We start our preview with the first paragraph from last year's preview: "Atlantic City is coming off their worst season since 2029 with a 2-14 record and changes were needed. Heading into training camp, the Phantoms had 8-9 new players who should be starters so that process has begun."
So, how did that workout? Not too well, as ACI finished at 4-12 and not even close to being a playoff contender.
For 2043, the changes continue although not so much at the starting spots but in depth. The focus this year was in bringing in some good mid-level talent and not just high priced stars. Stars are great but when you replace a 60+ player with a 30+ player for even a few plays, the drop-off is huge. If we can change that 30+ player to a 40+ guy, hopefully the team will be able to compete. The talent acquisition portion of this plan has had mixed results so far as a few 40+ additions have fallen to 30+ ratings after training camp.
Note: with all the new players added in 2042, I have listed their stats to the preview below under the 2042 roster info. It is interesting to see how they performed (or in some cases did not perform).
Offense: The Phantoms two-te offense has been in place for a few years now and has had mixed results. With the talent at tight end not as high as past years, there may be more of a focus on the running game. In the big picture, however, the offense was not the problem in 2042.
- Tyrus Wheeler - 9th year -53/53
- Brant Flannery - 3rd year - 21/38
- Mel Martin - Rookie - 17/31 - NEW (no stats)
- Tyrus Wheeler - 10th year
- Lorenzo Gustafson - 10th year - 33/33 - NEW
- Amir Upshaw - Rookie - 14/47 - NEW
Wheeler had a career year in 2042, throwing for 3,887 yards and an impressive 28/14 touchdown to interception ratio. If he can continue to play at that level then the offense should continue to improve. ACI tried to sign Gustafson before the 2042 season as the backup quarterback but his salary demands and available cap space didn't match up. This year, both sides were able to work it out and Gustafson returns for his second stint with the Phantoms, having started four games for ACI in 2039. Although his ratings have dropped over the past two years, he has performed well when given the chance. In 2041 he started 16 games for Baltimore and threw for over 3,600 yards, a 95.9 rating and an almost twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. 2042 saw him start only 5 games but he still had an 88.1 rating. This makes Gustafson valuable insurance in case Wheeler gets dinged up. Martin, a 4th round pick in 2042, was supposed to be a long term project at QB but he never improved as a passer in his short time at ACI. When Upshaw was drafted in the 3rd round this year, you knew that Martin was not long for the roster. While Martin was a runner first, Upshaw is a pocket passer who has a shot to stick around for a few years.
- Jeffrey Emack - 3rd year - 59/59
- D.J. Logan - 5th year - 40/40
- Jeffrey Emack - 4th year - 57/57
- D.J. Logan - 6th year - 42/42
At running back, it will be the Emack and Logan show for at least one more year. Emack ran for 1,185 yards, his third straight 1,000+ yard season but also the lowest of his career. He enters his contract year so he should be motivated to have a huge season. Logan ran for 544 yards as the backup running back while averaging an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. Also entering his contract year, it will interesting to see how the two work together. Normally, ACI drafts at least one running back every year but that was not the case in 2043. If a young talent becomes available on cut down day, it would not be surprising to see an addition here.
- Daryl McClinton - 7th year - 43/43
- Zion Price - 2nd year - 49/49
- Hunter Dail - 13th year - 33/33
- Zion Price - 3rd year - 47/47
- Daryl McClinton - 8th year - 32/32
- Cesar Covington - Rookie - 25/46 - NEW
As the two-te offense has progressed, the role of the fullback has been reduced. It is too early to tell if changes to the offense will increase or decrease the role of the fullback. Price started 14 games for ACI in 2042 and returns as the clear #1 and also one of the better special team's players on the roster. McCinton has taking some big hits in ratings and with 3 more years on his contract, he looks like a candidate for early release and a cap hit. That release won't likely be this year so expect to see him playing a key role on special teams. Covington is a rookie free agent who looks like he may turn into a fine run blocker. The future of McClinton will likely be linked to the progress of Covington.
- Jose Robinson - 6th year - 46/46 - NEW (70 rec., 1,080 yards and 4 TD's)
- Zack Heath - 4th year - 44/44 - NEW (44 catches, 682 yards and 3 TD's)
- Steven Andrews - 8th year - 37/37
- Herb Carruthers - 7th year - 39/39
- Jerald Francis - 7th year - 39/39
- Malik Burnside - 4th year - 37/37
- Ben Sutton - 5th year - 37/37 - NEW (6 catches for 93 yards)
- Jose Robinson - 7th year - 45/45
- Gene Luen - 5th year - 40/40 - NEW
- Jerald Francis - 8th year - 39/39
- Herb Carruthers - 8th year - 38/38
- Lamont Willis - 6th year - 36/36 - NEW
- Ruen Kirz - Rookie - 29/41 - NEW
- Neil Fisk - Rookie - 26/45 - NEW
Wide receiver saw some changes in 2042 and they continue in 2043. The depth at this position is still non-existent but Robinson did FINALLY bring some talent to a long struggling group as he was the first 1,000+ yard receiver since 20**. Heath was also brought into the team for 2042 and while he had a good season, it was not enough to warrant the salary that he wanted to re-sign (3 yrs., $33.88 million). Andrews, Burnside and Sutton were released or not re-signed as well. This allowed for the additions of Willis and Luen while rookies Kirz and Fisk were added via the draft. Luen will take over Heath's role as the #2 flanker will get his first chance at showing what he can do with increased playing time. The player to watch out for is starting split end Francis. He caught 38 passes in 4 starts in 2042 but will see his role increase dramatically this year. Carruthers is the backup split end and brings speed and big play ability behind Francis. Kirz looks like a bust right out of the shoot after being selected with pick 2-7. Salary cap implications mean he will make the team but likely will not see much playing time. Willis was brought in as a mentor more than anything so it will be interesting to see if the team finds that more important than a rookie project in Fisk, who was a 5th round pick.
- Carlos Polhemus - 9th year - 71/71
- Casey Ford - 9th year - 42/42
- Scottie Hopper - 5th year - 40/40 - NEW (3 rec's for 42 yards)
- Carlos Polhemus - 10th year - 59/59
- Dan Shea - 6th year - 46/46 - NEW
- Scottie Hopper - 6th year - 34/34
Polhemus is starting to show his age but is still one of the top tight ends in the CFL, as shown by his 80 rec., 780 yards and 6 TD's performance in 2042. He is signed thru the 2044 season so he is the clear #1 for at least two more seasons. Dan Shea came over from Los Angeles with WR Willis this year and was actually the primary focus of that trade. He adds youth and talent (specifically excellent route running) behind Polhemus. The Shea acquisition was made more important with the decline in ratings of Ford. The drop has been so severe that Ford lost his spot to Hopper.
- John Woodson - 5th year - 40/40 - NEW (27 KRB, 62 KRO and 8 sacks allowed)
- Buddy Segal - 7th year - 29/29
- John Woodson - 6th year - 40/40
- Jeff Loyd - 7th year - 33/33 - NEW
Woodson started all 16 games at center last year and despite efforts to bring in some competition, he will remain the starter in 2043. That competition was supposed to be Loyd, who signed $12.43, 3 year deal while he had 40+ ratings. After training camp, he dropped to a 33 level. Time will tell if he remains the guy who started 6 games for Baltimore in 2042 with 0 sacks allowed or becomes any aging veteran who is ready for the retirement home.
- LG - Sedrick Janjic - 6th year - 69/69
- RG - Shovel Barton - 9th year - 49/49
- LG - K.C. Norton - 11th year - 41/41
- LG - Sedrick Janjic - 7th year - 56/56
- RG - Shovel Barton - 10th year - 55/55
- LG - Bennett Lay - 4th year - 53/53 - NEW
The top two guards return in Janjic and Barton although they are beginning to drop a bit in ratings. As the offense threw the ball more in 2042, the sacks numbers increased. One of the top offenders was Janjic, who allowed 13 sacks. That is more than he allowed in his first four years in the league. Barton allowed 6 sacks in 12 starts which is about par for the course in his career. Both are strong run blockers. Norton whined and complained his way right off the ACI roster which opened the door for Lay, who could push both starting guards. This is the depth the team is looking for.
- RT - Carlos Urbanchek - 8th year - 68/68
- LT - Bart Zepeda - 6th year - 41/41
- RT - Joe Kaplan - 10th year - 36/36
- LT - Dwayne Clements - 4th year - 33/33
- RT - Carlos Urbanchek - 9th year - 75/75
- LT - Jose Finch - 5th year - 40/40 - NEW
- LT - Oscar Mathis - 5th year - 38/38 - NEW
- RT - Corwin Gray - Rookie - 35/45 - NEW
- LT - Otis Wolf - 4th year - 24/38 - NEW
Urbanchek had a second consecutive down year in 2042, allowing 11 sacks. However, part of this may be because he had to play out of position at left tackle. This year he will be staying at right tackle. Does that mean the solution to the left tackle issue was found? No, but a new group was brought in to try and patch that hole. Zepeda and Clements, who was a first round bust, are gone. Also gone is backup right tackle Joe Kaplan. In their place are three veterans and a rookie. Finch will get the first shot as the starting left tackle. He has been horrible at pass protection (13+ sacks allowed the past two seasons) so that doesn't sound promising. Mathis was a 40+ player when he was signed but that rating has dipped. He has been a career backup with 24 starts in three years for Fargo and likely remains a backup in Atlantic City. Wolf is a bit of a project signing, as he is in his 4th year but still shows room for improvement. While he doesn't have starter talent, the hope is that he turns into a solid backup. Many people (ok, that would be me!) are calling 2043 first round pick Gray a bust. Hopefully he is not Clements part two.
Defense: While the offense was much better in 2042, the defense took a step back. The talent in the front seven was there but the secondary and the overall pass defense was horrible. There is a renewed emphasis on defensive game planning so hopefully that will bring this defense back to respectability.
- RDE - Winston Harper - 6th year - 60/60
- LDE - Justin Ford - 5th year - 46/46 - NEW (7 sacks)
- LDE - Tony Nuston - 10th year - 33/33
- LDE - Avery Ingram - 2nd year - 21/33
- RDE - Winston Harper - 7th year - 54/54
- LDE - Justin Ford - 6th year - 54/54
- RDE - Louis Dennis - Rookie - 27/42 - NEW
2042 was the second year for Harper in a Phantoms uniform and was even better than his first. He finished with 12.5 sacks and 44 tackles. Ford was one of the big free agent signings last year and he didn't disappoint. This combination should once again put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Nuston and Ingram were not re-signed so a backup defensive end was a big need entering the draft. Strangely, the only defensive lineman take was a defensive tackle in Dennis. At 6-1 and 284, the plan all along was to move him to defensive end. The hope is that he develops into a quality backup in the years to come. Depth is a concern and may need to be addressed with a late pickup.
- LDT - Brenden Maloney - 5th year - 77/77
- RDT - Benjamin Holmes - 5th year - 70/70 - NEW (5 sacks and 53 tackles)
- RDT - Travis Osborne - 6th year - 45/45 - NEW (3.5 sacks and 19 tackles)
- LDT - Ted Scancella - 2nd year- 42/50
- LDT - Jumbo Bertrand - 3rd year - 37/42
- LDT - Benjamin Holmes - 6th year - 74/74
- LDT - Ted Scancella - 3rd year - 55/55
- LDT - Jumbo Bertrand - 4th year - 40/46
- RDT - Travis Osborne - 7th year - 35/35
Maloney, who cost the Phantoms a top five pick in 2042, was a free agent in the offseason and the team decided not to franchise him. He ended up signing with Denver for $132.45 million over 4 years. The decision was made that although he has superstar ratings, the production they received (4 sacks and 44 tackles) was not worth the contract that he was looking for. This puts a lot of pressure on Holmes, who moves to LDT from RDT, and Scancella. Scancella had 2 sacks in 2042 but his progression was an additional factor in the decision to let Maloney walk. Osborne has aged a bit this year so time will tell if his ratings drop is a true sign of his production. Bertrand has not received much playing time but is a quality backup at either tackle spot.
- SLB - Corey Fisher - 9th year - 66/66
- MLB - Marlon Walton - 8th year - 54/54 - NEW (111 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions)
- WLB - Axel "Porsche" Carrere - 2nd year - 34/52
- WLB - Billy Joe Butler - 5th year - 42/42
- SLB - Dexter Vanhorn - 8th year - 43/43 NEW (26 tackles)
- MLB - Elliot Earle - R - 22/52 - NEW (8 tackles
- SLB - Corey Fisher - 10th year - 63/63
- MLB - Marlon Walton - 9th year - 42/42
- WLB - Billy Joe Butler - 6th year - 41/41
- WLB - Axel Carrere - 3rd year - 38/55
- MLB - Elliot Earle - 2nd year - 34/52
- SLB - Dexter Vanhorn - 9th year - 33/33
Entering the pre-season, ACI had 8 linebackers on the roster including 2 new additions who were brought in to provide some quality, 40+ rated depth. Unfortunately, both new players took a bit hit in ratings at training camp and were then cut (although ACI will be paying some cap hit penalties over the next couple years). Despite the free agent failures, the linebacker group is a pretty strong unit and remains intact from 2042. Fisher is aging and his ratings have dropped a bit but he is still a very strong strongside linebacker. Walton is solid in the middle, as shown by his 111 tackles / 2 interception season last year. Butler and Carrere will continue their battle for playing time at weakside linebacker. Butler is the stronger current player but Carrere has a much bigger upside. Earle continues to progress as a future starter in the middle when Walton's contract is up after the 2044 season. Vanhorn was not immune to the ratings dip and is now a backup that you really don't want to see too much on the field.
- FS - Ronnie Bonney - 10th year - 37/37 NEW (60 tackles and 1 int)
- SS - Craig Fann - Rookie - 36/51 - NEW (90 tackles and 2 int)
- SS - Mitch Schroeder - 6th year - 35/35 NEW (28 tackles and 1 int)
- SS - Renaldo Hudson - 5th year - 35/35 NEW
- FS - Cary Gonzalez - 5th year - 33/33- NEW
- SS - Craig Fann - 2nd year - 52/52
- SS - Rod Lewis - 7th year - 44/44 - NEW
- FS -Deron Rodgers - Rookie - 16/29 - NEW
The safety group was a disaster and has undergone a massive change for the second straight year. Gone are Bonney, Schroeder and Hudson with the only holdover being Fann. Bonney is a prime example of a player taking a nosedive in a very short period of time. In 2040, he was second team all-league. He was injured in 2041 before being released in 2042 and signing with ACI. After a terrible season, he was not resigned by the Phantoms and went to New Orleans where he is currently a low 20's rated safety. As mentioned, Fann was the lone bright spot as one of the few early ACI draft picks (2-1 in 2042) who was not a bust. Gonzalez is another recent free agent signing who was in the 40's when he signed the contract but now is in the 30's. He had 4 interceptions each of the past two seasons so maybe he can find a role as a dime back. Lewis is a good run defender who is likely the starter opposite Fann. Rodgers is a rookie 7th round pick that needs to excel on special teams if he wants to remain on the roster. With little depth, the problem is that if he is activated for a game as a punt returner than there is a chance he sees the field on defense where he is a huge liability.
- LCB - Seth Hutchins - 8th year - 51/51
- RCB - Sammy King - 7th year - 47/47
- RCB - Alex Dunn - 2nd year - 41/41 - NEW (3 interceptions and 3 passed defensed)
- LCB - Travis Farley - 6th year - 29/29 - NEW
- LCB - Donnie Banks - R - 18/31 - NEW
- LCB - Sammy King - 8th year - 44/44
- RCB - Kendrick Rossum - 10th year - 35/35 - NEW
- LCB - Alex Dunn - 3rd year - 39/39
- LCB - Claude Ahmad - 5th year - 41/41 - NEW
When you have a poor pass defense, much of that blame must lay at the feet of the cornerbacks. The #1 corner was Seth Hutchins and he turned out to be the scapegoat and was not resigned after 2 years in Atlantic City. This moves King to the starting spot at LCB while Dunn becomes the nickel back. Two free agent cornerbacks were signed to compete for the RCB spot in Rossum and Ahmad. Like FS Gonzalez, Rossum has already taken some ratings hits so Ahmad is the clear front runner.
- Jose Wynn - 3rd year - 57/57
- Jose Wynn - 4th year - 46/46
Wynn was resigned to a one year contract for the second straight season despite a ratings dip. If a better option becomes available, this could be an early season switch.
- Fred Brien - 5th year - 51/51
- Sammy Vaughn - 15th year - 58/58 - NEW
Brien was not re-signed which led to the acquisition of Vaughn, a veteran was 19/20 for Honolulu in 2042.
- PR - Malik Burnside - 3rd year
- KR - Jeffrey Emack - 3rd year
- PR - Deron Rodgers - 3rd year
- KR - Jeffrey Emack - 4th year
Burnside was not re-signed as the money he wanted was beyond what ACI was willing to part with for a punt returner at that time. Now that the final roster is set, that could be a mistake as Rodgers is the best on the team and as mentioned earlier, he is a liability on defense. As the best offensive talent on the team, Emack will be on the field as much as possible.
So the OTAs, mini-camp, and training camp highlights were all real -- this is not the old Outlaws franchise anymore.
The new look Outlaws unveiled their new offense and defense today and QB Archie Blanchard hit the ground running (2 rushing TDs) and gunning going 25/32 for 341 3TDs and a 142.3 QBR
so much for relying on a heavy run game to ease the rookie into things -- this guy is a stud
Reporting from Brooklyn...Sonny Beaches
On a solemn note Brooklyn's all-time leader in points has retired. Place-kicker Tyrus Wooden has announced his retirement after finishing second all-time in field goals made, 496. Given one more year he might have broken Norm Doman's 13 year-old record of 528.
In order to fiil the shoes of Wooden, Brooklyn spent a second-round pick on George Kooiker who immediately made his presence felt in the weight room by out bench-pressing fellow rookie Trey Becerra, 22 to 21.
Where the beaches are are always sunnier in Brooklyn,
Reporting from Brooklyn...Baxter Child
I am not going to argue that North Carolina's Kooiker is not going to make a fine place-kicker, but to use a second round pick? Brooklyn might have passed on several, solid, EVERY-DOWN players.
Meanwhile it was management that left "MVP" Wooden, as he was known in the Big Apple, go without a contract for the second straight year. So let's not be surprised that he decided to hang it up. Let's all remember that the biggest retirement this year was Wally "Deep" Wooden not Tyrus "MVP" Wooden.
Where Brooklyn equals Crooklyn,
GM Report...Dean Gullberry
I think we look competitive this year. There are a few concerns, but we will see how the season shakes out. Good luck to all.
The Shreveport Pride's 2042 season was a story for the ages, worthy of Christopher Marlowe's pen. The drama began at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where Shreveport pass rusher Leland Wellins was inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Tennessee running back Bart Godfrey. Wellins spent his career chasing Godfrey around the field, exchanging lippy banter with each other whether Godfrey hit the ground behind the line of scrimmage or 15 yards down the field. The two set aside the rivalry for a day, shaking hands and exchanging smiles on the podium.
Wally "Deep" Wooden, speaking at Wellins' induction, however, tried to steal the limelight - typical of his style. Wooden announced that this would be the last season, that he'd be retiring at the end of the season, and that the Hall of Fame should "start working on his bust now" because he wanted nothing short of perfection when he came back in 5 years to be inducted. Wellins quipped that it would take that long to make Wooden's mug look pretty enough to set beside his own bust.
A few weeks later, the Pride made a blockbuster trade with the Las Vegas, sending All-Pro DT Will Nickle and 2nd year DE Jon Meadows to the Rounders in exchange for a 1st, a 2nd, and a 3rd round draft pick in 2042. The death knell sounded on local sports radio shows for the Pride, who appeared to be abandoning hope in the season in an attempt to rebuild the team. The Pride had just signed Nickle to a long term deal and would have to eat the cap over the next two years.
Early, those radio shows were proven right as the Pride started the season 1-3 and analysis had already started around which QB the Pride should take with their number 1 pick on 2042 - West Georgia's Quinn Shore or Miami's Archie Blanchard. But they had a surprise in store for their fans; they did not lay down to be the Deep South's doormat.
Starting with a 3-point win over rival Tennessee, the Pride started stacking win upon win. They beat Hartford, they beat Seattle, they beat Boise. The resurgence was amazing, yet the river cats were having a hard time winning in their own division. They lost to New Orleans twice and a late loss to the Militia almost killed playoff dreams in Shreveport. Finishing the season with wins against Anchorage and San Antonio (with Wooden eclipsing the 1000-yard mark for the 15th time in his career on a 47-yard bomb with 3:30 left in the 4th quarter of the last game of the season), the Pride were able to slip into the 6-seed Wild Card slot in the Atlantic Conference with a road game against their season nemesis, New Orleans.
Shreveport was up for the test, extracting revenge upon the Raging Hoard to the tune of a 24-10 victory. The following week they dispatched Hartford for the second time of the season after falling behind 31-14 at the half. The Pride's defense congealed, holding Hartford scoreless in the second half and scored a touchdown off of fumble caused by Duane "Sour" Kraut's sack of Stephen Gietka. The offense did it's part as well and the comeback was completed as RB Phillip Freedman dove across the goal line with 1:39 left on the clock.
Spirits were high in Shreveport and the local press was already speculating about a CFL Bowl showdown against Las Vegas, who'd received two of the Pride's defensive linemen in a trade at the beginning of the year. What they didn't realize, however, was that there was a fantastic team waiting to dash their hopes waiting in North Carolina.
The Durham Bulldogs barely broke a sweat when they systematically dismantled the Pride's defense and stymieing their offense. The Bulldogs set a new CFL playoff record, allowing the Pride to gain only 73 yards in the game. Wooden's frustration with Burt McGinnis showed all game as the two regularly jawed at each other on the sidelines. In what was supposed to be a prelude to Wooden's career capstone, he caught only 1 pass for 9 yards as the Pride lost 34-0 to the eventual CFL Bowl Champions.
The offseason was bumpy for the Pride, seeing the departure of Wooden and long time anchor of the defense, OLB Cornelius Lynch. Additionally, head coach Jake Meier departed for Detroit, leaving the Pride with a lot of open questions. Burt McGinnis' performance in the Atlantic Conference championship - where he threw 3 interceptions - was the cause for much scrutiny in the press and apparently in the Pride's Front Office as well. Shortly after the season ended, the Pride announced that they had agreed to a trade with the Los Angeles. This blockbuster deal sent 3 first round picks to the Outlaws in exchange the young franchise quarterback, Brantley Gilmore. The writing is on the wall for Burt McGinnis, but as the Pride's top brass has stated: "You can't have too many good QB's. There was an opportunity and we seized it."
The book is still open for Shreveport's 2043 season, however they have a lot of questions that they need to answer.
For this season's rookie report, we bring you inside the ACI war room. Was it run by the Three Stooges or the Three Musketeers? You decide.
Note: The initial write-up was done pre-ratings release but not posted. I have since added the post-ratings analysis to each report and then finally posted the article.
T - Iowa State - 6' 4" - 304 lbs
1st Round. Pick #1-6. #6 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 7.10
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 7.10
Key Combine Scores: Solecismic 46, 40 Time 5.07, Bench Reps 33, Agility 7.60
For the second time in 4 years, the Phantoms were one pick away from possibly solving their WR needs only to see Powell snatched away from them by Boston. This left the front office scrambling (yes, they were not as prepared as they should have been). The bpa at this point were linemen. Would it be a tackle (Corwin Gray and Jerry Rickertson) or a guard (Francisco Hakim or Silas Anderson)? The Phantoms have three very good (though aging) lineman at LG, RG and RT. The glaring need is at LT so it came down to Gray or Rickertson. Gray had a better grade while Rickertson had better combines and bars. On the negative side for Rickertson was a possible conflict with K.C. Norton, the team's offensive line leader. However, Norton is unhappy and may not be on the team when the season started. Regardless, that was the decider and Gray was the selection. Almost immediately there were huge second thoughts in the war room. Topping that list was the fact that Gray is listed as a RT and Rickertson is a LT. A staff error meant this info never got to the war room personnel. The other question was should ACI have drafted Hakim, who was their top player on the board. One of the guards could have moved to center and created an outstanding group up the middle. Regardless, Gray was the pick.
Post-Ratings Analysis: Gray showed up at the Atlantic City practice facility with a 33/59 rating, which is much lower than you would hope from the 6th overall pick but I guess it could have been worse. WR Powell is at 47/76 and that would have looked great in the Phantoms offense. G Hakim, taken #7, was moved to RT by Albany and he is at 33/59. G Silas Anderson has jumped out of the gate with a 38/79 rating but ACI would have drafted Hakim over Anderson. Rickertson is the tough pill to swallow as he is now a legitimate stud LT at 26/79.
WR - Notre Dame - 6' 0" - 203 lbs
2nd Round. Pick #2-7. #39 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 5.40
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 5.40
Key Combine Scores: Solecismic 25, 40 Time 4.44, Bench Reps 15, Agility 6.97
The biggest need entering the draft was at defensive back. Only two corners and one safety were on the roster and ACI had missed on all their targets so far in free agency. As the second round started, the Phantoms board was full of CB's and S's. At 2-2, the first piece dropped with Anchorages selection of Bubba Beuter. This left S Levon Correia and CB's Adam DiCosomo and Chase Chatterly as viable options at 2-7. At 2-5, Correia was grabbed by Fargo. When the Phantoms were on the clock, it was a decision between the combine numbers of Chatterly or the bars of DiCosomo. Or was it? ACI has been burned many times by CB picks and they just couldn't pull the trigger. Instead, they took a chance on a WR in Ruben Kurz. Kurz was a standout at the combine and was a combination of combines and bars that the team couldn't pass up. This has a chance to be a huge mistake in the years to come.
Post-Ratings Analysis: While Gray was a marginal pick Kurz is already considered a flop this high in the second round. He is listed at 28/41 right now, which is not going to help even a poor wide receiver group like Atlantic City. Chatterly was selected at 2-10 by Atlanta and he is 35/41. That decision seems to be a wash. DiCosomo, who was selected just after Kurz at 2-8 is 29/58. Nice pick Honolulu. In this case, bars won and ACI lost.
QB - Wyoming - 6' 1" - 214 lbs
3rd Round. Pick #3-6. #70 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 5.60
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 5.60
Key Combine Scores: Solecismic 34, 40 Time 4.73, Position Drill 86
In the second round, ACI had decided that if they were to draft a QB it should be Upshaw. While it never gained much traction, he was discussed at pick 2-7. The reason is that starter Tyrus Wheeler is in his 10th year and the only other QB on the roster is 2042 draft bust Mel Martin (and his 18/27 rating). I don't recall the Phantoms ever having much luck in drafting QB's which made taking Upshaw in the second round an option that was quickly killed. In round 3, he was still on the board. The DB's at this point were few and far between, with S Edgar Fruth the best of the bunch. DE Santiago Zimmerman received a late push from the defensive coaches as they argued that there are only 2 currently on the roster. In the end, the offense won and Upshaw was a Phantom.
Post-Ratings Analysis: ACI was looking for a project at QB and they got one with Upshaw and his 8/44 ratings. That is a long hill to climb to be a respectable backup. DE Zimmerman, picked at 3-7, ended up at 23/45 and would have been a decent backup DE it didn't turn out to be a huge miss. S Fruth was not selected until 3-13 and is at 20/37.
WR - Pittsburgh - 5' 11" - 186 lbs
5th Round. Pick #5-6. #134 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 4.90
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 4.90
Key Combine Scores: Solecismic 28, Agility 6.94
Without a fourth round pick, ACI had a long wait before this pick. This late in the draft, nothing is a sure thing. Well, some may say when ACI is drafting there is NEVER a sure thing but that is beside the point. Finally the selection had to be a DB, right? Options included S Shaun Wheeler, S Liam Van Brocklin, CB Freddie Mathias Jr. and CB Deion Griffin. Instead, the Phantoms selected another WR. This time it was Neil Fisk, a small receiver with good speed and intriguing bars. Does ACI have a plan? It sure doesn't seem like it.
Post-Ratings Analysis: With a 25/36 rating, Fisk doesn't have huge upside but is just about what you would expect from a 5th round pick. S Wheeler was selected one pick later and is 21/41. S Van Brocklin was off the board at 5-9 and looks to be an early bust at 15/28. CB Mathis was selected at 5-10 and is in the same ballpark at 16/38. The surprise was CB Griffin, who was selected by Denver at 5-26, converted to S and shows a 15/53 rating. Well done Denver.
DT - Mississippi - 6' 1" - 284 lbs
6th Round. Pick #6-7. #167 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 5.20
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 5.20
Key Combine Scores: Agility 7.66
With three S's taken right before them in the sixth round, this pick quickly became a bpa selection. A 5.20 grade in the sixth round was too tough to pass up. Dennis has solid combines across the board and is projected to move to DE.
Post-Ratings Analysis: Like Fisk, Dennis turned out about what the team expected with a 25/37 rating. At this time, the decision has not been made if he will indeed move to DE.
CB - UCLA - 5' 11" - 195 lbs
7th Round. Pick #7-6. #198 Overall
Pre-Draft Grade: 4.40
Pre-Draft Adjusted Grade: 4.40
Key Combine Scores: Solecismic 39
Finally, a defensive back. This HAD to be a defensive back. The combines were up and down for Rodgers but the preliminary bars showed potential in a few areas. The deciding factor turned out to be his special teams' skills, which are a must for a backup.
Post-Ratings Analysis: Rodgers came in at 14/38 and his status on the team will be determined by what his special team numbers turn out to be.