By: Gary VanDyke ll (Twitter: @HBogart27)
Updated: 6/26/2017

FFD260 IDPs: Rookies 2.0

“The Perfect Situation.”
A situation a rookie is drafted into can determine so much more than what it is given credit for in Fantasy Football. As the real NFL draft unfolds we are bombarded with instant “takes” by commentators working for the major networks as well as from the fantasy “gurus”. Things are said that stick in our minds from those moments that we employ as we head full force into our rookie drafts and make our selections for our fantasy rosters. With so many players involved in the draft we depend on what has been said about the players and many times we don’t give anything a second thought. We all love this game so much that it is so common for leagues to schedule their rookie drafts within days or weeks of the conclusion of the real NFL draft. And rightfully so as a large majority of us have been sitting on the edge of our seats to feel the rush and excitement of a major event in any fantasy league. Unfortunately for us many of the instant “takes” on the players can turn out to be deceiving for many reasons. And there really isn’t anyone to blame for this when there are so many scenarios that can happen.

The fact of the matter is the commentators are only doing their jobs and working with what they have at the time to work with as the selections are made. Or the fantasy “gurus” are under pressure to give their “takes” before the other guy does and happens to hit on that “take” and gains notoriety for doing so. I’m personally as guilty as anyone to be caught up in all of this. As hard as I may try there is no way I can completely refrain from joining in and assuming whatever has been said is accurate for the most part. But what I have learned to do over the many years of playing this game is to pump the brakes and examine what the real situations are versus the instant takes. And this has put me sitting here, in front of my laptop passing on information to anyone that will listen to me. Hoping that my “take” plays out as I see it and benefits not only me but whoever is listening.

Let’s give it some time to unfold. There is a process in the madness to try to get the perfect “take” in the long run with suggesting any player. We have OTAs and mini camps in the real world to consider and the reports that come out from them. They can help in locating a prospect that will likely overachieve more than the original instant “take”. I’d like to refer to this as the “Perfect Situation” and would now like to pass on information as to why I think Miami’s Raekwon McMillan can end up being one of the top overall producing rookie linebacker of this years draft. And possibly the “Deion Jones” of last years rookie draft.

Simple; Sometimes it just takes the “ Perfect Situation”

Raekwon McMillan

H/W: 6’2” 240lbs
AGE: 20
Drafted: Rd 2, pick 22
College: Ohio State
NFL.com combine grade: 5.5
Grade rank: 6th (tied)

When Miami selected McMillan in the later part of the second round a few eyebrows were raised to as to why? When the roster needed another linebacker so badly they passed on the likes of Reuben Foster and Zach Cunningham who were still available when Miami was on the clock at the 22nd pick in the first round. Instead, they selected a listed OLB in Charles Harris, who some at the time pegged to possibly be the starting strong side linebacker alongside of Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso. To only again see in the later second round they pass over Zach Cunningham while selecting yet another linebacker. Some instant takes at the time scrambled to back track and yielded the idea that either Miami needed the depth badly or that their first round selection Harris would play at a 4-3 DE in the scheme and McMillan would compete for the strong side linebacker position. It became quite a scramble to figure out exactly what Miami had in mind. And exactly why would they choose McMillan over Cunningham who clearly was the better graded prospect by many.

The result of this in the following days was a little confusing, which in turn pushed McMillan down a bit in stature among the fantasy football crowd. It also had the same effect on Harris. Exactly why draft OLB Harris in the first round to only switch him to a DE in their scheme when they have the likes of Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes and Ndamukong Suh? Maybe this story unfolding will be worth an article in itself. But for now back to McMillan. He was inserted as the strong side linebacker on many, if not all, fantasy site rosters at first. Mainly due to the idea that Timmons was signed earlier in the off-season to be the guy in the middle and moving Alonso to the WLB position. And this was where McMillan sat as the fantasy crowd rushed to enjoy their fantasy league rookie drafts. As a Buckeye fan I’ll admit that it was a disappointing situation at first. Then after some time I began examining the situation and researching multiple resources to see exactly what was happening. I changed my view fairly quick as it came to light what Miami seems to have in mind.

I believe reading the “tea leafs” that the Miami’s front office may have had their plans for the draft fall exactly how they intended. There are signs that Harris was first on their draft board as a pass rusher to begin with. And that McMillan apparently was their first ILB going into the second round over Cunningham. Their intentions were to improve the pass rush with Harris and grab McMillan for the middle linebacker position. It really came down to their draft board and selecting the players that fit what they want to do going forward.

Raekwon McMillan Combine Compilation:

For the last few seasons the Miami linebacker core group has been lackluster at best. They haven’t had consistency across the board in either of the three positions. It’s either inconsistent play by the starters as they didn’t put up a fight to resign Jelani Jenkins. Or it’s been the constant injury to players like Koa Misi. The depth at the position had been tested over and over and no one was able to step up and perform at a high enough level. Kiko Alonso was traded for last season and inserted to the middle linebacker position in an effort to boost the core group. It was effective, but being in the middle linebacker position is not where Alonso is at his best. He is a much better WLB with coverage skills than anything. So then Timmons was signed this off-season who was immediately inserted into the MLB position and Alonso was kicked outside to the WLB. I personally questioned this as it happened. Timmons has been a great linebacker for years. The key word is “years” here. The guy is older and wore out from those years of being an every down player. He still has a great skill set going for him but let’s face it, he isn’t the player he once was. I’m sure he would still be the favorite to lead the defense from the MLB position if Miami’s draft board hadn’t work out as it did. But it seemed to work out and with a grade like this from PFF I believe Timmons now will be ticketed to be the SLB as a two down player. Here is PFF’s end of the year “take” and grade on the Steelers and Timmons.

*Note: 16 is the units overall rank for 2016.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Top overall grade: OLB James Harrison, 86.7
Lowest overall grade: LB Lawrence Timmons, 46.4

If one could summarize the Steelers’ front-seven in two words, they would be: missed tackles. They have the talent to play much better than the 16th-best front-seven any given week, but they struggle mightily finishing plays at times. Ryan Shazier’s 21 missed tackles were the fourth-most among linebackers, while Stephon Tuitt’s ridiculous 12 missed tackles were the most of any interior defensive lineman. It’s amazing to think that their most productive player is still 38-year-old James Harrison, a player whom it appeared they’d moved on from four years prior when he was cut and left free to sign with the divisional-rival Bengals.

A 46.4 grade is low, real low. Timmons was productive last year by default as the unit as a whole struggled. If the Steelers were willing to keep a 38 yr old Harrison around, why not Timmons?

Now let’s take a look at Miami’s PFF “take” and grade for last season:

*Note: 12 is the units overall rank for 2016.
12. Miami Dolphins
Top overall grade: DT Ndamukong Suh, 87.2
Lowest overall grade: DE Andre Branch, 56.4

Few teams recorded pressure with four-down linemen quite like the Dolphins in 2016. They pressured quarterbacks on 38.4 percent of their dropbacks, the fourth-best rate in the league, even though they were 22nd in blitz rate. That didn’t look like it would be the case after Cameron Wake’s 2015 season ended with a torn Achilles, however. His comeback was nothing short of miraculous, as even at 34 years old, he played as if he never got hurt in the first place. His 14.1 pass-rushing productivity mark was third-best in the NFL.

*Note: Branch’s grade, remember adding Harris in the first round?
*Note: I looked up Alonso’s separately. It was a 71.9, respectfully.

Now we will talk about exactly what McMillan brings to the table and what will earn him the starting MLB position. These are other reasons other than Miami needing and wanting him to succeed of course.

McMillan was a 5-star recruit who started 2 of his 3 years at OSU. Leading the team in tackles both years. Including the season he played with Darren lee who was highly touted in last years draft. His 51st-percentile SPARQ was well above average and he has speed with a recorded 4.61 40 yard dash at the combine. Camp reports state he is a hard worker and very coachable player. We will also note here that he graduated from high school a semester early to join OSU football for spring practice before his freshman year. Which paid off when he played all 15 games for them lining up for more snaps than the starter in nine of those games. This is another indication of intelligence and desire to do what it takes to be a productive player.

As OTAs and minicamp unfolded he rotated in all three linebacker positions and held his own. There were no “glowing” reports that he excelled at any one position. But it is difficult enough to learn one position as a rookie, not alone all three. Now this can be seen as Miami was trying to see where he fits best or we can look at this as I’m seeing it. A middle linebacker who will be the captain of the unit must know what all the linebacker positions do. He has to know exactly what each will be responsible for on any given play. And the Miami coaches have no problem inserting him in the situation to learn them all.

As a linebacker in college he had the instincts to take good angles and be a downhill force to stop the run. It was reported that he lacks coverage skills as he came out of college. But there were plenty of positive OTA and minicamp reports disputing this. Let’s face it, if you’re on a college team like the Buckeyes who constantly field a great secondary there aren’t many opportunities to showcase your coverage skills to begin with as a linebacker. It just isn’t what they are asked to do. Nor is it what I suspect he will be asked to do a lot of in the Miami scheme. Alonso recorded four passes defended last season with two INTs last season. It just doesn’t seem to be what they ask of their MLBs to do. So anything McMillan can bring to the table in pass coverage is a bonus.

In summary: Miami had the need and we should look at it as McMillan fills that need. He will be given every opportunity in camp as Atlanta did for Deion Jones last year. And barring any injury I only see a clear path for him to succeed. We should expect him to win the MLB position over an aging Timmons with his tangibles and produce while doing so.
Weeks after the draft it has played out as the Perfect Situation.

Predicted Production Level 2017: Solid LB1

*Note: I’m convinced enough I had drafted Reddick in my 32 team flagship league that has equal scoring set up for Offense & Defense a month ago at pick 1.14 (3rd linebacker off the board/ luxury pick for my roster). I’ve recently traded Reddick for McMillan who went at 2.06.