Posts by Danny Shimon

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Running Backs

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five running backs who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
The RB class contains several talented runners who project very well at the next level. Overall depth

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five running backs who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
The RB class contains several talented runners who project very well at the next level. Overall depth in the class will allow teams, in need of a RB, to find starting caliber backs on the drafts third-day. Reminiscent to last year when the Bears drafted Jordan Howard, the league’s second leading rusher, in the fifth-round.

1. Leonard Fournette, LSU

Coming out of high school Leonard Fournette was regarded as the number one prospect in the nation, and was one of the most highly recruited players to ever come out of the state of Louisiana. Throughout his stay in Baton Rouge Fournette did not disappoint as he set LSU’s school rushing record by a freshman (1,034 yards) in 2014, then as a sophomore proceeded to establish the Tigers single-season rushing mark in both yards (1,953) and touchdowns (22).
Fournette has all the makings of a lead back who is capable of spear heading a team’s ground game. He is an explosive runner who demonstrates a natural feel for the position as he can find openings by getting “skinny” and sneaking through and getting into the defenses second level. Fournettes quick-feet and excellent lateral quickness allow him to change direction, string together multiple cuts on a run, and make defenders miss in the open field. He can bounce a run to the outside or simply plant his foot and cut it up field once he sees an opening on the plays backside.
His balance and strength allow him to easily break through arm tackles and become a difficult runner to bring down to the ground once he gets behind his pads and starts lowering his shoulder into defenders, while also demonstrating a violent stiff arm.
What makes Fournette ever so dangerous is that besides the ability to power through a defense, becoming an effective short yardage or goal line runner, he possesses terrific build up speed that once he gets in the open field he has a chance to pull away from defenders, and take it in for a touchdown.
In terms of what still needs to be developed, pass protection would top the list as he needs to be better at helping to protect the QB. Fournette must get better at absorbing the impact from the defender instead of just meeting them at the POC or attempting to stall them with a shoulder block. While as a pass catcher Fournette was limited in the number of passes thrown his way so his route running and overall effectiveness in the passing game is something his NFL coaches will need to develop.
Overall, Fournette’ s combination of size, speed, and power running ability project him developing into a lead back and a bell cow for an offense. He has all the attributes you look for in a true-blue chip NFL runner that you build your team around, and one that can be an impact starter as a rookie next season.

2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State

A five-star high school prospect and top running back in the state of Florida Dalvin Cook put together quite the resume as a Seminole. Cook posted back-to-back All-America Campaigns (unanimous All-American in 2016) as he leaves FSU as the school’s all-time leading rusher surpassing the 20-year record set by Warrick Dunn. He also ranks second all-time in the ACC with 4,464 career rushing yards, and became the only player in conference history to break the 4,000-yard marker in just three seasons.
Cook possesses a well-rounded game posing just as big of a threat as a pass catcher as he is a runner. Whether it’s his quick-feet when he strings together multiple cuts on a single run, or when he easily bounces a run designed to go up the middle to the outside, Cook is an offensive weapon that opposing defenses need to game plan against.
Cook’s balance and quickness allow him to run through arm tackles in the defenses second and third levels once he is past the LOS. He can make defenders miss in the open field and possesses the athletic ability to change directions without needing to slow down. While his vision and instincts help him quickly identify holes opening on the plays backside.
Cook flashes game-breaking ability when he catches a screen pass out of the backfield and runs up the sideline turning on the jets and running by the defense into the end zone for a touchdown. With his speed, Cook is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, whether it is being handed off to him or thrown to him.
While his blocking technique and overall strength need continued development, he is not a total liability in pass protection as he is aware of protection schemes and which defender is his responsibility to pick-up when the defense rushes or blitzes the quarterback.
Where Cook can struggle is in short-yardage situations where he is called on to lower his pad level, take on a defender, and move the sticks.
Overall, when you watch Cook play his ability pops out at you, and there is no doubt that we are watching one of the more exciting players in the country, and a future NFL running back. Cook’s versatility and all-around talents fit perfectly in today’s pass happy NFL game. Flashing game-changing talent as both a runner and pass catcher.

3. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

As a sophomore in 2015 all Christian McCaffrey did was become the NCAA single-season all-purpose yards’ record holder (3,864) eclipsing the mark which was previously held by Barry Sanders. McCaffrey also became the only FBS player to ever lead his team in rushing, and receiving yardage in the same season. He would be named The AP player of the year and Paul Hornung Award winner leading the NCAA and Pac-12 in rushing with 2,019 yards, while racking up another 1,070 yards on 37 kick-offs returns for a whopping 28.9-yard average per return.

This past season McCaffrey once again led the PAC-12 in rushing with 1,603 yards while playing in only 11 games.
McCaffrey’s athletic ability and big play potential is evident when you watch him play. Whether it’s as a runner, receiver, or returner his ability in space and the threat to score at any time is impressive.
As a runner, McCaffrey displays excellent vision as he can quickly identify a hole and accelerate through the line of scrimmage and into the defenses second and third levels. He plays with patience and demonstrates good instincts as a runner in allowing his blockers time to set up and quickly anticipating an opening or a play developing. With quickness and speed being his calling card, McCaffrey can easily get to the edge and take the corner at full speed and quickly accelerate up field.
As a receiving threat, McCaffrey’s hands are good enough to play wide receiver on a full-time basis. He can line up in the slot and run receiver routes. He can set up defensive backs with head fakes, and create separation at the top of his stem with sharp precise cuts.
While on special teams McCaffrey, for his career, averaged 26.4 yards on kick-off returns helping to consistently set up his offense with very good field position.
The main concern with McCaffrey is his size. At 5’11” and 202-pounds he will not be every down carry the load type of running back. Instead he projects as more of a stretch runner that will threaten the edge of the defense as opposed to a between the tackles type who will keep pounding away inside.
Overall, McCaffrey does not possess the frame that can add that much more weight so expecting him to be a 20-25 carry runner is unrealistic. Where McCaffrey can win is by leveraging his quickness, speed, and playmaking ability in both the running, and passing game along with additional chances on both kick-off and punt return duties. This would allow McCaffrey ample opportunities to get the ball into his hands and to continue making big plays.

4. D’Onta Foreman, Texas

In a draft class deep with talented runners it appears Texas tailback D’Onta Foreman gets lost in the shuffle. However, the reigning Doak Walker Award winner is a talented power runner who in just a one season as a starter led the BIG-12 with 2,028 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in route to being named a Consensus First Team All-American, becoming the first Longhorn runner to earn that distinction since Ricky Williams back in 1998. He ended his collegiate career by rushing for a school-record, 13 straight 100-yards games.
Foreman is an old-school downhill power runner who is comfortable running it between the tackles and taking on big-bodied defenders at the LOS. He has very good athleticism for a big power back carrying his weight well, demonstrating quick-feet and vision with his jump cut ability in and out of holes along with a knack to see blocking develop at the first and second level of the defense. Foreman is a patient runner who will allow his blockers to get out and set up their blocks, and follow them through the gap. He is good at finishing his runs by lowering his pad level and running through defenders. Demonstrates good balance and leg-strength running through arm tackles, bouncing off and continuing to pick up YAC; also, is a weapon in short-yardage and goal line situations.
Foreman has very good straight line speed, breaking off long TD runs of 74 and 62 yards this past season. Just last week Foreman confirmed his long speed for scouts at Texas Pro Day where he was hand-timed twice running a 4.45 forty.
Some of the concerns in Foreman’s resume starts with his marginal receiving production, where in his three seasons at Texas where he totaled just 13 receptions. He never appeared to be a viable option in the passing game for the Texas coaches. His pass-blocking is also questionable, and is still a work in progress, taking some questionable angles and appearing to still be learning how to block. He also had seven fumbles this past season, losing six of them, which bring into question his ball security.
Overall, Foreman is a big north south runner with good quickness, vision, and strength. He possesses the speed to break-off big chunks of yardage and could be an ideal four-minute back capable of grinding out the clock. Appears to be best suited for a power Gap blocking system where he will make his mark creating tough yards. Limited contributions as a receiver and blocker could lessen his draft stock.

5. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

A three-year starter and two-time first team Big-12 selection (by the league coaches) Perine leaves Oklahoma as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,122 yards despite turning pro after just three seasons. The NCAA single-game rushing record holder (427 yards vs. Kansas in 2014) Perine is fourth in Oklahoma history with 49 rushing TD’s and second with six games of at least 200 rushing yards.
Perine is a powerful compact runner who rarely goes down on first contact, displaying very good balance that allows him to excel at running through contact. Exhibits good play strength and an ability to finish by lowering his pads and punishing tacklers at the end of his runs. At 5’11” and 233-pounds he is deceptively quick for his size as he can quickly plant and cut in seemingly one motion, swiveling his hips, to allude defenders or spring through an opening at the LOS. He does not dance around behind the line, instantly looking to follow his blockers, up into the hole, or use his good run vision to find an outside alley that could develop on the plays backside.
Perine has solid instincts as a runner, anticipates openings, and can feel his way through the trash along the line of scrimmage. He is good at avoiding negative runs, and is rarely ever taken down for a loss. Instead he is always leaning forward and driving his legs to gain positive yards on a play.
Perine is a bit of a short stepper with tightness in his hips – gears to cut, does not open his stride in the open field and can get caught from behind, lacking breakaway speed.
He never really developed as a pass catcher, only 40 receptions in three seasons, as he shared the backfield with Joe Mixon who was much more heavily utilized in the passing game.
Overall, Perine is a big, strong, competitive runner with bruising power to produce tough yards between the tackles. With his vision, balance, and ability to excel in short-yardage situations, bouncing off contact, Perine appears to have the makings of a 15-20 carry between the tackle thumper at the next level. Proving to be a viable option in the passing game, will determine if Perine can develop into a three-down back.

Read More 2092 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top – 5 Quarterbacks

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five quarterbacks who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
The 2017 QB class is one of the more highly scrutinized position group heading into the draft. Seemingly

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five quarterbacks who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
The 2017 QB class is one of the more highly scrutinized position group heading into the draft. Seemingly being knocked for lacking ready-made signal callers who can come in on day one and lead their respective franchise. While the 2017 QB class may not have a plug-n-play franchise signal caller it does have some talented athletes who with time and proper coaching can develop into starting caliber NFL quarterbacks.

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Watson has been one of college football more decorated athletes over the past two seasons having compiled a 32-3 record as a starter. He led Clemson to back-to-back National Championship games, and helped secure the schools second National Championship title in its history with a 35 – 31 victory over Alabama this past January, where he was named the National Championship game most valuable offensive player.
Three-year starter and team captain Watson exudes leadership and confidence at the helm of an offensive unit, and is lauded by coaches and teammates for his work ethic, competitiveness, and overall high football character.
Physically Watson is a good athlete, who possesses solid size. He can extend plays with his feet and escape pressure with the quickness, and foot speed to become a dual-threat out of the backfield.
As a passer, Watson has a quick trigger able to quickly get rid of the football. Possessing good arm-strength capable of making all the necessary throws expected of an NFL QB. Displays solid accuracy on back shoulder throws, end zone fades, and on 50/50 balls, giving his receiver a chance with his ball placement and very good touch on his throws. Has good pocket awareness able feel pressure off the edges and can climb the ladder to buy some time for his receivers to get open. Tough as nails as he plays his best it seems in big games or in critical situations of a ball game illustrated by the fact he had 16 touchdowns thrown, to only two interceptions for his career in the fourth quarter.

While there are certain areas of his game that still need fine tuning, such as not staring down receivers, cleaning up his footwork, and improving his down field accuracy. Not to mention the fact he played in a hybrid-spread offense and must get familiar with huddling, reading defensive coverages pre-snap, and aligning protections Watson is far from a finished product.

However, with 35 starts under his belt, big-time production versus some elite competition, off the charts leadership qualities, Watson has the makings of a starting caliber NFL QB who can help his team win on Sundays.

2. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

Kizer is one of the more physically gifted quarterbacks in the entire 2017 NFL draft. Possessing prototypical height, size, and athleticism Kizer, who measured in at 6’4” 233-pounds with long arms and big hands, simply looks like a starting NFL QB.
In his second season as the Irish starting QB Kizer had a up and down campaign that saw him struggle with his accuracy, decision making, and overall confidence. For his career in South Bend Kizer made 23 starts throwing for over 5,800 yards with 47 passing touchdowns, and 18 rushing scores.
Besides being a good athlete with height and size Kizer possesses elite arm strength and can make and complete special types of throws. He can fit the ball into tight windows, stretch the defense vertically with the best of them, and place touch on the ball to drop in between the 2nd and 3rd levels of a defense. He has a clean delivery with a quick release. He shows solid awareness, able to buy time in the pocket with his feet. Can also tuck it and run for big yards possessing enough speed to pull away from linebackers in certain conditions. Kizer shows good toughness as he will stand firm in the pocket, take a hit, to deliver the football, and has no qualms lowering his pad level and running over a defender in short-yardage situations or at the goal line.
Parts of his game where he struggled was bird-dogging his receivers waiting for them to come open, and not going through his progression, which in turn resulted with him holding onto the ball too long, with the outcome typically being a sack or a negative play. He was not consistently able to throw receivers open, especially versus better competition, as you would see passes sail on him, bounce off the turf, or not even coming close to the intended target.
There are not many quarterback prospects in this draft that can match Kizer’s physical skillsets however. What he will need is time (to sit and learn behind a veteran) and a good QB coach who can correct some of his issues. When right though, Kizer has a huge ceiling and if placed in the proper situation with proper coaches he can be a big-time NFL quarterback.

3. Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

A relative unknown prior to the 2016 season Trubisky was just a one-year starter (13 starts) at North Carolina, seeing only limited action as a backup his freshman and sophomore seasons. Having said that Trubisky does leave UNC ranked fifth, in school history, for both career passing touchdowns (41) and passing yards (4,762) demonstrating how productive he was when he was on the field.
Trubisky possesses solid size (6’2” 222-pounds) with solid athletic ability, and quick feet. While he too played in a spread offense there are examples on tape of Trubisky reading the field sideline-to-sideline and going through a progression. His delivery is a compact over-the-top delivery, with a quick-release, and the ability to throw it from different arm angles. While not possessing elite arm-strength he is solid in this area, able to torque his upper-body to get plenty of zip on the ball, capable of making all the throws. What really stands out with him as a QB is the anticipation and accuracy he shows from both the pocket and when asked to throw it on the run. He can throw a receiver open and lead them away from coverage understanding the importance of ball placement.
Having only made 13 starts in his career Trubisky is still a developmental prospect who still needs time to develop a feel for the pocket, refine his footwork and learn to take snaps from under center on a regular basis. He could also stand to show more poise in the pocket against pressure as he would tend to rush his throws and not operate comfortably with bodies by his feet.
While Trubisky had probably the best tape in 2016, among the rest of the QB group, his body of work still leaves many wondering how to project Trubisky as an NFL signal caller.
Although he displays traits you like to see in starting QB’s like size, athletic ability, solid mechanics, accuracy, and anticipation. He is a prospect that many will debate leading up to the draft, and probably continue to after he has been drafted.

4. Davis Webb, California

The 6’5” 229-pound Webb started his career as a Texas Tech Red Raider playing for head coach Kliff Kingsbury. While playing at Texas Tech Webb set seven Big-12 freshman records, and four different school marks, including throwing for at least one touchdown in his first 18 career games. He led the Big-12 in passing yards per game (317.4) and was named the offensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl after leading Texas Tech to a victory over #14 Arizona State by passing for 403 yards and four touchdowns.
After losing the starting job to Patrick Mahomes, after he got injured, Webb decided to transfer to Cal for his senior season. In his lone season at Cal, Davis finished 2nd in the PAC-12 in passing yards, completions, and total touchdowns (43).
Davis possesses the prototypical size, and length along with a strong-arm that can make NFL type throws. He can place the ball on a rope standing on the boundary hash and throw it to the field sideline. He shows surprisingly quick feet and solid ability to extend plays by escaping pressure when the pocket collapses, and on rollouts. Playing in the same spread Cal offense that produced last year’s top pick in Jared Goff, Davis demonstrated his solid mental processing ability by progressing through full-field reads and audibling at the LOS, which is something we rarely saw Goff do. He shows good downfield accuracy with an ability to drop the ball in a bucket, over the top of a defense, and lead his receiver away from coverage to help maximize his YAC ability.
As is the case with most QB’s who come from a predominately spread offense Webb has picked up some bad habits along the way. Such as throwing off his back foot, and sloppy footwork in the pocket which affected his downfield passes as they would either sail over the intended target or simple be nowhere near the receiver. His decision making also suffered a bit as he would rely on his arm to force the ball into heavily covered receivers, and at times throw it to a receiver who was being sandwiched by a corner and high safety.
Unlike some of his spread predecessors though Webb possesses the size, arm-strength, and feel for the passing game that should excite the NFL. He is an intelligent kid who really took to the coaching that Hue Jackson and his staff offered up down at the Senior Bowl, and it showed in the game. With his skillset, it wouldn’t surprise me if Webb finds himself higher on several team’s draft boards than many would have anticipated originally.

5. Brad Kaaya, Miami

Entering the 2016 college football season Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was generally regarded as the second-best college football quarterback behind Clemson’s Deshaun Watson at the time, and a prime candidate to be a very high draft pick.
However, after a solid junior season in which he threw for more passing yards (3,250) and touchdowns (27) than he had ever before in his career, Kaaya has seen his draft stock take somewhat of a slow dive even after becoming Miami’s All-Time leading passer with 9,968 yards in just three seasons.
Kaaya’s strength revolve around his height, decision making, pocket presence, and ball placement. Also, working in Kaaya’s favor was playing in a Pro-Style offense last season under head coach Mark Richt. He was asked to take snaps from under center, read the full-field when going through his progression, called out protections and identified the Mike backer at the LOS. All of which is huge in terms of being mentally prepared for what he will see when he gets inside a NFL QB room next season. Physically, Kaaya also possesses a quick release with a solid arm. He drops back and sets up quickly with sound footwork in the pocket. Makes good decisions with the ball, only seven interceptions in over 400 pass attempts, displays good pocket presence able to feel backside pressure and either climb the pocket or maneuver to avoid the rush by sliding his feet to extend the play. He throws a tight catchable spiral knowing when to take pace off the ball, and conversely when he needs to fire it into a tight window. His accuracy and touch along with ball placement on back shoulder throws and corner fades is above average.
Where Kaaya struggles is on throws downfield (20 plus yards) outside the numbers towards a moving target and on out routes as he lacks the elite arm-strength to consistently make those types of throws on time, and on a line. Appearing instead to be more comfortable throwing inside the numbers, on in-cutting routes, to stationary targets. Kaaya has also fallen into some bad habits of not fully striding into his throws, short-arming passes as he prematurely bails to protect himself from taking a big hit. Possessing only adequate foot speed Kaaya is a true pocket passer and won’t threaten the edges of the defense and needs a solid pocket in front of him to operate effectively.
Kaaya seemingly is flying under the radar in terms of pre-draft hype, but as the draft gets closer look for his name to prominently be mentioned among the QB group that teams will be looking to maneuver for on day two of the draft.

Read More 1997 Words

2017 Post-Combine Mock Draft

1. Cleveland – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Comment: Browns pass up on a QB to take arguably the best pass rusher in the draft, giving defensive coordinator Gregg Williams a cornerstone defender to build a defense around.

2. San Francisco – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Comment: In a bit of a surprise GM John

1. Cleveland – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Comment: Browns pass up on a QB to take arguably the best pass rusher in the draft, giving defensive coordinator Gregg Williams a cornerstone defender to build a defense around.

2. San Francisco – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Comment: In a bit of a surprise GM John Lynch goes to his alma mater to select Thomas, who on tape looks unblock able at times. Thomas displayed both athleticism and versatility and appears capable of playing in any defensive scheme.

3. Chicago – Jamal Adams, SAF, LSU

Comment: The Bears ignore Adams slower than expected 40 times and select the LSU safety third overall. He is a physical safety who will supply an attitude and swagger in the Chicago secondary.

4. Jacksonville – Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama

Comment: In Tom Coughlin’s first draft back as the football czar in Jacksonville he selects Alabama’s Allen who is a well-coached and scheme versatile defensive lineman. An arthritic condition in his shoulders will be something that will need to be cleared by the Jaguars medical staff during the pre-draft process though.

5. Tennessee – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

Comment: Fast athletic cover corner who can come in and be a day one starter for the Titans and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

6. NY Jets – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Comment: With no clear-cut starting QB on the roster currently, and with the recent release of receiver Brandon Marshall looks like the Jets might turn into a ground and pound offense next season. Fournette is a workhorse runner with a combination of instincts, vision, and power to carry an offensive unit.

7. LA Chargers – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Comment: Williams gives QB Phillip Rivers a weapon on the outside to complement the tight end combo of Gates and Hunter Henry, along with Keenan Allen on the opposite side. Williams possesses good size and strength supplying the Chargers with a playmaker downfield who can go up and high point the ball.

8. Carolina – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Comment: Barnett will help boost the Panthers pass rush with his ability to provide pressure off the edge utilizing his relentless motor and athleticism.

9. Cincinnati – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

Comment: Despite being sent home from the combine due to a dispute regarding his medical evaluation Foster is one of the better defensive prospects in the draft. He is an instinctive linebacker who projects as a four-down player.

10. Buffalo – DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Comment: With the future of Tyrod Taylor still up in the air currently the Bills and new head coach Sean McDermott commit to making Watson the future face of the franchise.

11. New Orleans – Jabril Peppers, SAF, Michigan

Comment: Looking to shore-up a defensive unit that ranked 27th overall, in total defense, last season the Saints add Peppers to a secondary that no longer has veteran Jairus Byrd at free safety.

12. Cleveland – Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Comment: Using the selection they received from the Eagles in last year’s trade the Browns nab Ohio native Trubisky to hopefully be the answer to their QB problems.

13. Arizona – DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

Comment: With Carson Palmer entering what may be his final season the Cardinals select his heir apparent in Kizer. Coach Bruce Arians loves big strong quarterbacks who can get the ball downfield in his offensive system and Kizer fits that description.

14. Philadelphia – John Ross, WR, Washington

Comment: Looking to supply quarterback Carson Wentz with a weapon on offense the Eagles select former Washington Huskie John Ross and his 4.22 speed. Ross, who broke the scouting combine record for the fastest timed forty-yard dash is not just a speed demon playing receiver. He runs good routes and can be lined up in either the slot or on the outside.

15. Indianapolis – Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Comment: Continuing in their pursuit to find a viable corner to play opposite Vontae Davis the Colts nab Sidney Jones who gives them added length and speed at corner.

16. Baltimore – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Comment: With Steve Smith retiring, and 2015 first-round pick Breshard Perriman inconsistent and unproductive wide receiver is a need position for Baltimore. With Corey Davis, they get a big-play receiver with size, and speed who in 2016 ranked in the top-10 in catches (97), receiving yards (1,500) and touchdowns (19).

17. Washington – Malik Hooker, SAF, Ohio State

Comment: Hooker was one of the better ball-hawking safeties in college football last year with seven interceptions (three returned for TD’s). He drops a bit here mainly due to lack of starting experience (one-year starter) and injuries. He is coming off surgeries to repair a sports hernia and a torn labrum. His status as to when he will be able to take the field next season is still currently unknown.

18. Tennessee – Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

Comment: Reddick is one of the draft’s biggest risers since the season ended. He was a hand in the dirt defensive end for the Owls but displayed the ability to play off the LOS as a stand-up linebacker down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. He continued his rise up draft boards at the combine when he ran a 4.52 forty at 237-pounds and jumped a vertical of 36.5 inches.

19. Tampa Bay – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Comment: The Buccaneers continue surrounding QB Jameis Winston with weapons, as the team-up the former Seminole Cook with veteran Doug Martin giving them a very good one-two punch in the backfield.

20. Denver – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Comment: Howard is one of the safest picks in the draft as he is a physical freak who can line up inline as a blocker or be split out wide as a receiver. Howard will add a pass-catching threat at TE for the Broncos that has been missing since Julius Thomas left town.

21. Detroit – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Comment: Humphrey is a physical press corner who has the size, speed, and agility to mirror receivers downfield.

22. Miami – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Comment: With Mario Williams no longer in Miami, the Dolphins hope that Charlton’s size (6’6”) and length (34-inch arms) along with intensity will make a formidable combination upfront when teamed with the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake.

23. NY Giants – Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan

Comment: With the possibility of losing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins to free agency GM Jerry Reese looks to fill the hole with Wormley. The former Wolverine will look to provide both size and versatility along the Giants defensive front.

24. Oakland – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

Comment: At 6’4” 230-pounds Cunningham’s length, and speed are his two biggest assets. He possesses very good closing burst that allows him to track down ball carriers and become a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine.

25. Houston – Budda Baker, SAF, Washington

Comment: Baker is an undersized safety/nickel defender who draws favorable comparisons to Arizona cardinals Tyrann Mathieu. Baker possesses very good quickness and is fast to diagnose and attack. He can be a roving defender and matchup safety for the Texans and DC Romeo Crennel.

26. Seattle – Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Comment: Seahawks look to shore-up an offensive line that needs an infusion of talent. With Robinson, they get a talented athlete who played left tackle at Alabama but will need to switch over to right tackle or move inside to guard in the NFL.

27. Kansas City – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Comment: The Chiefs find the perfect replacement for Jamaal Charles with Stanford’s McCaffrey. Like Charles, McCaffrey is a dual-threat back who is equally effective as both runner and pass catcher out of the backfield.

28. Dallas – Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State

Comment: Willis stock really started to rise during the senior bowl practices and he carried that momentum into Indianapolis this past weekend. Willis ran a 4.53 forty, vertical jumped 39-inches, and posted the fastest 3-cone time (6.85) among the defensive line group. Dallas needs to upgrade their pass rush off the edge, and that is an area Willis can help them get better at.

29. Green Bay – Takk McKinley, EDGE, UCLA

Comment: With both Nick Perry and Julius Peppers UFA’s there is some uncertainty at outside LB for Green Bay. McKinley can certainly help fill that void as he is a relentless pass rusher who plays with a non-stop motor.

30. Pittsburgh – Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri

Comment: Missouri’s Charles Harris is another in the long line of edge rushers to come out of the Tigers program. He is an edge defender who during the combine demonstrated surprising agility and athleticism in the linebacker drills. He projects best as a stand-up outside backer whose forte is to get after the quarterback.

31. Atlanta – Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA

Comment: Moreau really stood out during the East West Shrine game displaying playmaking ability along with quickness and speed. He is a tall corner with a thick build who can press and reroute receivers while also comfortable in off coverage. Moreau will remind coach Quinn of the corners he had in Seattle when he was the Seahawks DC.

32. New England – David Njoku, TE, Miami

Comment: With the expected departure of Martellus Bennett in free agency and with Gronk coming off another injury the Patriots pick the athletic Njoku in hopes of continuing the success they have had with their two tight end sets. While not a finished product Njoku offers tremendous upside as a pass catching TE. His combination of size, speed, and athleticism should provide a comparable replacement, minus the blocking ability, for Bennett.

Read More 1496 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Safeties

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five safeties who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

The 2017 safety class looks to be one of the more talented and deepest position group in recent drafts.

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five safeties who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

The 2017 safety class looks to be one of the more talented and deepest position group in recent drafts. Teams with a demand at safety should be able to fulfill their needs with this 2017 draft class. There are liable to be starting caliber NFL safeties still waiting for their names to be called on day three, of this draft, then we have had for quite some time.

1. Jamal Adams, LSU

Adams is a well-built physical safety with good speed and strength that excels at or near the line of scrimmage. A two-year starter and a 2016 first team All-SEC and a second team All-American (as voted on by the AP) Adams was the leader of the Tigers backfield and a team captain. His combination of size and play speed allow him to make plays both in the run game as well as in coverage. He is a solid off-coverage safety who can diagnose and attack downhill with quickness and burst to wrap up and secure the tackle. With his speed, he displays good range with the ability to go from the hash marks to the sideline and provide over-the top help. He can cover a tight end in the slot and will get physical with them at the top of their routes. Adams also brings a swagger and enforcer type mentality to the defensive backfield.

However, there is no doubt that where Adams is most impactful is at the line-of-scrimmage where he is both instinctive and competitive, able to deliver some explosive hits with terrific timing, and anticipation. He is an aggressive run defender able to chase down ball carriers and make plays sideline-to-sideline. Lining him up inside the tackle box is like having an extra linebacker out on defense that the opposing offense must deal with.

While there is some unease in terms of his coverage ability (not a lot of plays on the ball when scouting his film), plus struggles with quick change of direction, as well as too many missed tackles due to his over aggressiveness in pursuit, Adams heads into the draft process as the top-rated safety on many draft boards.

The combination of very good football character, speed, athleticism, and impactful plays will have Adams on the field early as a rookie with the potential to develop into a cornerstone player on defense for any team that selects him.

2. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Jabrill peppers is one of the more talked about and scrutinized prospects in the 2017 draft due mainly to questions surrounding a true positional fit for him at the next level. However, the 2016 Big-Ten DPOY and recipient of the Ronnie Lott Impact Trophy is a hybrid player who can be used on all three phases of a football team.

Peppers projects best as a hybrid LB/SS a position that has become more popular in the NFL the past few seasons. As a safety Peppers has shown the ability to press tight ends at the line-of-scrimmage as well as bigger receivers outside the numbers in red zone and goal line situations. As a corner (limited reps in 2015) he displayed quick-feet and hip flexibility to open and run with a receiver in man coverage downfield. He does a good job of getting his hands on them altering their routes, and positioning his body between them and the ball. In off-coverage he uses his very good short-area burst and open-field tackling ability to minimize the yardage on anything caught in front of him. As a run defender, he appears comfortable and instinctive as a in the box strong safety who can quickly locate and chase down ball carriers with his speed. He is willing to come up and set the edge to help funnel runners back inside towards his lineman. As a blitzer Peppers was very effective coming in off the edge or on delays from a linebacker position.

Where Peppers struggles is with downfield coverage as his ball reactions, and awareness leave something to be desired. He has trouble with quick receivers and will at times play slower than his stopwatch numbers may indicate.

While safety will most likely be the position where he sees the most snaps at during his NFL career, Peppers versatility allows a defensive coordinator to disguise coverages and utilize his athleticism in several different ways from multiple positions. Allowing Peppers to line him up and see snaps at all three levels on defense might be the most effective way for him to make an immediate contribution defensively as a rookie.

3. Malik Hooker, Ohio State

In 2016 Hooker was a redshirt sophomore and first-year starter for the Buckeyes. In that one season though Hooker was named a first team All-American and All-Big Ten defender as he led the Big-Ten with seven interceptions, returning three of them for scores – which topped the FBS.

Hooker is a coverage safety who is best suited to play free safety at the NFL level. He possesses a combination of quickness, speed, balance and short-area burst. A good athlete Hooker is very good transitioning and attacking downhill using his speed and change-of-direction. He is effective playing a single-high set or a two-deep zone safety. He is instinctive when playing the pass with range to either side. Hooker can cover receivers in the slot or carry a tight end up the seam. He also demonstrated very good zone cover skills and can key on the QB eyes to jump routes, and use his natural hands to pick-off the ball with a nose to find the end zone.

As a run defender Hooker can get slowed down with play-action or RPO plays causing some hesitation with his reaction times. He can struggle to jolt and shed blockers (needing additional strength), can take some bad angles in pursuit, and doesn’t always arrive under control which led to missed tackles. He also tends to duck and lead with the crown of his helmet coming downhill to tackle a ball carrier which, in the NFL, is a good way to end up seriously injured.

Hookers play-making ability and overall athleticism gives him a shot to be the top-rated safety heading into the draft. However, he currently stands third on this list mainly due to his struggles defending the run, coupled with just one-year starting experience, and his postseason injuries. Hooker, is scheduled to miss the scouting combine as he recovers from a couple of surgeries, one in which repaired a torn labrum while the other a sports hernia. How he recovers from both operations will go a long way in determining how high Hooker will get drafted. However, it is never a good thing, especially for a safety, to enter the NFL having already gone through a major surgery on his shoulder.

4. Budda Baker, Washington

A three-year starter on defense for Washington and a NCAA Consensus All-American in 2016 Budda Baker was one of the more fun prospects to scout. Baker is quite simply a play-maker in the defensive secondary. Whether he was lined up at safety or as a slot corner Baker was all over the field demonstrating innate playmaking ability. He possesses terrific anticipation, timing and zone awareness. Along with lateral quickness, agility, and quick-feet, Baker has excellent balance and body-control. He can mirror and cover receivers (in the slot) off the LOS. Displays instincts and awareness in coverage as he can quickly diagnose and locate the ball. Very smooth in his transition able to plant-and-drive quickly, which when combined with his ability to seamlessly change directions, and open field tackling makes him very effective in zone coverage. Despite a lack of ideal size Baker plays bigger than his measurable might indicate. He is an aggressive tackler and packs a wallop when he hits his opponents. His aggressiveness makes him very good blitzing off the edge as he gets there quick, and makes his presence felt. As a run defender Baker is quick to read and react, displaying no concerns or issues coming downhill and attacking ball carriers. He is a highly intense, aggressive, and competitive football player when asked to defend the run.

The main concern with Baker revolves around his lack of size. Listed at 5’10” Baker looks to be a couple of inches shorter than that. Which makes it hard to envision him as a full-time starting safety. Instead what Baker offers is a strong, hard-hitting physical presence with ideal hip flexibility, speed, and fluidity to be a playmaker from the nickel/slot position. Drawing favorable comparisons to Arizona Cardinals DB Tyrann Mathieu.

5. Marcus Williams, Utah

Even though Marcus Williams was a three-year starter and an All-PAC 12 defender for Utah many may consider him a bit of a sleeper at the safety position. Williams is a rangy safety with length and speed to go along with his fleet feet and lateral agility. His backpedal is smooth and balanced which makes Williams look, at times, like a corner instead of a safety. While in coverage he is quick to read and react, able to zoom around the field playing in a single-high safety set, which allows him to stand out on tape. He possesses good speed and fluidity allowing him to keep pace with receivers and tight ends. Shows good range off the hash, to either side, taking direct angles to the ball. He can break on throws, showing good short-area burst to close. With 11 career interceptions Williams demonstrated quick soft hands, like a receiver, to snatch interceptions.

While a solid downhill defender Williams is a bit high-cut, and will play too tall failing to get low and wrap up the ball carrier’s legs. He was also inconsistent on his downfield ball reactions with his back to the throw preferring to keep everything visible to him.

Overall, Williams is an active, aggressive defensive back who is at his best reacting to plays in front of him. He possesses good size/speed combo coupled with range, and sure-hands that allow him to be a “centerfield” type playmaking safety.

Read More 1631 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Cornerbacks

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five cornerbacks who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

Cornerback is one of the draft’s more deeper position groups. There could be as many as five defensive corners

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five cornerbacks who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

Cornerback is one of the draft’s more deeper position groups. There could be as many as five defensive corners selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. With plenty of talented players still on the board for teams to grab on day two as well.

1. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

A former four-star prospect and a top-50 recruit nationally Lattimore possesses excellent foot quickness, with the ability to change directions, and stop/start without needing to slow down. He demonstrates terrific lateral agility along with flexibility. Stands low and balanced in his stance and can quickly open his hips to turn and run with a receiver. Flashes speed to track down ball carriers or to quickly recover if beaten. While in coverage Lattimore exhibits very good instincts and awareness. He can swiftly locate the ball mid-flight, able to diagnose routes while keying off QB eyes to release his man and drive towards the ball or the intended receiver. Lattimore is also a very good and willing run defender. He will come downhill aggressively to set the edge. He will take on lead blockers, and will utilize his hands and quickness to fight through to wrap up the ball carrier. He is a competitor who plays hard and does not give up on a play.

While average size and previous leg injuries are, a bit concerning. If he can stay healthy he possesses the explosiveness, instincts, and play speed to develop into a terrific cover corner in the NFL.

2. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

A two-year starter for the Crimson Tide and a 2016 first team All-American on defense, as voted by the FWAA, Humphrey is a well-coached competitive football player whose father (Bobby Humphrey) was a former RB at Alabama and a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos. Humphrey displays the instincts to diagnose and quickly react to what the offense is attempting to set up. He possesses the flexibility and agility to mirror the receiver off the line of scrimmage. With his size and straight line speed he gets himself in position to make a play on the ball downfield. In run support Humphrey is an aggressive defender who will attack downhill able to shed blockers, and locate the football. Humphrey demonstrates his competitive toughness, both on defense and special teams, as he is willing to throw his body around all over the field, and will play to the whistle.

While he can struggle with strength at the point-of-contact as well as quick-twitch receivers and double-moves Humphrey has the size, speed, and agility to mirror receivers downfield. With an aggressive two-hand jam Humphrey projects as a press cover corner at the next level.

3. Jalen Tabor, Florida

Tabor is a tough average sized corner who plays bigger than his dimensions may indicate. Displays quick-feet, balance, and agility. He can stop and start without losing momentum, and is quick in his transition able to plant his foot in the ground and attack forward. Displays instincts, and awareness in coverage along with an aggressive play speed attacking quickly underneath and out in the flats. Comfortable playing off coverage, peeking into the backfield, and maintaining proper position downfield. Does a nice job of anticipating, keying off the QB, to jump/undercut routes, displaying very good short-area burst, and either coming away with a turnover or a pass break-up. A willing run defender who won’t shy away from contact, but can struggle with bigger bodied blockers.

Tabor is an off-coverage zone corner whose instincts, along with the ability to anticipate and jump routes will allow him to make plays in the NFL. His ball skills, short-area quickness, and toughness will also allow him an opportunity to flourish inside as a nickel defender.

4. Tre’Davious White, LSU

White possesses average height and length with a thick muscular build to go with quick-feet and agility to cover receivers. White’s an experienced four-year starter (47 career starts) on the LSU defense, and ranks fifth all-time in school history with 34 pass breakups. He demonstrates loose hips and good short-area burst. He is fast with his backpedal and can quickly transition forward on anything underneath. White is very zone aware with good pattern recognition, understanding how to read QB’s and progressions, and when to undercut routes. While in press coverage he is physical both at the line-of-scrimmage as well as at the top of the receiver’s route. White does a good job of positioning his body between the receiver and the football, both downfield, and in red zone situations. While he is a willing run defender he does not always arrive under control and can miss tackles failing to wrap up.

White was one of the more improved players in 2016, making his decision to stay in school for a fourth season a wise one. He showed better awareness and anticipation in coverage while also doing a better job of getting his hands on the ball (14 PBU’s). He was a more confident corner playing with more swagger as opposed to previous seasons and it was evident in his play.

A solid week of practices down in Mobile for the Senior bowl (before an injury cut short his week) may have cemented White a spot in the first round of the draft.

5. Sidney Jones, Washington

Sidney Jones possesses good size along with length on a narrow and thin frame. Jones was a three-year starter, and a key contributor on defense for the Huskies. He can shadow a wide out off the line with quickness and change of direction ability. He can quickly flip his hips and run vertically with a receiver. Demonstrates very good recovery speed to make up ground if he is beaten at the snap. Good plant-and-drive quickness which allows him to transition swiftly. Displays solid awareness in off coverage, likes to keep his eyes on the QB in the pocket. A naturally aggressive player, which can be seen in the way he comes downhill, throwing his body around, to help defend the run.

Lack of strength is a concern with Jones as he can struggle to effectively reroute receivers off the line or shed blockers downfield. He has also shown some inconsistencies with awareness, while in coverage, failing to turn his head and playing the ball. Additionally, you notice that he would predominately line up on the left side of the defense. Whether that was a coaching decision or his lack of versatility will need to be considered.

However, Jones is an athletic corner who plays the game hard and aggressively. His combination of size, quickness, and speed along with the ability to play both press and off coverage are positives that many teams will want to have.

Read More 1085 Words

2017 Senior Bowl Standouts – Offense

With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in

With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in Mobile.


1. Davis Webb – QB – California, Webb had an up and down week during the practice sessions in terms of accuracy and ball placement. Where Webb really shined was on game day as he went 11-16 for 165 yards with a touchdown. Webb, who played only one season for Cal after transferring from Texas Tech, has a strong arm coupled with a quick release, and you notice the football exploding out of his hand. On his touchdown throw Webb did a nice job of holding the safety with his eyes before dropping a ball into the arms of Texas A&M receiver Josh Reynolds. Webb, who replaced Jared Goff as the starter at Cal, is bigger than last year’s 1st overall pick with a stronger arm and better anticipation in the passing game.

2. Cooper Kupp – WO – Eastern Washington, The Eastern Washington product was the talk of the week down in Mobile for his smooth route running ability and hands. Kupp caught everything thrown his way and at times made getting open look easy. Kupp is a natural pass catcher and does a nice job of looking the ball into his hands. He was able to separate at the top of his route and made catches at all three levels of the defense.

3. Zay Jones – WO – East Carolina, Jones, the NCAA leader with 158 receptions in 2016, may have been the best player on the field at Ladd-Peebles stadium on Saturday. Jones took a very good week of practices into the game and was able to display his full repertoire. Jones has very good body control and is able to contour his body and adjust nicely to poorly thrown passes. He possesses a wide catch radius and can go up and high point a catch, extend away from his body, or get his hands underneath a low pass and scoop it up. He is also physical of the top of his route and can make contested catches as he is blanketed by a defensive back. Jones, whose father is former NFL linebacker Robert Jones, may have been the biggest winner this week down in Mobile. He took advantage of his opportunities and displayed the ability to be a downfield playmaker, and may have gone from a day three pick to a very high day two selection.

4. Josh Reynolds – WO – Texas A&M, The Texas A&M receiver quietly had a very impressive week of practice culminating on game day where he ended up with six receptions for 96 yards including a 39-yard touchdown reception. Reynolds really shined in the one-on-one drills along with team runs. He is explosive off the line of scrimmage with quick feet and does a nice job of attacking the football on hitches and comeback routes. He catches clean with his hands able to snatch the ball out of the air. He can stack the defender then use his quickness and speed to separate over the top. He locates the ball nicely mid-flight and does a good job of looking it into his hands. Reynolds led the SEC in receiving yards (1,039) and touchdowns (12) in 2016, and after spending a week watching him operate in both practice drills and on game day you can see the talent that Reynolds possesses.

5. Forrest Lamp – OL – Western Kentucky, Lamp was not able to complete the week in Mobile as he suffered an ankle injury during one of the practice sessions. He was held out as a precaution, but had already done enough to impress scouts that the missed time should not negatively affect his stock. Lamp is an experienced four-year starter at Western Kentucky predominately at left tackle where he excelled. However, his height and short arm length (31 1/8) will likely have him moving inside to guard at the NFL level. Lamp displays the lateral agility, short-area quickness, and balance to succeed as an offensive lineman in the pros. Lamp can rework his hands to fend off defensive lineman and can sink his hips to re-anchor and become stout at the point-of-contact. While still early in the pre-draft process it is not out of the question that Lamp might be the first offensive lineman off the board come April.

Others who also flashed during the week on offense……Chad Williams – WO – Grambling State, Dion Dawkins – OG – Temple, Evan Engram – TE – Ole Miss

Read More 715 Words

2017 Senior Bowl Standouts – Defense

With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in

With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in Mobile.


1. Haason Reddick – LB – Temple, as an undersized defensive end Reddick was very productive for the Owls football program. However, in the NFL Reddick is looking at a position switch to either inside or outside linebacker, and the Senior Bowl would be his first time playing these new positions in front out coaches and scouts. Reddick did not disappoint as he was all over the field whether he was lined up as in inside Will-backer in a 3-4 or even further outside as a weak-side LB in a four-man front. Reddick demonstrated an ability to quickly diagnose and locate while also displaying the ability to play off the LOS and in space. In coverage, he was able to quickly break on the ball and got his hands on a couple of pass deflections. While in run defense he was able to shed blockers, and wrap up the ball carrier. With his pass rush ability Reddick gives defensive coordinators the option of rushing him off the edge either by blitzing him or standing him up in a two-point stance. A tough and competitive athlete Reddick should be an instant contributor on special teams as a rookie while he continues his transition to linebacker.

2. Obi Melifonwu – S – UCONN, Melifonwu catches your eye with his size, and length for a defensive back, but what really impressed many was his ability to move and redirect without slowing down while in coverage or planting and attacking downhill in run support. For a safety, his size Melifonwu appears to have the foot quickness and agility to cover tight ends in the slot or taller receivers on the outside (especially in red zone situations). With rumors circulating that Melifonwu expects to run the forty in the high 4.4’s at the combine next month the intrigue surrounding Melifonwu might just be starting to ratchet up.

3. Alex Anzalone – LB – Florida, A highly-touted recruit out of high school Anzalone was one of the better linebackers down in Mobile this week. He was consistently around the football as he displayed good instincts to quickly diagnose and locate the ball. He was solid in his run fits coming downhill and filling the hole with authority. He also possesses good speed and burst able to quickly close in on the ball carrier. Coaches lined him up both inside as well as on the outside demonstrating some of his scheme versatility. The biggest concern surrounding Anzalone revolve around his health. Injuries have taken a big chunk of his playing time away the last couple of seasons, missing four games last season with a broken arm, and 12 games the previous year with a shoulder injury. If he can stay on the field, he looks like he has the skillset to develop into a four-down LB.

4. Tarell Basham – Edge – Ohio, Basham, the 2016 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, showed good quickness off the snap able to engage and get into the offensive lineman instantly. He displayed strong hands as he would knock back lineman when he planted them into their chests. He can convert speed to power and walk back the tackle into the quarterback’s lap. While he was solid with his run defense there were, times were, he gave up the edge and lost containment allowing the ball carrier to breakout for a long run. What teams will need to figure out is whether Basham will need to add more weight and play as a hand in the dirt defensive end or stand him up as an outside LB in a 3-4 defense.

5. Damontae Kazee – CB – San Diego State, Kazee was one of the more aggressive defensive backs in the one-on-one drills, and team sequences during the mid-week practices. He took it to every receiver he went up against being physical with jam at the line, and at the top of their stem as well as downfield. Kazee has very quick feet which allows him to mirror a receiver downfield, while also allowing him to plant and drive forward in his transition. Kazee was able to get his hands on the ball, displaying good awareness and ball skills something he also demonstrated in college where he ended up with 17 career interceptions and 29 passes defensed. With his agility, closing burst, and toughness Kazee projects best inside as a slot corner/nickel back. Throughout the week Kazee displayed good competitiveness and toughness that caught the attention of not only the receivers he was battling but also the scouts and coaches in attendance.

Others who also flashed during the week on defense……Dalvin Tomlinson – DT – Alabama, Isaac Rochell – DE – Notre Dame, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu – DT – USC, Marquez White – CB – Florida State

Read More 771 Words

2017 East West Shrine Game Standouts

This weekend marked the “unofficial” start of the 2017 pre-draft process as the 92nd annual East West Shrine game was played. While not the first college all-star game on the docket (College Gridiron Showcase in Dallas was) the East West Shrine is considered by many as the start of a long process that culminates with

This weekend marked the “unofficial” start of the 2017 pre-draft process as the 92nd annual East West Shrine game was played. While not the first college all-star game on the docket (College Gridiron Showcase in Dallas was) the East West Shrine is considered by many as the start of a long process that culminates with the 2017 NFL Draft in April.

Listed here are five players who stood out to me during this weekend’s game. Seeing that the game ended with a final score of 10-3 in favor of the West team, and that the games only TD was not scored until midway through the fourth quarter. It should be no surprise that defensive players from both rosters were the players that caught my attention.

Deatrich Wise Jr. – DE – Arkansas

Measuring in at 6’5” 275-pounds with 35-inch arms Wise offers both size and length at the defensive end position. He followed up a solid week of practices with a good performance in the game. Wise had 1 ½ sacks (one being a strip sack) in the game and made a few impressive plays defending the run.
He displayed the ability to stack and shed at the line of scrimmage and set the edge when defending the run. While also hustling to make tackles on the backside of the play as well as downfield.
While he may not develop into a double-digit sack pass rusher what Wise has is the size, length, and strength to become a base 4-3 end and a solid NFL defensive lineman.

DeAngelo Brown – DT – Louisville

Brown flashed early in the game when he stood up the opposing center and blew up a 4th and goal attempt for the West squad by tackling the RB for a loss. Brown is powerful and stout at the point of contact. He has heavy hands and when he gets leverage on an offensive lineman he is a load to block.
He had 13 tackles for loss last season for Louisville, 22 for his career, demonstrating his strength and ability to penetrate the offenses backfield.
While he won’t give you much in terms of a pass rush he looks to be a very good rotational defender who can line up at either the nose guard position in a 3-4, or as an interior run stuffing tackle in a four-man front.

Trey Hendrickson – DE – Florida Atlantic

Hendrickson was the talk of the week during the practice sessions down in Tampa leading up to the game. Then on Saturday Hendrickson, the 2016 conference CUSA DPOY, did not disappoint as he displayed good speed when he beat Texas A&M tackle Avery Gennesy off the snap with a speed rush, turning the edge to create a sack fumble. Later on in the game Hendrickson showed his competitive toughness by racing across the formation to track down the ball and make a backside tackle.
Although productive as a defensive end for Florid Atlantic (41 TFL & 29.5 sacks) look for Hendrickson to be converted to outside linebacker in the NFL and initially used as a rush specialist. At 255-pounds and below average arm-length it would be difficult for Hendrickson to hold up physically as a hand in the ground defensive end in the league.
Hendrickson made a name for himself this week, and if he was not on every NFL teams radar before the East West game he surely will be now.

Fabian Moreau – CB – UCLA

During the game Moreau displayed the skill set that has many projecting him as a complete corner. Moreau demonstrated cover skills as he mirrored receivers down field, followed by closing speed to aggressively attack anything thrown in front of him. He even made an impressive special team tackle in punt coverage as a gunner.
Moreau possesses good size and athleticism along with the aforementioned closing speed. He displays good awareness while in coverage downfield, and is willing to come downhill and support the run defense.
UCLA coaches rave about his football character and when coupled with his 6-foot frame along with 4.40 speed, and ball skills Moreau has a chance to be the first player from this year’s game to be drafted come April.

Bryan Cox Jr. – DE – Florida

The son of former NFL linebacker Bryan Cox Sr. showed the same hustle and effort you saw when scouting his game film. The average sized end did not produce eye popping stats while playing for the Gators but you always saw him hustling and playing to the whistle.
Similarly, Cox made a couple of downfield tackles and provide some pressure on the QB’s that allowed him flash. He was able to quickly locate and track down the football while also displaying some strength and the ability to set an edge when defending the run.
While he will need to continue to develop/refine his pass rush technique his non-stop motor, athleticism, along with his bloodlines will allow him an opportunity to make it in the NFL.

Read More 760 Words

Mocking the Top-10 Picks of the 2017 NFL Draft

With the conclusion of the 2016 regular season this past weekend many teams and their fans have started to gear up for the 2017 NFL Draft. While the complete and final draft order will not be finalized till after a Super Bowl Champion has been crowned the top-ten of the first round has been cemented,

With the conclusion of the 2016 regular season this past weekend many teams and their fans have started to gear up for the 2017 NFL Draft. While the complete and final draft order will not be finalized till after a Super Bowl Champion has been crowned the top-ten of the first round has been cemented, with the Cleveland Browns securing the top overall selection.
With College all-star games starting next week, followed by the scouting combine, and pro days a lot will change from now till draft day. Having said that here is a quick stab at what the teams selecting in the top-ten may do come April:

1. Cleveland – Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

The Browns number crunching front office sees no clear-cut franchise quarterback sitting atop of the draft and decide to go with a potential game changing pass rusher to improve their defense.
Garrett numbers were a bit down this season (8.5 sacks) as he dealt with a couple of lower-body injuries throughout the season. However, when healthy Garrett possesses the length and first step quickness off the edge, along with natural bend, that most dominant pass rushers must have.
Adding a talent like Garrett to a young defensive core that includes the likes of Jaime Collins (assuming he is resigned), Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, and Danny Shelton will provide the Browns a good foundation to build on that side of the ball.

2. San Francisco – DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

With a new GM and head coach tandem being hired this off-season the Niners decide to also usher in a new era at quarterback going with Notre Dames talented DeShone Kizer.
While North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky appears to be the darling of the QB class early in the process, I feel like Kizers size, arm strength, and overall upside will shine above all others come draft time and he will be the first QB taken in this class.
While he had a up and down junior campaign in South Bend this past season (58.7 completion percentage) the tools and football makeup is there with Kizer. Despite the fact he may not be ready to start opening weekend of next season he does have a high ceiling, and is a prospect at a need position that San Francisco just can’t pass up.

3. Chicago – Jamal Adams, LSU

Another slot where the consensus pick will have a QB going is the bears at number three. However, with head coach John Fox entering a pivotal season, one in which he needs to win more games, Chicago looks to shore-up a safety position that has been a major need since Mike Brown left the team back in 2008.
In LSU safety Jamal Adams, the Bears get a physical player who will come down support the run and provide a presence in the Chicago secondary. Adams can also cover tight ends and offer over-the-top support on the defenses back-half.
Improving the secondary to go along with an underrated, and improving front seven will go a long way in helping the Bears get more wins next season.

4. Jacksonville – Jonathan Allen, Alabama

The Jaguars continue to add more talent to their defense as Alabama’s Jonathan Allen falls into their laps with the fourth pick.
Allen, considered by many one of the safest picks in this draft class, brings production and versatility from one of college football’s best defensive units. He can play multiple positions along a defensive front, and can provide pressure as both a 4-3 defensive end or inside tackle. Allen is also able to play end as a 5-technique if the Jaguars new coaching staff decides to switch to a 3-man front.
He is strong and athletic at the point-of-attack and could turn out to be a better pro than some of his highly-regarded Crimson Tide defensive predecessors.

5. Tennessee – Malik Hooker, Ohio State

The Titans get this selection from the Rams as part of the trade compensation they received from Los Angeles for the right to draft Jared Goff. With the selection, the Titans give defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau something he has been seeking since leaving the Steelers, and that is a ball hawking safety.
Hooker announced on Monday that he would be entering the draft even though he had two years of eligibility remaining and only one full season as a starter under his belt.
Hooker possesses good speed and displays tremendous range in coverage. He is also seemingly always around the football as he led the Big-Ten with seven interceptions (three of which he returned for touchdowns) last season to go along with four passes defensed and 74 tackles.

6. New York Jets – Leonard Fournette, LSU

Coming off a disappointing season, one in which many had them pegged to make the playoffs, the Jets are hoping to rebound next year and could look to build their team around a good defense and solid running game.
LSU Fournette is a workhorse back possessing the power, speed, and vision that can carry an offense. He can power through between the tackle runs, while also possessing the foot quickness and speed to bounce a run outside and take the edge on a defender.
With Fournette carrying the ball 25 times the Jets can help alleviate some of the deficiencies they will most likely have at the QB position next season.

7. San Diego – DeShaun Watson – Clemson

With the organizations exact location still up in the air and their future at quarterback, behind an aging Phillip Rivers, also uncertain the Chargers select Clemson’s Watson. Watson would be able to sit and learn behind Rivers, for a season or two, while providing the Chargers a future face of the franchise to sell and market to the new fan base.
Watson came into the season as a consensus top of the top QB. However, after a season in which he led the ACC with 17 interceptions some of the luster has worn off the junior signal caller. Meanwhile all he has done this season is once again lead his Clemson team back to the College Football National Championship game next week.
Watson’s dual-threat ability as both a passer and runner will add a new dimension to the Chargers offense. While also supplying the new coaching staff a talented centerpiece to build the offense around once Rivers time with the Chargers is up.

8. Carolina – Derek Barnett – Tennessee

The Panthers biggest need is along the offensive line, but without an offensive line prospect worthy of being selected in the top-ten Carolina looks to revamp an aging defensive line particularly at the end position.
Barnett could help supplant veteran Charles Johnson as he is set to be an unrestricted free agent as of this post. Barnett has posted 52 tackles for loss and 32 sacks over the last three seasons as a Volunteer. He displays the athleticism and ability to bend the corner off the edge that teams look for in pass rushers. Barnett is also a ferocious competitor who is constantly hustling all over the field.

9. Cincinnati – Reuben Foster, Alabama

With veteran Rey Maualuga getting up there in years and succumbing to injuries the last couple of season the Bengals select his heir apparent for the middle of their defense with Alabama’s Reuben Foster.
Foster is a highly aggressive, athletic, big-hitting middle linebacker with instincts for the position who can quickly diagnose, locate, and flow to the football. He has developed into a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine who can be a leader and cornerstone player for the Bengals defense for years to come.

10. Buffalo – Jabril Peppers, Michigan

The Bills select the third safety in the top ten and one many might be surprised lasted this long. Coming into the season the Wolverines do-it-all hybrid defender, and Heisman Trophy finalist, was touted as a sure-fire top-five selection. However, with some questions surrounding a positional fit for Peppers in the NFL, along with coverage limitations Peppers could find himself possibly sliding out of the top ten completely.
What he will supply the Bills, or any team selecting him, is a versatile defender who can line up in multiple spots for a defensive unit. While also providing a boost to the return game on special teams.
Whether it is at linebacker, free safety, returner, or even on offense Peppers can provide an immediate impact as a rookie next season. The key will be placing him with a coaching staff that will be creative in utilizing his abilities in a multitude of different ways.

Read More 1344 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Inside Linebackers

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five inside linebackers who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
Although this is not a deep group as a whole, there are a couple of top notch

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five inside linebackers who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
Although this is not a deep group as a whole, there are a couple of top notch prospects who will be selected in the first round and expected to make an impact as rookies next season.

1. Reuben Foster, Alabama

Foster, the 2016 Butkus Award winner and Unanimous First-Team All-American, is the leader and signal caller for Alabama’s defensive unit. A unit which has been the catalyst for much of the on-field success Alabama has had this season as they lead the nation in rush defense (63.4 YPG), total defense (247.8 YPG), and scoring (11.9 PPG).

Foster has been a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide and led the team with 94 tackles this past season. Often overshadowed by some of his higher profiled defensive mates Foster has developed into one of the more complete linebackers in college football. He is a three-down player who is effective in defending the run as well as capable of dropping back into coverage.

Foster is a highly aggressive, athletic, big-hitting middle linebacker who looks to finish his tackles by running through a ball carrier. He is physical at the point-of-contact able to take on lead blockers and stack them at the line of scrimmage. He demonstrates his instincts for the position by quickly locating the football, diagnosing the play, then proceeding to flow to the ball carrier, and making his presence felt once he arrives.

Foster prepared for his senior season by trimming his weight down from 240 pounds to around the 225-230 range. The added quickness allows him to now make tackles sideline-to-sideline, and able to avoid blockers on the run, while also taking good angles to the ball.

Foster is very comfortable dropping into coverage with the ability to quickly change directions and mirror tight ends or receivers crossing the middle of the field. He can open his hips and cover down the seam, or quickly click his heels and come downhill to tackle anything caught in front of him.

Foster will not only head into the 2017 NFL Draft as the top-ranked middle linebacker, and possible top-ten pick, but when it’s all said and done he could prove to be a better pro than some of his Crimson Tide predecessors.

2. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham is a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine, if you don’t believe me just put on Vanderbilt’s games from this past season versus Georgia and Florida respectively. You will see Cunningham at times appears to be unblock able. He led the SEC in tackles (119) this past season on his way to becoming the first Commodore player in school history to be named a Unanimous First-Team All-American.

At 6’4” 230-pounds Cunningham’s length, and speed are his two biggest assets. He possesses very good closing burst that allows him to track down ball carriers from behind or beat them to a spot. He has strong hands and a powerful punch, which will cause offensive lineman to jolt back when he extends his arms and plants them into the blockers chests. His ability to be physical at the point-of-contact allows Cunningham to stack and quickly shed blockers, as he gets to the ball carrier.

Cunningham possesses good range and body control to excel in coverage. He can cover backs out of the backfield, run step for step with tight ends across the middle or down the seam, and at times was lined up on the numbers covering receivers. His ability to change directions quickly with his feet, coupled with good balance, and loose hips allow him to be a playmaker in space. As an NFL linebacker, he projects to be a four-down player who can be used in multiple ways on both defense and special teams.

Playing in the SEC Cunningham has gone up against some quality opponents as well as athletes, and not only held his own, but in some cases out shined some of those better-known players.

3. Kendell Beckwith, LSU

Beckwith is a fourth-year senior who took over the starting middle linebacker position in the seventh game of his sophomore campaign (2014) and hasn’t relinquished it since then.

After last season, where he was named a semifinalist for both the Bednarik and Butkus awards, Beckwith had an opportunity to forgo his final season in Baton Rouge to enter the NFL draft. Instead he decided to come back and fulfill his commitment to the LSU program, while also embracing new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda switching to a 3-4 defense which would require Beckwith to go from playing the MIKE backer in a four-man front to one of the inside positions in the new scheme.

A left knee injury ended Beckwith’s season quicker than anticipated, and the news got worse last week when a report surfaced that Beckwith had apparently torn his ACL.

When healthy Beckwith is a downhill linebacker who has the size to be a hole plugger, and a dependable run-stuffing defender. He does a nice job of anticipating the plays flow and leveraging that to get to the spot before the ball carrier does. With his balance and lateral quickness he is able to hastily sift through the trash around the line of scrimmage.

He displays a good deal of patience in diagnosing the play and reading his keys before taking his initial step.

Beckwith has strong hands and he does of nice job of hand fighting to keep the lineman from getting into his frame. He is also strong enough at the point-of-attack to stack and shed blockers as he continues his pursuit to the ball carrier. Beckwith also demonstrates a knack to shoot through gaps and get himself into the backfield and at the feet of the runner.

While in pass coverage Beckwith appears comfortable dropping into a zone coverage and can quickly wrap up anything caught in front of him or out in the flats.

Knowing that the knee injury will keep him sidelined during the pre-draft process, likely extending into his rookie season, Beckwith still retains a spot in my top-five. Mainly because once he is healthy Beckwith is an instinctive inside linebacker, and a downhill run stuffer. His size coupled with his strength permits him to compete inside versus lead blockers and pulling lineman, highlighting his ability to stack and shed at the point-of-contact.

Once this knee injury is put behind him, look for Beckwith to quickly emerge as a starting caliber linebacker and a defensive mainstay along an NFL teams front seven.

4. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State

The football factory run by head coach Urban Meyer over in Columbus Ohio continues to produce NFL caliber talent. After sending six defenders to the NFL last year the Buckeyes this year have another group of talented players led by middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan.

McMillan, a former five-star high school prospect, has been a starter at linebacker for Ohio State for the past three seasons. In 2015 he led the team with 119 tackles, which was the most by a Buckeye sophomore in 25 years (Steve Tovar had 125 tackles in 1990).

McMillan is a thickly built middle linebacker who was made to play inside the box, and in the center of a defensive unit. He is a physical player who possesses the instincts, size, and leadership qualities that can take command of a unit and make sure every member knows their assignments.

McMillan demonstrates the ability to quickly diagnose, locate, and get to the football. It’s apparent he possesses the natural instincts for the position.

He has no issues coming downhill filling the hole, and laying a big hit on the running back. As he is a good tackler who will keep his feet churning and run through the ball carrier.

While on passing plays he appears comfortable dropping back into coverage, opening his hips and shadowing a tight end or receiver coming across the middle of the field. McMillan can also race out (from in between the hash marks) to the flats to cover a back sneaking out of the backfield.

Some of the concerns with McMillan are that he does not appear to be a quick-twitch athlete and doesn’t possess elite sideline-to-sideline speed. McMillan also appeared to have trouble quickly disengaging from blockers, and was not very effective as a Blitzer.

However, while he may lack the overall athleticism that some of the other linebackers in college football seem to possess, his ability to quickly reads his keys and diagnose a play coupled with his capacity to drop back into coverage will allow him the opportunity to develop into a three-down linebacker who could mature into the leader of a defense for years to come.

5. Jarrad Davis, Florida

Predominately a special team’s contributor his first two seasons in Gainesville, Davis moved into the starting lineup in 2015 and recorded 94 tackles with 11 tackles for loss. This season injuries caused him to miss a few games, and limited some of his impact as he attempted to play through them.

As a middle linebacker, Davis is athletic with good length, and a physical temperament that seems determined to try and knock someone out every time he goes to tackle them. He is strong at the point of contact, not afraid to mix it up with bigger offensive lineman. Some of that physicality is evident on Davis run blitzes. He picks a gap and blasts his way through to either make the tackle or at the very least impede the play flow causing the runner to alter his path or slowdown, which allows time for Davis teammates to gather around the ball carrier and secure the tackle.

Being as aggressive as he is, Davis is seen consistently hustling to the ball with good sideline-to-sideline speed. While he was not used much as a pass rusher, Davis displays a good burst and closing speed to quickly get to the quarterback once he sees him outside the pocket.

Some of that same aggression however can cause Davis to overrun a play, and get himself out of position to make a tackle. Davis also tends to freeze up or get sucked in on play action or Read/Pass/Option plays. Which lead to concerns regarding Davis instincts for the positon, and if an eventual move to an outside LB position (likely weak-side) could be where Davis eventually ends up at in the NFL.

Physically and athletically Davis has what it takes to play linebacker in the NFL. Whether it’s as a MIKE backer or at one of the outside positions in a 4-3 front, where he could be better positioned to leverage his speed and tackling ability. He is a versatile athlete who could come in and contribute immediately.

Read More 1741 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Defensive Tackles

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five defensive tackles who look to be available come the Spring of 2017. While at first glance this does not appear to be an overall deep group of defensive tackles, there

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five defensive tackles who look to be available come the Spring of 2017. While at first glance this does not appear to be an overall deep group of defensive tackles, there are some intriguing prospects who offer size, strength, and scheme versatility that is sure to get the attention of NFL scouts.

1. Malik McDowell, Michigan State

Having projected Alabama’s Jonathan Allen as a defensive end the Spartans McDowell takes the top spot as the best interior defensive lineman. While McDowell’s stats were a bit down this season (in terms of tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks) partially due to the fact he missed the final three games of the season because of an ankle injury, McDowell still was a presence on the field when was healthy.

McDowell presents a big athletic body with length and power upfront. He is a solid run defender able to stack and shed blockers at the line of scrimmage utilizing his reach along with his strong hands.

Displays good instincts as he can quickly locate the football, and can quickly identify and react to what the offense is attempting to run. McDowell also plays with good balance, rarely is on the ground, and possesses good lateral quickness to work through the trash down the line for such a big man.

As a pass rusher McDowell can collapse the pocket by knocking back the offensive lineman and power rush him into the backfield. He possesses good quickness off the snap along with quick hands that allow him to disengage the blocker and penetrate the backfield with sound technique. On passing downs, the Spartans coaches would kick him outside to end and allow him to rush the passer from the edge as he has good change of direction ability and hip flexibility.

McDowell plays the game hard, as he is always hustling to the ball, and violent as he has no problems playing through the whistle.

At 6’6” McDowell has position and scheme versatility as he can line up either inside as a tackle in a four-man front, or as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

2. Chris Wormley, Michigan

Wormley is another athletic, tall, versatile defensive lineman who demonstrates good strength at the point-of-contact with an ability to penetrate the backfield and cause disruption.

Wormley has a thick base and uses it to gain leverage at the line of scrimmage over smaller interior lineman. While he lacks the quick first step and overall foot speed he makes up for it with his power along with instincts and balance. He possesses good agility and bend as he gets low in his stance and at the snap springs into the offensive lineman’s chest with a forward lean. He displays good instincts and powerful hands, able to jolt blockers backwards when he extends his arms and plants his hands in the middle of their chest.

He can stack and shed at the point-of-contact and be a stout run defender. He is also capable of setting up a hard edge, as a defensive end, and funnel the action back towards the middle of the defensive line.

As a pass rusher Wormley can bull rush lineman back into the backfield and collapse the pocket. He also has shown the ability to “Get Skinny” and slip through the gaps between blockers to pressure the quarterback. However, he does not possess a refined pass rush repertoire and is pretty much limited to power rushing offensive lineman.

Wormley’s lack of quickness and limited pass rush ability are the only real knocks against him. Otherwise his combination of size, strength, and effort coupled with being well-coached should allow him to be an instant contributor along a team’s defensive line as a rookie.

3. Davon Godchaux, LSU

Godchaux is one of the more underrated defensive tackles in this class. Playing on a unit that potentially appears to be loaded with NFL caliber athletes you can see how a player like Godchaux may go unnoticed.

A three-year starter along the Tigers defensive line Godchaux possesses a good combination of quickness, and power. He is strong and can hold his ground at the point-of-contact yet is still able to use his quick first step, and explode to the ball at the snap to provide an interior pass rush.

Godchaux also is quick to locate and decipher what the offense is attempting to run displaying terrific instincts. He plays with balance as he can bounce off blockers to work down the line and pursue the action from the backside. He has a flexible active body and can uncoil his hips and power through would be blockers. He can stand-up lineman at the point-of-contact then rip/pull them to the ground and proceed to make the tackle.

As an interior pass rusher Godchaux displays a wide array of pass rusher technique and uses his active hands to rip and swipe opposing lineman off him. He is good at not allowing the lineman to get into his frame, displaying an effective stutter step that allows him to freeze the lineman, use his quickness to cross his face, and beat him to his inside shoulder.

Godchaux does have some off-the -field issues. Earlier this season he was arrested and suspended from the team due to a domestic violence incident. Godchaux was later reinstated back onto the team when no charges were filed against him.

Godchaux is tailor made to play the three-technique position along a four-man front, particularly in an attacking scheme that will allow him to utilize his quickness and strength to attack a gap, and penetrate up field.

4. Carlos Watkins, Clemson

Watkins made a name for himself as a junior last season, his first as a starter, along Clemson’s defensive front. While freshman teammate Dexter Lawrence has seized some of the spotlight this season, Watkins still had a very good senior campaign as his sack totals of 8.5 is tops on the Tigers defensive unit.

Watkins has good size and length for a defensive tackle. He can hold his ground and take on double-teams displaying good power, and will flash the ability to stack and shed blockers up front. He can however get too tall out of his stance which causes him to lose leverage and get easily moved out of the way or pinned inside.

As a pass rusher Watkins shows inconsistency when it comes to hand fighting and being able to disengage and free himself from offensive lineman. Although he can utilize his power to effectively bull rush a guard into the QB’s lap helping collapse the interior of the pocket. He does however have issues when needing to quickly redirect, displaying some lower body stiffness.

Watkins is also inconsistent when it comes to effort as his motor tends to run a bit hot and cold. There were too many examples where Watkins is just standing around watching the play if his initial rush had been thwarted. These types of examples can question a player’s passion for the game as well as overall endurance and whether he is in the best shape possible.

Overall, Watkins is a tough run stopper with the potential to develop into a good pass rusher. He best projects as a five-technique or nose tackle in an odd man front.

5. Montravius Adams, Auburn

Adams is another big-bodied defensive tackle who can occupy blockers and create penetration up the middle. Adams size and length jump out at you when you watch him play. He flashes the ability to dominate when he wants to. He can be physical up front, and surprisingly displays good quickness off the snap when asked to penetrate and attack a gap. He utilizes a quick swim move to slip by lineman, and get himself in position to make a play in the backfield.
The problem with Adams however is that he is a lumbering athlete who is not fluid or quick with his movements. He is limited as a pass rusher displaying limited lateral agility as well as change of direction skills. He displays below-average balance and tends to get tall out of his stance which causes him to lose battles upfront versus double-teams.
Montravius Adams is an intriguing prospect who when he flashes his ability will undoubtedly have NFL coaches and scouts excited about his potential. His combination of size and initial off the ball, gap penetrating, quickness allows him to be a dominate force for a defense. He can line up to play anywhere along a “30” front, and could be equally terrorizing in the middle of a “40” front.
However, getting him to put forth that type of effort on a consistent basis will be the main question surrounding Adams when it comes time to select him. Having his production and effort match his tape will be the primary goal for his teams coaching staff.

Read More 1433 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Edge Rushers

As the college football playoff teams sort themselves out, and having advanced past the halfway point of the NFL schedule what better time than now to start focusing our attention onto the 2017 NFL draft.

While the draft is not until April it is never too early to start scouting prospects who could turn out

As the college football playoff teams sort themselves out, and having advanced past the halfway point of the NFL schedule what better time than now to start focusing our attention onto the 2017 NFL draft.

While the draft is not until April it is never too early to start scouting prospects who could turn out to be future NFL stars.

This week we preview the top-five defensive edge rushers who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Garrett tops my list of edge rushers as the Texas A&M junior possesses the height, length, and speed to present a consistent pass rush threat. While Garrett’s numbers are down in 2016, as he has been dealing with a lower leg injury for the better part of the season (missing two games and limited in many other), he can win off the edge with a quick first step and speed to turn the corner with a burst, and acceleration to close in quickly on the quarterback.

He has demonstrated that he can convert speed into power, and bull rush an offensive lineman back into the quarterback.

Garrett is a versatile defender who can be used as both a hand in the dirt defensive end or an outside linebacker asked to rush from a two-point stance while also dropping back into coverage.

Appearing to finally be shaking off the effects of his leg injuries Garrett put on a one-man show in the Aggies victory over UTSA this past weekend, as he registered 4 1/2 sacks to go along with eight tackles, a pass defended, and a forced fumble.

2. Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Unlike Myles Garrett and some of the other top rushers in the country Allen does not win his battles up front with shear athleticism or speed. Instead he uses sound technique, instincts and his strength to dominate at the line of scrimmage. He is a thicker-bodied defensive end who can hold his ground at the point-of-attack. He has strong hands and when he extends his arms and plants them into the offensive lineman’s chest he can knock them back, and get them retreating.

Allen displays natural instincts for a lineman as he can quickly locate the ball post snap. He is a versatile defender as he can play both outside as a defensive end or shift inside at tackle. In fact, as a pass rusher Allen is more effective inside as a defensive tackle as his quickness and strength allow him to eat up blockers (drawing double-teams) or split a center and guard combo block to knife through to the quarterback.

Jonathan Allen is a defensive force who has produced in a power five conference against some terrific athletes. His versatility, instincts, and overall competitiveness will make him a coach’s delight. In the NFL Allen, should project better as an interior defensive tackle in a four-man front, while also capable of physically playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Derek Barnett has been one of the Volunteers more disruptive defenders the moment he stepped foot onto the Tennessee campus. In his first season Barnett set a school record for the most tackles for loss (20.5) and sacks (10) by a true freshman.

Barnett’s strengths as a pass rusher center around his first step quickness, and the all-out hustle and determination in which he plays the game. As a hand in the dirt defensive end Barnett is one of the first players off at the snap of the ball quickly getting into the offensive lineman, using his active hands to keep them from getting a grasp on him. He displays the ability to bend around the corner, and get below the tackles pad level in route to the quarterback. He is competitive at the point-of-attack and does a good job of quickly locating the ball.

Similarly, to Jonathan Allen, Barnett is also very effective sliding inside and matching up against interior offensive lineman. Barnett used his quickness to attack a gap and overwhelm guards, able to sneak through, and helping collapse the pocket. As a tackle, he did a better job of converting speed to power and would usher offensive lineman straight back into the quarterback.

Barnett is a physical and efficient player who can affect the game in multiple ways with his scheme, and positional versatility.

4. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

As a former high school track athlete McKinley’s speed, and athleticism is one of the first traits you notice when scouting the Bruins senior edge rusher. What is also noticeable is the all-out hustle and effort the 6’2” 265-pound defender exhibits down in and down out.

McKinley possesses an active body with good overall thickness, and long arms. He shows good power off the snap, and uses his hands to fend off the arms of offensive lineman. He gains leverage on the tackles outside shoulder and will use a rip under move to clear by him and into the backfield. He also has the quickness to cross the lineman’s face, when he over sets, and beat him to the inside as well.

He is quick to locate the ball, and will flatten down the line of scrimmage in pursuit of the ball carrier from the back-side.

McKinley headed into this weekend’s action leading the PAC-12 conference in tackles for loss with 18, to go along with his 10 sacks and three forced fumbles.

McKinley projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, appearing to have the look, and feel of developing into a natural pass rusher.

5. Tim Williams, Alabama

While there may be some questions and concern about Williams character off the field there is no denying the talent on it when you see Williams help Alabama dominate opponents up front.

The senior outside linebacker, and former four-star prospect out of Louisiana, has a tremendous get-off at the line of scrimmage, and does a good job of using his hands to free himself from the blocker keeping his pad level low to get the outside leverage as he turns the corner. He can combat offensive lineman hands by ripping down or swiping them off his body.

He uses a hesitation head and shoulder fake move to get inside leverage on a backpedaling lineman to beat him to his inside shoulder. Williams can quickly cross a blockers face, split the gap, and penetrate the offensive backfield.

Williams athleticism and quickness allow him to quickly change directions and chase down fleeing quarterbacks outside the pocket.

Williams currently leads the Crimson Tide with eight sacks, and his 14 tackles for loss are second to only teammate Ryan Andersons (14.5) total.

With Williams speed, athleticism, and production (having produced against some of college football’s better athletes in the SEC conference) Williams has the potential to develop into a “superstar” at the next level.

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1080 Words

Class Sleepers – AFC West

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

AFC West

Denver Broncos – Will Parks, S Arizona 6th rd. 44th pick (#219 overall)

Having lost their top two backups at safety, in David Bruton Jr. and Omar Bolden, during free agency the Broncos knew that they needed to replenish some of their depth on the back-half of their defense.

The Broncos used two draft picks in the 2016 draft to add Boston College’s Justin Simmons, and Arizona’s Will Parks to help reload at safety.

Will Parks was a two-year starter and versatile defender for the Wildcats over his four-year career. He leaves Arizona having complied 197 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 20 pass break-ups, and four interceptions.

Parks is a tough competitor who plays hard down in and down out. At 6’1” and 204 pounds he possesses good size and length for the position. He is an aggressive downhill punisher, who will tackle through his target. He is able to come up and set a hard edge when defending the run, and displayed the ability to shed blockers and find the ball carrier while playing as a box safety closer to the line of scrimmage, as his 20 tackles for loss over the last two seasons can attest to.

Initially Parks will be looked upon to provide depth at both safety positions as well as help on special teams. However, with his ability to tackle and help defend the run, as an in the box safety, Parks could force his way onto the field sooner than many may have anticipated for a sixth-round pick.

Kansas City Chiefs – Dadi Nicolas, OLB Virginia Tech 6th rd. 28th pick (#203 overall)

With Outside linebacker Justin Houston undergoing surgery in February to repair a torn ACL in his left knee you had a feeling that the Chiefs would target an outside backer at some point in the draft. Not necessarily to replace Houston, but just to add some quality depth at the position.

That point came in the sixth-round in the form or former Virginia Tech Hokie Dadi Nicolas. Nicolas is a talented physical specimen who has tree limbs for arms (35 inches) and very impressive lower-body explosion and burst. Nicolas posted a 41 inch vertical, 4.74 forty, and 7.04 three-cone time which speaks favorably to his agility, body control, and quickness.

Nicolas is quick off the line at the snap of the ball and is able to use his speed to provide a consistent pass rush off the edge. Nicolas has good balance and lateral quickness with an active body that is always hustling on the field.

Nicolas, who played defensive end at Virginia Tech, will be converting to outside linebacker with the Chiefs so there will be a learning process he will need to go through initially.

However, the talent and athleticism is there for Nicolas to develop into a genuine pass rushing threat off the edge for the Chiefs in the years to come.

San Diego Chargers – Jatavis Brown, OLB, Akron 5th rd. 38th pick (#175 overall)

Looking to improve some of their overall depth and team speed at linebacker the Chargers took a big step towards that direction by selecting the 2015 MAC Defensive Player of the Year in Akron’s Jatavis Brown, with their fifth-round pick.

Brown, who at 5’11” and 227 pounds ran a 4.47 at one of the NFL’s regional combines, was a tackling machine for Akron. In his four-years he totaled 340 tackles, a school-record 41.5 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, and 10 forced fumbles.

Brown possesses terrific instincts for the linebacker position. He plays fast and hard with a non-stop motor. Brown’s ability to quickly change directions, and natural-bend allow him to chase down ball carriers from sideline-to-sideline. He is an explosive tackler who can quickly close in on his targets.

Although he is strong (33 reps at 225-pounds) Brown’s size and ability to take on impact at the point of contact remain a slight concern in terms of how he will hold up physically in the NFL.

The Chargers will start him off at inside linebacker where he will be backing up starters Denzel Perryman and Manti Te’o, but with his speed, quickness, and tacking ability a future move to safety isn’t totally out of the question for Brown.

Oakland Raiders – DeAndre Washington, RB Texas Tech 5th rd. 4th pick (#143 overall)

Washington is a multi-purpose back who led the Big-12 in total yards from scrimmage in 2015 with 1,877, while his 16 total touchdowns ranked third in the conference.

Washington is a thickly-built runner who plays with more power than most would expect out of someone who is 5’8” and 204 pounds. He runs hard with good balance showing off his lower-body strength. He demonstrates good instincts and vision able to quickly identify a hole and hits it hard.

Washington is also a very good pass catcher out of the backfield, finishing his collegiate career with 124 receptions.

He projects more as a change-of-pace back who can come and spell starter Latavius Murray for either a series or two or possibly even on third downs. With no other runner on the roster firmly entrenched as the primary back-up do not be surprised if Washington lays claim to that role coming out of training camp.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 891 Words

Class Sleepers – NFC South

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – De’Vondre Campbell, OLB Minnesota 4th rd. 17th pick (#115 overall)

Head coach Dan Quinn continues to build and reshape the Falcons defense into a mold similar to what he had with Seattle by adding length and speed to his front seven.
With De’Vondre Campbell Atlanta added an athletic linebacker who possesses that aforementioned speed and terrific length. He has experience playing both the inside and outside linebacker positions. He can quickly accelerate and chase down quarterbacks and ball carriers from sideline to sideline.

Although he was asked to place his hand in the ground and rush off the edge as a Gopher, Campbell admits that pass rushing is one of his weaknesses. Which is why he has been working with former Falcon Chuck Smith in the off season to help improve his technique.

The Falcons will start Campbell off at the WILL position on their defense hoping to take advantage of his ability to run and chase down tackles.

Look for Campbell to battle fellow rookie Deion Jones and veteran Phillip Wheeler for snaps at the weak-side linebacker spot in 2016.

Carolina Panthers – Zack Sanchez, CB Oklahoma 5th rd. 2nd pick (#141 overall)

One of the more surprising moves this offseason was when the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, allowing him to leave and sign with Washington. The move not only saw one of the league’s better corners depart but it made the cornerback position an even greater need on defense.

The Norman move coupled with veterans Charles Tillman and Bene’ Benwikere both coming off season ending injuries Carolina used the draft to load up on defensive backs, drafting a total of three with their five allotted selections.

With Zack Sanchez the Panthers get a playmaking corner whose penchant to gamble on defense can allow him to not only make plays but also get himself in trouble and beaten at times.

Both confident and cocky Sanchez is a ball hawk in the secondary finishing with 15 interceptions over his three seasons in Norman. Sanchez quick-feet allow him to plant and drive jumping routes and getting his hands on the ball.

Sanchez lack of size (5’11” 185 pounds), strength, coupled with his quickness make him an ideal candidate to play the nickel position on the Panthers defense. With his quickness and ability to cover in confined areas Sanchez should excel covering receivers in the middle of the field.

Playing inside will also present him with opportunities to get his hands on the ball and create turnovers something he excelled at in college.

New Orleans Saints – David Onyemata, DE, Manitoba (CA) 4th rd. 22nd pick (#120 overall)

Looking to improve the league’s 31st ranked defense in 2015 the Saints went north of the border to draft a raw but physically talented prospect in David Onyemata.
Onyemata, who hails from Lagos Nigeria, attended the University of Manitoba and as a senior was awarded the J.P Metras Trophy, given to the top down lineman in CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) which is Canada’s equivalent to the NCAA.

Onyemata had not played football before trying out for the Bison’s prior to the start of their 2012 season.

Onyemata caught the eyes of scouts during the week long practices leading up to the East-West Shrine game. His stock really took off after he ran a 5.06 forty-time, benched 225 pounds 33 times, and vertically jumped 33 inches at Manitoba’s first ever Pro Day. Impressive athletic numbers for someone who stands 6’3” weighs 300 pounds, and possesses an 82 ¼ wingspan.

Besides his size, and strength Onyemata has good up-field quickness and is able to get after the passer. He plays with balance and displays some natural instincts for the position. His big powerful hands can jolt a lineman backwards once he plants them into their chest. Onyemata strength, and quickness allows him to be used at both the inside tackle position or outside as a defensive end.

That type of scheme versatility is one reason why Onyemata has drawn comparisons to former 10-year NFL veteran, and also a former Manitoba Bison, Israel Idonije.

The Saints will start off Onyemata on the outside as a defensive end initially, hoping to one-day pair him across from Cameron Jordan and next to first-round pick Sheldon Rankins.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Dan Vitale, FB Northwestern 6th rd. 22nd pick (#197 overall)

With their sixth-round pick the Buccaneers drafted themselves a “super back” in Northwesterns Dan Vitale.

As a Wildcat Vitale played a hybrid tight end/fullback position where he was asked to block as both a lead blocker, and as an inline tight end. Vitale also lined up and ran routes from the slot position as well as out of the backfield.

He has very good hands as he displayed by hauling in 135 receptions to go along with 11 touchdowns in his four-seasons at Northwestern.

Vitale, who currently is listed as a tight end on the Bucs roster, offers the team a very versatile offensive weapon who can be lined up in multiple positions and can be used in a variety of different formations.

While his game is not flashy what you do get with Vitale is a tough competitive football player who possesses high football character, and the ability to make big plays when you least expect it.

Look for Vitale to make contributions on both the offense and special teams units for the buccaneers as a rookie next season.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 939 Words

Class Sleepers – AFC South

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.
With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

AFC South

Houston Texans – KJ Dillion, S West Virginia 5th rd. 22nd pick (#159 overall)

Houston added speed, athleticism, and length to their defensive secondary with the selection of KJ Dillon. Although his Mountaineer teammate, and Raiders first-round pick, Karl Joseph received most of the attention at West Virginia, Dillon proved that he too was a safety to keep an eye on.
Dillon possesses good cover skills for a safety and should be able to cover tight ends downfield. He is scheme versatile and can play in either a zone or man-to-man base system.
He displays awareness and good closing speed in zone coverage, and is able to quickly close in on anything thrown in front of him.
Dillion came on strong in his final two seasons in Morgantown combining for 111 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four interceptions, and 14 passes defensed. Improving in his anticipation and ability to make a play on the ball.
Dillon will need to get stronger in order to be better equipped to compete at the point-of-contact, when defending the run, and will also need to shore up his tackling ability if he wants to see regular snaps on defense for the Texans.
However, with his coverage skills and athleticism, Dillon is an intriguing prospect who has a chance to develop into a quality starter for Houston down the road.

Indianapolis Colts – Austin Blythe, C Iowa 7th rd. 27th pick (#248 overall)

The Colts made it clear to their players and their fans that they were not happy with the amount of punishment quarterback Andrew Luck had been receiving in the last couple of seasons. So they set out to rebuild their offensive line using the draft to help replenish the talent level, and drafted four offensive linemen which is something they had never done before in team history.
Blythe is another in the long line of well-coached, intelligent Kirk Ferentz offensive lineman. A four-year starter, and former wrestler who won three state titles Blythe was a team captain for the Hawkeyes, and has started multiple games at each interior offensive line position. Besides being smart, and versatile Blythe was also a durable performer for Iowa as he finished out his collegiate career making 45 straight starts.
Blythe has terrific feet and initial quickness at the snap of the ball. He is able to set up quickly in pass protection and will plant his hands inside the chest of the defensive lineman. What I love most about Blythe is that he plays the game hard and with some nastiness as he is always looking to finish off his blocks.
At the recent Colts rookie minicamp Blythe saw extensive action lined up at guard next to first-round pick Ryan Kelly.
Initially, look for Blythe to make the team as a backup interior lineman, but if given the opportunity to start he will make it very difficult for the coaches to put him back on the bench.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Tyrone Holmes, DE, Montana 6th rd. 6th pick (#181 overall)

Looking to improve on their 29th ranked pass defense and increase the overall team sack numbers (36) from last season General Manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley loaded up on pass rushers and defensive playmakers in the 2016 draft.
With Tyrone Holmes they have an undersized college defensive end who they will convert to outside linebacker. Holmes, who was the FCS Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, put together a sensational final season at Montana finishing with 21.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, and three forced fumbles.
Holmes can supply speed off the edge with a quick-twitched first step, and long strides. He displays good lateral agility and can chase plays down the line of scrimmage. At Montana’s pro day he ran a 4.58 forty, with a 1.65 10-yard split, and demonstrated some lower body explosiveness with a 37.5 vertical jump.
At only 6’2” and 253 pounds Holmes is not stout at the point-of-contact which is why Jacksonville will convert him to outside linebacker, and has him learning the LEO position which is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position. The Jaguars will initially look to use Holmes as a situational pass rusher off the edge in hopes of taking advantage of his speed and quickness to help generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Tennessee Titans – Tajae Sharpe, WR Massachusetts 5th rd. 1st pick (#140 overall)

The Titans are continuing to add playmakers to their offensive unit in order to help surround Marcus Mariotta with enough weapons to be successful.
With Sharpe they added a smooth athlete who was a four-year starter at UMass. Sharpe led the nation in receptions last season, with 111, playing in Mark Whipple’s pro-style system.
Sharpe was a first team All-MAC selection in 2015 and finished his collegiate career 277 receptions, 3,386 yards, and 16 touchdowns.
Sharpe is a good route runner who can get in and out of his cuts quickly. He has soft hands and is able to hold on to the ball through contact. While not a speed demon Sharpe is quick enough to get by defenders and has decent build-up speed to get open downfield.
Sharpe, who has impressed the Titans coaching staff so far this offseason, was running with the first team offense in the recently completed Titans minicamp.
Look for Sharpe to compete with fellow receivers Justin Hunter and Tre McBride for a spot on Tennessee’s 53-man roster.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 926 Words

Class Sleepers – NFC North

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.
With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

NFC North

Chicago Bears – Jordan Howard, RB Indiana 5th rd. 11th pick (#150 overall)

After not resigning veteran Matt Forte the Bears were looking to add both depth and talent to the running back position. By selecting Howard in the fifth round the Bears added a bruising north south downhill runner who will be a perfect complement to last year’s fourth round selection Jeremy Langford.

Howard, who played only one season for the Hoosiers after Alabama-Birmingham shutdown their football program, rushed for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games. Late in the season on consecutive weeks Howard rushed for 174 yards versus Iowa and followed that up with 238 yards against Michigan’s eighth ranked (nationally) defense the following week. The 238 yards were the second most an opponent has ever gained against a wolverine defense.

Howard is a big back who runs behinds his pads and who can deliver jarring hits on opposing defenders. Howard has good vision and balance. Easily running through arm tackles, and requiring multiple defenders to bring him down.

Look for Chicago to throw him in the mix at running back early on in the season complimenting Langford’s quickness and shiftiness with Howard’s power and physical style giving the Bears a capable one two punch.

With head coach John Fox’s affinity for big powerful runners it would also not surprise me if Howard ended up starting for the Bears next season.

Detroit Lions – Anthony Zettel, DT Penn State 6th rd. 27th pick (#202 overall)

Armed with three sixth-round picks the Lions used the second of those picks on Michigan native (West Branch) and former Penn State Nittany Lion Anthony Zettel. An All-Big Ten performer in 2015 Zettel finished his career at Penn State among the programs top-15 for career sacks and tackles for loss. In four seasons Zettel netted 38 tackles for loss and 20 sacks.

Zettel has good instincts and can quickly locate the football. He possesses good lateral agility and will chase down the line of scrimmage hustling on every snap. He is tough and physical, playing with high energy and a non-stop motor.

If Zettel was twenty-pounds heavier with longer arms he may have been a second-round pick. He is a better athlete than given credit for, and comes with high football character.

Detroit plans on using him to backup both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions as Zettel is quick and athletic enough to pressure off the edge. While strong and tough inside to compete at defensive tackle in sub-packages.

Green Bay Packers – Trevor Davis, WR, California 5th rd. 26th pick (#163 overall)

When the Packers lost wide receiver Jordy Nelson last season not only did they lose a starting wide out they also lost the element of speed, that Nelson possesses, which restricted a lot of what Green Bay likes to do on offense. Which is one of the reasons why General Manager Ted Thompson invested a fifth round pick on California receiver Trevor Davis.

At 6’1” 188 pounds Davis was one of the fastest timed receivers at the combine running a 4.42 forty-yard dash to go along with a 38.5 inch vertical, and a 6.60 seconds in the three-cone drill. Davis times were tops among the entire wide receiver group invited to the combine.

Davis, who transferred to California after playing two seasons for the University of Hawaii, has terrific straight-line speed to go along with his ability to track down the deep ball and reel it in with his big hands (10 inch). He is also a weapon on special teams averaging 32.6 and 21.4 the last two seasons respectively, with two touchdowns.

Although Davis is still not a polished receiver, he has already impressed Packer coaches with his ability on special teams. Look for Davis to initially make a name for himself on kick-off returns with the Packers, before rounding into form as a receiver and supplying Green Bay with another weapon who can threaten to take the top off a defense.

Minnesota Vikings – Kentrell Brothers, OLB Missouri 5th rd. 23th pick (#160 overall)

With Anthony Barr, Eric Kendrick’s, and a resigned Chad Greenway it would appear that the Vikings are set at linebacker for 2016. However, that didn’t stop Minnesota from drafting Missouri’s Kentrell Brothers in the fifth round.
Brothers is a tackling machine having led the NCAA and SEC conference in tackles with 152 in 2015. The first team All-SEC linebacker finished his collegiate career with seven straight games with ten or more tackles to finish with 357 in four seasons.

Brothers has terrific instincts for the position, and is able to make up for some of his physical shortcomings by simply knowing where to go and getting a jump on his opponents in getting there. He is a very good run defender able to quickly locate the ball while also capable of taking on blockers and being able to shed them in order to make the tackle.

Brothers is also a very good special team’s player as he blocked three kicks last season for the Tigers.

Although he played outside linebacker (Will) at Missouri Brothers projects better inside at middle linebacker in the NFL. Playing on the inside would help mask some of his coverage issues as he would be asked to cover less ground playing in the middle.

With 2016 likely being Chad Greenway’s final season with the Vikings, Brothers could take over the middle linebacker spot from Kendrick’s, pushing the 2015 second-round pick outside to the weak-side position helping to replace Greenway. In the meantime, expect to see Brothers make his presence felt on special teams, as a rookie next season, for Mike Zimmer’s team.

Read More 957 Words

Class Sleepers – AFC North

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens – Matt Judon, DE Grand Valley State 5th rd. 7th pick (#146 overall)

Having already drafted pass rushers in Kamalei Correa (2nd round) and Bronson Kaufusi (3rd round) did not deter the Ravens from taking another pass rusher in the form of Grand Valley State’s all-time leader in sacks (34) Matt Judon.

Judon led all of college football in sacks last season with 20, to go along with his 23.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. In 2015 he was named the Division II Top Defensive Lineman of the Year, and the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Judon, who played defensive end at GVSU, will be transitioned to outside linebacker with the Ravens. Where they will use length and strength to help generate a pass rush off the edge. Judon has the size, athletic ability, and production on tape that the Ravens covet. Look for Judon to contribute on special teams next season, while also getting a look as a situational pass rusher.

Judon becomes the fifth player drafted from Grand Valley State, joining Brandon Carr (Cowboys), Dan Skuta (Jaguars), Charles Johnson (Vikings), and Tim Lelito (Saints) in the NFL.

Cincinnati Bengals – Clayton Fejedelem, S Illinois 7th rd. 24th pick (#245 overall)

Having elected not to resign veteran safety Reggie Nelson this offseason conventional wisdom was that the Bengals were going to draft a safety in the 2016 draft. With Clayton Fejedelem they get a downhill in the box safety who was a tackling machine as a senior leading the Big Ten with 140 tackles.

Fejedelem started his collegiate career at the NAIA level playing for St. Xavier before transferring to Illinois, walking-on, and playing in 2014. Then he earned a scholarship in 2015, was named a starting safety and team captain for the Illini.

Fejedelem impressed scouts and coaches first at the East West Shrine game and then at his pro day where he weighed in at 204 pounds with just six percent body-fat, put up 20 reps at 225 on the bench press, and had a 40.5 vertical jump.

Fejedelem is a smart, confident player whose calling card is his tackling ability so expect to see him used more near the line of scrimmage as an extra defender in the box. Although Fejedelem struggles with man-to-man coverage he does a good job in zone coverage keeping the play in front of him then attacking and securing the tackle. Fejedelem is also a terrific special team’s player and should develop into a core player on the team’s unit.

As a rookie expect Fejedelem to provide depth at safety and see most of his action on special teams. However, don’t be surprised if the Bengals coaches fall in love with this kid’s competitiveness and football character and you start to see him getting meaningful snaps in Cincinnati’s defensive backfield.

Cleveland Browns – Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State 5th rd. 35th pick (#172 overall)

The Browns made it a point to address the wide receivers position in the 2016 NFL draft coming away with four receivers in total, with the final one being Rashard Higgins out of Colorado State.

Nicknamed “Hollywood” Higgins has put on a show ever since he stepped foot on Colorado State’s campus. The junior receiver was a three-year starter and leaves school as Colorado State’s all-time career leader in receptions (238), yards (3,643), and touchdowns (31)

Higgins was a 2014 consensus All-American after leading the nation with 1,750 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns. He is a high-volume catcher who possesses sure hands and is able to set up defenders to create separation. Higgins runs clean routes with quick feet that allow him to plant and cut without needing to slow down. Higgins can extend away from his body and snatch the ball out of the air which gives the quarterback a little room for error on his accuracy.

Although he lacks game breaking speed Higgins is tough and physical which enables him to get leverage on defensive backs downfield allowing him to go up and get the ball hauling it in for a big gain.

Higgins carries a swagger about him that many of the top receivers have. He believes that if the ball is in the air it is his to go and get.

Having played on a Pro-Style system at Colorado State the transition to the NFL passing game should be smoother for Higgins than some of the other rookie receivers. With head coach Hue Jackson proclaiming that no jobs will be handed out and that every player has a chance to earn a starting position, it would not surprise me to see Higgins making some big plays for the Browns this season, and yes possibly even starting.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Travis Freeney, OLB Washington 6th rd. 45th pick (#220 overall)

The Steelers got tremendous value in the sixth round when surprisingly former Washington Huskie linebacker Travis Sweeney was still available.

Freeney is an athletically gifted fast linebacker who possesses good length and is still developing as a pass rusher. Athletically Freeney put on a show at the combine, posting the best forty times (4.50), vertical jump (40 inches), and broad jump (almost 11 feet) of any linebacker at the combine. All while reportedly dealing with a sports hernia.

Freeney can accelerate and close in fast and hard on his targets. The Huskies transitioned to a 3-4 scheme in 2015 and moved Freeney to a “Buck” position which is a hybrid linebacker/rush end, and with his 34-inch arms and speed off the edge Freeney posted a career high in tackles for loss (17.5) and sacks (8).

Freeney came to Washington originally as a safety before being moved to linebacker during his freshman season. Then this season with the defensive switch he was asked to move to the outside and get after the quarterback.

Concerns over his lack of size (226 pounds) and whether physically he can play on the outside are valid, as too are Freeney’s shoulders where he has had both his left and right labrums surgically repaired.

The Steelers though are not concerned with Freeney’s lack of size as they are looking for him to utilize that speed to run around making plays from sideline-to-sideline, and being a terror on special teams. Freeney stands to be the lightest Steeler outside linebacker since Greg Lloyd played for them back in the 90’s.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1088 Words

Class Sleepers – NFC East

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys – Charles Tapper, DE Oklahoma 4th rd. 3rd pick (#101 overall)

Heading into the draft defensive end was a big need position for the Cowboys after deciding not to resign free agents Greg Hardy, and Jeremy Mincey, while also having both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended for the season’s first four games due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

After deciding to bypass the position on their first three picks the Cowboys were able to get their defensive end in the form of Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper at the top of the fourth round.

Tapper is an athletically gifted edge defender who does a nice job of converting speed to power. He possesses long arms and deceptive strength at the point of attack, and is capable of holding his ground versus double-teams.
Tapper performed well at the combine running a 4.59 forty with a 1.64 ten-yard split, coupled with 23 reps on the bench press and a 34 inch vertical.

Tapper’s limited production at Oklahoma is somewhat deceiving (only 13.5 sacks for his career) due to the fact he was asked to play a position not ideally suited for his skill set as a defensive end on a three-man line. Tapper was asked to do more two-gapping then rushing up field and getting after the quarterback.

With the Cowboys and in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s defensive system Tapper will be given the opportunity to use his athletic ability to go after the passer. Look for him to be used early on as a situation pass rusher supplying speed off the edge.

New York Giants – Paul Perkins, RB 5th rd. 10th pick (#149 overall)

The Giants not only received terrific value in the fifth round by selecting UCLA running back Paul Perkins, they may have also landed one of the steals of the draft.
Perkins leaves UCLA having rushed for almost 3,500 yards in three seasons to go along with 29 rushing touchdowns. He led the PAC-12 in rushing as a sophomore in 2014 with 1,572 yards, becoming the first Bruin to do so since DeShaun Foster back in 2001.

Perkins plays with outstanding balance and anticipation excelling at cutting back against the grain picking up big chunks of yardage. He has tremendous vision, and is patient as a runner allowing his blockers time to set up. He is elusive in the open field and is almost always able to make the first defender miss.
While he may not possess the ideal size or breakaway speed Perkins has a knack for finding running lanes and producing in key moments of a game.

The Giants running back combo of Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams produced a combined 1,120 rushing yards last season which ranked the Giants 18th in rushing overall. With the addition of Perkins, they added a runner who will help supply a quicker more elusive option in the backfield which should nicely compliment the north south downhill running style that both Jennings and Williams possess.

Philadelphia Eagles – Jalen Mills, FS 7th rd. 12th pick (#233 overall)

Jalen Mills is a versatile defensive back who over his career at LSU started games at cornerback, free safety, and nickel back. Not built to play safety in the NFL look for Mills to excel inside as a nickel corner in some of the Eagles sub-packages.

Mills is quicker than fast with loose hips and the ability to quickly change directions. His 3-Cone times at the combine (6.86) are indicative of the agility he possesses. While his 37-inch vertical shows he has some explosion in his legs. Although he may lack the strength to land a good jam on a receiver he makes up for that with his quickness and ability to turn and mirror the receiver off the line of scrimmage.

Some off the field issues and past injury concerns may have played a role in Mills dropping to the seventh round, but Jalen Mills is not your typical seventh round selection. Look for him to have a prominent role on both the defense and special teams as a rookie next season for Philadelphia.

Washington Redskins – Steven Daniels, ILB 7th rd. 11th pick (#232 overall)

Steven Daniels is a hard hitting instinctive linebacker who plays much bigger on the field than he measures off it. Daniels will not blow you away with his measurable but when you turn on the tape you see a linebacker physical at the point-of-contact, able to take on blockers, shed and make a play. He is a terrific run defender who displays good instincts for the position. He is able to offset the lack of speed or burst by knowing the opponent’s tendencies and getting in position to make the play.

Daniels was the leader of a very tough Boston College defense in 2015, where he had 86 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and six sacks as a senior.

Daniels, a former high school teammate of the Panthers Luke Kuechly, will be thrown into the mix at inside linebacker and allowed to compete with veterans Mason Foster, Perry Riley Jr., and Martrell Spaight.
While Daniels best chance of seeing the field as a rookie might probably be on special teams, it will not surprise me to see Daniels get some snaps playing inside linebacker for the Redskins next season. It could turn out that keeping Daniels on the sidelines might be harder, for the Redskins coaching staff to do, than originally anticipated.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 937 Words

Class Sleepers – AFC East

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.
With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

AFC East

Buffalo Bills – Jonathan Williams, RB Arkansas 5th rd. 18th pick (#156 overall)

Although running back was not a need position for the Bills heading into the draft they received tremendous value with the selection of Williams in the fifth round.

In Williams the Bills are getting a runner who possesses good size with some wiggle to him and someone that demonstrates the ability to make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage as well as in the open field. Williams has good vision and balance with quick feet that allow him to avoid some of the trash at or near the line of scrimmage. Although he does not have game breaking speed Williams can hit a gap and rumble 15 to 20 yards before a defender catches him.

Williams missed the 2015 season due to a foot injury he suffered in August that required surgery. In 2014, while splitting carries with fellow Razorback Alex Collins, Williams rushed for almost 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns.

With the Bills he will be expected to supply depth at running back behind LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, while also helping to strengthen the league leading ground game that Buffalo featured last season. With McCoy and Williams missing a combined nine games in 2015, the Bills looked to add some insurance to better equip themselves for potential injuries.

Having Greg Roman as the offensive coordinator, and with his preference to build the offense around a powerful rushing attack, selecting Williams was not only good value, but it could turn out to be one of the better selections made during the 2016 draft in the years that follow.

Miami Dolphins – Jakeem Grant, WR 6th rd. 11th pick (#186 overall)

Former Texas Tech receiver/speed demon Jakeem Grant is a player who is small in stature (5’6” 165 lbs.) but has a big presence on the field, as he plays the game without fear and was one of the most electrifying players in college football last year. Grant led the Big-12 conference with 90 receptions last season to go along with 1,268 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. While on kick-offs Grant average 26.1 yards a return with two touchdowns.

Grant’s calling card is his speed and quickness, patterning his game after Darren Sproles and Tavon Austin, which is why he was disappointed to not receive a scouting combine invite as he had planned on breaking Chris Johnson’s record forty time (4.24). At the Texas Tech Pro Day various hand times had Grant posting forty-times anywhere from 4.10 to 4.38. For the record grant believes he is closer to a time of 4.10 than a 4.38

Grant is also not lacking in confidence as he told the media, at the recent Dolphins rookie camp, that he plans on lining up at wide receiver in the NFL, and does not see himself as just a specialist.

Whether he makes an impact on Miami’s offense is yet to be determined, but Grant will most likely have a positive effect on the Dolphins special teams unit. Not only is Grant dangerous with the ball in his hands on kick-off returns (had four KO return touchdowns in college) but his presence will also allow the coaches to remove receiver Jarvis Landry off punt return duty which will give him less exposure to big hits and make him less susceptible to injuries suffered while playing special teams.

New England Patriots – Malcolm Mitchell, WR 4th rd. 14th pick (#112 overall)

The Patriots undeniably knocked it out of the park with the selection of Malcolm Mitchell in the fourth round. Look for Mitchell too quickly garner Tom Brady’s confidence and give him a receiver on the outside who he can rely on to make plays for him.

Mitchell’s ability to go up and make a play on the ball in traffic is something Brady hasn’t really had at the receiver position. Although he is just six feet tall, Mitchell has long arms (33 inches) and big hands (10 ½) coupled with a 36 inch vertical, and that allows him to win those 50/50 balls downfield. Mitchell’s speed along with his route running, and run after the catch toughness will allow the Patriots to utilize him in a number of different ways within multiple sets. Mitchell’s character both on and off the field along with the toughness he will bring to the receivers group is sure to make him a fan favorite as well.

Concerns over Mitchell’s size and durability, as he has missed a number games with both minor and major injuries (torn right meniscus and ACL), allowed him to drop to New England in the fourth round.

Bill Belichick and the New England coaches will absolutely love the character, toughness, and versatility (started three games at cornerback in 2012) that Mitchell will bring to the team. If he manages to stay healthy there is no doubt in my mind that he will develop into a nice offensive weapon for the Patriots.

New York Jets – Charone Peake, WR 7th rd. 20th pick (#241 overall)

On paper Charone Peake’s size speed ratio would lead you to believe that he would have been drafted much higher than the 241st overall selection, but to the delight of the Jets Peake was available for them to select in the seventh round.

What may have contributed to Peake’s fall was that for the better part of his years at Clemson it seemed like he was always either playing behind a future NFL receiver or hurt. With players like Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Martavis Bryant all ahead of Peake on the depth chart seeing some meaningful snaps was not easy. Add to it the fact that two games into the 2013 season he tore his left ACL, then in the Summer of 2014 he tore the meniscus in the same knee. The two injuries caused Peake to miss a total of 18 games in two seasons.

As previously mentioned, Peake has a great combination of size, length, and speed. He possesses terrific arm length, giving the quarterback a big target to throw to. Peake does a nice job of eating up a corners cushion with his long strides, before turning on the jets and simply running right by them with pure speed. He displays good concentration downfield hauling in a long pass over his shoulders, and looking the ball it into his hands. On film Peake does a good job of adjusting to back shoulder throws and catching the ball cleanly with his hands.

With the Jets often liking to utilize three and four receiver sets on offense Peake will be given every opportunity to play and contribute as a rookie. As long as Peake can stay healthy he has the talent and skill level to continue the recent string of former Clemson Tigers turned big-play NFL wide receivers.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1162 Words

Two-Round Mock Draft

With the 2016 NFL draft less than 24 hours away here is my take on how the first two-rounds of the draft might play out.

1. LA Rams: Jared Goff, QB, California

Rams make the big splash and trade up to the top spot to select local boy Jared Goff and make him the face

With the 2016 NFL draft less than 24 hours away here is my take on how the first two-rounds of the draft might play out.

1. LA Rams: Jared Goff, QB, California

Rams make the big splash and trade up to the top spot to select local boy Jared Goff and make him the face of the franchise.

2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, NDSU

Eagles take my top rated quarterback in Wentz. Even with the limited amount of starts at NDSU, Wentz played in a Pro-Style system and is the most ready to play signal caller between he and Goff.

3. San Diego Chargers: DeForest Buckner, DT, Oregon

Rumored to be taking an offensive tackle to protect Phillip Rivers, the Chargers decide to go defense and take Oregon’s Buckner. Where he will be a building block along the Chargers defensive front.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

The need pick here would have been Bosa, but the Cowboys go with the top defensive back in the draft in Ramsey, who when paired with last year’s first rounder Byron Jones, gives Dallas two very versatile and athletic back-half defenders.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

If Myles Jack’s knee was 100% healthy he would be the pick here, but Gus Bradley and GM David Caldwell can’t afford to have their last two top picks both be entering 2016 coming off major need surgeries. So they “settle” for Bosa who could be one of the draft’s better pass rushers.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens have the top offensive lineman fall down to them filling a major need. They wanted a pass rusher but with Bosa and Buckner gone they opt to protect Joe Flacco’s blindside.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

The draft’s first “Wow” moment comes here when Chip Kelly picks his quarterback in Paxton Lynch. This selection should be followed shortly by a trade of Colin Kaepernick to another team. Lynch has length, arm strength, and mobility to go along with good accuracy downfield. He will need some time to adjust and might not play right away, but he will be a very good NFL quarterback.

8. Miami Dolphins(via Trade With Cleveland): Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

The Dolphins will trade back-up into the spot they had previously held and shipped off to the Eagles as a part of the Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso trade to select Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. The former Buckeye will fill a major need for Miami and also help alleviate some of the offensive burden off the shoulders of Ryan Tannehill.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Tampa Bay selects the local kid Hargreaves to help improve a secondary that allowed 31 passing touchdowns last season. There are some rumblings that the Bucs might go with Sheldon Rankins at this spot, to help improve their interior pass rush so this pick might still in flux.

10. New York Giants: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

The Giants stop the Myles Jack fall and select the UCLA linebacker. Jack is one of the most talented defensive playmakers in this draft and if it was not for the uncertainty surrounding the knee he would not have been available for New York. Meantime the Giants are ecstatic to get Jack and add him to a defense that, if you factor in their free agent acquisitions, should be an improved unit next season.

11. Chicago Bears: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

With their free agent acquisitions, that helped fill holes on both offense and defense, the Bears have the luxury of picking the best available player at this spot, and that happens to be Stanley. The former Golden Domer will come in and compete right away with last year’s starter Charles Leno for the starting left tackle position.

12. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

Saints look to improve their interior pass rush by selecting Rankins, who down at the Senior Bowl practices was unblock able in one-on-one pass protection drills. Rankins interior push should complement the outside rush provided by Cameron Jordan.

13. Cleveland Browns(via Trade with Miami): Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

Rumors are that the Browns might still look to move down from this spot to try and collect more picks, but if they stay here they select Conklin out of Michigan State to play right tackle and fill the void left by Mitchell Schwartz departure to Kansas City.

14. Oakland Raiders: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

GM Reggie McKenzie gambles here on talent and goes with Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche who, if he can eliminate his off-field distractions, can be one of the most talented defensive line prospects in this draft. The Raiders will rely heavily on Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr, and Defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, to motivate and bring out the best in Nkemdiche.

15. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

The Titans were expected to go offensive lineman here, but instead go with the best player available and give defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau another weapon on defense with Floyd. Floyd can lineup at linebacker or defensive end, and will add speed and quickness to the Titans defensive front.

16. Detroit Lions: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Detroit fills a major need at right tackle with the selection of Decker, who should start right away. The Lions had journeyman Michael Ola start seven games at right tackle last season.

17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

One of the fastest linebackers in Darron Lee goes to the Falcons whose head coach emphasizes speed, speed, and more speed on defense. Seems like a perfect fit for me.

18. Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Alabama center Ryan Kelly is one of the best interior lineman in this draft, and he will help try solidify a unit that almost got Andrew Luck killed last season.

19. Buffalo Bills: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

Buffalo finds a running mate for underrated inside linebacker Preston Brown, while Rex Ryan also gains a defensive leader and future defensive captain in Ragland. Having been coached by Nick Saban at Alabama Ragland comes to the NFL well-prepared and should make an immediate contribution.

20. New York Jets: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Another “Wow” moment happens here when the Jets go with TCU receiver Josh Doctson. With starters Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker having good seasons last year, the Jets look to add some depth and talent behind them. Doctson increased his stock immensely at the scouting combine where he displayed better speed than anticipated and some terrific lower body explosiveness.

21. Washington Redskins: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

The Redskins add a talented run defender in Reed who, just like Ragland, comes well-coached and prepared for the NFL by Alabama’s Nick Saban.

22. Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

Houston continues adding to their offense this off season by selecting Baylor’s speedy playmaker Corey Coleman. Coleman will give the Texans offense the element of speed which will help draw some of the attention away from DeAndre Hopkins on the other side.

23. Minnesota Vikings: LaQuon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Minnesota gets lucky and has what many might consider the best receiver in the draft drop right to them. Treadwell will help balance out the Vikings offensive attack by supplying size on the outside and in the red zone. He will be a good compliment for the quicker and shiftier Stefon Diggs on the opposite side of the formation.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

Seeing a run on receivers happen right before their pick, Cincinnati goes on the defensive and selects the third Crimson Tide defensive player in this first round in Robinson. Robinson, who looks like he is 40 years old, is just 21 years old and at the moment is a better run defender than pass rusher. With the Bengals he will have a chance to back-up and learn from one of the best defensive tackles in football in Geno Atkins, who can help Robinson improve as a pass rusher.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia

Rumors are that head coach Mike Tomlin loves Joseph and has banged the table for him in predraft meetings. As long as the knee checks out medically, the Steelers will have selected one of the most underrated players in the draft.

26. Seattle Seahawks: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

Big, long corner who can play zone or man-to-man and likes to get his hands on a receiver, Eli Apple sounds tailor made to be a Seattle Seahawk and the newest member of the Legion-of-Boom.

27. Green Bay Packer: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

Packers look to fill the void left by BJ Raji’s retirement with Vernon Butler. Butler has the size, strength, arm length, and power coupled with quickness not usually seen with players his size to play any position along the defensive line.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: William Jackson III, CB, Houston

Losing Sean Smith to the Raiders forces the Chiefs to go cornerback in the first round for the second year in a row. Jackson is a press corner, who needs to add strength, but has shown to have good ball skills.

29. Arizona Cardinals: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Having added Chandler Jones in a trade earlier this off season pass rusher was not a dire need, but in this case Lawson was too good to pass up. Lawson is the type of physical defender that GM Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians love having on their defense.

30. Carolina Panthers: Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Losing Josh Norman, coupled with the possible retirement of Charles Tillman made cornerback a vital position of need for Carolina. Burns has good size with long arms and is comfortable in either press or zone coverage.

31. Denver Broncos: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M

The defending Super Bowl Champions look to add to their offensive line with A&M’s Ifedi. He is a massive, well-built thick bodied offensive right tackle who eventually might be moved inside to guard. Ifedi would be able to backup two positions along the offensive line, or possibly start inside for Denver as a rookie.

Second Round

1. Cleveland Browns: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
2. Tennessee Titans: Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
3. Dallas Cowboys: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
4. San Diego Chargers: Noah Spence, Edge, Eastern Kentucky
5. Baltimore Ravens: Emmanuel Ogbah, Edge, Oklahoma State
6. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mackenzie Alexander, CB, Clemson
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
9. New York Giants: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
10. Chicago Bears: Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
11. Miami Dolphins: Keanu Neal, S, Florida
12. Tennessee Titans: TJ Green, DB, Clemson
13. Oakland Raiders: Su’a Cravens, S, USC
14. Tennessee Titans: Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
15. Detroit Lions: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
16. New Orleans Saints: Cody Whitehair, OG, Kansas State
17. Indianapolis Colts: Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
18. Buffalo Bills: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
19. Atlanta Falcons: Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State
20. New York Jets: Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State
21. Houston Texans: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
22. Washington Redskins: Darian Thompson, S, Boise State
23. Minnesota Vikings: Deion Jones, LB, LSU
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
25. Seattle Seahawks: Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame
26. Green Bay Packer: Nick Martin, OG/C, Notre Dame
27. Pittsburgh Steelers: Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
29. New England Patriots: Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
30. New England Patriots: Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
31. Carolina Panthers: Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State
32. Denver Broncos: Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1868 Words

Reviewing the 2015 NFL Draft: AFC South

Continuing with our review of the 2015 NFL Draft today were taking a look back at the AFC South division teams and their respective draft classes.

Here is a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies.

AFC East Review

NFC East Review

AFC North Review

Continuing with our review of the 2015 NFL Draft today were taking a look back at the AFC South division teams and their respective draft classes.

Here is a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies.

AFC East Review

NFC East Review

AFC North Review

NFC North Review

Here is a review of the AFC South Division:

Houston Texans

Biggest Impact – Kevin Johnson – Cornerback, Wake Forest, (1st rd. pick # 16 Overall)

Heading into the 2015 draft the feeling was that Houston would be looking to restock their wide receiver position with their early round selections, instead the Texans went defensive first with cornerback Kevin Johnson.

Johnson had a good rookie season finishing with 52 tackles, 9 passes defensed, and one interception. While his pre-draft reports raved about his quick feet, Johnson also possesses a smooth backpedal, and the ability to change directions with ease.
What impressed the coaches even more with Johnson was his willingness to learn, coupled with maturity, and toughness. Johnson displayed that toughness not only in his commitment to come up and support the run, but he played the final month of the season with a stress fracture in his in his foot. Johnson also broke his left wrist in the Texans playoff loss to the Chiefs, and although that was a blowout Johnson attempted to play through the injury in that game also.

Though Johnson was starting to get picked on by opponents towards the end of the season, his foot injury could have something to do with that, he along with veterans Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson give the Texans a nice trio of cornerbacks heading into next season.

Surprise Impact – Benardrick McKinney – Inside Linebacker, Mississippi St. (2nd rd. pick # 43 Overall)

After receiving his first start versus Tamp Bay in week three McKinney went on to finish the season as one of the starting inside linebackers, finishing with 35 tackles and a sack.
Once the Texans coaching staff inserted McKinney into the starting lineup at middle linebacker Houston’s run defense got better and the unit as a whole became stout versus the run and finished the season ranked in the top ten in run defense.
At 6’4” 246 pounds McKinney has the ideal size, speed (4.64), and athleticism (40 inch vertical) to succeed in the Texans system. As the season wore on McKinney displayed the instincts he has for the position and began to just read and react to what offenses were trying to do.

Least Impact – Jaelen Strong – Wide Receiver, Arizona St. (3rd rd. pick # 70 Overall)

When the Texans selected Strong he was seen as a possible replacement for the departed Andre Johnson. Strong possesses a solid build with strong hands, and while at Arizona State he showed the ability to go up and highpoint the ball with those hands; coming down with contested catches. Unfortunately for Strong his rookie season got off to a bumpy start when he reported to camp out of shape weighing 231 pounds.
Strong did not make much of an impact at the beginning of the season, and his lone highlight early on was the Hail Mary touchdown grab right before halftime in the Texans week 9 matchup with the Colts. Strong caught only 14 balls for 161 yards and three touchdowns on the season, with 11 of those receptions coming in the season’s final five games.
Once Strong improved his conditioning and lost some weight (got down to 197 pounds towards the end of the season) he improved his speed and quickness. After getting himself in better shape the Texans saw Strong making the type of impact on offense that they had envisioned when they drafted him. Strong’s improved showing at the end of the season give head Coach Bill O’Brien high hopes for Strong going into the 2016 season.

Indianapolis Colts

Biggest Impact – Henry Anderson, Defensive End, Stanford (3rd rd. pick # 93 Overall)

The Colts were able to find two starting defensive lineman on days two and three of the draft last year. One of those lineman was Anderson who, after defensive end Arthur Jones was lost due to injury, was inserted into the Colts starting lineup and started the first nine games of the season. Anderson was having a solid rookie year, quickly becoming one of the Colts better defensive players. Anderson was anchoring the Colts run defense up front as he put up 35 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, to go with 2 passes defensed and had started garnering some Defensive Rookie of the Year attention.

Unfortunately Anderson tore his ACL in the team’s week 9 victory versus the Broncos and was lost for the remainder of the season.

The good news for the Colts is that it appears Anderson is ahead of schedule in his rehab, although no timetable has been established for his return, he is expected back sometime during training camp and might be available at the start of next season.

Surprise Impact – David Parry, Defensive Tackle, Stanford (5th rd. pick # 151 Overall)

Parry is the other Stanford defensive lineman who made an impact for Indianapolis last year. The former walk-on at Stanford, who ended up becoming a two-year starter, started all 16 games at nose tackle for the Colts last season.
Parry added a rugged, hard-nosed, presence with a touch of nastiness to the Colts line upfront. He along with his Stanford roommate (Anderson) solidified the run defense and give the Colts two young defenders along that defensive line.

Least Impact – Phillip Dorsett, Wide Receiver, Miami (1st rd. pick # 29 Overall)

The second GM Ryan Grigson made Phillip Dorsett the Colts first round selection, bypassing some defensive options, the selection was immediately met with criticism from those who believed the Colts would have been better served adding to their defense in round one, and not the offense.

Dorsett couldn’t do much to silence those critics in his rookie season due to injuries and a lack of production. It started in preseason for Dorsett when he missed two games due to a knee contusion, and continued into the regular season where in the opener versus the Bills he muffed two punts early in the game. Then in week seven versus the Saints Dorsett suffered a fractured fibula in his left leg which caused him to miss the next five games taking away a big chunk of his rookie campaign.

Dorsett came back to play the final four games and finished with just 18 receptions, for 225 yards and just one touchdown.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Biggest Impact – T.J. Yeldon, Running Back, Alabama (2nd rd. pick # 36 Overall)

Yeldon made an immediate impact on the Jaguars offense rushing for 740 yards and 2 touchdowns, while catching 36 balls for 279 yards with one touchdown in just 12 games. With his rushing yardage Yeldon ranked third among rookie running backs. Yeldon was on pace for a 1,000 yard season if not for injuries costing him four games. Yeldon kept getting better as the year went on displaying the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and improving his pass blocking, proving to the coaching staff he can develop into a three-down back.

Surprise Impact – A.J. Cann, Guard, South Carolina (3rd rd. pick # 67 Overall)

Guard AJ Cann did not make his first start at right guard until week four after he replaced starter Brandon Linder who was lost for the season due to an injury. Cann would go on to make 13 starts for the season and impressed the coaches and management by responding well to just being thrown into the fire like that. Cann was credited with giving up just one sack all season, and displayed his strength in both the run game as well as pass protection. With his strong base Cann was stout versus bull rushers, while showing accelerated awareness in picking up stunts and helping chip when lineman played line games up front.

In fact the Jaguars were so pleased with Cann’s performance that they released guard Zane Beadles, who was a big ticket free agent for Jacksonville a couple off-seasons ago, to make room for Cann to start next season with Linder returning from his injury.

Least Impact – Dante Fowler Jr, Defensive End, Florida (1st rd. pick # 3 Overall)

The third overall selection in the draft was tabbed as a potential early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors right after the draft mainly due to his pass rushing ability and him being a perfect fit in Gus Bradley’s aggressive attacking defense. Unfortunately it was not to be as Fowler tore his left ACL an hour into his first mini-camp practice and was lost for the season.
Fowler has added ten pounds of muscle during his rehab and is expected to be ready to go for the start of training camp. Even though he didn’t play a down last season Fowler was kept around the team participating in meetings and helping cut-up some of the coaches game tapes. He is slotted to be the starting LEO end in the Jaguars base packages this coming season.

Tennessee Titans

Biggest Impact – Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon (1st rd. pick # 2 Overall)

There was no question who made the biggest impact on the Titans from last year’s draft class, as Tennessee was able to find their franchise quarterback and new face of the franchise in Marcus Mariota.

Mariota broke several franchise rookie records in 2015 including most touchdown passes (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818), and attempts (370) while playing in just 12 games.

Mariota also had three or more touchdown passes in four different games tying Peyton Manning (1998) as the only other rookie quarterback to accomplish the feat.
Mariota did miss four games due to two separate MCL knee sprains, partially due to the fact that the Titans allowed a league-high 54 sacks last season. That is why this off-season for Tennessee has been all about building an offensive line around Mariota and supplying him with weapons both on the outside and in the backfield.

Surprise Impact – Dorial Green-Beckham, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma (2nd rd. pick # 40 Overall)

Former Titans General Manager Ruston Webster took a gamble in the second round by selecting Green-Beckham who had sat out all of the previous season at Oklahoma due to NCAA transfer rules, right after he was kicked off the team at Missouri for off the field issues. Heading into the draft Green-Beckham had basically not played college football for almost two full seasons.

After his first season in the NFL it appears Webster’s gamble might pay off in the long run for the Titans. As a rookie Green-Beckham led all Titan receivers with 549 receiving yards, to go along with his four touchdowns and 17.2 yard per reception average.

Even though he struggled early on with dropped balls, blocking, and learning the offense Green-Beckham was able to take advantage of his size mismatch over shorter defenders and was able to get physical with them to win at the top of his routes. The fact he moves well for his size and has such length, which gives him a big catch radius, allows quarterbacks to feel comfortable knowing that by just getting the football in the vicinity of Green-Beckham chances are good he will come down with it.

Although Green-Beckham still has a ways to go in order to be considered a complete receiver, his rookie campaign was very encouraging for both him, and the Titans organization.

Least Impact – David Cobb, Running Back, Minnesota (5th rd. pick # 138 Overall)

David Cobb had done a nice job of drawing some positive attention from the coaching staff in the preseason, as it appeared the rookie out of Minnesota was going to have an opportunity to carry the ball some in the regular season. Unfortunately Cobb suffered a preseason calf injury that saw him get placed on short-term IR causing him to miss the first eight weeks of the season. When he did return Cobb was not given much of a chance to carry the football, until the season finale versus the Colts where he got his only start of the season and carried the ball 19 times for 73 yards scoring his first career touchdown in the process. Cobb finished his rookie season rushing for just 146 yards with that lone touchdown.
The Titans early this offseason acquired running back DeMarco Murray from the Eagles so Cobb’s chances of starting appear to be slim, but he is still going into the off season with the mindset that he will competing with Murray for the starting tailback position.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 2020 Words

Reviewing the 2015 NFL Draft: NFC North

Continuing with our review of the 2015 NFL Draft today were taking a look back at the NFC North division teams and their respective draft classes.

Here is a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies.

AFC East Review

NFC East Review

AFC North Review

Here is

Continuing with our review of the 2015 NFL Draft today were taking a look back at the NFC North division teams and their respective draft classes.

Here is a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies.

AFC East Review

NFC East Review

AFC North Review

Here is a review of the NFC North Division:

Chicago Bears

Biggest Impact – Eddie Goldman, Defensive Tackle Florida State (2nd rd. pick # 39 Overall)

General Manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox went into their first draft together looking to revamp the roster and add some building blocks on both sides of the ball. It seems like they found themselves a foundation player in defensive tackle Eddie Goldman. The second round pick started 12 games for Chicago and had 4.5 sacks to go along with 16 tackles. Coming out of Florida State the questions surrounding Goldman were whether he could generate enough of a pass rush up the middle or was he strictly a run-stuffer. Goldman’s improved hand technique along with his strength helped him become better at pressuring the quarterback, and his 4.5 sacks placed him in the top five in sacks for rookies. In 15 games Goldman played in 53.5 percent of defensive snaps for the Bears, and became a prominent player in the middle of their defensive line.
Goldman was selected to the 2015 All-Rookie team by the Pro Football Writers Association.

Surprise Impact – Adrian Amos, Free Safety Penn State (5thrd pick # 142 Overall)

Amos started all 16 games for the Bears at safety, playing the most snaps on defense (1,046) than any other defender finishing with 108 tackles, 4 pass break ups, and a sack. Amos entered OTA’s and training camp behind second-year player Brock Vereen, and veteran Ryan Mundy on the safety depth chart. Then after just one preseason game the coaches elevated him to starter and he never looked back. Amos was a four-year player at Penn State where he had started at cornerback, nickel, and safety. Amos proved to be a sound tackler and a terrific run support safety. The areas he will need to work on coming into next season are his coverage skills and making more plays on the ball.
Amos was named to both the PFWA and All-Rookie teams.

Least Impact – Kevin White, Wide Receiver West Virginia (1st rd. pick # 7 Overall)

White never saw the field in 2015 after a steel rod was inserted into his left tibia on August 23rd when it was discovered he had a stress fracture. The Bears placed White on short term Injured Reserve with the hopes he would come back towards the tail end of the season, but that never materialized.
Pace, at this year’s scouting combine, announced that White has been declared healthy and will participate in the off season program with his teammates this summer.

Detroit Lions

Biggest Impact – Laken Tomlinson, Guard Duke (1st rd. pick # 28 Overall)

The rookie out of Duke started week one for Detroit due to various injuries along the line. While struggling initially Tomlinson’s play started improving as the season went along, and he would go on to start 14 games as a rookie. Even though Tomlinson was thrown out there sooner than preferred by the Lions coaching staff, he was able to quickly pick up the system helping to solidifying the left guard position and assisted in providing Mathew Stafford a clean pocket to step up into when needed. Tomlinson looks to build on his successful rookie campaign and turn into a mainstay along the Lions offensive line.
Tomlinson was named to the All-Rookie Team.

Surprise Impact – Quandre Diggs, Defensive Back Texas (6th rd. pick # 200 Overall)

The University of Texas product, and brother of former NFL player Quentin Jammer, took over as the full-time nickel corner when Josh Wilson was lost for the season. Diggs played well covering the slot receiver displaying his high football IQ, toughness, and ability to tackle. Diggs ended up starting four games and finished with 6 passes defensed, two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Diggs was able to impress his veteran teammates with the way he stepped into the lineup without blinking, showing that the spotlight was not too much for him. With Detroit anticipating being in their nickel base defense for about 70 – 75 % of the time next season look for Diggs to continue getting extended playing time in the Lions defensive secondary.

Least Impact – Alex Carter, Defensive Back Stanford (3rd rd. pick # 80 Overall)

Carter injured his ankle in the preseason and was placed on short-term injured reserve to start the regular season. When he was eligible to return the Lions staff deemed Carter too far behind to help this season as the injury and Stanford’s schedule caused Carter to miss most of the OTA’s and training camp. With veteran Rashean Mathis retiring, following the 2015 season, Carter will be looked upon as one of the players to help replace Mathis heading into next season.

Green Bay Packers

Biggest Impact – Damarious Randall, Defensive Back, Arizona State (1st rd. pick # 30 Overall)

It became obvious early on in the draft that GM Ted Thompson was intent on rebuilding the Packers defensive secondary by using his top two selections on defensive backs. Randall, who had played both corner and free safety at Arizona State, was Thompson’s first round selection, and he was widely considered to have been the best cover safety coming into last year’s draft. The Packers early on in training camp had decided to move Randall back to corner to help offset the loss of Tramon Williams to Cleveland. Randall started the season strong and blossomed into a reliable, playmaking, cover corner for Green Bay. He started nine games and displayed terrific athleticism and ball skills, making three interceptions with 14 passes defensed. Randall’s emergence allowed the Pack to move Casey Heyward back inside to cover the slot where he appeared to be more comfortable.
Randall’s play fell off a bit down the stretch, but the Packers coaches still have him penciled in as the starter coming into next season opposite Sam Shields. Randall plays with an aggressive demeanor and a mentality that no one should be able to catch a ball against him.

Surprise Impact – Quinten Rollins, Defensive Back, Miami of Ohio (2nd rd. pick # 62 Overall)

Quinten Rollins was a former basketball player at Miami of Ohio who had made the switch to football the previous season. In just once season of football for the Redhawks Rollins showed good quickness, ability to change directions, and playmaking skills, as he led the team with seven interceptions in just 12 games. Prior to that he had played four-years of basketball with no football experience since high school, so it was a bit of a surprise that Green Bay used a second round selection on Rollins.
Rollins saw limited playing time initially, but towards the tail end of the season he displayed terrific football skills ending the season with 24 tackles, two interceptions, one sack, six passes defensed, and one interception return for a touchdown. Rollins came in and learned to play three different positions in the Packers secondary, the nickel, dime and outside corner. Rollins late season emergence made former Packer Casey Heyward expendable this offseason, and he will head into 2016 looking to be the starting nickel back for Dom Capers defensive unit.

Least Impact – Ty Montgomery, Wide Receiver, Stanford (3rd rd. pick # 94 Overall)

A high ankle sprained ended Montgomery’s rookie season after just six games. Montgomery had impressed coaches with a solid work ethic plus his football intelligence and preceding the injury was seeing more snaps on offense. Prior to that most of his action was mainly via special teams where he averaged 31.1 yards a return on seven chances.
The Packers are still hopeful that next season Montgomery will have a bigger role on offense and continue to impact and improve the return game.

Minnesota Vikings

Biggest Impact – Eric Kendricks, Middle Linebacker, UCLA (2nd rd. pick # 45 Overall)

General Manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer continue to rebuild the Vikings roster with fruitful drafts that bring in impact rookies. After drafting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and linebacker Anthony Barr in 2014 the Vikings added another core piece in middle linebacker Eric Kendricks in the 2015 draft.
Kendrick’s, who is the younger brother of the Eagles Mychal Kendricks, led the Vikings in tackles with 92, becoming the first rookie, since 1961, to do so. He took over the starting Mike backer position in the fourth game of the season after Minnesota traded linebacker Gerald Hodges to San Francisco. Prior to that he was strictly playing in the nickel defense where his speed was heavily used in coach Zimmer’s blitz packages. Kendricks demonstrated instincts, smarts, and sideline-to-sideline playmaking capability while his ability to cover made him a three-down linebacker.
Kendricks, who was named to the PFWA All-Rookie defensive team, had eight tackles and two passes defensed in Minnesota’s wildcard playoff loss to Seattle.

Surprise Impact – Stefon Diggs, Wide Receiver, Maryland (5th rd. pick # 146 Overall)

Diggs had some character and medical flags coming into the draft last year after being unable to complete a college football season in three years at Maryland due to a combination of injuries and suspensions. Minnesota took a chance on him in the fifth round and Diggs did not disappoint as he caught 52 balls for 720 yards and four touchdowns, this after not even dressing for the first three games of the season. Diggs, who is athletic and has an active body, made an impact on the Vikings offense lining up in the slot and outside the numbers. Going forward his best position is probably inside in the slot where he can use his toughness and quickness to continue to make plays.
Diggs was named to both the PFWA and All-Rookie Teams. While PFF listed him as the 25th best wide receiver last season, ahead of name players like Demaryius Thomas, Golden Tate, and Randall Cobb.

Least Impact – Trae Waynes, Defensive Back, Michigan State (1st rd. pick # 11 Overall)

When the Vikings used the eleventh overall selection on Waynes last year many were picking him as the early favorite to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Now here we are almost one year later and he is the one being tabbed for producing the least impact in his rookie season.
The 2015 season started off rough for Waynes when he was beaten out for the starting cornerback position, opposite Xavier Rhodes, by 37-year old Terrance Newman. Not only did Waynes lose the opportunity to start, he did not see a snap on defense until week three versus the Chargers. The coaching staff used him mainly on special teams, playing Trae in only 18% of the defensive snaps for the season.
The Vikings still see Waynes as a future starter, but acknowledged that he needs to work on his technique and also get in better position to make plays on the ball, heading into his second season.
On a positive note Waynes did record his first career interception, to go along with three tackles, and two passes defensed, in the Wildcard Playoff game versus the Seahawks.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1809 Words

Reviewing the 2015 NFL Draft : AFC North

Continuing with our review of the 2015 NFL Draft today were taking a look back at the AFC North division teams and their respective draft classes.
Here is a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies.

AFC East Review

NFC East Review

Here is a review

Continuing with our review of the 2015 NFL Draft today were taking a look back at the AFC North division teams and their respective draft classes.
Here is a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies.

AFC East Review

NFC East Review

Here is a review of the AFC North Division:

Baltimore Ravens

Biggest Impact – Za’Darius Smith, Outside Linebacker Kentucky (4th rd pick #122 Overall)

Smith saw action much earlier in the season than originally anticipated, after the Ravens lost Terrell Suggs to a knee injury on the opening weekend of the season. The former college defensive end turned outside linebacker was now the primary backup to starters Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw. Smith had his best games against Pittsburgh, the Ravens biggest division rivals. In two games versus the Steelers Smith had seven tackles, three sacks, and a tackle for loss. For the season as a whole Smith ended up with 29 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss. His totals are very similar to former Raven Pernell McPhee rookie totals (16 tackles, and 6 sacks) whom Smith was brought in to eventually replace after he signed with Chicago last off season.
With Courtney Upshaw an unrestricted free agent and still unsigned Smith will likely see his snap count increase next season even with a full return to health by Suggs.

Surprise Impact – Javorius Allen, Running Back USC (4th rd pick #125 Overall)

Javorius Allen took over the starting running back positon after Justin Forsett broke his arm in week 11. The following week Allen had his best all-around game of the season rushing for 63 yards on 17 carries while catching 12 balls for 101 yards and a touchdown against Miami. For the season Allen finished with 867 combined rushing and receiving yards to go along with three touchdowns. Allen runs hard and showed playmaking ability, especially as a pass catcher, out of the backfield. He will enter next season looking to build on his rookie experience and compete for carries with both Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro.

Least Impact – Breshad Perriman, Wide Receiver Central Florida (1st rd. pick #26 Overall)

Perriman’s rookie season was erased by a partially torn PCL ligament in his knee. Perriman injured the knee on the first day of training camp, but initial reports were that he would be back during the early portion of the regular season. Then prior to the Ravens week three matchup versus the Bengals Perriman tweaked the injury in warmups and ended up needing orthoscopic surgery which eventually landed him on injured reserve on November 17th.
The good news for the Ravens and Perriman is that he is expected to be healthy and cleared to participate in all of the Ravens off season activities.

Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest Impact – Tyler Kroft, Tight End Rutgers (3rd rd pick #85 Overall)

When the Bengals used a third round pick on essential a backup tight end many fans were surprised with the selection, but with the loss of Jermaine Gresham as a free agent and the in-season injuries to Tyler Eifert Kroft became a valuable member of the Bengals offensive unit. Kroft played in every game and made six starts on the season. On 14 targets Kroft had 11 receptions for 129 yards, averaging 11.7 yards per reception, with a touchdown.
Kroft showed that he was a reliable option in the passing game while also continue to work and improve his inline blocking. Teamed with Tyler Eifert, Kroft will give the Bengals a formidable tight end tandem going into next season. With free agency thinning out the Bengals depth at receiver it could lead to more passes going in the direction of both Eifert and Kroft in 2016.

Surprise Impact – Josh Shaw, Defensive Back USC (4th rd pick #120 Overall)

Prior to losing corner Darqueze Dennard for the season due to an injury in week 11, Shaw saw most of his action on Special Teams. Once Dennard was out Shaw was bumped up to fourth corner status on the roster. The more he played the more coaches started to trust Shaw and subsequently he saw more snaps on defense. Shaw made his first career start in week 14 versus the Steelers and was able to help limit Pittsburgh All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to seven receptions for just 87 yards.
Shaw offers versatility where he can play both at cornerback as well as safety in the Bengals defensive backfield. With both Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson still unsigned, Shaw could see extended snaps at either position if neither veteran is brought back.

Least Impact – Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle Texas A&M (1st rd pick #21 Overall)

When the Bengals used the 21st pick of the first round on Ogbuehi they knew chances were he was not going to be completely healthy going into the 2015 season. Ogbuehi, who had torn his ACL in A&M’s December 29th Liberty Bowl game versus West Virginia, started the season on the Non-Football Injury List. He was cleared to practice in November and was later elevated to the 53-man roster. He appeared in five games as a rookie and was mainly used as a backup swing tackle down the stretch.
With the loss of Andre Smith in free agency Ogbuehi will compete with second round pick Jake Fisher for the opportunity to start at right tackle for the Bengals next season.

Cleveland Browns

Biggest Impact – Duke Johnson, Running Back Miami (3rd rd pick #77 Overall)

Johnson’s rookie season got off to a slow start as a concussion and hamstring injuries caused him to miss most of training camp. When he returned to full health the Browns felt his impact on the field, most notably in the passing game where Johnson became a weapon out of the backfield. Johnson had 70 targets which were sixth most at the running back position, his 61 receptions trailed only Amari Cooper in terms of total receptions by a rookie last season. As a rusher Johnson had 104 carries for 379 yards averaging 3.6 yards a carry.
Johnson was lined up all over the field in multiple formations for the Browns last season. New head coach Hue Jackson was impressed with Johnson’s versatility and is probably envisioning a Giovanni Bernard type role for Duke in the Browns offense next season.

Surprise Impact – Nate Orchard, Outside Linebacker Utah (2nd rd pick # 51 Overall)

Orchard was another Browns rookie who struggled at the offset of the season. The problems started for Orchard back in training camp where he had some back issues flare up, and then continued into the regular season where at one point he was suffering from a little self-doubt.
Orchard was making the transition from defensive end in college, where he set a school record at Utah with 18.5 sacks, to outside linebacker in the NFL and it took him a little longer than anticipated to get accustomed to the switch. You saw the light go on for Orchard towards the tail end of the season when he notched his first multi-sack game against San Francisco. Orchard had started reacting to what his eyes were seeing rather than thinking and trying to processes what the offense was doing in his head. He finished the season with 24 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 passes defensed, an interception, and a forced fumble.

Least Impact – Cameron Erving, Center, FSU (1st rd pick # 19 Overall)

Erving was the second of the Browns first round picks in 2015. He was drafted as the center of the future in preparation for Pro Bowl center Alex Mack’s possible departure via free agency. Erving entered 2015 vying for the starting right guard position battling with veteran John Greco. Then during the season he was asked to start at left guard for the injured Joel Bitonio. In those two starts Erving gave up 2 sacks and 6 hurries while looking weak and uncoordinated, Erving was eventually benched during that second start.
Pro Football Focus rated Erving the 123rd guard out of 137, and designated him Cleveland’s worst offensive lineman.
With Mack moving on to Atlanta Erving will have an opportunity entering his second season to battle for the starting center position, but will need to improve his overall strength and clean up his technique.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest Impact – Bud Dupree, Outside Linebacker Kentucky (1st rd pick #22 Overall)

Bud Dupree was one of the bigger question marks heading into the 2015 draft as many talent evaluators just weren’t sure what they would be getting with him. While at Kentucky Dupree would show the speed and burst that allowed him to pressure quarterbacks and make plays in the opponent’s backfield, but then he would go consecutive series or sometime halves without making a single play. The Steelers took a chance on Dupree in the first round and they were rewarded with a solid rookie season.
Dupree showed off his burst and quickness right away collecting all four of his sacks within the first eight games of the season. Although he slowed down in the sack department Dupree continued to show up strong against the run and also displayed the ability to drop into coverage.
Dupree claimed the starting left outside linebacker position, after the Steelers bye following week 11, starting the final five games of the regular season as well as Pittsburgh two postseason games. named Dupree to their 2015 All-Rookie Team

Surprise Impact – Jesse James, Tight End Penn State (5th rd pick #160 Overall)

The rookie tight end struggled in training camp with his conditioning which led to some tough love from head coach Mike Tomlin. Then approximately at the half-way point of the season starting with the game against the Raiders James received more game action flashing glimpses of his ability to become an option in the Steelers high-powered passing attack. Then James stepped in and started two games in place of the injured Heath Miller gradually improving his blocking and again showing glimpses of future promise in the process
With Heath Miller retiring James, along with free agent signee Ladarius Green, will be looked upon to help fill the void left in the Steelers lineup.

Least Impact – Senquez Golson, Defensive Back Ole Miss (2nd rd pick #56 Overall)

The diminutive defensive back never played a snap in the regular season for the Steelers. Golson tore his labrum in the preseason and that ended his rookie campaign before it actually ever started.
The good news is that on January 1st Golson was cleared for full-contact and will participate in all of Pittsburgh off season activities.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1684 Words

Reviewing the 2015 NFL Draft: NFC East

Last week we kicked off our review of the 2015 NFL Draft by taking a look back at the AFC East division teams and their respective draft classes.
As we continue our review the NFC East is the division we look at this week. The Professional Football Writers of America All-Rookie team consisted

Last week we kicked off our review of the 2015 NFL Draft by taking a look back at the AFC East division teams and their respective draft classes.
As we continue our review the NFC East is the division we look at this week. The Professional Football Writers of America All-Rookie team consisted of three players who hailed from the NFC East.

Here is a review of the NFC East Division:

Washington Redskins

Biggest Impact – Brandon Scherff, Guard Iowa (1strd pick #5 Overall)

New General Manager Scot McCloughan surprised a number of Washington fans when he bypassed USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams and took Scherff with his first pick as the Redskins GM. The 300 pound Scherff, who played tackle at Iowa, was moved to right guard where he proceeded to start all 16 regular season games. Scherff’s rookie season had its typical rookie ups and downs in the beginning but once he settled into his new spot Scherff helped solidified the right side of the Redskins offensive line. Toward the tail end of the season Scherff was constantly drawing praise from both the coaches and his teammates for his solid play especially his run blocking. Profootball Focus rated Scherff as the 26th best guard in football last season.
The selection of Scherff was the start a very solid initial draft for McCloughan and his scouts.

Surprise Impact – Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver Duke (4thrd pick #105 Overall)

The fourth round pick out of Duke was initially thought to see most of his playing time on special teams during his rookie season. When injuries hit the receivers group Crowder was given an opportunity to get on the field and play some games at receiver. Starting with the week three game versus New York and ending with the season finale against Dallas Crowder averaged around six targets per game. He finished his rookie campaign with 59 receptions for 604 yards and two touchdowns playing in all 16 games with six starts. Crowder quickness and shiftiness in the slot gives the offense another weapon to go along with Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jordan Reed.

Least Impact – Matt Jones, Running Back Florida (3rd rd. pick #95 Overall)

The physical runner out of Florida was brought in to compliment veteran Alfred Morris in the Washington backfield. Jones busted out in week two versus the Rams with 123 yards in 19 attempts and two scores. Jones unfortunately was unable to duplicate that type of production the remainder of the season. After the St. Louis game Jones didn’t come anywhere near 100 yards in any other contest, and rushed for only 367 yards and one touchdown the rest of the season missing three games due to a hip injury.
Besides the hip injury Jones was also plagued with ball security issues as he lost four fumbles during the season. With Morris expected to leave via free agency Jones will be looked upon by the coaching staff to help pick up the slack and contend for the starting spot. If he is unable to stay healthy and learn to secure the ball it might turn into a short two year run for Jones in the nation’s capital.

Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest Impact – Jordan Hicks, Linebacker Texas (3rd rd pick #84 Overall)

In only eight games the rookie linebacker made his presence felt on the field for both the Eagles and their opponents. Hicks didn’t see a defensive snap in the opener, but injuries to Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans, forced Hicks into action and he responded with 50 tackles (43 solo), three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, two interceptions (one was returned for a touchdown) and a sack. His lone sack of the season resulted in Tony Romo breaking his collarbone, and causing him to miss a portion of the season.
Unfortunately Hicks tore his pectoral muscle in the Dallas game as well and was also lost for the season. The selection of Hicks in the third round was widely criticized as a reach, but it turned out that the hard hitting linebacker could turn out to be one of Chip Kelly’s better draft picks.

Surprise Impact – Eric Rowe, Defensive Back Utah (2ndrd pick #47 Overall)

Rowe was thrown into the lineup after corner Nolan Carroll broke his ankle versus the Lions. During that game Rowe found himself matched versus Calvin Johnson, and let’s just say it did not turn out well for the young man. Rowe was victimized for two touchdowns by Johnson in the Eagles 45-14 loss on Thanksgiving Day. The following week versus the Patriots Tom Brady targeted Rowe 12 times, but was only able to complete four passes for just 42 yards. That game versus Brady helped boost the rookie’s confidence and that carried on throughout the end of the season. According to Pro Football Focus Rowe was targeted a total of 58 times and gave up 30 completions and three touchdowns. So after surrendering the two scores to Johnson, Rowe only allowed one other touchdown in the next five games. In those five games Rowe faced receivers like DeSean Jackson, Michael Floyd, Sammy Watkins, and Odell Beckham Jr.
After the slow start, Rowe was able to recover nicely and gain confidence towards the tail end of the season. Heading into 2016 it looks like the Eagles have found themselves a young corner who possesses the size and speed needed to match up versus some of the better receivers in the NFL.

Least Impact – Nelson Agholor, Wide Receiver USC (1strd pick #20 Overall)

Heading into the 2015 NFL draft Agholor was being touted as being one of the better route runners, not named Amari Cooper, in the entire receivers group. He was considered by many to be one of the receivers who would be able to come in and contribute as a rookie. Unfortunately things did not work out that way for Agholor as he only had 23 receptions for 283 and one touchdown. He failed to record a 100 yard game in his rookie season, and never had more than three receptions in a game. Agholor missed three games in October due to an ankle injury, but according to Pro Football Focus still played in 687 snaps on offense. To participate in that amount of plays and have very little production to show for it is not what the Eagles were expecting for the 20th selection in the first round.

New York Giants

Biggest Impact – Landon Collins, Safety, Alabama (2nd rd pick #33 Overall)

When General Manager Jerry Reese traded three draft picks to Tennessee in order to move up and draft Collins he was hoping that he was adding a player to the defensive secondary that could develop into a building block on the defensive for the Giants, and so far after just one season it appears he accomplished just that. Although Collins had his struggles in coverage at times he bounced back and started all 16 games at free safety and finished up with 80 tackles, one interception, and nine passes defensed, to go along with one forced fumble. Collins was effective when used as a blitzer off the edge, but his primary strength was in defending the run. Pro Football Writers of America named Collins to their All-Rookie team.

Surprise Impact – Will Tye, Tight End Stony Brook (Undrafted Free Agent)

Will Tye is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Stony Brook who was with the Giants through training camp but was released after the first wave of cuts took place. He was later brought back and signed to the practice squad only to be promoted in October after Daniel Fells was lost for the season with a MRSA infection. Tye went on to play in all 13 games he was active in and started seven of them. He finished the season with 42 receptions for 464 yards and three touchdowns, and was also named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team. Tye will enter training camp this coming season looking to battle Larry Donnell for the starting tight end position.

Least Impact – Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Defensive End, UCLA (3rd rd pick # 74 Overall)

The defensive end out of UCLA was taken in the third round with hopes of helping reinvigorate the Giants pass rush. Unfortunately Odighizuwa battled injuries throughout the season missing the first three games with a foot injury, and was ultimately placed on injured reserve to finish out his rookie campaign. Odighizuwa appeared in only four games and recorded just two tackles.
Although disappointed with the lack of production and his inability to remain healthy the Giants still maintain high hopes for Odighizuwa and his potential to develop into a consistent pass rusher at defensive end.

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest Impact – Byron Jones, Corner/Safety, UCONN (1strd pick #27 Overall)

The versatile defensive back started games for the Cowboys at both cornerback and safety as a rookie.
Although he did not have any interceptions Jones did end up with 47 tackles and eight passes defensed while displaying his speed and athleticism in the Cowboys secondary. Going into next season the Cowboys have decided that leaving Jones at safety might be what’s best for both him and the team. The coaches feel that with the length and range Jones possesses that he could develop into a difference maker in the middle of the field. Jones versatility also allows him to be able to cover the slot or tight end whenever called upon. Suffice to say the Cowboys are excited and have high expectations for the type of safety Jones can develop into.

Surprise Impact – La’el Collins Guard LSU (Undrafted Free Agent)

La’el Collins was an All-American lineman at LSU who had a late first/early second round grade when the draft evaluation process began. Collins went undrafted mainly due to the fact his name was being linked to a murder investigation that came to the forefront the week leading up to the draft. Collins, who was questioned by the police, was eventually cleared in the investigation and that is when the Cowboys swooped in and signed him. Collins began the season as a backup to starting guard Ronald Leary. After the Cowboys bye week the decision was made to insert Collins into the starting lineup and he would go on to start 11 games. During that span Collins was able to demonstrate his power and athleticism as he made a number of powerful highlight reel blocks getting into the defenses second level. There was a Darren McFadden 45-yard run versus Green Bay where you see Collins get out in front throw Clinton-Dix to the ground and run step for step with the running back. The addition of Collins to an already strong Dallas offensive line that included three Pro Bowlers in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin made that unit even more formidable.

Least Impact – Randy Gregory, Defensive End Nebraska (2ndrd pick #60 Overall)

When the Cowboys drafted Gregory towards the tail end of the second round they knew they had to show some patience with a young man who is physically talented but has some issues off the field. Those patience were put to the test right away in Gregory’s rookie season. Gregory was never able to make an impact on the field for the Cowboys. He injured his ankle in the opener versus the Giants and would miss the next four games. When he came back he was unable to contribute on the field to warrant any sort of extended playing time. Gregory finished with zero sacks and just seven tackles on the season. Then to make matters worse just last month it was learned that he had been suspended by the league for the first four games of next season for failing another drug test. The fact he has to serve a suspension means that Gregory must have failed three additional drug test since the combine.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1912 Words

Reviewing the 2015 NFL Draft: AFC East

The completion of the 2015 NFL season was made official last Sunday after the Broncos defeated the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Every NFL team now has the 2015 season in their rearview mirror and are focusing on 2016 while preparing for NFL free agency and the draft. So what better time to take a quick

The completion of the 2015 NFL season was made official last Sunday after the Broncos defeated the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Every NFL team now has the 2015 season in their rearview mirror and are focusing on 2016 while preparing for NFL free agency and the draft. So what better time to take a quick peek back to examine how each team faired in last year’s draft. To see which rookie selection made the most impact, who surprised, and who needs to turn it up next year.
This by no means am I casting judgement on the 2015 draft class, as I operate with the belief that it takes three full seasons to honestly grade a draft. Instead this is just a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies.

Here is a review of the AFC East Division:

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Impact – Ronald Darby, Cornerback – Florida State (2nd rd pick #50 Overall)

With the Bills not having a first round pick heading into the draft they had to make sure their second round pick would be someone who could come in and contribute immediately. They accomplished just that with the selection of Darby from Florida State. The rookie corner started 15 games registering 68 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 21 passes defensed which was 5th highest in the league. Darby allowed only four touchdowns all season and was tabbed as the Defensive Rookie of the Year by ProFootballFocus. Darby teamed with Stephon Gilmore, and Leodis McKelvin give the Bills a nice compliment of corners heading into next season.

Surprise Impact – Karlos Williams, Running Back – Florida State (5th rd pick #155 Overall)

Coming into the 2015 season if we had predicted that a Bills running back would be tied for the overall team lead with nine touchdowns (7 rushing, 2 receiving) and his name was not LeSean McCoy most of you would have scoffed. That’s exactly what running back Karlos Williams did in his first season in Buffalo. Williams proved to be a terrific compliment to McCoy rushing for 517 yards averaging 5.6 yards a carry. Williams started three games for the Bills while McCoy sat due to various injuries. Williams also scored a touchdown in the first six games he saw action in, which tied a record set back in 1998 by former New England running back Robert Edwards. Williams and Edwards were the only two players to ever accomplish this feat.

Least Impact – Nick O’Leary, Tight End – Florida State (6th rd pick #194 Overall)

The former 2014 John Mackey Award winner and consensus All-American as a senior at Florida State got off to a rough start in his rookie year with the Bills. O’Leary saw limited action during training camp and the preseason and was subsequently cut at the tail end of camp and signed to the practice squad where he remained for most of the season. O’Leary was signed to the active roster for week 14 seeing action in four games catching one pass for just 37 yards.
The All-Time FSU leader among tight ends with 114 receptions, 1,491 yards and 18 touchdowns will need to improve his inline blocking if he hopes to work his way into the Bills rotation at tight end next season and see significant playing time.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest Impact – DeVante Parker, Wide Receiver – Louisville (1st rd pick #14 Overall)

Parker’s rookie season got off to a slow start after he had foot surgery in June and took longer than expected to get up to speed with the Dolphins playbook. In his first ten games Parker managed just four receptions for 49 yards.
Parker picked up the production in the final six games of the season and especially after fellow wide out Rishard Matthews was lost for the season due to a rib injury. From week 12 through 17 Parker started four games and caught 22 passes for 445 yards and three touchdowns culminating in his week 17 performance versus the Patriots were he finished with 106 yards and a touchdown. During that span Parker was averaging 11.2 yards per target which was fourth-highest among wide receivers who saw 25 or more targets.
Parker was one of the nation’s best deep threats his senior season at Louisville averaging 19.9 yards per reception. With the hiring of new head coach Adam Gase and his familiarity on how to use big receivers like Parker (i.e. Demaryius Thomas, Alshon Jeffery) look for his late season surge to continue into 2016.

Surprise Impact – Jay Ajayi, Running Back – Boise State (5th rd pick #149 Overall)

Ajayi was a highly rated running back coming out of Boise State prior to last year’s draft. Some evaluators had him ranked third behind Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon and if not for a medical test that showed he had no cartilage in his right knee Ajayi would have been selected higher than the 5th round.
Unfortunately for Ajayi and the Dolphins he suffered a cracked rib in Miami’s preseason finale and was forced to start the season on Short-term Injured reserve causing him to miss the first seven games of the season.
Ajayi was activated prior to week nine and in nine games had 49 carries for 187 yards and one touchdown. Although those are not eye-popping stats Ajayi, who was splitting carries with Lamar Miller, did show a powerful bruising running-style and the ability to sneak out of the backfield and catch passes.
With Miller set to become a free agent this offseason and the new coaching staff’s preference on utilizing more than one back look for Ajayi to have a bigger impact role in the Dolphins backfield next season.

Least Impact – Jordan Phillips, Defensive Tackle – Oklahoma (2nd rd pick #52 Overall)

The former Sooner defensive lineman started four games last season and played in 443 snaps along the Dolphins defensive line. Phillips made little to no impact up front even though he was playing alongside one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles in Ndamukong Suh. Phillips registered his first career sack in week one and ended the season with just two to along with his 19 tackles.
Pro Football Focus rated Phillips as the 105th defensive tackle last season. After his rookie campaign Phillips echoed the sentiment that had been whispered around the organization, that he needed to improve his attention to detail and will have to do a better job of preparing during the week.

New York Jets

Biggest Impact – Leonard Williams, Defensive Tackle – USC (1st rd pick #6 Overall)

Prior to last year’s draft Williams was often mentioned as a possibility to go anywhere between the second and fourth overall selections, the fact he lasted till the sixth pick was considered one of the surprises in the first round. Lucky for the Jets that Williams was indeed still on the board when their selection came up as later during the summer, right before training camp, they would find out that defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson would be suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season.
Williams helped fill the void left by Richardson’s absence at the start of the season along the Jets defensive line. Williams had 63 tackles, 4 sacks, 19 quarterback hits, and 30 hurries playing in nearly 800 snaps. According to Pro Football Focus Williams was one of the better run defenders as he registered 35 tackles resulting in a defensive stop, which was 14th most of any interior defensive player last season.
Heading into next season the coaches want Williams to become more of a factor on passing downs encouraging him to work on his technique and hand placement in hopes of generating a more consistent pass rush.

Surprise Impact – Lorenzo Mauldin, Linebacker – Louisville (3rd rd pick #82 Overall)

Mauldin played in 15 games his last season seeing action early on as a member of the special teams unit. It wasn’t until week eight versus Jacksonville, when he notched his first two sacks of his career, did Mauldin start receiving more snaps on defense. Against the Jaguars Mauldin displayed the ability to convert speed to power and provide consistent pressure on the quarterback. From then on Mauldin was predominately used as a rush specialist and ended up with 4 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and a forced fumble on the season.
The Jets are expecting Mauldin to have a bigger role on the team next season, but first he will need to work on his run defense along with dropping into coverage before expanding his playing time.

Least Impact – Devin Smith, Wide Receiver – Ohio State (2nd rd pick # 37 Overall)

After selecting Smith in the second round the Jets expected him to bring the element of speed and big play ability to their offense. Smith was figured to be the perfect complement to starters Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Smith was coming off a senior season at Ohio State where he scored 12 touchdowns and averaged a whopping 28.2 yards per reception.
Unfortunately Smith’s season started off bad when he suffered broken ribs and a partially punctured lung in training camp, costing him the preseason and the first two regular season games.
Then it got worse as Smith tore the ACL in his right knee in week 14 versus the Titans. Smith did manage to play in ten games catching only nine balls for 115 yards and a touchdown.

New England Patriots

Biggest Impact – Malcom Brown, Defensive Tackle – Texas (1st rd pick #32 Overall)

Malcom Brown dropping to the final pick of the first round was not something many expected to happen, in fact some had Brown projected going as high as the top ten. So when he fell to New England he was considered one of the steals of the first round. In New England Brown was looked upon to help fill the void left by the departure of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.
Brown had a solid rookie season coming on strong towards the end drawing praise from the coaches for his improvement in both fundamentals and technique. Brown started 12 games and finished with 48 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.
Starting in week 11 and on Brown played in over 50 % of the defensive snaps and towards the end of the season had emerged as the top defensive tackle on the team.

Surprise Impact – Shaq Mason and Tre Jackson Guards (4th rd picks #131 & # 111 Overall)

The Patriots dealt with a number of injuries along the offensive line this past season and had to rely heavily on these two fourth round picks. Mason and Jackson started a combined 19 games between them, and were part of a three-man rotation, along with Josh Kline, at guard for New England most of the season.

Both Mason and Jackson are powerful at the point-of-contact, show good balance and can play with leverage. Mason is more athletic of the two, and is able to quickly get to the defenses second level. Mason also came from a run-heavy offense in Georgia Tech so his run blocking was a bit more advanced than Jackson’s. Jackson played in 54 % of the offensive snaps while Mason tallied about 66 %. Both players look to be long term starters on the inside of the Patriots offensive line come next season.

Least Impact – Jordan Richards, Safety – Stanford (2nd rd pick #64 Overall)

When the Patriots used the 64th overall selection on Stanford safety Jordan Richards, the feeling was they had reached on a player who many had a fourth to fifth round grade on. Although Richards played in 14 regular season games and made two starts, he had minimal impact in any games of consequence for the Pats. Richards was unable to find consistent playing time even though New England was dealing with a number of injuries to their defensive backfield.

Praised by veteran teammates for his maturity, instincts, and speed Richards still has a chance to develop into a starting caliber player for New England. As for his rookie season though, he finished with just 14 tackles, two passes defensed and zero interceptions.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1923 Words

Three Unheralded Acquisitions Who Have Made Big Contributions to These Contenders

The start of the new NFL league year in March signals not only a new beginning to an upcoming season, but it also starts the NFL version of Free agent frenzy. A lot of the bigger name free agents are usually swooped up almost immediately with tons of guaranteed money being dished out, millionaire owners

The start of the new NFL league year in March signals not only a new beginning to an upcoming season, but it also starts the NFL version of Free agent frenzy. A lot of the bigger name free agents are usually swooped up almost immediately with tons of guaranteed money being dished out, millionaire owners and their private jets flying players in and out of town. What we have come to learn though with free agency is that a lot of times it’s not the bigger name players that make the biggest impact instead it’s the “Under the Radar” moves that pay big dividends for teams throughout the regular season and into January.
Here are three acquisitions that may not have grabbed headlines when they came across the transaction wire, but have sure made significant impact to their respective team’s success and contender status.

DeAngelo Williams, RB – Pittsburgh Steelers

When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed the former Carolina Panther this past offseason the move was met with a collective “Meh”. The consensus was that it was a decent signing, a veteran back-up for All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell and someone who would be adequate in the season’s first two game to help fill-in while Bell served a two game suspension.
Fast forward now after fifteen weeks of the 2015 season, with the Steelers heading down the home stretch battling to make the playoffs many consider Williams possibly the teams MVP. Not only did Williams fill in admirably for Bell in the first two weeks of the season by rushing for over two-hundred yards and three touchdowns, but after Bell was injured in week eight and was lost for the season, Williams stepped in and the Steelers rushing attack has not skipped a beat.
Williams, who currently stands 12th overall among rushing leaders, has 773 yards and eight touchdowns on the season, and is on pace to become the first running back to rush over 1,000 yards in a season who is over the age of thirty, since 2009. The last runner to accomplish this was Ricky Williams who was 32 when he did it.
DeAngelo Williams came into the season accepting the backup role but was still preparing as if he was going to be a starting running back. Williams who was the Carolina Panthers first round pick (27th overall) back in 2006 has compiled over 7,000 yards and well over 50 touchdowns over his career.
Williams leadership and belief in himself, that he could still be a starting running back in the league, have been key components in keeping the ship afloat and offering up a solid rushing attack to compliment the Steelers dangerous passing attack led by Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and company. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield also was crucial in helping offset the loss of Bell, as Le’Veon is one of the more prolific pass catching backs out of the backfield.
With this past weekend’s beat down of the Bengals in the books, the Steelers gave the rest of the AFC notice that they are still a team to be reckoned with, and one that many may want to avoid come playoff time. Without DeAngelo Williams playing like he is this season, I am not sure that the Steelers would be considered a playoff contender at this point.

Kurt Coleman, S – Carolina Panthers

With the success the Carolina Panthers have had so far being the only undefeated team remaining much of the credit, and deservedly so, has gone to Cam Newton and the ascension he has made in becoming an MVP caliber quarterback. General Manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera have done a tremendous job in assembling a good team that is built around their quarterback and a defense that is physical and tough. One offseason acquisition that went unnoticed at the time but has played a major part in the Panthers success on that aforementioned defense was the signing of veteran safety Kurt Coleman. Teamed up with fellow veteran Roman Harper and coupled with the continued development of Josh Norman, Coleman and crew have solidified the backend of an already tough Panthers defensive squad.
Coleman, a six year veteran, was the seventh round selection of the Philadelphia Eagles out of Ohio State back in 2010. After four seasons as an Eagle, two of which he was a starter at free safety, Coleman moved on and played last season in Kansas City. Then in March of this year the Panthers came calling looking to replace their free agent bust in Thomas DeCoud and trying to shore up their back four defenders; Carolina signed Coleman to a two year deal. All Coleman has done is start every game this season, is second in the league with seven interceptions, and is well on his way to securing an invite to this year’s Pro Bowl. Coleman has a current interception streak of five games with at least one pick, having extending it with this past Sunday’s victory over the Falcons. Coming into this season Coleman had only ten interceptions in his career, so he has a chance to equal or surpass that total in his first season as a Panther.
Along with the interceptions Coleman has 69 tackles, one sack and nine passes defended this season. His ability to be able to play both safety positions along with his familiarity with the defense have been a blessing in disguise. Coleman played under current Panther defensive coordinator Sean McDermott back when both were in Philadelphia so he was well prepared for his transition to the Panthers. His ball hawking skills along with the ability to take charge and position players in their right spots in the secondary, to go along with Harper, have allowed an already formidable front seven be that much more attacking and physical.
There is plenty of praise to go around in Carolina this season as their magical undefeated tour heads into another week, but the signing of Coleman has become one of the hidden gems of the off season.

James Jones, WR – Green Bay Packers

Who said you can’t go back home again? That is exactly what James Jones did this season reuniting with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Head Coach Mike McCarthy in Green Bay and once again finding his big-play abilities. The reunion between Jones and the Packers seemed like a script out of a movie with two lost souls finding each other once again and living happily ever after.
The Packers had just been dealt a devastating blow in the preseason with the season long injury to receiver Jordy Nelson and needed to find a replacement for Nelson. Not just any replacement would do, they needed someone who could come in and pick up the sophisticated system run by McCarthy in quick order, and more importantly someone Rodgers would trust in throwing them the ball at crucial points in a ball game.
There was James Jones who just got released by the New York Giants at the end of training camp for reasons I am still trying to figure out. It was the second time within the calendar year Jones was surprisingly cut, as the Raiders let the nine year veteran go after he posted 73 catches with six touchdowns the season before. The Raiders had just drafted Amari Cooper, and signed veteran Michael Crabtree away from the 49ers so they found Jones expendable after just one season. Oakland had signed Jones away from Green Bay after he could not come to terms on a contract extension. Jones led the NFL with 14 touchdowns in 2012 and was coming off a season in 2013 were he was averaging fourteen yards a reception.
So the Packers signed Jones to the veterans minimum the Monday prior to the opener against Chicago in week one. All Jones did was go out and catch all four of his targets from Rodgers for 51 yards and two touchdowns in the victory versus the Bears. It felt like Jones had never left for the bay and that year and a half away was nothing but a mirage. Jones has gone on to catch 33 more passes from Rodgers for 660 yards and seven touchdowns overall. He leads the NFL with an 18.9 yards per reception average but more importantly has come back home and helped ease some of the sting of Nelson’s injury.
Although the Packers went through a bit of a lull recently which affected their offensive production they seemed to have righted the ship and are once again a top the NFC North and appear headed for another playoff run. That run will once again include James Jones, as one of the weapons at Aaron Rodgers disposal, back again where he seems to belong making big plays and scoring key touchdowns.

Read More 1401 Words

Manziel was a Mistake from the start for the Browns

Well the Johnny Manziel era as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland browns sure didn’t last long. Roughly a week after he was named the starter for the remainder of the 2015 season, Browns head coach Mike Pettine announced on Tuesday that not only Manziel would not start this week’s game versus Baltimore, but he

Well the Johnny Manziel era as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland browns sure didn’t last long. Roughly a week after he was named the starter for the remainder of the 2015 season, Browns head coach Mike Pettine announced on Tuesday that not only Manziel would not start this week’s game versus Baltimore, but he was now listed as the third string quarterback on the depth chart behind Austin Davis. This bold move by Pettine not only likely ends Manziel’s stay in Cleveland but it could also cost General Manager Ray Farmer and Pettine their jobs as well.

This latest firestorm Manziel finds himself caught up in stems from a recently released video which shows Manziel with a champagne bottle in his hand partying in Austin, Texas during the Browns’ bye week. Manziel, who earlier this year (Jan 28th), had checked himself into a rehab center to help sort out some of his off-field issues had been instructed in a meeting with Pettine prior to the bye to lay low and make sure to avoid causing this type of distraction.

Obviously, Manziel’s decision making off the field is still just as bad as it is on the field. What has me scratching my head is why did this video of Manziel apparently drinking and partying irk the Browns to the point that they not only benched him but demoted him, yet the incident that occurred with Manziel’s girlfriend in October, where he “allegedly” had been hitting her, was seemingly swept under the rug? I would just cut bait and release Manziel today, as there is no point to have a third string quarterback bring this much distraction to your organization.

The Browns made Manziel the 22nd overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, a decision that was both heralded and scrutinized at the same time. The ones who supported the pick were Browns’ majority owner Jimmy Haslam and a number of the Browns faithful who had visions of “Johnny Football” running around and making plays happen out of nothing like he did while he played for Texas A&M. The truth was that Manziel should have never been drafted in the first round (no quarterback under six feet should be) as his play with the Aggies, although exciting, was not NFL caliber. Manziel played in Kevin Sumlin’s spread offense where he had one read to make, and if that was not there, Manziel would scramble to buy time until a receiver (usually Mike Evans) would come free or make a play on a jump ball that Manziel would float up there. Many scouts and front office personnel had their doubts, as did I, that Manziel would be anything but a backup in the NFL.

Yet the Browns, namely Haslam, appeared enamored with the aura and popularity that Manziel brought with him. Manziel signed with LeBron James’s business partner Maverick Carter to represent him, which caused a bit of a stir in Cleveland. This move somehow seemed to give the fans, and apparently Haslam, the impression that if LeBron wants to be associated with Johnny Football, then he must be the real deal.

The decision to draft Manziel also cost the Browns the opportunity to potentially draft other quarterbacks like Teddy Bridgewater, David Carr, and Jimmy Garoppolo, all whom were drafted after Manziel and all whom were highly rated prospects. Any one of those three quarterbacks would have been a better selection and would have given Mike Pettine and his staff a fighting chance. Instead, an overzealous owner got caught up in the hype that surrounded “Johnny Football” ignoring the off-field distractions and the on-field limitations just to make a splash. As it stands now, Pettine, who by all accounts appears to be a good coach, most likely will be fired at the end of the season along with general manager Sam Farmer because they were unsuccessful in getting a third string quarterback to grow up and act like a professional.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 624 Words

It is Time to Recognize Ron Rivera as One of the Best Head Coaches in Football

The Carolina Panthers have started off the 2015 season 6 - 0 and have so far been one of the early surprise teams thus far. The back to back NFC South division champions have overcome a number of injuries to a number of starters but have continued to pull out victories led by a tough

The Carolina Panthers have started off the 2015 season 6 – 0 and have so far been one of the early surprise teams thus far. The back to back NFC South division champions have overcome a number of injuries to a number of starters but have continued to pull out victories led by a tough defense, opportunistic offense, and head coach Ron Rivera.

Since taking over the head coaching position with the Panthers back in 2011, Rivera has led Carolina to two division titles, a playoff victory, and a record of 37 – 31 -1. Under Rivera the Panthers were the first repeat NFC South division winner since the realignment back in 2002.  They won their first division title back in 2013, the same year Rivera was named NFL Coach of the year.

Rivera, who is the son of a U.S. Military officer, brings a lot of the same military discipline to the teams he coaches. His teams are disciplined as they are continually one of the least penalized teams in the NFL, and have a lot of structure as everyone knows who the leaders on the team are and who is running the show. Rivera’s calling card as a coach has been tough, aggressive defenses, which makes sense since his biggest coaching influences were Buddy Ryan and Jim Johnson. Rivera played under Ryan during his playing career in Chicago. Ryan was the architect of the famed “46 defense” that the 1985 Bears used to propel them to their Super Bowl XX victory over the Patriots. Rivera coached linebackers under Jim Johnson in Philadelphia, and picked up some of the aggressive and exotic blitz packages Johnson employed as the Eagles defensive coordinator.

With 27 seasons of NFL experience (18 as a coach and 9 as a player) Ron Rivera has been a member of 18 playoff teams, eight conference champions, and two super bowl teams. Rivera, who was a second round pick of Chicago back in 1984, played his entire career as a Bear (1984 – 1992). He started his coaching career in Chicago as well as a Defensive Quality Control coach in 1997-98. Then in 1999 Andy Reid hired him to coach linebackers and that is where he was able to study and learn under Jim Johnson. In 2004 Rivera went back to Chicago to become the defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith. After helping Chicago reach the Super Bowl in 2005 Rivera’s next stop was San Diego to again coach the linebackers this time under Norv Turner. The following season he was named the defensive coordinator for the Chargers and almost immediately you saw the difference he made in that unit. In 2010 the Chargers had the top ranked defense in the league and finished in the top five of eleven different statistical defensive categories despite the fact they had no players named to the pro bowl that season.

In 2011 he was named the head coach of the Panthers who were coming off a two win season. Right away Rivera set out to find his leaders/generals for both sides of the ball. With the first pick in 2011 they selected quarterback Cam Newton, and the following draft in 2012 they drafted linebacker Luke Kuechly. Both players would go on to win rookie of the year awards and both have been the type of leaders Rivera was seeking. They both are extensions of their head coach onto the field for their respective units.

The Panthers are molded into the team Rivera wants which revolves around a tough physical defense, and an offense that will pound the ball with its rushing attack, and take shots downfield once they have the opposing defense geared up to stuff the run. They are well coached and tough minded individuals that take on the personality of their head coach. There is nothing flashy about the Panthers and that’s just fine by them, as the only thing that matters is recording victories on Sundays.

Although Rivera won the NFL coach of the year award after the 2013 season, last season really displayed what type of coach and leader he is. The Panthers started the season facing adversity almost immediately as their All-Pro defensive end Greg Hardy was placed on the Commissioners exemption list, and was lost for the season. They started seven different offensive line combinations over a stretch of seven consecutive weeks. They had Cam Newton playing through ankle surgery, broken ribs, and a car accident. Even coach Rivera had to deal with off the field issues, as his house caught on fire and was burned down, causing him and his family to relocate as they prepped for a playoff game. Through all of that Carolina overcame a tough 3 – 8 – 1 start to the season and were able to reel off four straight victories to end the season and capture the division crown. The Panthers finished top ten in yards allowed on defense for the third straight season, joining San Francisco and Seattle as the only other teams to accomplish this feat. By winning their final four games of the season, Rivera improved his December record to 15 – 3, which is tied for the best mark since 2011.

Rivera and his team picked up where they left off in 2015 so far, having started the season unbeaten at 6 – 0, they have won ten consecutive regular season games. During their hot start the Panthers have won games with some of their key starters missing. Defensive end Charles Johnson, linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, linebacker A.J. Klein, and defensive end Jared Allen all have missed single and multiple games. That’s not even including starting wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin who was lost for the season back during training camp. Benjamin was expected to be a huge part of the offense as he was coming off a terrific rookie season where he caught 73 balls for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns.

Throughout all the injuries and any off field distraction the one constant in Carolina has been Ron Rivera and his coaching staff. Having beaten some highly respected coaches like Sean Payton, Pete Carrol, and Chip Kelly during their undefeated start it is time Ron Rivera gets his due and is recognized as one of the best head coaches in the NFL.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 979 Words

Could Sean Payton’s Time in New Orleans be Coming to an End ?

The Monday after the end of a NFL regular season is typically referred to as “Black Monday” in NFL media circles. As that has become the day teams usually fire their head coaches or in some cases their General Managers. Sadly this day has become one of the most anticipated dates on the NFL calendar

The Monday after the end of a NFL regular season is typically referred to as “Black Monday” in NFL media circles. As that has become the day teams usually fire their head coaches or in some cases their General Managers. Sadly this day has become one of the most anticipated dates on the NFL calendar similar to the start of free agency and the NFL Draft. Disgruntled fans of a team who have been yearning for a change at the head coaching position get to rejoice as the man or men who run their organization are given their walking papers.

Last season seven teams fired their respective head coaches, while five did the same the previous season. So, a little over a quarter of the 32 NFL teams have fired and hired new head coaches within the past two seasons.

With the expected dismissals there always seems to be a bombshell or two that catch many NFL fans by surprise. Last season the Broncos fired John Fox after they were eliminated from the playoffs, despite taking the Broncos to the Super Bowl the previous season. Fox complied a 46-18 record in four seasons in Denver. In 2013, the Browns fired their Head Coach Rob Chudzinski after just one season.

Although it is still early in the 2015 season, lists at present are being compiled of head coaches that may already be on the “Hot Seat”. One name you will not see on any early season list is Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints. What Payton has accomplished while he has been in New Orleans has been well documented. The thought of him actually being fired by the Saints would be unimaginable by most. So could there be a possibility that Sean Payton would no longer be the head coach in New Orleans starting in 2016?

I would like to preface by saying I am not advocating the firing of Sean Payton by the Saints, what I am stating is I can see a scenario where a split between Payton and the Saints might be coming this offseason.

Payton was hired by the Saints back in 2006 and since then he has a record of 80 – 50 for a .615 win-loss percentage. The Saints have won three division titles and a Super Bowl under his watch, while sustaining one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. Between 2006 through 2011 the Saints averaged ten wins a season, and appeared to be a well-oiled engine.

However in 2012, the Saints started to run into issues both on and off the field. That, of course, was the season Payton was suspended for the entire year for his attempts to cover up a system of extra cash payouts to the players better known as Bounty Gate. Since Bounty Gate it seems that the Saints have not been the same. Since 2012 the Saints have gone 25 – 25 (including this season’s record).

After starting last season winless in their first four games, Payton and the Saints made it a priority to get off to a much better start this season, but with Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Saints find themselves at 0-2 and as the only winless team in the NFC South Division. To make matters worse, star quarterback Drew Brees suffered a bruised rotator cuff injury that puts his availability in question for the next couple of weeks. Coupled with a defense that is giving up an average of 28 points a game the situation appears bleak at the moment in New Orleans.

If the Saints finish with a losing record and miss the playoffs for the second year in a row this could precipitate the start of a complete rebuild in New Orleans. The assumption is a rebuild by the franchise would include the release and trading of veteran players for both draft picks and salary cap savings. Presumably one of those veterans would be quarterback Drew Brees and his hefty contract. If this scenario does play out and a complete tear down and rebuild is what the Saints elect to do I don’t see Payton wanting to stick around and go through such a painful process. Making a split between the successful head coach and franchise a possibility.

If there is a divorce between the Saints and Sean Payton this coming offseason, he would not be out of a job for long; as he would top the list of every NFL franchise looking to hire a new head coach. Payton would have the opportunity to pick and choose the franchise and situation that best suits him.

There are a couple of NFL teams where I can envision openings lining up for Payton where he might be interested in pursuing.

The first opening could be in Indianapolis with the Colts. The Colts have also started 0-2 and head coach Chuck Pagano was already under the spotlight prior to the season even starting. Owner Jim Irsay and General Manager Ryan Grigson did not extend the contract of Pagano before the season, instead opting to let him enter the final year of his contract as a lame duck coach. With losses to both Buffalo and the Jets to start the season, both of whom were non-playoff qualifiers last season and both with new coaching staffs, the Colts have looked listless and uninterested in both games. To add more fuel to the fire a recent NFL Network report claimed that if Irsay does decide to jettison Pagano he would be ready to go “Big game hunting” and possibly change the structure of the organization. If this is true what other coach out there could Irsay get, that is not named Belichick, be bigger than Sean Payton?

Indy might just be the perfect spot for Payton if he were to leave New Orleans. With the Colts he would have his franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck (Payton will not go to a team who does not have a bonafide quarterback) and offensive weapons like T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Andre Johnson. He would play his home games inside a dome on artificial surface where traditionally his offense has had the most success. There would be an owner awaiting him with open arms and a bushel of cash. Plus the lure of heading back to the Midwest where he was raised might be tempting. Even though he was born in California, Payton was raised in Illinois where he went to Naperville High School then eventually ending up playing his college ball at Eastern Illinois University.

The Colts would appear to be a ready-made contender, with loads of talent just needing the right coach to guide them to a championship.

The other franchise I can see Payton having an interest in would be the N.Y. Giants. Just like the Saints and Colts, New York has also started off 0-2, with both losses being of the gut wrenching variety. In both games the Giants had double digit leads that they ended up squandering in the final quarters. Tom Coughlin has once again come under scrutiny about play calling by his coaches and costly mental errors from his players. The tabloids have already started writing about Coughlin’s job and possible replacements.

Payton, I feel, would jump at the opportunity to take the Giants job if it were to become available. First off he has history there, as he was the Giants quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator under Jim Fassel from 1999 – 2002. So he is well aware of the scrutiny that comes along with being the Giants head coach, and also the benefits and opportunities off the field when you win. He would have his quarterback in Eli Manning and once again offensive weapons to work with like Odell Beckham Jr., and Victor Cruz. Although the Giants roster is not as talented as the Colts, the lure of New York and all that comes with it might be too enticing for Payton to pass up. As widely respected as he is, Payton has never gotten his due as one of the better head coaches in the NFL. A lot can be attributed to the lack of publicity he draws working in New Orleans. In New York, Payton would have all the publicity he could handle and then some.  If Payton were to win and win big in New York with the Giants, he would join the “Mount Rushmore” of current NFL coaches like Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh, and Mike McCarthy.

Now if the Saints rattle of five wins in a row all this would become a moot point. However if they continue on their current downward trend big changes could be coming to the Big Easy. None bigger than losing one of the better head coaches in the NFL.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1410 Words

A Possible Destination for RGIII

With the recent news that the Washington Redskins named Kirk Cousins the starting quarterback for the 2015 season, the RGIII era in the nation’s capital may have finally been put to rest. Although head coach Jay Gruden refused to acknowledge it publicly, insisting that Griffin still had a future with the team, the writing has

With the recent news that the Washington Redskins named Kirk Cousins the starting quarterback for the 2015 season, the RGIII era in the nation’s capital may have finally been put to rest. Although head coach Jay Gruden refused to acknowledge it publicly, insisting that Griffin still had a future with the team, the writing has been on the wall for some time now. For Gruden to go back to Griffin now (assuming there are no injuries) could be viewed as a second-year coach yielding to the owners demands. This could lead players to question Gruden’s authority, and eventually cause him to lose the locker room.

The fall from grace for Griffin, who was the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year, has been well documented. After a terrific rookie season, in which he helped lead the Redskins to a 9-7 record, the NFC East Division crown, and the playoffs; injuries and ineffective play have been a significant part of his downfall in Washington.

Instead of looking back, we want to look ahead as to what might become of Griffin’s career and where might he have a chance to revive it. There are a number of opinions out there about where Griffin needs to go and who might be able to reach him and bring out his best. Suggestions that he needs to be with a quarterback friendly coach like Andy Reid in Kansas City, Chip Kelly with the Eagles, or Bruce Arians and the Cardinals are some of the popular options. On the other hand, some are openly questioning whether or not Griffin can ever become the player many projected when he was drafted second overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

My belief is that if placed on the right team RGIII can still have a productive career albeit maybe not an All-Pro one, but one where he can contribute to the success of a franchise. The situation in Washington has become too toxic for him to even attempt to rectify, instead Griffin and his representatives need to get him out of there as soon as possible. Griffin has done himself no favors by alienating many of his teammates in the locker room. It would appear Griffin will need to do some soul searching and determine what went wrong in Washington, and see how he can learn from the mistakes he made there. On the field, Griffin needs to go to a franchise where there is a dire need for a quarterback, one that already has someone who is the “face of the franchise”, and where he can blend in and not be the center of attention. My ideal situation for Griffin would be the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills have been trying to clean up their own mess at quarterback since Jim Kelly retired. The list of various quarterbacks who have taken snaps from center for the Bills includes the likes of Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards, Kyle Orton, and E.J. Manuel. On Monday head Coach Rex Ryan added another name to that prestigious list by naming Tyrod Taylor the starter for this season. The Bills may not be top of mind when it comes to possible future homes for Griffin, but in my opinion they might just be the perfect match.

In Head Coach Rex Ryan, RGIII would be playing for a defensive-minded coach for the first time in his career. What Ryan would lack in offensive prowess he more than makes up in charisma, personality, and charm. How this helps Griffin is that Ryan has already taken Buffalo by storm, and has essentially turned the Bills into “His” team. Griffin would not have to deal with the media glare and pressure of being the franchise savior, he would not have to be wary of saying something to the media that could be construed as being controversial or self-promoting. Instead Ryan’s presence and penchant to make bold and sometimes brash statements would help Griffin blend into the background and be – something he has never been before – just another player on the team.

In Buffalo Griffin would be surrounded with playmakers at the skill positons such as Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, Charles Clay, and a strong running game led by LeSean McCoy. In Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, Griffin would have a coach who is familiar with coordinating an offense structured around a mobile quarterback. Before joining Ryan in Buffalo, Roman helped develop Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. With that past experience in mind, Roman might be best suited to help Griffin get back to the form he showed his rookie year. With designed rollouts, quick slip screens, and a return to some read option plays, Roman would help limit the need for him to make reads while sitting in the pocket. Some of Griffin’s struggles as a pro, have been reading coverages and decision making while in the pocket. After his injuries the brain trust in Washington wanted to turn him into more of a pocket passer and limit him from having to run out and take unnecessary hits. Instead this hampered him as they went away from Griffin’s strengths, ones he displayed while playing for Art Briles at Baylor, which were utilizing his athleticism and the ability to make plays with his feet. Griffin has a very strong arm and has shown ability to throw on the run and deep with accuracy. With the Bills, Roman would once again have RGIII go back to playing more to his strengths as opposed to his weaknesses.

With the defensive unit the Bills are expected to have, the pressure for him to carry the load would no longer be there. Coupled with the strong running game the Bills should have, it would be asking RGIII to do less with more.

A divorce in Washington between Griffin and the Redskins is a necessity, no longer can the team and the player coexist. A glaring need at the quarterback position for a franchise looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 might just be the way to make everyone happy.

Although not the sexy or obvious choice, the Buffalo Bills might be THE best choice for Robert Griffin III to help resuscitate a once promising career.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1012 Words

Preseason notebook

With the first set of preseason games being played last week, it was good to finally have some football on our televisions. Every team has played at least one game now, and there were a couple of things that stuck out to me.

Nelson Agholor, Tyler Lockett, and Phillip Dorsett will give Amari Cooper stiff competition

With the first set of preseason games being played last week, it was good to finally have some football on our televisions. Every team has played at least one game now, and there were a couple of things that stuck out to me.

Nelson Agholor, Tyler Lockett, and Phillip Dorsett will give Amari Cooper stiff competition for Offensive Rookie of the Year

My early favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year is Amari Cooper. Watching the Raiders against the Rams featuring Cooper in their first handful of plays did nothing to change my mind. Cooper was targeted four times and made three catches for 22 yards in the first quarter. What was also impressive were the starts of three other rookie wide receivers in the Eagles’ Nelson Agholor, Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett, and the Colts’ Phillip Dorsett.

Nelson had an up and down game for the most part, as he did drop some balls, but also made a tough catch (thrown a bit too high), quickly turned, avoiding the defender, and sprinting up field for a 34-yard touchdown. Agholor was touted as one of the better route runners coming out of the draft and watching him cutting in and out of his routes on Saturday, you could see why. With his timed 4.42 speed, Nelson will be the primary deep threat for Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense. Nelson and second-year receiver Jordan Mathews look to be Sam Bradford’s main targets in Philadelphia, so he should see plenty of action.

Indianapolis Colts’ rookie Phillip Dorsett started their preseason opener versus the Eagles in place of T.Y. Hilton and caught four balls for 51 yards. Dorsett was more of an afterthought in Colts grand scheme of things heading into training camp. With Veterans Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, and the aforementioned Hilton, the Colts looked like they would not have enough balls to satisfy all their receivers. With the quickness and speed Dorsett displayed versus Philly, I can’t see how Coach Pagano and Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton can keep him off the field. Dorsett is so quick and has soft hands. I can see him eating up yards from the both the slot position as well as the outside. With Andrew Luck at quarterback, Dorsett has a leg up on the others in terms of playing with one of the best signal callers in the league.

Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks also had quite the coming out party. Drafted not only for his receiving ability but also his special teams’ skills, Lockett returned a kickoff for a 103-yard touchdown. In total, he had 186 kickoff return yards and 18 yards on his lone punt return. Obviously, Lockett will have a major impact on the Seahawks’ special teams unit, but what also needs to stressed and repeated with this young man is that he is a heck of a receiver. Listed at 5’10” 182lbs, Lockett has always had to fight off the “too small” stigma, even while putting up huge numbers in his final two seasons at Kansas State. Lockett had over 2,700 yards receiving and 22 touchdowns combined in his last two years in Manhattan, Kansas. Prior to the game, Lockett had already been drawing praise from the coaches for his route running and speed. He quite possibly landed in the perfect situation, between the head coach and coaching staff, to take advantage of his skills. If there is one thing Pete Carroll has made clear in the past, if you can play and produce on the field, no matter your size or draft status, he will find a way to use you. Lockett also does not have a number of established veterans to climb over on the depth chart.

The days of the Oakland Raiders being pushovers might be over

The Raiders are coming guys, and no, I am not referring to their possible relocation to Los Angeles. The Raiders have stockpiled some young talent on their roster and will no longer be marked as automatic wins on their opponents’ calendars.

Having gone 11-37 over the last three seasons (2012 – 2014) the Raiders have not been a very competitive team to say the least. The lone bright spot in those dismal seasons was the fact they were able to compile high draft picks in every round. Coupled with smart free agent signings, it appears they might be on their way back to being competitive.

Head Coach Jack Del Rio and his staff had the young Raiders flying around the field last Friday night versus St. Louis. With Derek Carr entering his second season, and the addition of wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Center Rodney Hudson, expectations were that the Raiders would take another step up on offense. What took me by surprise was how fast and physical the Raiders were on defense. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. had their players attacking from the start. With second year linebacker Khalil Mack leading the way, the Raiders were swarming to the ball carriers with their speed and gang tackling at every opportunity. Mack was not alone in his relentless pursuit. Joining him was fellow 2014 draft classmate Shelby Harris who had one sack and one tackle for loss. Not to be outdone, rookie linebacker Ben Heeney, a 2015 fifth round pick from Kansas, also registered eight tackles and a sack. In all, the Raiders finished the game with three sacks and seven tackles for loss.

Now I am not saying they will win their division or even finish above 500, but the last two draft classes put together by Reggie McKenzie have been very good, and the proof is on the field. Expectations are that 15 of the 18 players selected in the last two drafts (not including undrafted free agents) will make the final roster. The Raiders are building that young nucleus that will lead them back to prominence. With Derek Carr and Amari Cooper on offense and Khalil Mack and company on defense, the future appears to be very bright.

The Steelers could have the best offense in the NFL

It’s hard to imagine the Steelers having a better offense than what they displayed in 2014, when they had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. They finished in the top two overall for average yards per game (411.1) and total passing yards per game (305.9) and seventh overall in scoring offense (27.2). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a tremendous season, passing for 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns (all career highs). Wide receiver Antonio Brown had 129 receptions 1,698 yards and 13 TD, while running back Le’Veon Bell compiled 1,361 rushing yards, 854 receiving yards, and 11 TD.

Expecting Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell to repeat or come close to their 2014 stats is a bit unrealistic, especially when Bell will miss the first two games of the season serving a suspension. Where the improvement will come from is the added depth at running back and the continued development of their younger receivers.

The Steelers finally seem to have depth at running back with veteran DeAngelo Williams and second year speedster Dri Archer. Both will be asked to help fill the void in the running game for the first two games with Bell out. Williams was a terrific signing and will give the Steelers a dependable option as a backup to Le’Veon when he returns. Archer has speed to burn and will be used in a number of different formations that will be designed to get the ball in his hands in the open field. Both will allow Bell to stay fresh at the end of games and limit some of the physical punishment he absorbs.

Pittsburgh appears to have a spectacular and dynamic collection of wide receivers. With the aforementioned Antonio Brown leading this group, expect a huge year out of 2014 fourth round pick Martavis Bryant.

Bryant, who in 10 games last season had 549 yards and eight touchdowns, has size (6’4” 211lbs.) speed (4.42), and big play ability (21.1 yards per catch). With Antonio Brown drawing the primary focus of opposing defenses, Bryant will thrive with single coverage. With the continued development of Markus Wheaton, plus this year’s third round pick in Sammie Coates, the Steelers very well could have the best group of wide receivers in the NFL.

With Ben Roethlisberger coming off a career year in 2014, and entering his fourth season with Todd Haley as his offensive coordinator, the sky is the limit for the Steelers on offense. Roethlisberger has complete command of the offense and has become the unquestionable leader of that unit. During practice, he is not only coaching up and talking to the quarterbacks, but also the receivers, offensive line, and running backs.

Coming into coming into training camp, both Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley suggested that the Steelers can average 30 points a game this season by simply limiting the early season struggles they endured in 2014. After initially scoffing at the notion, I believe the Steelers have a legitimate chance at topping 2014 and will have the best offense in the NFL this season.

Tim Tebow Will Make the Eagles 53-man Roster

Leave it up to Chip Kelly to resuscitate Tebowmania, this time in city of brotherly love. Tebow played almost the entire second half versus the Colts on Saturday, seeing his first live game action since 2012, completing six of twelve passes for 69 yards. He also had a 15-yard touchdown run. Tebow had been working on speeding up his throwing motion and improving his accuracy from the pocket in order to enhance his chances of getting back in the league. Even though he made a couple of nice throws from the pocket, he still is not a NFL caliber quarterback in my books.

Yet, I still see Tebow making the Eagles’ final roster as the third quarterback and beating out Matt Barkley. No, this won’t be a publicity stunt by Kelly and the Eagles to try and drum up more media attention. Chip Kelly does not like the spot light. He just wants to coach football and he wants to do it his way. The reason Kelly will keep Tebow will be football related.

First, Chip Kelly believes in his offense and this offense revolves around the quarterback. Kelly wants accurate, athletic quarterbacks who can make quick, smart decisions with the ball. In starter Sam Bradford, he has the accurate and quick decision maker part down. He is just not athletic enough to buy time or create plays with his feet, especially after back-to-back knee surgeries. Tebow gives Kelly an option at quarterback that would replace Bradford in short yardage and goal line situations. My guess is Kelly already has a number of plays drawn up that will strictly be “Tebow Plays”. With both Ryan Mathews and Demarco Murray joining Tebow in the backfield, it would be difficult for defenses to determine who would get the ball pre-snap. This could give the Eagles one of the most efficient goal line offenses in the NFL.

Second, Kelly might feel having Tebow on the roster would give the Eagles an edge on their opponents. Even if Tebow is not active on game day, the opponent’s defensive coordinator still has to plan and prepare for him. They have to take time during the week of preparation and practice possible situations and plays that Tebow could run during a game. Some may argue that’s just gamesmanship, but to Kelly, it’s an advantage. The time they spend preparing for the possibility of Tebow playing is less time they prepare for the rest of the offense.

Chip Kelly has proven this offseason that he has a vision on how he will win in the NFL, and he does not care what anyone else may think. He has a plan, and in 2015, his plan will include Tim Tebow.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1905 Words

A Pivotal Season For Two Quarterbacks

The upcoming 2015 NFL season is important for a number of individuals across the league. Coaching jobs, careers, and generational wealth could all be determined in a single season. With that in mind, I have identified two starting quarterbacks for which 2015 could make or break their careers.


Sam Bradford – Philadelphia Eagles

When the

The upcoming 2015 NFL season is important for a number of individuals across the league. Coaching jobs, careers, and generational wealth could all be determined in a single season. With that in mind, I have identified two starting quarterbacks for which 2015 could make or break their careers.


Sam Bradford – Philadelphia Eagles

When the St. Louis Rams made Sam Bradford the top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, they were hoping that they had FINALLY found the man to replace Kurt Warner (no offense Marc Bulger). Bradford was a decorated collegiate quarterback who, as a redshirt sophomore, threw for an Oklahoma Sooners record 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns en route to winning the Heisman Trophy. Bradford’s career with the Rams got off to a terrific start as he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010 after setting a record for completions by a rookie. Bradford earned the honor without much talent around him. His receivers that year consisted of Danario Alexander, Mark Clayton, Donnie Avery, and Danny Amendola. Only Amendola is still currently on a NFL roster.

Bradford’s fortunes started turning for the worse in 2011 as he missed six games due to a lingering ankle injury. Then in 2013, after starting seven games, Bradford tore the ACL in his left knee in a game versus Carolina and missed the rest of the season. After a grueling rehab, Bradford was excited and ready to go for the 2014 season until he tore the same ACL during the third week of the preseason. In his five years with the Rams, Bradford started 16 games in a season only twice (2010 and 2012) and compiled a record of 18 – 30 – 1 as the starter.

When Chip Kelly and the Eagles traded their current starting quarterback, Nick Foles, along with a second round pick to St. Louis for Bradford this offseason eyebrows were raised. The Eagles traded valuable assets for a player who by the time the 2015 season kicks off will not have played a regular season game in 22 months. Rumors swirled that Kelly had acquired Bradford in hopes of being in a position to draft former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Those rumors never came to fruition and Bradford heads into the upcoming season as the projected starter.

With the Eagles, Bradford will be operating in an offense similar to the one he excelled in at Oklahoma, a fast paced spread scheme where they dictate tempo and place a lot of pressure on the defense.  The Offensive Coordinator at Oklahoma during Bradford’s time was Kevin Wilson. Wilson and Kelly know each other well and they both run a very similar offense.

What seems to make Bradford a good fit for this offensive system is his ability to quickly decipher what the defense is attempting to do and his quick release. Bradford is also a very accurate passer with the ability to “throw a receiver open”,  often hitting them in stride and allowing them to pick up additional yardage. The addition of Bradford’s former teammate and roommate at Oklahoma, DeMarco Murray, will also be beneficial. With more offensive weapons around him, a familiar system he has experienced success in, and an offensive minded head coach, Bradford, for the first time in his NFL career, might be set up to succeed. It could turn out that the trade which took the NFL by surprise could have been the best thing to happen to Bradford.

Recent reports of Bradford opting not to engage in contract extension talks with the Eagles could be a good indication on how confident Bradford is heading into 2015. Bradford has decided to gamble on himself. Bradford is confident that he can overcome the injury bug that has plagued him for most of his five year career and confident that he is finally with the right coach and an offensive scheme that fits his strength to a tee. Bradford has decided that 2015 will be the year where he answers all the questions regarding whether or not the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft will forever be labeled a “bust”.

Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears

To say Jay Cutler, at the beginning of his career, was a little brash, cocky, and immature would be putting it mildly. How else would you explain Cutler proclaiming to The Sporting news in 2008 that he had a stronger arm than former Broncos legend John Elway?  Or that the Broncos offense should put up 30 points a game that season, and that Denver should be the favorite out of the AFC to reach the Super Bowl. That season, the Broncos finished 8 – 8, missing the playoffs for the third straight season, and eventually costing Mike Shanahan his job. Cutler did make his only Pro Bowl as he threw for over 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns. 2008 would also be Jay Cutler’s last season in a Broncos uniform as a disagreement with new Head Coach Josh McDaniel, over his attempts to trade Cutler for Matt Cassel, caused too many hurt feelings and bruised egos leading Cutler to force a trade out of Denver.

Cutler was traded to the Bears to start the 2009 season, and ever since then, his career has been a roller coaster. 2015 will be Cutler’s seventh season in Chicago under three different head coaches (Smith, Trestman, and Fox) and under five different offensive systems. Cutler has learned and run offenses coordinated by Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice, Marc Trestman / Aaron Kromer, and Adam Gase. Stability on the offensive side of the ball has also been lacking during Cutler’s tenure in Chicago. Even though Cutler has thrown for almost 28,000 yards and over 180 touchdowns, his career in Chicago has been marred by untimely turnovers (130 interceptions, 45 fumbles), criticism regarding his facial expressions and demeanor, and questions about his passion for the game and his leadership ability. To his credit, Cutler has never snapped back at critics or any negative publicity that has been geared towards him.

The hope was that all of his hard work was finally paying off in 2013 as Cutler, under Trestman, put together a solid season that saw him produce the highest quarterback rating of his career to date (89.2). Optimism was rampant in Chicago that Trestman was finally the right offensive mind that could challenge Cutler intellectually and tap into his vast potential. After that season, Cutler was given a seven-year 126 million dollar contract (with 54 million guaranteed) indicating that the Bears were committed to making Cutler the face of their franchise. A team steeped in a tradition of playing tough, hard-nosed defense would now be an offense first team, who would rely on their quarterback and his weapons to outscore their opponents in order to win games.

After a horrible 2014 season both on and off the field, those plans were scrapped quickly as Bears ownership cleaned house by firing GM Phil Emery and Trestman. Ryan Pace was brought in from the New Orleans organization as the GM, and he quickly hired John Fox as his head coach. Right off the bat, things were different for Cutler now that Pace and Fox were in charge. Neither man committed to Cutler as their quarterback during their respective introductory news conferences. Cutler was no longer being consulted on possible offensive coaching hires or player acquisitions as he was during the previous regime. Pace was not the general manager who signed off on the 126 million dollar contract the year before. John Fox is not a first time head coach that Cutler can assume he will outlast. This time, if expectations are not met, the Head Coach isn’t going anywhere. The Offensive Coordinator (unless he chooses) will not be going anywhere. This time, Jay Cutler will be the one walking the plank.

Again, to his credit, Cutler has not lashed out about the apparent lack of support. Instead he has shown that he has matured since 2008, and has taken accountability for the lack of offensive success. He has shown leadership in being one of the first to text newly signed players or draft picks welcoming them to the team. He has gathered his offensive teammates down at his home in Nashville to organize extra training sessions. With weapons like Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, Kevin White, and with Adam Gase calling the plays this just might be the best collection of coaching and talent he has had as a member of the Bears. This also might be Cutler’s last chance in Chicago.  Cutler has taken a beating both locally and nationally. He has gone from being a potential franchise quarterback to an average or in some cases below average starter. In a recent ESPN piece, 35 NFL coaches and talent evaluators were polled to help rank all 32 starting quarterbacks and place them into tiers. Cutler was ranked 21st and placed into tier 3 which was defined as “Quarterbacks who are good enough to start but need lots of support, making it tough to contend at the highest level”.  One head coach was anonymously quoted as saying he would want Cutler as a backup. 2015 is shaping up to be the most important season of Jay Cutler’s NFL career: a season that could restore faith in a physically talented quarterback, or a season that could continue to give ammunition to the doubters and skeptics to keep pounding on a beleaguered quarterback who has not lived up to his potential.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1505 Words

Free agent signings who could flourish in 2015

When NFL free agency kicks off, we see teams come out of the gates with the checkbooks in hand, looking make a splash. Going on a spending spree generates headlines for the teams and buzz with fans, but it rarely leads to victories or smart decisions. Instead, the players signed after the initial wave subsides are

When NFL free agency kicks off, we see teams come out of the gates with the checkbooks in hand, looking make a splash. Going on a spending spree generates headlines for the teams and buzz with fans, but it rarely leads to victories or smart decisions. Instead, the players signed after the initial wave subsides are usually the players who make the biggest contribution for their respective teams. Players like Detroit receiver Golden Tate, Bears’ defensive end Willie Young, and the Broncos’ Emmanuel Sanders, all signed after day one of free agency, gave their teams tremendous value and production last season. What played a big role in each player’s success was choosing the right fit for themselves, whether that was defensive or offensive schemes, coaching staffs, or talented teammates that helped bolster their own talents. Looking back to this past March’s free agent frenzy, here are four players who I feel could blossom into impact players with their new teams.


Pernell McPhee – Chicago Bears

2014: 27 Tackles 7.5 Sacks 1 Forced Fumble (with Baltimore Ravens)

McPhee’s best season in Baltimore was his final season as the versatile linebacker notched a career high 7.5 sacks while playing a little over 500 defensive snaps. In his four years as a Raven, Pernell only started six games, mainly due to the fact he was playing behind the likes of Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. With Chicago, McPhee will see his playing time more than double, and expectations are that his production will follow. The Bears’ new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, is leading the switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 hybrid base and looks to utilize McPhee at right outside linebacker. In Fangio’s scheme, the outside linebackers are the primary pass rushers. Over his years in Baltimore, McPhee has shown the ability to rush the passer while also displaying versatility to play anywhere along the defensive line. In a game last season versus Carolina, we saw McPhee lined up over center, at defensive end, and as an outside linebacker in a two-point stance, all in one drive. McPhee plays fast and violent, displays quick feet and change of direction to shoot a gap, but is also stout against the run. He has shown the ability to come around the edge with speed or simply bull rush the offensive lineman into the quarterback’s lap. Pernell also does a terrific job of using his hands, using the dip and rip, and arm-over techniques to also help generate pressure when lined up on the defensive line. At just 26 years old, McPhee is about to enter the prime years of his career. With the type of scheme versatility he has displayed, plus the coaching of John Fox and Vic Fangio (two highly respected defensive coaches), the stage is set for McPhee to finally step out from behind the shadows of Dumervil and Suggs and have the spotlight shine on him.


Darren McFadden – Dallas Cowboys

2014: 155 Attempts 534 Yards 2 Touchdowns (with Oakland Raiders)

Darren McFadden was the fourth overall pick out of Arkansas in the 2008 NFL draft and was considered by many as a “can’t miss prospect”. Well, seven years playing in Oakland coupled with a number of nagging injuries, McFadden now finds himself battling for a chance to start for the Dallas Cowboys. When the Cowboys lost running back Demarco Murray to the Eagles this offseason, speculation was that Dallas would find his replacement by trade (Adrian Peterson) or surely in the draft (Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon). With McFadden, the Cowboys feel they have a talented, 27 year old, running back, who was playing on bad teams in Oakland, with not much talent surrounding him. In seven seasons with the Raiders, McFadden played for five different head coaches, and had only two non-losing seasons in 2010 and 2011, when both years, they finished 8-8. 2010 was also the year McFadden had his best season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns in just 13 games. In Dallas, McFadden will be playing with an established quarterback, a Pro Bowl receiver, and more importantly, an offensive line that has three Pro Bowlers on it. McFadden is also a good fit in the zone running attack the Cowboys like to deploy. He has shown to have good vision and the ability to cut back and quickly get through a hole. He displays patience in allowing his blocking to develop, plus the speed and quick feet to break the run to the outside. Injuries have been a problem for McFadden, as 2014 was the first time he had played in all 16 games of a season. To offset any injury concerns, the Cowboys plan on rotating McFadden with both Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar, in hopes that this will keep them healthy and fresh throughout the year. McFadden has said coming to Dallas, getting acclimated to a new winning atmosphere, and knowing he is playing on a better team has rejuvenated him. Look for McFadden to have a very good year and help compliment the passing attack led by Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and company.


Jabaal Sheard – New England Patriots

2014: 44 Tackles 2 Sacks 0 Forced Fumbles

After Sheard’s first two seasons in the league, the Cleveland Browns figured they had hit on a talented pass rusher with their 2011 second round pick. Sheard registered 15.5 sacks after his first two seasons and had shown the Browns brass that he might be a building block on their defensive line. Then, the Browns fired Pat Shurmur and his staff and brought in Mike Pettine who switched the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. This meant Sheard had to go from a hand in the ground defensive end to a stand-up outside linebacker. After the switch, Sheard’s sack numbers took a dive. In Pettine’s first season, Sheard had 5.5 sacks. Then, last season, that number dropped to just two. Sheard only started six games and had only 690 snaps on defense.  Although Sheard denied that switch affected him, instead taking responsibility for his lack of production, there was no doubt Sheard was not the same player after the change in scheme. The Patriots signed Sheard to a modest 2-year 11 million dollar contract this off season, and plan on using Jabaal as both a defensive end and outside linebacker. The Patriots’ hybrid defense, with a 4-3 base, allows them to use Sheard in multiple positions. Scheme versatility is something Bill Belichick is always looking to add to his roster. There was talk that on passing downs we would see Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, and Chandler Jones all rushing the passer.  Sheard has also recognized the culture and stability surrounding the Patriots’ organization early on in OTA’s, and has mentioned this reassures him that he will be placed in the best position to succeed. The Patriots have a history of taking other teams discarded players and turning them into vital contributors to their teams, Jabaal Sheard appears to be the next in line. At just 26 years old, and already having tasted success in the league, Sheard and the Patriots appear to be the perfect match to help resuscitate a once promising career.


 Da’Norris Searcy – Tennessee Titans

2014: 65 Tackles 0.5 Sacks 2 Forced Fumbles 3 Interceptions

Right before the start of free agency, the Titans released last season’s starting strong safety Bernard Pollard. Finding his replacement was a top priority for the Titans’ brass. That’s why they made Da’Norris Searcy one of their first signings. Searcy, a former 4th round pick of the Bills, was coming off a productive 2014 campaign, where he started 13 games for Buffalo. Searcy is an aggressive player on the field, one who plays the game with passion and confidence. Searcy has played both safety positions in the past, but is more suited to play strong safety, where he can use that aggression and tackling ability to come up and play closer to the line of scrimmage. Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton and Assistant Head Coach/Defense Dick LeBeau were together with the Steelers when they had safeties the likes of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. I can envision them utilizing Searcy in a similar manner where he will be a big part of their blitz packages, asked to come up and be an extra defender on run support, while also dropping back in pass coverage. Searcy, who helped solidify the Bills secondary, is coming into Tennessee with a chip on his shoulder. Feeling he was overshadowed in Buffalo by a talented defense, Searcy is out to prove he is an ascending player who will be viewed as one of the stalwarts on the Titans’ defense. Horton has praised Searcy for coming in and taking on a leadership role within the team early on during OTA’s. Teammates have noticed the swagger and confidence he brings, along with the passion he has for the team and the game. Entering his fifth NFL season, Searcy, for the first time in his career, will be heading into training camp as the clear cut starter at one of the safety positions. Having the backing of his coaches and teammates, Searcy appears primed to have his best season yet.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1470 Words

Ready for Impact

Coming into the NFL as a rookie, much is expected of these young men: to come in and help make a positive impact and a contribution to the team, to learn, in most cases, a new offense or defense, and to familiarize yourself with new coaches and teammates. Not to mention, many are now living

Coming into the NFL as a rookie, much is expected of these young men: to come in and help make a positive impact and a contribution to the team, to learn, in most cases, a new offense or defense, and to familiarize yourself with new coaches and teammates. Not to mention, many are now living on their own for the first time, playing in a city they might have never visited before.  So, it’s no surprise that in the second season of a player’s career is where the biggest improvement can be seen. I’ve identified six players, entering their second season, that will be expected to make bigger impacts on their respective teams in 2015. Some were held back due to injuries, while others needed some time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NFL. These players not only have the talent to succeed, but are in the right situations with the proper supporting cast to help them. Most, if not all, I feel will one day be playing in the Pro Bowl.


Telvin Smith – Jacksonville Jaguars

6’ 3” 218 lbs. Linebacker

2014 Stats: 104 Combined Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Interception

What I like: A fifth round pick out of Florida State in last year’s draft, Smith came on strong in the second half last season.  Smith racked up 64 tackles (six for loss) in the final six games, with 31 tackles coming in the final two, which led the NFL. Smith’s breakthrough game came in Week 7 versus the Browns, where he intercepted a pass, which led to a touchdown, and also had a key sack strip late in that game earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Smith enters this up-coming season as the starting weak side linebacker for Gus Bradley’s Jaguars defense. With his athleticism and speed, Smith has shown the ability to cover down field, while at the same time being aggressive versus the run. The knock on Smith coming into the draft was his size. He started last season weighing 218 pounds but admitted that he played below that number during the season. The key will be adding good weight to Smith’s frame with hopes that he will be able to survive an entire NFL season. The Jacksonville coaches have been raving about the work Smith has put in this offseason. The expectation entering his second season in this defense, predicated on his speed and aggressiveness, is that Smith will blossom into one of the best linebackers in the league.


Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers

6’ 1” 215 lbs. Wide Receiver

2014 Stats: 38 receptions 446 yards 3 touchdowns

What I like: Typically, the wide receiver position sees the biggest jump in production from a player’s rookie season to their second. With more sophisticated NFL offenses and increased game speed, it takes a full season to adjust. Packers’ receiver Davante Adams is no exception. As he enters his second season, Adams looks to give quarterback Aaron Rodgers another weapon to go along with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. The thought of another toy for Rodgers sends chills down the opposing defensive players’ spines. Adams had an inconsistent rookie campaign with his best game coming against the Patriots in week 13 where he had six catches for 121 yards. Adams gave everyone a glimpse of what he can do in the Packers’ playoff win versus the Cowboys. In that game, Adams had seven receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown. Through the offseason, Adams has been taking snaps with the first team offense due to Jordy Nelson being sidelined with an injury, and he has stood out. Adams has improved his strength and conditioning along with his route running, earning high praise from both Head Coach Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. McCarthy proclaimed Adams the MVP of their offseason. With improved route running, coupled with Adams ability to go up and make contested catches, topping the 1000 yards and double digit touchdowns are well within his reach.


Crockett Gilmore – Baltimore Ravens

6’6” 251 lbs. Tight End

2014 Stats: 10 receptions 121 yards 1 touchdown

What I like: Gilmore is a big tight end with soft hands and, in limited snaps last season, showed the ability to make tough catches. Predominately used as a blocker by former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Gilmore has made it a point of emphasis to work on his route running and his quickness in and out of breaks this offseason. With the need at the position, caused by the departure of Owen Daniels and injury to Dennis Pitta, Gilmore has a great opportunity to open the season as the starter. The Ravens did draft two tight ends in Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle who will compete with Gilmore. The Ravens replaced Kubiak with former Bears Coach Marc Trestman who runs the west coast offense and loves to utilize the tight end. Looking back to last season, the Bears’ Martellus Bennett had 90 receptions on 129 targets. Just like Bennett, Gilmore is tall at 6’ 6” and gives the quarterback a big target. Although not blessed with blazing speed, Gilmore did, at times, show the ability to break open down the seam. The tight end will have a big role in the Ravens’ offense this season. With Gilmore’s size and ability to catch, he could become one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets, especially in the red zone.


Bene Benwikere – Carolina Panthers

6’0” 195 lbs. Cornerback

2014 Stats: 33 Tackles 1 Forced Fumble 1 Interception

What I like: Benwikere, a 5th round pick out of San Jose State, made an impact on the Panthers defense last season. He won the nickel back position coming out of training camp, where he earned the nickname “Big Play Bene”. Benwikere got injured in week 5, and would miss six games because of the ankle injury. When he returned, Benwikere was inserted as the starter at corner, starting six games and helping Carolina make a successful playoff push. What Bene has is great vision and the keen ability to read the offense, which gives him the confidence to jump receiver routes or to stray off his assignment and make a play on the intended target. Panthers’ coaches have noticed the improvement in Benwikere this offseason, with a better grasp of the defense now. Instead of thinking out there, he is reacting. Carolina brought in veteran corner Charles Tillman to compete with Benwikere for the starting position. Coach Rivera and Tillman are familiar with each other dating back to when both were with the Bears. Tillman has missed a big chunk of the past two seasons with triceps injuries. So Tillman will not only need to beat out Bene in training camp but also prove he can stay healthy an entire season. Whether starting outside at corner or inside as the nickel back, expectations are that “Big Play Bene” will be out on the field for the Panthers, making plays and solidifying the back half of the defense.


Jason Verrett – San Diego Chargers

5’9” 178 lbs. Cornerback

2014 Stats: 19 Tackles 1 Interception

What I like: What Jason Verrett lacks in height and size, he more than makes up for in speed and quickness, not to mention the heart and determination he shows out on the field. Coming into the 2014 draft, many had second to third round grades on Verrett, mostly due to his lack of size. Scouting Verrett last season, he was one of my favorite players to watch on tape. The aforementioned speed and quickness were evident as was the aggression he attacked opposing receivers with and the way he came up to play the run. The San Diego Chargers made him their first round pick and, during training camp, veterans, like safety Eric Weddle, had nothing but praise for the football character and professionalism Verrett displayed. Unfortunately, Verrett’s season was limited to just five games as he tore the labrum in his left shoulder making a sensational interception that helped seal the victory versus the Raiders. During his final season at TCU, he had torn the labrum in his right shoulder. Staying healthy is a key factor for Verrett, who currently is listed as the starter opposite Brandon Flowers. Verrett, having rehabbed both shoulder injuries, has spent part of the offseason training with the Saints Brandin Cooks, working on his speed, agility, and quickness. Verrett will always be at a disadvantage when going up against the big tall receivers, but with his 4.38 speed and 39 inch vertical and tenacity, he will make things difficult for receivers. Jason also is explosive out of his back pedal, can open his hips, turn and run with the receiver downfield, and has strong hands allowing him to get physical while also going to make a play on the ball. Verrett also has the ability to move inside and cover the quicker slot receivers when the Chargers go to their nickel defense.  If Verrett can avoid major injuries and stay on the field, he has the ability to be a difference maker for the Chargers’ defense.


Brandin Cooks – New Orleans Saints

5’10” 189 lbs. Wide Receiver

2014 Stats: 53 Receptions 550 Yards 3 Touchdowns

What I like: Brandin Cooks was well on his way to a terrific rookie season last year before breaking his thumb and missing the final six games. The four games prior to the injury, Cooks was finding his groove within the offense, as he had 18 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Cooks enters this season feeling healthy and confident. With his thumb healed, Cooks is now playing faster than last season. As with most second year players, he is doing less thinking and just playing football. Cooks says he now has a full grasp on the offense, and others agree. After the recently completed minicamp, reports surfaced that Cooks was the best player on offense not named Brees.  Besides knowing the offense, what also is setting up Cooks to have a big year are the trades of tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Kenny Stills. Gone with those two players are 148 receptions and 209 targets combined. Cooks is destined to be a prime beneficiary of some of those receptions and targets left behind. Plus, head coach Sean Payton has always found a way to get the ball into the hands of fast, quick receivers and backs. Case in point how he utilized both Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles when both players were Saints.  Payton will have the option of utilizing Cooks, not only split wide outside the numbers, but also inside at the slot receiver position and lined up in the backfield. It would not surprise me if Cooks ends up with over 100 receptions and ten or more touchdowns. With Cooks’s speed and quickness, coupled with Payton calling the plays and Drew Brees at quarterback, the Saints have another playmaker who, when he has the ball in his hands, is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1747 Words

Five AFC Teams to Watch That Missed the 2014 Playoffs

Continuing our look ahead to the upcoming 2015 season, we examine five AFC teams, who missed the playoffs last season, which have a chance to surprise many and contend this year. Unlike the NFC teams, where they all had losing records in 2014, our AFC list has three teams who finished last season with winning

Continuing our look ahead to the upcoming 2015 season, we examine five AFC teams, who missed the playoffs last season, which have a chance to surprise many and contend this year. Unlike the NFC teams, where they all had losing records in 2014, our AFC list has three teams who finished last season with winning records.

Five NFC Teams to Watch That Missed the 2014 Playoffs

Buffalo Bills (2014 record: 9-7)

Head Coach: Rex Ryan

Key Addition(s): RB LeSean McCoy, QB Matt Cassel, FB Jerome Felton, WR Percy Harvin, TE Charles Clay

Key Loss: LB Kiko Alonso, TE Scott Chandler, RB C.J. Spiller

Why They Have a Chance: Former Jets coach Rex Ryan was brought in, after Doug Marrone surprisingly opted out of his contract, to help lead the Bills back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. When we think of Rex Ryan, the first thing that comes to mind is defense. Whether as the head coach of the Jets or defensive coordinator with the Ravens, Ryan’s teams were always strong defensively. With the Bills, Ryan inherits a team with a number of good players on defense already in place. What Ryan needs is an offense that can put up points and keep his defense fresh with a strong running game. In comes offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Running back LeSean McCoy. Roman was Jim Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator in San Francisco where he over looked an offensive unit that finished 4th overall in rushing last season. The 49ers averaged 29.4 rush attempts per game with an average of 136 yards on the ground. Roman utilizes multiple sets, with different formations, and physical lead blockers who help open holes for the running back to get through the line of scrimmage. McCoy, who was acquired from the Eagles for Linebacker Kiko Alonso, will provide the workhorse that Roman loves at running back. Paired with veteran Fred Jackson, the duo gives Roman a one two punch he can ride to close out a game. The questions on offense remain at the quarterback position where veteran Matt Cassel was acquired to compete with former first round pick E.J. Manuel. Early reports out of Buffalo is that Cassel appeared to be the front runner to win the starting job, but early struggles in OTA’s have raised some questions. With weapons on the outside in Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Percy Harvin to go along with free agent acquisition Charles Clay at tight end, the Bills have the making of a good offense. Solid play from the quarterback position will go a long way in determining the playoff fate of the Bills.

Defensively, as mentioned previously, Ryan has good core players in Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams, Preston Brown, Stephon Gilmore, and Leodis McKelvin. The Bills led the NFL in sacks last season with 54. Ryan has predominately coached a 3-4 defense but has indicated, this season, he will not specify the type of defense he will play, instead, allowing his staff the freedom to coordinate the defense that gives them the best chance to stop their opponent that week. There have even been mentions of Buffalo bringing back the famed Bears 46 defense, made popular by Rex’s father Buddy Ryan.

A new head coach who exudes bravado and confidence in his teams, a run first ball control offense with weapons on the outside, and a defense who will be let loose to attack and bring pressure from all angles might just be the right recipe to get the Buffalo Bills back in the playoffs for the first time since they lost the Music City Miracle.


Houston Texans (2014 record: 9 – 7)

Head Coach: Bill O’Brien

Key Addition(s): QB Brian Hoyer, NT Vince Wilfork, S Rahim Moore, RB Chris Polk, S Stevie Brown, WR Jaelen Strong (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: WR Andre Johnson, DB D.J. Swearinger, C Chris Meyer, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

Why They Have a Chance: Entering his first season as the Texans Head Coach, Bill O’Brien did a nice job finishing with a winning record despite battling a number of keys injuries. Houston won five of their last seven games and just missed out on the last wild card spot. The Texans appear poised to take the next step. Offensively, one of the first moves the Texans made was signing free agent QB Brian Hoyer. By no means is Hoyer a franchise quarterback, but he is familiar with O’Brien, and the system, going back to when both were with the Patriots. Hoyer is a veteran who will earn the respect of the other veterans and can command the huddle. Ryan Mallett (another ex-patriot) was also re-signed and will battle Hoyer for the starting job. The Texans offense will revolve around the running attack, led by Arian Foster. Foster, in only 13 games last season, finished with over 1,500 combined yards (Rushing and receiving) and 13 touchdowns. His backup, rookie Alfred Blue added over 600 combined yards and 3 touchdowns. The Texans did release longtime standout receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson was no longer the player he used to be, but he still had a presence on the field that will need to be replaced. The hope is third year receiver DeAndre Hopkins can fill the void left by Johnson. Hopkins had his breakout season last year with over 1,200 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. On the opposite side will be former Jaguar Cecil Shorts, signed as a free agent. Houston also drafted receiver Jaelen Strong from Arizona State in the third round.

Leading the defense will be the reigning Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Watt is coming off a superb year where he finished with 20.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. To rely on Watt duplicating those stats again in 2015 might be a reach, so Houston went out and brought in some help. It appeared the Texans were set on upgrading their defense up the middle at all three levels. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork was scooped up, after New England cut him, to help shore up the run defense. Wilfork is not much of a threat to rush the passer but will bring leadership and toughness to the Texans defensive unit. Also signed as a free agent was free safety Rahim Moore who will look to help bolster the pass defense. In the draft, Houston took middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney who, along with Brian Cushing, will man the two inside linebacker spots in defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense. With the expected return to full health of last year’s top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, the expectations will be that the Texans will improve on last season’s 16th ranked defense.

With Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in their division, winning the AFC South will be no easy task, but the Texans were competitive in both games last season versus the Colts. With some upgrades on defense, solid play out of the quarterback position, and a healthy rushing attack, Houston hopes to make a run at the division champs this season.


New York Jets (2014 Record: 4 – 12)

Head Coach: Todd Bowles

Key Addition(s): CB Darrelle Revis, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Brandon Marshall, G James Carpenter, RB Stevan Ridley, RB Zac Stacy, QB Ryan Fitzgerald, CB Buster Skrine, DE Leonard Williams (Draft Pick), WR Devin Smith (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: WR Percy Harvin, RB Chris Johnson

Why They Have a Chance: The Jets had one of, if not, the busiest off season of any team. Coming off a horrendous 4 – 12 season, Owner Woody Johnson cleaned house and brought in a whole new regime. Mike Maccagnan was hired as the team’s General Manager, while the reigning AP Assistant Coach of the Year Todd Bowles was brought in as Head Coach. From there, the two men started reshaping this team. On offense, incumbent QB Geno Smith will be given a chance to compete and win the starting job. His main competition appears to be veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. The quarterback position might single handedly determine the fate of the Jets 2015 season. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has been entrusted to build an offense that will bring out the strengths of whomever wins the starting job. Smith will head into training camp listed first on the depth chart, Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, played for Gailey in Buffalo, so he has a feel for his coach and experience in the system. Either quarterback will have weapons at his disposal.  Wide receiver Brandon Marshall was one of the first acquisitions made by Maccagnan. Marshall will give the Jets offense a true number one receiver, allowing Eric Decker to slide into the number two spot, something he excelled at in Denver. Second round pick Devin Smith will bring the element of speed to the position. With 4.4 speed, Smith was one of the best deep ball catchers in the draft. At running back, Chris Ivory returns for his third season as a Jet. Joining him will be free agent pick-ups Zac Stacy (Rams) and Stevan Ridley (Patriots).

Defensively Todd Bowles did a terrific job in Arizona coordinating a defense that dealt with injuries and suspensions most of last season. Bowles likes to play an aggressive, attacking brand of defense, and one that sets the tone of the football game. He did not have the talent with the Cardinals that he will have with the Jets. The defensive line has the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, and first round pick Leonard Williams supplying pressure up front. Coupled with a secondary that features Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, and former first rounder Dee Milliner, and Linebackers Calvin Pace, David Harris, Jason Babin, and Quinton Coples.  Bowles will have the ability to bring pressure, from all three levels of the defense, at opposing quarterbacks.

The AFC east looks to be one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL this coming season. To be a playoff contender, the Jets will need things to fall into place quickly. Offensively, the Jets will be a work in progress until they figure out which quarterback gives them the best chance to succeed. What will keep the Jets competitive from the start will be their defense, and Maccagnan and Bowles have put together a collection of talent that can compete with anyone in their division.


K.C. Chiefs: (2014 record 9 – 7)

Head Coach: Andy Reid

Key Addition(s): WR Jeremy Maclin, S Tyvon Branch, OL Ben Grubbs, CB Marcus Peters (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: WR Donnie Avery, TE Anthony Fasano, DT Vance Walker, WR Dwayne Bowe, C Rodney Hudson

Why They Have a Chance: The Chiefs won’t exactly be a surprise if they make the playoffs this season. With one of the most respected coaches in the league in Andy Reid, and a talented roster, the Chiefs seemingly always have a chance to make the playoffs. Kansas City took a step back last season after an impressive 11 – 5 season in 2013. They got off to a slow start going 0 – 2. They recovered mid-year winning five in a row before fizzling out down the stretch losing four of their final six games. Offensively, the Chiefs were led by running back Jamaal Charles, who had over 1,300 combined yards and 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Alex Smith had another efficient season in Reid’s offense, throwing for 18 touchdowns and finishing with a QB rating of 93.4. The problem, though, was that none of those 18 touchdowns were thrown to a single wide receiver. The Chiefs were the only team last season to not complete a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. Therein lies the problem. The Chiefs will need to erase that mark, and Smith in particular will need to take more chances down the field. To help resolve that issue, Reid went back to his old stomping grounds and brought in free agent receiver Jeremy Maclin. Maclin has the speed and big play ability that the Chiefs’ offense craves. They also drafted speedy wide out Chris Conley out of Georgia. Conley’s size, speed, and ability to catch the ball has been noticeable in the recently completed OTA’s. Along with the development of third year tight end Travis Kelce and a revamped offensive line, the thinking in Kansas City is Smith has the weapons around him to takes this offense up a notch. Will he take those risks and throw the ball downfield?

On defense, the Chiefs finished in the top ten. With players like Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and Dontari Poe, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has talent at his disposal. The unfortunate health situation of safety Eric Berry, who was diagnosed with lymphoma, is still a question mark going into this season. Berry has completed his treatment and is awaiting test results to see if he can resume practicing. The Chiefs did sign former Raiders safety Tyvon Branch this offseason to help fill some of the void left by Berry. They have also toyed with the idea, during OTA’s, of moving cornerback Sean Smith to safety. With young corners in Phillip Gaines and first round pick Marcus Peters, the hope is that one of them can replace Smith on the outside.

The AFC West will be a division to keep an eye on this season. With the coaching change in Denver, no one is certain how that will affect Peyton Manning and crew. With Oakland still rebuilding and San Diego dealing with possible relocation speculation, the Chiefs are one team heading into the season without major question marks hovering overhead. With more production from the offense, and healthy returns from some key players, the Chiefs could be back in the playoffs.


Tennessee Titans: (2014 Record 2 – 14)

Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt

Key Addition(s): QB Marcus Mariota (Draft Pick), WR Harry Douglas, S Da’Norris Searcy, LB Brian Orakpo, TE Anthony Fasano, CB Perrish Cox, WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Dorial Green-Beckham (Draft Pick), WR Tre McBride (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: OT Michael Oher, OT Michael Roos (Retired), S Bernard Pollard, QB Jake Locker (Retired), RB Shonn Greene

Why They Have a Chance: When a team drafts what they believe is a franchise quarterback, not only does he become the face of the franchise, but he also brings a renewed energy and hope within the building and the fan base. After a dismal 2 – 14 season, GM Ruston Webster and head coach Ken Whisenhunt knew that changes needed to be made. Whisenhunt went through a somewhat similar rebuild in Arizona, where he took over a 5 – 11 team and, in his second season, was leading them into the Super Bowl. The turnaround in Arizona was spearheaded by the play of quarterback Kurt Warner. Similarly, with the Titans, Whisenhunt will need Mariota to help turn around the fortunes of the franchise. I am not implying Mariota needs to be the next Kurt Warner, but Whisenhunt will need Mariota to learn and run his offense as efficiently as Warner ran it in Arizona. There will be a steep learning curve for Mariota coming from the Oregon spread offense to Whisenhunt’s pro style system.  Early reports are the Titans are pleased with Mariota’s progress, and the expectation is he should be the starter in week one. To protect themselves, in case Mariota is not ready, the Titans held onto last year’s sixth round pick Zach Mettenberger. Tennessee used the draft and free agency to place weapons around their quarterbacks, drafting troubled, but talented receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round and a possible steal in the seventh round with wide receiver Tre McBride. Free agents Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks were signed to go along with Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Delanie Walker from last season’s team. In the backfield, last year’s second round pick Bishop Sankey will be joined by 2015 fifth round pick David Cobb and veteran third down specialist Dexter McCluster. Tennessee might be in the market for a veteran runner to join the competition prior to training camp, as they recently released veteran Shonn Greene.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans brought in former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau as an assistant. He will assist defensive coordinator Ray Horton in devising schemes and game plans. On the field, the Titans brought in outside linebacker Brian Orakpo from the Redskins and resigned linebacker Derrick Morgan. Orakpo and Morgan will give the coaches the outside pass rush needed in this 3-4 system. Cornerback Perrish Cox and safety Da’Norris Searcy were also brought in to shore up the secondary. With the disruptive Jurell Casey up front, joined by Sammie Hill and DaQuan Jones, the Titans had the second ranked rush defense last season. With the addition of Orakpo and LeBeau’ s sophisticated blitzing scheme, the expectation is that Titans will improve dramatically on last season’s 27th overall ranked defense.

With so much riding on the success of a young quarterback, the Titans are not viewed by many as a playoff contender this season. History has shown us it can be done. Look back at 2012, when both Andrew Luck and RGIII led both their respective teams to the playoffs. Both quarterbacks had established and successful head coaches/play callers (Bruce Arians and Mike Shanahan) who were able to design an offense that was tailored to their strengths. Mariota has that in Ken Whisenhunt who, during the draft process, already had plays designed specifically for Mariota. With a balanced, efficient offensive unit that is complimented by an attacking aggressive defense, and renewed energy throughout the organization, the Titans just might be the next team that goes from drafting in the top ten the previous season, to making the playoffs.

Read More 2871 Words

Five NFC Teams to watch that missed the 2014 playoffs

With NFL training camps opening next month, all 32 teams have fan bases excited for the upcoming season. A new NFL season brings with it a fresh start, hope that what went right last season will only grow and get better, while on the opposite side, what went wrong has been corrected and flushed out.

With NFL training camps opening next month, all 32 teams have fan bases excited for the upcoming season. A new NFL season brings with it a fresh start, hope that what went right last season will only grow and get better, while on the opposite side, what went wrong has been corrected and flushed out. Every season, NFL fans see teams participating in the playoffs that the previous year might have been picking in the top ten of the draft. At the same time, teams who made the playoffs or won their respective divisions the previous year miss the playoffs the following year. This is why the NFL offseason is so popular. Fans feel like the right moves, like a coaching hire, proper free agent pick-ups, or a solid draft class, can propel their team to be the next “surprise” playoff participant. Every year, there is a team or two that comes out hot at the start, gains confidence, and rides that wave all the way to January.

In 2014 it was the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, in 2013 it was the Philadelphia Eagles, and in 2012 the Washington Redskins.

So who will it be this year? Which team has made the right moves to flush out a bad 2014 season and propel themselves into the playoffs this coming January? Here are five NFC teams that missed the playoffs last season and have a chance to become this year’s surprise.


Minnesota Vikings (2014 record: 7-9)

Head Coach: Mike Zimmer

Key Addition(s): RB Adrian Peterson (suspension), WR Mike Wallace, CB Terence Newman, CB Trae Waynes (Draft Pick), LB Eric Kendricks (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: WR Greg Jennings

Why They Have a Chance: Last season, the Vikings really started to come on down the stretch winning three of their last five games, but more so than the victories, you saw that the team was coming together and starting to believe in their rookie head coach and rookie quarterback. Mike Zimmer has been a well-respected assistant coach in the NFL, and it was only a matter of time before he would become a head coach. He is a tough, hard-nosed, no nonsense type of coach, and you saw this team develop and take on the personality of their coach. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started to show more poise and confidence as the season went on, with another season in Norv Turner’s offense, the feeling is Bridgewater will take his game up another level. With the return of Adrian Peterson at running back and the addition of speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace, to go along with Kyle Rudolph at tight end, Charles Johnson, and Cordarrelle Patterson at the other wide receiver spot, Bridgewater and Turner have some weapons at their disposal.

The talent on defense is what really has the organization excited about their chances this coming season. Last season the Vikings finished 14th in total defense overall (7th versus the pass, and 25th versus the rush). With the additions of Trae Waynes at CB and Eric Kendricks at LB, to go along with the added development of last year’s first round pick, Anthony Barr, the Vikings are building a good, young core on defense. Shariff Floyd, Linval Joseph, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen give them a solid defensive line. Adding veteran Terence Newman (who knows Zimmer’s system from his days in Cincinnati) will give them added depth in the defensive backfield to go along with Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, the previously mentioned Trae Waynes, and young safety Antone Exum.

They will need to shore up that run defense, but with this being the second season under Zimmer, plus the addition of Kendricks, I feel the Vikings, defensively, will improve overall and possibly get closer to being a top ten defense.


St. Louis Rams (2014 record: 6-10)

Head Coach: Jeff Fisher

Key Addition(s): QB Nick Foles, RB Todd Gurley (Draft Pick), DT Nick Fairley, LB Akeem Ayers, OT Rob Havenstein (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: QB Sam Bradford, OT Jake Long, OL Scott Wells, OT Joe Barksdale

Why They Have a Chance: Heading into what might be a make or break year for coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams are a team under the radar. Injuries have really hurt the Rams the last couple of seasons, mainly at the QB position with Sam Bradford. The Rams feel like they may have rectified that issue when they traded Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles for Nick Foles this offseason. The Rams have been raving about the leadership Foles has already displayed early in OTA’s and the vigor with which he is attacking the new offense. With the switch at Offensive Coordinator, (former Quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti replaced Brian Schottenheimer) the Rams are believed to be going back to a more run-oriented offense. With the drafting of Running Back Todd Gurley in the first round, to go along with last year’s rookie runner in Tre Mason, this also showed a preference for a run-first offense. With a strong running game and a very good defense, Foles will not be asked to sit back and fling the ball 30 to 40 times in a game. With 46 career touchdown passes to only 17 interceptions, it would appear that Foles could be suited to fill the role of a quarterback who can make the correct read and throw but, also, will not lose his team the game. The one concern the Rams had with Bradford, and will also have with Foles, is whether they can adequately protect him when he is asked to throw the ball. The offensive line is currently the Achilles heel for this team and will need to be solidified. Only Greg Robinson, Roger Saffold, and Tim Barnes are back from last year’s starting unit that ended the season. Even Barnes is in a battle for his center spot, as he started just four games last year. Youngsters Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, and Brandon Washington will be in competition to start on the right side of the Rams’ line.

Defense is what the Rams will rely upon to win this coming season. With a front four anchored by the likes of Chris Long, Aaron Donald, Michael Brocker, and Robert Quinn, the Rams strike fear in every quarterback they face. Throw in free agent acquisition Nick Fairley from the Lions, and suffice to say, the Rams are strong up front. The back seven of this defense is where there will need to be improvement. At linebacker, free agent Akeem Ayers was brought in to compete for the Mike backer with James Laurinaitis and Sam backer with Jo-Lonn Dunbar respectively. The Rams would like to see more consistency from both players. The secondary has some young corners in Janoris Jenkins, E.J. Gaines, Trumaine Johnson, and Lamarcus Joyner. The Safety position has T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod, with former Tampa Bay Bucs’ top ten pick Mark Barron in competition to start. For the secondary, as a group, there is some talent there, but just like the linebackers, the Rams need consistency.

The Rams rely heavily on their front four to provide constant pressure. When they are getting through and hitting the quarterback, that’s when the Rams are dangerous. When the front four are on their game, they’re able to cover up the deficiencies in the rest of the unit.

A strong running game complementing an attacking, aggressive defense, coupled with a quarterback who will limit turnovers might just be the recipe that leads the Rams to the playoffs this coming season. Not to mention, the NFC West might see a couple teams in Arizona and San Francisco take a step back.


Atlanta Falcons (2014 Record: 6-10)

Head Coach: Dan Quinn

Key Addition(s): LB Justin Durant, LB Brooks Reed, LB O’Brien Schofield, DE Adrian Clayborn, RB Tevin Coleman (Draft Pick), Vic Beasley (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: WR Harry Douglas, RB Steven Jackson, LB Sean Witherspoon, OL Justin Blalock, DE Jonathan Massaquoi

Why They Have a Chance: New Head Coach Dan Quinn brings with him a fresh new outlook and approach to the Falcons, who over the past two seasons, had the look of a team in the midst of an identity crisis. First, they wanted to be a high scoring team led by Quarterback Matt Ryan and playmakers that consisted of Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Steven Jackson. When that failed, they tried becoming a tough, hard-nosed defensive team led by Linebacker Sean Witherspoon, defensive lineman Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai, and Kroy Biermann. When that failed, they fired Mike Smith and brought in Dan Quinn and his staff. Quinn comes from the Pete Carroll/Gus Bradley coaching tree of high energy, fast paced, defensive minded football.

Quinn inherits a team that has some talent on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, everything starts with the quarterback position. With Matt Ryan entrenched as the starter, Quinn has a very key piece already in place. There is talent around Ryan as well, starting at wide receiver with Julio Jones, Roddy White, and rookie Justin Hardy. With Kyle Shanahan on board as the Offensive Coordinator, he will bring with him the Zone-stretch blocking scheme, where all types of runners have succeeded. Rookie running back Tevin Coleman will fit in nicely with the offense. Coleman will bring the element of speed to the backfield. A strong running game will help balance the attack and take pressure of Ryan.

Defensively, they will be transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Normally, personnel is always an issue with this sort of switch, but remember, Quinn comes from Seattle where they ran a hybrid front. Quinn will have the defense give multiple looks to an offense both in a 3-4 and 4-3 front. The question is how quickly Quinn will be able to gel the pieces together into a formidable defense. They brought in veterans Justin Durant, Brooks Reed, O’Brien Schofield, and Adrian Clayborn. In the draft, they took pass rusher Vic Beasley, who initially will be used as a pass rush specialist off the edge. Desmond Trufant and safety William Moore will be the leaders of a young secondary.

How quickly the team buys into Quinn and his staff will greatly determine how successful the upcoming season will be. Early reports out of OTA’s are encouraging. Playing in the NFC South Division is also a plus, where last season’s winner the Carolina Panthers compiled a record of 7-8-1.


Chicago Bears: (2014 record 5-11)

Head Coach: John Fox

Key Addition(s): LB Pernell McPhee, S Antrel Rolle, WR Eddie Royal, LB Mason Foster, CB Alan Ball, C Will Montgomery, WR Kevin White (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: WR Brandon Marshall, C Roberto Garza, DT Stephen Paea, CB Charles Tillman, LB Lance Briggs 

Why They Have a Chance: The Bears are coming off a season full of turmoil, dysfunction, and plain old ugly. It started with internal locker room issues boiling out in front of the media, then it went to players openly questioning the leadership on the team. Ownership went ahead and cleaned house bringing in a new General Manager in Ryan Pace, who in turn, hired a whole new coaching staff.

John Fox was brought in to do what he does best, and that is to clean up a messy situation. That is what Fox did in Carolina and Denver respectively and eventually helped guide each team to a Super Bowl. Fox brought with him a number of assistant coaches from Denver, including Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. That Fox was able to reel in Gase was a surprise, as the young assistant had been interviewing for head coach openings around the league. Gase will be the latest Offensive Coordinator to take a shot at fixing the issues Jay Cutler has had during his time in Chicago. What Gase inherits is a quarterback who, admittedly, lost some confidence last season with all the turmoil surrounding the offense. He also lost Brandon Marshall, who was traded to the Jets, and replaced him with rookie first round pick Kevin White. Gase will need to start from scratch and not only build up Cutler, but also put together an offense that will work with the talent on hand. The offense is not lacking talent with the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Eddie Royal, Kevin White, and Matt Forte, but I can’t see how Gase would run the same offense he ran in Denver. Peyton Manning is not walking through the doors at Halas Hall folks. The belief in Chicago is Gase will attempt to put Cutler in situations where he is not forcing the ball in harm’s way. Limiting Cutler’s turnovers and getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers quickly. Getting Cutler and this offense on track will go a long way in determining if the Bears will make the playoffs next season.

On the defensive side, Fox brought in one of the most respected Defensive Coordinators in Football in Vic Fangio. They will be transitioning from a 4-3 Tampa 2 base defense to a 3-4. Veterans like Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, and Stephen Paea were allowed to leave via free agency, while Pernell McPhee, Antrel Rolle, Mason Foster, and Alan Ball were brought in to help with the transition. Holdover players from last season are already raving about the way Fangio teaches the schemes, the creativity he has shown, and the ease in which he simplifies everything for them. Fox and Fangio have a track record around the league of building good defenses. It will be put to test this year as they try and turn around last year’s 30th ranked defense. If they’re successful, and Gase gets the offense rolling, we can see Chicago contending for a Wild Card spot next season.


New Orleans Saints: (2014 Record 7-9)

Head Coach: Sean Payton

Key Addition(s): RB C.J. Spiller, CB Brandon Browner, C Max Unger, LB Dannell Ellerbe, DE Anthony Spencer, OT Andrus Peat (Draft Pick), LB Stephone Anthony (Draft Pick)

Key Loss: TE Jimmy Graham, RB Pierre Thomas, LB Curtis Lofton, G Ben Grubbs, DB Corey White, WR Kenny Stills

Why They Have a Chance: When you have the combination of Drew Brees at quarterback and Sean Payton as Head coach/Play caller you always have a chance. This combination of player and Head coach has led the Saints offense to top five finishes every year except one (2010 when they finished 6th overall). With the team over the salary cap heading into this offseason, the front office had to make some tough decisions. Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle, guard Ben Grubbs was traded to the Chiefs, wide receiver Kenny Stills was shipped to Miami, and underrated running back Pierre Thomas was released. The team did bring in C Max Unger, RB C.J. Spiller, and drafted OT Andrus Peat with one of their first round picks. With Brees top target Graham gone, along with the speedy Stills, the pressure is on a couple of young players in wide receiver Brandin Cooks and tight end Josh Hill. The addition of Spiller will give Brees another weapon to use out of the backfield, similar to the role Darren Sproles had when he was with the team. History shows this team does not have trouble scoring points, and there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period with so many changes. The one constant, though, is the man pulling the trigger at quarterback and his coach. As long as they are still there, the Saints will be fine offensively.

Defensively, this is a big year for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Coming off a horrible season, in which they were the 31st ranked defense, Ryan may have been placed on notice by Sean Payton, as he added former Broncos’ defensive coordinator and Raiders’ head coach Dennis Allen to the staff as a Senior Defensive Assistant. Just like the offense, the Saints made a number of changes on defense as well. The Saints brought in Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Brandon Browner as free agents. They used draft picks on defense with Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha, and P.J. Williams. With Browner and Keenan Lewis at the corners, Ryan can now play some more press man coverage, which, in turn, allows him to bring more pressure with schemes and stunts up front. Plus, the return of safety Jarius Byrd, and his play making abilities, from injury will help stabilize the defensive backfield. The recent injury to linebacker Junior Galette, who might be lost for the season, hurts and creates a major void that will need to be addressed.

Although some feel this maybe a transition year for the Saints with so many changes being made on both sides of the ball, this team still has talent, and they still have a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Brees. Couple that with the fact they play in the NFC South, and it is not hard to envision this team back in the playoffs in 2015.

Next week we will five AFC teams, who, missed the playoffs last season, that have a chance to become this year’s surprise team

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 2821 Words

Instant Impact: NFC North

With most NFL teams currently in Organized Team Activities, it is the first time coaches and staffs can get a glimpse of their new roster. With free agent acquisitions, rookies, and veterans all together for the first time, teams start to formulate their concepts, playbooks, and depth charts as they prepare for the coming season.

With most NFL teams currently in Organized Team Activities, it is the first time coaches and staffs can get a glimpse of their new roster. With free agent acquisitions, rookies, and veterans all together for the first time, teams start to formulate their concepts, playbooks, and depth charts as they prepare for the coming season. With Mini-camps coming next month, before we know it, training camps will begin to open up.

Before we move on, let’s take a look back at the recent 2015 NFL Draft and, specifically, the NFC North Division. The Green Bay Packers have dominated this division in recent years and not just because they have the best quarterback in the division in Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay does a terrific job in the draft. They always seem to find a replacements for aging veterans and departing free agents. Of the current 89 players on their roster, 41 were originally drafted by the team. That number does not include the UDFA that were signed and have also contributed.

So every team in the NFC North is trying to emulate Ted Thompson’s success and try to build their teams through the draft.

We went ahead and reviewed the entire 2015 draft class of every team in the NFC North and determined which class will produce immediate results on the field this upcoming season. The teams and their class are listed in order of biggest impact to least expected impact.

Spoiler alert: The Packers do not top this list

Minnesota Vikings

I thought Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer put together a terrific draft class, as they were able to fill in needs along with sticking to their draft board and taking the best available players. They were able to secure three players who I had first round grades on entering the draft in Trae Waynes, Eric Kendricks, and TJ Clemmings in the first, second and fourth rounds. Now that is just terrific value. I project both Waynes and Kendricks to start next year at cornerback and linebacker respectively. Clemmings will challenge Brandon Fusco for the right guard position assuming his foot checks out medically. I definitely see Clemmings as the future for the Vikings at right tackle.

Speedy Wide out Stefon Diggs (5th round) could contribute on Special teams in the return game. Undrafted Free agents Justin Coleman and Anthony Harris will provide depth in the secondary while also playing some special teams. While another UDFA wide receiver DeVaris Daniels, I feel, has a chance to contribute on offense as possibly a slot receiver this coming season. I was very high on Daniels while he was at Notre Dame. Academic issues kept him off the field last season, but I definitely feel like Daniels has the ability to play in the NFL.

RD 1. Trae Waynes CB Michgan State

RD 2. Eric Kendricks LB UCLA

RD 3. Danielle Hunter DE LSU

RD 4. T.J. Clemmings OT Pittsburgh

RD 5. MyCole Pruitt TE Southern Illinois

RD 5. Stefon Diggs WR Maryland

RD 6. Tyrus Thompson OT Oklahoma

RD 6. B.J. Dubose DT Louisville

RD 7. Austin Shephard OL Alabama

RD 7. Edmond Robinson LB Newberry

UDFA DaVaris Daniels WR Notre Dame

UDFA Justin Coleman CB Tennessee

UDFA Anthony Harris S Virginia


Detroit Lions

The Lions started off the draft by trading down with Denver and securing extra picks. At first, I did not like the move down as both Byron Jones and D.J. Humphries were both available at their pick. Never the less, the Lions recovered nicely picking plug-and-play guard Laken Tomlinson ( Attended Lane Tech H.S. in Chicago like yours truly) from Duke. Tomlinson had a second round grade from me entering the draft, but that was because guards are really never seen as first rounders. Tomlinson has good size, strength, and technique. He has no off-the -field issues, and his football character is off the charts. He will be battling veteran guard Manny Ramirez, acquired as part of the trade with Denver, for the starting left guard position.

Then, the Lions came back in the second round and selected Ameer Abdullah who will fill the void left by Reggie Bush. Abdullah has the look and feel of a third down back, but he has the ability to run in between the tackles. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and possesses the speed to take a screen pass and go the distance. Plus, he also gives you the added dimension on special teams as he is a dangerous kickoff returner.

In the third round, they grabbed Alex Carter, a defensive back out of Stanford. Carter is a physical corner who will hit you. I liked Carter at safety more so than corner, but the Lions will start him off at cornerback, knowing that safety could be a fallback option for him in the future.

Rounds four through six also produced players who I feel will contribute next season: Defensive tackle Gabe Wright from Auburn will go into the tackle rotation up front, Fullback Michael Burton from Rutgers, who currently is the only fullback on the roster, and cornerback Quandre Diggs, who makes up for what he lacks in size with his heart and toughness. In the undrafted market, they snatched up running back Zack Zenner from South Dakota State.

RD 1. Laken Tomlinson OG Duke

RD 2. Ameer Abdullah RB Nebraska

RD 3. Alex Carter CB Stanford

RD 4. Gabe Wright DT Auburn

RD 5. Michael Burton FB Rutgers

RD 6. Quandre Diggs CB Texas

RD 7. Corey Robinson OT Sout Carolina

UDFA Zack Zenner RB South Dakota State


Chicago Bears

The Bears entered the draft with a new GM and entirely new coaching staff so how they faired would be highly analyzed, as both the fans and media wanted to get a feel for how general manager Ryan Pace runs a draft. The teams needs were mostly filled prior to the draft with unrestricted free agency. So Pace had the luxury of using his board and drafting best player available without reaching for a need.

In the first round Pace took wide receiver Kevin White, out of West Virgina, which was a slam dunk pick in my opinion. Not only was White the best player available, he also filled a need at wide receiver, which popped up after the team traded wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Jets. With White, Pace gives offensive coordinator Adam Gase his new Demaryius Thomas: a tall, fast, athletic wide receiver with a wide catch radius and the ability to go up and get the jump balls. White also has the ability, just like Thomas, to score from anywhere on the field.

In the second round Pace went best player available again with defensive tackle Eddie Goldman from Florida State. Goldman will start off as the nose tackle in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense. They drafted their center of the future in the third round in former Oregon Duck Hroniss Grasu. Grasu will spend this season as the backup to veteran Will Montgomery, but I expect him to fully take the reigns in 2016. Running Back Jeremy Langford in the fourth round gives the team someone to complement Matt Forte. Langford has good speed and vision with the ability to cut it to the outside if needed. Langford is also very good catching the ball out of the backfield and can be utilized in the passing game. As a former defensive back, he has special teams experience where he can contribute right away. Not to mention Forte is in the last year of his contract. Langford gives the Bears some protection there as well.

Adrian Amos, the safety out of Penn State, I feel, will also see action this coming season. Safety, it seems, is always a position in flux on the Bears defense ever since Mike Brown left the team. I feel Amos, who offers size, speed, and coverage skills, will find a way, at the very least, to be part of a rotation at free safety. Overall, I believe Pace and the Bears came away with three starers (White, Goldman, Grasu) and possibly a fourth (Amos) out of this draft, which is not a bad way to start your regime.

RD 1. Kevin White WR West Virginia

RD 2. Eddie Goldman DT Florida State

RD 3. Hroniss Grasu C Oregon

RD 4. Jeremy Langford RB Michigan State

RD 5. Adrian Amos S Penn State

RD 6. Tayo Fabuluje OT TCU


 Green Bay Packers

The defending division champions did not have as many glaring holes as some of the other teams in the North, but their draft had me scratching my head a bit. In round one, they went with Damarious Randall, a corner who had been converted to safety at ASU. Randall saw his stock soar during the pre-draft process partially due to his coverage skills but also contributing was the fact there just was a lack of talent at the safety position overall. The Packers plan on using Randall as a nickel corner to start the year and see how he develops from there.

In the second round, they took Quinten Rollins, a former point guard who played one year of football. Rollins was impressive in that one year winning MAC defensive player of the year with seven interceptions. Rollins will still need to go through a steep learning curve in order to play in the NFL. How Rollins handles that adjustment will determine the  contribution he can make next season to the packers defense. With such a big jump in talent and limited football playing experience, I had a third to fourth round grade on Rollins.

Fourth round pick Jake Ryan, linebacker out of Michigan, is tough hard nosed football player who will fit nicely at linebacker in Dom Capers defense. Ryan is a student of the game, he loves football and it shows on the field. Whether its displaying good hand technique to disengage and shed blockers, or securing an open field tackle, Ryan plays with heart and passion. He also seems like a natural born leader who teammates flock to. The downsides are his athletic limitations and past injuries. Ryan tore his ACL back in a 2013 spring practice.

Besides those three players, I see very little contributions from the rest of the class, with an outside chance Ty Montgomery contributes as a kickoff returner on special teams.

RD 1. Damarious Randall S Arizona State

RD 2. Quinten Rollins CB Miami (OH)

RD 3. Ty Montgomery WR Stanford

RD 4. Jake Ryan LB Michigan

RD 5. Brett Hundley QB UCLA

RD 6. Aaron Ripkowski FB Oklahoma

RD 6. Christian Ringo DE Louisiana-Lafayette

RD 6. Kennard Backman TE UAB

Follow Danny Shimon on Twitter @dshimon56

Read More 1699 Words