Thirty years can be considered a lifetime in the world of professional sports. Consider the fact that thirty years ago, in 1989, only two quarterbacks passed for over 4,000 yards. Compare that to last season, which saw twelve signal callers eclipse 4,000, and it’d be safe to say we are talking about two completely different sports. The evolution of football is both undeniable and well-documented – teams pass more than ever, bone-jarring hits have been virtually eliminated due to rule changes in favor of player safety, and the every-down back who gets over 270 touches – ten in 1989 compared to just Ezekiel Elliot in 2018 – is a thing of the past. But what has this change in play done to how teams approach the draft, and specifically, the first two rounds of the draft, which are vital to a team’s growth and success down the road?
Finally, we are just one day away from the NFL’s main offseason event. Fans’ hopes are as high as they get, speculations continue to swirl, and those that are fortunate enough to have tickets are preparing to let their boos be heard when Roger Goodell takes the stage. For this mock draft, we are assuming no trades are made, and each team makes their own pick.
In the past two weeks, there has been a remarkable change in Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern’s basketball team, for the majority of the season, has been a walk-over for the rest of the Big Ten conference. To start 2015, the Wildcats went on a 10-game Big Ten losing streak, and going into their game vs Iowa at home, they were ranked #154 in KenPom’s rankings and were completely irrelevant. However, Northwestern has now won four games in a row, beating Iowa at home, Minnesota on the road, then Penn State and Indiana at home. Beating two probable tournament teams in Minnesota and Indiana would be impressive for any low-ranked team, but looking deeper into these four wins shows that the Northwestern squad has done something more incredible.
Welcome to March.
We are closing in on the tournament, and the bubble is starting to shrink. We can close in and analyze who has the best chance of getting in and who is going to the NIT. At time of this writing (Sunday Night, March 9th), I have calculated that there are 42 locks, and 17 more 1 bid leagues, teams that will get 1 team in but no more, that have not crowned their champion. That leaves 59 spots in the tournament already decided, and 9 total spots on the bubble. First, before touching on each team and their chances of moving into the tournament, I want to discuss what is dangerous for all of the bubble teams – bid stealing. A pet peeve of mine is when TV analysts begin to talk about the bubble and they talk about how if one team wins one game they could go from the middle of the bubble to a lock. Even more of a pet peeve is when analysts forget to include the lost bubble spots to bid stealing. Here is an example of what I mean by bid stealing: Toledo is a great example of a team that could really screw over some bubble teams this postseason. Toledo is a bubble team as well as the favorite to win their conference tournament because of their very strong RPI. If Toledo wins their tournament, the MAC will be a 1-bid conference and the bubble will stay the same size. However, if Toledo loses in their tournament (which really wouldn’t be too big of a surprise as they are not even the #1 seed in their conference), the MAC could become a 2 bid conference and make the bubble shrink. Other more common scenarios are when a low level team in a top conference such as the SEC or Big 10 comes out of nowhere and wins their conference tournament, like Georgia did in 2008, winning the SEC tournament and getting a 14 seed in the tournament. So pay attention, bubble teams. Along with your team, you are rooting for the favorites the rest of the way out. At the end of the day, based on the conference tournament win probabilities, we can expect around 2 bids to be stolen, which brings our bubble to 7. Now lets start breaking down the bubble teams and where they stand.
Locks: Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Villanova, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Syracuse, Virginia, Creighton, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Michigan State, Iowa State, San Diego St, Cincinnati, UCLA, Oklahoma, Connecticut, VCU, New Mexico, Harvard, Eastern Kentucky, St. Louis, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Texas, Memphis, Ohio State, Massachusetts, Oregon, Baylor, SMU, St. Joseph’s, BYU, Kansas State, George Washington, Colorado, Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Iowa
Beautiful, done with that. In my next post, we’ll start classifying some teams.
by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University