One Thing to Watch at Each NFC Team’s Training Camp

Training camp is finally upon us, and the NFL season is just around the corner.  With that being said, every team has to iron out the rough spots on their rosters, even the top contenders.  From quarterback competitions to rookies being acclimated, it all happens now.  Let’s look at one thing to watch for each NFC team.

 

Dallas Cowboys – Everyone points to how Ezekiel Elliott will fare in his first season, but I think he will be very good, so let’s go somewhere different: the defense.  Three impact players have been suspended for a number of games, most notably stud defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence.  With Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory also gone, the Cowboys will have to rely on fresh faces to make an impact early.  Fourth round pick Charles Tapper and third round pick Maliek Collins will have shots to get first team reps, and they must make an impact up front early in the season.

New York Giants – 200 million dollars, one offseason.  The Giants went on a massive spending spree, going out and getting Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison in free agency.  They also added corner Eli Apple in the draft.  Steve Spagnuolo has the job of putting all this talent together and creating a unit.  Can the Giants come together and gel on defense that is massively upgraded?  Time will tell.

Washington Redskins – Redskin fans liked that last season.  Will this season bring similar results?  Under the franchise tag, quarterback Kirk Cousins has a chance to go prove his worth this year.  The weapons are there for him (they even grabbed WR Josh Doctson in the first round of the draft), the offensive line is getting more experience, and the defense is improved with the acquisition of Josh Norman.  It is on Cousins’ shoulders to make this team win, and getting on the same page with the team is important this camp as the sure fire starter.

Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles are one of the few teams with quarterbacks to watch going into camp.  They drafted Carson Wentz second overall, but they will basically redshirt him this season.  They have put a lot of money into the two quarterbacks ahead of him, and Sam Bradford seems to be the favorite to win the starting gig for this season, but you have to think he has a short leash with how last season went.  Chase Daniel knows HC Doug Pederson’s offense, so will he eventually start?  A successful offense starts there for Philly, and this season might be a tough one for Eagle fans.

Green Bay Packers – There are a few things to look at during camp, but what could be most important is the emergence of a third wide receiver.  Nelson and Cobb will be one and two, but who is next?  Janis is a fan favorite.  Adams had a good rookie season and many still believe in him.  Montgomery played well in his limited time last season.  Even Abbrederis had good moments.  All of these guys will have a chance to go win the job, and the fact that they will push each other should bring out the best in everyone.  Whoever wins, it is vital for an offense that struggled at times last year to find that third guy.

Minnesota Vikings – The success of the Vikings will hinge on the development and progress of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.  The defense has become elite, and Adrian Peterson is still one of the league’s best even as he enters his 30s.  With all those pieces, Bridgewater must start pushing the ball down the field, and take control against better defenses that will lock down Peterson.  Adding Laquon Treadwell in the draft was a nice step, but now Bridgewater must take the next step to being a top quarterback.

Chicago Bears – Who will take over after Matt Forte’s departure to the Jets?  Many believe the starter for now will be Jeremy Langford, who showed some flashes last season, especially in the passing game.  But, with Langford’s size, can he handle a big workload?  Chicago doesn’t seem to think so, and the drafting of Jordan Howard proves that.  Howard is a bigger guy who could get red zone and early down work.  Right now, even with Langford as the starter, it seems a committee is imminent, but the Bears would love for someone to emerge in camp.

Detroit Lions – The Lions are another team looking for a running back.  With Megatron retiring in the offseason, it’s a next man up mentality.  The offense came alive late in the season, and the team would love nothing more than to pick up where they left off.  That momentum would certainly like to include a solid running game.  Second year back Ameer Abdullah is the player to watch.  He has good speed and is important in the passing game, but I would like to see how he handles an increased workload.  Abdullah has the talent, and I would like to see him take advantage of the opportunity.

Carolina Panthers – The big story is Kelvin Benjamin returning, but the biggest issue to watch is how the departure of Josh Norman affects the Panthers.  The Panthers made a point to address the cornerback position in the draft, adding James Bradberry (round 2), Daryl Worley (round 3), and Zack Sanchez (round 5).  Even with Norman last year, the Panthers defense got lit up against QBs like Drew Brees and Eli Manning.  So, with high expectations for this Panthers team, it’ll be up to the corners to improve and grow quickly.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The biggest thing for the Bucs this season is its young core on offense.  Winston proved he can lead a team, and he does care a lot about football.  The young offensive line will only get better, Doug Martin is as solid a running back as there is in the league, and Mike Evans continues to rise in the receiver rankings.  The step that needs to be taken this year is consistency.  I believe that Winston has the talent and intangibles to take the next step.

New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees will have more experienced weapons this season with the Saints adding Coby Fleener.  But, the thing to watch at camp is the defense.  The Saints have added pieces to make their defense better through the draft.  Stephone Anthony was a solid player at linebacker last year, and the addition of James Laurinaitis will help him even more.  Rookies Sheldon Rankins and Vonn Bell should make immediate impacts.  For a team that has been pitiful on defense the past several years, it seems a young core is here to improve it.

Atlanta Falcons – A couple storylines stand out at Falcons camp, both on the offensive side of the ball.  The biggest thing to look at is the Falcons’ offensive line.  They signed Alex Mack in the offseason to improve a group that has struggled recently in protecting Matt Ryan.  Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder continue to improve at the tackle spots.  If anyone can whip these young guys into shape, it’s Alex Mack.

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona had many strengths last season, but a consistent pass rush was not one of those things.  They often sent defensive backs on blitzes in order to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  I expect this year to be very different.  The trade for Chandler Jones was an immediate upgrade.  Then, they took a chance in the first round by selecting Robert Nkemdiche, who I believe, in a good locker room, can thrive as a major disruptor on a defensive line.  Those two as a pair should scare the entire NFC this season.

Seattle Seahawks – Seattle won its Super Bowl by having a strong running game with a very good offensive line.  Now, over two years removed from that title, the offensive line looks very different.  No starter remains.  They added two linemen in the draft, and must gel in order for Seattle to return to championship form.  Wilson can’t do it all.  He needs help from his line, no matter how well he can escape.

Los Angeles Rams – Everyone talks about Jared Goff, and rightfully so.  The Rams gave up a bunch for him to be their franchise player.  But, I’m looking at who he can throw to in LA.  Tavon Austin remains his best target.  But who is number two?  I think rookie Pharaoh Cooper has a chance to be that guy.  He runs good routes and has solid hands.  Even with guys there like Brian Quick and Kenny Britt, look for Cooper to stand out.

San Francisco 49ers – The Niners are another team looking for an offensive identity.  That identity will revolve around who wins the QB battle.  Kaepernick would fit Chip Kelly’s system well, but Gabbert was better last season.  It will be interesting to see who wins the battle, because that could determine how the offense sets up.

 

Advertisements

NFL Mock Draft 4.0

This is it.  Today is the day.  The first round of the 2016 NFL Draft begins tonight.  With tons of rumors swirling on the last few days before the draft, many are not sure how tonight will go.  Here is my attempt at how things will actually go tonight.  Let’s go.

(1) Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, Cal

The Rams know who they are taking by now.  Many people believe it is Goff, and I agree with them.  We know the Rams want a quarterback that will be able to come in and start right away, and Goff is the most pro ready quarterback in this draft.

(2) Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The Eagles traded up knowing they would get one of the top two quarterbacks, and although it’s very possible that Jared Goff fits the Eagles’ scheme better, I think the Eagles actually want Wentz more.  They know they have Bradford and Chase Daniel signed, and Wentz will be able to sit behind them for a while to gain experience.

(3) San Diego Chargers: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

The Chargers believe they have spent enough money on the offensive tackle position.  They think that their guys will be healthy this year.  So, the Bolts turn to the defensive side of the ball.  They desperately need some more pass rush on this team, and Buckner can rush the passer from off the edge or in the defensive tackle position.

(4) Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

It is very tough to figure out who the Cowboys want to take with this pick.  A lot of analysts very much expect the Cowboys to take Ezekiel Elliott with this pick.  While that would make their offense that much more powerful, the signing of Alfred Morris feels like they think they’re set at running back, or at least set enough not to take a running back with the fourth overall pick.  They go grab the best defensive player in this draft, who has great ball skills and instincts to play either corner or safety.

(5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State

It seems like the Jags would have to move to the Chargers spot in order to get Ramsey, and I wouldn’t rule that out as a possibility.  But, let’s assume they stay at their spot.  The Jags were lacking at pass rusher last season, and adding Bosa creates a very nice front.  Bosa and last year’s first round pick Dante Fowler can rush off the edge while they slide newly signed free agent Malik Jackson inside.

(6) Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi

The Ravens will stick to their draft strategy and grab the best player available.  Yes, they don’t absolutely need to draft a tackle here, but Tunsil’s potential is something that Ozzie Newsome does not pass up here.  He can play right tackle for a while and be moved over to the left side whenever the Ravens need him to.

(7) San Francisco 49ers: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

The big question surrounding the 49ers is whether or not they will trade away Colin Kaepernick.  Personally, he fits their system well and should stay.  With that being said, the Niners need to get younger and more physical on the offensive line again in order to find success in the run game.  Stanley has excellent run blocking ability and would be a great fit in Kelly’s system.

(8) Miami Dolphins (from Browns): Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

The buzz is that Cleveland is shopping the 8th pick in order to get a couple more picks in this draft.  Miami is one of Elliott’s suitors, but the fact that the Bears love Elliott (according to Elliott) forces Miami to move up ahead of them.  Elliott fills a big need for Miami and adds a weapon for Ryan Tannehill to work with.

(9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

Leonard Floyd is still climbing up draft boards, and one rumor is that he could go as high as 5th to the Jags.  That seems a bit of a stretch, but here at nine is where he can go, and I think the Bucs jump at the chance to get a top pass rusher in this draft.  Yes, they do have a need at corner, but the addition of Brent Grimes might solve that problem in the short term.  A pass rusher with Floyd’s potential is rare in this draft, and the Bucs grab him over a corner.

(10) New York Giants: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

The Giants have a few needs they could address with this pick.  Linebacker would be a great position to fill here, but the buzz is that Myles Jack is off their draft board.  Instead, they opt to grab a guy who will be able to protect Eli Manning and play on either side of the offensive line.

(11) Chicago Bears: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Under Vic Fangio, the Bears have shown a steady improvement on defense.  Now, with the help they’ve added the last two seasons to their front seven, another cornerback would suit the Bears well.  Hargreaves has all the tools to play outside.  His ball skills and toughness are second to none in this draft.  Even though he is a little smaller than what teams look for, he will make up for it with his intangibles.

(12) New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

This has felt like a perfect match from the beginning.  Everyone knows that the Saints need serious help on defense, especially on the line and in the secondary.  With the rest of the corners in round one containing some question marks, the Saints decide to go with a defensive tackle that has great pass rushing ability.  He will take pressure off of Cam Jordan on the outside.

(13) Cleveland Browns (from Dolphins): Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

The fall of Myles Jack ends right here.  The Browns do need help elsewhere, but they decide that with all the picks they’ve acquired, they will take a chance here that Jack’s knee will heal enough for him to be a solid middle linebacker in this league.  If he can return to form, there might not be a more athletic and versatile player out there.

(14) Oakland Raiders: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi

This is another gamble.  Nkemdiche has his share of off the field issues, but the Raiders are building a core group out in Oakland.  Even though it doesn’t seem like it, the Raiders feel they have a core that can win over a locker room.  If that is in fact the case, then they could right the ship for Nkemdiche and get him to play to his potential.  He has all the talent to be a true game wrecker on the defensive line, and would be a great addition to that defense.

(15) Tennessee Titans: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

With more offensive linemen off the board than they assumed, the Titans grab the last guy on the top tier to provide more protection for Marcus Mariota.  Decker is a very good player in pass protection as well as run blocking.  His hand placement and balance are very solid, and odds are he would play right tackle with Taylor Lewan playing on the left side.

(16) Detroit Lions: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

The Lions decide not to reach for the next offensive tackle, and instead switch their focus to the defensive line.  Haloti Ngata won’t be around forever, and finding his replacement is a priority in Detroit.  Enter Jarran Reed, the defensive tackle who does so many things well.  He can anchor this defensive line in the middle.  He is a great hole plugger in the run game and might need double teaming, freeing up Ziggy Ansah outside.

(17) Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

The Falcons will of course look to keep building up the defense under head coach Dan Quinn.  They do have some options with this pick, but adding a tackling machine with top notch speed is too much to pass.  Darron Lee (yes I’ve said this a lot of times) looks nearly identical to Ryan Shazier, and he will thrive in Atlanta.

(18) Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

The motto of this draft better be “Protect Andrew Luck” for the Colts.  They can’t afford to lose him for bug chunks of time.  With all of the first tier tackles gone, the Colts add Ryan Kelly, a guy who can play center or even guard.  His versatility and strength will prove valuable for the Colts for years to come.

(19) Buffalo Bills: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Mario Williams was a big loss for this Bills front four.  For them to get back to being near the top of the league in sacks and pressures, they need someone who can rush the passer.  Shaq Lawson might just be the safest edge rusher pick in the draft.

(20) New York Jets: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

The Ryan Fitzpatrick situation is at a stand still.  With neither side budging, the Jets now need a solution at quarterback.  Lynch has the arm and athleticism to thrive in the NFL, and with weapons like Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, he might just be able to start day one.

(21) Washington Redskins: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

The Redskins would definitely like to fix their run defense from last year, a unit that finished 26th in the league.  Vernon Butler has the ability to plug up holes and defend the run at a high level.  He can turn the unit around.

(22) Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

The Texans will look for someone to complement DeAndre Hopkins on the outside, and why not get someone with great speed and run after the catch ability.  That is exactly what Corey Coleman brings to the table.  Brock Osweiler continues to get weapons.

(23) Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

Unless serious value shows up on the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings will take a receiver.  Treadwell has all the makings of a number one receiver.  He has the best hands and jump ball winning ability in this class, and his slow 40s don’t bother me.  He looks like the best receiver in this class.

(24) Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

They’re flying off the board now.  The Bengals obviously need to find a second receiver to take some pressure off of AJ Green.  Doctson’s route running and hands provide a nice complement to AJ Green’s deep threat ability.

(25) Pittsburgh Steelers: William Jackson III, CB, Houston

There are some very obvious needs for teams in this draft, and the Steelers needing secondary help is near the top of that list.  William Jackson has the speed and coverage skills to play in the NFL, and with the top receiver talent in the AFC, the Steelers need someone who can line up with them.

(26) Seattle Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M

This is where it starts to get interesting.  I could definitely see the Seahawks trading out of the first round because they do not like what they see, or because the talent they want will still be there in round two.  But, if they stay, look for them to address the offensive line.  Ifedi is a strong pass blocker who will be able to help keep Russell Wilson upright and help out the run game.

(27) Green Bay Packers: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Another team who may very well trade out of the first round, the Packers instead stick with this spot and take Ragland, a guy who can finally solve the issue of their defense.  He has the instincts to be a triple digit tackling machine, who will help out the run defense as well as be all over the field.  Best of all, Clay Matthews gets to move back outside.  Hear that? It’s offensive lines and QBs panicking.

(28) Kansas City Chiefs: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

It’s hard to know where the Chiefs are looking.  They could easily grab someone like Eli Apple or Artie Burns here, but they decide to find a pass rusher who can take over for the aging Tamba Hali.  The Chiefs saw their division rivals win the Super Bowl, and they were absolutely loaded with pass rushers.  The Chiefs take the same approach.

(29) Arizona Cardinals: Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky

His off the field concerns have caused his slip, but that doesn’t mean he lacks the talent and ability.  The Cardinals will take a shot at that ability with the chance to pair him up with Chandler Jones to rush the passer.  Suddenly, the Cardinals looked more balanced on defense.

(30) Carolina Panthers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

There was speculation that Carolina would take a corner even with Josh Norman on their roster.  Now that he left for the Redskins, they must take a corner.  Eli Apple has the stature and cover abilities to be a number one corner, and the pass rush that the Panthers have should help him out a bit in coverage.

(31) Denver Broncos: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

The Broncos need a quarterback.  It’s that simple.  With Osweiler and Manning gone and only Mark Sanchez signed on, it’s priority number one.  Sanchez can be serviceable for a short time, but they need someone to wait in the wings.  Cook has the arm talent to be a solid starter, and having Denver’s defense and a good run game should help him progress even more.

 

Enjoy the first round everyone!  I know I will!

 

 

Father and Son Play GM

While the mock drafts are interesting for me, I figured we could spice it up a bit by bringing in my dad to do half of the picks, just to see the draft from a different perspective.  So, the picks were alternated from 1 to 31, with the first pick going to me.  Here’s how that draft panned out. (NOTE: This is not a mock draft, this is more so what we would do at each team’s spot.)

(1) Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, California

The Rams moved up here to find a franchise quarterback, and with their current quarterback situation, they want someone who will start right away.  Jared Goff is the most ready to play quarterback in this draft.

(2) Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The Eagles get the quarterback they want.  Wentz has the prototypical strong arm and top notch athleticism.  He will be able to develop very nicely for a year or two behind current starting quarterback Sam Bradford.

(3) San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

The Chargers grab the best player in the draft, a guy who can play anywhere in the secondary and be good at it. He has the instincts and ball skills to thrive in any defensive system.  John Pagano is very happy with this pick.

(4) Dallas Cowboys: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

The Cowboys opt to go with a guy who can play both defensive end and defensive tackle.  He will play end until Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence return, and then he will be moved inside.  He is arguably the most complete defender in the draft.

(5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State

The Jags continue with the revamping of their defense, adding Joey Bosa to help boost their pass rush, which should be much improved with the addition of Malik Jackson and the return of Dante Fowler.  They continue to rebuild on the defense under Gus Bradley.

(6) Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi

Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome sticks to his guns and grabs the best player available here.  Eugene Monroe is their current left tackle, but Tunsil’s talent and upside will prove that he belongs in that spot.

(7) San Francisco 49ers: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

The first big shock.  Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke realize the potential of Lynch and grab him here to become the next quarterback of the 49ers.  His athleticism will prove to be a great fit in Kelly’s system.

(8) Tennessee Titans (from Browns): Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

The Titans, who moved all the way back to 15, see someone they want and move up here to grab a top offensive tackle in Ronnie Stanley, who will be able to protect Mariota’s blindside and send Taylor Lewan to right tackle.  The Browns grab more picks in this trade.  Everyone wins here.

(9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Tampa Bay could go a lot of places here, but adding a corner like Hargreaves should help solidify the secondary.  He is a very good cover corner with great toughness and ball skills. He would probably start as a nickel corner behind Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes, and eventually will move to outside.

(10) New York Giants: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

The Giants have the steal of the draft so far.  Myles Jack fills out their defense beautifully. He has a great skill set for a middle linebacker.  He can run vertical in coverage with tight ends and running backs, but he has the toughness to play the run.  The Giants love that he falls to here.

(11) Chicago Bears: Leonard Floyd, EDGE, Georgia

Chicago should keep building on the defensive side of the ball, and a team can never have enough pass rushers.  Floyd would do really well on the opposite side of Pernell McPhee, and could be a double digit sack regular in a couple years.

(12) New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

It’s no secret that the Saints need help on the defensive side of the ball.  They grab a player who can defend the run and rush the passer well.  His presence on the defensive line will force teams to stop doubling guys like Cam Jordan and Hau’oli Kikaha.

(13) Miami Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

The Dolphins get their dream scenario and run the ticket up as fast as humanly possible.  Elliott fills one of their biggest holes, and now the Fins have a big time lead back who can take pressure off of Ryan Tannehill and gives new head coach Adam Gase another nice weapon to work with.

(14) Oakland Raiders: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Darron Lee is a type of linebacker that most teams search for.  His speed as a linebacker is second to none in this draft, meaning his ability to run with tight ends and running backs is very good.  He also has the toughness to be a tackling machine, and would be devastating when sent on a blitz.  Oakland picks up what feels like another Ryan Shazier.

(15) Cleveland Browns (from Titans): Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

The Browns have really put themselves in a good position here.  They have acquired picks from both the Eagles and the Titans, and still get a top talent in round one.  Jack Conklin is as solid as any offensive line prospect in this draft, and he will start right away playing opposite of Joe Thomas.  Thomas and Conklin will protect RGIII (or whatever QB Cleveland drafts) very well.

(16) Indianapolis Colts (from Lions): Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

The Colts know they need a top offensive line prospect in this draft so that they can better protect Andrew Luck, so when Conklin goes, they make a deal with the Lions to move up two spots and grab Taylor Decker, a big, physical tackle who can start on day one.

(17) Atlanta Falcons: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Atlanta had a tough decision to make between Ragland and Lawson, but they opt to go with Lawson in order to generate a better pass rush off of the edge.  Lawson and Beasley will be a great duo for years to come.

(18) Detroit Lions (from Colts): Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

The biggest surprise of the draft so far.  The Lions acquire a pick from the Colts and believe they can grab and offensive lineman later, and they opt to go for a defensive tackle.  Butler has the high motor and is exceptional against the run.  His small school competition doesn’t concern the Lions one bit, and they believe they’ve added a star.

(19) Buffalo Bills: A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

The Bills miss out on a chance to get Lynch, so the Bills go a different direction. Robinson has big time potential, and the fact that you can use him as either a defensive tackle or a defensive end shows his versatility.  The Bills have just increased the talent of their defensive line and can be a force like they were two years earlier.

(20) New York Jets: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

The Jets go with the best player available here.  Ragland makes their front seven that much more formidable.  Ragland has great instincts and always seems to find the football.  He believes he plays the pass better than people believe, but his tackling and run stopping ability are enough for the Jets to grab him here.

(21) Washington Redskins: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

The Redskins just added a superstar corner in Josh Norman, so their focus has completely shifted to the defensive line.  The Skins have always been pretty good against the run, but adding Reed to their front ensures that their line will be very good.  Reed does a lot of things well, but his best attribute is a hole plugger in the run game.

(22) Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

Houston desperately wants to have a solid number two receiver.  Corey Coleman fits that mold, and his speed perfectly complements DeAndre Hopkins.  I can see the Steve Smith like potential of Corey Coleman, and he will fit well in this offense.

(23) Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

The Vikings are another team with a big need at wide receiver.  Treadwell looks like the best prospect in this draft, and his lack of speed doesn’t bother me.  His ability to go up and win jump balls should be all the Vikes need to see.  They grab Treadwell to be their number one receiver.

(24) Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

The Bengals lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency, and they need to find a receiver in this draft to help out Andy Dalton.  Doctson is the type of possession receiver that would be a great complement to AJ Green, and he could develop into one of better number two wideouts in the league.

(25) Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

No corners have come off the board since Vernon Hargreaves at 9, so the Steelers get to pick from a bunch of guys.  The Steelers switched to a zone coverage scheme during last season, and it seemed to work better.  Apple is one of the better corners who plays off ball coverage very well, and his size will benefit him against guys like AJ Green, who he will see twice a year.

(26) Seattle Seahawks: William Jackson III, CB, Houston

The Seahawks decide against reaching for an offensive lineman, and they go for a corner with great size and speed.  Jackson has the potential to be a force in the legion of boom, and the fact that Browner is aging might throw him right into the fire week one.

(27) Green Bay Packers: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi

This is a definite risk for the Packers here.  But, Nkemdiche’s potential is almost too great to pass here, and the Packers believe they have the veteran presence in the locker room to control this guy and get him on track.  His ability to rush the passer and shed through interior blockers.  What a steal this would be for the Packers if he would stay out of trouble.

(28) Kansas City Chiefs: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Andy Reid’s running scheme has been a success in Kansas City the past few years, but adding a weapon for Alex Smith to get the ball to would be smart.  Maclin is the sure fire possession guy, and Kelce stretches the field well for a tight end, but Fuller has the speed to separate from corners to get open.  His speed could be valuable in the run game as well.

(29) Arizona Cardinals: TJ Green, CB/S, Clemson

A guy who has risen up boards in the past few weeks, Green has good size to play either corner or safety.  The Cardinals jump on him here because of his versatility he brings to the secondary.  He can slide down to corner when both Mathieu and Tyvon Branch are playing safety, or he could play safety if the Cards want to drop Matheiu  down to play corner.  Green is a great addition here.

(30) Carolina Panthers: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Another surprise at the end of the round occurs.  The Panthers pass over a couple corners in order to draft one who, had he not torn his knee up, probably would have been a first round pick.  His coverage skills are excellent, and if he heals well from his knee injury, could be a serious stud in Carolina and would fill the void left by Josh Norman’s departure.

(31) Denver Broncos: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

Denver has to decide to grab a quarterback, or solidify their offensive line and wait to draft a QB.  Quarterback is a position they desperately need, and there will be more offensive line prospects later in the draft. They decide on getting Connor Cook, a quarterback with solid potential.  He could sit behind a serviceable Mark Sanchez for a while and develop into a solid starter.

NFL Mock Draft 3.0

There has been quite a shakeup in the draft order this past week, as the Los Angeles Rams have traded up fourteen spots for the first overall pick.  Tennessee will move back to 15 and acquire two second round picks from the Rams, as well as a third rounder this year, and a first and third next year.  And, just today, the Eagles have traded with the Browns to acquire the second overall pick.  The Browns received the 8th overall pick, as well as a third and fourth rounder this year, and a first and second next year.  This shakeup means that the draft will have a very new look to it, which means the mocks must adjust.  Let’s show those adjustments.

(1) Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, California

The Rams obviously moved up to grab a quarterback here.  The ultimate question is, who will they take here, Goff or Wentz? I think the Rams, knowing that Wentz still needs some development and would need to sit behind someone for a bit, go for the quarterback that can start right away in the league, and immediately helps out their offense.  Goff does exactly that.

(2) Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The Eagles gave away a bunch to acquire this pick, and they will obviously be taking a quarterback.  I think Wentz being able to sit behind Bradford for a couple years will only help him progress into a better player.  Time will tell if this trade works out.

(3) San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi

San Diego gets to choose from everyone at the top of their big board after seeing two quarterbacks get taken off the board.  It would be very hard not to take Ramsey here, as he would add a big boost to a secondary that Eric Weddle departed, but Tunsil is as sure fire a pick in this draft as anyone.

(4) Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Yes, Elliott is very popular at this spot, but I argue that Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden will be fine in that backfield.  Plus, if Dallas really wants to contend for a title, they need to address their defensive line, which at this point doesn’t really have a consistent pass rushing presence.  Adding Joey Bosa will fix that for Dallas.

(5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

After all the drama with the trade, the Jags end up grabbing the best player in the draft.  Ramsey will add playmaking ability on defense that the Jags just have not had for some time.  He will join Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, and a returning Dante Fowler to ignite a young and talented up and coming defense.

(6) Baltimore Ravens: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

The Ravens defensive line will be a question mark heading into 2016, with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil aging, along with the departure of OLB Courtney Upshaw.  The defensive line is an area where the Ravens must get younger.  Adding a big, strong, physical presence like Buckner is exactly what the Ravens need.

(7) San Francisco 49ers: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

San Fran misses out on both quarterbacks, but they grab the next best need for them.  Chip Kelly needs a strong offensive line for his run heavy scheme, and Stanley fits that bill with his strength and athleticism.

(8) Cleveland Browns: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

The injury questions only get harder to answer for Myles Jack.  But, I think his potential to be the top player in this draft will entice Cleveland to make a move.  Jack has the ability to play in coverage just as well as he plays against the run.  Jack can become a serious cornerstone of this defense.

(9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Defense, defense, defense.  That should be Tampa Bay’s focus in this draft.  The secondary should be a top priority, and Hargreaves getting to nine is exactly what the Bucs need.  He provides them with great ball skills, toughness, and instincts.

(10) New York Giants: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

The Giants definitely overhauled the defense in free agency, signing Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins, but the spot they need to address is linebacker.  Darron Lee provides something at the position that you don’t see very often: toughness AND speed.  He reminds me a lot of Ryan Shazier, and if teams think he has that type of potential, he will be a high pick.

(11) Chicago Bears: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

Chicago has a lot of places they could address, from the defensive line to the offensive line.  I think their best option would be to grab an edge rusher that they can pair with Pernell McPhee.  Leonard Floyd has huge potential and may end up being the best pass rusher in this draft.

(12) New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

The Saints will for sure be focusing on defense in this draft.  I don’t see them taking Treadwell like many mock drafts have, because adding Fleener in free agency will immediately help out the passing game.  Adding a pass rushing defensive tackle like Rankins will help free up Cam Jordan and second year rusher Hau’oli Kikaha with one on one chances to get to the QB.

(13) Miami Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

It’s a dream scenario for the Dolphins.  They are lacking a running game since Lamar Miller left for Houston in free agency, so having a stud like Elliott be there at 13 helps out the offense immensely.  Adam Gase could use Elliott in so many ways, and he can take the pressure off of Ryan Tannehill.

(14) Oakland Raiders: William Jackson III, CB, Houston

The Raiders will continue to rebuild and reload through their defense, which added Bruce Irvin this offseason.  Even though they did add Sean Smith, another physical corner with some speed would fit them nicely, and that’s exactly what Jackson brings to the table.

(15) Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

A trade up to Cleveland’s spot seems unlikely when both Tunsil and Stanley are gone, but they have the next best guy at that position fall right into their lap.  Conklin has the pass protection ability to play left tackle, but the odds are that Tennessee will play him at right tackle and leave Lewan at left tackle.

(16) Detroit Lions: A’Shawn Robinson, DE/DT, Alabama

Offensive line would be another way for the Lions to go, but with Haloti Ngata not too far from hanging it up, Robinson seems like the ideal replacement for Ngata.  He has the strength to get to the quarterback, and has the versatility to play both defensive tackle and defensive end.

(17) Atlanta Falcons: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

Atlanta continues to add defensive pieces under Dan Quinn, and this time they have added a cornerstone in Reggie Ragland.  Ragland reminds me of a better CJ Mosley, and his run stopping and tackling ability are unmatched in this draft.  He has a great football IQ and is a great addition to a Falcons team that lacks a strong linebacking core.

(18) Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

This pick might be the easiest to predict.  Assuming one of the top four offensive linemen gets to them, they will take one.  The Colts cannot afford another season of losing Andrew Luck, so boosting the offensive line throughout the entire draft is a must.  Decker will provide the Colts with the ability to protect Andrew Luck’s blindside.

(19) Buffalo Bills: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

The Bills don’t have a ton of holes.  One of the possibilities for the Bills would be to go quarterback, but do they think Lynch is the guy?  Middle linebacker would be another option, but would they reach for someone without a first round grade?  Their safest option is to replace the loss of Mario Williams, and Shaq Lawson’s potential as a pass rusher will entice the Bills enough to take him.

(20) New York Jets: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Right now, it seems like the Ryan Fitzpatrick situation is far from being figured out, and I don’t think the Jets want Geno Smith to start at quarterback.  Lynch may end up starting the year if Fitzpatrick doesn’t get a deal done, but the weapons are there to take the pressure off of him.  (NOTE: There is a VERY strong possibility Lynch goes 4-5 picks before the Jets’ spot at 20, considering what has happened with the top two picks, so the Jets may need to trade up to get him.)

(21) Washington Redskins: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

Washington has a few holes on their defense to address, but why not add one of the best defensive tackles in the draft who is a run stopping machine.  He would anchor a very solid defensive line and be a solid player for quite some time.

(22) Houston Texans: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Fuller running in the 4.3 range vaulted him into the first round conversation.  Fuller would complement Hopkins very nicely in Houston’s passing game, and if he can fix the drop issue he had in college, Fuller can be a serious stud in this league.

(23) Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

Minnesota is solid on defense, so they must find weapons to help Teddy Bridgewater prosper in their offense.  Treadwell, perhaps the best wideout in this draft, will complement second year receiver Stefon Diggs nicely, and his physicality and his ability to win jump balls will be huge for the Vikes.

(24) Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Losing both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu was a big blow to the Bengals offense.  They need to find someone who can complement AJ Green’s deep ball explosiveness.  Josh Doctson is that guy.  Doctson is more of a possession receiver at the next level, but his hands and route running will help him become a very viable number two guy.

(25) Pittsburgh Steelers: Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Along with Indy needing help on the offensive line, the Steelers need major help in the secondary.  With a few options to consider, Pittsburgh goes with the guy with the best size and speed in Artie Burns.  Burns has the ability to be a top notch outside cover guy.

(26) Seattle Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OL, Texas A&M

Seattle, without Max Unger last year and now with Okung being traded to Denver, Seattle needs instant help on the offensive line.  Ifedi gives them the versatility to mix and match their offensive line how they want.

(27) Green Bay Packers: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

Green Bay needs help at defensive tackle with the abrupt Raji retirement, and I think Butler has a chance to be a serious star in this league.  Butler has impressed me a lot since the Senior Bowl and vaulted his stock to my top 25.  He can play nose tackle but also could move to defensive end in certain situations.

(28) Kansas City Chiefs: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

The Chiefs added a future star last year in Marcus Peters, but losing Sean Smith to free agency has them back on the market for a corner.  Eli Apple has a similar style of play as Sean Smith, and his size will be very helpful to the Chiefs defense.

(29) Arizona Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi

Arizona needs help on the defensive line, and although acquiring Chandler Jones helps them out on the pass rush front, they still need a guy who can plug up the middle.  Nkemdiche has serious potential, and if he can avoid off the field issues, this would be an absolute steal.  He has a great combo of abilities in the run and pass rush game, and his team up with Jones could be the missing pieces Arizona has looked for.

(30) Carolina Panthers: Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State

Carolina could look for help at the safety spot or for their pass rush, but if you watched the Super Bowl, you know where the Panthers must look first: their offensive line.  They can’t afford to get beaten up in the trenches and risk Cam Newton getting hurt.  Whitehair is another offensive lineman that has the versatility to play guard or tackle.

(31) Denver Broncos: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

Denver did a solid job retaining defensive pieces, but losing both Osweiler and Manning hurts.  Mark Sanchez is certainly not the long term solution, and may not even be a good short term one.  Connor Cook has the potential to be the top QB in this draft, and sitting for a little while will help him progress.

 

 

 

Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally here and I’m very excited to discuss who I think will be  the winners and losers from each conference and which players I think will have the biggest impacts on each series.

Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

The President Trophy winners of this year are taking on a red hot Philly team that only pushed their way in to the playoffs days before the start of the playoffs. I can’t imagine there being much of a series here if I’m going to be honest, but the Caps are known to choke in the playoffs. Ovi has yet to make it past the second round in his career but if there was a year to do it, this would be it. Riding the hottest goalie of the year, Braden Holtby, the Caps are healthy and are by far the biggest threat in the East. Philly will be counting on rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere who lead all rookie defensemen in points and goals without even playing the whole season. Even though Philly is hot right now and looking to prove themselves, I’m taking the Caps in this one. Caps in 5

Key Player: Braden Holtby

 

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

Pittsburgh is looking to avenge two straight playoff losses to the Rangers. Sidney Crosby ended the year on an amazing hot streak and with Kris Letang having one of his best seasons yet, they could give the Rangers all they can handle. The main concern I have with the Penguins is injuries. Losing their goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and forward Evgeni Malkin might be too much for them. The Rangers on the other hand, don’t quite have the squad they have had in the past but when you have Henrik Lundqvist, you have a way to win. McDonagh being out for at least one game doesn’t help this overrated defensive core either so I have to go with the Penguins. Penguins in 7.

Key Player: Sidney Crosby

New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers

An overall young roster, with a few veterans in Jagr and Luogno, will put the Panthers in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. This team is flying under the radar and could easily climb the bracket, but this is mostly because of the week division it is in. While the Islanders should give them the biggest challenge until they reach the Conference Finals, the Panthers have played solid hockey all year long and I can’t see them going home just yet. John Taveras ended the season as one of the top forwards in the league yet again and getting back Harmonic will help, but I just don’t think this team is going to be able to win this series. Reaching 100 points is a great accomplishment but they should have been better this year and I don’t see it changing any time soon. Panthers in 6.

Key Player: Aleksander Barkov

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

The Wings kept the playoff streak alive by the skin of their teeth and they get to play a Lightning team without their best forward, Steven Stamkos. The Lightning are a young team with great speed and are filled with great scorers like Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson, but I’m just not sure if they can handle losing one of the best centers in the league. With the news of Pavel Datsyuk retiring, I’m sure the Wings want to make a push but barely making the playoffs isn’t a great way to start. I am almost sure that this series will go to 7 games and I’m taking the Lightning just because they proved themselves last year by making a cup run. Lightning in 7.

Key Player: Ben Bishop

Western Conference

Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild

The highest scoring team in the league might be getting their all-star forward Tyler Seguin back just in time to make a run for the cup but the biggest question this team has is defense. Can they score so much that it doesn’t matter? It’s possible but the West is stacked and it wont take much for the Stars to falter. The Wild wont last long in the playoffs this year mostly because Ryan Suter can only do so much. Devan Dubnyk has been very inconsistent all year, Zach Parise is out indefinitely and they finished with a measly 87 points on the season. The Stars should take this easily. Stars in 5.

Key Player: Jamie Benn

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Saint Louis Blues

The Blues are looking to get revenge from the 2014 playoffs against the Stanley Cup Champions of 2015. With lights out forward Vladimir Tarasenko, they have the first chance at stopping a repeat. The defensive core with Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo, and red hot goalie in Elliot, they are no easy task for the reigning champs. Although the Hawks ended on a cold streak, they are by no means going down easy. The Art Ross winner Patrick Kane,  along with line mate Artemi Panarin, are looking to keep their chemistry going and to continue being one of the most dangerous lines in the league. It looks as though the Hawks are going to get Hossa and Shaw back just in time, but will be without Duncan Keith for 1 game due to a suspension. Corey Crawford is also back in net which is great news for Hawks fans. I’m taking the Hawks in 7.

Key Player: Corey Crawford

Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators

The Ducks once again win the West, but can this finally be the year they win that elusive cup? After a slow start to the year, the Ducks heated up quickly and finished with 103 points, their 3rd consecutive 100 point season. Forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry continue to produce for this team and putting them on different lines this season has been their best move yet. The Predators are counting on their defensemen in Roman Josi and Shea Weber to carry them to the next round. With young talent at forward in Filip Forsberg and veterans in James Neal and Mike Ribeiro, this team has the ability to play any of these Western teams very tough. Sadly, I think the Ducks will handle them in 6 games.

Key Player: Ryan Getzlaf

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

This could turn out to be one of the most exciting series in this first round. Joe Thornton looks ageless, scoring 82 points at age 36 and Joe Pavelski is pushing hard to prove they can do what it takes to win the West. A sneaky pick to make the finals, they have by far the toughest road to get there with a bad recent playoff history. The series they lost 2 years ago after being up 3-0 against the eventual cup winning Kings is still fresh in their mind. This series will be the true test. The Kings roster is full of veterans and they have almost all been here before. Winning 2 cups in the last 4 years, this team is always dangerous. They didn’t make the playoffs last year and I guarantee they are mad because that isn’t a characteristic of this team. Jonathan Quick is arguably the best goalie in the league and proves it every year, while defensemen Drew Doughty showed he is a finalist for the Norris Trophy again. I think the Kings take this series in 7 games.

Key Player: Jonathan Quick

That raps up the first round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs now everyone sit back, relax and enjoy one of the best times of the year!

 

 

 

 

Top 25 Draft Prospects

NFLDraft2016_PMK0100a_2016_SCC_SRGB

The Mock Draft talk has been stirring for some time now, and plenty of mocks have hit the presses.  But, most teams will be putting need first instead of talent.  So, with that in mind, let’s rank the top 25 prospects hitting the 2016 draft.

25. Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor

In an absolutely loaded defensive line class, it’s hard to fit every player on this list.  Billings is definitely worthy of a spot though.  He has great strength and plugs holes very well up the middle.  He was the centerpiece of that Baylor line and has the potential to be a centerpiece on an NFL roster.

24. Robert Nkemdiche, DT/DE, Mississippi

On a talent based list, Nkemdiche stands out.  His playmaking ability was on display in a big big way against Alabama last season.  That being said, he did disappear in games last season too.  So, when it comes to weighing where he should be on this list, it’s difficult because of his consistency.  He has tremendous potential, but his work ethic makes him fall down the list.

23. Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky

Spence is another guy with great potential that has had some shaky off the field issues.  He stood out after transferring from Ohio State, and had a very strong showing at senior bowl practices.  He has the high motor and strength to be a very good 3-4 outside linebacker, and can be a real force in this league as long as he stays clean.

22. Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

Here is yet another defender who can play multiple spots.  Leonard Floyd has the cover ability and pass rush ability to play linebacker in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense.  His hybrid defending ability will attract a lot of suitors come draft day.

21. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

Alexander is one of the better corners coming out in this draft.  His physicality and toughness stands out on tape.  Yes, he is a little undersized, but he makes up for it in coverage ability.  Playing in the ACC gave him the opportunity to go up against tough wide receivers, and Alexander definitely held his own.

20. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

Treadwell has the physical gifts to be the top receiver in this class.  If you watch the tape, he is a 50/50 ball winning machine.  He also has the best hands in this class, which can be seen from game tape and the combine.  Sure, he only ran in the 4.6 range, but so did Allen Robinson, and look how he is panning out.  Whichever team drafts Treadwell, they will be pleased.

19. Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

I have Butler much higher on my list than most do.  Butler has a super high motor and great potential to be a top defensive tackle in football.  His pass rushing ability from that spot is equivalent with any defensive tackle in this draft. Sure, he played less competition in college, and he could use some work as a run stopper, but his ability can not be overlooked.

18. A’Shawn Robinson, DE/DT, Alabama

Another defensive lineman in this very deep class, Robinson was a big piece in Alabama’s title winning defense.  The best thing about Robinson is his versatility.  He can play many different spots on the defensive line, from nose tackle to a defensive end in a 3-4.  The fact that he can play multiple spots will cause his stock to climb.

17. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Decker is a prototypical tackle out of Ohio State that can play on either side of the line.  His strength and balance is what you need from a left tackle, and his ability as a body-mover in the run game shows that he can also play right tackle.  A guy with his skill set is a sure fire first round pick.

16. Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

Reed is the consummate prospect.  He is so polished and can do everything that is asked of him.  He has the ability to anchor a defensive line, rush the passer, and stop the run.  He is quick and agile and has solid strength to move offensive linemen.  Whoever drafts him will get a stellar player.  He may not jump out at you now, but the fact that he does everything well will show at the next level.

15. Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State

A rising trait GMs want to see from linebackers is speed, speed to be able to drop into coverage against tight ends, slot receivers, and running backs.  Darron Lee provides that speed.  Running a 4.47 in the 40 proves that he has the speed and agility in coverage as well as the speed to be sent in on blitzes.  He reminds me a lot of Ryan Shazier.  Lee has as much potential as Shazier did a couple of years ago, and he can thrive playing inside linebacker.

14. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

In a game where having too many pass rushers is fable, Lawson is near the top of pass rushing prospects.  His size and speed off the edge are nearly second to none.  I think he has higher potential and is better all around than his teammate at Clemson, Kevin Dodd.  I see Lawson’s potential and I think of former Clemson rusher Vic Beasley.  Lawson will be a starter in the NFL for some time.

13. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

There are only a couple steadier presences on the offensive line in college than Conklin.  He is as good as anyone coming out when it comes to pass blocking, and most teams are looking for just that in an increasing passing league.  He will anchor an offensive line for years to come.

12. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Ragland is the prototypical linebacker from the 80s.  He is tough, a great tackler, plays instinctively, and is a monster against the run.  The tape shows just how good Ragland is.  He fills holes in the run game beautifully.  He can rush the quarterback.  He is underrated in coverage and he is a tackling machine.  Sure, he doesn’t have the speed that Lee has, but he has all the intangibles and more to offer a team.

11. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

Rankins is my favorite defensive tackle in this draft.  He has the undeniable skill set to play on any base defense and play his position well.  There are talks about Rankins being a little undersized, but he makes up for it on his tape.  He does very well against the run and pass and should be considered a lock to go top 15.

10. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Another big bodied lineman in this draft, Ronnie Stanley is an athletic tackle with very good pass blocking ability.  He is very quick and athletic in getting blocks moving, and is very good at pulling outside in the run game for a left tackle prospect.  It is possible with his strengths that whoever drafts him could in fact move him to right tackle.  He will need to work on his footwork and balance a bit, but he’s very dependable and is a very solid prospect coming out.

9. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

There’s so much to like about Carson Wentz.  The major reason is his arm strength.  He has the strength to throw the deep ball with ease and make every throw on the field.  His athleticism also puts him in a different category than most quarterbacks.  He has shown in college that he isn’t afraid to leave the pocket and take off.  It’s no wonder that Wentz will be taken early in round one.

8. Joey Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State

Bosa is the best edge rusher coming out of college right now.  It’s not hard to see why if you go to the tape.  He is as creative as they come when getting to the quarterback.  He has a barrage of moves, ranging from completely looping around the outside to setting up outside and weaving his way inside.  His motor and non stop effort to get to the quarterback shows why he will go early in the draft.

7. Jared Goff, QB, California

There is one main reason that I have Goff over Wentz here.  I really think Wentz needs to sit behind someone a couple years and develop, while I think you can throw Goff out there and know that he is ready.  There isn’t a throw on the field that Goff cannot make, but his best attribute is his slipperiness in the pocket.  He has great footwork to break the pocket and make good throws on the run.  He just looks so fluid and so ready for the pro level.

6. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Yes, of course we can talk the issue of size.  I know he’s around 5’10”, believe me, I do.  But the thing is, he makes up for it with his toughness, athleticism, and effort.  I don’t see a harder worker out there on the field.  Hargreaves plays very well off ball and is a very solid tackler.  His quickness and change of direction ability is better than any other defensive back in this draft (yes, even better than Ramsey).  My favorite attribute of his is his ball skills.  Watching his tape and his combine showed me he could catch the ball better than some receivers can.  He has a knack of being around the ball and getting his hands on it.  Hargreaves can thrive at the next level.

5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

It’s very hard to believe that we could find another prospect at Todd Gurley’s level the year after Gurley comes out, but I think we have found one.  Elliott has a brilliant combination of power and speed, and can easily be an every down back in the NFL.  The game that comes to mind is the Sugar Bowl in 2015 against Alabama.  He ran between the tackles well and ran past everyone when he got to the corner.  There just aren’t many guys like Elliott that have come out of college.  He looks like he will be a special player.

4. DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

This guy will add a serious presence to any defensive line.  He has great size and strength and has the ability to anchor a defensive line for years to come.  The fact that he can disrupt the line of scrimmage from multiple spots on the line adds to his already solid value.  He has the potential to make offensive lines gameplay for him for years to come.

3. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Myles Jack is the best linebacker in this draft for good reason.  He is the every down linebacker teams are looking for in this new age of passing.  He is a tackling machine with serious toughness (stemming from him playing running back with UCLA as well).  If you check out the tape, you find something spectacular: his ability to run with slot receivers and tight ends and not allowing separation.  Teams would drool over having a chance at a linebacker with that type of coverage skills.  Another attribute of his is his versatility.  He has the ability to play the mike, and could also play strong side or weak side linebacker.  Teams have also approached him with the idea of playing safety.  Wherever he plays, he will be extremely good at it.

2. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi

Tunsil is the ultimate prospect at offensive tackle.  He really has all the tools that one looks for.  He has the strength and athleticism to control the line of scrimmage and fend off pass rushers.  He is easily the most fluid tackle in this draft as well.  His footwork is above everyone else, and he is often called a “dancing bear” by scouts.  As long as he has the ability to stay healthy, Tunsil really is the ultimate can’t-miss guy in this draft

1. Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

Ramsey is my favorite prospect in this year’s draft.  What’s not to like about Ramsey? He has all the physical tools to play in the NFL.  His size and length are what every team is  looking for in a defensive back.  He also has unbelievable instincts and is always around the ball.  The question is, where do you play him? He has the ball skills to play coverage at an elite level, but his physicality can allow him to be plugged in at safety.  He reminds me a lot of a Charles Woodson type of player, a defensive back who can play anywhere in the secondary but can also tackle like a linebacker.  I fully expect Ramsey to be a perennial Pro Bowler and elite at whatever position he plays.

 

NFL Mock Draft 2.0

NFLDraft2016_PMK0100a_2016_SCC_SRGB

We are counting down to the NFL Draft, as it is now just over a month away.  The combine and free agent signings have altered some teams’ approaches in this year’s draft, so let’s take a look.  Also, before you guys read this mock draft, I encourage you all to take a look at my first mock draft, with the link here: http://jake13sports.blogspot.com

(1) Tennessee Titans: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

One of the Titans’ biggest needs is to protect Marcus Mariota, but the opportunity to draft the best player available and have a centerpiece on defense should take priority.  Jalen Ramsey has the highest potential in this draft and provides instant playmaking ability for the Titans.

(2) Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California

At this point, Cleveland has yet to sign a quarterback or trade for Colin Kaepernick, which means quarterback still remains their biggest need.  Carson Wentz is the popular pick, but if Cleveland wants a guy who is pro ready and won’t take a few years to progress, Jared Goff has the upside and the ability to go in and play week 1.

(3) San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi

San Diego has made some very good moves in free agency, and they have a chance at an AFC West title.  One thing that needs to happen is for Philip Rivers to be protected.  Laremy Tunsil is a very athletic offensive lineman and will provide stability at a position that has been riddled with injuries for the Chargers in the past few years.

(4) Dallas Cowboys: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

There are a lot of ways Dallas could go here, but taking (in my opinion) the second best player in this draft should be the pick.  Myles Jack has the upside and talent to be a perennial Pro Bowl linebacker, and with Rolando McClain signed for only another year, Jack would solve the linebacker position long term.

(5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

The Jags have made a lot of moves in free agency, but they still need a number one corner to solidify their defense.  Hargreaves fits the mold of a number one corner with serious ball skills and toughness.

(6) Baltimore Ravens: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

The offensive line would make sense to address here, but with aging pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, the time has come for the Ravens to look for an heir apparent. Joey Bosa has the skills and the high motor to excel at the next level.

(7) San Francisco 49ers: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Chip Kelly coming to San Fran will hopefully improve the stagnant Niner offense.  If Colin Kaepernick indeed is on the move, the Niners will look to the draft for a franchise QB.  Carson Wentz has the strong arm and athletic ability to work real well in Kelly’s offensive scheme.

(8) Philadelphia Eagles: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

The Eagles have the quarterback position pretty solidified, with the signings of Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel.  With Jason Peters nearing his final years, the Eagles opt to find a young offensive stud in Stanley.

(9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

The Bucs could go corner or safety, but with Ramsey and Hargreaves gone, it feels like a reach.  Buckner will provide some extra pass rush that the Bucs absolutely need, and him and Gerald McCoy could be a fearsome duo up front.

(10) New York Giants: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

The Giants have had an overhaul on defense through free agency, but there’s one spot they have failed to upgrade at: middle linebacker.  Luckily, the draft has a few excellent prospects at middle linebacker, Darron Lee being one of them.  Lee has the speed to be all over the field making tackles, and would be a great addition to a vastly improving Giants defense.

(11) Chicago Bears: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

Chicago has made some very good additions in free agency, but one spot they still would like to fill is at the defensive tackle position.  Eddie Goldman looks like a good draft pick, but adding another tackle in the draft would be smart.  Plus, Robinson could also play defensive end in Fangio’s 3-4 scheme.

(12) New Orleans Saints: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Mississippi

The Saints need to continue to build up their defense, and to do that they need to find playmakers.  Although Nkemdiche has off the field issues, his athleticism, playmaking ability, and upside are too great for the Saints to pass him up here.

(13) Miami Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State

The Dolphins could address issues with their linebacking core or their secondary, but the Fins lost a very important piece in Lamar Miller in free agency.  They failed to sign CJ Anderson away from Denver, and are we confident they fully believe in Jay Ajayi as the starting running back? Elliot provides Adam Gase with the super talented running back his offense needs.

(14) Oakland Raiders: Mackenzie Alexander, CB, Clemson

The Raiders have made a lot of nice moves in free agency so far, but they still need some more help in the secondary.  Sean Smith will be a nice anchor at corner, but it would be in Oakland’s best interest to add another one.  Alexander is the tough, physical corner that Oakland needs.

(15) Los Angeles Rams: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

It seems like a trend.  The Rams keep drafting wide receivers in hopes that they’ll become the number one guy they have desperately been looking for.  This year, Treadwell is that guy.  He is a 50/50 ball winning machine with great hands and physical talent.  Pairing Treadwell with Tavon Austin and Todd Gurley makes the Rams more dangerous on offense.

(16) Detroit Lions: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

With Calvin Johnson retiring, the Lions’ offense will be making some changes.  They have added a couple nice receivers in free agency, but without a big body to throw it up to, the Lions may have to focus more on the run game.  To have a successful run game, you need to have top notch blocking up front.  Conklin provides the Lions with that stability.

(17) Atlanta Falcons: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

The Falcons have stated that they want to have another pass rusher that will complement 2015 first round pick Vic Beasley.  Lawson provides the power and speed off the edge to become a good complement to Beasley’s skill set and to help out Dan Quinn’s unit.

(18) Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

The motto of this Colts team should be as follows: Protect Andrew Luck. They can’t afford more seasons like last year.  Luck needs to be able to stay upright and healthy for full seasons.  Taylor Decker is a big body mover that should turn the Colts’ line around and make it above average.

(19) Buffalo Bills: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

Sometimes draft picks are about fitting a scheme.  That’s what this pick of Dodd does for the Bills.  Rex Ryan likes his four man front, and with the departure of Mario Williams, Ryan needs an edge rusher to fill his spot.  Dodd has the natural pass rushing ability to be a great fit in Buffalo.

(20) New York Jets: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

The Jets are really building something special on defense, and retaining Muhammad Wilkerson (at least for the moment) shows that they want to continue to be dominant on that side of the ball.  Losing Damon Harrison was a big blow to the front four, but drafting Reed, a guy who does everything well, will keep this front near the top in all of football.

(21) Washington Redskins: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

The Redskins are another team that needs to keep building up front.  They have uncovered some talent at linebacker and edge rusher, but they still need a run stopping presence in the middle.  Vernon Butler has the motor and the strength to be a very good at plugging up the holes in the run game.

(22) Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

The passing game is about speed these days.  You need guys who can separate from defenders.  Had Coleman not run a 4.37 pro day I would’ve considered Will Fuller for this spot, but the fact that Coleman has high end speed to go with his solid hands and very tough demeanor is a great thing.  The first time I saw Coleman, he reminded me of Steve Smith.  I think that is his ceiling.

(23) Minnesota Vikings: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

The Vikings have everything in place to have a very good defense again this coming year, but their issue is playmakers on offense.  Stefon Diggs will be their number one guy in 2016, but they still need a guy to take the top off of defenses, and Fuller has that kind of top end speed.

(24) Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

The Cincinnati Bengals need to reload at wide receiver after losing both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency.  Josh Doctson is a big bodied target for Andy Dalton, and has the potential to be a top notch possession receiver.

(25) Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

The Steelers have one of those glaring needs in the secondary that must be addressed.  A good start would be adding Eli Apple, a bigger cornerback (6’1″, 199) with good talent.  He is a little raw, but he fills a giant need in Pittsburgh.

(26) Seattle Seahawks: Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor

Seattle has very little weakness on defense, but a big run stuffer is at the top of the list.  They haven’t been as stout against the run as they were a few years ago.  To top it off, Brandon Mebane left via free agency.  Andrew Billings is the kind of player who can punish interior offensive lineman and who will leave running backs searching for holes.

(27) Green Bay Packers: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Yes, the retirement of BJ Raji hurts the Packers and leaves them with some need at defensive tackle.  But, you cannot pass up a player like Ragland, who has great instincts and is a tackling machine.  He can run sideline to sideline and be a good run stuffer.  The Packers have been looking for a true middle linebacker for some time now, and Ragland fits the part perfectly.

(28) Kansas City Chiefs: William Jackson, CB, Houston

The Chiefs have done a great job with retaining their free agents by re signing guys like Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, but they weren’t able to keep everyone.  Sean Smith, their top corner, bolted for Oakland in free agency.  Even though Marcus Peters looks like a shutdown corner in the making, they need some more depth at the cornerback position.  Jackson has top speed and solid ball skills, and will be able to play from the get go.

(29) Arizona Cardinals: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

Even with the acquisition of Chandler Jones from the Patriots, the Cardinals still need to improve their pass rush.  If there is one thing a team can’t have enough of, it’s pass rushers.  Leonard Floyd has the size and speed to play defensive end in the Cardinals’ scheme, and pairing him with Chandler Jones will give Floyd plenty of opportunities with one on one blocking.

(30) Carolina Panthers: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana

The NFC Champion Carolina Panthers do not have many holes to fill.  Safety is a need, but they have opportunities to grab one in a later round.  What Carolina does need to do is to find depth on their offensive line.  Michael Oher played well for them last season, but it’s time to find a lineman who can become an anchor for the Panthers’ run game for a decade or longer.  I think Spriggs’ athletic ability and toughness are a great combo of him to be a very good tackle for a long time.

(31) Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

After losing Peyton Manning (retirement) and Brock Osweiler (free agency), the reigning Super Bowl Champs need to find a quarterback for the future.  There may be quarterbacks that are more polished at this point than Lynch, but his arm talent and athleticism are things you can’t coach.  He can sit behind Mark Sanchez at the beginning and can develop behind him if need be.

 

 

Peyton Manning: A Legend, Retired

March 7th, 2016 will go down in history as the end of an era for fans of the great game, and for fans of the good guy. On March 7th, the entire country said goodbye to one of the great heroes of modern football as we know it. On the 7th day of March in the year 2016, Peyton Manning announced his retirement from the National Football League. 2x Super Bowl winner, five-time MVP winner made the announcement at a Bronco’s press conference, not even a month after winning Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers.

During the conference, it was easily viewable to even the non-football fan watching the video of the announcement that football was more than just a game to Manning. The New Orleans-born Quarterback was emotional, and showed just how much the game truly meant to him. The same man whom thousands grew up not just watching, but idolizing. Whenever the football left the hands of Manning, hearts skipped a beat around the world. The impossible, suddenly became possible. It wasn’t just how good he was. He was testament that with a lot of hard work, and endless pursuance, you, or I, could be in his shoes. Whether it be in his 13 full seasons with the Colts of Indianapolis, or in the seasons until his retirement with the Denver Broncos, there was always a little sparkle about the way Peyton Manning played, and also handled himself. Young men all over America, and in other parts of the world, grew up watching this commanding general lead his teams to records, trophies, and perhaps most importantly for kids such as myself whom grew up watching his every move, memories.

Memories come in abundance with the mention of Peyton Manning. He holds a stunning total of over 20 records in the National Football League, and leaves a legacy that, without a doubt is bound for Canton. It’s an emotional affair for sports fans any time that a sports icon retires, and the case for Manning is no different. There has been a clear switch in the way football has been played in recent years. The pocket-controlling, long-pass hurling quarterbacks of old are becoming fewer and fewer in today’s league, being replaced with the (just as fun to watch, no less) quick-passing, quarterbacks who are built on speed, and escaping defenses. Still, the NFL, will always have a place for quarterbacks who are able to control the field like Manning has done for the past eighteen seasons.

Good quarterbacks will come and go, but for a generation of still-young football fans, the man who we idolized growing up, will go with a special kind of sorrow. Never again will we see the famed matchup of Peyton Manning taking on Tom Brady. Never again, as evidenced by his changed reaction after the most recent Super Bowl, will we hear Peyton say “I’m going to Disney World!” as he stands in the confetti shower on the field after almost assuredly winning the MVP of the game. Manning is the first quarterback to ever reach 200 wins, and the only player to ever win a Super Bowl with two different teams. Upon his announcement, players like DeMarcus Ware, Vernon Davis, and Cam Newton (his most recent Super Bowl opponent) all congratulated Manning on his retirement, and joined in the chorus of thousands of football fans all over the world that sung of his accomplishments.

As for the young men who grew up idolizing Peyton Williams Manning, the ones now coming into their prime, both as players themselves, and as the fans, we will continue to love the great game, even after heroes like Manning and the countless others who have announced retirement this year, are gone. Though, there will always be a special place in our heart for “The Sheriff,” “The Middle Manning,” and simply, Peyton. Football goes on, as modern superstars rise up to take the places of Peyton and others like him, just as they took the place of others before them. On the 7th of March, in the year 2016, a legend stepped back from football. Though he may be walking away from the game, his memories, will always remain.