Tag Archives: Draft Grades

2017 NFL Draft Grades: AFC West

The 2016 season had two distinct story lines. One was the resurrection of the Oakland Raiders, who returned for the first time since 2002 with a 12-4 record. However, there Super Bowl dreams were dashed when quarterback David Carr went down with a broken leg near the end of the regular season.

The second was that the San Diego Chargers played their final game in San Diego as they decided the best move of the organization would be the second Los Angeles team and move into the LA Rams new stadium in 2020. It was a crushing move for the San Diego natives and it didn’t help that the team showcased Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa on their way out.

It was the Kansas City Chiefs who took the division crown, but just as in Philadelphia, coach Andy Reid proved consistently making the playoffs rarely turns into a Super Bowl appearance. While Denver rolled up to the finish line with a modest 9-7 record as Trevor Siemian took the reigns from the retired future hall-of-famer Peyton Manning.

For such a competitive division in 2016 the most striking aspect of it was the amount of turnover that occurred in the postseason.

The Oakland Raiders also agreed to relocate in 2020, with a move to Las Vegas finalized. Now, with an end date in Oakland, hometown hero Marshawn Lynch was coaxed out of retirement in an attempt to help send off the Raiders with a Super Bowl trophy while still in the bay area.

Elsewhere in the division, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak decided to retire which led to the hiring of first-time coach Vance Joseph. In San Diego, Mike McCoy was let go and returned to Denver as offensive coordinator, a position he already held from 2009-2012. Anthony Lynn was tasked as the man to replace McCoy and lead the Chargers into their new turn as the LA Chargers.

With such turnover, how did things transpire on draft day? Look no further. Here is the complete breakdown…

Denver Broncos: B+
1.) Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
2.) DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida St.
3.) Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
3b.) Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar
5.) Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
5b.) Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Georgia
6.) De’Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina
7.) Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss

The Broncos and GM John Elway continue their impressive build up. Addressing the trenches to start was a tremendous approach. Bolles, will be a 25-year-old rookie and is still a bit raw, but he should start Day One on the left side. Walker, fits seamlessly into the Broncos 3-4 scheme. He had 26.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Henderson, gives Denver a slot option with the hands and quickness to be dynamic. With the final pick in the draft the Broncos tagged Chad Kelly. A very intriguing move. The nephew of hall-of-famer Jim Kelly, Chad has shown an impressive ability at the position, but has considerable off-field questions. With fellow hall-of-famer Elway in the building, it will be interesting to see how Kelly develops.

Best pick: Jake Butt
Butt, would have been a lock second-round pick, if not a first-round choice, had he been healthy. Butt, tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl and will take awhile to yield results from him, but he is a classic tight end who can block and be a reliable receiving option.

Kansas City Chiefs: C
1.) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
2.) Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
3.) Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
4.) Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan
5.) Ukeme Eligwe, LB, Georgia Southern
6.) Leon McQuay, S, USC

The Chiefs were very aggressive during the draft. First moving up 17 spots to take Mahomes and handing over their first-round pick in the 2018 draft to do so. Mahomes, threw for over 5,000 yards and 40 scores in his final season at Texas Tech, but he is still raw in respect to the NFL level. The Chiefs again moved up for Hunt. With long time back Jamaal Charles now in Denver, Hunt adds to the committee to replace him. Chesson, was expected to breakout in 2016 after a promising 2015, but injuries slowed him down. The Chiefs are hoping he can get back to his 2015 self.

Best pick: Tanoh Kpassagnon
The man is an athletic freak. That simple. Kpassagnon, has the explosiveness and length to excel in the NFL, but needs to develop. Voted a team captain, Kpassagnon put up 17.5 sacks and 31 tackles-for-loss over his final two years.

LA Chargers: B+
1.) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
2.) Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
3.) Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana
4.) Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami
5.) Desmond King, S, Iowa
6.) Sam Tevi, OT, Utah
7.) Isaac Rochell, DT, Notre Dame

The Chargers did a tremendous job drafting for need. The Bolts still believe in Phillip Rivers, but his weapons have been few and injury prone. Williams, instantly upgrades the unit and provides the perfect compliment to Keenan Allen. Spending capital on linemen with their next two picks was smart as that was their weakest link for a few seasons now. Lamp, can play any position along the line and should be a Day One starter. Jenkins, can play either safety position and is a thumper. King, won the Thorpe Award in 2015 and will have his abilities maximized sliding over from cornerback to safety at the NFL level.

Best pick: Dan Feeney
When word gets out that the New England Patriots had to scramble after you selected a player one pick before them, you know you’re on to something. Feeney, will be a Day One starter and, like Lamp, offers versatility along the interior.

Oakland Raiders: C
1.) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio St.
2.) Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn
3.) Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
4.) David Sharpe, OT, Florida
5.) Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forrest
7.) Shalom Luani, S, Washington St.
7b.) Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama St.
7c.) Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
7d.) Treyvon Hester, DT, Toledo

The Raiders surprised many with the selection of Conley. Just before the draft, Conley was accused of rape after an incident in Cleveland. Conley has maintained his innocence, the Ravens gave him a lie detector test previous to the draft, and Conley regularly has met with Cleveland police. That pick aside, the Raiders turned in a rather lackluster class. Majority of the prospects are depth pieces. Vanderdoes, in the third-round was surprising. He was on his way to developing into a considerable talent before a knee injury derailed his development and hasn’t seemed to be able to get on track. Lee, was a three-year starter and the anticipation and tackling ability to add quality depth and special teams play to the Raiders.

Best pick: Obi Melifonwu
Melifonwu, was a fringe first-round talent and is wildly athletic. He played all over the field at UConn showing ability at corner and safety. With his size and dependable tackling, Melifonwu could significantly improve the Raiders 24th ranked pass defense.

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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.

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.

2017 NFL Draft Grades: NFC West

Talk about the Wild West, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how the NFC West shaped up in 2016. Preseason division favorites the Arizona Cardinals collapsed despite running back David Johnson breaking out into a star. Head coach Bruce Arians was in and out of the hospital during the year and after the year they faced a retirement scare with Carson Palmer, who ultimately, decided to give it one more shot in 2017.

Not surprisingly the Seahawks won the division in the end, going 10-5-1, despite Russell Wilson battling injuries all season and the Niners pulled up the rear which saw coach Chip Kelly fired, as well as GM Trent Baalke. The intriguing part postseason was the hiring Kyle Shanahan as head coach and former-All Pro safety John Lynch as GM despite having no front office experience

The Rams were a sad story in their first year back in Los Angeles after a 20 year hiatus in St. Louis. Head coach John Fisher got caught up in an ugly fight in the media with LA Ram legend and NFL Hall-of-Famer Eric Dickerson, the team floundered in every way, and Fisher was eventually fired. Taking over is the spry 30-year old Sean McVay.

So how does this new look division shape up following the draft? Here’s a look…

Arizona Cardinals: B
1.) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
2.) Budda Baker, S, Washington
3.) Chad Williams, WR, Grambling St.
4.) Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh
5.) Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt
5b.) T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina
6.) Rudy Ford, S, Auburn

This is a draft class that will certainly help Arizona down the stretch, most notably with the selection of Johnson and Holden. The offensive line has been underwhelming despite recent first-round investments. Johnson could become a starter as a rookie. Holden is a more developmental prospect with high upside. Reddick, is a tremendous story, walk-on turned Top 15 selection. He is the perfect defender in Bruce Arians’ defense. He can be deployed all over the field and wreak havoc. Williams and Logan, provide developmental prospects at skill positions.

Best pick: Budda Baker
Like Reddick, Baker can be lined up all over the field. He can play safety, nickle, even as a linebacker. Baker, gets dinged, because he is not the biggest prospect, but Baker is a baller with great ball skills.

LA Rams: B
2.) Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
3.) Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
3b.) John Johnson, S, Boston College
4.) Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
4b.) Samson Ebukam, LB, Eastern Washington
6.) Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
6b.) Sam Rogers, FB, Virginia Tech
7.) Ejuan Price, OLB, Pittsburgh

This is a proven and steady draft class brought in by the new regime in LA. First time head coach Sean McVay comes to town after running the Redskins offense the past three seasons and with a roster absent of playmakers, McVay went right out and picked some up. Everett, is a natural pass catcher who can make plays, but needs to get bigger to help as a blocker. Kupp, is not a burner, but he will run the best routes and always make the catch. Reynolds, has a great size-speed combo that will allow him to make the big play. Ebukam and Smart provide depth.

Best pick: John Johnson
Johnson, is an underrated prospect, but don’t be surprised if he winds up starting sooner than later. He is versatile prospect having played both corner and safety with proven ball skills (18 PBUs, six INTs in two years) and range to make the play.

San Francisco 49ers: B+
1.) Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
1b.) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
3.) Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
3b.) C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa
4.) Joe Williams, RB, Utah
5.) George Kittle, TE, Iowa
5b.) Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech
6.) D.J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss
6b.) Pita Taumoepenu, LB, Utah
7.) Adrian Colbert, S, Miami

How about GM John Lynch, huh? The former-Pro Bowler went straight from TV commentator to front office executive seamlessly. Not only did he fleece the Bears, but he was able to move up and down the board effectively, picking up a second- and third-round pick for next year’s draft. Kicking things off with the trade and still getting their guys Thomas and Foster was tremendous. Round 3 was more intriguing. Witherspoon, has tremendous size and potential, but is raw having only played the game for five years or so. Beathard, has the intangibles you look for in a quarterback, but is still developing. Williams, Kittle, and Taylor provide needed depth at the skill positions. Taylor, is lightning fast capable of breaking out a big play whenever he has the football in his hands.

Best pick: Reuben Foster
The Niners were big, big fans of Foster and as his slide continued. The Niners waited till the end of Round 1, gave up very little and jumped up to stop the fall. Foster is a Top 5 talent, who sets the tone on defense. He’ll make his impact felt much sooner than later in the Bay Area.

Seattle Seahawks: C
2.) Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan St.
2b.) Ethan Pocic, C, LSU
3.) Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida
3b.) Delano Hill, S, Michigan
3c.) Nazair Jones, DT, North Carolina
3d.) Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan
4.) Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
6.) Michael Tyson, S, Cincinnati
6b.) Justin Senior, OT, Mississippi St.
7.) David Moore, WR, East Central
7b.) Christopher Carson, RB, Oklahoma St.

The Seahawks always have very unique drafts. Their never afraid to trade out of Round 1 and are never afraid to take a player who may be seen as a reach. McDowell, is another piece of the rotation in Seattle. He has the natural ability to be special, but takes too many plays off. Pete Carroll, always gets the most of his guys. Jones, in Round 3, gives them another versatile prospect who can play inside and out. Age and contracts are starting to hit the Legion of Boom, highlighted by Seattle taking four defensive backs. All this comes, of course, comes with virtually no addressing of the offensive line which was a sieve last year, allowing Russell Wilson to get smacked around for a whopping 41 sacks.

Best pick: Ethan Pocic
A versatile lineman, always a bonus in a Tom Cable coached unit, Pocic could be the pivot they desperately have needed since trading away Max Unger. Pocic, has the ability to pull and get to the second level and the football IQ to make an impact.

2017 NFL Draft Grades: NFC South

The NFC South has produced the NFC representative in the Super Bowl for the past two years with the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. And just like the last two years, this will be another year of highlight reel play from this division.

Atlanta are the top dogs following last year, but the big question is, how do they respond following that epic collapse in the Super Bowl? With Matt Ryan at quarterback and Dan Quinn as head coach, they should be set to make back to the playoffs despite losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco.

Besides the Falcons, the biggest surprise was the fall of the Panthers. They went from playing in the Super Bowl to having a Top 10 pick the following year. Carolina needs to find their identity, as do the Saints. The Saints have mired in mediocrity since winning the Super Bowl in ’09. They can’t keep wasting Drew Brees’ ability. The intriguing team of the division is Tampa. After an ugly shakeup at head coach last offseason, the team seems to be all systems go under Dirk Koetter.

Here, is how things came to be in the NFC South over the 2017 NFL Draft…

Atlanta Falcons: B+
1.) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
3.) Duke Riley, LB, LSU
4.) Sean Harlow, OG, Oregon St.
5.) Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego St.
5b.) Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
5c.) Eric Saubert, TE, Drake

Every pick here could contribute in someway in 2017. That is impressive. McKinley, had the most moving moment of the draft as he came on stage after being selected, holding a portrait of his grandmother, who he had promised on her deathbed that he would make it to the NFL. The Falcons got gassed in the Super Bowl, which makes McKinley a perfect fit. His motor never stops. Last year, the Falcons took Deion Jones, who had only started one year at LSU before starring for Atlanta. Riley, could be considered a clone. Harlow, could contribute sooner than later now that there is a whole open at guard. Hill, provides a reliable power back. Saubert, could emerge a starter a few years down the road.

Best pick: Damontae Kazee
The Falcons are set on the outsides, but needed help in the slot. Kazee, in the fifth-round was a steal. A three year starter for the Aztecs, Kazee displayed impressive ball skills totaling 16 interceptions over that time.

Carolina Panthers: C+
1.) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
2.) Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio St.
2b.) Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
3.) Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M
5.) Corn Elder, CB, Miami
6.) Alex Armah, FB, West Georgia
7.) Harrison Butker, K, Georgia Tech

McCaffrey to kickoff the Panthers weekend was a home run. He is a dynamic, Swiss army knife that can lineup all over the field. He’ll take a lot of pressure off of Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart. Samuel, is a very similar player to McCaffrey which was a head scratcher. Moton, is a versatile lineman, who could be a swing tackle or guard. The Panthers need to protect Cam Newton better. Hall, played opposite No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, and was rather overshadowed. He will learn a lot behind Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers. Butker, could signal the end for Graham Gano.

Best pick: Corn Elder
Losing Josh Norman crushed the Panthers last year. Elder, can help move forward. Elder, is a competitive corner who can lineup in the slot. While he’s not the biggest, he displayed good ball skills, breaking up 23 passes the past two seasons.

New Orleans Saints: A+
1.) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio St.
1b.) Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
2.) Marcus Williams, S, Utah
3.) Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
3b.) Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
3c.) Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic
6.) Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami

This may be my favorite draft class in the entire league. The Saints have been devoid of talent for awhile now, this injection of talent could really wake up the team. Lattimore, fell to them, because of injuries. If he can stay healthy, the Saints picked up a premier corner talent. Ramczyk, will be the bookend opposite Terron Armstead. Williams, will help the Saints get better after posting the 32nd ranked pass defense and allow them to run three safety packages. Anzalone, could become a starter if he stays healthy. He’s an athletic freak. Hendrickson, isn’t a flashy pass rusher, but he is an effective pass rusher. He had 23 sacks the past two seasons.

Best pick: Alvin Kamara
He was underused at Tennessee, which means he has a lot of tread left on his tires. Kamara, can return kicks, catch the ball out of the backfield, or be a change of pace running back. When your quarterback gets older, you support him with a strong rushing game. The Saints have done that.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A
1.) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
2.) Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M
3.) Chris Godwin, WR, Penn St.
3b.) Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU
5.) Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise St.
7.) Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, USC

The Bucs did a wonderful job here. Howard, fell and the Bucs couldn’t have been more happy. Evans, has a little growing to do. He looks for the knockout hit instead of wrapping up. He’ll be dynamic if he can improve his tackling. Godwin, is a tremendous talent. Remember when Allen Robinson came out to little fanfare, then became a Pro Bowler? Godwin, isn’t too far off. Beckwith, was an ascending talent until he tore his ACL late last year. If he can get back to where he was, this was a steal. McNichols, is a player. He’s not the biggest, but maximizes his ability in both the pass and run game. Tu’ikolovatu, is a two down run-stuffer.

Best pick: O.J. Howard
In today’s game it is rare that a complete prospect comes out of college, especially at tight end, but Howard is the real deal. He can block inline, he is a dangerous receiving threat who can stretch the seam. He is a special talent.

2017 NFL Draft Grades: NFC North

The big question in the NFC North is Teddy Bridgewater and the state of the Minnesota Vikings. Bridgewater went down with a gruesome injury right before the start of last season. The team made a panic trade for Sam Bradford, then Adrian Peterson went down for the year, then offensive coordinator Norv Turner removed himself from the team. It was a strange year in 2016. Now AP is gone and all eyes are on Bridgewater’s health. Can the Vikings rebound?

The other big question is, are the Detroit Lions for real? Team legend Calvin Johnson retired early and the state of the team was up in the air — especially considering head coach Jim Caldwell was on a trial year with new management. What happened? They made the playoffs as a wild card.

Two things that are for certain in the NFC North is that Green Bay Packers are still the divisional powerhouse and the Chicago Bears are still rebuilding. Here is a look at what talent was brought into the division…

Chicago Bears: D
1.) Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
2.) Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
4.) Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama
4b.) Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T
5.) Jordan Morgan, OG, Kutztown

What were the Bears thinking? They moved up one spot and surrendered two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick. Comparatively, the Browns gave up a fourth, fifth, and seventh-round pick to move up one spot to take Trent Richardson in 2012. That is a LOT of capital to hand over. Not to mention the team gave Mike Glennon a $45 million deal. Jackson, in Round 4 addressed a need. He’s a rangy center fielder, but coming off a broken leg. Cohen, is an intriguing pick. He’s only 5’6″, but is a human highlight reel. He’ll balance with Jordan Howard nicely. Morgan, a four year starter, is a developmental prospect with starter upside.

Best pick: Adam Shaheen
The former basketball player turned tight end checks all the boxes you would want in a tight end. He is a match-up nightmare for defenses at 6’6″ and nearly 280 pounds. Obviously, coming out of Ashland, he is raw, but if he can put it together, he could be special.

Detroit Lions: B
1.) Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
2.) Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
3.) Kenny Golladday, WR, Northern Illinois
4.) Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee
4b.) Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
5.) Jamal Agnew, CB, San Diego
6.) Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE, Arkansas
6b.) Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
7.) Pat O’Connor, DE, Eastern Michigan

This is a quality draft class, but how do you pass on a running back after finishing the previous year 30th in rushing offense? Outside of that, this is a high ceiling class. Davis and Tabor will come in and contribute right away. Davis, sets the tone with his physical style of play. Golladday and Roberts are high ceiling players who will take time to adjust to the NFL. Golladday, has tremendous size, speed, and hands. He just has to refine his route running. Reeves-Maybin, was a standout, sideline-to-sideline linebacker before shoulder injuries derailed him. He has to stay healthy, if he can he could become a starter.

Best pick: Brad Kaaya
Don’t be surprised if Kaaya winds up as the backup to Matthew Stafford as a rookie. He would have benefited from staying in school for another year, he is still very inconsistent, but his flashes hint at starter upside.

Green Bay Packers: B-
2.) Kevin King, CB, Washington
2b.) Josh Jones, S, NC State
3.) Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
4.) Vince Biegel, OLB, Wisconsin
4b.) Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
5.) DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue
5b.) Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP
6.) Kofi Amichia, C, South Florida
7.) Devante Mays, RB, Utah St.
7b.) Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

The last time the Packers tried to address their defensive secondary on back-to-back picks was in 2015 with Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollin in 2015. Those picks aren’t working out so well. Hence King and Jones to kick off the selection process in 2017. King, could start as a rookie, as could Jones. Adams provides depth upfront after losing former-first round pick to Minnesota via free agency. Biegel, is a classic Packer. They’re hoping they drafted the 2014-2015 version. Jamaal Williams, is the back they desperately need. He has good vision and can pound it between the tackles.

Best pick: Malachi Dupre
Dupre, was never consistent enough at LSU, but had plenty of flash plays. Part of that was the quarterback play in Baton Rouge. Dupre, has the size and speed to a big play threat in Green Bay, he just needs to get stronger.

Minnesota Vikings: B+
2.) Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida St.
3.) Pat Elflein, C, Ohio St.
4.) Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa
4b.) Ben Gedeon, LB, Michigan
5.) Rodney Adams, WR, South Florida
5b.) Danny Isidora, OG, Miami
6.) Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
7.) Stacy Coley, WR, Miami
7b.) Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern
7c.) Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas St.
7d.) Jack Tocho, CB, NC State

For not having a pick in Round 1, the Vikings brought in an outstanding draft class. Cook, will make everyone forget about Adrian Peterson. Cook is a special talent. Elflein, is a technically sound center who should start Day One. Johnson, is an ascending talent. He capped off his collegiate career with career bests at tackles for loss and sacks. Gedeon, is another ascending talent. After finally cracking the starting lineup, he posted 106 tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss. He could grow into a starter. Isidora, a three year starter at The U, could be developed into a starter.

Best pick: Bucky Hodges
Hodges, has issues with effort and drops, but his natural athleticism are very impressive. A “flex” tight end, who plays more like a wide receiver, if Hodges can put it together he could become an match-up problem for defenders.

2017 NFL Draft Grades: NFC East

The news of the season seemed to center around NFC East and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Would the team trade him? Release him? Where does Romo go after? Ultimately, Romo decided to retire and enter the press booth for CBS.

It seems fitting that Romo retired this offseason. The NFC East is one of the most up and coming divisions in the league with fellow Cowboys Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott leading the charge. Not to mention there is also the Eagles’ Carson Wentz and Giants’ receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.

One of the major stories in the division was the (once again) dysfunctional Washington Redskins front office. They poorly managed contract negotiations with Kirk Cousins and now he seems all, but gone following the 2017 season. Then there was team president Bruce Allen unceremoniously canning GM Scot McCloughan.

Needless to say it was interesting to see what new talent would join this burgeoning division. Here is how things shook out in the 2017 NFL Draft…

Dallas Cowboys: B-
1.) Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
2.) Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
3.) Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
4.) Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina
6.) Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech
6b.) Marquez White, CB, Florida St.
7.) Joey Ivie, DT, Florida
7b.) Noah Brown, WR, Ohio St.
7c.) Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado

The Cowboys hit on Charlton and Awuzie to kickoff the draft. Charlton was moved around a lot at Michigan, but eventually settled in at end in their 4-3 where he churned out 9.5 sacks in his lone season as a starter. The defensive secondary was a big area of need and the Cowboys loaded up on depth with Lewis, Woods, and White. Woods, will be a force on special teams while he develops. Switzer and Brown provide much needed depth at wide receiver. Switzer, is a clone of current Cowboys’ slot receiver Cole Beasley — short and shifty.

Best pick: Chidobe Awuzie
Awuzie, in Round 2 was a perfect selection. Addressed a need and gives them a versatile player to deploy all over the field whether it’s out wide, in the slot, or even as safety. Awuzie has good size and could help the Cowboys on Day One.

New York Giants: B+
1.) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
2.) Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
3.) Davis Webb, QB, Cal
4.) Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
5.) Avery Moss, DE, Youngstown St.
6.) Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh

This was a fantastic haul by the Giants. My only concern is they waited too long to address the offensive line. Granted, the player they did take, Bisnowaty, was a tremendous choice in Round 6. Bisnowaty, was a four year starter with the smarts and aggression to start, but a injuries pushed him down. Engram, gives Eli Manning another dynamic weapon in the arsenal. Tomlinson and Moss provide depth at their deepest positions on defense. Tomlinson could start Day One. Gallman, puts some thunder in the backfield, complementing current backs Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen well.

Best pick: Davis Webb
Eli Manning isn’t getting any younger and there isn’t much behind. Webb, created such buzz over the process some thought he could wind up in Round 1. To select him in Round 3 and allow him to mature to the NFL game could pay off in a big way.

Philadelphia Eagles: A
1.) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
2.) Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
3.) Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
4.) Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina
4b.) Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego St.
5.) Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
5b.) Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska
6.) Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington

The Eagles selected four potential starters with their first four picks. That is a job well done. Especially in the case of Sidney Jones. Some had Jones as the best cornerback prospect in the draft, but he suffered an Achilles injury at his pro day. A smart, long term investment by Philly. Barnett, broke Reggie White’s career sack record at Tennessee. That says something. Hollins, is a quality target for Wentz. He rounds a suddenly impressive receiving corps. Pumphrey, had three straight seasons of rushing for over 1,500-yards. Qualls’ is a perfect prospect to mold under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Best pick: Rasul Douglas
A JUCO transfer to West Virginia, Douglas only started one year for the Mountaineers, but what a year it was with eight interceptions and eight passes broken up. Douglas, has tremendous size at 6’2″, if he continues to develop look out.

Washington Redskins: A
1.) Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
2.) Ryan Anderson,OLB, Alabama
3.) Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
4.) Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
4b.) Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan St.
5.) Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
6.) Chase Roullier, C, Wyoming
6b.) Robert Davis, WR, Georgia St.
7.) Josh Harvey-Clemons, S, Louisville
7.) Joshua Holsey, CB, Auburn

Very similar to the Eagles, the Redskins hauled in four potential starters with their first four picks with a fallen star cornerback falling into their laps. Allen, is a Top 5 talent, but concerns over his shoulders pushed him down. Doctors say his shoulders won’t be a problem for Allen during his playing years. This a home run. Anderson, will provide some juice off the edge. The defensive secondary was a place of major concern. Moreau, was considered a first-round prospect before suffering a pectoral injury at his pro day. He could become a starter sooner than later. Harvey-Clemons, has a lot of talent, but some considerable off-field issues to overcome.

Best pick: Samaje Perine
How Perine, a man who rushed for over 4,000 yards and nearly 50 touchdowns in three years, fell to the fourth-round I will never know. He is not flashy, but he powers the ball between the tackles and is a smart runner with quality vision. This is a total steal.