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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.