Minnesota Vikings offensive line

Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line

In 2016, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line was historically bad. The Vikings ranked dead last in rushing yards per attempt and yards per game. The Vikings also ranked in the bottom ten in sacks allowed (38) and quarterback hits allowed (104). Inconsistent offensive line play was the main reason why the Vikings fell flat after a 5-0 start two years ago.

Last season, however, the offensive line vastly improved. Under second-year line coach Tony Sporano, Minnesota became one of the best rushing teams in the NFL, ranking seventh. The Vikings also improved in pass protection, allowing only 27 sacks in 2017.

Although improved, the offensive line is still the Minnesota Vikings’ weakest position group and should be one of the team’s main focuses this offseason. Here’s a rundown of the Vikings’ offensive line from last season and how they can continue to improve.

Riley Reiff

Minnesota Vikings offensive line

Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Riley Reiff works out with a coach during Vikings’ minicamp. (Photo by Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)

The Vikings signed Reiff to a five-year, $58 million contract last March during free agency. Reiff started all but one game in 2017 and was a solid starter at left tackle. The former Detroit Lion helped improve the Vikings’ run and passing game and is the favorite to be the team’s starting left tackle in 2018.

Although an improvement from 2016 starter Matt Kalil, Reiff was ranked as the 59th best tackle by Pro Football Focus.

Due to his massive contract and six years of NFL experience, the Vikings are very unlikely to move on from Reiff until his contract expires in 2022.

Mike Remmers

Minnesota Vikings offensive line

Vikings right tackle Mike Remmers drops back against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo by Carlos Gonzalez/ startribune.com)

Along with Reiff, the Vikings also signed right tackle Mike Remmers to a five-year deal last spring. Reiff was also a solid starter along the offensive line, replacing a struggling T.J. Clemmings. Remmers is a strong run blocker that helped clear running lanes for both Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, allowing them both to put up career years.

At times, Remmers struggled against elite pass rushers, allowing the most sacks on the team.

Remmers is the favorite to start at tackle again next season, though there will likely be added competition next summer.

Nick Easton

Nick Easton was brought into the Vikings organization in 2015 and has slowly worked himself in as the team’s starting left guard. Easton ended his season early by fracturing his right ankle in a 16-0 win against the Green Bay Packers.

The second-year guard played below average this season, leaving his future in Minnesota in doubt.

Easton will be a restricted free agent in March, meaning that other teams are free to negotiate contracts with him.

Joe Berger

Joe Berger has enjoyed a productive 13-year career in the NFL, playing at both the center and guard positions. Prior to the 2017 season, Berger had announced that this season would be his last before retiring.

This season, Berger was one of the bright spots along the Vikings’ offensive line as an extremely effective run blocker.

Berger has been extremely durable throughout his tenure with Minnesota, only missing two starts in the last three years. Berger’s run blocking and experience will be sorely missed by the Minnesota Vikings, and his replacement will most likely be found in either free agency or in April’s draft.

Pat Elflein

Minnesota Vikings offensive line

Pat Elflein prepares to snap a pass to quarterback Case Keenum. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Pat Elflein was also a new face in Minnesota after being selected in the third-round of last year’s draft. The center out of Ohio State started 14 games in 2017 and impressed many with his run and pass-blocking skills.

An ankle injury in the NFC Championship Game ended Elflein’s season, and he is expected to receive surgery this offseason. After a very promising rookie season, Elflein is expected to be the Vikings’ starting center for many years to come.

What to Expect

With the Minnesota Vikings being such a deep team at every other position, it seems very likely that improving the offensive line will be the priority this season (after figuring out their quarterback situation, of course). Finding a replacement for the retiring Joe Berger at right guard will be key, as well as adding depth to the tackle positions.

Although the Vikings’ offensive line improved mightily in 2017, there is still much more work to be done at the guard and tackle positions.

 

Featured image by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

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NBA 2k League Combine

NBA 2k League prospect profile: Petty_Andretti

Before we dive in to my prospect profile on Petty_Andretti, I want to make clear my evaluation process and that these are my thoughts independent of the in-game rating system. I start by watching the first game of every prospect. I evaluate their performance on every offensive and defensive possession. Meaning I watch a possession, pause and take notes, watch a possession, pause and take notes, and repeat until the game’s completion. Then, I watch their other two games to see growth, regression and consistency. The overall grade provided is purely based on my evaluation, and how that player performed in the three games I watched.

Petty_Andretti’s Profile

Petty_Andretti (PA) has chosen to play center, with the slashing stretch five archetype. His choice is interesting. PA has chosen to naturally be an offensive player without any natural defensive abilities. Surprisingly, you’d never know by watching him play defense and rebound.

Overall, I was impressed with the group of centers I watched this weekend. It will no doubt be a highly competitive group. As a side note, I would strongly advise any fringe centers to switch to power forward given the position scarcity and archetypes available to that position.

Defense Evaluation

I was thoroughly impressed with PA’s performance. After the first few possessions, you’ll notice that the point guard PA is playing with is a huge defensive liability. Sadly, this meant that PA had to spend the majority of the game guarding two positions, given the undisciplined defense of their point guard.

PA adjusts beautifully and consistently plays an aggressive hedge defense to compensate for their Point Guard. Below I’ve included a few plays that stood out to me, and a short breakdown of each.

It might look like he’s playing lazy defense, but the high screen is meant to draw him up and out of the paint. PA doesn’t bite. He’s anticipating the point guard getting beat on the screen, which happened, and would rather force the opposing center to attempt a lower percentage shot and stop the dribble penetration.

Here’s a great example of how to play the oppositions pick and roll. PA and his teammate wait for the opponent to initiate. Instead of committing and making a mistake, they slow play, communicate, and have a great switch. While the result is not good, his verbal communication and patience creates a great example of how to play the pick and roll. He has this same patience throughout the game and as a result, forces turnovers and ill advised shots.

While PA demonstrated some great defensive qualities and awareness, it wasn’t all great. Multiple times in my evaluation, I had to give him a minus because of unnecessary block attempts. He wasn’t spamming block. But, his ill advised block attempts left him out of position for key rebounds and help defense. This continued for most of the game and into overtime.

In the first half, PA was also not fully committing to switches. He wanted to make sure he was protecting the rim and not hanging his teammate out to dry. Thankfully, he was able to verbally communicate with his teammates and establish when and how to do a fully committed switch.

Offense Evaluation

The center position has garnered a lot of conversation after the first weekend. This is an unofficial stat, but I believe just over 4,000 Centers are averaging around 30 points and 20 rebounds per game. That tells me it isn’t hard to accumulate stats at that position, so they become increasingly less valuable. It’s about the process, not the result.

PA demonstrated great spacing in his games. He wasn’t simply a static player camping out in the paint. He would set off-ball screens, run high pick and roll and know when to draw his man out to open up the lane for a teammate. His ability to set effective screens really opened up the offense in game one. Below is an example on how to truly set an effective screen instead of obviously getting set, and having the point guard react late.

This is something every player can immediately integrate into their game. Don’t be lazy and obvious about setting screens. PA makes this screen look like he’s simply getting to his spot or cutting across the court. By taking this approach, he doesn’t tip off the defense and their offense gets an easy two points. Now let’s look at how this evolved into a pick and roll/pick and pop.

While this screen wasn’t as deceptive as the previous one, it’s still effective. Once the point guard clears, he holds his ground. This was the right decision because he doesn’t need to unnecessarily clog the paint. The point guard makes a good read to get the ball back to PA, and without hesitation, he drives inside.

While the numbers aren’t as eye-popping as some of the screenshots you’ve seen on Twitter, PA’s offensive game is sound and effective. However, there are things I’d like to see him do less. He’s obviously a good screen setter. But, I don’t like how PA comes up to the three point line to initiate the play. By setting the screen so high, he takes himself out of contention to grab a rebound. He also tries to run similar offensive sets later in the game even when the defense was prepared for them. It’s minor, but it led to wasted possessions and turnovers later in the game.As a side note, I would also like to see PA be more aggressive with scoring opportunities, specifically, back-to-the-basket post moves.

communication and attitude Evaluation

PA was strong in both of these categories. His communication on offense defense was good. I’m not saying good is average, but to be great, the communication needed to be just a bit more detailed. Meaning, instead of just saying “watch it, watch it” to call out a screen, be more specific. “Hey PG on your left I got switch”, would be an excellent example of communication. PA would routinely call out screens, switches and potential offensive sets. It was great to see such leadership and initiative from the center position.

I’m a huge fan of his attitude. PA is never too high, never too low. If he finds out a teammate doesn’t have a mic, he doesn’t complain and start making excuses. He simply adjusts his strategy, and plays his game. PA is encouraging to all of his teammates no matter the situation, and takes ownership of his mistakes. And the best part it, this is completely authentic. PA is not “putting on” for the scouts. He’s truly a calm, smart and passionate teammate.

Overall Grade

I want to preface this by saying I’m an extremely tough grader. So, my first grade I’m giving to Petty_Andretti is a “B”. There are a few things PA can work on to easily earn an “A” grade. Chief among them would be to eliminate unnecessary block attempts, stay away from setting so many screens at the three point line and develop a better back-to-the-basket offensive game. With all the incredible stat lines being put up by Centers, PA will have to raise his game offensively to truly be among the best. I am incredibly excited to see how Petty_Andretti develops throughout the combine.

 

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Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

What the Greg Monroe pickup means for Boston

The Boston Celtics and veteran center Greg Monroe agreed to a one-year contract on Feb. 2. This deal, while expected since the Suns waived him on Feb. 1, is potentially an Eastern Conference-shaking move.

On the surface, this trade fills a hole on the offensive end of the court and does not hamstring the Celtics whatsoever defensively. Dig a little bit deeper, however, and one has to question getting bigger is what will push Boston over the edge to win the East, or give them what they need to beat Golden State.

Here is a breakdown of how Monroe will be able to contribute to the East’s best team going forward.

Rebounds

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe attempts to swat away Wesley Johnson’s shot as a member of the Pistons. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Monroe has been a pretty prolific rebounder since he entered the league during the 2010-11 season.

 

During his seven-year NBA career, Monroe has averaged 8.7 rebounds per game. His rebounds for the current season are down to 7.4, but considering he has only played 25 games, mostly with one of the worst teams in the league this season, that isn’t too surprising.

The Celtics are already in the top 10 in rebounds per game this season. If Monroe continues to contribute 7-8 per game, which all career consistency numbers indicate he will, it could easily propel Boston to top three in the league.

Minutes

The real question concerning Monroe’s role with the Celtics will be the number of minutes per game he ends up getting.

Boston is already a long team. With Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes, playing time might be stretched a little thinner than the true center is used to.

In his career, Monroe has averaged a little less than 30 minutes per game. Considering both the young and established big-man talent on the Celtics’ roster, a bench role would make sense for him, being that the team has been successful up to this point.

During his 25 games this season, Monroe has averaged 21.8 minutes per game. That number should stay about where it is, if not dip a little, depending on his production on an already stacked team.

Offensive production

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe was waived by the Suns on Feb. 1, 2018. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press)

Surprisingly, Boston is 23rd in terms of points per game midway through the season. This obviously has not hurt them too much, considering they have the best record in the Eastern Conference. This has to do with the team’s commitment to defense.

 

But defense alone will not be enough to win in the playoffs. That’s where Monroe steps in.

In the 2017-18 campaign, Monroe has 10.4 points per game. Again, that is down from his 13.9 career points per game, but being on a more complete team will help that number rise quickly. His minutes and role on the Celtics are still in question, but expect that number to get better as he plays more.

His 2.2 offensive rebounds per game this season will also create more opportunities for points. If all goes according to plan, the Celtics should finish at least in the top 20 in terms of points per game after the pickup. When a team plays defense like Boston does, that will go a long way.

Defensive production

For a 6-foot-11 center, Monroe’s defense is not quite as solid as one might expect. His career 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game leaves a bit to be desired on that end of the court.

However, he has never played on a team like the Celtics, or under a coach as talented as Brad Stevens. If he buys into Stevens’ system and gets solid playing time, those numbers should climb.

The Celtics are fifth in defensive rebounds per game. Adding a rebounder like Monroe is only going to help rob opposing teams of possessions when he is on the court. That alone should be enough to justify the pickup, despite his defensive struggles.

Summary

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe goes up for a block during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Photo by Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports)

Being that Monroe’s contract is a one-year, $5 million deal, this is very much an experiment for Boston. A low-risk, high-reward experiment, but an experiment nonetheless.

 

If Boston can figure out how to use him off of the bench, this move only puts them in a better position to further its grasp on the East. A bench role could take some getting used to for the big man, but if he buys into the system, he can be a huge piece moving forward for an already talented team.

After the Suns waived Monroe, it was really a no-brainer for the Celtics to pick him up. And being able to play for a contender should only further his motivation, provided he finds his niche in the system. If he finds his stride and accepts his role, it could also go a long way in being able to re-sign him for relatively cheap after the season ends.

With his first game in green coming Sunday, NBA fans should know pretty soon after what kind of impact he can make on the Eastern Conference.

 

Featured image by Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

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NBA's Gridiron Roster

The NBA’s gridiron team

Training camps have opened and football is in the air. As training camps get rolling there will be plenty of talk about what is happening on the gridiron. This means that basketball will be taking a backseat from now until February.

There is one more order of business left to discuss for basketball and its all for fun. Earlier this year, The Game Haus brought you the NFL’s Hardwood Roster which made an NBA roster out of NFL players.

It is time to reverse that and give you the NBA’s gridiron team. The only eligible players are current NBA players. Also, size is not going to translate the way it should just because basketball players are taller.

Offense

Left Tackle: Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: If there is one NBA player who can protect a quarterback it is Draymond Green. Green is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. His playstyle shows his “I just want to win” mentality. Throwing him at left tackle is smart because he has proven to go that extra mile in order to win. He will rough up defensive ends all game long while making sure the quarterback stays off his back.

Left Guard: Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: The left guard position suits Randle because he has quick feet and is left handed. Guards need to be athletic and showcase an ability to pull on certain running plays. He is extremely explosive and if a play is called that requires him to pull, Randle will explode off the ball and create holes for any running back.

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bSTeIhm86A)

Center: Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol is smart, tough and reliable. These are all qualities a team needs from their center. Gasol would be a great leader, thus setting the tone for the rest of the offensive line. Gasol is also a strong guy who could push around opposing defensive tackles.

Right Guard: Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City Thunder: Right guards need to be maulers in the run game. The first mauler that comes to mind in the NBA is Steven Adams. Adams is a tough, physical player who would excel at run blocking. He isn’t afraid to do the dirty work a team needs from an offensive lineman.

Right Tackle: DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans: Cousins loves to play a physical style of basketball and that could translate well into the NFL. He also finished second in the NBA with 20 technical fouls in 2017. Cousins would be willing to do whatever it takes to win and protect the quarterback. If he is this rough in basketball, imagine what he could do in a contact sport like football.

Tight End: LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron was a stud wide receiver in high school. He is so big that he would have to be a tight end. It has been said for a long time that LeBron is a physical specimen. He would learn how to be one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. LeBron has also shown his freakish athletism when flying through the air for a dunk. In the red zone, not one person in this world would be able to stop him for a jump ball. Seeing LeBron play tight end would be like seeing Gronk hulking up.

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: http://dailysnark.com/washington-fans-legitimatly-pissed-wizards-john-wall-wearing-cowboys-jersey/)

Wide Receivers: John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: John Wall is a wizard on the court. Yes, that pun was intended, but it is true. Wall is one of the fastest players in the NBA and that could translate as a wide receiver. He has also displayed uncanny athleticism with some of his finishes at the rim. That creativity would be fun in the open field.

DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors: Imagine seeing DeMar DeRozan fighting for the ball in the air with defensive backs trying to stop him. DeRozan is a high flyer and that would translate to the gridiron.

James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets: James Harden is known for his euro step and getting all the foul calls. Imagine Harden in the NFL getting pass interference calls. As the team’s third receiver, he could work the middle of the field and move the chains not only catching the ball but because of penalties too.

Running Backs: Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics: Running backs have to have the mentality that they are better than everyone else no matter their size. Isaiah Thomas is the perfect candidate for that. He is so agile and quick that with his small stature, he could fit through any hole. He would be the perfect scat back for an NFL team.

Steph Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors: The way that Steph Curry can make defenders dance is just silly. Who wouldn’t love to see that against defenders on the football field? Carrying the ball rather than having to dribble it would allow him to shake and bake defenders effortlessly. Curry would be breathtaking to watch on the football field.

Quarterback: Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers: The summer league was just the beginning of what we are going to see from Lonzo Ball. His playmaking ability was Magic-esque. He can put the ball anywhere he wants to. A quarterback must be able to do the same. Lonzo has the perfect size for an NFL quarterback. He is the best choice for a quarterback because he has displayed amazing passing ability.

Defense

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: http://dailysnark.com/throwback-lebron-kevin-durant-played-football-game/)

Defensive End: Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs: The defensive end position has some of the most athletic players in all of the NFL. Kawhi is known for his world class defense and freakishly big hands. Throwing Kawhi on the end of a line and telling him to rush the passer could lead to a lot of sacks. Leonard would make a great edge rusher.

Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant is another freak athlete. If we follow the mold of selecting defensive ends, Durant is another player that can use his athletism to go get the quarterback. Durant would be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Defensive Tackle: Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies: Defensive tackles have to be some of the most unselfish players on the team. The job description of a defensive tackle is to eat up blocks so that everyone else gets the glory. Z-Bo is the perfect candidate for a defensive tackle position. He will take up those blocks so the rest of the defense can eat.

Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets: Faried is just as perfect of a fit at defensive tackle as Randolph is. He will get down and dirty and do what ever the team needs to win. Faried has proven that he doesn’t need the spotlight on him. Any coach would sleep well knowing that Faried could eat up blocks so that the linebackers can run around knocking heads off.

Linebackers: Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Allen is one of the most lockdown defenders the NBA has ever seen. Kobe Bryant said he was the toughest defender he ever had to face. Allen has that grit all linebackers need to succeed. Any running back that has to meet Tony Allen in the hole is in for a big hit.

Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Butler is one of the best all-around players in the NBA but he made his name on defense. He has a tenacity about him that Chicago fans fell in love with. Early in his career, he showed no fear in going up against the best offensive players in the game. Throw Butler in at linebacker and you have a versatile defender who can come up to stuff the run or drop back and defend the pass.

Marcus Smart, SG, Boston Celtics: Certain linebackers are just pit bulls and Smart has that pit bull mentality. Any football coach could put him at linebacker and see instant toughness from the rest of the defense. Smart will get physical and isn’t afraid to go toe to toe with other giants. His passion is palpable and his teammates would feed off of him.

Cornerbacks: Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trailblazers: Corners have some of the most difficult tasks in the game. Many people forget to list Lillard with the best point guards and the chip on his shoulder makes him fit the corner mold perfectly. Corners don’t always get the love when trying to stop the diva wide outs. In this passing era, Lillard would take it personally that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. 

Andre Roberson, SG, Oklahoma City: Roberson is the perfect candidate to play cornerback. Most times the saying about corners is “if they could catch they would play wide receiver.” Roberson has no offense at all and wo

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/draymond-green-warriors/)

uld fit this stereotype. He is long and receivers would get frustrated trying to match up with him.

Safeties: Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City: This could come as a surprise to most people. Why not running back or wide receiver? The answer is because the best safeties do it all. They come up and stuff the run game. They also patrol the field looking to destroy receivers and intercept passes. The MVP would be an amazing safety if he played football. Offenses would definitely be game planning against Westbrook.

Avery Bradley, SG, Detroit Pistons: Bradley is another player that has made a name on the defensive side of the ball. Bradley will do a great job at being the last line of defense. He would put fear into any receiver who tries to come across the middle of his field.

Special Teams

Kicker: Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: Draymond has been known to kick groins. This seems self-explanatory that he would be the team’s kicker.

Punter: Ricky Rubio, PG, Utah Jazz: Picking a punter is tough. If Steve Nash was still playing it would be easy to pick him. Ricky Rubio grew up playing soccer in Spain. He would have no trouble booting the football if the offense stalls.

Returner: Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Over the past couple of seasons we have been able to see Kyrie dazzle defenders and the world, with his moves. Irving would be an electrifying return man in the NFL. His moves have proven to break ankles on the hardwood so why wouldn’t that translate to the gridiron?

 

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Featured image courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

The Golden State Warriors are the 2017 NBA champions. Now that the Finals are over, the entire basketball community will be focusing on the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22. This is a prime opportunity for teams to either deepen their roster or build playoff caliber teams. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0.

1: Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are working on a trade so that the 76ers can select Markelle Fultz. Even if the trade doesn’t get finalized Fultz will be the number one overall pick in this draft.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Los Angeles is not going to pass on a player who will make those around him better and has the star power that Lonzo Ball has. These rumors floating around about the Lakers falling out of love with Lonzo is all a smokescreen. The truth of the matter is that the first two picks have been decided and they are just trying to keep people interested and on their toes.

3: Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas

This pick is just like the first overall pick. It is likely going to be Boston drafting in the third position and they will take Josh Jackson. This is a sign that the Celtics may put all their faith in Isaiah Thomas as their point guard. Jackson can fit right into the culture they are building in Boston and he will help them get closer to compete for a championship.

4: Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke

The Suns are just unlucky. Phoenix was supposed to have a top three pick but fell to fourth when the lottery took place. Now they are going to miss on Josh Jackson by one pick. Jayson Tatum is flying under the radar but will be a very good NBA player.

Tatum has a polished isolation game and can score from anywhere on the floor. Tatum will be a solid second option to Devin Booker.

5: Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com)

Reports coming out of Sacramento say that the Kings are absolutely in love with De’Aaron Fox and are even willing to trade both the fifth and tenth pick to move up just one spot to get him.

Fox should be around at five and the Kings can draft their franchise point guard. Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox would be a promising backcourt that would help the Kings get closer to the playoffs.

6: Orlando Magic: Johnathan Issac, F, Florida St.

Orlando has been terrible ever since Dwight Howard left. Johnathan Issac has been recently compared to Kevin Durant, but he is not the scorer that Durant is. Issac will bring tons of athleticism to the Magic. He has proven he can play an all-around game but has been very inconsistent. If developed correctly, Issac can become one of the best two-way players in the NBA and an All-Star.

7: Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

The Timberwolves are already loaded with young talent and in a perfect world, Tom Thibodeau would like to acquire more veterans in the locker room. Minnesota might be looking to make a trade in the future and will take the best available player which will be Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring machine capable of going off at any moment. He is the best scorer to come out of college since Kevin Durant and will easily average 20 points per game in the NBA.

8: New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

New York has always been a city of immigrants. The Knicks are going to follow that mold it seems, as they already have Kristaps Porzingis and are in love with Frank Ntilikina.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit:http://bleacherreport.com)

Dennis Smith is arguably a top five player in this class. The Mavericks have a chance to find their franchise point guard who can help lead them back into the playoffs. Smith can score, pass and rebound with the best of them while in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

10: Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona

The Kings currently have two core pieces in Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein. If they take Fox earlier in the draft then it becomes an even better core. Lauri Markkanen could then take this team to even better heights.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen would fit alongside Cauley-Stein because he can stretch the floor.

Getting Fox and Markkanen would make the Kings one of the best young teams in the NBA.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville

Donovan Mitchell was projected to be a late-first round pick around a month ago but has lately been flying up draft boards. Teams who have worked Mitchell out have been really impressed by the 6-foot-3 shooting guard. Mitchell is a shot creator and that is something the Hornets need. Charlotte could create a dangerous backcourt by pairing Mitchell with Kemba Walker.

12: Detroit Pistons: Harry Giles, PF, Duke

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the No. 1 pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

Giles has had a lot of injuries but if he can get healthy he has the skill and potential to be the best player in this draft class.

13: Denver Nuggets: Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com)

Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.

Collins is a good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.

14: Miami Heat: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA

The Heat were amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

T.J. Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS, PF, WAKE FOREST

John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON, C, CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Chris Machian- The World Harold)

Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.

Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.

17: Milwaukee Bucks: Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Khris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Milwaukee a presence inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous. The talent they already have and can acquire with Adebayo will allow the Bucks to get closer to the Eastern Conference finals.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

Luke Kennard fits the new style of the NBA. He is a pure shooter and can be a valuable scorer in the NBA. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise but as a sidekick to Paul George, he could thrive. George wants the Pacers to add talent so they can compete for a title adding Kennard would help go a long way in the Pacers effort to keep Paul George when he becomes a free agent.

19: Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Dwight Howard is aging and no longer a top center in the NBA. The Hawks must prepare for the future and that could be in the form of Jarrett Allen. Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

20: Portland Trailblazers: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum need help and Justin Jackson would fit perfectly with this team. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Blazers back into the playoffs.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. Jackson played great for most of the tournament. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well-polished.

21: Oklahoma City Thunder: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit:http://hoosierstateofmind.com)

OG Anunoby will improve the Thunder on the defensive end of the floor immediately. In college, Anunoby was able to defend all five positions and that kind of versatility will make him a valuable player.

He also shot 36 percent from three in his career and will help take some pressure off of Russell Westbrook.

22: Brooklyn Nets: Ivan Rabb, C, California

The Nets will not be good for a long time which means they can be patient with the development of Ivan Rabb. He has lots of potential to grow offensively.

Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance and that is what the Nets will try and bottle up and turn into a consistent output.

23: Toronto Raptors: Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany

Isaiah Hartenstein is a bit of an unknown but is an old school big man. He plays an extremely physical style and is a great rebounder. Hartenstein is also a great shot blocker and the Raptors really need an inside presence. He has very little experience but the success of Kristaps Porzingis helps Hartenstein.

Isaiah Hartenstein will need a lot of developing on his offensive game but with the Raptors current roster, he can fill the role of rebounder and rim protector without having to rush his offensive development.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN, PF, PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks.

Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC: Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia

Terrance Ferguson has been very hyped up as of late. He attacks the basketball and can also be a spot up shooter. Ferguson will need to develop defensively but would be a good fit with the Magic who need some more scoring.

26: Portland Trailblazers: Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU

Semi Ojeleye is an athletic freak. Ojeleye can handle the ball, shoot threes, create his own shot and get to the rim. Semi Ojeleye is going somewhat underrated in this draft because of his lack of perimeter defense. The Blazers have enough picks to take a shot on Ojeleye to continue building the depth needed to compete in the West.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL, PF, OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://247sports.com)

Jordan Bell was a second-round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.

28: Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova

Josh Hart is a leader and a winner, and the Lakers could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. Hart doesn’t have to be a starting shooting guard to make a big impact. Every team needs a bench scorer and Hart can fill that void for the Lakers as they continue to build towards a championship.

29: San Antonio Spurs: Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana

Any player that the Spurs take should celebrate as if they won the championship. The Spurs will develop Thomas Bryant into a solid NBA starter. Bryant is an excellent rebounder and has a knack for getting offensive boards. He has some decent low post moves and with Gregg Popovich coaching him up he can turn decent into dominant.

30: Utah Jazz: Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Utah as a solid role player.

Second Round

31: Atlanta Hawks: Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon

32: Phoenix Suns: Dwayne Bacon, SF, Florida St.

33: Orlando Magic: Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma St.

34: Sacramento Kings: Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia

35: Orlando Magic: DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan

36: Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Dorsey, G, Oregon

37: Boston Celtics: Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor

38: Chicago Bulls: Devin Robinson, F, Florida

39: Philadelphia 76ers: Derrick White, G, Colorado

40: New Orleans Pelicans: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

41: Charlotte Hornets: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina

42: Utah Jazz: Mathias Lessort, F/C, France

43: Houston Rockets: Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah

44: New York Knicks: Frank Jackson, SG, Duke

45: Houston Rockets: Ike Anigbogu, C UCLA

46: Philadelphia 76ers: Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia

47: Indiana Pacers: LJ Peak, SG Georgetown

48: Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso

49: Denver Nuggets: Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson

50: Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden, PF, Australia

51: Denver Nuggets: Alberto Abalde, SF, Spain

52: Washington Wizards: Cameron Oliver, PF, Nevada

53: Boston Celtics: PJ Dozier, SG, South Carolina

54: Phoenix Suns: Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga

55: Utah Jazz: Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina

56: Boston Celtics: Aleksandear Vezenkov, F, Bulgaria

57: Brooklyn Nets: Edmund Summer, PG, Xavier

58: New York Knicks: Sterling Brown, SG, SMU

59: San Antonio Spurs: Monte Morris, PG, Iowa St.

60: Atlanta Hawks: Wesley Iwundu, SG, Kansas State

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

SHS: Offensive Tackle, The Enforcer

This is the conclusion of the Sweat Hog Series, the three-part series on the three offensive line positions for the casual football fan learning the difference. We conclude with offensive tackle.

To springboard right into this, offensive tackles are typically larger than offensive guards but more athletic than centers. This is for many reasons, but I will delve into the two primary ones in this article.

In most offensive run plays, a tackle is performing one of two blocks. Either a down block, where the tackle takes on a defensive player to his inside and shoves him away from the hole; or a kick-out block, where the tackle pushes a defensive end outside.

Down blocks require someone explosive who can move a defender out of the way- overpower him, if you will. Here is a look at Iso, a play that sometimes requires this.

Diagram of Iso play, courtesy of xandolabs.com.

Diagram of Iso play, courtesy of xandolabs.com.

The left tackle in this play (second circle from the left), executes a down block on the defensive tackle. It is imperative to the play’s success that he not only prevent any penetration into the backfield by the defender, but also that he push the player as far down the line as possible to open a lane for the running back to go through.

Now here is a different Iso concept.

A different Iso concept, picture from trojanfootballanalysis.com.

A different Iso concept, picture from trojanfootballanalysis.com.

On this play, the left tackle now performs a kick-out block. He engages the defensive end (“E” on the left of the diagram) and pushes him out of the whole using the superior size and strength tackles must possess.

The second major reason for a tackle to be taller is pass protection. He is typically going to be blocking a defensive end, and a tackle needs those long arms to cushion himself against a speed rusher. Along those lines, he needs the quickness to kick slide back fast enough to stop the player.

This concludes the Sweat Hog Series.

SHS: Offensive Guard, the Hybrid

Welcome to the Sweat Hog Series, the series for the football fan just getting into the sport who does not yet know the difference between the three types of big men up front offensively.

This is the second installment of my three-installment series on offensive line positions. This position is my favorite of the three. Bias makes that the case, almost nothing else. I played the position for the entirety of my four-year high school career. So without further ado, here is what separates offensive guard from the other line positions.

The primary thing that makes guard different than center or tackle is the higher demand for athleticism. There are a number of run plays an offense may try to execute that involve a pull for a guard (a pull is when an offensive lineman leaves his position to run around or behind a fellow offensive lineman to open a hole or lead for a back). These pulls require great technique, explosiveness, agility, and in some cases, good ol’ fashioned speed.

Note that athleticism is still an important part of a tackle’s game, that will be covered in the next installment.

Here are two classic examples of plays with a pulling guard, the trap and the sweep.

Trap

Trap play diagram, courtesy of obnug.com.

Trap play diagram, courtesy of obnug.com.

On this diagram, the play-side defensive tackle (the “T” on the right) is left unblocked at the snap of the ball. The left offensive guard in this play (player left of the double circle in the middle) pulls to his right and needs to secure a block on the defender before the running back (circle at the bottom) arrives in the hole. To complete the block successfully, the player needs power off the snap to get a good initial pull, quickness to cover roughly three yards horizontally as fast as possible, explosiveness to drive into the defender, and agility to adjust to any movements the defensive tackle may make in open space.

Sweep

Sweep play diagram, courtesy of wingt-coach.com.

Sweep play diagram, courtesy of wingt-coach.com.

On this play, we see another pull from an offensive guard, this time the right one. The initial pull requires the same technique and quickness off the snap. But this time, more speed is required to get out in front and lead for the back going up-field.

A higher demand for athleticism means guards can come with slightly smaller frames than offensive tackles. According to this chart made by sprayberry football adapted from an issue of Pro Football Weekly, the typical offensive guard is two inches shorter than the typical tackle, running the fastest 40-yard dash time of the three line positions.

In pass protection, guards need strong, fast hands and quick feet with powerful legs. Typically they will be matched up on a defensive tackle, where leg strength plays a big factor in trying to slow a bull rush. Usually a guard is the first option to pick up a blitzing linebacker on the inside. Picking up a blitz is an art form that demands quick feet. Shifts have to be made to take over various assignments.

To conclude, in the title I called this position the hybrid of the line. An offensive guard has to be both powerful and fast. Whether that is getting outside to lead a sweep or picking up the blitz in pass protection.

SHS: Center, the Quarterback of the Line

People I talk to with only a small interest in football often don’t know the difference between offensive line positions. I tell them I played offensive guard in high school, in return I receive a look so perplexing my grandfather is confused. So then I say, “one of the guys on the front lines”, and they say “oh, so you’re a lineman? Why didn’t you just say that?”

“Because offensive guard is my position,” I say.

“Psh, offensive guard, offensive lineman, what’s the difference? You all just stand up there and block.”

After that my hand turns white, because I’m gripping my wrist to try and stop myself from facepalming.

Nothing against anyone who doesn’t know the difference, but the roles of the three different types of offensive linemen differ in a number of ways. So to educate those who may not know, my next three articles will be explaining the three subdivisions of linemen more in depth. I call it the “Sweat Hog Series” (SHS in the title).

Center

Three years ago when I was taking driver’s ed I talked football with a former coach of my father who also happened to be my instructor for the class. He told me a good center is “worth his weight in gold.”

I think that is the truth.

As far as body size goes centers are typically larger than guards but smaller than tackles, though a tremendous amount of quickness is required to throw a ball between your legs and then smash someone’s face in before they can cross the line. Which is the main way the position differs from the other two types of linemen, going back to the point of the article- you have to be able to multitask. You have to safely deliver the ball and then prevent the person carrying said ball from being tackled.

If you want an idea of what it’s like to be a center, paint a one foot by foot target three and a half feet off the ground on a wall. Then stand four yards in front of the target. Get into your best lineman stance with a football in one hand and a tennis ball in the other. Throw the tennis ball off the wall, while snapping the football between your legs into the target, and catch the tennis ball.

You see what I’m getting at? Tough. And as a guard, I didn’t have that skill set.

To round out this point about quickness and multi-tasking at the position here is a quote given to active.com from former Utah center Jesse Boone, who was a team captain for the Utes and was selected as first-team All-Midwestern Conference in 2005. The quote talks about his move from tight end to center and the difficulties.

“The proximity of the players–how everything is right on top of you. A lot of people struggle with snapping the ball. I had a good coach that went over that with me. But not having the time you have at other positions like guard and especially tackle. At center, the (nose tackle) is inches away from my head (before the snap). You don’t have any time.”

Centers also have to serve as the quarterback of the line.  They organize pass protections to keep the actual quarterback safe in the pocket.

Now this can get kind of complicated to explain, so here is a diagram, courtesy of slideshare.net:

*If you do not understand the positions in the diagram, refer to the footnotes at the bottom of the article.

center position football

The center has to know all the protections pictured above and determine who has who if something changes. For instance, in the picture on the bottom left, let’s assume the middle linebacker rushes the quarterback. If he were to show in between the center and left guard, the center would need to know that the linebacker is his. The running back also has the strong-side defensive end, and the center would communicate that to the rest of the line. If he were to walk in between the left guard and left tackle, the center makes a “fan” call. This is where he takes the weak-side defense end. The left guard takes the blitzing linebacker, and the left tackle would stay on the weak-side linebacker.

As a center, your football IQ has to be high enough to know the protection scheme and adjust your line accordingly when something happens. Above I didn’t even mention the chaos that can occur in pass pro (short for pass protection). It’s more complicated for a stunt on the D-line, but I’ll keep it simple for now.

I’ll conclude this post with a quote from Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, a quote in memory of a great football player and one of many players who struggled with permanent brain injury after his playing days. Quote found on startingstrength.com

“Everyone has to start at the same place you do, at the beginning, and learn from there. Just always remember there’s another guy out there right now, to either beat you or take your place, and you’d better outwork him.”

 

Diagram Positions

  1. The square with the X indicates the center.
  2. The circles to the left and right of the center are the offensive guards.
  3. The circles outside of the offensive guards are the offensive tackles.
  4. The circle behind the offensive line is the running back.
  5. Defensively (Strong-side is determined either right or left by where the offense has more receivers)

N – nose guard, T – strong-side defensive tackle, $ – strong-side defensive end, E – weak-side defensive end. W – weak-side linebacker, M – middle linebacker, S – strong-side linebacker, SS – strong safety