Minnesota Vikings 2017 NFL Draft Profile

It’s day 31 of Draftmas and the Vikings are on the clock.

Summary

The Minnesota Vikings had a lot to deal with last season, as Teddy Bridgewater went down with a knee injury right before the start of the season. Sam Bradford was acquired and competed admirably, but Minnesota failed to make the playoffs at 8-8.

With Bradford and Bridgewater, the Vikings have two solid, but not great quarterbacks. If Bridgewater isn’t ready to go following the injury, Bradford will start until a competition can get underway. Adrian Peterson was not re-signed and is now a free agent, while Latavius Murray was signed to replace him. Stefon Diggs is a good young receiver, but last year rookie Laquon Treadwell didn’t see the field much and didn’t play all that well when he was on it. Minnesota does have a good tight end in Kyle Rudolph.

Mike Zimmer (Photo courtesy: upi.com)

The offensive line still needs to be addressed and was a major issue last year. Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff were signed to start at the tackle spots, but both had bad seasons last year. The Vikings will likely target a few offensive linemen in this draft.

Defense was the Vikings forte last season. They gave up the third fewest passing yards and were average stopping the run. The defense does have a few things to address this offseason.

Sharrif Floyd had complications with his recovery from knee surgery, which could be career ending. That leaves the Vikings thin on the interior of the defensive line. Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffin both had good years at defensive end.

Anthony Barr did not play well last year, but should be able to bounce back to good form. Eric Kendricks had a solid second season, but they might need some depth behind those two. Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes are both young corners who still need growth. Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in the game, but needs a partner in crime at the safety position.

 

Picks and Needs

The Vikings have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, but none in the first round.

First round: (0)

Second round: (1) No. 48

Third round: (2) No. 79, 86

Fourth round: (2) No. 121, 129

Fifth round: (1) No. 160

Sixth round: (1) No. 199

Seventh round: (1) No. 232

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Offensive Line- There is a pressing need for offensive line help and signing veterans who aren’t great, will only go so far.

Running Back- Murray was signed, but they will need depth behind him to groom.
Defensive Needs:
Defensive Tackle- This may not have been a huge need before the Floyd news, but it is now.
Outside Linebacker- Another linebacker is needed to go with Kendricks and Barr.

Safety- They will likely just get depth at this position to start.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Vikings could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

Second Round

Pick #48: Dan Feeney, G, Indiana

Dan Feeney (Photo courtesy: Drafttek.com)

Feeney is a physical guard that can help get the Vikings ground game going. They could go with a tackle here too, but there may not be any worth taking at this spot.

Third Round:

Pick #79: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

With the Floyd injury, the Vikings need to get at least one defensive tackle in this class. Watkins is good at stopping the run, but was Clemson’s best interior pass rusher last season.

Pick #86: Semaj Perine, RB, Oklahoma

Perine is a power back that can be a nice compliment to Murray. He set the single game rushing record for division I college football during his time in Norman.

Conclusion

The Vikings have more needs than originally anticipated, but if they get the right players in this draft, they can find themselves back in the playoffs.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Dakota Cox

Dakota Cox definitely made his mark at New Mexico over the last four years.

The former Lobos linebacker started 43 of the 46 games he played in. He finished his career with 403 tackles, which ranks sixth in school history and third in the Mountain West.

Cox also was able to help rebuild the Lobos’ football program. The team finished with a 4-9 record the year before he got there.

“Coming here in 2013, the team wasn’t really where it needed to be,” Cox said. “Coming in, I knew I could help get it to the level where it should be and kind of put the Lobos back on the map.”

By the end of his career, he was able to help the Lobos to back-to-back winning seasons in 2015 and 2016. The team also played in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in both of those winning seasons, losing the first year and winning the second. Cox said playing with his New Mexico teammates was an awesome experience.

“I’ve made plenty of awesome friendships, just really kind of a brotherhood around here,” Cox said. “Guys I know are going to be friends for life.”

Photo Courtesy of footballmatters.org

Before 2015, the last time the Lobos finished with a winning season was 1997 when another stud linebacker, Brian Urlacher, was on the team. Urlacher was one of the guys Cox admired growing up.

“Brian Urlacher was one of the first I watched play,” Cox said. “He was a guy I watched growing up pretty heavily because I wanted to be a linebacker just like him.”

Urlacher and Cox were definitely standouts in college. One thing that does separate them is size. Urlacher stands 6-foot-4, 258 pounds while Cox stands 6-foot and 229 pounds. Cox is considered undersized for a linebacker, but he said his film proves his size should not be a concern.

“If you watch my film, I’m a guy that plays hard all the time,” Cox said. “I bring 100 percent effort everytime I’m on the field and try to bring that intensity. I do think I play much bigger than I actually am. That is kind of what I take pride in.”

Cox has not talked to any teams personally, but a few have contacted his coaching staff to see how he has progressed. Cox has been training at New Mexico with the strength coaches and had a great pro day. He ran a 4.62 40-yard dash and put up 20 reps on the bench press. Since then he has been doing more football specific workouts to get bigger, faster and stronger for the NFL.

Cox believes one of the biggest things he can provide an NFL team is his experience.

“I bring a different aspect to the linebacker position,” Cox said. “Just being knowledgable of the game. I definitely have a good football I.Q., which I take pride in.”

Cox believes his film and stats speak for themselves and that no team would regret giving him a chance.

“If I can get the opportunity to play on a team I definitely think that no one would regret signing me,” Cox said. “I definitely think I can be a great contribution to any team.”

DAKOTA COX SCOUTING REPORT

Dakota Cox has adequate size standing just under six feet tall and weighing 226 pounds, but plays bigger than that. Cox is one of the most experienced linebackers in the draft class, leading the New Mexico Lobos in tackles for all four of his seasons. He displays his good football IQ on the field every game.

When the ball is snapped, Cox recognizes plays well and has a quick first step. He has adequate speed for a linebacker and ran a 4.62 40 yard dash at his pro day.  He is good at shedding or dodging blockers and get to the ball carrier on running plays. Once he reaches the ball carrier, he tackles well and almost always makes the play, if he can reach it.

He is good at zone coverage and has a lot of experience playing zone at New Mexico. For him to be a good NFL linebacker, he will have to prove he can cover better in man to man coverage and stay on the field for all three downs.

Cox’s best asset is tackling and nose for the ball. He seemingly always comes up with tackles and stops big plays before they happen.

For Cox to make it at the next level he will have to use his great tackling abilities on special teams. With his skill of dodging and shedding blockers, he can use that on the punt and kick coverage teams and eventually earn more playing time at linebacker. He is a player that could make the Pro Bowl as a special teamer.

Watch Dakota Cox’s career highlights here.

You can listen to Josh Burris interview Dakota Cox in its entirety below.

Josh Burris contributed the story portion of this article. Joe DiTullio provided the scouting report.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

2017 NFL Mock Draft April 21

The NFL Draft is under a week away and more information is coming out about these prospects. This NFL Mock Draft will have no trades.

Round One

1. Cleveland Browns- Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

The Browns need to take the best player available, instead of reaching for a quarterback. Garrett is the premier pass-rushing prospect. He has a solid jump off of the ball and then uses his athleticism and speed to get to the quarterback. Garrett is great at containing opposing quarterbacks in the pocket. He is good against the run and even makes teams run to the other side of the field like Alabama did against him. His good gap integrity on running plays will help him transition to playing against NFL offenses. He had a good NFL Combine, so the Browns should feel very comfortable picking Garrett.

2. San Francisco 49ers- Solomon Thomas, DE/DT, Stanford

There is a new regime in San Francisco, but all visible signs show them not taking a quarterback with the number two pick. That may change, or maybe they are protecting their real thoughts. Jonathan Allen is a premier talent, but may not be the greatest fit as they have drafted two different five-technique defensive linemen the last two years. Whether John Lynch wants to keep these guys or draft his own people remains up in the air. As the team currently sits Solomon Thomas is the best fit. They need pass rushing help and Thomas is a well rounded defensive end, who is as good at stopping the run as he is rushing the passer. He’s very quick at the snap of the ball. His best quality is his versatility. He can play almost any position on the defensive line and be successful.

3. Chicago Bears- Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama

If Allen falls to three and the Bears aren’t worried about his shoulder injuries, they will run to the podium to pick Allen. He is a good fit in their 3-4 defense and can start from day one. Allen could not be blocked with one blocker consistently and continuously disrupted plays. He doesn’t always have the best gap integrity, but does have great play recognition skills.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette can do everything required as a running back and can handle a heavy dose of carries. He played this last season with a lingering ankle injury and still averaged 6.5 yards per carry. His combination of speed, size and vision makes him an elite running back prospect. The Jaguars have other needs, but Fournette is too good to pass up. Jacksonville will likely give Blake Bortles one more season to figure things out, and a good running game will help his chances. The Jaguars flirted with signing free agent running backs, but elected not to, which may show where they are leaning with this pick.

5. Tennessee Titans- Marson Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Titans cut Jason McCourty, which may signal where they are going with this pick. Lattimore is a shut-down corner, who has good ball skills. Even though Ohio State got blown out by Clemson, he only gave up one catch and it was to Mike Williams on a screen pass. Lattimore is decent in run support too.

6. New York Jets- Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC

The Jets don’t have a quarterback worthy of starting for the long haul currently on their roster. Josh McCown is capable of bridging the gap between now and a franchise quarterback being ready. Trubisky only has one year of starting experience, which is concerning, but he is very accurate. He also rarely makes bad decisions, which is a rarity for quarterbacks in this draft class. On top of all that, Trubisky is an athlete that has above average speed and can throw well while on the move.

7. Los Angeles Chargers- Jamal Adams, SS, LSU

The Chargers needs secondary help and luckily, this class is loaded with it. Adams is a hard-hitter, who helps in run support. He has shown the capability to guard elite college level tight ends like Evan Engram, which will help him a lot at the NFL level.

8. Carolina Panthers- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Ron Rivera has commented on taking a running back early and McCaffrey is rising up draft boards. McCaffrey is a big play guy who can run in between the tackles. He is also good at receiving out of the backfield, which should help Cam Newton.

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Cincinnati takes the best player available and that could be Mike Williams. He can be a great number two receiver to A.J. Green and the Bengals can move Tyler Boyd to the slot. In the National Championship Game, Mike Williams was the difference maker for Clemson. Williams is the best red zone threat in college football from the wide receiver position. He is tall and lanky, but athletic enough to make great catches.

10. Buffalo Bills- Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

The Bills desperately need safety help and would be overjoyed if Hooker fell to them. He would be an immediate upgrade for their lackluster secondary. Hooker has the best range of any safety in the class. He is a ball-hawk, who isn’t afraid to come up and help in the run.

11. New Orleans Saints- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

New Orleans needs defensive help badly. They can start by getting a pass rusher across from Cameron Jordan. Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the class, but does not do much against the run. He uses his speed to get around the tackle blocking him, but rarely uses pass rushing moves to get to the quarterback.

12. Cleveland Browns- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

Kizer has moved up and down draft boards constantly, which makes him a wild card. The Browns already have Myles Garrett on board and now can get their quarterback of the future. Kizer has the size and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. He has some issues with being consistent with the accuracy of his passes, but for the most part is decent. If he wants to be successful he should work on putting passes in areas for wide receivers to run after the catch. His mobility is good enough to get him out of jams.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Arizona could go for a quarterback to be a long term solution or defensive help here. Humphrey guarded Mike Williams well in the National Championship game, but Williams made some crazy catches through the good coverage. Humphrey is a good man to man corner, who can get confused while playing zone.

14. Philadelphia Eagles- Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

The Eagles’ biggest need is corner. Conley is rising up draft boards because of his great workouts and the attrition at the cornerback position. He has good play recognition skills and arm length that he uses to his advantage.

15. Indianapolis Colts- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Foster was the best player for Alabama in the National Championship Game. He was all over the field and showed great closing speed on ball carriers. In addition to that, he was a very effective when blitzing, knocking down Deshaun Watson plenty of times. He is also good in coverage, which doesn’t leave many holes in his game. The Colts have a lot of defensive holes to plug and Foster is the best defensive player available.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

The Ravens need to protect Joe Flacco and can take tackles in two consecutive years. Many scouts question whether Robinson can be a left tackle in the NFL and if he can’t he can play right tackle or guard for the Ravens. Robinson did a solid job pass blocking Myles Garrett in their match-up.

17. Washington Redskins- Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC

Washington has had multiple visits with Jackson and they could use a corner to go alongside Josh Norman. Jackson has all of the capabilities necessary to be a lock-down corner for many years in the NFL. He can play both sides of the ball and also help in the return game. His ability to play both ways and to bait quarterbacks into throwing passes, just so he can intercept them, shows his likeness to Deion Sanders.

18. Tennessee Titans- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Marcus Mariota needs a number one target to throw to. Davis is a premier talent at wide receiver. He is big, at 6 feet 3 inches, but his skills match that of a smaller receiver, making him a unique prospect. Davis knows where to go on broken plays and fights for the football with resiliency.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

A lot of people think that Tampa Bay will go running back here, but if Howard were to fall, he would be the selection. Howard is a great receiving tight end, who didn’t get the chance to produce much at Alabama due to play-calling and quarterback issues. He can be another good target to help Jameis Winston.

20. Denver Broncos- Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

Before the Broncos give up on Trevor Siemian they need to protect him to give him a fair shot. Bolles uses his mobility to his advantage by stopping speed rushers who try to pass him by. He may need to add some strength to be successful in the NFL.

21. Detroit Lions- Taco Charlton, DE/DT, Michigan

Someone other than Ziggy Ansah has to be able to rush the passer. Charlton has great size at 6’6″ tall and can get to the quarterback with 10 sacks last season.

22. Miami Dolphins- Forrest Lamp, OT/G, Western Kentucky

Lamp played tackle in college, but will likely be kicked inside in the NFL. He is currently considered by most the best interior line prospect in the class. Miami is moving Laremy Tunsil out to left tackle after trading Brandon Albert to the Jaguars and will need some help on the interior.

23. New York Giants- David Njoku, TE, Miami

Njoku is a fast tight end who should be a good receiving threat in the NFL. He may be able to develop into a good blocker as well. The Giants have solidified their offense by signing Brandon Marshall, but could use a decent tight end threat over the middle.

24. Oakland Raiders- Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

The Raiders need help at inside linebacker and Reddick is changing positions to become one. He was an edge rusher in college, but has looked good in the events leading up to the draft at inside linebacker. Oakland will need to work with Reddick, but if they see his potential, they may elect to try and develop him into a good pro.

25. Houston Texans- Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

If the Texans miss out on the Tony Romo sweepstakes and don’t get a free agent signal caller, they will be forced to pick a quarterback in the draft. Watson doesn’t have great accuracy and consistently relied on receivers to make plays for him. The most alarming thing about Watson is his decision making, as he makes throws that have no chance of being completed. His arm strength has also been called into question by only throwing 49 mph at the combine. The accepted low for an NFL quarterback is 55 mph. (Dak Prescott threw 54 mph last combine, but had a hurt shoulder) Watson has shown flashes of greatness, particularly against Alabama, but needs to be more consistent. One thing is for sure, Watson steps up in the clutch.

26. Seattle Seahawks- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Seattle’s offensive line problems have been well documented. Any lineman prospect near this range should be considered. Ramczyk is a solid left tackle, who is a good run and pass blocker. He did a pretty good job blocking Taco Charlton when the Badgers played the Wolverines. He doesn’t have good mobility and athleticism and can be beat by fast rushers and blitzers.

27. Kansas City Chiefs- John Ross, WR, Washington

Kansas City doesn’t have too many needs, but could be better with another offensive weapon. They do have Jeremy Maclin and Tyreek Hill, but could become more explosive with another guy who can burn a defense. A lot of people are overvaluing Ross because of his 40 time at the NFL Combine. The hope for him is that NFL teams also overvalue him. His speed is apparent and helps him be productive in the return game.

28. Dallas Cowboys- Jabrill Peppers, S/CB/LB, Michigan

The Cowboys lost Barry Church to the Jaguars in free agency. They will need a safety to go alongside Byron Jones. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense, but will be the safety that Dallas needs. Peppers’ downside his his ball skills. He has all the fundamentals down, but had only one career interception in college.

29. Green Bay Packers- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Mike McCarthy likes Ty Montgomery at running back, but Cook might present too much value to pass up. Cook is an elusive, speed back who is hard to catch. He is a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. There are some concerns with the amount of injuries he has had and off the field issues, but when healthy Cook is an elite running back prospect.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers- Obi Melifonwu, S/CB, Connecticut

The Steelers need to draft more secondary help and Melifonwu has been rising up draft boards with his outstanding combine. Melifonwu played safety, but could also play some corner in the NFL. At 6’4″ with a 4.4 40 yard dash time, the Steelers can get a star at the end of the first round.

31. Atlanta Falcons- Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri

Harris is a good pass rusher, who is also solid against the run. He doesn’t have great length for a edge rusher, but does have good strength. The Falcons had Vic Beasley last season, but need to get more pass rushers around him to have a better defense.

32. New Orleans Saints- Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

New Orleans needs to improve every level of their defense. White is a good team leader, who is very athletic. He doesn’t have the best size for a corner, but can cover with the best of them. His added value comes in the return game, where he did a solid job for LSU.

Round 2

33. Cleveland Browns- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

Cunningham is tall and lanky, but makes plays. He is a tackle machine that can vastly improve the Cleveland run defense. The outside linebackers for the Browns are solid, but Demario Davis isn’t.

34. San Francisco 49ers- Pat Mahommes, QB, Texas Tech

Mahommes has the chance to prove that system quarterbacks can make it in the NFL if they have talent. His arm strength is second to none in this class. He will have the chance to learn from Brian Hoyer and could be the future quarterback of the 49ers.

35. Jacksonville Jaguars- Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA

McKinley has one of the best motors in the class for a pass rusher. The Jags need to get another defensive end in case Fowler and Ngakoue don’t improve his season.

36. Chicago Bears- Zay Jones, WR, ECU

The Bears lost Alshon Jeffrey to free agency and now have to get someone for Mike Glennon to throw the ball too. Zay Jones may be overlooked because of the wide receiver prospects ahead of him, but he is a talented receiver himself.

37. Los Angeles Rams- Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss

If the Rams want Jared Goff to continue to develop, they have to get him some weapons. Engram is one of the best receiving tight ends in this draft class, but needs to block better.

38. Los Angeles Chargers- Dan Feeney, G, Indiana

Protecting Phillip Rivers has to be a top priority. Feeney could have gone higher in this year’s draft, but dealt with injury issues last year.

39. New York Jets- Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

The Jets already addressed the quarterback position in round one and now can try to improve the secondary. Wilson is a tall corner, who has good speed. He is a good man to man cover corner, but is susceptible to pass interference calls. He doesn’t offer much in terms of run support and sometimes looks as if he doesn’t want to tackle anybody. The Jets can use another corner or two, as Morris Claiborne will likely get injured at some point this season.

40. Carolina Panthers- Demarcus Walker, DE, Florida State

Walker is good at rushing the passer and disrupts passes by sticking his hands up into the passing lane. Carolina needs to get a young pass rusher.

41. Cincinnati Bengals- Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova

When Cincinnati was at their best, they rushed the passer well. Kpassagnon fits the mold of a big defensive end that they like and could be a player to develop for the future.

42. New Orleans- Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

New Orleans needs more offensive weapons, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a wide receiver. Kamara can be a nice change of pace back, who can thrive with Drew Brees throwing him the ball out of the backfield.

43. Philadelphia Eagles- Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

Mixon has a lot of off the field issues, but would be a first rounder without them. Some teams won’t have him on their board. The Eagles need a running back and may elect to take one in the second round if they don’t get one in the first.

44. Buffalo Bills- Kevin King, CB, Washington

The Bills have to replace Stephon Gilmore. King is a big, physical corner that can matchup with some of the bigger receivers in the NFL.

45. Arizona Cardinals- Malik McDowell, DE/DT, Michigan State

McDowell has a lot of talent, but doesn’t have a great motor and gets discouraged when his team is losing. The Cardinals will hope they can get him to play hard every down. Arizona needs to get better defensive ends for their 3-4 scheme.

46. Indianapolis Colts- Chris Wormley, DE/DT, Michigan

Foster is a good add for the first round, but the Colts need to upgrade a lot of positions in this draft. Wormley can play defensive end and help with the pass rush.

47. Baltimore Ravens- T.J. Watt, DE/OLB, Wisconsin

Baltimore only had 31 sacks as a team last season. Watt may not be as good as his brother, but makes plays and can help rush the passer.

48. Minnesota Vikings- Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple

The Vikings have addressed some of their line problems via free agency, but they still need some upgrades there. Dawkins can play tackle in the NFL, but some believe he would be better off as a guard.

49. Washington Redskins- Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

Lawson would have been in the talks for a first round pick, but he was often injured at Auburn. Washington has to get a few more solid players on their defensive line.

50. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- D’onta Foreman, RB, Texas

With Doug Martin’s injury and substance abuse issues the Bucs need to take a running back in this loaded class. Foreman is big, but ran a good 40 yard dash and should be selected on day two.

51. Denver Broncos- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

Smith-Schuster is creating a lot of buzz lately and has moved up into the second round. The Broncos can get a third option for their young quarterbacks.

52. Cleveland Browns- Budda Baker, S, Washington

Cleveland needs secondary help badly. Baker makes plays in the passing game, but isn’t afraid to come up and help in the run either. He isn’t the biggest safety, but is productive. His ball skills aren’t great, but should be worth the pick.

53. Detroit Lions- Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State

Samuel is going to be a good slot receiver and can also play running back. Detroit can move Golden Tate back out wide or use Samuel and Tate on the inside of four receiver sets.

54. Miami Dolphins- Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA

The Dolphins need to get some help at corner to slow down the pass. Moreau is a physical corner that is good at man to man, but needs to learn zone coverage more.

55. New York Giants- Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Davis will likely go higher, but is a perfect fit for the Giants. They rarely take linebackers early in the draft, but this value is hard to pass up.

56. Oakland Raiders- Montravious Adams, DT, Auburn

Oakland needs to improve the interior of the defensive line and Adams is a player that provides a big body in the middle.

57. Houston Texans- Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan

Moton had a great career at Western Michigan, but may get moved inside. The Texans need offensive line help and can’t afford to ruin quarterbacks like they did David Carr.

58. Seattle Seahawks- Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado

With the Richard Sherman trade talks and a need at corner anyways, Witherspoon would be a good pick. He is slight and doesn’t provide much run support, but is talented in coverage.

59. Kansas City Chiefs- Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson

The Chiefs need to get some depth behind Marcus Peters and Terrance Mitchell. Tankersley is good in a lot of coverages, but needs to work on his technique.

60. Dallas Cowboys- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Dallas has a knack for taking risks on players in the second round and Jones is a player that would’ve gone in the first, but tore his Achilles. The Cowboys can reap the reward of taking a guy who may not be ready for week one, but could have a successful career.

61. Green Bay Packers- Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Tabor has great tape, but ran a very slow 40 yard dash at the combine and his pro day. Green Bay can take a chance on him because they desperately need corner help.

62. Pittsburgh Steelers- Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama

Williams has off the field issues, but could be a steal for Pittsburgh if they get him here and he can stay out of trouble. He would be a great edge rusher that can take over for James Harrison at some point.

63. Atlanta Falcons- Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

McMillan needs to work on pass coverage, but can help stop the run. Atlanta doesn’t have many good linebackers outside of Deon Jones.

64. Carolina Panthers- David Sharpe, OT, Florida

The Panthers seem to always need offensive line help and need to take one here to protect Cam and help out a potential new running back.

 

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 NFL Draft Profile

It’s day 28 of Draftmas and the Steelers will now be analyzed.

Summary

Pittsburgh went 11-5 last season, before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. It was a successful season, but the Steelers will be looking for more in 2017.

Ben Roethlisberger (Photo courtesy: bleacherreport.com)

Ben Roethlisberger has decided not to retire and will be back to lead the high-powered Steelers’ offense once again. He led the team to averaging the fifth most passing yards per game in the league. Le’Veon Bell has missed 20 games in his first four seasons due to suspension and injury, but looks to be ready for 2017. He finished with 1,268 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry.

The Steelers have Antonio Brown, one of the NFL’s best players, locked up at wide receiver for years to come. Behind him there are a lot of young and suspension-prone players. Martavis Bryant should be back for next season after sitting out 2016 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Eli Rogers played solidly in his rookie campaign last year, but another young receiver is needed. Roethlisberger wants (although he took a step back from that later) and needs a new tight end as the Steelers haven’t adequately replaced Heath Miller and luckily for him this class is loaded with great tight ends.

The offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and really doesn’t have much of a weak point. If anything Pittsburgh just needs to add depth, as players have gotten injured in the past (Maurkice Pouncey) and left the Steelers in a bind.

Pass defense for the Steelers was average in 2016, as they allowed 3,882 passing yards. The run defense was a little bit better, ranking 13th in the league and allowing 1,600 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh will load up on this side of the ball in the draft.

Starting in the trenches, Javon Hargrave had a solid rookie season at nose tackle. Stephon Tuitt is a good defensive end for the 3-4 scheme and so is Cameron Hayward, but he was injured last year.

Leading the team in sacks was an aging James Harrison, while Bud Dupree played the other outside linebacker when healthy, but was likely still dealing with injury issues when he came back. Dupree did have good showings in the playoffs though. Ryan Shazier has had a rough first few seasons in the NFL, but progressed last year and will need to continue that progression to be a leader for the Steelers’ defense. Vince Williams is projected to start at the other inside linebacker position and may need to be upgraded.

With William Gay, Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns, Pittsburgh has a lot of decent corners, but none that are elite. They need to add depth in this draft class at corner at the very least. Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell played safety last season, but the Steelers could do better.

Picks and Needs

Pittsburgh have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Steelers need to find the key pieces in this draft that can help get them a Super Bowl ring next season.

First round: (1) No. 30

Second round: (1) No. 62

Third round: (2) No. 94. 105

Fourth round: (1) No. 135

Fifth round: (1) No. 173

Sixth round: (1) No. 213

Seventh round: (1) No. 248

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

 

Tight End- Jesse James is an adequate tight end, but Roethlisberger has said he needs help at that position. Ladarius Green hardly played last year due to injury.
Wide Receiver- This isn’t a huge need, but if Bryant gets suspended again, the Steelers need a young receiver to fall back on.
Running Back- Bell misses a lot of games (five per year on average) and Knile Davis was signed, but Pittsburgh may want to take a young running back in the late rounds to develop.
Defensive Needs:
Edge Rusher- Despite doing well so far, James Harrison can’t play forever. Dupree needs to step his game up as well.

Inside Linebacker- Shazier started playing well last year, but Williams needs to be upgraded.

Cornerback- They just need a little more depth at corner, but it’s not a huge need.

Safety- Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis may not be the answer to get Pittsburgh’s passing defense where they want it to be.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Steelers could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #30: Jabrill Peppers, S/LB/CB, Michigan

Jabrill Peppers (Photo courtesy: si.com)

Pittsburgh reportedly loves Peppers. He would fill one of their needs at safety and looks like a player that could buy into the Steelers’ culture. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense, but will be the safety that Pittsburgh needs. Peppers’ downside his his ball skills. He has all the fundamentals down, but had only one career interception in college.


Second Round

Pick #62: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

Another inside linebacker is needed and McMillan presents good value at the end of the second round. McMillan will help a lot against the run, but needs work on his coverage skills.

Third Round:

Pick #94: Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama

Williams is a first round talent, but has off the field issues. The Steelers’ will like his upside and could see him as the eventual replacement to James Harrison.

Pick #105: Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech

If Roethlisberger wants a tight end, he will likely get one. Hodges is a great receiving tight end who can even split out wide as a receiver. He does have to refine his blocking skills.

Conclusion

The Steelers are only a few players and plays away from being able to win a Super BDraftowl. With a solid draft this year, Pittsburgh can win a Lombardi Trophy.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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Green Bay Packers 2017 NFL Draft Profile

The Packers are on the clock for day 27 of Draftmas.

Summary

Green Bay had an up and down season last year, losing four games in the middle of the season, then ripping off a streak of six straight wins to end the regular season. They ended up losing to the Falcons in the NFC Championship game, but are poised to have a great season again this year.

Aaron Rodgers (Photo courtesy: packers.com)

With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the quarterback position and the passing offense are in good hands. Eddie Lacy is now gone and the Packers are hoping that Ty Montgomery can continue to produce from the running back position. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2016 and Mike McCarthy is putting his faith in him.

The wide receiver position is always stacked, when they can stay healthy. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams are all good receivers. Green Bay also signed Martellus Bennett to play tight end, giving Rodgers a lot of weapons for next season. The offensive line is great, but right guard is the weak point.

Defensively, the Packers had a tough time stopping plays through the air, as they gave up the second most passing yards in the NFL. The good news is they stopped the run well, ranking eighth in rushing yards allowed.

With the pass defense doing so poorly, the only great players Green Bay has in the secondary are Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett, the safeties. After showing flashes as rookies, Quentin Rollins and Damarious Randall both took steps backwards last season. Davon House was signed, but had a terrible season last year.

Clay Matthews had a rough season, but will likely bounce back. Meanwhile, Nick Perry played well at the other outside linebacker position. Jake Ryan had a solid season at inside linebacker, while rookie Blake Martinez struggled, but showed flashes that he can be a good player in future. Mike Daniels had a great season at defensive end, while Kenny Clark and Dean Lowery, both had solid rookie seasons at the other two defensive line positions.

Picks and Needs

The Packers have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Packers can get the key pieces to help Rodgers win the Super Bowl in this draft.

First round: (1) No. 29

Second round: (1) No. 61

Third round: (1) No. 93

Fourth round: (1) No. 134

Fifth round: (2) No. 172, No. 182

Sixth round: (1) No. 212

Seventh round: (1) No. 247

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Wide Receiver- With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb getting injured often and Ty Montgomery moving to running back, a wide receiver may be taken late.

Right Guard- Don Barclay needs to be upgraded and Lane Taylor only has one solid season under his belt.
Running Back- Ty Montgomery is the new running back, but if the Packers aren’t confident in him, they will take one to compete for the job.
Defensive Needs:

Inside Linebacker- Blake Martinez didn’t have a great rookie season and Jake Ryan has one solid year and one bad year in his career.

Cornerback- Green Bay doesn’t have any great corners and they need to stop the pass better next season.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Packers could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #29: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

Tre’Davious White (Photo courtesy: nola.com)

White would fill the Packers most glaring need, but could also provide a good kick returner. He is a leader for LSU and a solid cover corner. Size, strength and run support are the big question marks for White, but his man to man cover skills should make him worth it at this pick.


Second Round

Pick #61: T.J. Watt, DE/OLB, Wisconsin

Green Bay can get their replacement for Julius Peppers. Watt is a local guy from Wisconsin and has the ability to grow into a great edge rusher. He needs some time to develop as he only played on defense for one year at Wisconsin.

Third Round:

Pick #93: Nico Siragusa, G, San Diego State

Siragusa was a big part of running back Donnell Pumphrey breaking the all time rushing record for a career in college football at San Diego State. The Packers would at the very least like the depth Siragusa can provide on the interior of the offensive line.

Conclusion

The Packers will always have a shot at a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers and selecting the right players in this draft class can support Rodgers at the quest for another Lombardi Trophy.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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Dallas Cowboys 2017 NFL Draft Profile

The Dallas Cowboys are on the clock for day 26 of Draftmas.

Summary

The Cowboys had a better year than anyone could’ve expected, given that they started a rookie quarterback and running back. Dallas finished 13-3 and were a favorite to go on to the Super Bowl. They ended up losing to the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

Dak Prescott (Photo courtesy: wfaa.com)

 

Although Tony Romo has been released from the team, there is a lot of hope in the future of the team with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot and a great offensive line. Left guard Ronald Leary left in free agency, but he only started last season because La’el Collins was injured. The real loss on the offensive line that is going to hurt them is right tackle Doug Free retiring. Chaz Green will get his shot to step up and fill in at that role.

Terrance Williams was brought back to be a solid number two to Dez Bryant, while Cole Beasley holds down the slot. Tight end Jason Witten was given an extension to provide a great security blanket for Prescott.

The defense lost a lot of players that need to be replaced. Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, J.J. Wilcox and Brandon Carr all left in free agency out of the secondary. Young players like Byron Jones and Anthony Brown will need to continue to play well. Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll and Jeff Heath will be expected to elevate their level of play and be leaders in the secondary.

Sean Lee is one of the best linebackers in the game and is joined by Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson in the starting lineup. The Cowboys are excited about the progress of Jaylon Smith, who was drafted in last year’s draft, but had a drop foot injury and nerve damage, so had to sit out last season. If he can get healthy, he would be a great addition to the linebackers.

Defensive line is perennially a problem for Dallas. Randy Gregory getting suspended for one season really exacerbated the problem. Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence will hold down the defensive end positions, but the rest of the line could be a turnstile of tackles. The defensive line was able to be the best rush defense in football last season, but that was in large part due to the offense controlling the clock and getting leads, forcing opponents to pass.

 

Picks and Needs

The Cowboys have seven picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. With some solid picks, these players can help Dallas win a Super Bowl in the near future.

First round: (1) No. 28

Second round: (1) No. 60

Third round: (1) No. 92

Fourth round: (1) No. 133

Fifth round: (0)

Sixth round: (1) No. 211

Seventh round: (2) No. 228, No. 246

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Wide Receiver- Terrance Williams isn’t a great number two receiver, but he is cheap.

Right Tackle- Doug Free retiring creates another need for the Cowboys. Chaz Green will be given a chance to play immediately, but an upgrade may be needed.
Tight End- Jason Witten needs a successor for when he retires, but the Cowboys could use a tight end for sets where they use two.
Defensive Needs:

Defensive Line- Any defensive linemen would be welcomed by Dallas. An edge rusher would be nice to cope with the loss of Gregory, though defensive tackle is the weaker of the positions on the line.

Cornerback- Nolan Carroll was signed, but with the losses of Carr and Claiborne, they need more.

Safety- Jeff Heath played well last season, but he is not a long term solution.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Cowboys could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #28: Jabrill Peppers, S/LB/CB, Michigan

Jabrill Peppers (Photo courtesy: cbssports.com)

Peppers will likely fill in at strong safety, even though he can play multiple positions. He provides good value at pick number 28. With Byron Jones next to him, the Cowboys could have a great safety pairing for years. The downside to Peppers is that he lacks elite ball skills and he could be a “Tweener” who never finds a real position.

Second Round:

Pick #60: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE/DT, Villanova

Dallas needs to get some defensive linemen in this draft. Kpassagnon is seen as raw because he comes from the FCS level, but Kpassagnon has the size that the Cowboys will love. They can use him in multiple formations at different positions on the defensive line. He will help cope with the loss of Gregory for the year.

Third Round:

Pick #92: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Tabor has great tape, but has run terrible 40 times in preparation for the 2017 NFL Draft. The Cowboys need to get some corners in this draft class and could take a risk on Tabor in the third round. If his playing speed is faster than his workout speed, Dallas will get a steal.

 

Conclusion

If the Cowboys can address the defensive side of the ball properly in this draft, they could build a team that is great for years to come.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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Seattle Seahawks 2017 NFL Draft Profile

The Seattle Seahawks are up for day 24 of Draftmas.

Summary

Seattle had a good season, but ended up losing to the Falcons in the Divisional Round of the 2016 NFL Playoffs. Their 10-5-1 record was solid, but they do have some things to address in the draft to get back to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Russell Wilson (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia.org)

The pass offense was good under Russell Wilson, ranking 10th in the league, but the Seahawks had one of the worst rushing attacks in the league. Wilson carried the offense to score 22.1 points per game.

Wilson is and will be the franchise quarterback for years to come. Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are both solid running backs and Eddie Lacy was signed in hopes he regain the form he had early in his career. At wide receiver Doug Baldwin continues to play well and Paul Richardson has played decently in his first three years, while Tyler Lockett returns from injury. Jermaine Kearse had a bad season last year, but should be able to do well again this season. Wide receiver may be addressed in the draft, but like running back, they most likely won’t take a wide receiver until late in the draft. Jimmy Graham is a great tight end and Seattle has Luke Wilson backing him up.

Offensive line, like the past few years, is a big area of concern for the Seahawks. Luke Joekel was signed to give some experience at left tackle, but he hasn’t played up to the hype of being the number one overall pick. Oday Oboushi was signed to play guard, but he isn’t that great either. Basically at this point they could use all the help they can get. They do have a center that played well last season in Justin Britt, but that may have just been a flash in the pan.

Seattle, as it usually does, had a great defense last season that ranked eighth against the pass and seventh against the rush last season.

Earl Thomas needs to get healthy after breaking his tibia last season, but if he is healthy, he and Kam Chancellor are the best safety duo in the league. The trade rumors surrounding Richard Sherman make it necessary for the Seahawks to acquire a corner. Even if Sherman doesn’t get traded, Seattle still likely needs to draft a corner or two.

Another linebacker could be used for their base 4-3 defense, but do already have K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. On the defensive line the Seahawks have a lot of versatile players, but could use a few more for depth.

Picks and Needs

The Seahawks have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Five are in the first three rounds, so they will be able to get a few impact players for next season.

First round: (1) No. 26

Second round: (1) No. 58

Third round: (3) No. 90, No. 102, No. 106

Fourth round: (0)

Fifth round: (0)

Sixth round: (1) No. 210

Seventh round: (2) No. 226, No. 244

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Guard- Mark Glowinski and Oday Oboushi should not be starting. At some point the Seahawks have to start protecting Russell Wilson.

Tackle- Luke Joekel was signed, but he isn’t a sure thing. Gary Gilliam needs to be upgraded.
 Defensive Needs:

Defensive Line- With some versatile players on the defensive line, the Seahawks need to take some players for depth, regardless of position.

Cornerback- Sherman is in trade rumors, but even if he stays, they need help at corner.

Linebacker- Just one linebacker is needed to play alongside Wright and Wagner.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Seahwaks could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #26: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

Garett Bolles (Photo courtesy: denverpost.com)

Improving the offensive line has to be a top priority for the Seahawks. Bolles only has one year of starting experience at Utah, but has good mobility and flexibility for a tackle. He can play left tackle if Joekel fails, or start at right tackle.

Second Round:

Pick #58: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

Wilson is a tall corner, who has good speed. He is a good man to man cover corner, but is susceptible to pass interference calls. He doesn’t offer much in terms of run support and sometimes looks as if he doesn’t want to tackle anybody. The Seahawks will like his length and may think they can teach him their zone coverage scheme.

Third Round:

Pick #90: Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn

Adams can help the Seahawks by being a pass rusher from the defensive tackle position. This enables them to keep Michael Bennett on the outside. There are some questions with his motor, but Seattle will be able to get the most out of him.

Pick #102: Pat Elfein, OG/C, Ohio State

Elfein has experience at both guard and center at Ohio State and can be a good value pick in the third round to help out the offensive line immediately. This isn’t a great class for offensive linemen, but Elfein should be one of the few interior linemen able to have an impact at the NFL level.

Pick #106: Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida

Anzalone is a fast player that has experience playing outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. He can start in the base defense for the Seahawks and learn from Wright and Wagner. He will need to improve to stay on the field in more than just the base defense.

Conclusion

Seattle is a perennial power in the NFL and just needs a few more things to make their quest for another Super Bowl happen. With a good draft this season, they can shore up some holes and help bring the city another Lombardi Trophy.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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Houston Texans 2017 NFL Draft Profile

It’s day 23 of Draftmas and the Houston Texans are on the clock.

Summary

Last year the Houston Texans got to the playoffs yet again, but lost in the Divisional Round for the third time since 2011. They will be trying to build on that this season, but will have a hard time doing so without a franchise quarterback.

The offense was pretty miserable last season, scoring 17.4 points per game. Rushing offense was their forte, as they ranked eighth in the league.

Brock Osweiler is gone, which is addition by subtraction, but Tom Savage is the top quarterback on the depth chart now. The Texans have said they are confident in him, but will likely want to find at the very least, a quarterback for the future in this draft. Lamar Miller did the most he could last season behind a not so good offensive line. If they draft a running back it will only be a change of pace back.

Deandre Hopkins is a great receiver, but behind him there are some problems. Will Fuller showed flashes last season, but was very inconsistent. Braxton Miller has to step up next season too. C.J. Fiedorowicz is a good option at tight end. The offensive line will need some improvements, as left tackle Duane Brown and center Greg Mancz were the only players who played well up front last season.

J.J. Watt (Photo courtesy: si.com)

Defensively, Houston was in the top half of the league in rush defense, allowing 1,595 rushing yards on the season. Their pas defense ranked second in the league last season, but has some key components to replace.

J.J. Watt will return from injury and the hope is that he can return to the great form he had just a few seasons ago. The rest of the defensive line needs to be addressed, especially with the risk of Watt re-injuring himself. Outside linebacker is set with Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. Inside linebacker is also solid for the time being with Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney, but the Texans could elect to take a guy in the late rounds to groom for the future.

The secondary will need some work as well. A.J. Bouye has left for the Jaguars. Jonathan Joseph is aging and while Kevin Johnson and Kareem Jackson are solid, they will need to find some more good corners behind them. Corey Moore and Andre Hal are both average safeties, but could be upgraded.

Picks and Needs

The Texans have seven picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. If they select the right players, they can find themselves back in the playoffs again.

First round: (1) No. 25

Second round: (1) No. 57

Third round: (1) No. 89

Fourth round: (2) No. 131, No. 142

Fifth round: (1) No. 169

Sixth round: (0)

Seventh round: (1) No. 243

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Guard- Xavier Su’a-Filo hasn’t lived up to expectations and Jeff Allen only played good for one season. They could at least use one from the later rounds.

Right Tackle- Chris Clark shouldn’t be starting and the Texans can really benefit from taking a tackle early in the draft.
Quarterback- Brock Osweiler is gone, but Tom Savage is the starter as of now. They will need to take one quarterback in this draft class.
Defensive Needs:

Defensive Line- The Texans need help and depth around J.J. Watt.

Cornerback- Losing A.J. Bouye is tough, but Houston still has a few decent corners. They will need one for the future and that can play in the dime.

Safety- Both Moore and Hal are average and improvements can be found in this draft.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Texans could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #25: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Deshaun Watson (Photo courtesy: cbssports.com)

 Watson is a quarterback that the fans and media love, but that NFL scouts aren’t as sold on. He could go higher than this if a team likes him like the fans do, but if he is drafted closer to where scouts say he should be, the Texans will be able to get him. He needs to develop and become better mentally as a quarterback, as his decision making was not good last season at Clemson. Watson is a dynamic playmaker though and could battle Savage for the starting job.


Second Round:

Pick #57: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova

Kpassagnon is a huge defensive end that needs to get better while in the NFL. He comes from the FCS level, which will raise some questions about the level of competition he faced, but he will be a perfect fit for the Texans 3-4 defense.

Third Round:

Pick #89: Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan

The Texans need to get improved offensive line play and Moton will be available. He played right tackle in college and can do that in the NFL, or move to guard. He should be able to fit in at one of the positions of need on the offensive line for Houston.

Conclusion

The Texans have gotten to the playoffs without a franchise quarterback before and can do it again. Even if they take Watson, or any other quarterback in this draft class, he likely won’t play lights out from day one. Taking good players in this draft and getting J.J. Watt back to form can lead the Texans back to the playoffs.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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Branden Jackson’s Winding Journey to the NFL

Branden Jackson may be a defensive end for the Oakland Raiders now, but only because he wanted a free car in high school.

Well, maybe the free car his mom promised him is only part of why he’s now earning a living playing professional football, but it’s funny how things work sometimes.

It’s safe to say teenage Branden Jackson didn’t see himself being an NFL player down the road.

“In high school, it never crossed my mind,” Jackson said in an interview with The Game Haus. “I just wanted to get a free car.”

Jackson was promised a free car if he made it to college and got a free ride while doing it. That was the conception of Jackson’s motivation to being a football player.

In his family, football wasn’t the token sport. His family was known for being more successful on the basketball front.

College Teams Come Calling

When college programs began showing more interest in Jackson for his decorated young football career than his basketball talents, he figured it might be time to shift his time from the hardwood to the gridiron.

When offers from Texas Tech, Michigan State and 14 other Division I offers came in, Jackson knew playing big time college football was within his reach. However, an NFL career didn’t cross the four-star recruit’s mind.

Branden Jackson NFL

Branden Jackson was a standout for Texas Tech. (Photo: Mark Rogers/AJ Media)

Jackson committed to Texas Tech as a defensive hybrid with experience on the defensive line and at linebacker. Jackson also saw time at tight end in high school.

In Jackson’s redshirt-sophomore season, he had a breakout game on one of his biggest stages. Jackson said the game, the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State, was a springboard for the rest of his career.

“I had a good season and it was probably like my breakout game” Jackson said. “It was kinda what turned heads and jumpstarted the rest of my career.”

Jackson didn’t just put his name on the map for NFL scouts in the game. He also made his case to turn into the team’s best deep-threat.

Arizona State called a read option, and the exchange was fumbled. After making an attempt for the ball and missing, Jackson found himself way behind.

“I retrace and end up catching him about 20 or 30 yards down the field,” Jackson said. “I had ran past our starting safety and our starting corner. I tackled him and it kinda just showed how fast I am.”

Jackson didn’t let his impressive acceleration go unnoticed. The defensive hybrid pleaded with his coaches to give him some time on offense after the game.

“I kept telling my coach red zone is my game,” Jackson said. “I did it in high school. Put me in at tight end or receiver and in the red zone I guarantee a jump ball. You can throw it underhand if you want to, and I’ll go get it.”

That game caused Jackson to fall in love with the sport. He said that was when his visions of playing at the highest level first came.

Branden Jackson’s Draft Experience

Jackson’s dreams had to be put on hold after he was left untouched in the 2016 NFL Draft. Jackson was expecting to be taken around the sixth round.

Branden Jackson NFL

Branden Jackson was promoted to the active roster late in the season.(Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

“When it didn’t come, I thought everyone doesn’t get drafted, that’s not my goal,” Jackson said. “I thought I would get a guaranteed priority free agent deal.”

Jackson received calls from multiple teams asking him to try out. He turned down five or six teams before reluctantly accepting gigs from Seattle and Oakland.

Although he was cut from the active roster during the preseason, Oakland struck a deal with the former Red Raider to join the practice squad.

Jackson remained on the practice squad for most of the season. Being on the opposite side of the country from his mother became emotionally taxing. The practice squad player continued to plug away with the Raiders and decided to fly his mother out to Oakland late in the year.

During that same week, Jackson got promoted to the 53-man active roster.

Branden Jackson on the Raiders’ Season

Oakland took the NFL by storm last season. A perennially underwhelming franchise since 2002, the Raiders found the NFL Playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons.

The team had an elite quarterback, suitable offensive weapons, a good line and a solid defense across the board. Oakland finished 12-4, but lost Derek Carr for the rest of the season due to a broken leg in week 16.

Carr had dislocated his thumb earlier in the year, giving all of Raider Nation a scare. Carr sprinted into the locker room, got his thumb back to “normal” and entered the game quickly. Jackson and his teammates expected Carr’s leg injury to be small like that.

Jackson said he expected an inspiring speech in the locker room after the game from Carr. Instead, the team learned Carr’s fate.

Oakland entered the playoffs with a backup quarterback who was far from Carr’s caliber.

The Raiders lost an underwhelming game to the Houston Texans, a team that was known by many as the worst team in the playoffs.

Even so, Jackson considered the season to be a success, saying they won more games than most teams in the NFL.

The Move to Las Vegas

Branden Jackson

The Raiders’ proposed new stadium should bring many faces to Vegas.(Photo: Manica Architecture)

The Oakland Raiders franchise announced it would move to Las Vegas on March 27. Although Raiders fans in and around Oakland were baffled and enraged, Jackson doesn’t think the move is a big deal.

“I really didn’t put too much thought into it because Raider Nation is Raider Nation,” Jackson said. “When we go to Vegas, the fans will still be crazy.”

Jackson pointed to the true loyalty of Raider fans multiple times during the interview. Even though he’s been with the club for one year, he’s already felt the love Raider Nation has for its people. That said, he expects fans to continue to be tenacious with their support.

“It would be un-Raider like for our fans to not be the way they’ve always been,” Jackson said.

So, what’s with jackson’s car situation?

Because Jackson earned a free ride to Texas Tech, his mother followed through on her promise. Jackson received a Caprice Classic for about $1,500. He loved the car until death did them part.

“I drove it literally until it blew up,” Jackson said.

When Jackson became a starter at Texas Tech, his father gifted him a 1972 Lincoln Continental. Jackson continues to drive that car to this day.

Of course, Jackson’s love for the game has replaced his desire for material gifts to continue playing football. However, The Game Haus will keep you updated on any changes with his car driving status.

Oh, and we’ll update you on his football playing days as well.

Branden Jackson Scouting Report

Branden Jackson has good size at 6-foot-4, 268 pounds. He played as a 3-4 defensive end at Texas Tech, but now plays as a 4-3 defensive end for the Oakland Raiders. His versatility is a major asset.

He has good strength that he uses to shed blockers and get to ball carriers. For a defensive end, which is a position mostly reserved for good pass rushers, he is good against the run. His good gap discipline helps him be effective against the run and he can even take on double teams from opposing blockers.

His strength is his main asset when rushing the passer too, as he fends off blockers. Against scrambling quarterbacks, he is good at containing them in the pocket.

 

Tim Miller contributed the story portion of this article. Joe DiTullio provided the scouting report. 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Tim and Joe!

Miami Dolphins 2017 NFL Draft Profile

It’s day 20 of Draftmas and the Miami Dolphins are up.

Summary

Adam Gase (Photo courtesy: dailydolphin.com)

The Dolphins started the season off poorly in 2016, going 1-4. They then went on a tear and only lost two more games the rest of the regular season to make Adam Gase’s first year as head coach successful. They did lose in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but should be able to build off of last year’s success.

Offensively, Miami was average in 2016, scoring 22.7 points per game. While they ranked near the bottom of the NFL in passing yards per game, they finished 9th in the league in rushing yards, averaging 114 yards per game.

Ryan Tannehill had an improved season under Gase, but running back Jay Ajayi became a real game-changer. Ajayi started the season as an after-thought, but finished the season as the NFL’s fourth leading rusher. The offensive line was solid last season, but they did trade Brandon Albert to the Jaguars. They signed Ted Larsen to play guard and presumably will move Laremy Tunsil out to left tackle.

Miami has two young wide receivers in Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker that should be great targets for Tannehill for years to come. Kenny Stills is also a viable option. Julius Thomas is an athletic, receiving tight end who was acquired in the trade with the Jaguars for Albert.

On defense, the Dolphins were only one of five teams to give up more than 2,000 yards on the ground. They were in the middle of the pack against the pass, ranking 15th in pass yards allowed. Miami was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 33.

Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and William Hayes are good defensive linemen, but they need more to stop the run and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Kiko Alonso is the only good linebacker the Dolphins have, but aging veteran Lawrence Timmons was signed to try to help. It is unlikely that he will have a big impact for the defense. A safety to pair with Reshad Jones and multiple corners will be needed to make this defense great.

 

Picks and Needs

The Dolphins have seven picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. They should be able to get a few impact players with their early picks and find some diamonds in the rough late.

First round: (1) No. 22

Second round: (1) No. 54

Third round: (1) No. 97

Fourth round: (0)

Fifth round: (3) No. 166, No. 178, No. 184

Sixth round: (0)

Seventh round: (1) No. 223

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Guard- With Tunsil moving to left tackle and Jawuan James being at right tackle, the Dolphins need to make sure guards are addressed.

Tight End- The Dolphins have Julius Thomas, but he is only signed through 2018. They may want to take a tight end late to provide depth and groom for if Thomas leaves.
Defensive Needs:

Defensive Line- Miami definitely could use a defensive tackle to put next to Suh, but having another player who can get after the quarterback would be a nice luxury.

Linebacker– Kiko Alonso is the only good linebacker they have. They may need to take a couple of linebackers in this draft.

Cornerback- Byron Maxwell is a good corner, but the Dolphins don’t have many good ones behind him. Getting at least one in this draft class is necessary.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Dolphins could realistically get where they are drafting.

First Round:

Pick #22: Forrest Lamp, OG/C, Western Kentucky

Forrest Lamp (Photo courtesy: 247sports.com)

The Dolphins can take Lamp, the best interior lineman in this draft, and fill other needs later. This is a deep draft class for some of the other needs. Lamp played left tackle in college and completely shut down Alabama’s pass rushers. He has all the tools to start in the NFL for more than ten years and be successful.

Second Round:
Pick #54: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

He may not be there for the Dolphin’s second round pick, but some mock drafts have Cunningham falling. That would be an ideal scenario for Miami. Cunningham is tall and lanky, but makes plays. He is a tackle machine that can vastly improve the run defense. His length and size allows him to cover tight ends, which paired with his run stopping ability, makes him a hot commodity. He will be a starter for the Dolphins immediately.

Third Round:

Pick #97: Derek Rivers, DE/OLB, Youngstown State

Rivers is an edge prospect from the FCS evel. He has risen up draft boards because of his pass rushing ability. The Dolphins can get great value by picking Rivers in the third round.

Conclusion

The Dolphins will still need to draft more needs later in the draft, but with a roster like this, should be able to make it back to the playoffs.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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