The Best Wide Receiver of All Time

The best fans of any sport know stats don’t tell the whole story. Stats play a huge role in judging which players are good, bad, or legendary. If stats were the only thing to judge a player by then the man who scored the most points in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, should be the best right? Most would answer that with a no. Well if stats don’t determine who the best of all time is, maybe it is championships that determine the best of all time. Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships, but you won’t find any basketball fan who thinks he is the best of all time. It is a consensus that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever.

(http://www.thedailybeast.com)

How about in baseball? What do you use to determine the best baseball player of all time? Do you go by home runs or strikeouts? Do you look at how many championships a player has won? Is Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds the best baseball player ever?

How about in football? How do you determine who was the best of all time? Is it how much you ran for, threw for, or how many yards you caught passes for? Or are championships how you determine who the best of all time is?

(Detroit Lions-Associated Press)

There is no way to definitively determine who the best of all time is, it’s subjective. That is why there are sports debates about who the best is. Stats and championships don’t tell the entire story, which is why the eye test is so important when judging sports. Circumstances, such as teammates or coaches, affect who the best ever is as well.

There are issues with the eye too. A 13-year-old can’t possibly have seen how great Barry Sanders was without watching the film. Players from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s don’t have a lot of film on them to show people growing up now how great they were. When you bring stats, championships, circumstances, and the eye test all together, then it is possible to determine who the best really is.

So with all that said, who is the best wide receiver of all time?

 

Who Most Would Say

(Mandatory Credit:) Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

No matter how old you are or how long you have been a fan of football, if someone were to ask you who the best wide receiver of all time is, who would you answer? Jerry Rice, without hesitation. Nobody even thinks about it because it has been the answer for such a long time. How could it not be Jerry Rice? Rice had one of the greatest careers in NFL history. He played for 20 seasons in the NFL. Rice is a 13-time Pro Bowler, a three-time Super Bowl champion, and a Super Bowl MVP.

Six times Rice led the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Rice still holds recordings for most receptions all-time (1,549), most receiving yards all-time (22,895), most receiving touchdowns all-time (197), and most all-purpose yards all-time (23,546). Perhaps the best season of Rice’s career came in a shortened 1987 season. In just 12 games, Rice finished with 65 receptions, 1,078 yards, and an astonishing 22 touchdowns. That is impressive to say the least. Rice has the stats, the championships, and the eye test as good as anyone in history. He also was always in the best of circumstances.

(AP Photo/Al Golub)

Rice came into the league with an established two-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, Joe Montana. He played with Montana from 1985 until 1990. Once Montana was gone, Rice began catching passes from another Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young. From his rookie season in 1985 until 1998, Rice was fortunate enough to play with these all-time greats. Towards the end of Rice’s career, he caught passes from both Jeff Garcia and Rich Gannon. These quarterbacks were good as well.

Jeff Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowler and in his two seasons with Rice compiled 6,822 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. Rich Gannon was also a four-time Pro Bowler and in his three seasons with Rice compiled 9,791 yards, 59 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. Rice has never had an inadequate quarterback and was blessed to play with two Hall of Famers in his career.

Jerry Rice is one of the greatest players of all time and this is not to take away from his greatness. His stats are remarkable and are a testament to his longevity. There is just one receiver who was a better football player and had he been fortunate enough to have 14 seasons with Hall of Fame quarterbacks, such as Rice, he would be unequivocally considered the greatest receiver of all time.

 

Who is Really the Best WR of All Time?

(http://www.footballsfuture.com)

To describe the best wide receiver of all time, one would say he was, “straight cash homie”. That’s right, Randy Moss was the best receiver to ever set foot on the gridiron. He was so great his name became a verb. Anytime someone out-jumped a defender for a ball, the saying was, “he got mossed.” It takes a special kind of greatness for the world to turn your name into a verb like that.

Moss ranks 15th all-time in receptions (982), third all-time in receiving yards (15,292), and second all-time in receiving touchdowns (156). The stats are pretty remarkable over a 15-year career. He also holds the record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season with 23. Statistically speaking, he has been one of the best of all time. As far as championships go, Randy Moss never won a Super Bowl. It is one of the major accomplishments missing from his career.

The eye test is one of the areas Randy Moss excelled at above all. The man could flat out burn anybody and had some of the best hands in NFL history. This video shows how Moss revolutionized the game and became a defense’s worst nightmare.

Moss has the best eye test of any receiver in the history of football. His explosion, hands, and speed are unmatched. As mentioned before, one of the biggest flaws is the fact that he never won a Super Bowl. Moss was also rarely in a good quarterback situation. In his rookie season, he had both Randall Cunningham and Brad Johnson under center. The following year in 1999, Jeff George took most of the snaps. There was a bit more stability from 2000-2004 with Daunte Culpepper, but once Moss was traded to the Raiders, the instability continued.

(http://www.sacbee.com/sports/article31643531.html)

In Moss’ two seasons with the Raiders, he had three quarterbacks: Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter, and Aaron Brooks. Before ending up with Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2007, Moss had played in the NFL for nine seasons and had seven different quarterbacks.  To compare that with Jerry Rice’s first nine seasons, Rice only had two quarterbacks. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

Moss only spent three seasons with a quarterback of the same caliber as when Rice had Montana and Young. In those three seasons with the Patriots, Moss played in 48 games and amassed an amazing 422 receptions, 3,765 yards, and 47 touchdowns.

 

Better Circumstances

(http://gifsoup.com/view/4485570/randy-moss-td.html)

This makes you wonder, what if Moss had 14 seasons with Brady, a Hall of Fame quarterback like when Rice had with both Montana and Young? Moss didn’t play as long as Rice so it is hard to speculate. How about if Moss just had seven seasons with Brady? What would his all-time numbers look like then? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that after Moss left Minnesota he went straight to New England and finished his career there for seven seasons.

His stats after leaving Minnesota were 574 receptions, 9,142 yards, and 90 touchdowns. Moss averaged 83 receptions, 1,255 yards, and 15.7 touchdowns with Brady. Over 7 seasons, based on what he averaged with Brady for his three years in New England, his career stats would have finished with 1,155 receptions, 17,927 yards, and 200 touchdowns. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous to think about.

(https://www.pinterest.com/pin/573646071256029480/)

Now for the sake of more argument, let’s say he spent 14 seasons in the NFL with Tom Brady, similar to Rice’s 14 seasons with Montana and Young. Moss’s career stats would be 1,162 receptions, 17,570 yards, and 220 touchdowns. The receptions and yards don’t change significantly, but the touchdowns sure do. 220 is unthinkable and Rice finished with 197. Had Moss spent more time with a Hall of Fame quarterback, more people wouldn’t hesitate to call Moss the best of all time. Longevity also really helped out Rice’s overall numbers as well. 20 seasons is a long time and it is rare for a player to last that long in such a violent sport.

The stats don’t tell the entire story of who is really the best. Super Bowl trophies tell the story of how a team did, not an individual. Looking at the eye test, and given the circumstances Moss had to deal with, it is clear to see that he truly was the best wide receiver of all time.

 

 

 

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NFL Conference Championship Picks Against the Spread

The NFL’s version of the Final Four is here. We have two solid matchups featuring incredibly hot and gifted quarterbacks. This will be my last week of picks against the spread. Expect something different for the Super Bowl. I was 2-2 straight up last week and just 1-3 against the spread. Given the year I have had, fans should be begging me not to pick their team, but here it goes anyway.

Atlanta (-5) at Green Bay- Aaron Rodgers is incredible. Up until his current hot streak, I always thought he was a lot closer to Joe Flacco than Joe Montana. Him carrying a below average defense and an offense with injuries everywhere except for the offensive line to this point is the football equivalent of what LeBron did with some of his Cavs teams.

Photo Courtesy of bloggingdirty.com

Regardless of what wide receivers Rodgers ends up having to throw to, he will keep his team in the game. The dilemma for Rodgers is a familiar one. Matt Ryan and the opposing offense will have no problem scoring on the Packers defense. At the end of the day, Atlanta is just a more complete football team. Their late-season defensive emergence is what made them a legitimate Super Bowl contender. NFL sack leader Vic Beasley has slowly developed into a monster and even seldom used elder statesman Dwight Freeney was making plays last week. As good as Rodgers and his offensive line are, I trust Atlanta’s defense to get a late stop more than Green Bay’s.

 

The Packers cover, but the Falcons send the Georgia Dome out in style with a trip to the Super Bowl. Atl 34 GB 31

Pittsburgh at New England (-6) – Let’s review a few of the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not give Bill Belichick and the Patriots bulletin-board material the week before a big game. No matter his intentions, that is exactly what Antonio Brown did. Anyone who thinks New England is not using Brown’s Facebook live gaffe as a little extra motivational fuel is kidding themselves.

Photo Courtesy of pittsburghpostgazette.com

As talented as the Steelers are on offense, Belichick and his staff will make Pittsburgh beat them without Le’Veon Bell running wild. Also, do not be fooled by the Steelers success. Mike Tomlin is a few steps behind coaches like Belichick when it comes to X’s and O’s. He is mostly successful because he handles the emotional and motivational aspects of the game so well. Never forget that Tim Tebow lit up a Tomlin coached team in the playoffs. Even at 39 and coming off a clunker, I will take my chances with Tom Brady.

The Steelers were probably going to lose this game no matter what, but the Brown situation ensures a bloodbath. NE 34 Pit 20.

 

 

 

 

 

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Franchise Analysis – Seattle Seahawks

Since beating the Redskins in 2012, the Seattle Seahawks have been a perennial contender. With Russell Wilson and the legion of boom at the helm, there’s no doubt Seattle will look to compete for another title in 2017. However, this organization is not without flaws. Seattle’s eye-opening loss to Atlanta proves that there is still room to improve. The question is not where do they improve, but how. Between decreasing cap space and glaring positional needs, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have a tough task ahead of them.

2016 Evaluation – offense

It’s clear that Russell Wilson is a great quarterback and who this offense will revolve around moving forward. Wilson ended the 2015 season playing the best football of his career, but that momentum did not carry over to the start of the 2016 season. Overall, the Seahawks finished as tied for 18th in points scored and 12th in yards. Russell Wilson had his second-best statistical season in terms of completion percentage and his best in terms of yards. While his quarterback rating was the lowest yet, Wilson had never thrown more in his NFL career. Not only was Wilson asked to do more in 2016, he was also asked to work with less.

The former college basketball standout George Fant had a rude awakening this year, discovering how hard it is to play tackle in the National Football League (Courtesy of; MyNorthwest.com).

No, I am not referring to his playmakers on the outside or in the backfield. I am talking about the left and right tackle positions. Any marginal Seahawks fan knows that the tackle position was a liability this season. Here is how poor that position played relative to the rest of the league. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Gary Gilliam and George Fant were rated as the 73rd and 80th best tackles among 80 qualified players. The Seattle Seahawks empirically had the worst tackle in the NFL protecting Wilson’s blindside. Both players were also liabilities as run blockers. This impacted the decreased production on the ground more than not having a “premiere” running back. Seattle absolutely must address both tackle positions this offseason if they hope to keep Russell Wilson upright in the immediate future.

Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are great playmakers. Both players are rated as top 10 players at their position by PFF. The emergence of Paul Richardson as a compliment to Baldwin on the outside is also a good sign moving forward. The Seattle Seahawks will see an increased production from all of their current players is they find a way to upgrade their tackles in the offseason. This idea is simple, but not easy, given the salary cap situation of the team.

2016 Evaluation Defense

Since the Seahawks started their ascension to one of the best franchises in the NFL, they have had a dominant defense. The 2016 season was no different. This defense finished as the third in terms of points and fifth in yards. Their secondary, when healthy, is the best bar none. They have two great linebackers in Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, as well as a premiere defensive lineman in Michael Bennett. Given all of these great defensive assets, there is still room to improve.

Despite his incredible play, Bobby Wagner remains egregiously underrated nationally as a top 10 defensive player (Courtesy of; Bleacher Report).

The biggest drop off in a relevant statistic for the Seahawks was their third down defense. In 2015, opposing offenses converted only 34.4 percent of their third downs. In 2016, the Seahawks only stopped their opponents on 38.7 percent of their third downs. That may not seem like much, but small percentages in this statistic matter. For example, there’s only a 3.5 percent difference between the first and 10th ranked third down defense and a 7.5 percent difference between the 15th and 32nd ranked third down defense.

The 4.3 percent difference from year to year leads to extended drives by the opposition and more points. That difference in production could have been the difference between winning another game and potentially getting a first round bye and a home divisional playoff game.

Of course, injuries played a role in this decline. Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Michael Bennett all missed at least four games at some point during the season. With the emerging information about Richard Sherman’s injury, it’s fair to say that he was impacted significantly throughout the season. It’s absolutely logical that this portion of the Seattle defense will improve next season as their key players return to full health.

Divisional Analysis

The Seattle Seahawks have been the class of the NFC West for the past five years; every divisional rival is building their team to beat the Seahawks. So what does Seattle need to do? They need to continue refining and reinforcing what got them to this point: a productive running game and a dominant defense.

Given the greatness of Russell Wilson, they won’t ever have an offense that goes through a running back, like Marshawn Lynch. But they need to be able to control the line of scrimmage in order to stay atop this division. When you have to face the Cardinals and Rams front seven twice a year, you need a physical offensive line and running game. We’ve already talked about their deficiency at both tackle positions.

With the 26th overall pick, Seattle has an opportunity to address this need. It is likely that Cam Robinson will be off the board by the time Seattle is on the clock. Other viable players at that position include Ryan Ramczyk from Wisconsin and Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame. At this point, those are the only two players outside of Robinson that could warrant a first-round selection.

Injuries are never expected, but always occur. While you can’t predict being without your best defensive players for multiple games, you can do your best to prepare for that scenario. Seattle needs to add depth to their defensive line and secondary. Michael Bennett is unique because of his ability to play every defensive line position at a high level. Carroll Phillips from Illinois could be that player in the third or fourth round to add depth to an already physically gifted front four. While he has off-field issues, his talent could outweigh those issues if he remains a day two prospect.

Seattle could also go the route of drafting a long, athletic corner to bolster their secondary. This could come in the form of Des Lawrence from North Carolina, who has the size and would fit well in their cover 3 defense. However, his man to man skills are not NFL ready. If they decide to add depth, they will be using day two and three selections to do so.

Post Season Prospects

This section is meant to show non-playoff teams where and by how much they need to improve to be a playoff team. Clearly, Seattle was a playoff team, so I will use them as a means to back up why I use these metrics to determine post season probability.

Metrics like points scored and time of possession are straightforward. However, stats like yards per attempt and third down conversion give more insight about the team. Yards per attempt is one of the best stats to differentiate between quarterbacks. A high yards per attempt means a quarterback is consciously trying to throw the ball downfield as opposed to constantly checking down. Thus, this is the difference between a Russell Wilson and an Alex Smith and why one has had more post season success.

Wilson is always looking to make a play downfield as opposed to dumping the ball off after three seconds. Alex Smith missed a wide open Tyreek Hill twice during their playoff game because he doesn’t try to attack defenses deep. Being in the top ten in yards per attempt is a good sign for any offense. There are of course areas in which this offense can improve. The biggest theme of this entire analysis is that if the Seahawks had just average tackle play, they might still be playing. Being in the bottom third of the league in sacks allowed is the direct result of such poor tackle play.

From a defensive perspective, this team just needs to stay healthy. We outlined their decrease in third down efficiency, but it’s not because they aren’t getting to the quarterback. This means that problem is in the secondary and with so many injuries, it was bound to impact their play. I firmly believe that is also why the turnover numbers are low for this unit. Health permitting, the 2017 Seahawks will be better on third down as well as accumulating turnovers.

Predictions

Pete Carroll and John Schneider need to have an excellent off season in order to overcome this teams sanctions and salary cap situation (Courtesy of; The Seattle Times).

As I eluded to earlier, the Seattle Seahawks have a unique challenge facing their franchise this offseason. The salary of Russell Wilson and their elite defensive players has left this team strapped for cap space. The Seahawks have just over $4.8 million in cap space. This is not enough to sign substantial free agents to upgrade their tackle positions. They have 14 players who become free agents this year, but none of them will create significant cap space if let go.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a big issue, but with the emerging story concerning Seattle’s second-round draft pick, it becomes a pressing one. Yes, they have found good players in the late rounds of the draft. However, no franchise can depend on striking gold with a day three pick. Given their salary cap and draft situation, I don’t see this team being able to get all the adequate help they need. With that being said, I believe the Seattle Seahawks will finish 9-7 behind the Cardinals, but will make the playoffs as a wild card team.

 

 

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The Underwhelming Crop of New NFL Head Coaches

With it all but confirmed that Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be taking over as head coach of the 49ers when Atlanta’s season ends, all six of the NFL’s head-coaching vacancies are now filled. Some are stepping into better situation than others, but I find all but one of the head-coaching hires underwhelming. Quite frankly, that is putting it mildly. Here is a look at each:

Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Of all the hires, this is the one that has a chance to work long-term. Marrone is an experienced coach at both the college and pro levels. He did a very respectable job for two seasons as the head coach of the Bills in 2013 and 2014 before a mutual parting of ways. In 2014, he guided the Bills to just their second winning season since 1999. EJ Manuel was his quarterback for most of his time in Buffalo. Not many coaches could get nine wins with EJ Manuel as their quarterback. He has barely seen the field since Marrone left. Marrone also turned Syracuse football into a competitive program during his time there ending a bowl game victory drought of nearly a decade

Photo courtesy of Jacksonville.com

The hiring of two-time Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Coughlin as an executive to oversee all aspects of the Jaguars organization is the biggest thing working in Marrone’s favor. Coughlin knows what it takes to win and will bring instant credibility and discipline to Jacksonville. These have been lacking ever since Coughlin left as head coach following the 2002 season. The Jaguars roster is not terrible at the moment and will have chances to improve through the draft and free agency. Whatever they have to work with, Coughlin and Marrone will get the most out of it. They both have done that for their entire careers in football.

 

Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)

While McDermott’s stints as defensive coordinator in Carolina and Philadelphia were largely positive, his Panthers defense took a major step backward last year. They fell out of the top 20 in almost every statistical category after being one of the most dominant units in the league for the better part of two years. Some will point to the loss of Josh Norman. While it certainly did not help, I do not think it explains the entirety of Carolina defensive decline. No one player should mean that much to defense. If he does, there is something wrong with the system.

 

Combine this with the traditionally dysfunctional Bills front office and fairly new ownership that seems to think the roster is better than it actually is, and I see no way for McDermott to lead this team beyond .500, which is almost exactly the same record Rex Ryan had during his just under two years in Buffalo.

 

Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams)

 

 

Here is your classic case of too much too soon. Unlike most of the new hires, the unit McVay coordinated last year was quite good. The Redskins offense had the fewest three and outs in football last year. Even so, he is the youngest coach in league history. Moreover, he is inheriting a mess. Other than the defensive line, there is almost nothing here to work with. Additionally, this is another franchise struggling to find its relocation groove. That only makes McVay’s job more difficult. There are a lot of 60-year-old coaches who could not handle this job.

Photo Courtesy of nbclosangeles.com

 

While the Rams have done a great job surrounding McVay with quality assistant coaches, unless he can walk on water, it will be an extremely difficult task for him to get this franchise turned around. The one thing working in his favor is that the Rams gave Jeff Fisher plenty of time to get things going in the right direction. It did not work out, but McVay will need that same luxury to build a winner.

 

Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers)

This is the real stunner to me. Lynn spent most of last year as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo. While the Bills were the top rushing team in the league, it is impossible to be a legitimate contender in the modern NFL averaging under 200 yards passing a game like Buffalo did. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, you have to find a way to get more from your passing game than that. It certainly does not merit being hired as head coach.

 

Buffalo wanted to get an early look at Lynn. Thus, he was named interim head coach replacing Rex Ryan for the season finale. Not only were the bills routed by the Jets, but they were on the wrong end of a football folly for the ages. Watch it below thanks to the NFL’s YouTube channel. I have no words just watch.

 

After allowing a play like that to happen on his watch, under no circumstances would I hire Lynn as the head coach anywhere. Much less head coach of are relocating franchise trying (and mostly failing) to ingratiate itself to a new city. For those that will say a career of a coach should not be defined by a single play, fans and media do it with players all the time. Why should coaches not be held to the same standard? There is no way Lynn’s time in LA the lasts long or ends well.

 

 

Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos)

 

Strangely Joseph is the least qualified candidate of the new head coaches. Yet, he landed the best job with one of the NFL’s most consistent franchises over the last half decade or so. Following the sudden resignation of Gary Kubiak, Joseph has been handed the keys to a franchise that won a Super Bowl less than a year ago.

The Broncos roster is loaded with talent and ready to win now. The objective is to win Super Bowls. In theory, this is the objective for all NFL teams every year, but for most teams it simply is not realistic. It certainly is for the Broncos. They missed the playoffs this year for the first time in five years and still managed to post a winning record.

Given that standard of success, I just do not see how hiring a guy who spent one year as an NFL defensive coordinator and oversaw the 29th-ranked defense last year is going to accomplish that goal. I have no clue why multiple teams were interested in this guy as a head coach. He is clearly well thought of around the league. However, there is a difference between that and being a good head coach.

Joseph will likely be the most successful of the new head coaches early on based solely on the strength of his assistant coaches and general roster talent. Eventually, he will likely follow the same path as former Broncos and current Bears head coach Jon Fox who won a lot of games in Denver but was let go for not being able to get over the hump.

 

 

Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)

 

Of the five hires who will be first-time head coaches, Shanahan was most deserving of a job. The work he has done with Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense this year is amazing. Unfortunately for him, he got the one job that nobody short of Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick could make work right now. Shanahan will be San Francisco’s fourth coach in as many seasons. There was never any talent on the roster for Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula to begin with. Shanahan is the same boat. Kelly and Tomsula were given just a single season.

How any candidate could trust ownership with a track record like that is beyond me, but there are only 32 head coaching jobs to go around. So, I do not blame Shanahan for taking the gig. Ultimately though, his success or failure hinges on the 49ers finding a general manager who knows what he is doing and Shanahan being given enough time to figure out the quarterback position and the rest of the roster. I do not trust ownership to do either.

Every year when new head coaches are hired, I find myself asking the same question. Are these the best guys the NFL can come up with? Even the less glamorous franchises like the Jaguars are worth over $1 billion according to Forbes. Why a team does not offer someone like Nick Saban enough money to make him the highest-paid coach in the league is baffling to me.

 

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Championship Sunday)

(USA TODAY Sports/ Matthew Emmons)

Championship Sunday is finally upon us. The Saturday divisional round games had the playoffs looking rather boring through six games.

The Falcons and Patriots both won easily and excitement had been missing from the playoffs.

Sunday told a different story. Dallas and Green Bay played an instant classic. Heading into the fourth quarter Dallas trailed 28-13, but scored 15 straight points to tie the game at 28. Eventually, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers held on for a 34-31 victory thanks to a 51-yard field goal by Mason Crosby as time expired.

In the AFC, the Chiefs scored a touchdown with 2:43 remaining and missed the two-point conversion to tie the game at 18. In the end, the Steelers won the game 18-16 and the difference was the two-point conversion that failed.

That leaves four teams remaining in the chase for the Lombardi Trophy: Green Bay, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New England. The championship games should provide plenty of excitement in determining who will eventually be the Super Bowl Champions. It is time for Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks.

Last Week: 2-2

Regular Season: 148-103-2

Playoffs: 5-3

Overall:153-106-2

 

NFC Championship

(https://www.pinterest.com)

Green Bay 38 @ Atlanta 34: Not many people had predicted that the Falcons would be hosting the NFC Championship this season, but here it is in January and the NFC Championship game will be in Atlanta. The Falcons have the best scoring offense in the NFL this season (33.8 points per game) and Matt Ryan is on a tear. Atlanta is on a five-game win streak and went 5-3 at home. The Falcons are hot, but their opponent is even hotter. Green Bay has won eight straight games and is averaging 33.6 points per game over their last five.

This game is going to be a shootout, but who will win? Aaron Rodgers is clearly the best player in the game today. The hot streak he is on can’t be ignored. In the eight-game win streak, Rodgers has thrown 21 touchdowns and just one interception. The lack of turnovers by Rodgers is resulting in wins for Green Bay.

A game of this magnitude favors the players who have been in this situation before. The Packers have been here before and the Falcons have not. For that reason, the Packers will edge out the Falcons and play in Super Bowl LI.

 

 

 

AFC Championship

(AP Images)

Pittsburgh 27 @ New England 30: The amount of success these two teams have had in the 21st century is unbelievable. Since 2000, the two franchises have combined for 25 playoff appearances, 17 conference championship appearances, nine conference championship wins, and six Super Bowl wins. It doesn’t get much better than this.

The Steelers have faced a much tougher road than the Patriots have in the playoffs. These two teams match up well with one another. The Steelers monster offense was held out of the end zone against the Chiefs. It took six field goals to win and that will not be good enough against Tom Brady. Without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, New England has still found ways to score.

This game could go either way, but with the game taking place in Foxborough and having the great Tom Brady, the edge has to go to the Patriots. New England makes just one more play in this one to set up a Brady versus Rodgers Super Bowl.

 

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Franchise Analysis – Arizona Cardinals

Every year the NFL has its share of surprising teams. People often talk about who has the potential to go from worst to first. However, one team was a victim of regression. The Arizona Cardinals entered the season with high expectations coming off their NFC Championship appearance in 2015. After a 7-8-1 finish, the Cardinal faithful are still wondering, what on earth happened?

2016 Evaluation – offense

In 2015, the Cardinals had a prolific passing attack. They specifically had a great down field passing game, which is something that didn’t carry over in 2016. There are two main reasons for this drop off in production. The first is the emergence of David Johnson as an elite offensive player. This doesn’t necessarily mean they ran the ball more though. In fact, the 2015 Cardinals ran the ball 452 times versus 399 in 2016.

The usage of David Johnson in the pass game is what led to the decrease in downfield production. Johnson is uniquely talented, but rarely was he running routes further than 10 yards down the field. This would explain Carson Palmer’s decline in yards per attempt from 8.7 in 2015, to 7.1 in 2016. The difference is even more staggering when looking at the adjusted yards per attempt: 9.1 in 2015 to 6.9 in 2016.

With another off-season under Bruce Arians and the current personnel, can Carson Palmer reassert himself as one of the best down field throwers in the NFL in 2017? (Courtesy of; Heavy.com)

We know David Johnson impacted the downfield passing game, but how much of the decreased production falls on Carson Palmer? Palmer had 65 completions of 20+ yards and a staggering 15 completions of 40+ yards in 2015. In 2016, Palmer’s production decreased sharply with only 48 completions of 20+ yards and 6 completions of 40+ yards.

Palmer was also sacked 15 more times in 2016, which absolutely impacts production. However, this kind of decline in production has more to do with attempting to throw the ball downfield, rather than protection breakdowns. As a whole, the Arizona Cardinals offense was still productive, finishing sixth in points and ninth in yards. With minor upgrades at certain positions like right guard and tight end, this offense can easily ascend back to its 2015 greatness.

 

2016 Evaluation – Defense

Calais Campbell earned All-Pro honors this year headlining a top-tier Cardinals defense (Courtesy of; NBCSports.com).

While the offense took a step back in 2016, the Cardinal’s defense was still productive. They finished 14th in points allowed and second in yards allowed this season. Compared to finishing seventh in points allowed and fifth in yards allowed the previous year, there wasn’t much of a drop off. This defense has play makers at every level like Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, and Patrick Peterson among others. Unfortunately, injuries kept this unit from excelling with players coming and going at different points in the season.

There are two positions in particular that could use an upgrade. Those would be cornerback and defensive end. In fairness, any corner playing opposite Patrick Peterson will be targeted heavily. However, players are expected to improve with more playing time. Marcus Cooper was above average against the run, but that’s not what corners get paid to do. Hopefully Tyvon Branch and Justin Bethel can return healthy next season so that Cooper’s role on defense is limited.

Frostee Rucker needs to be upgraded or needs a reduced role in this defense as well. Rucker played mostly in their base defense, but was still a liability against the run. Arizona often featured their nickel package with Markus Golden playing defensive end. This would put Tyrann Mathieu in the slot with the ability to make plays against the run. The nickel package of Arizona is their best defense because of the range their secondary players possess, as well as their pass rush ability.

Divisional Evaluation

In my opinion, Arizona is just as good as Seattle. They just have a different style of player at the quarterback position that can’t mask other offensive holes. Russell Wilson is able to extend plays and avoid rushers and Carson Palmer can’t. Palmer is perfectly capable of stepping up and moving in the pocket, but when pressure is coming from the middle, he isn’t as mobile. The Cardinals need to secure the middle of their offensive line, specifically at right guard. Earl Watford, a tackle by trade, played the position in Evan Mathis’ absence. Sadly, Mathis is not under contract for the 2017 season and is 35 years old. The Cardinals could resign Mathis, or they could look to add depth through the draft.

With the 13th pick in the 2017 draft, the Cardinals have a lot of options. Marlon Humphrey and Adoree Jackson could reinforce an already strong secondary. Corey Davis could serve as the successor to Larry Fitzgerald and potentially help the Cardinals return to attacking defenses downfield. Solomon Thomas could address their need at defensive end and has experience in the 3-4 defense. The point is, they could go in a variety of directions, all of which could greatly impact their franchise moving forward. I would like them to address their offensive line with a significant investment, but there isn’t a guard that warrants selection at the 13th spot.

The Cardinals proved this year that they can compete with and beat Seattle. With a few adjustments in personnel and refocus on the downfield passing game, this team can retake the top spot in the NFC West.

Post Season Prospects

I’ve already made it clear that this is a playoff team. Just for some perspective, here is how the Arizona Cardinals stack up to the 2016 postseason teams in the most important statistics.

We’ve outlined how the Cardinals have slightly regressed this season. As a whole, they are still an effective offense. To make the playoffs, and win playoff games, you can’t have glaring holes on your team. Every playoff team this postseason were at least top 15 in two or more of these offensive categories. Clearly, the Cardinals meet that criteria and are an above average NFL offense that can still improve if they have a good draft and make smart free agent choices.

It’s one thing to be top 15 in two or three of these critical criteria, but the Cardinals are top 15 in every significant metric. This defense was the reason why they were able to beat Seattle on the road and neutralize them at home to force a tie. The points allowed metric can be affected by the offense. If they turn the ball over or give the defense bad field position, then teams are going to score more points. Despite the impact the offense had on points allowed, they still finished in the top 15. The Cardinals are in great shape defensively, they just have to stay healthy for the majority of the 2017 season.

2017 Predictions

This team is poised to make another postseason push. Having a top 15 draft pick will only help this team reach its potential, but they have challenges looming. The Arizona Cardinals have over 15 players who are free agents. They must make smart decisions on what players to re-sign and what players they can replace in the draft. If free agency is handled correctly and the draft is a success, this team will absolutely challenge Seattle for the top team in the NFC West. Next season, I like the Arizona Cardinals to finish 10-6 and win the division.

 

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NFL Divisional Playoff Picks Against the Spread

Wild Card Weekend rung in the NFL playoffs with a whimper rather than a bang. However, the divisional round has arrived and the general consensus is at least three of the four games should be highly contested. I was 2-2 against the spread last week and 3-1 straight up. My system remains the same with my picks being in bold and outright upsets having an asterisk. Hut hut, hike!

*Seahawks at Falcons (-5) – This is your classic defense versus offense matchup. Games like this are a yearly occurrence for the Seahawks. The same cannot be said for the Falcons. Thus, I just trust Seattle more here. Playing Detroit last week was a good way to prepare for Atlanta. The Seahawks defense finally seemed to figure out how to play without Earl Thomas. If Thomas Rawls can run the ball anywhere close to the way he did last week, Seattle becomes even more difficult to deal with.

The Falcons have had a fantastic season. However, I am just not sure how they will handle this occasion. They are about as anonymous a playoff team as you will ever come across. Their only primetime appearances this year were a Thursday night game and a Monday night game that went opposite a presidential debate. Even though the Falcons defense has vastly improved from a year ago, Matt Ryan and company are still having to put up 28-30 points to feel comfortable. Seattle will not allow that to happen. Sea 24 Atl 20

Texans at Patriots (-15) – 15 points in a playoff game? No one disputes that New England is a much better team, but I will take 15 points every day of the week and twice on Sundays. It becomes all the more enticing when one considers that the Texans have the NFL’s top defense. The Patriots could very easily go out and win this game by a ridiculous margin. However, Houston’s defense and coaching staff are good enough to make anyone sweat. Jadeveon Clowney is finally staying healthy and being the game wrecker everyone knew he was capable of being. Brady and Belichick will find a way like they always seem to do this time of year, but it will not be the bloodbath that most people are anticipating. NE 27 Hou 17

Photo courtesy of espn.com

Steelers at Chiefs (-1.5) – I genuinely believe Kansas City is the more balanced and complete football team. The early-season 43-14 Steelers blowout in this matchup is hard to ignore though. Teams do change a lot throughout the season. The emergence of Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s now healthy pass rushers, and a dinged up Ben Roethlisberger are enough to nudge me toward the home team in my least favorite pick of the week. KC 23 Pit 20

*Packers at Cowboys (-4.5) – I would have picked the Giants had they reached this spot as well. Dallas has not played a truly meaningful game in roughly a month. That worries me. As good as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have been, this is still uncharted territory for them as well as most of the Cowboys roster.

Photo courtesy of sportdfw.com

On the other side, the universe is running out of words to describe how hot Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense are. I am not sure if the health of Jordy Nelson even matters in terms of who wins this game. Rodgers is playing well enough to carry whoever is out there with him to win right now. Also, the Packers have been in “do or die” situations since about week 11. Let another offseason full of drama begin in Dallas. GB 34 Dal 30

 

 

 

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Franchise Analysis – Los Angeles Rams

The 2016 preseason was full of compelling story lines. How would the Patriots deal with Tom Brady’s suspension? Could the Cowboys still compete with Dak Prescott? While they were interesting, neither narrative compared to the return of the Los Angeles Rams. The city and fan base was swirling with excitement and hope about their long lost franchise coming home. Sadly, it wasn’t a story book ending for the Rams this year. Once again, Los Angeles Rams fans have hope approaching the 2017 season with the hiring of Sean McVay. Will it be enough to overcome the many problems that currently plague this franchise?

2016 EVALUATION – OFFENSE

If you watched any Rams game this year, it’s not hard to identify what this team is lacking. Their offensive production in terms of points and yards were both last in the NFL. That’s easy to see, but let’s dive deeper into the Rams offensive woes.

I’m sure you’ve heard coaches and analysts say that you build a team from inside out. They’re right. The best way to build a balanced, productive offense is to have consistent play from the offensive line. While the Rams are not the worst group, they certainly have room to improve. I like to use Pro Football Focus ratings as a means to objectively evaluate players and compare them to others at their position group. Here is a snapshot of the Rams’ line and their ratings.

Each player is graded on a 0-100 scale and is assigned a color based on the range they fall in. For the most part, this is an average offensive line. What absolutely hamstrings this unit’s effectiveness is that their worst player plays the most critical position: left tackle. This season, 73 other players were better than Greg Robinson at tackle. Robinson is a liability in pass protection and struggles as a run blocker, given his 36.1 run-block rating. While his poor play contributed to the offensive struggles, he is by no means the only one to blame.

The Rams wanted to be a run-first team. With Todd Gurley in the backfield, that’s totally understandable. However, when the opposition knows stopping Gurley means beating the Rams, the burden is placed on the passing game. In this particular instance, the blame falls on the offensive staff, but more on that later.

2016 EVALUATION – DEFENSE

Conversely, the Los Angeles Rams have proved that they can draft and develop defensive players. Their end of the year rankings are somewhat deceiving. The Rams finished 23rd in terms of points allowed and ninth in yards allowed. Their ranking as the 23rd best scoring defense is misleading. This defense had to deal with constantly being on the field, below average field position, and their own offense scoring points for the other team via turnovers.

Robert Quinn had yet another injury filled season. The former Pro-Bowler will play a key role in making the Rams’ defensive line among the best in the NFL again (Courtesy; NFL.com).

On strictly a personnel basis, this defense is built to dominate the line of scrimmage. With All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald alongside quality defenders like Michael Brockers, William Hayes, and Robert Quinn, this team will be getting after the quarterback for years to come. Sadly, Robert Quinn was sidelined for four games this season and played on a limited basis after week six.

Other notable defensive players include: Alec Ogletree, who had a productive year bouncing back from injury, Trumaine Johnson, and Maurice Alexander. As a whole, what is keeping this defense from ascending into the top-five or top-three realm is their offense. If this defense can just stay healthy and possibly upgrade their second corner position, they will easily be among the top 12 in major statistical categories.

 

 

DIVISIONAL ANALYSIS

The NFC West was once considered the best division in football, but with the flailing 49ers, struggling Rams, and regressed Cardinals, it is anything but the best. So what do the Rams need to challenge Seattle for the division crown?

Sean McVay will have his hands full as he will be tasked with turning the Los Angeles Rams around in 2017 (Courtesy of; Czabe.com).

First and foremost, they need a competent offensive coaching staff. The new hire of Sean McVay is a step in the right direction. Yes, by now everyone knows he’s the youngest coach in NFL history. However, do not automatically assume that inexperienced equals incompetence. McVay has clearly impressed enough people in the NFL just to warrant an interview at his age. McVay’s biggest challenge will be winning over the veteran players. Not to mention, he won’t be coaching Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, or DeSean Jackson. Hopefully McVay isn’t afraid to let coaches who are currently on the staff go. In order for this to work, he has to have an entire staff that truly believes in him as well as his system.

Second, the Rams need to address the left tackle position. Yes, I know they need a quarterback, but with no first or third-round pick in 2017 and the history of free agents at that position failing, it’s not happening this year. It’s also unfair to say absolutely that Goff isn’t capable of playing well after not even playing a full season. Greg Robinson just simply hasn’t worked. Robinson has never played like the second overall pick in the draft and the Rams need to actively search for someone else. When you have to face Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Calais Campbell, Markus Golden, and the emerging DeForest Buckner twice a year, you need a reliable left tackle.

Outside of addressing depth on the defense, the third biggest need of this team is a receiving tight end. Here me out. The Cardinals and the Seahawks have elite talent at cornerback. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, despite their greatness, are still susceptible to getting beat in man to man coverage. Therefore, the best way to attack these defenses is 10-20 yards down the middle of the defense.

Now let’s shift our attention to McVay, who had Jordan Reed when he was in Washington. Reed provided Cousins with a red zone threat, a safety outlet against pressure, and he drew coverage away from Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Finally, let’s look at Philadelphia. Carson Wentz has a similar situation to Goff as far as offensive weapons. He has very little outside of Jordan Matthews, but he has Zach Ertz. Having a tight end that was able to work the middle of the field allowed Wentz to move the ball without great playmakers on offense. Both Goff and McVay could benefit tremendously if they can acquire a receiving tight end for the 2017 season.

PostSeason Prospects

When it comes to predicting postseason success, some metrics are more important than others. Here are the following offensive and defensive statistics that best determine postseason viability and where the Rams stack up.

Clearly there’s room to improve. I do think Sean McVay will have an immediate impact on these different metrics given his offensive background. I also think that Jared Goff will inevitably be better than he was this year. The important point is, the Rams don’t have to be top five or top 10 in these categories to have success. They just can’t be meddling at the bottom of the league. All of the current playoff teams are top 15 or better in at least two of these offensive categories.

As stated earlier, Los Angeles is tremendously talented on defense. We talked earlier about how the terrible offense is contributing to below average defensive rankings. For example, it’s hard for the Rams to record sacks when they are losing by two possessions in the third and fourth quarter, as the opposition is looking to run the clock. This same logic can be applied to points allowed and turnovers. In the two categories that the defense alone controls, they are top 10.

Overall, the offense has to make significant strides this offseason in order for the Rams to have a chance to compete in the postseason.

2017 Predictions

The future of the Los Angeles Rams is bright and hopeful, but not the immediate future. Last year’s acquisition of the number one pick from the Tennessee Titans leaves the Rams without a first or third-round pick this year. I don’t see them being able to acquire many impact players through the draft. It’s logical to think they will want to address depth on both sides of the ball. This way, they aren’t relying on late-round picks to start.

It’s also hard to predict how active the Rams will be in free agency given the new head coach. The Rams will be better next year, but not by much. They won’t be able to get impact players like Cam Robinson, Mike McGlinchey, or O.J. Howard to immediately boost the talent level on offense. I think the Rams will finish 5-12 in 2017, tied with the 49ers, but will lose the divisional tiebreaker. Los Angeles just doesn’t have enough resources available to catapult them from a four win team to a nine win team.

 

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It’s on the Haus: Chargers Logo Sucks, Rams Hire Coaches, Carmelo Anthony Airball

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports and esports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program, or going to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports and esports happenings, all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus.

Wut U Doing, Chargers?

Chargers los angeles rams coaches carmelo anthony airball

Ugh. (Photo: chargers.com)

The Chargers franchise that has lived in San Diego for 55 years is moving to glamorous Hollywood. The decision is ill-received by those who live in or around San Diego, and rightfully so.

The Chargers franchise sucks. They wasted Philip Rivers’ prime that included Ladainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman, Antonio Gates, and others. Now they move to a city that doesn’t need nor want them.

To make matters worse, the logo the Chargers created is terrible. It appears the franchise spent 99% of its available funds on relocating, and the other $14 on its graphic design team. The image is awfully bland, and it looks like the logo just combined the Dodgers’ logo with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s logo.

There’s a lot of unhappy fans, whether they be fans of the franchise or not. I understand the hate. I would be crushed if one of my favorite teams relocated, and it’d be worse if they gained a putrid new brand in the process.

Rams Hire Everyone

The Los Angeles Rams are handing out coaching jobs like Oprah hands out free gifts. The team made Sean McVay the youngest head coach of all time (30), and hired former Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to the same position.

Good for McVay for being ambitious, but I don’t see why anyone would take the dang job. The Rams don’t have a first or third-round pick for the 2017 NFL Draft. They also traded away the kitchen sink for Jared Goff, and he’s been about as impressive as one-ply toilet paper.

And Wade Philips, what the heifer are you doing? Philips is more crazy than McVay in this situation. The Broncos are a quarterback away from being real contenders again. So Philips moves to one of the worst franchises in the sport for the same position? Whatever old guy. Do you then.

Melo Does Bad, Gets Booed

Hot take: If you’re going to pay a man millions of dollars to throw a sphere into a circle, you should at least come close to doing so. Carmelo Anthony disagrees, as you can see in this technologically sound looping video below.

Look, “Melo”, don’t smile about sucking. Sucking isn’t funny, it’s actually bad. The Knicks have sucked for a while, and chuckling about your fans’ displeasure is cruel. Going iso and throwing up an airball is an atrocity, and if laughing is Anthony’s way of dealing with the pain, so be it. But it’s still not okay to do it.

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2017 NFL Mock Draft January 12

2017 NFL Mock Draft

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

The Browns reportedly have a very high grade on Garrett and are not targeting a quarterback with their first pick. Garrett is the premier pass rusher in college football, but has also proven to be a good run defender as well. Cleveland has to acquire talent all over their roster, so they need to take the best player available, who is Garrett.

2. San Francisco 49ers- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

San Francisco has a lot of needs, including a new coach. 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.

3. Chicago Bears- Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Matt Barkley has played better than expected, but the Bears will still need a new quarterback. Trubisky has protected the football very well, with the exception of a couple of games. Issues that scouts will find with him are that he has only started one season of college football and a lot of his stats come from screen passes where receivers run after the catch.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

Allen is the best prospect available and fills a need. Malik Jackson was the only defensive lineman who played well for the Jaguars. At six feet three inches tall and 291 pounds, Allen can play any position on the defensive line and can fit into any system.

5. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

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. Mariota needs a go to receiver to throw to and the Titans ma have to take one earlier than expected.

6. New York Jets- Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama

The Jets finished the season with just 29 sacks. Their secondary needs improvement, but improving the pass rush will help the secondary. Williams will fit in great in the Jets’ 3-4 defense. He has played better against the pass this season too, which will make him more desirable.

7. San Diego Chargers- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Phillip Rivers deserves the most credit in the league for keeping his team competitive with all of his skill position players hurt and a bad offensive line. Robinson can slide right in and start protecting the aging Rivers and give him more time to make plays.

8. Carolina Panthers- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Cam Newton and Leonard Fournette in the same backfield may be too much, but Jonathan Stewart is wearing down. Fournette can do everything required as a running back and help take some carries away from Newton. Their offense can be dynamic with the combination of the two.

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

When Cincinnati was at their best, they rushed the passer well. Michael Johnson no longer does that well, so he needs to be upgraded. Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the class and can also help stop the run at an average level.

10. Buffalo Bills- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Adams is the most complete safety in the class. He stops the run, covers well and even hits hard. Against Ole Miss he showed he can cover tight ends when he was matched up against Evan Engram. The Bills have a lot of uncertainty at safety with Aaron Williams, but Adams could be the pick anyways.

11. New Orleans Saints- Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

The Saints need defensive help wherever they can get it. Improving the pass rush will be an easy decision if they see Solomon Thomas on the board. Thomas is a well rounded defensive end, who is as good at stopping the run as he is rushing the passer.

12. Cleveland Browns- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

While Mike Williams was the best player for Clemson, 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.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

This is a great value pick for the Cardinals, as Humphrey is a top ten talent. The pick also fills a need with Arizona’s secondary not playing as well as in previous seasons.

14. Indianapolis Colts- Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC

Indianapolis needs to start playing better defense to give Andrew Luck a chance to win games. Jackson is one of the fastest players in the entire class and almost qualified for the track and field team in the Olympics this summer. He is a shut down corner, who plays like Deion Sanders. The most impressive thing he does is slow down to bait the quarterback into throwing a pass and then speed up to intercept it.

15. Philadelphia Eagles- Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

The Eagles defense was a lot better this season, but could still use some help at the corner position. Florida has plenty of good defensive players, but Wilson is the one who has risen up draft boards the most.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

If Cook falls to Baltimore, which he may not, the Ravens will be all over him. They need a good running back to help make that offense more dynamic. Cook and Fournette are really close in terms of who is the better running back. Joe Flacco will have an extra receiving target, while the running game should see a huge boost too.

17. Washington Redskins- Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

Washington has other needs, but McDowell could really bolster their defensive line and be a great value pick. McDowell can rush the passer, but his main impact will be helping out a bad Washington run defense.

18. Tennessee Titans- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Titans already have a great receiver drafted to help Mariota, now they need to help their secondary. Lattimore was the best corner back in the Big Ten this season and can start immediately to help Tennessee’s horrid pass defense.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Secondary play is where the Bucs fall short, especially at safety. Fortunately for them this class has a lot of good safeties. Hooker is a ball-hawk who has great coverage skills, but needs to provide more run support.

20. Denver Broncos- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

John Elway has to find a new right tackle as Donald Stephenson isn’t the answer. McGlinchey played left tackle this season, but was more successful as a right tackle during his college career.

21. Detroit Lions- Chris Wormley, DE/DT, Michigan

Detroit defied the odds to make the playoffs, but their defense needs a lot of work. Interior defensive line play was bad. Wormley can play defensive tackle in their scheme and be an absolute force in the middle of the defensive line.

22. Miami Dolphins- Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

Tabor has fallen down draft boards, which may have come at the expense of teammate Quincy Wilson’s improved stock. Lock down coverage is Tabor’s best asset, but he also has good ball skills once passes come his way. The Dolphins need to spend some picks on their secondary and their defensive line this year and Tabor can compete for a starting job.

23. New York Giants- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

It seems like every year the Giants need linebackers, but they hardly address those issues. Cunningham is tall and lanky, but makes plays. He is a tackle machine that can vastly improve the run defense.

24. Oakland Raiders- Jabrill Peppers, CB/LB/S, Michigan

The Raiders’ defense wasn’t good this season. They have to get better to help Derek Carr and the high-powered offense win games. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense and will give the Raiders a lot of flexibility and a good player behind Khalil Mack.

25. Houston Texans- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Quarterback play has been an issue, so they may go for one here, but the offensive line hasn’t performed either. If they want to build a good offense, it starts in the trenches. Ramczyk is a good run blocker, but needs to improve his pass blocking. He can fit in at right tackle for the Texans.

26. Seattle Seahawks- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

It is the same story, but a different day for Seattle. Their offensive line is atrocious. Quenton Nelson is a solid prospect who can help out on the interior of the offensive line. He will be the selection if there aren’t any tackles good enough to get drafted in this range.

27. Green Bay Packers- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey sat out his bowl game and will now have to see if his draft stock falls. As of now, he could be a great fit for the Packers, who are playing Ty Montgomery, a wide receiver, at running back. Even when Eddie Lacy comes back, he hasn’t performed enough to keep his job. McCaffrey can run in between the tackles, but Aaron Rodgers will love his ability as a receiver.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers- Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri

The Steeler pass rush hasn’t been the same recently. Jarvis Jones is a bust and James Harrison can’t play forever. Harris is a good edge rusher that can, at the very least, push the veterans with some competition and provide depth.

29. Atlanta Falcons- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Jacob Tamme is a decent tight end, but he isn’t great. Levine Toilolo hasn’t proven that he can be the starter. Matt Ryan would love the addition of Howard, who would just add to the number of targets he has. The Falcons could, and probably should go defense here, but Howard may be too good to pass up.

30. Kansas City Chiefs- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

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. The Chiefs can draft the receivers, but ultimately Alex Smith has to throw it to them to make this pick worthwhile.

31. Dallas Cowboys- John Ross, WR, Washington

The Cowboys’ defense needs to be addressed, but they could also find a good target to go on the opposite side of the field of Dez Bryant. Terrance Williams could be upgraded and has yet to sign a deal for next season. Ross is really fast and can stretch the field for the offense.

32. New England Patriots- Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois

New England’s front seven has been depleted the past couple of seasons. They will need to make up for players traded and ones that are still on the team, but aging. Smoot can provide good depth at defensive end.

 

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

 

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