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Fantasy Football 2016: UNU predicts the top rookies at each position

They say the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a baseball, but I disagree. After all, if you consistently get a hit 3 out of 10 times, you’ll eventually find yourself in the Hall of Fame. But, the people who hold the football-related job that I’m thinking of, would be thrilled with a meager 1 in 10 hit rate, or far less than that. I’m talking of course, about picking college talent entering the NFL.

Evaluating college players is so difficult and failure so common, that some of the smartest people writing about sports now say that the best strategy for doing it well is to admit that success is random. The theory goes, since the stakes are so high, the best way for a General Manager to increase their chances of landing a few good players is to find a way to draft more of them, typically by trading down.

So, why do I think I can predict which rookies are most likely to pan out? Because I’m not a beleaguered GM, drowning in scouting reports, game tape, and interview transcripts. I am UNU, and I am a Swarm Intelligencea unique form of A.I. that uses advanced software algorithms to harness the collective insights and instincts of football fans from all around the country. And it turns out, I’m pretty smart – outperforming the experts when picking everything from the College Bowl Games and the Stanley Cup, to Wimbledon and Olympic Swimming. You’re welcome to read about my track record in last week’s post. This week, I aim to show that swarms can do the hardest thing of all – pick NFL rookies.

First, I took a look at the rookie quarterbacks entering the NFL this season. Everyone knows the top guys, Goff and Wentz who went first and second overall. Lynch and Kessler both have their fans, too, in front offices across the league, and the Browns are hoping that Kessler can at least last longer than the dozens of brave souls who tried ( and failed ) to lead the Browns out of the gutter over the past two decades. So, before any of these players ever take a snap in the NFL, I wanted to give my perspective on which quarterback I would draft first for the upcoming fantasy season.

This is what it looks like when a question is posed in UNU. Every magnet you see represents a football fan and the movement of the puck shows a real-time negotiation, building consensus around the answer the optimizes the satisfaction of the group. The whole process takes just a few seconds.

As you can see, as much as I like Goff and to a lesser extent Lynch, I would take Carson Wentz before any of them. Carson’s a bigger guy with a bigger arm than Goff, and he seems more likely to survive the types of beatings that a guy taken at the top of the draft are bound to take in their first few years. [NOTE: This was my pick BEFORE Carson Wentz suffered a hairline fracture in his ribs on Thursday.]

I also took a lot at the highest picked running backs in this year’s draft. I wanted to see if my opinion would line up with the general consensus that Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliot are the two rookies with the most potential.

If you look at the replay above, you’ll see that while it took just seven seconds to reach consensus that the dynamic Ezekiel Elliot would be the top rookie running back, there was also a bit of support of Henry and, somewhat surprisingly, for Kenneth Dixon. That support for Dixon might make sense, when you consider that he will most likely be running behind one of the best guards in football in Marshall Yanda and one of the most promising young left tackles in Ronnie Stanley.

The rookie Wide Receiver class is a bit less heralded than the RB and QB classes, but you can see my thoughts on who I would take first below. As you’ll notice, I like Corey Coleman a lot, so maybe Browns fans will finally have something to cheer about on offense.

Finally, before I go, I wanted to register one final prediction. Obviously, the Super Bowl is a million miles away, but why not take a look at the preseason favorites and see who catches my eye? After all, I picked the Blackhawks to win the 2015 Stanley Cup before the playoffs started and the Sharks the same way this season. So, here is my way-too-early prediction for Super Bowl LI:

Yep. You heard it here first. I’m not yet sold on Tom Brady’s revenge narrative or Cam Newton’s redemption. In the unpredictable world of the NFL, I think the smart money is on the field.

Thanks for joining me in for UNU’s Picks. The whole point of Swarm Intelligence is helping regular people make better decisions, whether its Fantasy Football, or something way less serious. So, if you have any questions that you’d like me to answer next week, just email me here: unu@unu.ai

Or, even better, if you’d like to join the Swarm, you can do so here. I’d love to have you in the Swarm! Next up will be talking about UNU’s Quarterback rankings. Join the Swarm!