NFP Fresh Voices

NFP Fresh Voices

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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Offense

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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Defense

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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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Week 13 Fantasy Disappointments

Week 13 was the final chance for most fantasy owners to get their team in the playoffs, so getting solid production from everyone on the roster was extremely crucial. Unfortunately, some of the top players in the NFL faltered when it matter the most for fantasy football owners. These are the three players that
Week 13 was the final chance for most fantasy owners to get their team in the playoffs, so getting solid production from everyone on the roster was extremely crucial. Unfortunately, some of the top players in the NFL faltered when it matter the most for fantasy football owners. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy owners the most in Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season.

Drew Brees

Few things have been more reliable over the years than Drew Brees playing at home in the Superdome, but all of that changed on Sunday. Brees entered his Week 13 matchup against the Detroit Lions as one of the top scoring quarterbacks in fantasy football. The Lions had also struggled to stop the pass most of the season. While this appeared to be a great matchup for Brees, he ended up having his worst game of the season. Brees managed to throw for 326 yards, but he also ended up with three interceptions and zero touchdowns. The poor performance ended his NFL-record streak of 60 straight home games with at least one touchdown. Drew Brees is one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL, so he should be able to bounce back with solid performances the rest of the season.

Lamar Miller

Unlike Drew Brees, Lamar Miller has disappointed his fantasy owners on more than one occasion this season. Miller entered this season as one of the most interesting running backs in the league, but he has consistently failed to live up to his high expectations. Since Miller is averaging just under 20 carries a game, it has been hard for fantasy owners to find a better option on a weekly basis. A snowy field against the Green Bay Packers appeared to create a great matchup for Miller in Week 13, but he was unable to find running room throughout the entire game. While he got to touch the ball 15 times, Lamar Miller only accumulated 18 yards. With disappointing performances in the last two weeks, it is going to be hard for to trust Miller in the fantasy football playoffs. He just does not look capable of putting together a solid game in the inept offense of the Houston Texans.

Davante Adams

No wide receiver disappointed their fantasy owners more than Davante Adams in Week 13. Adams was coming off a game that saw him get 113 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but he was unable to get anything going against the Houston Texans on Sunday. Going up against the great secondary of the Texans was not a great matchup for Adams, but it was hard to put him on the bench after his amazing game in Week 12. The snowy conditions in Green Bay did not make it easier for Adams to get open on a consistent basis. While he was targeted seven times, Davante Adams only caught one pass for 17 yards. Adams has two tough games in the fantasy playoffs, so his production may continue to be erratic the rest of the season despite surpassing Randall Cobb on the depth chart.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 12 Fantasy Disappointments

The fantasy football season is filled with disappointment, but poor performances from star players are becoming more costly as we get closer to the end of the year. One bad game from a normally reliable player may be the difference between making or missing the playoffs in your fantasy league. These are the

The fantasy football season is filled with disappointment, but poor performances from star players are becoming more costly as we get closer to the end of the year. One bad game from a normally reliable player may be the difference between making or missing the playoffs in your fantasy league. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy owners the most in Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season.

Brandin Cooks

Brandin Cooks had the perfect opportunity to succeed when he got to play a struggling Rams defense at home in New Orleans. While Drew Brees and the Saints had a great offensive game, Cooks was nowhere to be found. The top receiver on the Saints failed to get one catch in a game that saw the team score 49 points. Nearly every offensive player on the New Orleans Saints helped their fantasy owners in Week 12 expect Brandin Cooks. The star wide receiver, who is considered one of the fastest players in the NFL,  recently expressed his frustrations over his role in the offense. These comments usually forces the coaching staff to get a player more involved, so it would not be surprising to see Cooks have a few huge games before the end of the season.

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates was given a difficult matchup when he had to go up against the Houston Texans in Week 12, but fantasy football players still expected a decent performance from the great tight end. Gates was coming off his two best games of the season, and he had scored a touchdown in three straight games before Week 12. Just like Brandin Cooks, Antonio Gates went the entire game without getting a pass thrown in his direction. Backup tight end Hunter Henry’s touchdown late in the game just added more salt in the wound for Gates’ fantasy owners. This game may cause some people to abandon Antonio Gates, but the aging tight end has a great schedule coming up. If he returns to his normal role in the offense, then Gates should find a way to score a few more touchdowns this season.

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson was coming off three straight great games after finally fully healing from his ankle injury, but he produced his worst game of the season in Week 12. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense had Wilson under constant pressure, so the great quarterback never had much time to find an open receiver. Since Wilson was forced to only throw short passes, he finished the game with 151 yards. Nearly all of Wilson’s fantasy points in Week 12 came from his 80 rushing yards. The Seattle Seahawks have a very favorable schedule the rest of the season, so Wilson should be a top-tier fantasy quarterback in Week 13 and beyond.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 11 Fantasy Disappointments

Week 11 of the NFL season was once again full of disappointing fantasy performances for owners all over the country. With only two weeks left until playoffs start in most fantasy leagues, dud performances are starting to really take a toll on playoff chances. Here are 3 of the most disappointing fantasy players

Week 11 of the NFL season was once again full of disappointing fantasy performances for owners all over the country. With only two weeks left until playoffs start in most fantasy leagues, dud performances are starting to really take a toll on playoff chances. Here are 3 of the most disappointing fantasy players from this past week.

Tyrod Taylor

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor has actually been a fairly consistent fantasy option for people who opted to draft a quarterback in the later rounds. Before Sunday, Taylor had only failed to eclipse 15 standard fantasy points just one time. Unfortunately for his owners, Taylor was almost non-existent from a fantasy perspective against the Cincinnati Bengals. He managed just 166 yards through the air with no touchdowns and an interception. He also only managed 39 yards on the ground. Despite a gritty 16-12 win for the Bills, Taylor left his owners, myself included, out in the cold.

The Bills schedule is filled with exploitable defenses for the rest of the season, so Taylor should be able to turn it around sooner rather than later. The possible return of injured star receiver Sammy Watkins in the next couple of weeks would certainly bolster Taylor’s fantasy upside.

Ben Roethlisberger

Arguably the biggest Week 11 disappointment, Roethlisberger entered Sunday with the juiciest fantasy match-up he could have, the winless Cleveland Browns. Despite ranking near last in every major defensive category, the Browns held Roethlisberger to just 167 passing yards and no touchdowns. In Big Ben’s defense, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stole the show with over 200 total yards from scrimmage, but being held under 200 yards passing by the hapless Browns is more than a bit embarrassing.

Roethlisberger will have another juicy match-up this week against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football on Thanksgiving.  His owners will hope for the Big Ben who put up 408 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys instead of the unenthusiastic play he showcased against the worst team in the league.

Michael Crabtree

Oakland Raiders veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree exploded onto the fantasy scene this season as the Robin to Amari Cooper’s Batman. Thus far, he has amassed 601 yards receiving to go along with 6 touchdowns. Unfortunately for his owners, none of this production came to fruition this week against the Houston Texans. Crabtree only managed 5 yards on 3 receptions, far below his projections. He did manage to draw 2 pass interference penalties that moved Oakland way down the field, but flags don’t count towards fantasy points.

He will look to turn it around next week against the Carolina Panthers, a team that has been struggling to stop receivers all season.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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Week 10 Fantasy Disappointments

Fantasy football is a game of almost constant disappointment because even the best players in the league occasionally have a bad game in a great matchup. This is what makes fantasy football such a fun, interesting and difficult game to play. These are the three biggest fantasy disappointments from Week 10 of the

Fantasy football is a game of almost constant disappointment because even the best players in the league occasionally have a bad game in a great matchup. This is what makes fantasy football such a fun, interesting and difficult game to play. These are the three biggest fantasy disappointments from Week 10 of the 2016 NFL season.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady became the most coveted quarterback in fantasy football when he returned from his four-game suspension, and he instantly proved that he was worth the hype. Brady put on an amazing performance in his first four games of the season, but he finally disappointed his fantasy owners in his Week 10 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. While he still managed to throw for 316 yards, Brady did not put up the fantasy numbers everyone has come to expect from him. The high yardage total did not account for many fantasy points because Brady ended up with zero touchdown passes. He also threw his first interception of the season. Brady is still the best quarterback in the NFL, so his fantasy owners should expect a few more great games before the end of the season.

Jordan Reed

No pass catcher disappointment his fantasy owners in Week 10 more than tight end Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins. While Reed often struggles to stay healthy, he usually puts up great numbers when he gets on the field. While the Minnesota Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league, they usually give up a lot of yards to the tight end. The Vikings defense has a strong pass rush and great cornerbacks, so the quarterback is usually forced to throw the ball to the tight end. While the Redskins were able to get the ball to one of their tight ends for a big play, it was a great touchdown pass to Reed’s backup Vernon Davis. Jordan Reed’s two catches for 41 yards was his worst game of the season, so he should be able to quickly bounce back the rest of the season.

Jonathan Stewart

Few players in the NFL are as unpredictable as Jonathan Stewart. He can easily get several touchdowns in a game, or he can fail to find running room for an entire game like he did in Week 10 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Since there are very few running backs in the league that get consistent carries, fantasy owners are forced to rely on Jonathan Stewart nearly every week. He may be coming off a game where he only got 39 yards, but Stewart has an extremely favorable schedule the rest of the season. Fantasy owners should be rewarded for sticking with the Panthers running back very soon.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 9 Fantasy Disappointments

Fantasy football is a fickle beast. In Week 9 of the NFL season, three names had particularly poor outings considering what was expected of them.

Christine Michael

Michael is the guy for the Seattle Seahawks, at least for the time being. With Thomas Rawls due back in

Fantasy football is a fickle beast. In Week 9 of the NFL season, three names had particularly poor outings considering what was expected of them.

Christine Michael

Michael is the guy for the Seattle Seahawks, at least for the time being. With Thomas Rawls due back in Week 11, Michael’s time as the bell-cow back could be coming to an end. That is especially true after a disastrous Week 9 performance.

Entering the game, Michael was projected as a top-10 player at running back and thus a must-start in all leagues. He finished the game against the Buffalo Bills with five total touches for one total yard! Luckily for owners, Michael found his way into the end zone to salvage what could have been a death sentence in weekly matchups.

Michael and the Seahawks have the Patriots on the schedule this week, and then Rawls is due back. The Patriots have one of the premiere rush defenses in the NFL. Michael’s usefulness as a fantasy starter may be over for good.

Charcandrick West

West was the biggest waiver pickup in the league between Weeks 8 and 9 because of the injuries around him. With Jamaal Charles hitting IR and Spencer Ware set to miss the game, West was due for a major workload in the matchup against Jacksonville. He did indeed dominate touches, but West did nothing with them. He had 16 total touches while no other Chief had more than five. He got 39 yards on the ground and 35 through the air; that was it. Ware is due back in Week 10, so West will once again be relegated to the bench.  He can safely dropped and disregarded at this point.

Dez Bryant

Though the Dallas Cowboys dominated the Cleveland Browns, Bryant did not partake in the festivities. He entered the week as arguably the number-one fantasy wide receiver because of the matchup. Instead of keeping pace with the likes of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, Bryant was a complete zero.

He caught one pass for 19 yards and never factored into the offense. This was a scary development for Bryant owners. Dallas had been playing so well without him, turning to the likes of Cole Beasley. Bryant returned to the field, had one good game and then disappeared again. Moving forward, it is hard to have confidence in him being a key in this offense that relies on running the football and the underneath passing tree.

Next up are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who boast a threatening offense but a defense that can be exploited in the passing game. Dak Prescott has little rapport with Bryant so who knows how often the latter will be targeted, let alone what he will produce.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 8 Fantasy Disappointments

Week 8 of the NFL season held lots of disappointment for fantasy owners. No player is ever a lock to have a monster day, but that guy you drafted in the 2nd round (We're looking at you, Mark Ingram) wasn't supposed to put up a negative number. Here

Week 8 of the NFL season held lots of disappointment for fantasy owners. No player is ever a lock to have a monster day, but that guy you drafted in the 2nd round (We’re looking at you, Mark Ingram) wasn’t supposed to put up a negative number. Here are 3 of the most disappointing fantasy performers from this week.

Julio Jones

Julio was the consensus pick by experts to be the top fantasy receiver heading into Week 8. With a juicy matchup against the Green Bay Packers’ depleted secondary, everyone expected another monster performance from the star wideout. His speed and explosiveness should have been unmatched against a bunch of second-string corners. Instead, Jones only had 3 catches for 29 yards, good for just 2.9 standard fantasy points.

The game turned out to be a shootout just like everyone expected, but most of the fantasy production went to number 2 Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu, who had 9 receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. Even Taylor Gabriel had a better fantasy day than Julio, posting 68 yards and a touchdown on 3 receptions. Jones should certainly rebound next week against the Buccaneers, who are still fighting for playoff contention.

Mark Ingram

Ingram had a less than stellar matchup against a stout Seattle Seahawks rushing defense, but he was still considered a low end number one fantasy back heading into the contest. Ingram had seen at least 15 touches in 4 straight weeks, and he had been fairly productive.

Instead of seeing his usual volume, Saints head coach Sean Payton benched Ingram in favor of backup running back Tim Hightower, who went on to record more than 100 yards on the ground. This would have been a little easier to swallow for his fantasy owners if he hadn’t only had 5 yards on 3 carries when he got benched. In a standard league that scores a -2 for a fumble, Ingram left his owners with an abysmal -1.5 score.

DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins was a sure-fire top 10 pick in fantasy drafts to start this season. After finishing last season with 1,521 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, Hopkins was due for another monster season. Instead, he’s on pace for a measly 860 yards and 6 touchdowns this year. While this isn’t terrible, it’s a far cry from what owners expect from a first round pick.

Everyone expected Hopkins to turn things around against a terrible Detroit Lions defense that was to be without top corner Darius Slay. Instead, Hopkins only recorded 44 yards on 4 catches, good for just 4.4 standard points. After this most recent abysmal performance, Hopkins can now safely be considered a bust. With quarterback Brock Osweiler under center, things only appear to be getting worse for the star receiver.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 7 Fantasy Disappointments

Week 7 of the NFL season provided many intriguing matchups for football fans. Brock Osweiler lost the battle to his former team despite a career high 41 passing attempts. The Seahawks and Cardinals would square off in a battle for divisional position. The game would end in a 6-6 tie with neither team

Week 7 of the NFL season provided many intriguing matchups for football fans. Brock Osweiler lost the battle to his former team despite a career high 41 passing attempts. The Seahawks and Cardinals would square off in a battle for divisional position. The game would end in a 6-6 tie with neither team finding the end zone. The NFL continued their International Series, with a sloppy contest that saw the Giants edge out the Rams and had fans wondering why they woke up that early on a Sunday morning.  Jay Ajayi continued to shoulder the load for the Dolphins, rushing for over 200+ yards in consecutive weeks. These somewhat historical occurrences would mark for the major storylines in week 7 of the season.

The more important statistical rankings are the fantasy performances of individual players. Each week, millions of competitors face off against a friend that may quickly become a foe in the fantasy arena. Many players, like Ajayi, had monster fantasy performances. Below we’ll detail 3 players that really never go things going or players who disappointed many fantasy hopefuls in week 7.

Jamaal Charles

First we’ll start with a name that many fantasy players are quite familiar with: Jamaal Charles. Charles averaged 2nd to 3rd round value at the beginning of the season. Despite being featured on less than half of the team’s snaps in week 6, Charles was able to find pay dirt and muck up a hard earned 33 yards on the ground. A week 7 matchup against a lackluster New Orleans defense seemed like the perfect place for Charles to find his footing once again. The result was the exact opposite, with Charles rushing the ball one time for no gain while only seeing a couple of snaps. This was only his third time on the field this season and fantasy owners wish that he would have been held out prior to game time. His recovering knee seems to undergo setbacks each week and it remains to be seen if he will ever become the lead back once again in Kansas City.

Jordan Howard

Another back suffering from loss of touches due to an unlikely source was Jordan Howard of the Bears. Howard was just starting to find his groove in Chicago until the team traveled to Green Bay for a historic battle with the Packers. The Packers defense has been rather mediocre over the past few seasons, citing health issues as the main reason for this fall-off. Howard lead the Bears in touches the past three weeks, putting together some rather impressive numbers during that stretch. The Bears, who are very banged up on offense, seemed to switch their game plan without notifying fantasy owners on Thursday night. Ka’Deem Carey lead the team in touches and in rushing yards. Howard rushed 7 times only producing a total slightly over 20 yards. He also failed to bring in his lone target out of the backfield. Howard owners should be worried heading forward as it is unclear who will get the touches going forward.

Alshon Jeffery

Sticking in Chicago, where fantasy duds seem to attract one another, we have Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery is the main target for the Bears on offense, and it’s not even close. The team lost Kevin White early in the season to an injury that would end his 2016-17 campaign. This would seem like the opportunity for Jeffery to put up large numbers and gaudy targets; the result has been anything but. Jeffery was targeted 11 times against the Packers, but only managed to successfully reel in 3 of those targets for 33 total yards. The Bears have lacked consistency at the quarterback position, which has created trouble for all offensive targets. Jeffery hasn’t even found the end zone this season and, if the team can’t find someone he can adequately communicate with, we don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 6 Fantasy Disappointments

There were many unfortunate fantasy letdowns in Week 6 but here are the top three under-achievers of the week. Some of us might look at our lineup and say, “What, only three?” Anyway, these are the players we hope will turn it around in Week 7.

Matt Forte

Matt Forte posted 2.20

There were many unfortunate fantasy letdowns in Week 6 but here are the top three under-achievers of the week. Some of us might look at our lineup and say, “What, only three?” Anyway, these are the players we hope will turn it around in Week 7.

Matt Forte

Matt Forte posted 2.20 fantasy points in the Jets debacle with the Cardinals.  The Jets’ defensive line desperately needed to perform at the highest level in order to give the Jets an opportunity to compete, which they did not.  With the game quickly out of hand, Forte rushed nine times but gained only 19 yards and also caught only one of three passes that came his way. He was even targeted one less time than Bilal Powell. How the glory has departed! Forte has rushed for less than 30 yards in the last 3 games. In Week 5, he collected 6.0 fantasy points, and in Week 4 it was 4.30, so this has been going on for a while.

It’s not that Matt has lost a step because in Week 2 he blew up for 28.90 points against Buffalo. It’s that Jets coach Todd Bowles simply needs to use him more. The Jets are 1-5, so what are they thinking? If they have a better option, Forte owners might want to bench him until the Jets make this obvious decision. Otherwise, owners can simply wait it out.

Travis Benjamin

Travis Benjamin ended up with -0.30 points against Denver. Ok, it’s Denver, but negative points, really? He caught three of five passes, but for only 17 yards and, as a punt returner, muffed a punt on the 11-yard line. Fortunately, he’s been replaced there by Dexter McCluster.

Many see Benjamin as a “boom or bust” player. But he can be more boom than bust. In Week 5, he brought in a respectable 11.70 points and, in Week 2, 23.40 points. Benjamin was a productive staple in a poor Cleveland offense, and he’s filled in admirably for the injury-stricken Chargers. Through Week 5, he scored the 15th-most fantasy points of any wide receiver. It is a safe bet to start Benjamin in Week 7 against the Falcons.

Jordy Nelson

Jordy’s 4.80 points against the Cowboys was just part of the general Packers meltdown, following Aaron Rodgers’ QB struggles. Week 6 presented Nelson with a season low in targets while gaining plenty of attention from the tough Cowboys defense. Aaron Rogers spreads the ball around and has a completion rate of 60.2%, which also makes it tougher for Jordy. What’s more, in the first quarter, the Cowboys defense forced Nelson to fumble on the Packers 36 yard line.

But all is not lost. In Week 7, the Packers play the Bears, who are struggling more than they are. The Bears defense ranks 21st in total tackles, with only 2 interceptions. The Bears offense also spends little time on the field, wearing their defense out, so the Packers will be able to pick it apart. Nelson gets the most targets on the team, so he’s a sure start for Week 7.

So here’s hoping your fantasy world is looking up. Last week frustrated, this week elated!

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 5 Fantasy Disappointments

The NFL and fantasy football are filled with surprises and disappointments. Something shocking is almost guaranteed to happen every week. The potential of chaos at any moment is one of the things that makes fantasy football so much fun to play. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy football owners the

The NFL and fantasy football are filled with surprises and disappointments. Something shocking is almost guaranteed to happen every week. The potential of chaos at any moment is one of the things that makes fantasy football so much fun to play. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy football owners the most during Week 5.

Julio Jones

Julio Jones was coming off the sixth best receiving game in NFL history, so he was always going to have a hard time living up to expectations in Week 5. He was also stuck playing against the great cornerbacks of the Denver Broncos that have been able to shut down every great receiver they have faced this season. All of the fantasy football experts had Julio Jones ranked much lower than normal heading into Week 5, but he still managed to disappoint his owners. Jones only had two receptions for a total of 29 yards against the Broncos. The future should be a lot brighter for Julio Jones, but he may struggle to meet his lofty expectations on a weekly basis as the Falcons feature a much more balanced offense than last year.

Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller entered the 2016 season as the consensus 10th overall ranked player in fantasy football. While he has never lived up to this ranking, Miller still produced solid stats in his first four games thanks to a large number of carries each week. While the Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL, fantasy owners were still expecting a solid game from Miller thanks to his impressive workload. He severely disappointed by only gaining 20 rushing yards on eight attempts against the Vikings. Despite the horrible start, the upcoming schedule is very favorable for Lamar Miller. If the Texans continue the commitment to the running game they showed in their first four games, then Miller should be one of the more valuable running backs the rest of the fantasy football season.

Eli Manning

Eli Manning had three straight unimpressive games entering his Week 5 contest against the Green Bay Packers. Fantasy owners were still expecting big things from Manning because of the great matchup. The Packers have a great rush defense, but they showed no ability to stop the pass before their game against the New York Giants, who many believed would have one of the most potent offenses in the league this season. Manning only tallied 199 passing yards and one late touchdown against the depleted secondary of the Packers. Unlike the other two players on this list, it is hard to trust Manning in the near future. The terrible play calling of Ben McAdoo will probably limit Manning’s upside the rest of the season, so he is only a desperation play at this point in the fantasy football season.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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John Elway Rolls Dice With Quarterback

The Denver Broncos sent off Peyton Manning in a grand fashion by capping off his storied career off with a Super Bowl victory. Manning was a shell of himself in the game, throwing for 0 touchdowns and only 141 yards. However, a win's a win and Manning will go down as one of top quarterbacks

The Denver Broncos sent off Peyton Manning in a grand fashion by capping off his storied career off with a Super Bowl victory. Manning was a shell of himself in the game, throwing for 0 touchdowns and only 141 yards. However, a win’s a win and Manning will go down as one of top quarterbacks of all-time and ended his career with a storybook ending.

It’s no secret that the Broncos won with a fantastic defense, great game planning, and playing mistake free football. When Peyton retired, it opened the door for the next Broncos quarterback to help lead the team back to the Super Bowl. There were a few candidates available: Brock Osweiler, Colin Kaepernick, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Instead, John Elway chose to sign Mark Sanchez and draft project quarterback Paxton Lynch.

The Broncos may have the biggest drop off in quarterback for a Super Bowl defending champion, since – well – the Broncos. History has a funny way of repeating itself. John Elway carried the Denver Broncos to a 14-2 record and beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII in his final season. How did they fare the next year? Brian Griese was at the helm for 6-10 record for the Broncos that year.

The Broncos clearly thought Osweiler was a good enough quarterback to play for them since they offered him a contract. The Broncos reportedly offered their former quarterback a contract worth $45 million, with about $15-16 million paid per year, and a guaranteed $30 million. The biggest offer of $72 million over four years, with $37 million guaranteed came from the Texans. Since they did offer a contract, John Elway clearly wanted to bring the young quarterback back, but had a set price and wasn’t going to go over it.

Trade talks between the Broncos and 49ers picked up this offseason for Kaepernick, but talks died down before the draft. Again, this indicates that Elway was interested in bringing quarterbacks in. Ryan Fitzpatrick also was in search for a new home this season and an already-made team like the Broncos would have been a perfect fit, but the two never were reportedly talking.

John Elway must have great confidence in his defense again since he decided to defend his title with either Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, or Paxton Lynch. Sanchez is the most experienced of the three, having bright spots with the Jets early in his career, but on Monday Coach Gary kubiak named Siemian the starter

Is John Elway trying to outsmart himself? Does he think any quarterback can just come and play with this Broncos team and they will still win? It’s a risk and storyline that will play out this entire season. Osweiler and Kaepernick aren’t All-Pro quarterbacks, but there was a reason why Elway was interested. Instead, he is rolling his dice with Siemian, and Sanchez if that doesn’t work out. It will be a very interesting year in Denver.

 

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Three Potential Landing Spots for Greg Hardy

As the regular season draws closer, one big name free agent is still sitting on the open market, defensive end Greg Hardy.  Despite his struggles, which include lackluster play during his one season in Dallas and his continued misbehavior on and off the field, which he has been in counseling

As the regular season draws closer, one big name free agent is still sitting on the open market, defensive end Greg Hardy.  Despite his struggles, which include lackluster play during his one season in Dallas and his continued misbehavior on and off the field, which he has been in counseling to deal with, Hardy is still a 28-year old with 40 sacks in his career (27 of which came in his last two full seasons) in a pass happy league that craves pass rushers.  

Despite that, the Cowboys let him walk, the Redskins decided not to take a flier on him after another season-ending injury to linebacker Junior Gallette and there hasn’t been much of a market for him to this point.  While things can certainly change in a hurry thanks to injuries or teams seeing that their current crop of sack artists don’t quite live up to the hype, there are three spots right now that make sense for Hardy and his potential suitor.

First up are the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Despite having a defensive-minded coach in Gus Bradley, the Jaguars only mustered 36 sacks last season (ranked 20th in the league).  It’s true that last year’s first round pick Dante Fowler is back from injury, but if he isn’t 100 percent or gets injured again, the Jags will be in need of help off the edge.  They’ve already had Hardy in for a fact finding workout, but they don’t have immediate plans to sign him.  The Jags have an offense poised to score a lot of points, but they need to be able to stop teams too.  With their sack numbers seemingly tied to the health of Fowler, Hardy makes sense here.

Next up are the Buffalo Bills, whose putrid sack total of 21 ranked them 31st in the league.  Head Coach Rex Ryan and his brother, Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, certainly wouldn’t shy away from a controversial player, especially if they thought he could help.  After all, Ik Enemkpali was signed by the Bills after he was released by the Jets following his cold-cocking of Geno Smith. The Bills are also dealing with key injuries to top draft picks Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland, further weakening an already suspect defense.  Looking at the team on paper, Hardy’s potential for disrupting offensive backfields is sorely needed in Buffalo.

Finally, you have a team that is always a dark horse candidate, but really shouldn’t be with their history of taking fliers on players others thought were washed up physically or mentally; the New England Patriots.  It usually doesn’t matter who they bring into the fold, with the way the team is run, everyone on the roster ends up doing things the “Patriot Way” very successfully.  Randy Moss was seemingly done after two sub-par years in Oakland, but then came to the Patriots in 2007 and caught 98 passes for almost 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns.  Corey Dillon wore out his welcome in Cincinnati, but came to the Patriots in 2004, rushing for almost 1,700 yards and 12 touchdowns. While the Patriots 49 sacks last year were second best in the league, 12.5 of those were traded to the Arizona Cardinals in the form of Chandler Jones.  With nobody else in double digits, the Pats could find a spot for Hardy.

While it may take some time, the NFL is a league of many second chances (if you can still play) and Hardy is likely to get his.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Mariota and Winston Year Two

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be forever linked. These two met in the very first College Football Playoff Game at the Rose Bowl. They came into the game carrying the last two Heisman Trophies and the previous year's National Championship. The first half of the game was really good, but the second half was

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be forever linked. These two met in the very first College Football Playoff Game at the Rose Bowl. They came into the game carrying the last two Heisman Trophies and the previous year’s National Championship. The first half of the game was really good, but the second half was Mariota and his Oregon Ducks running up a huge score on Jameis and his Florida State Seminoles.

They met again in their first NFL game after both were selected with the first two picks in the NFL Draft; Winston #1 by the Tampa Bay Bucs and Marcus #2 by the Tennessee Titans. Different uniforms, different leagues, both getting a hefty pay check, but similar results as Mariota again lit up Winston’s team.

It looked as if the Titans were geniuses at the time, but by season’s end, it looked as if the Bucs may have gotten the better quarterback. Winston had the Bucs to 6-6 at one point, thinking they might have a shot at the playoffs. The “P” word was never uttered in Nashville though as Mariota ended up going 3-9.

However, upon further review, Marcus had some really good stats. He passed for 19 touchdowns compared to only 10 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 91.0. If he keeps that QBR over 90, he will be very successful and so will the Titans.

Winston was also very good, especially for a rookie. He threw for 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions and his QBR was 84.2. Not too shabby.

So what will happen in their second year? You’ve heard of the “Sophomore Jinx” of course. There is a reason for that. Many times, that second season can be tough. Defensive coordinators have film on you now, and you now have expectations you that were not there in your rookie season.

But, these guys have dealt with a lot of pressure for several years now. College football, especially at the top of the sport, is every bit the pressure cooker the NFL is. And there was no shortage of film from college ball for the defensive coordinators to check out.

It seems evident that the second year will only get better for these two young talents.  Both Winston and Mariota seem to grasp their offenses very well, and can also read defenses. This is seen when you notice the low number of interceptions each threw. They should only get better in this area the more they play.

They also both have fantastic leadership qualities. Even as rookies, it was clear that they were the voice of their respective teams. Neither shied away from the press even after things did not always go well.  These are not easy things to do as a rookie.

The Bucs schedule includes the Arizona Cardinals, Broncos, Bears, Chiefs, and Chargers as well as the six NFC South teams.  While Tennessee has the Dolphins, Chargers, Packers, Vikings, Lions and Bears as well as the Raiders, Browns and their six games against the AFC South.

Both of those schedules have some land mines, but both could be a lot tougher. Both of these teams should go into the season with playoff aspirations. Will both make it? Probably not. Of the two, the Bucs have the best chance, but making the playoffs for any team in the highly competitive NFL is never an easy task.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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The Rise and Fall of Trent Richardson

As the 2012 NFL draft approached, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was viewed as a can’t miss prospect.  Some said he was the best running back to come out of the college ranks in 15 years, while others were comparing him favorably to Adrian Peterson - who by

As the 2012 NFL draft approached, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was viewed as a can’t miss prospect.  Some said he was the best running back to come out of the college ranks in 15 years, while others were comparing him favorably to Adrian Peterson – who by then had run for more than 6,700 yards, 67 touchdowns and was about to embark on a campaign that would see him come close to breaking the single season rushing record – and why not…. in three years carrying the rock for the Tide, Richardson had amassed more than 3,000 yards rushing and scored 35 touchdowns, helping the program win two BCS National Championships.

The first two picks of the draft were quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin, III, who went to Indianapolis and Washington respectively.  After trading four draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings to move up from the fourth pick to the third, the Cleveland Browns selected Richardson with visions of building an offense around the strong running game he would provide.

Richardson’s rookie season went fairly well.  He played in 15 games, rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, but a 3.6 YPC average was cause for concern.  After two subpar outings in the Browns first two games of the 2013 season, they traded him to the Colts for a first-round pick, but the new surroundings didn’t help.  In his two years in Indy, Richardson barely managed to run for three yards per carry and was released after the 2014 season.  The Oakland Raiders gave him a chance to earn a roster spot in 2015, but he could not.  The Baltimore Ravens took a flier on him this offseason, but the results were the same.

So how did a can’t miss prospect, with a stellar college resume go from first round pick to NFL draft bust lists?  Three reasons: lack of ability in a key area for a running back, off-field distractions and injuries.

Former Browns CEO Joe Banner (who did not join the team until October 2012, meaning he was not involved in the selection of Richardson) said the Browns traded him because he lacked vision.  According to Banner, the inability to see where the running lane was going to be undermined the speed and power that Richardson possessed. Understanding blocking schemes and anticipating holes were not Richardson’s only problems.

As the third overall pick in 2012, Richardson received a guaranteed $20.5 million contract and then the leeches moved in.  Richardson was spending thousands of dollars a week for box seats for family and friends.  He would also constantly get calls from those same people asking for money to bail them out of various financial issues and it clearly weighed on him.

Finally, as is the case for many NFL players, the injury bug bit.  Richardson had his knee scoped during the offseason, and even though he was in the Ravens camp, he spent the entire time on the physically unable to perform list until he was released.  Despite the issues that have derailed his career, Richardson could still play in the NFL again at some point.  It’s not inconceivable – or unfamiliar for that matter – to imagine a good team like the Patriots or Broncos taking a chance on a guy like Richardson.  Even Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh recently said the Ravens may still have interest in him. Richardson certainly isn’t giving up on himself.

 

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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49ers to use 2-QB System Through Pre-Season

Most NFL teams name their starting quarterback prior to pre-season action. The thought is that they can get their starter plenty of first team reps through training camp and then live game action through the first couple pre-season games. Most times the starter will then play limited minutes in the final two preseason games to

Most NFL teams name their starting quarterback prior to pre-season action. The thought is that they can get their starter plenty of first team reps through training camp and then live game action through the first couple pre-season games. Most times the starter will then play limited minutes in the final two preseason games to avoid injury.

Chip Kelly and the San Francisco 49ers have a different plan. Despite being the starting quarterback for the past few seasons, Colin Kaepernick will have to earn that role again this off-season. Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert are neck and neck at this point, so much so that Kelly is splitting their reps right down the middle. Kelly plans to use a 2-QB system throughout the pre-season, in hopes of determining a starter.

The pre-season plan of attack from Chip Kelly is not a good sign for Kaepernick. He seemed to lose confidence in himself last season before being benched in favor of Gabbert. And it seems he has lost the confidence from the coaching staff as well. The 49ers acknowledged Kaepernick’s lost confidence when they stated that they were benching him “to give the QB a mental break”. It is strange for a team to put that out in the open for everyone and at the same time surprising that a guy who seemed so supremely confident in his skills could lose it so quickly.

The 49ers were 2-6 when they made the switch at quarterback last season. But what was bad news for the team, was good news for Kaepernick, as the 49ers only won 3 games the remainder of the season with Gabbert at the helm. Although, Gabbert did seem to give the 49ers a small boost as the starter. He kept them competitive in games down the stretch and had probably his best season to date, but was far from setting the world on fire. Over the course of his young career, Gabbert has 33 touchdowns and 31 interceptions, with a 55% completion percentage. Last year showed that Gabbert could be a serviceable starting NFL quarterback if needed.  But did nothing to dispel the reality that he is better suited a solid backup. He has shown consistent mediocrity since being drafted by Jacksonville in 2011 and it’s hard to imagine him as a starter on a winning team.

In the end it still seems far fetched that Gabbert ends up starting over Kaepernick; at least at the beginning of next season. Kaepernick is clearly the more naturally talented player and should get the first look as a starter, but he still has to legitimately show that he can be a consistent enough to rely upon. The 49ers showed that they were not afraid to go away from him last season and if he does not get it together, he could lose out on the job again. If it does come that, he will likely have to look for a new home next season and maybe that would be best for both parties.

It would behoove the 49ers to give Kaepernick one more shot at the starting gig to see if he can regain his confidence before giving up on him all-together. After all, this is a guy who led them to a Super Bowl and two straight conference championships.  But in the cutthroat and highly competitive NFL, you’re only as good as your last pass..

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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Seahawks Somehow A Sleeper Heading In To 2016 Season ?

The Seattle Seahawks have been led by Pete Carroll for six seasons. During that time frame, Carroll led the club to five playoff berths, three division titles, two conference titles and one Super Bowl title. Seattle is just one year removed from making back-to-back Super Bowls. And yet,

The Seattle Seahawks have been led by Pete Carroll for six seasons. During that time frame, Carroll led the club to five playoff berths, three division titles, two conference titles and one Super Bowl title. Seattle is just one year removed from making back-to-back Super Bowls. And yet, it feels as though the Seahawks are slipping out of the NFL forefront.

Part of that is self-explanatory. The salary cap has been catching up with this organization for a couple of years now. With so many highly talented players reaching the end of their deals, Seattle was forced to jettison a lot of depth as well as pay stars their market worth.

It started by moving on from players like Red Bryant, Percy Harvin and Zach Miller. Then it was Golden Tate, Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith and Brandon Browner.  As the years went, Max Unger and Cary Williams were out the door in a trade and a release respectively. Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, Brandon Mebane, Jaye Howard and J.R. Sweezy ventured elsewhere as well. Then Marshawn Lynch retired. Suddenly, the Seattle roster, which had been the envy of the league in terms of depth, looked like a stars-and-scrubs knockoff.

With those changes, it was only natural that the team would begin to decline. Even still, last year, while they were worse than they had been, the Seahawks still put together a pretty impressive season overall. I mean, making it to the to the second round of the playoffs is a huge achievement to most organizations. But that was far from the level of expectations of the fan base or the team itself.

This brings us to the 2016 NFL season, where Seattle seems to have taken yet another step back in the public consciousness. Another offseason has resulted in even more roster turnover. Perhaps more importantly, another season has seen the advancement of the Arizona Cardinals, who are now deemed the cream of the NFC West crop to most observers. It’s not necessarily that Seattle has gotten any worse, though its offensive line will certainly be an area of concern even after the selection of 2016 first-round pick Germain Ifedi; instead it’s that Arizona has passed it over.

But the Seahawks still have a case as an NFC title contender. They are still led by Pro Bowler Russell Wilson at quarterback. They have the breakout star at running back, Thomas Rawls, to fully take over for the departed Lynch after he played so well in a relief role a season ago. They have another full year of Jimmy Graham pending as the former Pro Bowl tight end gets acclimated into the offense. They still have the Legion of Boom and most of its founding members, as well as a fearsome linebacking corps.

Suddenly, the two-time conference title winner is looking like an underrated and under appreciated foe entering this season. Even the fans were starting to question some of the moves made by the Seahawks, leading to this feeling of disappointment. It is hard to imagine that a team that has won double-digit games for four straight seasons is being disregarded, but here we are. Just don’t bury the Seahawks among their past cap casualties just yet.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Can The Cardinals Take A Step Further in 2017? What Will It Take?

The Arizona Cardinals look like a Super Bowl contender at times, but then other times look pretty pedestrian. Last year they got to the NFC Championship Game, but once they got arrived, looked wretched while getting blown out by the Carolina Panthers.

Can Carson Palmer and

The Arizona Cardinals look like a Super Bowl contender at times, but then other times look pretty pedestrian. Last year they got to the NFC Championship Game, but once they got arrived, looked wretched while getting blown out by the Carolina Panthers.

Can Carson Palmer and the Cardinals get one game better and make it to the Super Bowl in 2017?

To answer this question, let’s first look at the other teams in the Cards division, the NFC West. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers would not appear to be good enough to finish ahead of the Cardinals. But the Seattle Seahawks very well could. This would put the Cards in the Wild Card round of the NFC playoffs. If that happens it means the Cardinals winning playoff games on the road. We saw how that went last year in Charlotte. So it seems almost necessary for them to win the division.

Let’s look at the Cardinals schedule, and see how realistic that is.

They start the season with a home game against the New England Patriots. This could be a break since Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games. Brady will be back for the Pats game with the Seattle Seahawks. So the Cardinals could pick up a game there.

Tampa Bay comes in for the second game. The Bucs should be improved over last year with second year quarterback Jameis Winston, but we still like the Cards in this one. The Cards also catch a break in Week Three because they go on the road to face the Buffalo Bills. If you have to play at Buffalo, playing there in September is when you want to do it because of the horrible weather conditions in November/December. The Cards have a great chance here too.

Week Four brings the Los Angeles Rams to the desert. The Cardinals should have a tough time, but they still can win at home. It seems like the first four games should leave the Cards at least a 3-1 to start, maybe even 4-0.

Then in Weeks Five through Eight, they have the San Francisco 49ers on the road, home games with the New York Jets and Seahawks and a road game with the Carolina Panthers. We know how tough that game at Carolina will be, but it still feels like a good chance they can split these four. They should beat the Niners and they ought to be able to get one of two between the Jets and Seahawks. So the Cards should being no worse than 5-3 at the halfway point seems very realistic.

Weeks Nine through Twelve have the 49ers at home, then away games with the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons and a home game with the Washington Redskins.  If the cardinals can win in all four of these games where they are likely the much better team, that will put Arizona at 9-3.

The last four games are at the Miami Dolphins, a home game with the New Orleans Saints and two away games at the Seahawks and Rams. They should be able to get a split out of these two games. That puts their predicted finals regular season record at 11-5.   The question thought is will that be enough to win the division? It will most likely end up being very close.

If the Cardinals can win the games they’re supposed to, and maybe even a few that they “shouldn’t,” they’ll be on their way to have a potential home field advantage in the early rounds of the playoff, possibly throughout.  That just may be the missing pieces in order for them to make it back to the Super Bowl.  Can they do it one more time for Larry Fitztgerald?  Let’s hope so, the all time great deserves it!

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 939 Words

How Do The Weekly Monday Night Football Matchups Stack Up This Year

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Monday Night Football used to be a huge event. Back in the day, the Monday Night game was the best game of the week. But then again, back in the day there was no Thursday Night or Sunday Night games so it was easier for Monday Night to get the best match-up.

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Monday Night Football used to be a huge event. Back in the day, the Monday Night game was the best game of the week. But then again, back in the day there was no Thursday Night or Sunday Night games so it was easier for Monday Night to get the best match-up.

Some of the best games ever have been on Monday Night Football. Some memorable Monday Night games that come to mind is the 1985 Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins game, which turned out to be the only game the Bears lost all season, and the Green Bay at Oakland game when Brett Favre had one of his best games of his career days after the death of his father.  And who can ever forget the Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks game when Bo Jackson trucked Brian Bosworth on his way to the end zone. There was the Houston Oilers vs Miami Dolphins game when Earl Campbell led the Oilers to a thrilling win in the Astrodome.

Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford were must-watch TV for years. Every game seemed to be a classic. I remember as a kid, the main topic of conversation at school on Tuesday was always the Monday Night Football game.

While Monday Night Football isn’t what it once was, it’s still football, so it’s still a good thing. Let’s take a look at how each week of MNF stacks up on a interest and watchability scale.

 

Week One- Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins:

Two playoff teams from last season clash in the first game of a double-header in the season opening Monday Night Football game. Important to note this game is on at 7 pm eastern time so if you’re on the west coast and have a job may be a little tricky to catch the start. Big Ben and Kirk Cousins should be a really good quarterback battle. Hopefully the progress the Skins made last year will continue and make this a competitive contest.

Watchability – 3.5 out of 5

 

Week One – Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers: This one doesn’t sound like much based on actual skill level, but the Rams and 49ers had a big rivalry back in the day when the Rams were in L.A. With the Rams back in L.A. we will see the NorCal vs SoCal rivalry possibly re-ignite once again. Since this one doesn’t start till 10pm on the east, you fantasy football fans may have to go to sleep not knowing if they won week 1.

Watchability – 3

 

Week Two- Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears: This could be a good game if we get good quarterback play from Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler. But both of those guys are prone to stinking up the joint at times so this one could end up pretty bad too.

Watchability – 2.5
Week Three- Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: The Falcons and Saints always put on a good show and they really put one one when they play on Monday Night. This one should be a shootout between Matty Ice and Cool Brees. They are two NFC South rivals and both want to be the team to challenge the Panthers this year. The winner will have a leg up to do that.

Watchability – 3.5

 

Week Four- New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings: This could be fun. Teddy Bridgewater is becoming a good NFL quarterback add in stars like Adrian Peterson, Eli Manning and Odell Beckham and this thing get’s pretty interesting.

Watchability -3.5

 

Week Five- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: This is another NFC South division rivalry game. This one is a bit more one-sided than Falcons Saints though. The Bucs may hang in there for a while but they have little chance in this one. Cam Newton is always entertaining, and seeing how Jameis Winston performs following his Rookie Of The Year rookie season is an interesting sub plot.

Watchability – 3

 

Week Six- New York Jets at Arizona Cardinals:  The Cards are always fun to watch and they seem to always play well when they are on in prime time. The Jets were surprisingly good last year as well. The Larry Fitzgerald vs Brandon Marshall matchup is worth the price of admission in itself.

Watchability – 3.5

 

Week Seven- Houston Texans at Denver Broncos: Well, come on now, this is Brock Osweiler going back to Denver! You have to watch this one. J. J. Watt is playing and you have the Super Bowl Champs at home.  Must see tv.

Watchability – 4

 

Week Eight- Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: Halloween Night in the “Black and Blue” Division. If you like to watch two old rivals go at it in a good defensive game, then you’ll like this one. It might not be the prettiest game though.

Watchability – 2.5

 

Week Nine- Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks: Seattle is always a great atmosphere, especially in prime time. It will be loud there, we know that for sure. The Bills are getting better, but might not be ready for this quite yet. This has blowout potential.

Watchability – 2.5

Week Ten- Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants: This one should be fun. We know Eli Manning and Andy Dalton will put it up a lot. They might not always go to the right color jerseys though. It’s hard to say what might happen in this one. These two teams are capable of playing great and also stinking it up. Sometimes they do it both in the same game.

Watchability – 3

 

Week Eleven- Houston Texas at Oakland Raiders:   The Houston Texans are back on after only a three week absence. This time they face the Raiders in a game that might be half empty in the stands. If the Raiders announce they are leaving town by then, there might not be anyone.

Watchability – 1.5

 

Week Twelve- Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles: The Packers are always fun to watch. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the game’s history. Eagles fans make them a tough opponent to take on at home. This game has high potential, but could also end up a very one signed affair.

Watchability – 3.5

 

Week Thirteen- Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets: Joe Namath guarantees the Jets will win. Just kidding. But Andrew Luck is in the house, and with that new contract he signed in the offseason he better put up some serious numbers this year.  So this should be a good one.

Watchability – 3

 

Week Fourteen- Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots-  This one could be a really good one if the Ravens are still in contention. When Baltimore is at their best they are one of the few teams that can go into Foxboro and win.  They won in Foxboro in the 2o09 playoffs, can The Ravens do it again? But it all really depends on how their season is shaping up leading in to this late week contest.

Watchability – 4

 

Week Fifteen- Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins-  Cam Newton vs Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback match-up, assuming they’re both still healthy. If both of these team are in the hunt for a division title, and they really should be, then this will be surely be a good one.

Watchability – 3.5

 

Week Sixteen- Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: It’s hard to say what we might have with this one. Both teams could be well out of the playoff race by then. If Tony Romo goes down to another injury this could be a real stinker, but there is always the chance that the Cowboys could be well in the hunt for the NFC East. Hard to call.

Watchability – 2.5

 

Week Seventeen- No Monday Night game.

On paper, there are definitely some good looking games on Monday Night Football, but not too many that make you really salivate. They don’t seem to get those great games like Ravens vs Steelers or Packers vs Bears or Pats vs Broncos that the Sunday Night matchup constantly gets now. Theres also a lot of teams that don’t ever make it to Monday Night spotlight.  Unlike the Thursday Night game where you can see every team play. But then again, are you really all that  sad the Titans, Jaguars, Dolphins, or Chargers aren’t on Monday Night?

 

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

Read More 1348 Words

Did Denver Give The NFL The Key To Stop Cam and The Panthers?

Up until last year's Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this.

Up until last year’s Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this. Stop the run on first down, putting the Panthers in second and long. Bring everybody up on second down and stuff the run or the short pass. Then put pressure on Newton on third down, not letting him scramble out of the pocket.

 

The Broncos defense had another component as well. They went conservative on offense and played the field position game. Denver did not try to stay with the Panthers, score for score. They did not try to take chances on offense. They were quite to punt, put the Panthers back deep in their own territory, play great defense and dare Cam to drive the Panthers down the field. A taunt that ended up working out very well, they just could not do it.

 

Last year, the Panthers formula for winning was to cause turnovers and turn the ball over to Cam and the offense with a short field. Denver made sure that did not happen, even if it meant handing the ball off on third and long.

 

To pull this off, a team needs a stout defense and a good amount of patience. If your defense can’t stuff the Panthers run game, then third won’t work. If the Panthers can keep the defense guessing on whether they will run or pass, then they won’t be able to sell out on the pass rush or they will be susceptible to the screen pass, draw, or Cam taking off on a run.  But if there are teams who feel they can stop the Panthers run game on first down, then the Panthers will have to come up with something to combat this.

 

Having Kelvin Benjamin back for this season will surely be a big help. Somehow Newton managed to throw 3,837 yards and 35 TD’s without the physically gifted deep threat last year, as he was out all season with an ACL injury suffered early in the preseason; nonetheless, having him back is surely a huge benefit.  If Cam can hit him on some big passes, this might make the Denver blueprint a little bit tougher to follow. It’s tough to load the box if you can’t cover Benjamin one on one.

 

What Denver did show the rest of the league in last year’s Super Bowl is that Cam is not Superman. He is just like every other quarterback in the game. If you put pressure on him and keep him from getting outside the pocket, he will be pretty useless.

 

The defense will also have a little bit tougher time giving Cam a short field this year without one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in Josh Norman, who signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent in the offseason. In his time with the Panthers Norman was able to shut down the opposition’s top wide receivers, leaving the safeties free to ball hunt. Now those safeties may have to help try to cover the number ones on the other side which means they can’t sit back and play center field, picking off passes and running them back into their territory.

 

All this adds up to the Panthers having a bit tougher time this season. Does this mean they are not a serious Super Bowl contender again? No. Does this mean they will not go 15-1 again this year. Yes, it almost certainly does.   

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

Read More 556 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

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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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

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.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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

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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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Who The First Round Picks Replace: NFC

It has been over one week since the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft took place.

Draft classes have been graded, and the way too early versions of 2017 mock drafts have been posted.

The next step in the offseason are rookie minicamps, which are already underway for some teams.

With the first round

It has been over one week since the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft took place.

Draft classes have been graded, and the way too early versions of 2017 mock drafts have been posted.

The next step in the offseason are rookie minicamps, which are already underway for some teams.

With the first round picks seeing the field for the first time, who are they expected to replace on their respective rosters?

This article just looks at rookies in the NFC. The article on AFC teams can be found here.

Arizona Cardinals: DT Robert Nkemdiche

A player with immense talent, Nkemdiche fell to the Cardinals due to off-the-field issues. After playing defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense at Ole Miss, he moves to 3-4 defensive end in Arizona. Calais Campbell is star at one defensive end spot, so Nkemdiche is replacing veteran Frostee Rucker at the other spot. Rucker, 32, has started 20 games over the past two seasons for Arizona and is a free agent at the end of the season. Nkemdiche and Campbell gives the Cardinals a strong defensive line unit.

Atlanta Falcons: S Keanu Neal

Safety was one of the positions that the Falcons absolutely had to upgrade to get better on defense. Both safety spots are important in a Cover 3 scheme, Incumbent strong safety William Moore was released in February and still hasn’t signed anywhere. Neal comes in and replaces him. Head coach Dan Quinn likely saw some Kam Chancellor, a player Quinn worked with in Seattle, in Neal. Neal is known as a big hitter who speeds down from his safety position to take out opposing players.

Carolina Panthers: DT Vernon Butler

Butler is an interesting selection because he doesn’t necessarily replace a starter on the Panthers roster. Starting defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei are quality players who are free agents after the 2016 and 2017 seasons, respectively. However, Carolina is reported to want to sign both to long-term extensions. This makes Butler the third defensive tackle, a role that belonged to Dwan Edwards last year. He was released in March. Butler will still see the field as a rookie, but it will be as rotational player.

Chicago Bears: OLB Leonard Floyd

Trading up to pass the New York Giants, the Bears selected Floyd, an athletic pass rusher. His best fit early is as a situational pass rusher. This will allow him to develop other pass rush moves and improve his game against the run. Chicago will be able to do this because the players Floyd is replacing are still on the roster. Willie Young is a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, and Lamarr Houston, who isn’t a great fit in a 3-4 defense, can be cut for significant cap savings at any time.

Dallas Cowboys: RB Ezekiel Elliott

In the overall scheme of things, Elliott is replacing DeMarco Murray, who left Dallas for Philadelphia in free agency over a year ago. With Elliott, the Cowboys are trying to recreate their strong run game that they had with Murray in 2014. In terms of the roster right now, Elliott takes over for Darren McFadden. McFadden started 10 games last season and gained 1,089 yards behind the Cowboys’ excellent offensive line. With Dallas’ offensive line, there might not be a better spot for a running back to land.

Detroit Lions: OT Taylor Decker

The Lions looked at offensive tackles all offseason in free agency, but were unable to land one. The team definitely needed a new right tackle and may be looking to replace left tackle Riley Reiff, who has one year left on his contract. Reiff has been serviceable in his career, but can be improved upon. One of the most interesting position battles to watch over the summer will left tackle in Detroit. Which player starts on the left side and which player starts on the right?

Green Bay Packers: DT Kenny Clark

The retirement of B.J. Raji left the Packers with a bigger need on the defensive line. He was a free agent, but the team was expecting to re-sign him. There was some thought that Letroy Guion would move over from defensive end to nose tackle, but Clark’s selection allows the Packers to simply plug Clark into the void left by Raji. Clark is a strong run defender with a good bull rush. He may start off as just a two-down player, but he has the potential to be more than that.

Los Angeles Rams: QB Jared Goff

Back in Los Angeles and desperate for a franchise quarterback, the Rams packaged a bunch of picks to Tennessee to trade up to No. 1 overall. The reward was Goff, who joins the franchise as the instant starter. The Rams’ quarterback position has been unsettled since Sam Bradford first tore his ACL in 2013. Nick Foles and Case Keenum both started games ineffectively last season. Both are still on the roster, but odds are Los Angeles tries to trade one of them by the start of the season.

Minnesota Vikings: WR Laquon Treadwell

Goal No. 1 for the Vikings for the 2016 draft had to be find a new target for Teddy Bridgewater to throw to. The starting unit of Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs wasn’t putting fear into opposing defenses. Wallace, who never really fit in because Bridgewater doesn’t throw deep often, was released. Treadwell takes Wallace’s spot in the starting lineup, but they are completely different receivers. Wallace is a burner and Treadwell is a physical player who dropped in the draft due to a slow forty-yard dash time.

New Orleans Saints: DT Sheldon Rankins

One of the most important positions in a 4-3 defense is the three-technique defensive tackle (think Warren Sapp and Aaron Donald). This player is responsible for interior disruption. Last season, the Saints relied on 35-year-old Kevin Williams. He played well, but clearly was just a stop-gap solution. The Saints signed Nick Fairley, but he will only be around for one season. The job is clearly Rankins’ to lose.

New York Giants: CB Eli Apple

After missing out on rumored top targets Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd, the Giants took Apple. On the surface, this seems like a strange selection, as they already have Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback. However, Rodgers-Cromartie turned 30 in April and can be cut for significant cap savings after the season. Finally, teams need to have three good cornerbacks in today’s NFL. Apple will probably have to move inside to the slot at the beginning of his career.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Carson Wentz

A decent argument could be made that Goff and Wentz are both replacing the same player: Bradford. Now in Philadelphia, Bradford started 14 games last season and re-signed for good money this offseason. However, that is only a two-year contract and the Eagles can easily get out of the deal after one season. He asked for a trade out of Philadelphia and started to hold out, but eventually returned to the team. Bradford is the quarterback for now, but Wentz is the future.

San Francisco 49ers: DE DeForest Buckner and G Joshua Garnett

The only team with two first round selections this year, the 49ers improved their trenches with the selections of Buckner and Garnett. The Buckner selection makes it two Oregon defensive ends in two straight first rounds. Buckner and Arik Armstead are the two starters now. Buckner takes over for Glenn Dorsey and Quinton Dial. The 49ers heavily rotated their defensive ends last season. Dorsey and Dial will be good backups now. Once Alex Boone left in free agency, guard became a big need on offense. Garnett, who San Francisco traded up to acquire, is Boone’s replacement. It is tough to lose an offensive lineman of Boone’s caliber, but the 49ers were proactive about finding a replacement. Garnett is a mauling run blocker.

Seattle Seahawks: OL Germain Ifedi

The entire offensive line in Seattle needs work, so it was no surprise that the team spent a first round pick on one. At Texas A&M, Ifedi played right tackle his last two seasons, but was a guard as a freshman. Seattle is expected to play Ifedi as a guard. Right now, he is penciled in as the starting right guard. Last season, that was J.R. Sweezy, who left for Tampa Bay in free agency. Seattle may reshuffle their offensive line again before the season starts, but right now Ifedi is replacing Sweezy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Vernon Hargreaves III

Tampa Bay’s top two cornerbacks in 2015 were Alterraun Verner and Sterling Moore. Verner was in and out of the starting lineup, and Moore left for Buffalo in free agency. Brent Grimes was added on a two-year contract in free agency, but at 32-years-old, he is only a temporary solution. Hargreaves comes in as a clear starter. His ability to play both outside and inside will help the Buccaneers play their best three cornerbacks. If Verner is able to survive this season, don’t expect him to be on the roster in 2017.

Washington Redskins: WR Josh Doctson

At first glance, this selection may not make much sense. Some NFL fans definitely were asking why would Washington draft a wide receiver with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon already on the roster? Well, both Jackson and Garçon will be free agent after the 2016 season and will turn 30 by then. The selection of Doctson was done with an eye on the future. He may not be needed much as a rookie, but he will be in 2017. With that being said, he is too talented to keep off the field early.

Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp and is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter@Matt_Pearce13

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Who The First Round Picks Replace: AFC

It has been over one week since the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft took place.

Draft classes have been graded, and the way too early versions of 2017 mock drafts have been posted.

The next step in the offseason are rookie minicamps, which are already underway for some teams.

With the first round

It has been over one week since the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft took place.

Draft classes have been graded, and the way too early versions of 2017 mock drafts have been posted.

The next step in the offseason are rookie minicamps, which are already underway for some teams.

With the first round picks seeing the field for the first time, who are they expected to replace on their respective rosters?

This article just looks at rookies in the AFC. An article on NFC rookies will be posted soon.

Baltimore Ravens: OT Ronnie Stanley

Stanley was drafted to be the Ravens’ franchise left tackle, which means incumbent Eugene Monroe is being replaced. Monroe is a good offensive tackle, but he has missed 15 games the past two seasons due to injury. It seems likely that Stanley, a strong pass protector, will take over protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside this season. Monroe is expected to stay around for 2016, but Baltimore can save about $4.5 million in cap space by releasing him next season.

Buffalo Bills: DE Shaq Lawson

When the Bills released disgruntled defensive end Mario Williams, the position became a significant need that was expected to be filled in the draft, as Buffalo doesn’t have much cap room. Lawson, who led the NCAA in tackles for loss last season with 25.5, will take Williams’ spot. Adding Lawson allows the Bills to keep a bigger body opposite of their other defensive end Jerry Hughes, who is a smaller player.

Cincinnati Bengals: CB William Jackson III

For the third time since the 2012 draft, the Bengals selected a cornerback in the first round. Neither of these other two cornerback, Dre Kirkpatrick (2012) and Darqueze Dennard (2014) have lived up to expectations yet. Cornerback is known as a position that takes a while to adjust to the NFL, but Jackson’s selection puts pressure on these two. Kirkpatrick is a free agent at the end of the season, so he may not be back in 2017.

Cleveland Browns: WR Corey Coleman

The Browns’ wide receiver depth chart wasn’t looking too good before the draft, hence the team drafting four. Coleman instantly comes in as the No. 1 option. Travis Benjamin was the leading receiver in 2015 with 68 receptions for 966 yards and five touchdowns. However, Benjamin signed with San Diego in free agency, leaving Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins as the best options. Coleman, a speedster like Benjamin, seems like a safe bet to fill the void left by Benjamin, if not improve upon his performance.

Denver Broncos: QB Paxton Lynch

Figuring out who Lynch replaces in Denver is simple, but it is a tough task for the Memphis quarterback. All he has to do is replace the most prolific quarterback in NFL history. No pressure, right? Peyton Manning’s performance may have declined in recent years, but he was still Manning and replacing him isn’t as easy as Andrew Luck has made it look in Indianapolis. Lynch may not start at the beginning of the season, that likely falls to veteran Mark Sanchez, but Lynch is sure to see the field as a rookie.

Houston Texans: WR Will Fuller

Houston already has one of the league’s best wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, but they didn’t have much after him. Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts III were the next two leading receivers for the Texans in 2015. Washington left in free agency, but Shorts is still around. Schematically though, Fuller really isn’t replacing anyone. This is because the Texans lacked a fast, vertical receiver last year. His blazing speed is the main reason he was selected in the first round. It will provide a new element to the Texans’ offense and hopefully take away safety help from Hopkins.

Indianapolis Colts: C Ryan Kelly

The starting center job in 2015 was split between Khaled Holmes (early season) and Jonotthan Harrison (late season). Kelly comes in and is instantly the starter. The Colts released Holmes after the draft, and Harrison may see time at guard now. Protecting Luck was clearly the No. 1 priority for Indianapolis in the draft, as four of their eight selections play on the offensive line.

Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Jalen Ramsey

With the additions of Ramsey and free agent Prince Amukamara, the Jaguars are going to have two new starting cornerbacks. Last year, Aaron Colvin and Davon House saw the most time at cornerback. House’s playing time may be affected the most, as Colvin plays a lot in the slot. However, the Jaguars are expected to play Ramsey a bit in the slot as well. Both Colvin and House are probably going to see a dip in their playing time this season.

Kansas City Chiefs: No First Round Pick

Kansas City didn’t select in the first round after trading with San Francisco. The Chiefs drafted defensive lineman Chris Jones in the early second round, who will take over for the retired Mike DeVito.

Miami Dolphins: OT Laremy Tunsil

The Dolphins capitalized on Tunsil’s draft day fall, selecting the Ole Miss left tackle at No. 13. In the long run, he will be taking over for Branden Albert at left tackle. In the beginning though, there is talk that Tunsil may play left guard for a year or so with Albert still on the outside. Albert has some experience at guard, so he may move inside instead. For 2016, this replaces Dallas Thomas in the starting lineup and in the long term, Tunsil will replace Albert.

New England Patriots: No First Round Pick

New England didn’t select in the first round as they lost the selection as punishment for DeflateGate. The Patriots drafted cornerback Cyrus Jones in the late second round, who will probably be their slot cornerback and a returner as a rookie.

New York Jets: LB Darron Lee

New York needed help at both inside and outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense. Lee and third round pick Jordan Jenkins provide the reinforcements. Inside linebacker Demario Davis didn’t play well in 2015 and was allowed to leave in free agency for Cleveland. Lee replaces Davis in the starting lineup. David Harris is the other starting inside linebacker and, at the age of 32, probably only has a few seasons left.

Oakland Raiders: S Karl Joseph

After tearing his ACL in October, Joseph might miss the start of the season while he recovers. When he returns, he will start next to free agent addition Reggie Nelson. Joseph has the difficult task of replacing Raiders’ legend Charles Woodson who retired. Despite Woodson’s age, he put together another great year in 2015. The other safety position last year was a revolving door. Joseph’s job is made easier but playing with Nelson, a second-team All-Pro in 2015.

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Artie Burns

It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to not see much of Burns as a rookie. Pittsburgh’s defense has a history of not playing rookies much. However, their cornerback play needs a lot of improvement, so he may be pushed into the lineup early. The Steelers will be hoping Burns can be the cornerback they thought they had in Cortez Allen. Allen signed a $25 million contract extension in 2014, but his play quickly declined as he was pushed into a bigger role. He was released this offseason.

San Diego Chargers: DE Joey Bosa

After playing 4-3 defensive end at Ohio State, Bosa will move to 3-4 defensive end in San Diego. This isn’t his best fit, but this will only be in base packages. He will be back on the edge (with some work on the inside) in sub packages. Since he is expected to move around a bit in the Chargers’ defense, it is tough to peg an exact player he is replacing. In base looks, Bosa takes the spot vacated by Kendall Reyes, who signed with Washington in free agency.

Tennessee Titans: OT Jack Conklin

As expected, the Titans added an offensive tackle early in the draft. Depending on who the tackle was, there was talk that Taylor Lewan would move from left to right tackle, but that won’t happen with the selection of Conklin. He’ll go to the right side after playing left tackle at Michigan State. He takes over for Byron Bell who played right tackle for most of 2015 and was re-signed in the offseason. Tennessee needed to improve their protection of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp and is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter@Matt_Pearce13

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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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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2016 NFL Draft Top 20 Defensive Linemen

Every draft class has its strengths and weaknesses.

The biggest strength of the 2016 NFL Draft is clearly the defensive line, where an insane amount of talent is about to enter the NFL.

When evaluating draft prospects, I classify defenders by the following positions: defensive linemen, edge defenders, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties.

Defensive linemen is basically a combination

Every draft class has its strengths and weaknesses.

The biggest strength of the 2016 NFL Draft is clearly the defensive line, where an insane amount of talent is about to enter the NFL.

When evaluating draft prospects, I classify defenders by the following positions: defensive linemen, edge defenders, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties.

Defensive linemen is basically a combination of 4-3 defensive tackles and 3-4 defensive ends. So, if you are looking for a player like Joey Bosa, he won’t be in this article, as I have him as an edge defender.

With this in mind, here are my top 20 defensive linemen in the 2016 NFL Draft.

1. DeForest Buckner, Oregon

Buckner is the near unanimous choice as the best defensive lineman and that is for good reason. Returning for his senior season, the 6-foot-7, 291 pound lineman added another 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss to his impressive résumé. He plays just like you would expect a player his size to and is a better prospect than former Oregon teammate Arik Armstead who was drafted at No. 17 last year. Buckner is a better run defender than pass rusher right now. He is best fit as a 3-4 defensive end and is a lock to be selected in the top 10.

2. Chris Jones, Mississippi State 

While you may know Chris Jones from his unfortunate mishap while running the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, he is a legitimate first round prospect. He recorded only 8.5 sacks in college, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Watch his film and you see a defender that was constantly influencing the game. Mississippi State moved him all over their defense, playing end, tackle and even as a blitzing linebacker at times. He needs to become more consistent, but this is a player who fills every size requirement (6-foot-6, 310 pounds with long arms and big hands) while putting together impressive tape in the SEC. He is a top 15 player for me.

3. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

After dominating at the Senior Bowl, Rankins firmly put himself into round one, and he’ll probably hear his name called in the top half of the round. If you are looking for a three-technique, then he is your guy. He has the quickness to shoot gaps and disrupt plays. Weighing in at 299 pounds and being only 6-foot-1, he isn’t going to be a fit for every defense. However, put him in a defense that let’s him attack upfield and everything will be fine. Productive interior pass rushers can be hard to find, which is why Rankins will go early in the draft.

4. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Since I don’t have access to specific information regarding off-the-field incidents and medicals, these rankings only take into account on-field talent, which is why Nkemdiche comes in at No. 4. The talented, but troubled, defender has been hyped as a future first round selection since committing to Ole Miss. An elite athlete with undeniable talent, he will put together stretches of quality, disruptive film and follow it with some not so good film. He is still a raw player and never fully put it together at Ole Miss. However, he has the traits that NFL teams are looking for on the defensive line. Questions about him off the field will cause him to fall.

5. Jarran Reed, Alabama

Alabama’s front seven was nearly impenetrable at times last year and one of the main reasons for that was the play of Reed. The 6-foot-3, 307 pound nose tackle dominates at the point of attack and can be nearly impossible to move. He is by far the best run-defending defensive lineman in the draft. While he is a dominant run defender, he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher. Despite this lack of pass rush, Reed is still a first-round prospect because of his elite run-stuffing ability. Quality nose tackles have a huge impact on defenses and they usually aren’t asked to do much in terms of rushing the passer, so don’t worry too much about his pass rush.

6. Andrew Billings, Baylor

While Reed is the prototypical, run-stuffing nose tackle, Billings is the rare playmaker at the position. With a combination of power and speed that doesn’t come around very often––especially for players who are 311 pounds––he had 25.5 tackles for loss the past two seasons. There are times you see him running around the field and wonder how he is a nose tackle. Teammate Shawn Oakman received all of the hype entering the season, but there is not doubt that Billings is a better player and prospect by a significant margin.

7. Kenny Clark, UCLA

A prospect who I feel doesn’t get talked about enough on the defensive line is Clark. He is a strong run defender who holds his spot and occupies blockers. UCLA ranked 88th in the nation in run defense last season, but that wasn’t his fault. One player can only do so much. For example, he had strong showings against Arizona and Nebraska, but the two teams each ran for over 300 yards against the Bruins. As a pass rusher, Clark possesses a strong bull rush. Expect to see him come off the board in the early to middle part of the second round.

8. Jonathan Bullard, Florida 

Bullard is a player who can play multiple spots on the defensive line. He can line up at defensive tackle and end in a 4-3 defense and defensive end in a 3-4 defense. At the NFL Combine he said he is best fit as a three-technique. However, he would be undersized here at 285 pounds. A quick player off the line, he makes his biggest impact on opponent’s ground game. With his ability to penetrate gaps and disrupt plays, he would be best utilized in a one-gap scheme.

9. Austin Johnson, Penn State

I feel like Johnson is the forgotten defensive tackle in this draft class. Penn State had one of college football’s best defensive lines in 2015, and he was the glue that held it together. As the one-technique, he constantly took double teams that freed up Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel. Johnson isn’t the type of player who will be making flashy plays all game, but he is a strong run defender who occupies blocks and doesn’t let offensive linemen move him around. With 6.5 sacks in 2015, don’t discount his pass rushing ability either. As a player who does the dirty work of a defense and is always hustling, Johnson is one of my favorite players in the draft.

10. A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

In general, Robinson is one of the more highly rated defenders in the draft. However, I have him at No. 10 in my defensive line rankings. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like him as a prospect. I actually like what he brings to the table as a run defender. The reason I have him at ten is because I don’t see much pass rush from him. He wasn’t a productive pass rusher at Alabama, and I’m not sure these traits will develop for him at the next level. As a 3-4 defensive end, you would like to have pass rush from him to select him in the first round. A 3-4 defensive end that doesn’t rush the pass well is still a valuable asset as long as the player is a quality run defender, which Robinson is. A run defending 3-4 defensive end isn’t a player that you take in a first round, but it is a nice piece to add on day two of the draft.

11. Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech

The first prospect from a non-Power 5 conference, Butler made easy work of the competition in Conference USA, recording 23 tackles for loss the past two seasons. Put together his quality tape with a 6-foot-4, 323-pound body with above-average hand size and arm length and you get a NFL prospect who teams will want. Butler is best fit as either a one-technique in a 4-3 defense or a five-technique in a 3-4 defense. It is a good year to be a fan of the Bulldogs, as they have two players that should come off the board by the end of day two in Butler and running back Kenneth Dixon.

12. Maliek Collins, Nebraska

An athletic defensive tackle who likes to attack upfield, Collins is the three-technique to look for on day two. Over the past two seasons, he recorded 23 tackles for loss, but only four sacks. This lack of sacks is concerning, but the entire Nebraska defense struggled in 2015 due to a scheme change. At some times last year he played a blitzing linebacker role, despite his 6-foot-2, 311 pound frame. He has the appearance of a more productive professional than collegiate player.

13. Jihad Ward, Illinois

Every draft there are players that are selected high on the basis of potential. One of these players this year is Ward. In two seasons in Champaign, spent playing defensive end and defensive tackle, he recorded only 4.5 sacks. In fact, he had only 3.5 tackles for loss in 2015. However, this is a player who looks the part (6-foot-5, 297 pounds) and at times flashes the ability to be a quality player. He doesn’t have much defensive line experience and was a wide receiver only a few years ago. Give Ward to one of the better defensive line coaches in the NFL and he could become a special player.

14. Hassan Ridgeway, Texas

University of Texas football has been struggling in recent years, but it produced a good one in Ridgeway. With 9.5 sacks in two years as a starter, a solid argument could be made that he was the Longhorns’ best player. When he was on the field he played well, especially as a run defender. However, conditioning issues and minor injuries limited him to a rotational role that saw him play only about 50 percent of snaps. If these two problems don’t carry over to the NFL, then Ridgeway will be a fine player.

15. Sheldon Day, Notre Dame 

Day is a classic example of a college player who is going to be knocked for being undersized at the next level. At 6-foot-1, 293 pounds, he comes in as one of the smaller defensive tackles in recent draft classes. In college he was able to win on quickness and a non-stop motor, but will this work in the NFL? He can struggle at the point of attack and against double teams. At the Senior Bowl he looked good at both defensive tackle and end. Day may not be an every down player in the NFL, but he should be a player that gives quality snaps in multiple spots, especially as a three-technique.

16. Javon Hargrave, South Carolina State

To be drafted from the FCS level a player needs to have extremely good film. Hargrave goes well beyond this measure. In 2014, he recorded 16 sacks, including a whopping six in one game, and he added another 13.5 in 2015. Watching his tape, it seemed like he impacted every other play and he loved his swim move. In terms of projecting him to the NFL, he is going to face a steep transition in the level of competition. He will no longer be able to just rely on athleticism. Anytime a player is as productive as Hargrave was, especially as a defensive tackle, the NFL is going to take notice.

17. Bronson Kaufusi, BYU

Kaufusi spent 2014 as an outside linebacker in BYU’s 3-4 defense, but made the move down to defensive line in 2015. At 285 pounds, this is where he will play in the NFL. A four-year contributor with 26 career sacks, he has been on the map for a while now. However, a lot of his sacks weren’t a result of his work, but more from mistakes on the offensive line and plays taking a long time. He should be drafted in the third round.

18. Adolphus Washington, Ohio State

The fact that we are still discussing day two prospects at player No. 18 is a testament to the depth and quality of the defensive line class. Considered to be a potential first round pick earlier in the process, Washington is now more likely to go later on day two. He has shown the ability to be a disruptive defender, but it isn’t always there. He played as a three-technique at Ohio State, but he should be able to transition to a 3-4 defensive as a defensive end if need be.

19. Willie Henry, Michigan

Henry’s testing numbers from the NFL Combine are above-average in all areas and it is easy to see that on film. His quickness when playing is obvious and is his biggest attribute. He plays fast and aggressive, but this can also be turned into a negative, as he was heavily penalized (multiple offsides penalties and a silly personal foul against Michigan State). He also has some experience at defensive end. Henry is another player who needs to be able to play more consistently.

20. D.J. Reader, Clemson

Reader is one of the biggest defensive linemen in the draft. He weighed in at 327 pounds at the NFL Combine, but was reported to weigh more at other times. On the field, he uses this size well and his strength is evident. Clemson mostly asked him to clog run lanes in the middle of the line and he did just that. He doesn’t have much pass rushing ability, but that isn’t what a team will be drafting him for. Select him in the middle rounds of the draft and a team will have a dependable run stuffer.

Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp and is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter@Matt_Pearce13

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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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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Draft Profile: Jack Allen, MSU

Wherever Jack Allen lines up, his impact is palpable.

Anchoring the line as center at Hinsdale Central High School, in west suburban Chicago and then at Michigan State, Allen sets a standard of excellence. When the National Football League draft takes place in Chicago, Il. [April 28-30], Allen will be watching at home with

Wherever Jack Allen lines up, his impact is palpable.

Anchoring the line as center at Hinsdale Central High School, in west suburban Chicago and then at Michigan State, Allen sets a standard of excellence. When the National Football League draft takes place in Chicago, Il. [April 28-30], Allen will be watching at home with his parents, John and Leslie, and two brothers, waiting to hear where he will be heading for his professional career.

Allen felt a comfort zone visiting the East Lansing, Mi. campus.

“I had three offers, Wisconsin, which wanted me to play nose tackle, Iowa and Michigan State,” he said. “The big selling point Michigan State made was how hard it would be, in practice and in the offseason.

Allen, Jack

Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletic Communications

“The first thing [strength and conditioning] coach Ken Mannie said, ‘If you don’t like to work hard, this is not the place for you! That’s been true from day one; we take a lot of pride in our work ethic as a team.”

A four-year starter and two-time All-American, Allen’s weight was felt on the line and locker room. A state champion wrestler and three-time finalist, his mat skills translated quite well to the gridiron.

“Wrestling helped me more than anything else in my career; I’d never be in the position where I am now,” said Allen, whose dad, wrestled at Hinsdale Central and was a heavyweight at Purdue in the 1980s. Jack had his first match in second grade. Brothers Brian (2013) and Matt (2016) were also state champions. “The hand fighting, body position, leverage, mental toughness and hard work all apply to playing the line.”

A four-time All-Academic Big Ten selection, who graduated last December with a degree in business hospitality, Allen came in at 285, was up to 315, but is currently under 300. A top five center in all draft publications, who was interviewed by 27 teams, Allen projects as a third-fifth round selection.

“I feel quick at this weight,” he said. “I’ve studied a lot of film and I feel I know offensive schemes like the back of my hand. I’ve tried to excel in everything I do. It’s been a step by step process to get here. I have no idea who is interested in me, but I am anxious to get started.”

Allen’s adroit assets where appreciated by offensive line coach Mark Staten.

Jack Allen

Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletic Communications

“Jack’s wrestling background definitely helps,” said Staten. “On the line, it’s an individual matchup. A wrestler’s mentality is, ‘I have to beat my guy.’ All the Allen brothers [Brian, who started last fall at left guard, Matt will be a freshman at MSU in the fall] carry that trait well. Leverage is a big part, he can feel which way guys are moving and use his leverage against them. I’ve seen Jack overpower a lot of guys who were bigger than him.

“Our whole line and team fed off Jack, he’s a tremendous leader and I know he’ll continue to be in the NFL. Jack has an incredible skill set. He’s capable of playing guard, he has terrific quickness and a great first step. He has a great desire to learn and sharp football mind. He’ll spend hours studying to figure out an opponent’s weakness. He’s got the mark of a champion.”

Staten wouldn’t be surprised if Allen was used as a goal line fullback.

“Jack is a great athlete,” he said. “Using him at fullback allowed us to give the defense different looks and gave us plenty of thump at the point of attack. He’s also able to catch if you want to throw it to him.”

Seth Schwartz is a freelance writer in Chicago. He can be reached atseth.schwartz@sbcglobal.net

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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 NFL.com 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 NFL.com 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 NFL.com 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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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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.
NFL.com 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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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NFL Draft All-Underclassmen Team (Defense)

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft passed a few days ago, and the NFL has released the list of players who declared.

In all, 96 players were “granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft,” which is two short of the record of 98, set in 2014. To be eligible

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft passed a few days ago, and the NFL has released the list of players who declared.

In all, 96 players were “granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft,” which is two short of the record of 98, set in 2014. To be eligible for the NFL Draft, a player must be at least three years removed from high school. In terms of college eligibility, the players must be at least a junior or a redshirt sophomore.

Another 11 players “fulfilled their degree requirements with college football eligibility remaining.” What this means is the player earned their degree, but still had another year of eligibility. Basically, they are redshirt juniors with a college degree.

This is part two of a two-part series that will look at the best underclassmen in the 2016 NFL Draft. You can find part one, offensive players, here. Special teams players (kicker and punter) were split between the offensive and defensive articles.

Edge Defender: Joey Bosa, Ohio State

Considered one of the front-runners to be selected No. 1 overall since the completion of the 2015 draft, Bosa’s best fit would be as a 4-3 defensive end, but he could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. After recording 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss as a sophomore, his statistics fell to five sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 2015, as offenses focused their attention on him. Just because he didn’t record many sacks this year doesn’t mean he wasn’t producing pressure. Per CFB Film Room, he recorded 24 quarterback hits (which led their charting by seven) and another 24 hurries.

Edge Defender: Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

If Spence wasn’t ruled permanently ineligible by the Big Ten Conference for multiple positive drug tests, him and Bosa would have wrecked havoc together the past two years (they played together as freshmen). The former five-star recruit spent the 2015 season with Eastern Kentucky, where he dominated the lower competition for 11.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. Teams will have to do their homework on Spence, but his speed off the edge is sure to entice teams, especially ones that run a 3-4 defense. He is the most talented 3-4 outside linebacker in the draft.

Defensive Tackle: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Like Spence, Nkemdiche comes with immense talent, but off-the-field issues. Nkemdiche has great athletic ability for an interior defensive lineman. He can dominate offensive linemen, but was inconsistent in his time at Ole Miss, only recording seven sacks and 19 tackles for loss in three seasons. If a team can even out his performance, they will produce one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. How early he gets drafted will depend on how comfortable teams are with him off the field.

Defensive Tackle: A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Defensive tackle was the hardest position to choose, as defensive line is probably the deepest position in the draft, and multiple underclassmen will go in the first round. Robinson gets the nod after anchoring the Alabama defense in two seasons as a starter. The Crimson Tide won the National Championship this year with the strongest front seven in college football. Robinson’s statistics, 46 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, won’t blow you away, but what makes him special are the things that don’t show up on the stat line.

Linebacker: Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

Before suffering a major knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl, Smith seemed like a lock for the top 10. Now, his draft status is unknown, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay in the first round––he is just too talented. In three seasons in South Bend, he filled the stat sheet, recording 292 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and one interception. He is at his best when in pass coverage, but don’t underestimate his ability to stop the run. Where Smith gets drafted will depend a lot on the results of his medial exam.

Linebacker: Myles Jack, UCLA

Jack is the definition of the new bread of linebackers, as he will be one of the most athletic players on any field he steps on. At UCLA, he wasn’t used in a typical linebacker role, as he was asked to cover slot receivers a lot. Unfortunately, his junior season was cut short by a meniscus tear. It was recently announced that he is expected to be healthy for the NFL Combine. Jack should be one of the stars at the Underwear Olympics and lock in his spot as a top 15 selection.

Linebacker: Darron Lee, Ohio State

Along with the defensive line, linebackers have the potential to dominate the headlines early in the draft. Smith, Jack, Lee, Reggie Ragland and Su’a Cravens all will be selected early. Lee is still new to the linebacker position, having switched before the 2014 season. With 147 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and three interceptions, he was instrumental to Ohio State’s success. The Buckeyes’ strongside linebacker can do a bit of everything, and this gives him a chance to go in the first round.

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

Since Hargreaves joined the Gators as a five-star recruit, he has been known as a shutdown cornerback. Listed at 5-foot-11, he doesn’t have the size that some top cornerbacks have. He makes up for this with great fundamentals and technique. In his three seasons in Gainesville he intercepted 10 passes. Hargreaves is in the running to be the first cornerback off the board in April. One thing to follow will be how tall he is at the Combine. If he comes in under his listed height, and there are rumors he will, he could fall down draft boards a bit.

Cornerback: Mackensie Alexander, Clemson

If Hargreaves isn’t the first cornerback off the board, then it will likely be Alexander (depending on how teams view Jalen Ramsey, but more on him later). Alexander owns one of the most impressive statistics in all of college football. In his past 23 games, he has allowed a total of zero touchdowns. In his career, he has only allowed two. Prior to the National Championship Game, which he didn’t finish due to a hamstring injury, he was allowing only 32.7 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed, per CFB Film Room. A negative with Alexander is he failed to record an interception in his collegiate career.

Safety: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Depending on what team Ramsey is drafted by, he will play either safety or cornerback. In 2014, he lined up at safety for the Seminoles, but moved to cornerback in 2015. Personally, I prefer him at safety, where he makes plays all over the field (9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2014). Simply put, he is a playmaker. His tape against Miami in 2014 is one of the most impressive performances from a player in this draft class. Impressively, he started all 41 games in his career. Off the football field, he is an All-American and ACC Champion in Track and Field.

Safety: Vonn Bell, Ohio State

It was a tough choice between Bell and teammate Tyvis Powell for the final safety spot. Bell is a two-year starter who earned a start in the Orange Bowl as a freshman. Ever since that game, he has been making impact plays for the Buckeyes. He intercepted nine passes in his career, including six in 2014, the year Ohio State won the title. If all goes well for Bell in the draft process, he will go on Day Two.

Punter: Eric Enderson, Delaware

Already owning his degree, Enderson decided to forgo his final year of eligibly. A FCS All-American in 2014, he averaged 43.6 yards per punt in his career. Each year his average declined, going from 45 to 44.9 to 41.1 yards per punt.

Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp and is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter@Matt_Pearce13

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NFL Draft All-Underclassmen Team (Offense)

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft passed a few days ago, and the NFL has released the list of players who declared.

In all, 96 players were "granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft," which is two short of the record of 98, set in 2014. To

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft passed a few days ago, and the NFL has released the list of players who declared.

In all, 96 players were “granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft,” which is two short of the record of 98, set in 2014. To be eligible for the NFL Draft, a player must be at least three years removed from high school. In terms of college eligibility, the players must be at least a junior or a redshirt sophomore.

Another 11 players “fulfilled their degree requirements with college football eligibility remaining.” What this means is the player earned their degree, but still had another year of eligibility. Basically, they are redshirt juniors with a college degree.

This is part one of a two-part series that will look at the best underclassmen in the 2016 NFL Draft. Part two, defensive players, will be posted at a later date. Special teams players (kicker and punter) will be split between the offensive and defensive articles.

Quarterback: Jared Goff, California

Quarterback is always the position that everyone wants to know about. This year, Goff and Paxton Lynch headline the non-senior quarterback class and will battle to be the first off the board. Lynch has a high upside, but I prefer Goff, who rewrote the Golden Bears’ record book in his three years as a starter. He could go as early as No. 2, where Cleveland needs a quarterback (again).

Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

Derrick Henry may be the Heisman Trophy winner, but Elliott is the better pro prospect. A two-year starter, he rushed for over 1,800 yards in 2014 and 2015. At Ohio State, he played his best on the biggest stage, rushing for 625 yards and 10 touchdowns on 83 carries in three bowl games. He has an all-around game that translates to the NFL and the talent to go in the top 15. The biggest question with Elliott is how much value will teams assign to a running back?

Wide Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

Treadwell entered the season as the No. 1 receiving prospect and nothing he did as a junior changed that. His biggest question mark was the serious leg injury suffered late in 2014. Setting career-highs in receptions (82), receiving yards (1,153), touchdowns (11) and yards per reception (14.1), he proved to be fully recovered and ready for the NFL. The 6-foot-2 receiver could go as early as No. 4 to Dallas, and if he runs well at the combine there will be more speculation about him paired up with Dez Bryant.

Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas, Ohio State

Unlike other top receiving prospects, Thomas didn’t put up great numbers in his final collegiate season. The lack of production isn’t an indication of his talent, but a result of the Buckeyes’ offensive scheme and changing quarterback situation. Thomas led the 2014 National Champions in receptions and all receiving statistics in 2015. The 6-foot-3 receiver will likely go late in the first round.

Wide Receiver: Corey Coleman, Baylor

Early in the college football season, Coleman took the nation by storm with a ridiculous 20 touchdowns in the first eight games. After that, injuries decimated the Bears’ quarterback depth chart and their passing game suffered. The 5-foot-11 Coleman won the Biletnikoff Award with 74 catches, 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. At worst he is a vertical playmaker, but he has the potential to become much more than that. He will challenge Thomas and others to be the second receiver off the board.

Tight End: Hunter Henry, Arkansas

Overall, the tight end class is pretty weak this year. This is good news for Henry, who looks to be the top prospect with O.J. Howard (Alabama) and Jake Butt (Michigan) returning to school. In 2015, he caught 51 passes for 739 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-foot-5, 253 pounds, he possesses great size for the position. He needs to improve as a blocker, but that won’t hold him back from being a high selection. Due to the lack of depth at tight end in this draft, he could sneak into the end of the first round.

Offensive Tackle: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

One of the premier talents in the draft, Tunsil headlines an offensive tackle class that should put at least four players in the first round. Tunsil missed the early part of the 2015 season due to an NCAA investigation, but this won’t impact his NFL stock. In his first game back, he faced Texas A&M’s star defensive end Myles Garrett and held him in check. With Tennessee needing offensive line help, Tunsil is the early favorite to be taken first overall by the Titans.

Offensive Tackle: Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

While Tunsil is the consensus No. 1 offensive tackle in the draft, Stanley is the No. 2. Stanley is at his best in pass protection, where he protected the blindside of Fighting Irish quarterbacks for two years after one year at right tackle. If he can improve his strength, he has the potential to become one of the better offensive tackles in the league. With the high demand for offensive linemen, it is likely that Stanley doesn’t escape the top 10 selections on draft day.

Guard: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas

Many of the best guard prospects in the 2016 draft will make the transition from tackle to guard in the pros. Kirkland is one of these players, as he played left tackle at Arkansas in 2015. However, he already has experience at guard, as he spent his freshman and sophomore seasons playing guard for the Razorbacks. After three years on the massive Arkansas offensive line, he is one of the better guard prospects and could be selected on Day Two of the draft.

Guard: Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State

Playing three seasons at Oregon State, Seumalo saw time at center, guard and tackle. NFL teams will love the versatility that saw him start 23 games at center, nine at guard and five at tackle. After missing all of 2014 with a foot injury, he returned and moved to guard, which is his likely position in the NFL.

Center: None

No center declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft. Seumalo can play center, but his expected NFL position is guard.

Kicker: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State

It is rare to see a kicker selected high in the draft, but Aguayo has a chance to be the highest selected in years. No kicker has been selected in the top 100 of the draft since Mike Nugent in 2005. Aguayo is the third most accurate kicker in the history of college football, making 69 of 78 attempts, and he never missed from under 40 yards. If there is an area of concern, it is that he had his worst season in 2015 (missing five field goals).

Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp and is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter@Matt_Pearce13

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Taking a Look: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

Laquon Treadwell is a third year wide receiver for the Ole Miss Rebels. The Rebels will surely “miss” Treadwell when he enters the Draft. He hasn’t officially declared for the 2016 NFL Draft yet, but he is strongly considering entering as an underclassmen. From the players I have scouted so far, at the receiver position,

Laquon Treadwell is a third year wide receiver for the Ole Miss Rebels. The Rebels will surely “miss” Treadwell when he enters the Draft. He hasn’t officially declared for the 2016 NFL Draft yet, but he is strongly considering entering as an underclassmen. From the players I have scouted so far, at the receiver position, Treadwell is the best. He seems to have it all with no weaknesses. He is a 6’2”, 210 lb, big bodied receiver, who is deceptive with his speed. He can do so much and is a freakish athlete. It is incredible to see Treadwell where he is today after suffering a horrific leg and ankle injury against Auburn in 2014. He has bounced back and hasn’t missed a beat, so let’s take a look at first, his statistics from this season:

  • Played in all twelve games this season, and is slated to play in the Sugar Bowl vs Oklahoma State on New Year’s Day
  • 1,082 receiving yards with 76 total receptions this season
  • 8 receiving touchdowns and even 1 passing touchdown
  • 14.2 yards average per catch

Now let’s take a more in depth look at Treadwell:

Games Scouted:

vs Vanderbilt (2015), vs Florida (2015), vs Auburn (2015), and vs Alabama (2014)

When you watch film on Laquon Treadwell, one of the first things that will jump out to you is the way he can create separation against defenders. It doesn’t matter whether the corner lined up against him is in press coverage or zone, Treadwell will find a way to get open. The first thing that jumps out at me is how he dips his shoulder when he takes off on his route. Many times, I have seen him dip his shoulders on a corner, and gain at least two to three yards of separation. He does an excellent job of selling a pass play when the offense is actually running the ball. He will take off like he is running a post route, the corner bites, and he effectively takes one defender out of the play. He is also excellent at getting open and finding holes in zone coverage for his QB to float the ball into.

So he can get open, big deal. Can he catch the ball? In the games I watched him play in, I saw him drop the ball twice. Most of the time, Treadwell is a very reliable receiver who catches the ball with his hands. He seems to also have very strong wrists as he will win a contested ball the majority of the time. He does a great job of adjusting to the ball and has made some very acrobatic catches in his college career. The QB play was not the best this season, and so the ball placement wasn’t the best either. Treadwell didn’t miss a beat as he was able to adjust in the air and make the grab.

So, now that he has the ball in his hands, can he do anything with it? Absolutely. Treadwell does an excellent job of running with the ball after the catch. He is a very physical receiver who doesn’t mind lowering his shoulder for a few extra yards. He can be a slippery receiver who can make you miss in the open field. His physicality comes into play in the run blocking game. I have never seen such a physical blocking receiver. He does an excellent job of driving his legs, staying aggressive, and knocking a defender out of the play. Treadwell knocks one defender out of the play and moves on to the next defender in line.

There wasn’t much I didn’t like about Treadwell’s game, but there were two things that were worth noting. When he run blocks, or faces off against corners on his routes, he can get too careless and become too aggressive. Many times, I have seen flags thrown against him for unnecessary roughness or grabbing too much jersey. Second, I worry about whether his route tree is developed enough. For the first two years at Ole Miss, his primary routes were screen plays and post plays. This year, I saw his route tree develop some as he ran slants, hook routes, and a few in and out routes. He is no Amari Cooper when it comes to route running. From what I could tell, he is a an adequate route runner who seems to be a little tight in the hips, but I feel that is something he can work on and fix once he gets to the pros.

I love Treadwell’s potential. I strongly feel he will be a high first round pick. He has made an incredible bounce back from his horrendous injury last season and has put up some great stats and play on film this year. There are a lot of teams this season who are going to be looking for a future number one receiver, and I feel Treadwell can be that guy. He is an all-around receiver with the size, speed, catching ability, and the ability to make something happen after he gets the ball in his hands. I cannot wait to see what he will do in the pros.

Austin Morris is the creator of The Scouting Lab. He is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached atamorris3585@scc.stanly.edu

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