The 3DS Pokemon Games Are So Easy They’re Hard

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So usually after I post a video game review, I just kind of leave it at that. I know no one else really cares as much as me and there’s not a huge demand for my in-depth thoughts on the complexities of Nioh’s combat system. But Pokemon is different, and, as I wrap up my Ultra Moon experience, I had to talk about one of the more unique challenges I’ve had in gaming recently: if you’re good at the game, the new Pokemon games are so easy it makes it harder.

First off, yes, I know these are supposed to be children’s games and I shouldn’t take them so seriously. Well if they weren’t meant to be taken so seriously, they wouldn’t have such an intricate metagame. But yeah, they’re kids’ games that adults like me still hold on to. Even still, the 3DS games are quite easy. And what I mean by easy is that there’s so many more ways to level Pokemon up faster than ever. You get EXP from catching Pokemon. EXP Share gives EXP to the whole party and you get it really early in the game. If you use Pokemon Refresh (or Pokemon Amie in X and Y), the more hearts your Pokemon has, the bigger boost in EXP you get. Then add in the fact that Super Training, a system of maxing out a Pokemon’s stats introduced in X and Y as a series of mini games, is now even easier (you don’t even have to do anything. You just put the desired Pokemon in the right section of the new Poke Pelago and wait until the training is done) (They totally stole the Poke Pelago idea from Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth) (Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the most influential Japanese game of the last five years don’t @ me), and you’ve got an easy recipe for an overpowered team.

You probably think this is a lot of crying over nothing. “What’s so bad about having a powerful team? Just turn off EXP Share and don’t use the optional training aids.” I mean, yeah, I wound up turning EXP Share off for a while, but I’m like a dog with a treat on its nose. If you offer me a way to soup up my team, I’m going to take it without thinking twice. I can’t control myself. My brain won’t allow me to pass up any possible advantage. And literally the only reason any of this is a problem is that, for the first time, I actually felt the pressure of the level restrictions placed on you as you progress through the game. In the traditional 8 gym storyline of past games, every couple badges you earn unlocks the ability to control higher level Pokemon. In Sun and Moon and the sequels, there are only four such increases, and each one only bumps you up 15 levels, despite the fact that it’s easier to gain more than 15 levels than not as you progress through each island. For example, after you beat the third island you’re able to control Pokemon up to level 65. Well, in between beating the third island and beating the fourth, you have to do two separate events that are important to the story, one of which forces you to face about a million trainers. I spent the entire time actively trying not to level up my team. Then on the fourth island, I spent the entire time actively trying not to level up my team. When I beat the fourth island, three of my six Pokemon wound up being over level 65 and unusable. Yes, I easily could have remedied that by swapping them out for lower leveled Pokemon from the PC, thus adding more depth to my lineup, but who has time for that? Not me, apparently.

Listen, in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty small complaint. The more I think about it, I actually don’t think it’s a complaint at all. I kind of enjoyed managing the levels of my Pokemon, because it was a different challenge and different experience than the typical Pokemon formula everyone is so accustomed to. Ultra Sun and Moon are still great. Sun and Moon are still great. I understand they were supposed to introduce a new generation of fans to the game, so more forgiving gameplay certainly makes sense. But maybe hold off on some of these advantages until the postgame next time? I don’t know. That’s why I don’t work at Game Freak, I guess.

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The Official Pokemon Game Power Ranking

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(This might be a little niche for some, so I’ll forgive you for skipping this)

Unless you’re a diehard like me, you probably missed the fact that, over the weekend, Nintendo released Pokemon Gold and Silver for 3DS. There was nothing new, it wasn’t updated or anything. It was just the original Game Boy Color version available for download on the Nintendo eShop. Heck, I’m as plugged in to the Pokemon world as anyone, and I didn’t know about it until Friday night, when I immediately bought it. For only $10, it seemed like a no-brainer. After all, this was one of my favorite games of all time, and, if you count Game Boy as a true video game console (which I usually don’t), the first video game I ever owned. Might as well download it for a rainy day. Unsurprisingly, from the second I purchased Gold (I originally had Silver and later Soul Silver, so I figured I’d see how the other half lived), it began calling my name. I started playing the next day. And, more than anything else, it made me want to write about Pokemon, because, besides sports and myself, it’s the thing I’m most passionate about. I know, I know. It’s stupid and I should grow up. Well, I don’t really care. I’ve lost out on countless opportunities to spread my social wings so I could stay in and play Pokemon. I once played White for thirteen hours in one day. In the post-Generation II worlds, I’m willing to spend entire days catching the same Pokemon over and over again until I get one with the nature I’m looking for. I live to EV train and super train and, at one point or another, have pretty much known every single Pokemon’s strengths and weaknesses. Point is, I care way too much about Pokemon, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d rather be passionate about something juvenile and make-believe than not care about anything at all. So yes, I am still single.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, I can focus on the issue at hand. My previous Pokemon posts have been exclusively about my Pokemon football league (round 3 possibly coming soon?), but now that I’m back in to Gold and with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon looming, it’s time to unveil the Official Brian’s Den Pokemon Rankings. This only takes main series hand-held games into account, so no Pokemon Stadium or 2, no Colosseum, no Snap, no nothing. Only the true games. Also, Crystal is excluded because, somehow, it’s the only main series game I’ve never played. It may seem impossible once I get to the actual rankings that I would have skipped the third entry to the Johto games, but it’s true. Literally every other generation I’ve played at least one of the initial games and the third game, but Crystal remains unplayed. Maybe one day. As always, if you disagree with these rankings, you’re wrong.

  1. Gold/Silver/Heart Gold/Soul Silver– I’ve decided to include any remakes in with their original counterparts because it’s less work for me, but even if they were two separate entities, it wouldn’t change much. It’s my personal opinion that Gold and Silver are easily the greatest Game Boy games of all time. They may also be the greatest games of all time, period. The way the world looks is perfect. The colors are so bold and work perfectly every step of the way. It has the greatest 8-bit soundtrack of all time. It has the luxury of using the first two Pokemon generations, two of the strongest generations. It has much more plot than Red and Blue, but doesn’t overdo it like the later games tend to do. I think the first erection I ever got was when I discovered you could face all the Kanto gym leaders after you beat the Elite Four. It’s literally two full Pokemon games in one. Its a perfect Pokemon experience. The fact that the DS updates could take all that and make it better still blows my mind.
  2. X/Y– The first Pokemon game to come to 3DS (and the only reason I bought a 3DS)(Diamond and Pearl were also the only reason I bought a DS)(The only reason I’ll get a switch is when they release a Pokemon game for it, honestly), X and Y might be the most heavily anticipated Pokemon game I can remember (keep in mind I had just turned 4 when Red and Green first came out in Japan, so the whole “awareness of what other people are excited for” and “looking forward to something for a long time” didn’t develop for a while). To say that it didn’t disappoint would be an insult to the game. It surpassed all my wildest expectations instantly. The world is a beautiful, diverse wonderland unlike anything ever seen on hand-held game devices, and features a charming (I think) batch of new Pokemon to go with it. The new features such as Super Training and Pokemon-Amie added a brilliant new layer of gameplay that somehow brought me even closer to my fictional companions. Adding the Fairy type was another A-plus move by a game series that is no stranger to them. Sure, the plot is very over-the-top and many of the new features make raising Pokemon ridiculously easy, but that didn’t stop me from spending 150+ glorious hours in Kalos.
  3. Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald/Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire– The only instance where I prefer the original to the remake, I came reaaaalllllly close to putting this number 2, if only for the simple fact that the finally, finally, introduced the ability to run. Words can’t express how important that was. Hoenn is a top three region: it has my second favorite soundtrack, my personal favorite generation of Pokemon, and, for the first time, weather. The plot was a little overwrought, but I think I’ll probably stop criticizing the actual plots of these games because the nature of media made ostensibly for children is to have extreme, binary plot points where it’s easy to differentiate between right and wrong. But I never emotionally matured after 6th grade, so that’s fine with me. Also, it’s easy to look back and say “yeah, no duh it worked,” but it was a pretty big risk at the time to stage a Pokemon game in a region totally disconnected from the Kanto/Johto continent. RubySapphire, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Emerald, are near perfect gaming experiences that suffer only because their contemporaries are divine gifts given unto us by a higher power.
  4. Black/White/Black 2/White 2– As I literally just said, Pokemon games typically don’t lend themselves to too much nuance and character complexity, but Black and White really change that. There were story elements and plot beats that, frankly, we had never come close to seeing before in a Pokemon game, and haven’t really seen since. It’s not saying a whole lot, but the character N is far and away the most complex, most developed, and most well-written character in Pokemon history. For large portions of Black and White (and parts of Black and White 2) the villain team isn’t necessarily cut-and-dry pure evil. They actually have genuine motives that aren’t “let’s just destroy the world and see what happens.” Both games had more mature storylines than every other Pokemon game, and, while I certainly appreciate and mostly love the levity the other games provide (when they aren’t veering into melodrama in the third act), it’s nice to have at least one game that sort of challenges you in an emotional way. Being based on New York City, Unova offers an urban feel that comes as a welcome departure from the typical fantasy-RPG maps of the other games. Yes, it’s a goofy generation of Pokemon, but for the most part they embrace it (maybe my favorite touch ever put in a Pokemon game is the fact that Vanillite, the ice cream cone Pokemon, can be found outside what’s essentially a giant meat freezer). Probably the most underrated games in the Pokemon saga. (Side note that doesn’t really factor in to the ranking: while playing White for the first time, my final battle against the villain leader was easily the most epic battle in the history of Pokemon. I have no idea how long it lasted. It could have been thirty minutes, it could have been an hour, it could have been ten hours. I used so many revives and full restores and swapped out party members so many times it’d make your head spin. It was the most intense few minutes of my entire life. The world could have ended around me and I wouldn’t have noticed, I was so locked in. I wish there was a recording or literally any evidence whatsoever, but, alas, you have to take my word for it.
  5. Red/Blue/Fire Red/Leaf Green– I know, I know. “What are you doing? How are they not number one? What about my childhood?” Look, I hear you. I respect everything Red and Blue represent. They were the first, they have classic, classic Pokemon that still rank as the number one generation for pretty much everyone but me (and I have it second), Gary is easily the best rival, the best starting Pokemon, it’s the most challenging by a mile. Hell, Dragonite is still my favorite Pokemon ever. I’m not putting them this low for attention or to throw out a hot take. This is what I actually believe. Think about Red and Blue: there’s virtually no plot whatsoever, Kanto, while the first region, is pretty nondescript in all honestly, and there’s so many goddamn bugs. And I don’t mean Weedle and Caterpie. Psychic types are totally overpowered. With only a weakness to bug type (and only three bug type attacking moves, none of which were powerful) and without the division of special attack and special defense, most psychic types were virtually unstoppable. Look, I get it, I take Pokemon too seriously, but these things matter to me. And without the amazing Game Boy Advance remakes (which rectified everything that was wrong with the games, updated the graphics, and added some interesting subplots), they might rank even lower. That’s not to say don’t play these games. They’re important pieces of the culture at large, but if you somehow haven’t played the original Pokemon games, Fire Red and Leaf Green and much more enjoyable experiences.
  6. Sun/Moon– I know it was met with universal acclaim by critics, but the people I talked to who actually play Pokemon games were kind of divided on Sun and Moon. “Where are the gym leaders?” “It’s too easy.” “Feels too much like a series of mini-games not a real Pokemon game.” Every single one is a valid complaint. But, personally, I loved Sun and Moon. I thought it was fresh, I thought it was original, I thought every new thing they added worked. The plot is actually pretty crazy, in a good way, and complements the world around it in a way that only Ruby and Sapphire can really match. I loved the four islands and how each one had a different personality, and thought the island trials were clever and a good way to switch things up from the tried and true “8 gym leaders” formula. No generation of Pokemon fit their region better, and it gets bonus points for Alolan Exeggutor. These were great, great games, and I know Ultra Sun and Moon will be great too.
  7. Diamond/Pearl/Platinum– I feel really bad for this generation of Pokemon games. Much like Godfather 3Diamond and Pearl suffer greatly under the weight of the larger franchise. If they were called literally anything else, Diamond and Pearl would be considered classics. And they’re still great games! I actually think the plot and region are some of the more interesting ones because of the emphasis it places on history and mythology, and it introduces a lot of cool and important Pokemon. It also brought Pokemon into the (relatively) current gen. Being the first to arrive on DS, it laid the groundwork for most of the side features and display elements you see in the newest games. But there’s just something about it that kind of makes it forgettable. I think it’s only fault is that it’s not the other games in the series.
  8. Yellow– I just wanted to separate this as a protest against Pikachu. Pikachu sucks and isn’t worthy of its own game, regardless of how popular the show is.

There you have it. As I said before, if you disagree, you’re probably wrong. Don’t forget who the expert is, here. Who else do you know who’s willing to devote countless hours of his life just so he can have enough experience and data to compile a power ranking for a stupid website? The answer is no one, that’s who. Now go catch ’em all.

The Pokemon Draft, Round 2

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As surely all of you know, the first round of the NFL Draft is tonight. I know all of you are eagerly waiting my NFL Draft Preview, but with the Pats out of the first round, my motivation was lacking a little. You can go anywhere on the internet and get a good mock draft (just because: Official Brian’s Den Top Five Players I’d want five years from now 1. Myles Garrett 2. Jamal Adams 3. Jonathan Allen 4. Malik Hooker 5. Corey Davis). Besides, I’m not an NFL talent evaluator. I’m a Pokemon talent evaluator. And there’s only one place on the web where you can get PFL mock drafts, and it’s right here. My breakdown of the first draft class was such a hit, I decided to bring my (few) loyal readers something different to chew on during draft night. The PFL was lucky- the inaugural draft class is arguably the deepest and most talented. This draft class? Less so. There’s some elite talent at the top of the draft, but after the top five or so it’s a bit of a wasteland and the back end gets ugly. But, that’s the curse of being the Mel Kiper of Pokemon. Sometimes you get to watch hours of Mewtwo picking apart defenses, sometimes you have to watch hours of Delibird throwing picks left and right. But, just like I can’t choose who’s available, the teams can’t either, and let’s just say teams are going to be very willing to trade their picks this year. Teams that struggled last year will likely find no solace here, but fret not, because the third draft class is historic (just a reminder that I have Big Boards for all seven generations of Pokemon). Remember, there are 8 teams in the PFL, so this top 32 Big Board is for the first four rounds of the draft.

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1. Tyranitar (DT/DE)

Absolute beast. Think Aaron Donald with a meaner disposition. His hands are lightning fast and strong as sledgehammers, and his legs never stop churning. He can line up anywhere on the defensive line in any system and thrive. Put him at nose tackle and he’ll singlehandedly shut down the opponent’s run game. Put him outside and he’ll lead the league in sacks. He’s got a bottomless bag of pass rush moves, but rarely needs to use them since he’s so much stronger than almost everyone he plays with. A cornerstone player and someone who can instantly elevate a defense to an elite level. Won’t play offense, but with more players entering the league, the need for two way players is lessening. A can’t miss prospect.

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2. Scizor (WR/CB)

With the exception of Machoke, he’ll be the most talented receiver in the league from day one. He’s got the size, the speed, and the freak athleticism. He’s a faster Brandon Marshall, and he can dominate the red zone. It may be cheating a little, but those claws are perfectly designed to hold footballs and never let go. He rewrote the touchdown record books in college, and figures to do the same in the pros. He’s a passable corner who often relies on his own knowledge of the route tree to anticipate and jump routes, which can get him in trouble.

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3. Wobbuffet (T)

The best pure pass protector ever evaluated, Wobbuffet is perfect for the modern, pass heavy game. Has tremendous balance and a low center of gravity, and his long arms allow him to shut down pass rushers from any angle. Able to counter finesse or bull rushing moves, Wobbuffet is almost impossible to beat. The equipment staff will thank you for drafting him, since the quarterback’s jersey will never be dirty. A reactionary, passive player, Wobbuffet will struggle to set the tone in the running game, making him truly useful to only pass-first offenses.

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4. Heracross (RB/MLB)

Ask anyone who’s ever played with Heracross who their favorite teammate is, and they won’t hesitate to name him. He leaves absolutely everything out on the field, and he’s someone you want in you foxhole when facing adversity. He’s also very talented. There aren’t a lot of high end running backs, and, though he won’t be an all pro at the position or anything, he’ll take the ball and be effective. He’s got good vision, a nose for the end zone, and is a battering ram of a runner and lead blocker. His true calling, though, is as a sideline to sideline middle linebacker. He’s got great instincts and is a film rat, never leaving the practice facility until he’s poured over every second of available tape on the opposition. He’s a hard nosed tackler, and routinely separates the ball carrier from the pigskin. Decent in coverage, Heracross never leaves the field. Whether or not he’s the best player on the team, he’ll be a leader in the locker room and a high character player to build around.

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5. Lugia (TE/S)

Lugia emerged as a combine superstar, and the hype train predictably brought him to the front of a weak draft class, despite a lack of production in college. Some blamed poor coaching or said it was a bad fit, but the truth is he just didn’t really care all that much. He sleepwalked though virtually every game, emerging from his slumber on rare occasions to make eye-popping plays. The physical tools are obviously there. One look at him could tell you that. He’s big, strong, and explosive. The only question is was he bored against lesser competition or does he really just not give a shit? If he applies himself in the pros, look out. His size and wingspan make him uncoverable in the red zone, and his soft hands never let a ball hit the ground. He’s surprisingly elusive in the open field for such a big guy, and has refined route running skills. He’s listed at tight end, but is really more of a receiver and is a lousy blocker. Even when coasting, he’s a good safety, capable of playing centerfield or coming down into the box. Has great ball skills and closing speed. Has a tendency to hunt for interceptions and big hits, leading him to get out of position. Again, I’d be cautious drafting him. With the right coach and teammates, he could be a star. With the wrong ones, you’ll never hear his name again.

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6. Feraligatr (G/DT)

A throwback to the days when men were men and concussions didn’t exist, Feraligatr is a mean, nasty, mauling interior lineman who likes nothing more than locking horns with the man across from him. He’s extremely physical and can wear down lesser-willed opponents. He excels in the run game, and takes a ballcarrier’s approach to blocking. He’s always going downhill and looking for the next man to take out. His pass blocking is lacking, since, according to him, the passing game is for cowards and he refuses to work on it. He has a personal grudge against any quarterback not on his team (and even then, not always) and, on defense, works tirelessly to hit the QB every play. He’s an explosive interior pass rusher who will account for some big hits and holding calls. He’ll draw more than his fair share of personal fouls, but he sets a physical tone on both sides of the ball.

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7. Typhlosion (TE/DE)

Most drafts often have many talented players with serious character concerns that cause them to plummet down the rankings. Fortunately for Typhlosion, the rest of this draft class’ ceiling is to be an average player, so he can’t fall too far. There’s no way around it- Typhlosion is going to be a huge headache. He was ejected two times a year on average in college. He’s had numerous run-ins with the law. He’s the definition of uncoachable, and often bullies smaller coaches and teammates. Still, he’s a really talented player. He’s never going to wow you with his numbers, but that’s because, somewhat against character, he loves doing the little things. He’s a great blocker. He’ll set the edge and take on double teams so his teammates can make the tackle easier. He’s on the kick return, punt, and field goal units. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have gamebreaking ability. He’s a skilled route runner and a bear to bring down. On defense, he could get ten sacks a season if he committed to it. But that’s not him. He’ll be a great teammate and a great player to add to any contending team, until he isn’t.

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8. Entei (DE)

More than just a pure pass rusher, Entei can not only get after the quarterback but is stout against the run. He’s a leader on the field, and his teammates will often look up to him for his work ethic and production on the field. Durability can be a concern, as he missed parts of three seasons in college. His combine performance left plenty to be desired, as well, but his floor is still good enough to take this early.

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9. Ampharos (T/DE)

This is where the lack of talent in this draft begins to show. Ampharos is a fine player, likely to have a long career. But in any other draft, he’s not a top ten pick. Technically, he’s very skilled. His hand placement and footwork are good enough to be put on training tapes for young players. He’s a smart player and reads the game very well. He’s just not physical enough to ever reach the mountaintop. He’s not a great athlete and can be exposed by some of the freaks that rush the passer in the PFL. He can be pushed around in the run game, and isn’t the most mentally tough player. Still, he could be a pro bowler in the right circumstances. More of a right tackle than a left tackle, he can still be a part of an elite offensive line, but he’ll need tough, grittier players around him. On defense, put him as a 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 d-tackle to take up space.

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10. Delibird (QB)

Listen, it’s a quarterback’s league, and quarterbacks will always be valuable. Is Delibird the guy I’d want leading my offense? If I had a choice, no. But, just like the NFL, some PFL teams are destined to have shitty quarterback play for all eternity. And that’s what Delibird can provide. He’s got a solid arm and surprising mobility, but his decision making leaves plenty to be desired. If you roll with Delibird, you better have some fast, well-conditioned offensive linemen, because they’ll be running the other way a lot. It’s not all bad, though. He’s a good teammate and a good leader, and once he gets the hang of an offensive system, he can put up some big numbers. Just don’t expect to see his team in the Master Bowl.

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11. Raikou (DE/OLB)

An explosive pass rusher. Raikou seemingly exists only to get after the quarterback, and does so with reckless abandon. Gets around the edge quick and has tireless pursuit. Very one dimensional, though, and could quickly become merely a situational player if he remains awful against the run.

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12. Miltank (C/G/DT)

Miltank actually has good potential, but her conditioning is, to be honest, horrible. She’s an immovable object, both because of her strength and size, and because she’s so slow it looks like she’s not moving. Obviously better suited to nose tackle where there won’t be any pressure to rush the passer effectively. Good run blocker and impossible to get around in pass protection. She has a good mind for the game and is probably the best locker room presence in the draft, she just can’t go more than three plays in a row without needing a sub. If she ever figures out her conditioning she could be good for a long time.

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13. Skarmory (S)

The easiest comparison for Skarmory would be Aerodactyl. An aggressive safety who feeds off contact and stuffing the run. Certainly has more emotional control, but also lacks the elite athleticism. Skarmory is slow for a safety, and may ultimately be forced into a hybrid safety/linebacker role. Doesn’t have great range in coverage, but does the job as the last line of defense with excellent tackling. Has good instincts and great durability, never missing a snap in college. He won’t be a star, but he’s a serviceable player at a premium position. Don’t expect anything out of him on offense.

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14. Granbull (MLB/G)

One look at Granbull shows you exactly what you’re going to get. He’s a literal and figurative bulldog who will plug up the middle of the defense and shut down the run game. He’s a hard hitter who has never heard of CTE and will willingly throw his body around to make the stop. A student of the game, but lacks speed or elite athleticism, and can be exposed in coverage. Is a heady guard who makes up for lack of size with smarts and tenacity.

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15. Ho-Oh (S/OLB)

After spending three years on a religious mission, he is by far the oldest player in the draft and has virtually no upside. He is what he is at this point, which is better than most of the prospects in this class. He’ll fit in nicely to the hybrid linebacker/safety role that’s so popular now, but can adequately play both strong safety and 4-3 outside linebacker. He doesn’t have great speed, but he’s stout, smart, and mentally tough. He’s a leader who can handle more than his fair share of adversity. Won’t be a star but will contribute right away.

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16. Forretress (T)

You might be thinking this draft lacks offensive playmakers, and you’d be right. The dearth of skill position players is so pronounced that it’s propelled Forretress to the middle of the second round. Forretress is a divisive prospect, but he’s strong and impossible to get around on the outside. He’s slow as molasses and has all the game awareness as a bag of chips, and has trouble controlling his anger, to boot. Still, he has the tools to be a good offensive lineman.

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17. Crobat (WR/CB)

This small-school speedster turned heads at the combine and has rocketed up the draft board. The only thing holding him back? He can’t catch. At all. He makes Ted Ginn look like Larry Fitzgerald. His straight line speed is unmatched in this class, but all that does nothing if he can’t catch the ball when it’s thrown his way. Until (and really, if) he figures that out, he may be better served for special teams. But, in a draft like this, you should only pass on this kind of talent for so long.

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18. Houndoom (OLB/DE)

Houndoom has everything you want in an edge rusher: a quick first step, great pursuit ability, and a great motor. Wait, did I say he has everything? What I meant to say was he has everything except size, strength, and durability. He’s quicker than most offensive lineman, but he’s so undersized it almost doesn’t matter. If he doesn’t jump the snap perfectly and get around the edge right away, he’s better off on the bench. If anyone gets their hands on him, he’s completely out of the play. He doesn’t shed blocks well and can work himself into a frenzy when things don’t go his way. When he does jump the snap, though, it’s almost guaranteed to be a sack.

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19. Stantler (DE)

A mirror image of Houndoom, Stantler has the size and strength but lacks the speed. Better suited as a 3-4 defensive end where he can engage blockers and stop the run as opposed to chase down QBs. Durability is a plus, as is his work ethic. Picking him won’t get the fans excited, but your linebackers will appreciate it.

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20. Politoed (RB/WR/CB)

If you need a third down running back, Politoed is your man. His best attributes are his receiving ability out of the backfield and his blitz pickup. Won’t make people miss or run anyone over, but has a habit of getting just enough yards to keep the drive moving. He’s an unselfish player who realizes his limitations and embraces being a role player, something often found in water types. Ideally a slot corner so he can’t get beat deep as easily.

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21. Ursaring (T/DE)

Here he is. The ultimate swing-or-miss prospect of this class. Kicked out of school for a number of issues (assault charges, multiple cheating allegations, drug abuse, DUIs, the list is never ending), he hasn’t played football in over a year. Only take him if you have a strong organizational infrastructure in place. He’s got all the talent in the world though. He’s got absurd strength and can totally dominate a game on either side of the ball. That’s at his best, though, and we haven’t seen him at that level in a while. If he still has it and feels like behaving, watch out. If he doesn’t, well, watch out. Every time he plays, he totally kills one team’s chances of winning. It’s just a matter of which one.

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22. Quilava (RB/LB)

Would rank higher if fumbling wasn’t a serious issue. He’s a decent athlete who can make the occasional big play, but he puts the ball on the ground way too often. He’s a talented linebacker in coverage, especially in a cover 2 scheme, but can struggle fighting off blocks and tackling big backs. Has a fiery personality than can lead to penalties if no kept under control.

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23. Sneasel (WR/KR)

A jitterbug in the slot, Sneasel will never be big enough to be a true number one receiver. Doesn’t have the best hands and can struggle in traffic, but can make people look foolish in the open field. Versatile offensively, he can lineup in the backfield and catch passes or take the occasional handoff. He’s a skilled and reliable kick returner who rarely makes mistakes. Will usually miss a few games a year, as his frail body won’t hold up against a full professional season.

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24. Gligar (DB)

Gligar could be the prospect that comes back to haunt me. He’s got good ball skills, a good feel for the game, and good raw athleticism. He can play corner or safety, and has shown flashes of excelling at both. But when I watch him I just don’t see it. His technique breaks down too easily. He jumps routes too much. He’s undisciplined. He’s had some off the field issues. I just don’t trust him to maximize his talents. But at this stage in the draft, might as well take a flier on him.

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25. Croconaw (FB/LB)

At this stage of the draft, the talent level is beginning to severely drop, so taking a versatile player becomes the smart move. Croconaw can play either inside or outside linebacker and is a skilled lead blocker. Fullback is his best position, but he considers himself a linebacker first. It’s an attitude you like to see, but the production he’ll provide is another matter.

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26. Noctowl (OC)

I feel like people think I’m overstating how bad this class is, but a coach is on the Big Board. A coach! PFL is a little different than NFL-you can draft coaches if you so choose. Getting an offensive mind like Noctowl might be a smart move. He’s an innovative play caller, and is never afraid to be aggressive. Great talent developer, especially with quarterbacks and receivers. If you already have your quarterback, taking Noctowl, sucking next season, and taking one of the many elite playmakers in next year’s class is a good formula for long term success.

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27. Donphan (DT/G/C)

I may be underrating Donphan, but personally, I’m not a fan. He’s too slow, too stiff, and too unhinged to ever become an all pro in my eyes. Being strong and aggressive aren’t the only things that make a good lineman, and Donphan’s technique is seriously lacking. He doesn’t work hard in practice and rarely studies film. In other words, there’s a reason he’s so low on my board.

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28. Hitmontop (RB/QB/S/CB)

Like his cousins Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan, Hitmontop grew up playing quarterback. Once hitting the college ranks, though, he quickly learned his future didn’t lie under center. Size is a serious issue, and, offensively, it’s limited him to being a second- or third-string running back with the possibility of completing a trick play every now and then. He’s better as a defensive back, but size and a lack of top-end speed hurt him there, too. He’s unafraid to stick his nose in and make tackles, but he’ll be chasing a lot of receivers that beat him deep.

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29. Aipom (QB/CB)

Imagine Colin Kaepernick, if Colin Kaepernick was a foot shorter and threw with his tail. Aipom is like if Darren Sproles played QB. He’s tiny and elusive, and just kind of flings the ball as hard as he can every play. Is he good? No. Is he exciting? Yes. Hey, backup quarterbacks have to come from somewhere.

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30. Girafarig (T/DE)

I know no one wants to read this about draft prospects, but Girafarig is pretty much just a roster filler. He adds depth and can sometimes play at a relatively high level, but he just doesn’t have a ton of natural talent. He’s a good, unselfish teammate who can fill in nicely for injuries or when the better players need a breather. It’s not exciting, but it’s valuable.

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31. Quagsire (TE/DT)

A common theme in this draft class, Quagsire is just too slow to ever make much of an impact. He’ll be a good blocking tight end or a rotational d tackle, but nothing more than that. He has soft hands, so fantasy owners may want to pay attention to him in the red zone.

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32. Smeargle (QB)

It’s no secret that Smeargle would rather be pursuing a career in art rather than football,  but when you’re one of the few Pokemon with thumbs, you have to at least be a backup QB. Ideally, he’ll never see a second of game time. But he’s a good luxury to have. His arm isn’t great and he’s immobile, to say the least. But he’s surprisingly accurate, and can easily turn and hand the ball off until the starter is ready to come back in.

NEXT FIVE

N/A

Coaching Prospects

Slowking, Murkrow, Furret

Future Mascots

Sudowoodo, Togepi, Chikorita

Which Pokemon would be the best at football?

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With the NFL playoffs starting up and the college football playoffs wrapping up, it’s safe to say football has been on my mind non stop recently. It’s seeped into all facets of my life, and all of a sudden I’m seeing zone blitzes in my morning cereal. So, naturally, I was looking for a way to tie football to everyday life for the next Brian’s Den exclusive. Luckily for me, I already had something I could do. So, on this most joyous of days (my birthday), I figured I’d bring you people something special.

I’m pretty sure it started when I was home on break during my freshman year of college, but the founding doesn’t matter. What does matter is that me and my buddy Steve asked the question: what would happen in Pokemon played football? And so, we created the Pokemon Football League. We would assign everyone positions, simulate games, and progress the players from their type-based colleges through the first pro draft. (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I have talked to a girl before. It was only once, but it happened none the same) On PFL nights, it was the place to be if you liked eating a bunch of pizza and talking about fake football scenarios.

Anyway, after years of film study, countless pro days, and meticulous analysis, I, the Mel Kiper of Pokemon, am ready to present my first mock draft. Keep in mind, this only covers the first draft class. I will neither confirm nor deny that I have put together a full ranking of all 802 Pokemon, along with big boards for all seven generations. Without further ado, I present my rankings. This is an NFL-style top 32, or four rounds of the 8 team PFL draft. Your life may never be the same.

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1. Mewtwo (QB/FS)
Cam Newton. Ever heard of him? He can be pretty good, right? That’s what Mewtwo is. Big, strong, fast, a transcendent mind, and, as one of the few Pokemon with something resembling hands, the perfect quarterback for any offense. He’s almost always the best athlete on the field, and his football acumen and dedication to preparation and proving critics wrong mean he can always get better. He has no ceiling.

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2. Machoke (WR/TE/RB/QB/OLB/MLB/DE/DB)
The ultimate athlete. If Curt Hennig was a Pokemon who was pretending to be a football player, he’d be Machoke. Any position on the field, he can play and dominate. His best position on offense may be tight end, where he is an instant mismatch. Prime Vernon Davis crossed with Earl Campbell. Creative offensive coordinators will have no problems getting him the ball and watching him go. On defense, he can be a one man wrecking crew, capable of setting the edge or controlling the middle, either as linebacker or safety. A jack-of-all-trades sent from God to control football games, Machoke could be the best second pick ever.

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3. Blastoise (OL)
Ask any coach: championships are won up front. Blastoise is the best offensive line prospect ever evaluated, able to play any position on the line. His smarts and game awareness make him the perfect center, his speed and strength and ideal guard, and his quick feet and hand placement the ultimate tackle. No matter what spot he’s playing, he’s always a leader and coach on the field. He’s the type of player who will be a captain from the moment he shows up as a rookie until his Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.

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4. Golem (DT/C)
He’s the defensive version of Blastoise. An immovable object in the middle of the defensive line, Golem can control a game without making a single tackle. His mammoth strength and lightning quick first step allow him to destroy offensive lines and opposing quarterbacks. He’ll often occupy two or three blockers, freeing up his teammates to make plays. On offense, he’s a true road grader who can make the most mundane running back an All-Pro. He’s another rock solid leader (get it?), and isn’t plagued by the character issues and poor decision making most rock-type Pokemon suffer from. Whereas Blastoise is a pure technician on the offensive line, Golem represents pure power and strength. He’s a great cornerstone for a successful franchise.

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5. Dragonite (TE/DE)
If Gronk had wings, he’d be Dragonite. A beast with a matchup advantage against anyone, Dragonite’s size means he’s always open. A guaranteed touchdown in the red zone, Dragonite will leave defenses scratching their heads and licking their wounds as they pick up the bodies he’s left in his wake. On defense, he’s a solid 3-4 defensive end, good against the run but not much of a pass rusher.

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6. Alakazam (QB)
The second quarterback on the board, Alakazam had the highest Wonderlic score ever measured. He has Alex Smith-level scrambling ability and can process the game two steps ahead of everyone else on the field. He’s got a decent arm, but his otherworldly accuracy more than compensates. A true film junkie, Alakazam can act as his own offensive coordinator. Has some durability issues. Future coach.

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7. Aerodactyl (SS/WR)
If you don’t see Rodney Harrison when you see Aerodactyl, then we aren’t looking at the same thing. A true headhunting safety, Aerodactyl is known just as much for his late hits as his playmaking ability. He exemplifies rock-type players: dirty hits, big celebrations, and the ability to get it done when it matters. His range is unmatched, and his ball skills are far better than most strong safeties. He’s comfortable in the box and loves stuffing the run or blitzing, and holds his teammates accountable. If you can handle the antics and poorly timed penalties, he can be the centerpiece of a dominant defense. As a receiver, he won’t win games for you, but he’ll move the chains. A good third option in the passing game.

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8. Arcanine (DE)
When evaluating players, a key question is do you place more value a player who is good at everything and great at nothing or a player who is great at one thing and okay at everything else? When the singular skill is as good as Arcanine’s pass rushing, the choice is easy. Arcanine won’t do many things, but the one thing he does do he does better than anyone in this draft class. He’s got only one goal every play: hit the quarterback. He led the college ranks in sacks the last two seasons, and though the evaluation process showed some serious flaws in his run defense, his pass rushing can totally take over a game. He has a nose for the ball and is always making big plays. He’s a game changer on the edge of your defense.

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9. Hitmonlee (QB/MLB/K)
The only kicker on the big board, Hitmonlee is the traditional strong armed qb. He’s got a cannon for an arm and loves to go deep, which can get him in trouble sometimes. Will throw plenty of interceptions. If he ever pulls it down and runs, tackle him early, because this long strider is gone if he hits the open field. Doesn’t have the best pocket awareness, and can run himself into sacks sometimes. A rare quarterback/linebacker combo, Hitmonlee is a rangy 3-4 middle linebacker who racks up tackles and interceptions. Has a massive leg and can hit field goals from anywhere. Questions as to whether he has already reached his ceiling after winning the Oak Award (the Pokemon Heisman) last year.

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10. Charizard (TE/DE)
The most popular player in America rounds out the top 10. Though some undoubtedly wanted to see him a little higher, his poor combine performance and slight reputation as uncoachable hurt him a little. Still, his on-field production and pure talent speak for themselves. Though not as dynamic as Dragonite, Charizard is a metronome of a tight end, slicing apart defenses up the seam with a steady diet of 15 yard gains. He won’t make you miss, but he’ll run you over and is an excellent blocker, better than many offensive line prospects. Defensively, he looks more imposing than he actually is, and he often freelances and gets himself caught out of position. With the right coach, he can be a consistent All-Pro and possible Hall of Famer.

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11. Mew (RB/CB)
Mew doesn’t look like much, but he’s a true difference maker on the field. He’s a shadow on defense, raking as the best cover corner in the draft. His anticipation and ability to quickly diagnose plays makes it seem like he’s in the opposing huddle at times. On the off chance he gets beat, his recovery speed and ball skills allow him to shut down any pass thrown his way. He’s a shifty running back, probably best suited as a third down receiving back.

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12. Pinsir (MLB)
In today’s game, not many middle linebackers can rank this high. Just shows how skilled Pinsir is. He’s best in a 4-3, where he can patrol the middle of the field, coming up to stop the run or dropping back, where he is an athletic, instinctual coverage man. He brings the wood every time and is the quarterback of the defense, reading plays and making adjustments. He doesn’t really have a role on offense, but he never leaves the field on d.

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13. Charmeleon (WR/LB)
The prototypical number one receiver, Charmeleon is the perfect weapon to build a passing game around. With great hands and athleticism, he is capable of making the spectacular catch, but his route running ability usually means he doesn’t have to since he’s so open. He’s got below average speed, but that doesn’t stop him from creating big plays. He’s a beast after the catch and can go around or over defenders. On defense, he’s best positioned as a 4-3 outside linebacker, where he can use his athletic ability to shut down entire halves of the field. Slight character concerns off the field.

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14. Abra (WR/CB)
Underestimate Abra at your own risk. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s the fastest and quickest player in this class. He’s a devastating kick returner, flipping field position or taking it to the house every time he touches it. He’s an ace route runner as well, befuddling defenders from either the slot or outside the numbers. You can try to keep him from going deep, but you’ll fail. On the other side of the ball, he’s a good cover corner who has a tendency to jump routes. He’ll generate a lot of big plays, but he’ll get beat a lot, too. His size produces obvious durability concerns.

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15. Nidoking (G/T/DE)
One of the most imposing looking prospects on the board, Nidoking’s physicality is his greatest asset. As on offensive lineman, he mauls people in the run game. His pass protection footwork can be inconsistent at times, but he’s strong enough to cover it up. He’s a super aggressive defensive end, which can lead to him being caught offsides or out of position. Still, his penetration can kill an opponent’s game plan.

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16. Machamp (DE/DT/TE)
A top 5 talent with huge upside, Machamp’s litany of off-the-field issues keep him this low. He essentially splits his time equally between being suspended and being eligible, but when he does play, watch out. With almost superhuman strength, Machamp is an absolutely dominant force on the defensive line. He can shed blockers at will, beat double and triple teams like nothing, and has mastered the art of batting passes down at the line of scrimmage. He racks up quarterback hits like a middle linebacker gets tackles. He’s even a good tight end on offense, good at blocking and in space. But again, pick him at your own risk. In the right environment, he’s a steal and a future Hall of Famer. In the wrong one, be prepared to crash and burn.

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17. Kabutops (OLB/DE/TE)
Kabutops is a versatile and athletic edge defender. His greatest assets are his speed and length, which allow him to be a pass rushing force and strong in coverage. Lacks strength in the run game, but can be a constant game wrecker for opposing passers. Has skills with the ball in his hands, but good luck getting him the ball. Has the worst hands we evaluated.

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18. Zapdos (FS/WR)
A rangy and instinctual safety, Zapdos is the ultimate centerfielder. Diagnosing plays before the snap, Zapdos is always in the right position to make a play. With great speed and athleticism, can break up passes and take them the other way. Willing, if unenthusiastic run defender. Deep threat as a receiver, but lacks refined route running ability.

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19. Snorlax (DT/T)
The strength of this class is in the trenches, and Snorlax is yet another top line prospect. A massive space eater, Snorlax is a premier nose tackle. With the size and strength to be a defensive line unto himself, Snorlax rates as the best run defender on the board. He needs to be double teamed every play, if only because he’s so much bigger than every offensive lineman. He’s doesn’t have the quickest feet, and has serious effort problems. With his size and strength, he’s been able to get away with taking plays off against lesser competition, but he won’t in the pros.

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20. Hitmonchan (QB/WR/OLB)
A bit of an odd player, Hitmonchan is the rare physical quarterback. Forced to play receiver in college, he displayed good athletic ability and hand eye coordination, but his true calling is as a power running option quarterback. Blessed with a huge arm but not with accuracy, he can be a frustratingly inconsistent passer. Long strides and an eagerness for contact make him a weapon in the run game. Has shown ability as an edge-setting outside linebacker, but probably best to focus on quarterback. Very emotional player with a knack for getting in scuffles.

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21. Raichu (RB/OLB)
The first true bell cow running back on the board, Raichu is a talented ballcarrier. His college numbers suffered because of dismal offensive line play and the coaches’ foolish devotion to his more popular backfield mate, but his true talent will shine in a professional offense. Very good speed and quickness as well as vision add up to an explosive runner who will constantly rip big plays. Comfortable catching the ball and in pass protection. Has slight conditioning concerns and could do with some time in the weight room. Defensively is best served to be a 4-3 outside linebacker, but he’ll most likely be too burned out to contribute on that side of the ball.

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22. Rhydon (T/DE/DT)
He looks like an identical clone of Nidoking, but Rhydon has his own skill set. Rhydon is a great run blocker and consistently good pass blocker. He has a good base and strong hands. He’s a versatile defensive lineman, able to play 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end. He’s not an explosive pass rusher, but he is good against the run. He’s not an elite athlete, so he may not have much of a ceiling, but his floor is a Pro Bowl player.

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23. Tauros (OLB/DE)
There’s a logjam of talent in this part of the draft, but in today’s game, elite pass rushers get top priority. Tauros is relentless, going full speed every step he takes. Though he’s a glorified situational pass rusher, Tauros can pack tons of production into limited snaps. Effort is a skill, and Tauros gives more than anyone. He’s a bit of a hothead, and don’t expect him to contribute much in any other facet of the game, but put Tauros on in passing downs and watch him go.

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24. Mankey (RB/MLB)
A bulldog of a player, Mankey doesn’t let his physical limitations stop him from making an impact. A grinder of a running back, he’s a tough runner who fights for every yard between the tackles. When he gets to the second level, defensive backs will be wary of trying to tackle this bowling ball. Lacks top end speed and isn’t great in the passing game. Can be a blur on defense, flying around sideline to sideline from his middle linebacker spot, but often overcommits and is left out of position. As his game is based on effort, he may not have much of a ceiling.

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25. Graveler (DT/G)
A player that could be the steal of the draft, Graveler is way too talented to be this low. However, his role in the embarrassing hazing scandal at Rock University lead to a season long suspension, during which he had multiple run ins with the law. However, get him on the field and he’s a menace. A true mauler both blocking and defending the run, Graveler moves bodies at will and is a terror as a pulling guard. Quick enough that he’ll rack up a fair amount of sacks from the middle of the line. Very likely that he’ll face another suspension after being drafted. If you’re willing to put up with that, and the probable later suspensions, he’s one of the most talented players in the class.

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26. Golduck (WR/CB)
A great pro day puts Golduck ahead of other prospects in this range. Golduck is a technician of a receiver who can break ankles with his route running. Though he doesn’t have elite speed, he’s very quick and can get in and out of his breaks in the blink of an eye. He’s got great hands and always seems to get open on third down. With the ball in his hands, he can make defenders miss with ease. He’s a solid cornerback, but his lack of athleticism will prevent him from shutdown status.

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27. Rapidash (OLB)
Another pass rush specialist, Rapidash is a thoroughbred athlete. Doesn’t have the most fluid hips, struggles with side to side movement, but straight line speed is almost unmatched in this class, let alone among outside linebackers and defensive ends. Breathtaking plays can mesmerize, but make no mistake: this is a one dimensional player. Ask for anything outside of rushing the passer at your own peril.

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28. Poliwrath (MLB/FB)
An old school middle linebacker. Will stuff the run with big hits and intimidation. Arrives at the ball with bad intentions. Decent in zone coverage, but man coverage is usually a problem. Lacks speed but has elite strength and instincts. Willing to do the dirty work and is a born winner.

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29. Poliwhirl (QB)
Benefitting from a dearth in quarterbacks, Poliwhirl is an average signal caller at best. Doesn’t have a good arm but is accurate underneath, he is best served in a run first offense. But, teams need quarterbacks, and, in this class, anyone will do. He is a smart and high character player who will embrace a role as game manager. It would be unwise to ask him to do more.

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30. Electabuzz (WR/TE/OLB)
A bit of a tweener on offense, Electabuzz is somewhere between an h-back and a full blown wide receiver. Lacking the elite speed of an outside receiver or the size of a tight end, he makes his living using guile and his incredible combination of leaping ability and length. Split him out wide in the red zone for jump balls or drop him inside where he is a surprisingly tough blocker. More of a 4-3 outside linebacker than a 3-4 one, he is a steady, if unexplosive, defensive player.

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31. Machop (WR/CB)
Though many give more credit to the pass-heavy system than his ability for his eye popping reception totals in college, Machop has talent as a slot receiver. A crafty route runner, he lives over the middle and feeds off contact. Not a lot of speed to burn. Good hands, but not on the same level as Machoke or Charmeleon. Best served as a cover 2 corner, as his lack of speed can leave him vulnerable in man to man.

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32. Primeape (MLB/OLB/FB)
The ultimate grinder, Primape won’t stop until the last echo of the last echo of the whistle, and has justly earned a reputation as a player that lives in the margins between playing hard and playing dirty. Much like his cousin Mankey, his lack of athletic ability doesn’t stop him from leaving everything on the field. Can play 4-3 outside linebacker or middle linebacker. Plays mostly on emotion and instinct rather than preparation and intelligence, and it can show at times. Not a lot of room for improvement: what he showed in college is exactly what you’ll get in the pros.

NEXT FIVE

Magmar (WR/SS), Nidorino (OLB), Pikachu (RB/WR/CB), Drowzee (C/DT), Charmander (RB/CB)

Top Coaching prospects

Magneton, Magnemite, Porygon

Future Red Zone host

Mr. Mime

So there you have it. However long that took you to read, I’m sure it was the best time you’ve ever spent. If you disagree with my rankings, we’ll just see how the draft shakes out. I know people will be upset about Pikachu, but serious toughness and durability concerns lowered his rankings. Now, time to see what I got for my birthday.