Team: Dyna Hard – Chris Braithwaite/Steve Smith Jnr
2014 Record: 5-8, 1st pick based on head to head.
Draft – Todd Gurley (RB), Marcus Mariota (QB), David Cobb (RB), Tyler Lockett (WR), Bradley Pinion (P)
Free Agency – Joseph Randle (RB)
Trade – TY Hilton (WR), Kendall Wright (WR)
Trade – Julian Edelman (WR), Alec Ogletree (LB), Allen Hurns (WR)
In 2014 the Hard had an AWE of 7.12 wins, good for 4th best in the league, and the joint biggest differential in the league, and was over 96% certain to win a minimum of 5 games. Schedule was undoubtedly the biggest factor in the end of season record and the opportunity to select first in the draft.
In addition, while Dyna Hard were a middle-of-the-pack 5th in terms of total points scored, they were the second worst coached team in the league 25.2% of potential points left on the bench. In fact, based on potential points, Dyna Hard were the best team in the league. Some of that inefficiency was down to the difficulty of picking the right defensive players each week, with defensive points so variable, you’d still hope for better selection overall in 2015.
Given all of the above, you’d expect the team to be better in 2015 regardless of any moves made, but the two key incoming players could make the Hard the team to beat this season. TY Hilton gives them a pretty fearsome WR triple, alongside Antonio Brown and Sammy Watkins and while Todd Gurley may not be a part of this offence for the first half of the season, they have probably the strongest four-pronged RB core in the league, with Jamaal Charles, Alfred Morris and Joseph Randle, who looks set to be the starter behind Dallas’ all-world offensive line.
Randle, of course, won’t repeat the feats of DeMarco Murray last year, even if he thinks there was some ‘meat left on the bone’ in 2014, but he still stands a good chance of being a top 10 back in 2015.
The rest of the offence probably only rates as adequate, but I’m not sure that matters with all the strength on view at RB and WR. It’s a little bit of a shame that the talent is split 4 RBs and 3 WRs given the league limits allow 3 RBs and 4 WRs. Perhaps a trade will come later in the season, when Gurley is producing and bye cover is dealt with.
On the defence, non-human JJ Watt returns, and Greg Hardy will be suiting up from week 5 giving them a pretty fearsome DE pairing, and there are above average players at most positions. The concern is in the depth. If injuries hit, they could hit hard. Out of 7 LBs on the roster, 4 of them basically didn’t play in 2014 (Alonso, Mathis and Weatherspoon didn’t suit up, Clowney needn’t have bothered), and while there’s talent there, you’ve got to be concerned about how much play you’re going to get out of them in 2015.
Finally, the team are pretty hard up against the cap. At time of writing they need to drop 9 players, assuming 2 more go to the taxi squad and are $11 over the cap. They’ll get under no problem – the minimum savings there are $11 – but there’s little wriggle room for bringing in cover if players move to IR in the season.
With a little better management and a little better luck in the schedule, this team would have made the playoffs in 2014. With the improvements made in the off-season and barring injury to key components, that should be the minimum expectation in 2015.
8-5 and eventual champions. The record is a conservative estimate. In 2014, 3 teams finished with a league best 8-5 record. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 9-4 or better but given the degree of variation in scoring 8-5 seems appropriate.