Monthly Archives: May 2017

2017 NFL Draft Grades: AFC South

The AFC South was once again soft. Since Peyton Manning left the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, the division has failed to deliver a true powerhouse. Under Bill O’Brien, the Houston Texans have won the AFC South division the past two years. An impressive feat considering the Texans have had virtually no quarterback to steer the ship.

The massive Brock Osweiler deal (four-years and $72 million dollar with $37 million guaranteed) turned out to be a bust. Osweiler, was benched by midseason and after the season was dealt, along with his remaining guaranteed money, to the Cleveland Browns along with a sixth-round pick in 2017 and second-round pick in 2018 for a fourth-round pick in 2017.

That left Houston in a particularly bad situation with the new and improved Tennessee Titans nipping at their heels. The Titans surprised many in 2016, going from 3-13 to 9-7 in their first year under head coach Mike Mularkey. The big question now is, can the Titans build off that success? The team is young and led by former-Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

After another 8-8 season, the Colts parted ways with GM Ryan Grigson and brought aboard Chris Ballard, from the Kansas City Chiefs. The big question entering the year was can Andrew Luck stay healthy, after playing in only seven games in 2015. Luck, stayed upright for 15 games, but the roster was so thin that it was difficult to turn any production into wins.

Then there are the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. After yet another exciting young draft class and free agent period, the team couldn’t string together enough wins leading to the departure of head coach Gus Bradley. The team promoted Doug Marrone and brought back, former head coach Tom Coughlin, to work along side GM David Caldwell. What else is their to say? Maybe this is the year they put it together?

Houston Texans: B+
1.) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
2.) Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
3.) D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
4.) Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell
4b.) Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
5.) Treston Decoud, S, Oregon St.
7.) Kyle Fuller, C, Baylor

On Day One of the NFL Draft, the Texans were aggressive. They jumped in front of the Arizona Cardinals to pick up their guy, Deshaun Watson. Now, Houston really likes their guy Tom Savage, but he has proved injury prone. Maybe, he plays in 2016, but the plan is to have Watson watch and learn. Cunningham, is a freaky athlete, who will be the heir to Brian Cushing in the middle of their 3-4 defense. That provides a dynamic, young core when paired with Benardrick McKinney. The fourth-round was used to build the trenches and the Texans picked up quality talent. Davenport, needs some seasoning, but has starter upside. Watkins, provides needed depth along the defensive front and adds another pass rushing threat.

Best pick: D’Onta Foreman
Foreman, is a true Texan. Grew up in the Houston-area, played in Austin, and is now playing pro ball back home. At 230-plus pounds, Foreman, is a bruiser who ran for over 2,000 yards last year and 15 touchdowns and is considerably fast given his size.

Indianapolis Colts: B+
1.) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio St.
2.) Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
3.) Tarrell Basham, OLB, Ohio
4.) Zach Banner, OG, USC
4b.) Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida
4c.) Grover Stewart, DT, Albany St.
5.) Nate Hairston, CB, Temple
5b.) Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern

Ballard was given a gift in his first year drafting for the Colts. How Hooker fell to 15th overall is astonishing. Hooker is a legitimate Top 5 talent. Although, he only started one year, he racked up seven interceptions. Pairing Wilson, with Hooker instantly upgrades a pass defense that ranked 27th in the league last year. Wilson, could be a Day One starter. Basham, is another piece to a defensive rebuilding project. Gone are the days of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. The Colts need pass rushers and got a good prospect in Basham. He had 11.5 sacks last year. Banner, is an intriguing player. He is a mammoth at 6’8″ and 350-pounds. Size will always be an issue, but if he can get fit, Banner is a road grader with starter upside. Walker, adds depth inside at linebacker and special teams help. With so little talent at linebacker, should injuries pop up, Walker could get pushed into starting duties.

Best pick: Marlon Mack
This very well could have been Hooker, but Mack is intriguing. Frank Gore, isn’t getting any younger, and the Colts need a run game to take some pressure off of Luck. Mack, is on the smaller side, but rushed for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in three seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B
1.) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
2.) Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
3.) Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
4.) Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
5.) Blair Brown, LB, Ohio
7.) Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
7b.) Marquez Williams, FB, Miami (OH)

The Jaguars draft class is marred by fourth-round pick Westbrook. He is in the Joe Mixon realm of deplorable character. The draft grade is representative of the rest of the draft class, which again injects Jacksonville with strong blue chip talent in Fournette and Robinson. Fournette, is an old school back, who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards two years. Last year’s minor injuries won’t be an issue. The Jags hit on pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue in the third-round last year. They’re hoping to do the same with Smoot this year. He’ll add another pass rush threat to their rotation. Brown, isn’t the biggest linebacker, but he’ll make the play. Myrick, has the speed to excel on special teams.

Best pick: Cam Robinson
Robinson, the 2016 Outland Trophy winner, is a Day One starter and should finally fix the revolving door at one of the tackle spots. They’ve taken tackles in the Top 10 and paid big for free agents to be the answer. Robinson is a smart, safe selection at the top of Round 2.

Tennessee Titans: B-
1.) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
1b.) Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
3.) Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky
3b.) Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International
5.) Jayon Brown, LB, UCLA
6.) Corey Levin, OL, Tennessee-Chattanooga
7.) Josh Carraway, OLB, TCU
7b.) Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova
7c.) Khalfani Muhammad, RB, Cal

When you have a young, dynamic quarterback like Marcus Mariota you have to give him the weapons to succeed and that’s exactly what the Titans did. Davis, Taylor, and Smith should all contribute as rookies. Davis, has the size and speed to be special. He racked up over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns while at Western Michigan. Jackson, was a bit a reach. He is technically raw at the position, but has a very high ceiling. He also has added value as a return man. Smith, has upside as a receiver in a flex role. Was a four year starter at Florida International, but needs to get stronger. Brown and Carraway will better the special teams units, while Levin and Seaton are projects who add depth.

Best pick: Taywan Taylor
Taylor, could be a force in the slot at the next level. While on the small side Taylor has the speed and quickness to make an impact. Over the past two seasons Taylor racked up 184 receptions and 3,197 yards, along with 34 touchdowns.

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2017 NFL Draft Grades: AFC North

It was a surprisingly down year in the AFC North despite traditionally being one of the better divisions in the NFL. The Steelers took the division crown this year and made it to the championship game. It comes as no surprise, the Steelers are still in great shape, despite being in Year 3 of trying to restock their defense.

The biggest surprise to come out the AFC North in 2016 was the fall of Cincinnati. The Bengals have jockeyed for power with Pittsburgh and Baltimore for division supremacy with regularity the past few years, but all went wrong last year. Age, injury, and thin depth showed in glaring fashion as they went 6-9.

Baltimore continued to flounder in mediocrity again. After regressing to 5-11 in 2015, they rebounded to a measly 8-8. The team is going through a major generational shift. First was the departures of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, then it was Haloti Ngata leaving, now it seems that Terrell Suggs seems to be on his last legs. As the team attempts to keep their hallmark playing style, they’ve been struggling to find the right pieces.

Then of course…there’s the Browns, who nearly went DEFEATED in 2016. Now, I would just like to state: I love the Cleveland Browns. They are one of the greatest, most historic franchises in history. But after the villainous Art Modell absconded with the team to Baltimore the Browns have been a horror show. I believe Hue Jackson is the right man to lead the team, but this mess will take years to clean up.

Baltimore Ravens: B
1.) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
2.) Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston
3.) Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan
3b.) Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
4.) Nico Siragusa, OG, San Diego St.
5.) Jermaine Eluemunor, OT, Texas A&M
6.) Chuck Clark, S, Virginia Tech

The Ravens once again brought in a quality haul, however they are all at positions addressed in the earlier rounds of previous drafts which means the Ravens are missing on picks. Humphrey, gives them a high ceiling, low floor talent who can ease his way into the starting rotation as he develops behind Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr. Bowser, is a classic Ravens edge rusher. A freak athlete, who can fly off the edge. His numbers got better each year. Wormley, effectively replaces Timmy Jernigan, who was dealt to Philly. Wormley, could be a Day One starter at the five-technique. Siragusa and Eluemunor are developmental depth picks.

Best pick: Tim Williams
GM Ozzie Newsome loves taking Alabama players and Williams, is a classic Newsome choice. On talent alone, Williams is a first-round talent, but off-field there were red flags. Taking a flyer on a player of this caliber in Round 3 could pay off considerably.

Cincinnati Bengals: C+
1.) John Ross, WR, Washington
2.) Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
3.) Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas St.
4.) Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
4b.) Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee
4c.) Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
5.) Jake Elliot, K, Memphis
5b.) J.J. Dielman, C, Utah
6.) Jordan Evans, LB, Oklahoma
6b.) Brandon Wilson, RB, Houston
7.) Mason Schreck, TE, Buffalo

The selection of Mixon is gross and shows that while the NFL may say it takes a position on certain issue, this pick and others show a disturbing level of hypocrisy. This grade comes with the omission of the Mixon pick. Ross, seemed like a reach at No. 9 with his injury history. Yes, he tore up the 40-yard dash and his best season came post injuries, but the issue remains. Willis and Lawson, provide an excellent pair of high upside pass rushers they can mold and rejuvenate their defensive front. Malone, gives a high ceiling playmaker who has the talent to be special, he just has to put it all together. Glasgow, adds much needed depth to the interior of the defensive line. Dielman, has a nasty disposition and starter upside.

Best pick: Jordan Willis
Willis is a player. That simple. He’s not the flashiest edge rusher, but he gets the job done. A tough, aggressive player, Willis got better each year at Kansas State and capped off his senior year with career bests 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.

Cleveland Browns: B
1.) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
1b.) Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
1c.) David Njoku, TE, Miami
2.) DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
3.) Larry Ogunjobi, DT, North Carolina-Charlotte
4.) Howard Wilson, CB, Houston
5.) Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida St.
6.) Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
7.) Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona St.
7.) Matt Dayes, RB, NC State

See the above issue with Mixon and apply it to Brantley too. This grade omits his selection. The Browns did a tremendous job to kickoff the draft. With their history, there is always the worry that they could screw it up, but they stayed to the board. It was tremendous. Garrett, was a can’t miss top talent and the Browns didn’t miss. Peppers, is the playmaker that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams needs in the secondary. Williams will take full advantage of Peppers’ aggressive playing style. Moving back into Round 1 for Njoku was smart. A young, freakish athlete, Njoku could become quite the weapon. Kizer, has maybe the best pure arm talent in this year’s class, but some had a problem with his attitude. Coach Hue Jackson will get the best of Kizer to come out and could be a dynamic talent. Ogunjobi, is a quality three-technique to pair with nose Danny Shelton.

Best pick: Zane Gonzalez
Don’t hate on kickers. Gonzalez is a quality prospect, having only missed two field goals last season and only three point-after attempts over his four year career as a Sun Devil. There were four games last season that the Browns lost by at least three points last season. Gonzalez, could pick up that difference.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B+
1.) T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
2.) JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
3.) Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
3b.) John Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
4.) Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
5.) Brian Allen, S, Utah
6.) Colin Holba, LS, Louisville
7.) Keion Adams, OLB, Western Michigan

The Steelers did a great job of sticking to their board and addressing areas of need along the way. Watt is a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. He’ll learn a lot behind veteran James Harrison and will be allowed to develop. He has a high ceiling. Smith-Schuser, was a value pick, but could certainly pay off sooner than later. Outside of Antonio Brown, the Steelers haven’t had a real go-to target. Smith-Schuster could fill that void. Sutton, is working his way back from a fractured ankle, but he could be a quality addition. A four year starter for the Volunteers, he excelled in both man and zone coverage. Conner’s, story is tremendous to fight back from cancer to make it to the NFL. He is a bruiser and is the perfect compliment to Le’Veon Bell.

Best pick:: Josh Dobbs
Dobbs has a little bit of Dak Prescott to him. Dobbs, got better from Year 1 to Year 2 as a starter, seeing his accuracy jump from 59.6% to 63% and his touchdowns from 15 to 27. He is still developing, but has the size, arm, and athleticism to suggest he could grow into a starter.

2017 NFL Draft Grades: AFC East

Once again the AFC East was a rather vanilla division. The Patriots were the clear top dog, made it to another AFC Championship, made it to another Super Bowl and turned in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to win their sixth ring under future-hall-of-fame coach Bill Belichick.

However, there were some intriguing twists and turns over last season. Most notably, was that of the 10-6 Miami Dolphins, who under first-time head coach Adam Gase made the playoffs as a wild card. It was the latest attempt by a division rival to usurp the Patriots, however, we’ve seen this story before.

In 2015 under first-time head coach Todd Bowles, the New York Jets went 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs as a wild card. So, how did the Jets follow that strong start in 2016? A disastrous 5-11. For any team to beat the Patriots, they will need to have sustained success. The Dolphins can’t slip as the Jets did.

Speaking of sustained success, the Buffalo Bills haven’t had that since the early 1990s. The Bills turned in a ho-hum 7-9 season. However, the season was so tumultuous that Rex Ryan fired his offensive coordinator a few games into the season and then Rex Ryan was fired with a few games left in the season.

Then in the offseason GM Doug Whaley “led” the search for a new head coach and, after having his initial choice Anthony Lynn was turned down, went with first-timer Sean McDermott to take the helm. Then after the draft Whaley was fired. The lesson of this story: the Bills are in the cellar until further notice.

Buffalo Bills: B+
1.) Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
2.) Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
2b.) Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple
5.) Matt Milano, LB, Boston College
5b.) Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
6.) Tanner Vallejo, LB, Boise St.

Despite the mess in the Bills front office, GM Doug Whaley left the Bills a lovely parting gift. The writing on the wall came after Whaley traded down with the Chiefs, but netted a first-round pick next year and the collateral to move up in Round 2 and take Zay Jones. Not to mention, both White and Jones will be Day One starters for the Bills, who were picked clean in free agency. White is one of the most complete players from this year’s class. He will impress. Jones, has the size and speed to compliment Sammy Watkins very well. Dawkins, can play guard or right tackle and with the revolving door the Bills have had on the right side, except him to make an impact at right tackle. Milano, can lineup all over the field and make plays on special teams.

Best pick: Nathan Peterman
The reason Whaley took heat for trading down from the No. 10 pick was, because ownership wanted the quarterback who went 10th overall in Patrick Mahomes. Trading down was the right move, as nearly all the quarterbacks were over-drafted due to the shallow quarterback class. Peterman, was, arguably, the most complete prospect. He could surprise a lot of people.

Miami Dolphins: B
1.) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
2.) Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio St.
3.) Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
5.) Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah
5b.) Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU
6.) Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma St.
7.) Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech

The Dolphins game-plan was to address a defense that finished 29th in the league last year and they succeeded. Harris, should develop nicely in a rotation with Cam Wake, Andre Branch, and William Hayes. Harris, lived in the backfield at Mizzou with 30.5 tackles-for-loss over past two seasons. McMillan rounds out a vastly improved linebacking corps after the team signed veteran Lawrence Timmons and resigned Kiko Alonso. McMillan isn’t flashy, but carries a lot of lead in the pencil. Tankersley, adds to a young, high ceiling positional group. A two year starter, Tankersley displayed quality ball skills with 22 pass breakups and nine interceptions over that time. Godchaux and Taylor, are developmental, depth pieces needed along their line.

Best pick: Isaac Asiata
With Laremy Tunsil shifting to tackle that leaves a guard spot open. Asiata, is a physical run blocker who can pull, i.e. the perfect candidate for Miami’s offense. If Asiata can continue to improve, don’t be surprised if this fifth-round pick turns into a starter.

New England Patriots: A
3.) Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown St.
3b.) Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
4.) Dietrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
6.) Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA

How can you get an A-grade with only four draft picks? Easy. All you have to do is make trades for Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Kony Ealy, Mike Gillislee, and James O’ Shaughnessy while also trading down for potential starter (Rivers) and take that capitol to trade up to take another potential starter (Garcia). It seems almost insane for the Patriots to do what they did during this year’s draft, but moving picks all their picks to land (potentially) five starters in Cooks, Ealy, Gillislee, Rivers, and Garcia is so impressive.

Best pick: Derek Rivers/Antonio Garcia
The Pats hit it out of the park in Round 3. Rivers had 52 tackles for loss and 35 sacks in three seasons. He’ll be put in a rotation that allows him to develop, just as breakout play-maker Trey Flowers did. Garcia, will sit behind incumbent Nate Solder as he plays out the final year of his contract where Garcia, should then take over as Tom Brady’s blindside blocker.

New York Jets: C-
1.) Jamal Adams, S, LSU
2.) Marcus Maye, S, Florida
3.) ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
4.) Chad Hansen, WR, Cal
5.) Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
5b.) Dylan Donahue, OLB, West Georgia
6.) Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
6b.) Jeremy Clark, CB, Michigan
6c.) Derrick Jones, CB, Ole Miss

The selection of Adams saves this draft pick from getting a D-grade. Adams, was, arguably, the second best talent in the draft and they landed him at sixth overall. That’s a steal. But not addressing their two biggest needs, cornerback and offensive line, was incredibly puzzling. That puts a lot of pressure on average veterans Kelvin Beachum at tackle and Morris Claiborne to play at a high level. Maye, is a tremendous leader who all, but finalized Calvin Pryor’s departure from the team. Stewart and Hansen, are fantastic additions to a depleted unit. Stewart, is a physical playmaker and Hansen can take the top off a defense. Leggett, is another weapon for Josh McCown to utilize. He will stretch the seam and could start Day One.

Best pick: Jamal Adams
Players like Adams are rare. He has size, range, ball skills, and can provide run support with strong tackling abilities. Adams, is maybe the most complete player in the 2017 NFL draft class and he will be a leader from Day One for Gang Green.