubiak…and now what? The new coach might have Phillips forced upon him. A veteran coach won’t like that, and a young coach is bound to aggravate or butt heads with Phillips eventually. Turmoil at quarterback. A major upheaval in the coaching staff. Is Denver closer to collapsing and rebuilding or is one ‘thing’ away from repeat glory? Will it be Trevor Siemian + Kyle Shanahan or Tony Romo + Mike Shanahan? Denver is in a tough spot in dealing with their fork in the road. If I’m John Elway, I try to go all in on 2017 with the group I have. I don’t mess around with a young coach. I make deals with both Shanahans – Mike coaches this season and maybe the next, and mentors Kyle who will be the head coach after that. Co-coaches. Why not? Is the current ‘normal’ coaching system working across the NFL?
— Quick notes about the Raiders’ QBs in this game, giving a glimpse to the next week or two…
You’ll see Matt McGloin’s (6-11 for 21 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) stat line and shrug. Consider, that he was facing ‘the Broncos’, who were actually trying to win (for the most part). Also, consider – McGloin looked pretty sharp given the circumstances. I didn’t remember it that way from the live watch. I thought every Raider QB looked sloppy watching this mess live. On the re-watch, I thought McGloin came out and attacked, and played well. A near-miss bigger throw downfield and a drop stunted his results. Obviously, he then got popped and was lost for the rest of the game.
It won’t matter this week, but if Oakland gets to the next round to face Kansas City and McGloin returns…it may not be so easy for KC. Matt McGloin is a very solid, confident NFL quarterback.
Connor Cook (14-21 for 150 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) will start the first round of the playoffs, and guess what? He wasn’t that awful in this game. I do realize he came into the game down 17–0, so Denver was taking some pressure off…and I know Oakland scored just one TD with Cook in 2+ quarters, but I expected to see a total mess and I did not. This Denver defense was still running its best players late into the game.
I’m not a Cook fan at all, but I didn’t see anything in his performance here that would totally warrant an assumption that ‘all is lost’ for the Raiders’ playoff game. I mean, Cook as an ‘unknown’ to the Houston defense versus known-awful Brock Osweiler may be not as big a gap as we all thought.
At the bottom of this piece, I’ll include my Connor Cook scouting report from January 2016…just for more reading material. AND to remind you that College Football Metrics 2017 is just about a week away from kickoff.
— You know what Gary Kubiak leaving means? Any of us that bought into A.J. Derby (DNP) as the new Owen Daniels…the music has died there. Seriously. Derby goes from ‘sleeper’ TE1 material in 2017 to maybe a TE2/TE3. We’ll have to see the new coach, but for all intents and purposes…Derby is quasi-dead for fantasy in my mind.
Virgil Green (3-17-1/4 targets) gets a spark of life with Derby derailed, but isn’t that always the case – Green is a tease?
Jeff Heuerman (2-21-0/4 targets) looks pretty decent too. Our scouting models didn’t like him, but his couple of late season flashes have not been bad.
The Broncos have three good tight ends…and that means none, obviously, for fantasy. If Tony Romo winds up here we’ll have to reassess.
— At the post-game press conference, Jack Del Rio said out loud to the journalists…”Latavius Murray (5-11-0, 1-4-0/1 target) had 5 carries in the game. How does that happen?”
I call bullshit, Jack Del Rio. Why are you miffed by this information as the head coach? I have watched the Raiders all year. Almost every game, Latavius starts and gets a handoff…and then in comes ____ RB for the second play. It’s almost comical. Like, how sure are we Jamize Olawale is needed on 2nd & 7 on the second play of the game? Many times, the third play sees a different RB from the first and second RB. It’s a musical chairs approach. It’s been that way since Week 1. If Del Rio didn’t want it to be so he would have changed it by Week 17…or fired the O-C. It’s not like this just jumped up by surprise.
I would think the Raiders would want to strike with their best back, early and often, and see what happens from there. Del Rio has taken a different approach. Sometimes it worked this season. Many times it didn’t. I especially hated seeing 5-foot-nothing Jalen Richard go into five-wide sets as a flanker in the most critical of passing plays while 6′2″ former WR Latavius Murray is on the sidelines. I’ve seen Derek Carr try to throw it to the smaller RBs but the window was too small…whereas Murray is a much larger window…with better hands…and is faster…and more powerful…and more experienced…and on the sidelines…
…and hopefully gone via free agency in the offseason.
I’d say Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington cannot possibly be the RB rotation in 2017, but why would I think Del Rio would do differently?
— I thought everyone said Paxton Lynch was going to play some in this game? Trevor Siemian (17-27 for 206 yards, 2 TD/1 INT) went the whole way.
I had heard part of the reason why Kubiak was stepping down was because changes to his staff were being imposed by upper management, and he wasn’t going to do it. Additionally, I heard there is trouble in paradise at QB in Denver – Kubiak wanted to roll with Siemian and ‘management’ wants to see an ROI from Paxton Lynch.
NFL teams are run in a bizarre ‘Office Space‘ meets ‘Beverly Hillbillies‘ meets Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers series way. Outside of about two or three franchises, there seems to be constant meddling and radical shifts in approach every other year. Less than 10% of the teams make any sense…about the same percentages of businesses that are run well in the U.S.
I liked Siemian as a ‘sleeper’ back-end QB2 ahead with Kubiak, but with the coach gone…Siemian is in trouble. Lynch is in for a push and Tony Romo is lurking.
— Amari Cooper (4-39-1/8 targets) had a terrible second half of the season. Just 6.5 targets per game the last 8 games. That’s unconscionable. One game over 60 yards in that span is absurd.
I’m an offseason buyer of Amari Cooper. I’m a sucker for Cooper. He’s got ‘next Antonio Brown‘ written all over him…but he has no Big Ben or Mike Tomlin to go with. My pea-brain says Amari has to break through to superstardom, eventually. He has flashed signs of it his first two seasons…and died in second halves of each campaign. Last year it was an injury issue. Not sure if the same deal this year. He’s too good to be this ‘blah’ for fantasy.
Amari is definitely losing his luster with dynasty GMs…like Todd Gurley. Amari drew a better schedule rotation for 2017, but he still has the curse of the AFC West – six matchups with shutdown corners Talib-Peters-Verrett. I want to buy Cooper as a mid-range WR2 or less for dynasty. Too many good WRs to overpay for Amari, but I do want in…
— Knowing the QB situation…the Raiders defense knew they would have to rise up and have their best game of the year to try to win the AFC West. What did they do? They got smoked right from the jump. Down 7–0 right away and then slid to down 17–0 right before the half. Denver had one of the worst running games in the NFL since Week 3 but had their third-best rushing effort versus Oakland. Denver has a terrible O-Line, thus the run game issues, and was a risk to give up 3–5+ sacks to Khalil Mack and friends. Instead, the Raiders registered zero sacks while getting run all over. This was an embarrassment by the Raiders’ defense in this game.
To me, it looks like Jack Del Rio is losing sway over his team and his coaches. Sloppy. Very sloppy. I would be shocked if Ken Norton (D-C) is not fired in the offseason.
From College Football Metrics in January 2016…
NFL Draft 2016 Scouting Report: QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
At the start of the 2015 college season, Connor Cook was arguably the top-choice/ranked quarterback prospect for most college football and NFL Draft analysts. Cook was clinging to that reputation, that label, for dear life, until his late 2015 season flops in big games cost him his top rating…slipping behind Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff, as well as a few others. Once considered a top 10 overall pick, Cook is falling out of first-round mocks to start the NFL Draft process in January.
What’s irritated me doing my studies of Cook’s 2015 season—is how fawning the analysts are on him during televised national games. Cook has that ‘thing’, I don’t know how to describe it…that ‘thing’ where analysts and coaches love him, so he’s ‘in’, and it is hard to break it—hard to get any objective analysis. The better NFL Draft analysts are going to eventually chop his draft legs out from under him, but right now Cook is enjoying the wave of national media acceptance he’s ridden for two seasons. I predict Cook will slide from #30–50 overall mock draft projections, to ‘will he fall to day three?’ debates by March–April.
Connor Cook just isn’t that talented of a quarterback…not on the ‘elite’ or top-rated quarterback level that some portrayed him most of 2014 and 2015. His numbers scream, “Problem!” His tape is deceptive.
When I watch Cook on tape, I can see why people would love him. On an initial look at his highlight reel, Cook has a very quick release on his throws. The ball jumps out of his hand, and moves with nice velocity. At a glance, he looks like a legit NFL quarterback. The problems start to appear when you look at his activity deeper. When I watch Cook play-by-play, against stiffer competition, I see a quarterback who is making a decision to throw before the snap/at the snap. Where his head fixates/his eyes focus to begin a play/drop-back—that’s where he is going to throw 90%+ of the time. He’s a nervous, uncomfortable-looking quarterback prospect, to my eyes. You can get away with that in college with a great team/surrounding cast, and a quick release arm—he can get it to receivers in a hurry. The problem is, when the defenses are better, and the receivers get covered tighter—Cook is still likely to try to force that one-read/no-read throw.
My summary of watching Cook is that I just don’t see anything special. I don’t see it in the numbers or on tape. I see that he is solid, and that he can hang in the NFL, but I just don’t see a ‘must have’ prospect or a ‘franchise QB’ here.
Cook has the arm and attitude to get an NFL shot. He’s more NFL backup or emergency starter than a legit starter who will carry a team.
Connor Cook, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:
I look at Cook’s four best ‘tests’ in 2015, his toughest opponents—Oregon, Michigan, Iowa, and Alabama. In those four games, Cook produced a 2–2 record, really should have been 1–3, lucky to not be 0–4, with 3 TDs/4 INTs in the four games. In his three career bowl games, Cook has produced 4 TDs/5 INTs. Against the best competition, Cook doesn’t really electrify as a passer—he gets exposed.
In his two critical games to finish the 2015 season, versus Iowa and Alabama, Cook posted 0 TD/3 INT with less than 50% completion percentage, and just 200.5 yards passing per game.
In 2015, against the MAC conference’s Western Michigan and Central Michigan, Cook completed just 51.0% of his passes with 199.5 yards passing and 1.5 TDs/0.0 INTs per game.
There is nothing for anyone to sink their teeth into with Cook in his performance numbers. He was pretty good against bad opponents, and solid/decent against so-so foes, and struggled with the high-end bowl teams. That’s the story of most ‘nice’ college QBs who fail in the NFL.
The Historical QB Prospects Who Connor Cook Most Compares Within Our System:
Our computer models see a lot of NFL backup talent/spot starters as matches for Connor Cook. I added Kirk Cousins at the end of the list, for more comparison—the computer did not see much match between Cousins and Cook.
Cousins was also highly lauded for his college play and leadership at Michigan State. He was initially thought to be a top 50 player to be drafted, but he fell to the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Cook is not as good a QB prospect as Cousins, because while Cousins lacked some of the physical tools/arm of Cook…Cousins was a smarter, more accurate quarterback. Our scouting models were not fans of Cousins, and most of his NFL career has been a mess to-date…with a hot streak in late 2015 against losing record teams late in the season in a bad division. I bring up Cousins because Cook is going to benefit in the NFL Draft from Cousins.
We will all hear a thousand times during the draft process that Kirk Cousins is now an NFL star/a franchise QB (I vehemently disagree), and see how he was overlooked in the draft. There will be a lot of Cook-Cousins Michigan State ‘winners’ equivocation, and I can see some silly NFL team making the reach for Cook based on it—taking him as high as the early second round. Cousins will be to blame.
Cousins, and everyone else on this list are NFL fringe starters/more suitable NFL backups—I think those labels peg Cook’s likely NFL trajectory.
[Comparison table at CFM]
*”Adj” = A view of adjusted college output in our system…adjusted for strength of opponent.
**A score of 8.5+ is where we see a stronger correlation of QBs going onto become NFL good-to-great. A scouting score of 9.5+ is rarefied air—higher potential for becoming great-to-elite.
QBs scoring 6.0–8.0 are finding more success is the new passing era of the NFL (2014-on). Depending upon system and surrounding weapons, a 6.0–8.0 rated QB can do fine in today’s NFL—with the right circumstances…but they are not ‘the next Tom Brady’ guys, just NFL useful guys.
2015 NFL Draft Outlook:
Cook is drawing mostly 2nd-round grades and in mock draft spots right now. He’s likely to stay there for a while. He has a ton of positive credibility with the football media, he’ll have the Kirk Cousins thing working for him. If I had bet, I’d say 2nd round with some chance that he falls to the 3rd round. The tug of war will be: Does the late 2015 season collapse versus Iowa and Alabama represent the ‘true’ Connor Cook…or was it his shoulder injury? I think there are issues before you get to the Iowa-Alabama or shoulder debate. In the end, I think the media will push him positive enough to get him into the 2nd round.
If I were an NFL GM, I would have Cook on my draft board—but not with any priority. I think I could find average QB prospects, with minor upside, like him much later in a draft without chasing up into the 2nd or 3rd round to find it/waste time on it.
NFL Outlook: Cook will not be drafted to start right away, and if for some reason he is pushed into the lineup immediately—he will get ripped apart. Perhaps, with time/experience and the loving support of his NFL team and the football masses (which he will get, whereas many other quality non–top 50 drafted QBs don’t) he may start someday…and perhaps get on a temporary roll like Kirk Cousins has in late 2015. However, with enough games logged, Cook will be exposed as all arm and poor QB instincts—he’ll be ‘OK’ at best…with more likelihood of busting than succeeding for any stretch.