Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Linebackers

Linebacker is a position that is often overlooked, but very important nonetheless. In the 2017 NFL Draft there were plenty of talented linebackers selected. There are a lot of linebackers in this class that have potential, but will have to play well to justify a high draft pick. Here are the top prospects heading into the 2017 college football season:

Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Tremaine Edmunds NFL

Tremaine Edmunds (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Edmunds is one of three brothers that have played for Virginia Tech and will look to have a big junior year. He has the most draft potential and has great size at 6’5″ and 236 pounds.

Last year Edmunds finished with 94 tackles. He has a great all around game with 16.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, an interception and three passes defended. If he can improve his coverage skills this season and keep consistent production, he will be a highly sought after prospect.

The Hokies play West Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Pittsburgh. Edmunds will need to step up in the game against Clemson for his team to win and if he does, his draft stock will be improved.

Malik Jefferson, Texas

One of the more highly touted linebackers coming out of high school, Jefferson has played early and often for the Longhorns. With solid size at 6’3″ and 238 pounds, he has all the tools to be the first linebacker selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jefferson has 121 total tackles in his two seasons at Texas. He has great athleticism that makes him a well-rounded linebacker. With 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks, five passes defended and a touchdown scored he makes a lot of plays. Coverage and ball skills are things he will need to work on this season, but what he has already accomplished has made him a top prospect.

Texas has some big matchups this year that will require Jefferson’s best. They play USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. If he can help slow down the USC and Oklahoma offenses, he could be the first linebacker taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Kendall Joseph, Clemson

Joseph may have been overlooked because of all the talent on Clemson’s roster last year, but he will need to be the one making headlines this season. He is a little undersized at 6’0″ and 230 pounds, but makes plays.

Last year was his first season getting a lot of playing time and he broke out. He finished the season with 106 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. If he can have a solid campaign to follow up his breakout season, NFL teams will move him up on their boards.

Clemson plays Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State, which should give Joseph a lot of opportunities to prove what he can do. He needs to produce against these good offenses this season to hold his ranking.

Skai Moore, South Carolina

Skai Moore NFL

Skai Moore (Photo by: cbssports.com)

Moore is a good prospect, but did miss all of the 2016 season with a neck injury. Staying healthy will be key to preserve and enhance Moore’s draft stock. He has average size at 6’2″ and 220 pounds.

In 2015, the last season he played, Moore finished with 110 total tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. He is a good run stopper and coverage linebacker, with 11 career interceptions, but could improve his blitzing ability. If his neck checks out and he has a productive year he will be one of the first linebackers taken.

The Gamecocks have Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Clemson all on the schedule. Moore will be called upon to be at his best this season for South Carolina and will reap the rewards if he answers that call.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: Defensive Tackles

There aren’t many defensive tackles who have made a name for themselves in the 2018 NFL Draft class, but more will emerge. As of now, these are the top defensive tackles in the 2018 NFL Draft class:

Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

Payne is the only returning starter from Alabama’s defensive line and now will have to step up for all of the talent they lost in the 2017 NFL Draft. He is 6’2″ and 319 pounds and fits in nicely at nose tackle for the Crimson Tide, but can probably play as a 4-3 defensive tackle in the pros.

While Payne doesn’t have a lot of stats, just four tackles for loss and two sacks in two years, he does a great job of taking on multiple blockers and shutting down running lanes. If he can continue to do that, he won’t need too many stats to be selected highly in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The junior will have multiple chances to go up against elite competition. The Crimson Tide play Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Both Florida State and LSU will feature some interesting duels between Payne and their interior offensive linemen.

Vita Vea, Washington

Vita Vea NFL

Vita Vea (Photo by: scout.com)

He only started five games, but Vea had a huge impact for the Huskies that would’ve gotten him drafted pretty early in the 2017 NFL Draft. He decided to come back to school for his redshirt junior season. At 6’5″ and 335 pounds, he has elite size for the position.

Vea demonstrated the ability to rush the passer in his limited action last season with five sacks. He needs to progress at stopping the run, but for only a few starts he is well on his way to improving in the 2017 season. A 3-4 nose tackle is likely his best fit at the NFL level.

The Huskies have key games against Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Utah and Washington State. If Vea can increase his production with increased playing time, he will be one of the first interior defensive linemen drafted.

Christian Wilkins, Clemson

Christian Wilkins NFL

Christian Wilkins (Photo by: youtube.com)

Wilkins has good size at 6’4″ and 310 pounds and is coming off of an impressive season that ended with a National Championship. With the exodus of talent from Clemson’s team, it will be Wilkins time to lead the team.

One of the best assets that Wilkins has is his ability to stop the run. He finished last season with 13 tackles for loss. He is a decent pass rusher, but could improve this season to make himself a more complete prospect. His best fit is as a 4-3 defensive tackle and isn’t really fit to play in a 3-4 scheme.

The Tigers will play Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, NC State and Florida State. The Florida State game always features a lot of NFL Draft prospects and will likely be Wilkins biggest test.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Offensive Tackles

The 2017 NFL Draft didn’t have as many highly sought after tackles as in years past. The 2018 class is going to have plenty of tackles to choose from in the first round. Here are the top offensive tackles heading into the 2017 college football season:

Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

Orlando Brown NFL

Orlando Brown (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Brown is likely the biggest tackle prospect in this class at 6’8″ and 360 pounds. He may even have to lose some weight in order to deal with fast pass rushers at the NFL level.

He is the son of the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown, who had a good NFL career.  Brown was redshirted for one year, but has started every possible game since at left tackle. This season he needs to show he has the mobility and flexibility to stay in front of pass rushers.

Brown will be tasked with protecting Baker Mayfield again at left tackle. He has big matchups against Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia. The Ohio State game will pit him against several good defensive linemen for scouts to evaluate him.

Mitch Hyatt, Clemson

With 29 starts in two years, Hyatt has a lot of experience. He has started in two National Championship Games and did a good job of protecting Deshaun Watson. He has average height at 6’5″, but below average weight at 295 pounds.

Hyatt will have to add strength to be able to hold up in the NFL. He finished this past season as a National Champion and as a first team All-ACC member (Media). In their only loss against Pittsburgh, Hyatt left the game with an injury and the team didn’t look the same without him.

Clemson will have key games against Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State. The Auburn and Florida State games will both test Hyatt and give him another opportunity to go against great defensive linemen.

Martez Ivey, Florida

Ivey was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and has played decently, but not up to his ranking. He hasn’t always been healthy, but this season is his time to shine.

He will play left tackle for the first time at Florida now that David Sharpe has moved on to the NFL. At 6’5″ and 305 pounds he has average height and weight, but left tackle feels like his natural position. He won the SEC offensive lineman of the week twice last year.

The Gators play Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida State. Ivey will be tested against LSU, Georgia and Florida State, but the key match up for him to prove himself is against Arden Key of LSU.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

McGlinchey could have been the first tackle off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft, but elected to go back to school for his senior season. He is the leader this season in terms of sought after tackles. He has good size at 6’7″ and 310 pounds.

One asset that McGlinchey offers is experience at both tackle spots. He played right tackle to start his career and moved to left tackle last season. He might end up being more of a right tackle in the NFL, due to lack of athleticism, which could hurt his draft stock. Although he is, for the most part fundamentally sound, McGlinchey does need to cut down on the number of penalties he gets this season.

Notre Dame will go up against some good teams and defensive fronts this season. McGlinchey will be tested by Georgia, USC, Michigan State, North Carolina, Miami, NC State and Stanford. He will be specifically tested early by Georgia in week two.

Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State

Had he entered his name in the 2017 NFL Draft, Rankin would have been selected in the second-fourth round range. He has a chance to improve his stock, but it will be difficult to do so with so many good tackles in this year’s class.

Rankin was good as both a pass blocker and run blocker and should get some more good reps with Nick Fitzgerald behind center. He has average size at 6’5″ and 307 pounds.

The Bulldogs will have a few big matchups playing in the SEC West. Rankins will play against good competition against LSU, Georgia, Auburn, BYU, Texas A&M and Alabama.

Connor Williams, Texas

Connor Williams (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

A lot of the national media hasn’t picked up on Williams as much as they should have in terms of being a good draft prospect. If Williams has a good year he could be the first tackle off of the board. He stands 6’6″ tall and is 288 pounds and needs to add some weight to his frame to handle strong pass rushers.

Williams has been the starting left tackle at Texas since his freshman year and brings a ton of experience. He is more athletic and flexible than most tackles in this class and could develop in to a great pass blocker.

Texas will be challenged by a few teams on their schedule this season. The Longhorns play USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Williams will get a chance to show what he has against USC and Oklahoma, which are both monumental games for Texas.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: Wide Receivers

Wide receiver was a position that was highly sought after in the 2017 NFL Draft, but there are some good players in the upcoming class too. Here are guys who will be at the top of draft boards at the wide receiver position come next April:

Deon Cain, Clemson

Deon Cain (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Cain has been overshadowed by all of the great Clemson receivers of the past few years, but it is now his time to shine. Mike Williams and Artavis Scott are gone and Cain will be the primary outside receiver for the Tigers.

Last season Cain had 724 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, but will likely see that increase when he is the primary target this season. He will have to deal with an unproven quarterback this season, but his talent should show through no matter who the starting quarterback ends up being. At 6′ 1″ tall and 210 pounds Cain has good size, but will likely not be taken until the second round.

Cain has flashed potential, but he needs to have a solid and consistent season of production to prove he is worth of an early pick. The big games for Cain to prove himself are: Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

The favorite to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft is Christian Kirk. He has dealt with a lot of different quarterbacks during his time at Texas A&M and will have to again this season.

With Trevor Knight completing around 50% of his passes, Kirk still put up good numbers last season. He had 928 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. One of his biggest things he needs to work on is consistency, but that is partially on the quarterback. He’s 5’11”, which isn’t great, but he uses his athleticism well, making him capable of playing on the outside.

Kirk is looking to maintain his draft stock going into this season. The Aggies will play some big games this season to allow Kirk to show off his skills. They play UCLA, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and LSU.

Calvin Ridley, Alabama

Ridley is also in contention to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has been a key on Alabama’s offense, even though they run the ball a lot, with 161 catches in two years.

In 2016, Ridley caught 72 passes for 769 yards and seven touchdowns with freshman Jalen Hurts as his quarterback. Hurts is not known as a thrower and Ridley will likely be catching passes from him this season. His best game last season was against Kentucky, when he caught 11 passes for 174 yards and two scores. He creates great separation and has good speed, but like other receivers in this class, needs more consistency.

Ridley will be going up against some good secondaries this season and doing well in these games could push him to the top of draft boards at the wide receiver position. The Crimson Tide play Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn, which gives Ridley some great competition to go against.

Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame

Equanimeous St. Brown (Photo by: usatoday.com)

St. Brown isn’t on a lot of peoples’ radars, but he should be. He only played a little bit his freshman season, but came on strong last year.

He finished the 2016 season with 961 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. St. Brown has great size for an outside receiver, but needs to add some strength to his 6’4″ frame. He adds a big play threat and averaged 16.6 yards per reception. He will have a new quarterback to work with this season, but should be able to have a solid season.With another year of good production, his size and big play ability will entice an NFL team to take him early in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Notre Dame is always on television, which will give him the most chances to be seen by NFL executives. The Fighting Irish will play Georgia, North Carolina, USC, Miami and Stanford, which all give St. Brown some top level competition to play against.

Courtland Sutton, SMU

Sutton is another receiver that, had he come out for the 2017 NFL Draft, would have been selected early. He has an interesting story and started his career at SMU as a defensive back before emerging as a great receiving threat.

Like St. Brown, Sutton has great size which entices NFL minds. He’s 6’4″ and 215 pounds and has dominated his competition in the AAC. He totaled 1,246 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016 and saw his draft stock rise continually throughout the year. His redshirt junior year promises to be one filled with good stats and success.

SMU doesn’t have the luxury of playing too many great defenses so Sutton will need to make the most of his chances in 2017. The Mustangs play TCU, Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis.

James Washington, Oklahoma State

James Washington (Photo by: tulsaworld.com)

While everyone else on this list are dealing with some sort of quarterback issue, Washington doesn’t have to worry about that. His partner in crime Mason Rudolph decided to come back to school and they should both put up great numbers this season.

Washington has gotten better every season he has been in Stillwater. Last season he had 1,380 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. His most notable game from 2016 was against Pittsburgh. He finished that game with 296 receiving yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.

The dynamic duo will have a few opportunities to prove themselves against good competition this season with games against Pittsburgh, TCU, Oklahoma and Texas.

 

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Oakland Raiders 2017 Draft Profile

The Game Haus is back with another edition of Draftmas. This is the 22nd edition of Draftmas and it focuses on the Oakland Raiders.

SUMMARY

Courtesy of USATSI

The Oakland Raiders had one of their best seasons since 2002. The 2017 Raiders went 12-4 but their postseason seemed to end for them before they even started. When Derek Carr went down in Week 16, Raider Nation and probably even the players and coaches knew their was no way to go far in the postseason. With Connor Cook behind center, the Raiders lost their first playoff game since 2002. The 2018 Raiders do have a lot of great pieces coming back to the team. Seven Raiders went to the Pro Bowl, a franchise-high since 1991, and the most players for any team in 2017.

PICKS AND NEEDS

The Raiders have eight picks in this draft, with one in each of the first six rounds and in the seventh round they have two picks.

First Round: (1) No. 24

Second Round: (1) No. 56

Third Round: (1) No. 88

Fourth Round: (1) No. 129

Fifth Round: (1) No. 168

Sixth Round: (1) No. 208

Seventh Round: (2) No. 242 and No. 244

Offense:

Running Back: Yes, the Raiders do likely have Marshawn Lynch in the backfield now, but that still doesn’t fill the void in the at the running back position. I could see the Raiders finding a back later in the draft, most likely late Day 2.

Defense:

Middle Linebacker: The Raiders need a rugged and power middle linebacker in that 3-4 scheme. They have Pro Bowler Khalil Mack on the outside, but they need a force up the middle as well.

Conrnerback: In this league, you can never have too many good corners. Oakland could definitely use another good corner to play with Sean Smith and complete their secondary.

Defensive Tackle:  The defensive tackles on this roster are awful, but they could get whole lot better. Defensive tackle is not a major concern, but the Raiders could get some value from this deep pool of defensive tackles in the draft.

TARGETS AND THOUGHTS

These predictions are without trades.

First Round, Pick 24: Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida

If Jarrad Davis didn’t have some durability issues he could be a Top 15 pick, but most likely he could slip into the late first round to the Oakland Raiders. He shows tremendous Football IQ as he breaks down plays and then attacks. He is very good against the run and his acceleration and closing speed makes him a very good blitzing inside linebacker. Davis also has some pretty fluid hips and can stick with most tight ends and some slot receivers. When you think of middle linebacker dawning the black and sliver, you think of an intimating presence. Davis has that. He wore a neck roll and didn’t wear gloves. That is the pure definition of a nasty Oakland Raider 3-4 inside linebacker.

Second Round, Pick 55: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Two Florida Gators back to back. Teez Tabor another one of the great cornerbacks Will Muschamp played in The Swamp before his departure. Tabor teases the quarterback into making bad plays and he makes them pay for it. And when you turn on the tape, you see that. He plays with the supreme confidence that every great NFL corner has. He has very good ball skills and will come back down with the ball in his hands more times than the offensive player.

Tabor has the size to play the game and his style of play matches up very well with how the Raiders want to us their corners. He can definitely cover the third of the field and shut down most opposing number one and number two receivers right now in the league. And to be a Raider, you have to have some baggage. It’s how Al Davis would have liked it.

Third Round, Pick 88: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

If you need a defensive lineman, one of your first stops is definitely Clemson, S.C. Clemson has produced nine Top 100 defensive linemen since 2007. Last year Watkins led the National Champion Clemson Tigers in sacks from the interior. He is also sneaky athletic and in the 3-4 disguise can help the defense and help Khalil Mack get more chances to get one-on-one matchups.

CONCLUSION

The Raiders were one injury from a very interesting playoff push. If Derek Carr can come back healthy and if they follow this draft profile, they should have a season that could contend with the 2017 season.

You can read all previous Draftmas profiles here.

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2017 NFL Draft Profile: Terrish Webb

Terrish Webb is one of the most experienced players that look to hear their name called in this year’s NFL Draft. The free safety from Pitt played in 45 games in his college career, including all 13 games the Panthers played in his freshman season.

Four years ago, many expected Webb to have success in college on the other side of the ball. Webb played both wide receiver and defensive back in high school, and was listed as a three-star wide receiver in the class of 2013 in 247 Sports’ recruiting database.

One of Webb’s coaches at Pitt suggested the switch to safety, and it’s paid off for Webb.

“It was kind of a switch up, being an offensive type of guy,” Webb said. “Once I got down to the basics I just ran with it.”

Terrish Webb

Photo: CardiacHill.com

While talking about Webb in high school, it’s impossible not to mention his team’s unprecedented success.

Webb was instrumental in helping Clairton High School win 63 straight games, and Webb’s season never ended with a loss. That’s right, Clairton High School won a state championship in all four of Webb’s seasons.

Webb also played in a state championship game with his basketball team in his senior year.

As an all-state athlete, it seems as though his high school career foreshadowed what was to come. All that winning didn’t end when Webb arrived on Pitt’s campus.

Webb and the Panthers handed national champion Clemson its only loss of the season. Pitt upset Clemson, 43-42, and Webb had nine tackles.

As Webb makes his next step, hoping to land on an NFL roster, he knows there’s still work to be done as he prepares for his Pro Day.

“Becoming a little stronger because I’m moving to the next level, so guys are bigger, faster, stronger,” Webb said. “Working on my technique and trying to take less steps as I’m breaking.”

Webb’s strongest suit is his ability to help a team in multiple ways. Webb was asked to do a lot at Pitt, and he answered the bell with vigor.

If an NFL scout walked through Webb’s door tomorrow, Webb is confident that he’d be able to sell himself.

“I would tell him that you’re getting a very smart football player,” Webb said. “I would be able to play special teams and I’m versatile as a defensive back. I can play pretty much anywhere as a defensive back.”

Webb may not be the Malik Hooker of the 2017 NFL Draft class, but he brings a winning charisma and the talent and smarts to contribute in many different facets.

Terrish Webb Scouting Report

Terrish Webb (Photo courtesy: twitter.com)

Webb’s size is adequate (5-foot-11-inches, 195 pounds) for the NFL level and shouldn’t hold him back whatsoever. NFL teams will love the fact that he was in on a lot of snaps for Pitt.

Webb diagnoses plays and route concepts very well. He also trusts his eyes. When he sees something he recognizes, he goes to make a play. Webb has good discipline and isn’t fooled by trick plays or play action passes.

The best trait for Webb is that he doesn’t give up any big plays on deep throws down the middle of his field or on running plays. He won’t let receivers behind him down the middle of the field. On running plays, he gets in good position and makes the play.

He isn’t the hardest hitter, but Webb is a sure tackler who can also break up passing plays by hitting the receivers as soon as they touch the football.

In order for Webb to be successful in the NFL, he will have to cover well one on one and provide good run support. He will likely need to be able to do well on special teams in order to get playing time at the NFL level.

 

You can listen to Tim Miller interview Terrish Webb in its entirety below.

 

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

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We Just Witnessed the Greatest Sports Year Ever

Sports are cool, and they’re even cooler when a season ends with fireworks. Thankfully, in the last cycle of season championships, we were able to witness the greatest sports year ever.

From the 2016 college basketball National Championship, to the latest Super Bowl, none of the championships have disappointed. Each of them saw incredible comebacks or last-second scores. As fans, we are blessed to be able to watch all of these games unfold.

That said, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce in the previous year’s amazing culminations.

*Of the four major sports in the United States, and the two major college sports, only one doesn’t make the list. Sorry, NHL fans, the 2016 Stanley Cup was good, but not great enough to be mentioned on the list.*

Super Bowl LI

It seemed as though the states to the most northeast in the U.S. were rooting for New England, and the rest of the population became Falcons fans for one day.

Maybe it’s because Atlanta was foreign to the big stage. It seemed so weird seeing a team like Atlanta playing in the Super Bowl since we had become accustomed to seeing either Seattle, Green Bay, or New York represent the NFC for more than half of the Super Bowls played since 2006.

Greatest Sports Year

In Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does- win Super Bowls. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maybe Atlanta became America’s team for one day simply because of the hatred spewed towards New England. The Patriots have made seven Super Bowls since 2001, and won five. New England has also been to the AFC Conference Championship game 11 times since 2001. Picking New England to make it to the Super Bowl has become routine for many NFL pundits because that’s just what they do.

Nevertheless, this Super Bowl just felt different. New England was the heavyweight that everyone had seen win before. Atlanta was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and the popular vote was in favor of the newbies.

No one saw Atlanta jumping out to a 21-3 lead at the half and a 28-3 lead as the third quarter waned. At this point, many fans just wanted to see a close game.

We should be careful what we wish for.

The Patriots scored a touchdown late in the third, and continued to mount a comeback in the fourth.

The final quarter was the equivalent to slowly watching a bottle of soda being shaken. The game continued to feel closer and closer, and before long, New England put so much pressure back into the game that the contest exploded to help make the greatest sports year we’ve seen.

In overtime, it was inevitable. Not only did the Patriots have momentum, but they also had history. It felt impossible for New England to lose the game. Coming back from a 25-point deficit and pushing the game into the Super Bowl’s first ever overtime? That’s just not a game New England loses.

Because of the incredible comeback by those darn Patriots, Super Bowl LI capped what was the greatest sports year of all time.

2017 College Football National Championship

In a narrative much the same as the Super Bowl, Alabama took on Clemson to be called college football’s undisputed champion. In this game’s case, there was no insurmountable lead that ended up being toppled. The game was tight the whole way, and was never separated by more than two possessions.

Clemson found itself down by two possessions twice, and each time it seemed like Bama was gonna keep Bama-ing. At one point, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave Alabama over a 90 percent chance to win the game.

But this is the greatest sports year we’ve ever seen, so hopefully you’re sensing a theme.

Clemson came back, led by crisp drives from Deshaun Watson. Watson may not have won the Heisman, but at least he got himself a ring. Watson completed a two-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left in the game to clinch a victory for the Tigers.

2016 World Series

Where do we start in this event? So many storylines developed by the time the series was all finished. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals after being down 3-1. Once the Cleveland Indians went up 3-1 on the Cubs, there was no way that would be blown, right?

Maybe Cleveland fans got what they deserved for making fun of the Warriors. #WellActually when a city has to root for the Browns, it deserves no other bad omens. The Indians didn’t catch that vibe.

Greatest Sports Year

Rajai Davis hit the most memorable home run in recent years. (Photo: FX Tribune)

Sure, our very own Matt Hagan knew the Cubs would win it all. However, since no one else did, the 3-1 series lead all but wrapped up the World Series.

The Cubs almost lost it. They had a 6-3 lead with less than two innings left to play. With the lead cut to two, Rajai Davis sent the world into hysteria with the craziest turn of events the World Series had ever seen.

Chicago had it all but won, yet in two seconds Cleveland was right back in it. A ball traveled faster than offseason Rob Gronkowski on the way to the club into the left field seats, while it seemed like it was in slow motion, even as slow as Tom Brady running the 40-yard dash in fashionable yet exotic khaki shorts.

Every baseball kid dreams of coming to bat in the tenth inning of the World Series game seven, and the Cubs had that chance. Chicago scored two, and took an 8-6 lead to end the top half of the inning.

Rajai Davis came back up in the tenth, and even delivered an RBI. The Indians didn’t have enough in them, as they fell short, 8-7. However, it still was one of the greatest World Series of all time.

2016 NBA Finals

The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead, and that remains a joke on social media to this day. When you think of Steph Curry, you think of triples galore, an outspoken wife and the fact that he was the MVP on a team that for the first time ever blew a 3-1 lead.

LeBron James put on the greatest performance of all time in a Finals series in the most historically-charged Finals series of all time. Kyrie Irving hit the most clutch shot of his life to clinch the win for Cleveland- in Golden State.

The 2016 NBA Finals will be a landmark for the NBA’s modern era. With super teams becoming more and more evident, this series will forever be known as the time the NBA’s Goliath was taken out.

2016 College Basketball National Championship

Marcus Paige was supposed to be the hero. He hit one of the greatest three-pointers you will ever see. Double-clutch layups are hard enough, but a double-clutch three is just stupid good.

With Paige’s shot, North Carolina tied Villanova, 74-74, with 4.7 seconds left. At that point, viewers of the game had to pick their jaws up from the floor. The shot was incredible.

But what Kris Jenkins did carried more water. A deep triple as time expired sent Villanova into absolute elation.

The Greatest Sports Year

Who knew that game would turn into the precursor to what was to come? With all the great games that happened in the past year, college basketball’s National Championship was my favorite. Everyone has their own favorite, and the games are probably split pretty evenly across the board.

This was a year that we will tell our children and grandchildren about. It was a year that probably will never be topped. We should all feel fortunate that we were alive to take it all in.

If anyone can make a DVD of all these games in it’s entirety, I will throw my money at you. So someone please do that.

 

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National Signing Day 2017: ACC and Notre Dame

The ACC had a great year for football, which was capped off by a National Championship for the Clemson Tigers. Now it’s time to move over to see how the ACC Signing Day has gone. This will be throughout Signing Day. Here is how the teams rank:

1. Florida State Seminoles

Signees: 21, 5*: 3, 4*: 13, 3*: 5, Other: 0

The Seminoles have a solid class that should remain in the top ten, if not the top five, in the nation. Their class is headed by their two five-stars who are signed. Cam Akers is considered by some to be the best running back in the whole class and Joshua Kaindoh is also considered the number one defensive end in the class by some. Florida State targeted a lot of skill position players with plenty of running backs and wide receivers in the class, as well as secondary players. They are in the running for one more five-star recruit and many more four-star recruits.

Top Prospects Signed: DE Joshua Kaindoh (5*), RB Cam Akers (5*), DT Marvin Wilson (5*)

2. Clemson Tigers

Signees: 14, 5*: 0, 4*: 11, 3*: 3, Other: 0

Dabo Swinney has a championship and now, likely has a top ten recruiting class. Tee Higgins is the best committed player so far and will remind a lot of Tiger fans of Mike Williams at the wide receiver position. With Higgins, comes a very talented quarterback prospect in Hunter Johnson. The two will look to be the future of Clemson’s offense. Behind them, Clemson made sure to get depth for the trenches, on both the offensive and defensive line. While there are no five-star players considering them, the Tigers do have a lot of four-star prospects who could sign with them.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Hunter Johnson (4*), WR Tee Higgins (4*)

3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Signees: 21, 5*: 0, 4*: 11, 3*: 10, Other: 0

Notre Dame needs better players after a lackluster 2016 season. They have done a solid job in recruiting so far and are looking to have a top 15 recruiting class. Brock Wright is a very talented tight end and Robert Hainsey is a great offensive guard. Those two recruits are the two best players the Fighting Irish have signed so far. Although the defense was a major problem last year, Notre Dame has a lot of offensive players signed in this class. There are a lot of standout prospects still considering the Irish, so they have a real chance to move up in the recruiting ranks.

Top Prospects Signed: TE Brock Wright (4*), LB Robert Hainsey (4*)

4. Miami Hurricanes

Signees: 24, 5*: 0, 4*: 13, 3*: 11, Other: 0

Miami has a good recruiting class, in large part due to the number of commitments they already have. Defensive end D.J. Johnson is one of the best in the class and quarterback N’kosi Perry will provide an athletic quarterback as the two best commitments. Behind these players Miami has a very diversified class, as Mark Richt tries to fill the roster with his types of players. Richt has a chance to make this class even better by getting uncommitted players to choose the Hurricanes today.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Jeff Thomas (4*), DE D.J. Johnson (4*)

5. North Carolina Tar Heels

Signees: 20, 5*: 0, 4*: 8, 3*: 11, Other: 0

Larry Fedora should have the recruits to feel good about his team again heading into the 2017 season. Billy Ross and Jonah Melton are two good offensive line prospects, while Jake Lawler is a good defensive line prospect. The Tar Heels have a well-rounded class, with plenty of players who still may choose to go to school their.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Billy Ross (4*), DE Jake Lawler (4*)

6. Virginia Tech Hokies

Signees: 26, 5*: 0, 4*: 5, 3*: 19, Other: 2

Justin Fuente has put together a pretty good crop of players for his first full recruiting class. With 27 commitments, they have a deep class. Nathan Proctor is their top recruit and plays outside linebacker. Devon Hunter is also a talented safety recruit. Even though they have a lot of players committed, they have more considering becoming a Hokie.

Top Prospects Signed: LB Nathan Proctor (4*), S Devon Hunter (4*)

7. Louisville Cardinals

Signees: 20, 5*: 0, 4*: 6, 3*: 13, Other: 1

The Cardinals had an impressive 2016 campaign and need some more talent to help them cap off a season with an ACC Championship. C.J. Avery is a safety who will help out with all of their departures in the secondary. Justin Marshall will be, yet another good target for Lamar Jackson to throw to.

Top Prospects Signed: S C.J. Avery (4*), WR Justin Marshall (4*)

8. Pittsburgh Panthers

Signees: 25, 5*: 0, 4*: 5, 3*: 16, Other: 4

Pittsburgh has a good class for Pat Narduzzi’s second full year of recruiting. The class is led by a great athlete in Paris Ford and a good running back in Todd Sibley. Running back A.J. Davis is confident he can have an instant impact for the Panthers due to being familiar with their blocking schemes. There is a lot of focus on offense in this class, which will be beneficial for Pitt, due to a lot of players moving on to the next level.

Top Prospects Signed: ATH Paris Ford (4*), RB A.J. Davis (4*)

9. Duke Blue Devils

Signees: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 3, 3*: 19, Other: 1

David Cutcliffe has done wonders with Duke and now has a chance at a top 40 recruiting class to help him in the future. Jake Marwede will be a tight end that may see the field early for the Blue Devils.  Safety Drew Jordan and outside linebacker Damani Neal will also have a chance to play next season as incoming freshmen. With a lot of good offensive players in the class, Duke should have good depth for Cutcliffe on at least one side of the ball.

Top Prospects Signed: TE Jake Marwede (4*), LB Drew Jordan (4*)

10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Signees: 24, 5*: 0, 4*: 4, 3*: 18, Other: 2

Georgia Tech is coming off a bowl win over Kentucky and will be looking to become ACC Title contenders again soon. They focused on mostly defense in this class, but their best player is offensive. Running back Bruce-Jordan Swilling will look to get a lot of touches in the triple option attack.

Top Prospects Signed: CB Jaytlin Askew (4*), RB Bruce Jordan-Swilling (4*)

11. North Carolina State Wolfpack

Signees: 22, 5*: 0, 4*: 1, 3*: 18, Other: 3

The Wolfpack had a good season last year, but is still looking to make their recruiting class better. Dual-Threat quarterback Matt McKay is their only four-star commitment so far, but he should be a good player at the college level. NC State has several other decent offensive prospects in the class as well.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Matt McKay (4*), LB Louis Acceus (3*)

12. Virginia Cavaliers

Signees: 27, 5*: 0, 4*: 3, 3*: 19, Other: 5

Bronco Mendenhall has put together a solid first recruiting class for the Cavaliers so far. Two four-star athletes lead the recruiting class in Shawn Smith and Germane Crowell. There are a lot of positions represented, but if the Cavaliers want to compete in the future, they need to get some more players on the offensive line.

Top Prospects Signed: ATH Germane Crowell (4*), ATH Shawn Smith (4*)

13. Syracuse Orange

Signees: 24, 5*: 0, 4*: 1, 3*: 19, Other: 4

Syracuse may rank at 13 in the ACC, for now, but they have an average class nationally. Quarterback Tommy Devito is their only four-star, but can be a program changer as a signal caller. He competed in the elite 11 quarterback camp last summer. The Orange have a lot of solid offensive players in the class, as things currently stand.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Tommy Devito (4*), WR Sharod Johnson (3*)

14. Boston College Eagles

Commitments: 20, 5*: 0, 4*: 0, 3*: 15, Other: 5

It looks like it will be another year near the bottom of the recruiting ranks for the Eagles. Three-star players C.J. Lewis (QB) and A.J. Dillon (RB) are the best players in the class, but will likely not see the field early on in their careers.

Top Prospects Signed: QB C.J. Lewis (3*), RB A.J. Dillon (3*)

15. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Commitments: 20, 5*: 0, 4*: 0, 3*: 17, Other: 3

Wake Forest had a good season on the field in 2016, but that didn’t translate to the recruiting trail. It will be hard to sustain success in the ACC with no four-star players in the class. Michael Allen Jr. has a chance to be a productive player for the Demon Deacons at defensive end.

Top Prospects Signed: DE Michael Allen Jr. (3*), WR Sage Surratt (3*)

 

Big Ten Signing Day- Here

Big 12 Signing Day- Here

Pac-12 Signing Day- Here

SEC Signing Day- Here

2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Preview

It all comes down to this game. A rematch of last year’s National Championship. The Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the Clemson Tigers in the biggest game of the season in Tampa Bay, Florida.

There are so many talented players making this match-up great. Alabama has a lot of defensive NFL prospects, while Clemson has prospects on both sides of the ball.

This game will be a clash of the titans.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama’s team was more thoroughly reviewed before the Peach Bowl.

Jalen Hurts is going to have to complete passes in this game for Alabama to win. In the win over Washington Hurts threw for just 57 yards. Lane Kiffin didn’t have a great game plan and is now off to Florida Atlantic, but Hurts is also to blame. Having Steve Sarkisian calling plays won’t likely help that much, as he is very similar to Kiffin.

National Championship

Reuben Foster (Photo courtesy: Profootballfocus.com)

Alabama has great play-makers as targets for Hurts in Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and O.J.Howard. That doesn’t matter if he can’t get the ball to them. Hurts is the key to the Alabama offense, because if he can’t complete passes, Clemson’s defense can focus on just stopping the run.

The Crimson Tide rode the hot hand in the Peach Bowl. Damien Harris, along with Hurts, had been the best at running the ball for Alabama. Against the Huskies, big Bo Scarborough rumbled for 180 yards on just 19 carries for two touchdowns. He doesn’t have great vision, but if the holes are there, is tough to bring down at 235 pounds. Between the two of them, either Harris or Scarborough need to produce in this game.

The defense has been dominant for Alabama all season long. They scored ten touchdowns this season and don’t show any signs of stopping. The front seven is great and led by Jonathan Allen. He had a sack, two tackles for loss and one fumble recovery against Washington. Reuben Foster is one of the best inside linebacker prospects in a while. With pass rushing help from Tim Williams, the front seven is stacked with great players.

Eddie Jackson, the safety, will be out for this game, but the secondary has done well without him in the past few games. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey will be the ones making plays for Alabama in the secondary. Both have plenty of experience and should feel a sense of pride after allowing Clemson to score 40 points in last years National Championship Game.

Clemson Tigers

Clemson was more thoroughly reviewed before the Fiesta Bowl.

The Tigers have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Deshaun Watson. He is dynamic with his legs and pretty good with his arm. He will have to use both effectively to beat Alabama. Watson only rushed or 57 yards against Ohio State, but had two rushing touchdowns. With Ohio State playing so poorly, he didn’t need to run much more. He did, however, throw two interceptions. This has been a big theme all season long, as his decision making has been questionable at best. With 17 interceptions thrown on the year, his main priority has to be protecting the football against a good Alabama secondary.

National Championship

Mike Williams (Photo courtesy: si.com)

Mike Williams is the good news for Watson. He is the top NFL Draft prospect at the wide receiver position and creates match-up problems for opposing teams. With other productive players like Hunter Renfrow, Jordan Leggett and Artavis Scott on the team, opponents can’t really double team Williams much either. If Watson makes a bad decision, these guys have to turn into defenders and knock the ball down to keep possession of the football.

There are a lot of good running backs in college football, but Wayne Gallman might be the most underrated of all of them. He did decently in the Fiesta Bowl with 85 rushing yards and a touchdown. Going up against that Crimson Tide front seven will be tough, but if Gallman can keep chipping away early with four and five yard runs, he should be able to bust one loose late in the game.

Clemson’s defense haven’t scored as much as Alabama’s, but they are coming off one of the best performances of the season, holding Ohio State to no points.

The Tigers also had a great defensive line this season, which is led by Carlos Watkins. He has 10.5 sacks with two coming against Ohio State. Watkins is one of the best interior pass rushers in college football.

Ben Boulware leads the linebacking core. The senior had 81 total tackles in the 2015 season and has 110 this season. He only had three total tackles in last year’s National Championship, but will have to do more to help stop the Alabama rushing attack in this game.

In the secondary Jadar Johnson is a safety that covers the whole field and has five interceptions on the season. The corners, specifically Cordrea Tankersley, shut down opposing wide receivers.

Prediction

Both teams have distractions going into this game. A new offensive coordinator for Alabama. A mini-scandal for Clemson’s defense after Christian Wilkins violated Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel during the Fiesta Bowl. Keeping that stuff out of their minds and focusing on the game is imperative.

The quarterbacks will be the key in this game. Can Hurts complete passes? Can Watson make good decisions and protect the football? Both have tall orders, as they go up against great defenses.

Alabama’s rush defense is the best in the country and holds opposing teams to just 62 yards per game. That is 61 yards better than what Clemson’s good run defense holds opponents to. The last time a team held a team to below that number of rushing yards was 2008.

All of Nick Saban’s national title teams with the Crimson Tide have been featured the top rush defense, besides the 2009 season, when they placed second to National Runner-up Texas. In the years since 2009 that they didn’t win it all, Alabama didn’t finish as the top rush defense in the country (once finished second in 2014 in that span).

National Championship

Nick Saban (Photo courtesy: sltrib.com)

That classic Alabama rush defense will save the day and be the difference-maker. Gallman will be shut down by Alabama. Watson will probably have a good rushing performance, but it won’t be enough.

When the run game is shut down by Alabama’s run defense, Watson will throw and be intercepted in a key situation. The Crimson Tide will run the clock out and be champions once again in another close game against Clemson.

 

Alabama Crimson Tide 38 Clemson Tigers 33

 

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NFL Draft Prospects in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State and Clemson are two teams that are able to reload every year in recruiting. They then develop all of the talent they get and ship them out as NFL prospects. There will be NFL players all over the field in this game. Here are the best prospects in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl:

Ohio State Buckeyes

Pat Elflein, C

Fiesta Bowl

Pat Elflein (Photo courtesy: thelantern.com)

Projected Draft Range: Second round-third round

Elflein has adequate height at six feet three inches tall, but already has the weight he needs at 300 pounds. He has great mobility to go block defenders on the move. Elflein will likely be one of the first two centers taken in the draft, but his name may not be called to the second or third round due to the lack of centers being taken early in the NFL Draft.

Curtis Samuel, RB/WR

Projected Draft Range: Second round-fourth round

If teams are looking for a Percy Harvin-like player (the easiest comparison to make), Samuel is that guy. He has great speed and quickness and can impact the game in a lot of ways. He has rushed the ball well and also been a great receiver for the Buckeyes. NFL teams will have to game plan against Samuel, much like they did against Harvin. He may not have the same NFL impact, but Samuel will be a nice find for an NFL team.

Gareon Conley, CB

Projected Draft Range: Second round-fourth round

Conley has eight passes defended and three interceptions this season, making him fit in well with the rest of the Ohio State secondary, who make plays on the ball. He has good size at six feet one inch tall and can match-up with a variety of receivers. If this class didn’t have so many good corners, Conley could sneak into the first round.

Clemson Tigers

Mike Williams, WR

Projected Draft Range: First round

Size is Williams biggest competitive advantage. At six feet three inches and 220 pounds, there aren’t many corners that can match up with him. His speed and quickness are both good for his size. Williams can improve as a blocker and a route-runner for the next level.

Deshaun Watson, QB

Projected Draft Range: Second round-fourth round

Watson is a great play-maker at the college level. His athleticism will translate to the NFL level well. He isn’t the greatest decision maker and turns the ball over. His accuracy is inconsistent on throws of the intermediate variety and beyond. The good news is that Watson has all the tools needed for an NFL quarterback, but just needs to protect the ball better and put the ball right on receivers.

Carlos Watkins, DT

Fiesta Bowl

Carlos Watkins (Photo courtesy: greenvilleonline.com)

Projected Draft Range: First round-second round

Watkins is versatile enough to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. At six feet three inches tall and 305 pounds he has the necessary length and strength to go against NFL offensive linemen. Watkins is good at stopping the run, but is better at rushing the passer from the interior. He has 8.5 sacks on the season, which is a lot for a player that plays on the inside.

Cordrea Tankersley, CB

Projected Draft Range: First round-third round

Tankersley will probably be drafted in a similar range as Conley. He is about the same height and weight as Conley. Tankersley is more of the shut-down corner, rather than a guy who makes plays on the ball. Unfortunately he won’t have all of the greatest chance to improve his draft stock in this game with not many good outside receivers for Ohio State. He needs to focus on stopping the run to help his team win and impress scouts.

 

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