DFS Corner: NFL Week 7 Plays

Welcome back for another week of NFP’s DFS Corner. I hope everyone had a good weekend on Draft Kings and reaped the benefits of using my Week 6 plays which helped me double up this past weekend.

Before I get into this week’s plays, take a look at the teams on a bye this week, players dealing with injuries, and Vegas’s top 5 totals for the week.

NFL Week 7 Byes: Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers

NFL Week 7 Notable Injuries: Marcus Mariotta-MCL Sprain (Out), Ben Roethlisberger- MCL Sprain (Out), Tyrod Taylor -MCL Sprain (Out), Michael Vick-Hamstring Strain, Justin Forsett-Ankle, Sammy Watkins-Ankle (Out), Jeremy Maclin- Concussion (Questionable), Allen Robinson- Leg Contusion (Probable), Keenan Allen- Hip Strain (Questionable but should play), Jordan Reed- Concussion (Questionable, but should play)

5 Highest O/U game totals according to Vegas

Indianapolis Colts (-4.5) vs. New Orleans Saints with Total of 52.5

New England Patriots (-9) vs. New York Jets with Total of 48.5

Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens with Total of 48.5

Tennessee Titans (+4) vs, Atlanta Falcons with Total of 48

San Diego Chargers (-4) vs. Oakland Raiders with Total of 47

Quarterback Plays

High Priced Options:

Andrew Luck ($7,600) vs. New Orleans Saints will be the only high priced QB I will consider this week. Luck made his first start back from injury last week and played well, putting up over 31 points. This week, he gets to face a Saints’ Defense that is ranked 31st against fantasy QBs this year.  To make matters worse, they have already allowed 11 passing touchdowns through the air to go along with two interceptions, both of which came off Sam Bradford. Vegas has this game pegged as the highest total this week, with the Colts projected to put over 28 points, so Luck should be a safe bet to easily hit 2x his value.

Middle Priced Options:

Carson Palmer ($6,700) vs. Baltimore Ravens will probably be one of my most used QBs in cash game lineups. Not only does Vegas project the Cardinals projected to put up 28 points, but they get to face the Baltimore Ravens defense that currently is 32nd, which is the worst in the NFL vs. opposing fantasy QBs. I suggested Kaep last week vs. the Ravens, and he didn’t disappoint throwing for 340 yards with 2 TD’s on a mere 16 completions. Palmer had a down game last week, but Pittsburgh was able to generate consistent pressure, which is something a depleted Ravens defense can not do. Furthermore, Palmer has averaged over 3oo passing yards the last 3 games, and the match up bodes well again this week so start Palmer with confidence.

Phillip Rivers ($6,500) vs. Oakland Raiders will be the other QB I choose most often in cash games this week. I am still trying to figure out why Rivers isn’t priced better than 9th for QBs, as he has been the #1 QB the past three weeks throwing for over 1,200 yards and 7 TDs. Rivers currently leads the league in passing yards and just threw for 503 yards and 2 TDs (31.1 pts) last week in another shootout. The Chargers offense runs through Rivers as suspect O-Line play has hurt their attempt to establish a ground game. Although the Raiders are 15th vs opposing fantasy QB’s, their defense is still 23rd against the pass. In a game that I predict will be back and forth, don’t question Rivers as a solid cash game QB.

Low Priced Options:

Brian Hoyer ($5,300) @ Miami Dolphins will be another QB I play this week if I am trying to save some money at the QB position. While I don’t think Hoyer will light the world on fire, his mere price of $5.3k provides a lot of value and he once again should hit 3x value. Over the last 3 weeks Hoyer has scored 24.2 (@ Jax), 23.9 (vs. Ind) and 17.3 (@Atl) and all he needs to reavh 3x his value is 15.9 points which shouldnt be too hard when your force feeding Deandre Hopkins the entire game.

Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,200) @ New England Patriots will be the other low priced QB I target in Cash Games this week. Fitzpatrick is coming of a 26.2 pt game vs Washington last week and found success through by the air and his legs. With this game being the second highest total of the week, I expect Fitzpatrick to be very active. Bill Belichick usually does a great job of stopping a team’s strength, which in this case, is the Jets running game led by Chris Ivory. The Patriots are currently ranked 27th against opposing fantasy QB’s, which isn’t all that surprising considering most teams are playing catch up with the Pats. At 5.2k, Fitzpatrick is a good bet to at least reach his season average of 18.08 points, which is over 3x his value.

Running Back Plays

High Priced Options:

Devonta Freeman ($7,900) @ Tennessee Titans  has essentially made himself a must start over the past few weeks given his performance. I made the mistake of fading him a few weeks ago and quickly realized I should continue riding this bowling ball until proven otherwise. Over the past 3 weeks, he has been the #1 fantasy running back rushing for over 321 yards and 5 TDs. The Titans are also allowing over 129 rushing yards on average this year, which bodes well for Freeman. His heavy usage in both the running and passing game coupled with a game script that favors a RB on a team that is a favorite to win and you have a safe top-priced cash game RB.

Arian Foster ($7,500) @ Miami Dolphins will be the RB in this price range if I chose to fade or diversify some of my lineups from Freeman. While Foster hasn’t quite gotten into full form yet in regards to the running game, he has remained highly active and his volume warrants a high floor ( 17 catches, 161 receiving yards and 1 receiving TD in 3 games this year). The Dolphins have allowed 141 yards rushing per game this year, which ranks 31st in the NFL, but did show improvement last week now that they have fired Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle. Regardless, Foster should be highly involved on a team that is leading the NFL with 75.7 plays per game.

Middle Priced Options:

Todd Gurley ($5,000) vs. Cleveland Browns will be in EVERY SINGLE ONE of my lineups this week. There is no need for diversification when he have as talented a running back as Gurley priced at a meager $5k going up against the 31st run defense in the Cleveland Browns, who also allow the 27th most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Gurley has rushed for a combined 305 yards his past two games vs defenses that were both respectively 14th and 16th against the run. Gurley is a near lock to hit 3x value with a ceiling for much more. The only word of caution is that he will be highly owned.

Low Priced Options:

Frank Gore ($4,900) vs. New Orleans Saints will be a low priced RB that I will either take as my RB2 or a flex in cash games this week. Not only does this game have the highest O/U, but the Saints are ranked 28th vs opposing fantasy RBs. I believe this offense will only continue to find its grove as the season goes on, and Gore presents a high floor not scoring below 11 points the past 4 weeks.

Lamar Miller ($4,600) vs. Houston Texans is another great value play this week, and I hope you took my advice and played him last week in a few tournaments. Dan Campbell vowed to make this a tougher team and emphasize the run more moving forward, and he did just that last week as Miller received the most carries he has all year with 19. He turned those 19 carries into a 22.8 point fantasy day thanks to rushing for 113 yards and 1 TD. Houston’s defense is currently ranked 20th vs opposing running backs and has been underwhelming all year.

Wide Receiver Plays

Top Priced Options:

Deandre Hopkins ($8,600) @ Miami Dolphins will be my most owned WR in all of my lineups. Kind of like Freeman, how can you not play Hopkins with the production and volume he has received all year. Just to refresh your memory, here is Hopkins fantasy stat line for the year: 32.8, 10.3, 27.1, 27.7, 30.9, and 39.8 points last week. Although his price finally went up, I have no intentions of fading him until proven otherwise. Even though I do respect Brett Grimes as CB, Hopkins is on pace for 237 targets this year. That volume alone warrants the pick.

Brandon Marshall ($7,800) @ New England Patriots should be in for another very active game facing a Pats’ defense that is currently ranked 26th against opposing fantasy WRs. In a game with a high projected O/U, Marshall should be the beneficiary of the Pats making Fitzpatrick beat them through the air. Marshall’s consistent stat line for the year is exactly what you want in cash games as he has scored 18.2, 26.1, 28.9, 22.8, and 26.1 points this year.

Larry Fitzgerald ($7,400) vs. Baltimore Ravens is another very intriguing option again this week as he faces off against the Baltimore Ravens who are currently ranked 31st against opposing WRs. As I mentioned above with Marshall, Fitz is also the epitome of a player you like to target in cash games due to his consistency and the high floor he brings to the table. Fitz’s fantasy points on the season are as follows 14.7, 40.2, 37.4, 15.9, 16.8, and 17.3 points.

Middle Priced Options:

Jarvis Landry ($6,200) vs. Houston Texans will be a sneaky play this week. Landry has been very consistent in PPR this year, and people have seemed to forgot about him due to their game in London, their bye week, and an average performance last week, where he bailed owners out with a 22-yard running touchdown. Landry is still averaging over 10 targets a game and gets to face a very beat up Houston secondary who will be without their starting SS Lonnie Ballentine for the remainder of the year. Houston’s second corner, Kareem Jackson, is also most likely going to sit out as well. The only thing that has hurt Landry’s upside this year is his lack of receiving TD’s but the redzone targets are there, and I like his chances versus a defense that has already allowed 12 passing TD’s this year.

John Brown ($5,500) vs. Baltimore Ravens is another great play this week for most of the reasons listed above in Fitz’s and Palmer’s write ups.  This may come as a surprise, but Brown has quietly led the Cardinals receivers over the past 3 weeks with over 21 catches, 334 yards and 1 TD. For comparison, here is Fitz’s stat line; 20/250/1 TD. Furthermore, Brown had his big breakout game last week to the sound of 31.6 points thanks to a 10 catch 196 yard day. Brown has hit at least 3x value the past 3 weeks (15.8, 17.3,31.6) and should easily do it again facing an atrocious Ravens secondary.

Donte Moncrief ($5,200) vs. New Orleans Saints will be in my lineups for a second straight week. Moncrief will most likely face up against Brandon Browner, who, on the year, has been statistically one of the worst cover corners according to PFF. Furthermore, the Saints do not generate any pass rush which will only allow Andrew Luck to have his way with a very poor Rob Ryan defense. When Luck has played this year, Moncrief has averaged over 10 targets a game to go along with 1 TD in each game. Moncrief should easily reach 3x value this week.

Low Priced Options:

Martavis Bryant ($4,700) @ Kansas City Chiefs will be another staple play this week. It didn’t take Bryant too long to make a splash in his first game of the year, amassing over 35 fantasy points. At his low price tag, his upside is almost too much to pass up facing a Chiefs defense that ranks dead last (32nd) against opposing  fantasy WR’s. Landry Jones is probably an upgrade over Vick at QB and should have little trouble getting the ball in Bryant’s hands.

Stefon Diggs ($4,200) @ Detroit Lions has come into his own the past 2 weeks. I was a huge fan of Diggs going into the draft this past year, as he was the most heralded recruit possibly ever to attend the University of Maryland. The Terp product got his chance 2 weeks ago due to Charles Johnson being banged up and has seized his opportunity. This week, he gets to face off against the Lions’ 29th ranked passing defense, which is also ranked 23rd against opposing fantasy WRs. Diggs has been called the next “Antonio Brown” from teammates and competition. While he is not quite there yet, his $4.2k price is rather intriguing as he has quickly become Bridgewater’s favorite option the past 2 weeks, catching 13 of his 19 targets for over 216 yards receiving.

Tight End Plays

High Priced Options:

I will refrain from taking Gronk at his current price of $8,100

Middle Priced Options:

Antonio Gates ($5,000) vs. Oakland Raiders will be my staple TE play this week in all cash games. Since his return from suspension two weeks ago, Gates has accumulated over 18 catches and 2 TDs. He has re-established himself as one of Rivers favorite targets and is facing  a porous Raiders secondary, which has been letting up the most points to TE’s thus far.  Look for Gates to continue his hot start this Sunday.

Low Priced Options:

Delanie Walker ($3,900) vs. Atlanta Falcons could be another safe option again this week. While Mettenberger starting might scare some people off, he actually formed a decent connection with him last year. Walker is the top option in the passing game this week in a game that will most likely be played from behind and catching up. You saw what the Saints and Ben Watson just did to New Orleans last week, and while I don’t expect the same fate for Walker, I do think he is a lock to hit 2x value and has a very reasonable chance to hit 3x value as he did last week with over 17 points.

Defensive Plays

St. Louis Rams ($2,400) vs. Cleveland Browns

Washington Redskins ($2,500) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pittsburgh Steelers ($2,600) @ Kansas City Chiefs

Here will be one of my cash game lineups this weekend

QB: Rivers

RBS: Freeman and Gurley

WRS: Hopkins, John Brown, Diggs

TE: Gates

Flex: Frank Gore

DEF: St. Louis Rams

Best of luck this weekend!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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