Ah... spring football. If you want to take it away, you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead, hands. Does it signify anything? No. Is there a chance that it doesn't really improve many players? Yes. Is it football in a time when there would otherwise be no football? INDEED. And it all comes to a climax on Saturday with Ole Miss' annual spring game.
Unlike last April, when offensive line injuries limited the "Grove Bowl" to a series of positional drills, Saturday's edition will be a live scrimmage. As we did last year (I don't want to talk about it), Whiskey Wednesday and I drafted two teams of Rebel players, using a fantasy-style, snake format. Only players who are projected to play in the game tomorrow were eligible, which means the likes of Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil weren't on the board. We also did not pick offensive linemen since we don't really have a handle on who (if anyone) will be healthy enough to play.
So here are the teams. We didn't get caught up in which safety plays where, etc. Just... it's a hypothetical thing that doesn't matter. Don't over-analyze.
Whiskey's Wacky Wascals
(The pick number is in parentheses)
QB: Ryan Buchanan (15th) | Jeremy Liggins (34th)
HB: Jaylen Walton (6th)| Eugene Brazley (42nd)
WR: Markell Pack (18th) | Derrick Jones (38th) | Q Burdette (50th)
WR: Quincy Adeboyejo (26th) | Collins Moore (46th)
TE: Evan Engram (2nd)
DE: Marquis Haynes (7th) | Garrald McDowell (43rd)
DT: DJ Jones (11th) | Breeland Speaks (35th)
DT: Isaac Gross (19th)
DE: John Youngblood
LB: CJ Johnson (3rd) | Terry Caldwell (39th)
LB: Demarquis Gates (22nd)
Husky: AJ Moore (31st) | DK Buford (47th)
CB: Tony Bridges (14th)
CB: Kailo Moore (27th)
FS: CJ Hampton (23rd)
SS: Trae Elston (10th)
Because I don't want this portion of this post to convince you of my team's super-itude, here's Whiskey Wednesday on his team.
So every year we’ve done this Spring draft, both drafters have generally been dissatisfied with their respective teams; it’s easy to feel like things are getting away from you... I’m not sure that this year is any different, but I still like a lot of things about my strategy and my team.
JUCO started off with Robert Nkemdiche, who I would have gladly snapped up at #1, so that’s a tough start, even with the next two picks. I do like my selections though; Evan Engram is the most difficult Ole Miss player to defend, and CJ Johnson brings versatility, leadership, swagger, and big-play ability to the defense. I valued my next two picks, Jaylen Walton and Marquis Haynes, very nearly equal to my first two. Walton is a special talent, a small back who can be a savvy blocker and will surprise you by trucking a linebacker every so often, while having the receiving skill and electric speed you’d expect from a scat-back. Haynes looks to emerge as one of the three to five top pass rushers in the SEC. It’s hard to over-value pass rushers.
JUCO countered my good feelings by reaching a bit for Chad Kelly. It was a calculated move; Freeze has greatly emphasized that the QB race is real and active, but we have certainly heard that Kelly has a level of talent that the other two don’t offer. Kelly compliments his Stringfellow pick quite nicely, I think. JUCO also peed in my Cheerios a bit by taking Tee Shepard, then recognizing the value of Kendarius Webster and snapping him up on his next turn. Webster was supposed to be mine, you dick.
Overall, I believe that I got the most versatile mix of offensive weapons. Besides the aforementioned Engram and Walton, I have a steady QB, the quick and smooth Markell Pack, the versatility and power of Jeremy Liggins, the speed of Adeboyejo, and the athleticism of the emerging Derrick Jones.
Defensively, I’m very high on my pass rush, with Haynes, the frustratingly disruptive Isaac Gross, and CJ Johnson sliding down to spell John Youngblood. My biggest risk was drafting DJ Jones at 11, but it’s a risk I’m happy with. DJ apparently has ridiculous strength, and is described as very quick and active for his size. I was equally happy to grab Breeland Speaks late; my 3-man rotation at DT could be quite nasty. I’m also satisfied with my linebackers, and believe that JUCO may have reached a tad with Denzel Nkemdiche, a guy who has struggled to stay healthy (and to make plays) for two years. Gates and Caldwell have good length and size. My biggest advantage on defense, besides the sick pass rush, has to be my starting safeties. I’m a huge fan of Elston, and CJ Hampton brings elite talent and rave reviews from Wommack and Freeze.
Though my team might struggle to find a consistent offensive identity, I think that they might very well be the better defense when it comes to creating sacks and turnovers, and also has perhaps the most big-play ability on offense.
I think he makes some compelling points. Now it's time for me to try to convince you my team is better, because, well, it is.
Juco's Jovial Jewelers
QB: Chad Kelly (8th) | Devante Kincade (32nd)
HB: Akeem Judd (21st) | Jordan Wilkins (33rd)
WR: Damore'ea Stringfellow (5th) | Dayal Harris (44th)
WR: Cody Core (17th)
TE: Sammie Epps (29th) | Taz "The Devil" Zettergren (45th)
DE: Fadol Brown (12th) | Victor Evans (37th)
DT: Robert Nkemdiche (1st) | Herbert Moore (49th)
DT: Woodrow Hamilton (20th)
DE: Channing Ward (24th)
LB: Denzel Nkemdiche (9th) | Tayler Polk (41st)
LB: Christian Russell (28th) | Temario Strong (48th)
Husky: Tony Conner (4th)
CB: Tee Shepard (13th) | Carlos Davis (40th)
CB: Kendarius Webster (16th)
FS: Chief Brown (25th)
SS: CJ Moore (36th)
I actually wanted picks #2 and 3 in our snake draft format. I ended up "winning" the coin toss for first pick and obviously had to take Robert Nkemdiche. I like him a lot, but I planned to take Evan Engram and Damore'ea Stringfellow at 2 and 3 to mess with Whiskey's passing game. Fortunately, I was able to get Stringfellow with my next set of picks along with Tony Conner (who I had to be sure to get thanks to Whiskey having Evan Engram).
I'm high on Stringfellow, maybe to a fault. I just think his highlights, even from his time at Washington, are pretty wonderful. Sure, Ole Miss is deep at receiver, but his size is unmatched (outside of Treadwell, who wasn't eligible for the draft due to his injury.
As Whiskey mentioned, my corners are pretty great in Tee Shepard and Kendarius Webster. With those two corners and Whiskey starting Markell Pack and Quincy Adeboyejo at receiver, I felt like i could wait at safety. My defense already features three potential starters on the line, so I thought I could also wait a bit at linebacker. I think that worked out well, and I was thrilled to end up with Channing Ward as my other end.
As far as backups, I ended up with Victor Evans, who I took to ensure I would have a situational pass rush. I also got Jordan Wilkins to platoon with Akeem Judd, my starter. The rest are mostly filler at positions where my starters weren't great.
But it comes down to this. Reports I've heard suggest Chad Kelly is just better than the other quarterbacks. I got him. I also got the two players I valued most at receiver in Stringfellow and Cody Core. This team would be able to pass. Even if Kelly isn't great, I also got Devante Kincade. Whiskey's team relies on Buchanan at quarterback (and an offensive tackle who we made QB eligible for the sake of each having a backup). My offense moves the ball through the air. His moves it on the ground. As I said, I have a great defensive line. I think matchup-wise, I've got it.
What do you think?