A Great Season After a Great Off-Season!

We’re more than halfway through the 2018 season already – I’m constantly amazed at how fast the NFL season passes. It’s been a season full of surprises, and I just came across a blog article I started back in September and thought it would be interesting to finish it now with the benefit of a little hindsight.

I’ve been an NFL Draft nut for more than 30 years. I’m not afraid to admit it, because I know I’m among friends here! My love of the NFL Draft is actually where PowerHouse came from. I was never really all that interested in how well I could predict who the real-life NFL teams would draft; I was more interested in seeing how I could do as a talent evaluator myself; what kind of team could I build if I was an NFL General Manager?

I started keeping a virtual team in Excel in 1995, and the rules that would eventuallybe baked into our web-based NFL General Manager simulation evolved from that over several years. When we first went live in testing mode, we used data from 2011. So, my flagship virtual team – the one you see if you go to the game pages on our site when you’re not logged in – has played eight virtual seasons already.

In all that time, I think maybe the most recent off-season is the most fun I’ve ever had with our site. Part of that is the fact that we’ve been way more stable as a technology platform than we’ve ever been in the past. But most of it is the amount of effort I had to put into reworking the Jesters’ roster… a true labor of love!

This team drafted Kirk Cousins in R3 of the 2012 NFL Draft, and eventually put enough talent around him to win a Super Bowl following a 13-3 season in 2015 (as an aside, did you know that you can now look at your team’s past results with the year drop-down on the Standings page?)

Winning a title was a proud moment, to be sure, but the team soon slumped into mediocrity. After a 7-9 season in 2017, I faced some hard decisions.

The first of these surrounded Cousins himself. I like him quite a bit, and he’s got a great chance to win in Minnesota. But, being honest with myself, I didn’t have nearly the roster around him that the Vikings had, and his three-year $84M contract was way too rich for my blood. It was time to find a new QB.

Step one was finding a bridge QB among the several options in free agency. I settled on A.J. McCarron, who I thought had some upside based on his play in Cincinnati. Luckily, I was able to sign him.

Next, I turned to the QB-rich 2018 draft class. I had Sam Darnold and Josh Allen as my two elite prospects at the position. I liked Baker Mayfield a lot, but his volatility gave me pause. I didn’t like Josh Rosen at all – I watched at least four of his games, and he looked like Jay Cutler to me.

I wasn’t willing to pay the enormous premium the Jets did to get to number three, but when the Bills jumped to R1/7, I pulled the same trigger and got my man in Josh Allen.

I was delighted to have both McCarron and Allen on the same team, as I figured McCarron would start for a while, and then Allen would hopefully take over. It was a major curveball when the Bills dealt McCarron to the Raiders, but Allen soon stepped into the starter’s role anyway, so no big deal. Of course, Allen then got hurt, but that’s the nature of our simulation, just as it is in real life.

Beyond dealing to get Allen, I had a blast with this draft, and I think it’s because it was a very realistic one in terms of how I worked it. With two trade-ups in R1 – up a few slots to get Allen, and then into the back end to get Will Hernandez at the spot where Lamar Jackson went – I had nothing left until multiple picks in R5 and later.

My 2017 draft, in its entirety:

  • R1/7 – Josh Allen, QB/Wyoming
  • R1/25 – Will Hernandez, OG/UTEP
  • R5/15 – Tyrell Crosby, OT/Ore
  • R5/19 – Ogbo Okoronkwo, LB/Okla
  • R5/22 – Tim Settle, DT/VaTech
  • R5/24 – Jamarco Jones, OT/Ohio St
  • R5/36 – Duke Ejiofor, LB/Wake Forest
  • R6/4 – Christian Sam, LB/Ariz St
  • R7/8 – Marcell Ateman, WR/Okla St
  • R7/25 – Will Clapp, OG/LSU
  • R7/32 – Justin Jackson, RB/Northwestern

I put a lot of work into it this year, and I’ve been delighted with the results! Of course, time will tell if any of these players become studs, but every single one of these picks is on an active NFL roster, except Jamarco Jones and Christian Sam, who are both on IR. I’ve never “hit” on so many picks.

The most important part of the scouting process is watching game tape, and fortunately that’s become easy courtesy of YouTube. And, while you can’t interview draft prospects or their college coaches yourself, you can learn a lot about character issues if you dig around on the internet.

And that’s one of my favorite things about running a virtual NFL team here on PowerHouse: if you want to put in the effort, you can learn so much about the players. As an example, I drafted Florida CB Quincy Wilson in R2 in 2017. Doing research on him, I found this article that explains that he was admittedly immature and didn’t know how NFL players need to work. We’ll see if he “gets it” now, but I don’t watch the Colts regularly, so I simply had no idea…

However you choose to approach running your team, I hope you’re having a great season so far, and I hope you’re winning more than losing. Happily, my Jesters, despite their QB woes, are off to a 5-3 start, so if only Josh Allen comes back and has success…

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