2017 AFC North division preview

2017 AFC North division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 AFC North division preview.

4: Cleveland Browns

2017 AFC North division preview

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

Last season: 1-15

Strength of schedule: 21

The Cleveland Browns had an atrocious 2016 NFL season but that has become the norm in Cleveland. In the last 10 seasons, the Browns have had more the seven wins only twice. It has been even longer since the Browns have made the playoffs which last occurred in 2002. The struggle has been real but the Browns seem to be moving in the right direction finally.

It isn’t hard to improve on a 1-15 season and the truth is the Browns have nowhere to go but up. Improvement started with the draft and Cleveland did a tremendous job in the draft this year. The selections of Myles Garrett, David Njoku, Jabrill Peppers, DeShone Kizer, Caleb Brantley and Larry Ogunjobi show just how much the Browns are moving in the right direction. All these players will be key pieces for the Browns moving forward.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns will be much better than last years 31st ranking. Danny Shelton and Desmond Bryant will do a solid job plugging the middle allowing Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey to make a lot of tackles. In the secondary, Joe Haden is the veteran star who will attempt to lead this secondary’s improvement in defending the pass which gave up 249.8 passing yards per game.

Offensively, the Browns will need to be committed to running the football. Their upgrades along the offensive line will create a solid foundation for improving an offense that only managed to score 16.5 points per game. The quarterback situation is still unfolding but having a solid offensive line will allow them to run the ball well with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. This will make life easier for whoever ends up under center over the course of the season.

No matter who starts, or eventually plays, at quarterback they will have really good receivers to connect with. Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt are capable of having big years and both could find their way to 1,000 yards. Duke Johnson Jr. will also see some time at wideout and with his speed could turn any touch into a house call.

Although the Browns seem to be heading in the right direction, they won’t see a ton of wins this season. Cleveland plays in a tough division and just doesn’t have enough talent to win it. The Browns will be more competitive but are a year or two away from really competing for the division crown.

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

losses: Pit, @Bal, @Ind, @Hou, Ten, Min, @Det, @Cin, @LAC, GB, @Pit, @Chi

3: Baltimore Ravens

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com)

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 24

Baltimore has struggled since winning Super Bowl XLVII, missing the playoffs three of the last four seasons. The defense hasn’t been as elite and the offense doesn’t seem to have a true identity. The Ravens are in for another tough season and John Harbaugh may be on the hot seat by the end of this season.

As previously mentioned, the Ravens do not have a true identity. Despite having Marshal Yanda on the offensive line, the unit as a whole is a weak spot and Pro Football Focus ranks the unit 23rd out of 32 teams. The offensive line is going to face some tough defenses, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh twice, Jacksonville, Minnesota, and Tennessee are teams capable of dominating the Ravens front.

With a below average offensive line, the running game is going to struggle as it did last season averaging just 91.4 yards per game. There is also a three man committee at running back between Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West and Danny Woodhead. Each has their own specialty, but with three running backs splitting time, none will be able to get into a good enough rhythm to lead the running game to succeed.

Because of this, the running game will not open up the passing game which is a must for Joe Flacco to have success. Aside from an amazing playoff run in 2013, Flacco is rather average. His QBR shows just how average he is at 58.4 last season. In Flacco’s nine year career he has averaged 3,626 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions per season. These numbers scream average. Flacco is also 11-19 in his last 30 starts. His career seems to be trending down and the Ravens are going to hurt this season because of it.

The receiving group has a lot of experience and speed. Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace will cause nightmares for defensive backs but can the offensive line hold up enough for Flacco to get them the ball, that is the question. Breshad Perriman is another speedster that can become a dangerous deep threat.

Defensive has been the strength of this franchise for a long time. Last season was no different as the Ravens ranked ninth in points allowed. Baltimore gave up the seventh fewest yards during the season which was due to their outstanding rush defense. Teams only ran for 89.4 yards per game against the Ravens. The defense will remain good but not good enough to carry a team with a bad offense to the playoffs.

The Ravens really struggled on the road last season going 2-6 and it is likely that the road woes continue. Pair this with an offense that will struggle to score and you get a team that ends up with only a handful of wins.

Prediction: 6-10 (3-3), miss the playoffs

losses: @Cin, @Jax, @Oak, @Min, Mia, @Ten, @GB, Det, @Pit, @Cle

2: Cincinnati Bengals

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Last season: 6-9-1

Strength of schedule: 29

After making the playoffs for five straight seasons the Bengals took a step back and only won six games last year. Marvin Lewis is entering his 15th season as the head coach and has gone 0-7 in the playoffs. If he does not win a playoff game this season he will be fired. 15 years is plenty of time to prove you can win a playoff game and if the Bengals don’t do so there needs to be a new voice in the locker room.

The Bengals offense was nothing spectacular last season. Cincinnati ranked 24th in scoring at just 20.3 points per game. The Bengals offense will need to score more points this season. Rushing the ball seems to be easy for the Bengals as they averaged 110.6 rushing yards per game. Joe Mixon will improve the running game even more as long as the replacements along the offensive line create running lanes.

The passing attack will also be better this season. A.J. Green will still be a beast on the outside but a healthy Tyler Eifert will open up the middle of the field. Speedy receiver John Ross will complement these two players and create mismatches for opposing defenses. Andy Dalton just needs to get the ball out of his hands and into these playmakers hands as quickly as possible to make up for the below average offensive line.

Losing offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler is going to be huge blows to this offense. Cincinnati is hoping they can soften this blow by reacquiring Andre Smith. If the offensive line can replace these losses and hold up, then the Bengals will easily have a top 15 offense in the NFL.

Similar to the Ravens, the strength of the Bengals is on the defensive side of the ball. Cincinnati gave up the seventh fewest points last season at just 19.7 per game. The front four is led by studs Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Vontaze Burfict returns at linebacker and the Bengals upgraded their middle linebacker from Rey Maualuga to Kevin Minter. The secondary is also not to be messed with as the Bengals return Adam “Pacman” Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and George Iloka.

The success of this season depends on the offense. Defensively, there is little to no concern. If the offensive line can create success then the Bengals will be in the hunt for the playoffs.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), wildcard candidate

losses: Hou, @GB, @Cle, @Pit, @Ten, @Den, @Min, @Bal

1: Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com)

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 27

How did a team that finished 11-5 and made it to the AFC Championship, get such an easy schedule? Pittsburgh has the fifth easiest schedule in the NFL and returns a plethora of talent. The Steelers have plenty of experience on their side and should be one of the best teams in the NFL and a Super Bowl contender.

The Steelers quietly had a very good defense but the offense gets all the recognition. Pittsburgh did rank 10th in points allowed and total yards. The high total yards ranking was because of their rush defense which only gave up 93.2 rush yards per game, ranking eighth.

The biggest area the Steelers need to show improvement in is in third down defense. Pittsburgh could not get off the field and spent an average of 62 plays per game on the field. Opposing offenses converted 41.1 percent of their third downs. The Steelers added rookie T.J. Watt in the draft to get some more pressure thus helping them get off the field more on.

Supringingly Pittsburgh is all about the offense though. The Steelers have a three headed monster on offense that led them to having one of the leagues best offenses. The oldest of the three, Ben Roethlisberger, had another great year. Big Ben threw for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Even at his age, he will still throw for close to 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns as long as he remains healthy.

Le’Veon Bell is who this offense is built around so this hold out is alarming. As long as Bell can play the entire season, the Steelers will have an unstoppable offense. Bell is the first player to ever average 100 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving for a season. He is a key piece to the Steelers success.

The remaining star, Antonio Brown,  contributed 106 receptions, 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns to the high powered offense. Brown consistently dominates the league and with him passing success is easy to come by. These three superstars are the reason the Steelers are going to have another year in which they score a ton of points.

The Steelers have an easy schedule, tough defense and explosive offense. Pittsburgh will win the division and contend for the Super Bowl

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), division champion

losses: @Bal, @KC, NE, @Hou

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2017 NFL Mock Draft April 27

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

ROUND ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Carolina Panthers- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

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

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

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

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

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

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

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

12. Cleveland Browns- Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

The Browns are likely going to take a signal caller with this pick if they don’t take one with the first pick overall. Watson doesn’t have great accuracy and consistently relied on receivers to make plays for him. The most alarming thing about Watson is his decision making, as he makes throws that have no chance of being completed. His arm strength has also been called into question by only throwing 49 mph at the combine. The accepted low for an NFL quarterback is 55 mph. (Dak Prescott threw 54 mph last combine, but had a hurt shoulder) Watson has shown flashes of greatness, particularly against Alabama, but needs to be more consistent. One thing is for sure, Watson steps up in the clutch.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Pat Mahommes, QB, Texas Tech

Mahommes has the chance to prove that system quarterbacks can make it in the NFL if they have talent. His arm strength is second to none in this class. He is a gunslinger that loves extending plays and showing off his arm. The Cardinals will likely want to get a future quarterback behind Carson Palmer and with a year or two to learn, Mahommes can develop in to a great quarterback.

14. Philadelphia Eagles- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

The Eagles need corner help badly. They will likely have to take Humphrey even though he was most likely behind Sidey Jones (achilles) and Gareon Conley (rape accusations) on their board. Humphrey guarded Mike Williams well in the National Championship game, but Williams made some crazy catches through the good coverage. Humphrey is a good man to man corner, who can get confused while playing zone.

15. Indianapolis Colts- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

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

16. Baltimore Ravens- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. Denver Broncos- Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24. Oakland Raiders- Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

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

25. Houston Texans- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

Tom Savage will get his shot to start, but the Texans need a long term answer at quarterback. Because they are picking so late in the round, they may have to trade up to get one. Kizer has moved up and down draft boards constantly, which makes him a wild card. Kizer has the size and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. He has some issues with being consistent with the accuracy of his passes, but for the most part is decent. If he wants to be successful he should work on putting passes in areas for wide receivers to run after the catch. His mobility is good enough to get him out of jams.

26. Seattle Seahawks- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

The Cowboys lost Barry Church to the Jaguars in free agency. They will need a safety to go alongside Byron Jones. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense, but will be the safety that Dallas needs. Peppers’ downside his his ball skills. He has all the fundamentals down, but had only one career interception in college. He does have a diluted sample on his drug test at the combine, but the Cowboys usually aren’t worried about those things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND 2

33. Cleveland Browns- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

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

34. San Francisco 49ers- Kevin King, CB, Washington

The 49ers don’t have a good corner on their roster. King has elite height at 6’3″ for the position and ran a blazing 4.43 40 yard dash at the combine. He will need to add some muscle to his frame to be able to jam receivers and shed blocks.

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

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

36. Chicago Bears- Zay Jones, WR, ECU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

41. Cincinnati Bengals- Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova

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

42. New Orleans- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

Smith-Schuster is creating a lot of buzz lately and has moved up into the second round. The Saints can add a receiver with one of their many early picks and try to replace Brandin Cooks.

43. Philadelphia Eagles- Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

With taking a CB in the first round, the Eagles can now get a dynamic offensive weapon. Darren Sproles is getting older and Ryan Matthews is often hurt. Kamara will be a great target for Carson Wentz out of the backfield.

44. Buffalo Bills- Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech

Hodges has a great combination of size and speed, but doesn’t run great routes or block well. He can be a valuable target for Tyrod Taylor and can even split out wide for the Bills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

48. Minnesota Vikings- Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple

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

49. Washington Redskins- Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

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

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

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

51. Denver Broncos- Montravious Adams, DT, Auburn

Adams is a great interior pass rusher and played well at the Senior Bowl. Denver needs to get some better players on the interior of the defensive line.

52. Cleveland Browns- Budda Baker, S, Washington

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

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

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

54. Miami Dolphins- Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado

The Dolphins need to get some help at corner to slow down the pass. Awuzie is a physical corner who is good at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage.

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

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

56. Oakland Raiders- Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

The Raiders need to improve their defensive line. Watkins is a good defensive tackle who rushes the passer well.

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

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

58. Seattle Seahawks- Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado

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

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

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

60. Dallas Cowboys- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

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

61. Green Bay Packers- Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA

Moreau raised his draft stock by doing well in the workouts leading up to the draft. Green Bay desperately needs corner help and will be enticed by his testing results.

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

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

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

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

64. Carolina Panthers- David Sharpe, OT, Florida

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

 

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

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2017 NFL Mock Draft April 21

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

Round One

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Carolina Panthers- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

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

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

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

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

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

15. Indianapolis Colts- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

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

16. Baltimore Ravens- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. Denver Broncos- Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24. Oakland Raiders- Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

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

25. Houston Texans- Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

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

26. Seattle Seahawks- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round 2

33. Cleveland Browns- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

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

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

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

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

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

36. Chicago Bears- Zay Jones, WR, ECU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

41. Cincinnati Bengals- Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova

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

42. New Orleans- Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

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

43. Philadelphia Eagles- Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

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

44. Buffalo Bills- Kevin King, CB, Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

48. Minnesota Vikings- Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple

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

49. Washington Redskins- Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

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

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

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

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

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

52. Cleveland Browns- Budda Baker, S, Washington

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

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

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

54. Miami Dolphins- Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA

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

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

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

56. Oakland Raiders- Montravious Adams, DT, Auburn

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

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

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

58. Seattle Seahawks- Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado

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

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

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

60. Dallas Cowboys- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

64. Carolina Panthers- David Sharpe, OT, Florida

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

 

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

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2017 NFL Mock Draft March 31

The 2017 NFL Draft is just under a month away, so it is time to get ready for one of the biggest events of the football season.

Round 1

 

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

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

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

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

3. Chicago Bears- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

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

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Leonard Fournette

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

5. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

In the National Championship Game, Mike Williams was the difference maker for Clemson. Williams is the best red zone threat in college football from the wide receiver position. He is tall and lanky, but athletic enough to make great catches. Mariota needs a go to receiver to throw to and the Titans may have to take one earlier than expected.

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

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

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

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

8. Carolina Panthers- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

Lattimore is a shut-down corner, who has good ball skills. Even though Ohio State got blown out by Clemson, he only gave up one catch and it was to Mike Williams on a screen pass. Lattimore is decent in run support too. Carolina didn’t fully recover from losing Josh Norman last season and will need to get a corner to compensate.

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

When Cincinnati was at their best, they rushed the passer well. Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the class, but does not do much against the run. He uses his speed to get around the tackle blocking him, but rarely uses pass rushing moves to get to the quarterback.

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

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

11. New Orleans Saints- Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

New Orleans needs defensive help badly. They can start by getting a pass rusher across from Cameron Jordan. Charlton has great size at 6’6″ tall and can get to the quarterback with 10 sacks last season. The Saints have started to put together a defensive line with Jordan, Nick Fairly and Sheldon Rankins from last year’s draft.

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

DeShone Kizer

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

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

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

14. Philadelphia Eagles- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Cook is an elusive, speed back who is hard to catch. He is a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. There are some concerns with the amount of injuries he has had, but when healthy Cook is an elite running back prospect. Philadelphia addressed their wide receiver needs via free agency and can now help out Carson Wentz by providing him with a good running back and receiver out of the backfield.

15. Indianapolis Colts- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

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

16. Baltimore Ravens- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Baltimore needs to get some offensive weapons, as Joe Flacco doesn’t have many good players to throw to. Davis is a premier talent at wide receiver. He is big, at 6 feet 3 inches, but his skills match that of a smaller receiver, making him a unique prospect. Davis knows where to go on broken plays and fights for the football with resiliency.

17. Washington Redskins- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

Cunningham is tall and lanky, but makes plays. He is a tackle machine that can vastly improve the run defense. The Redskins have a lot of needs on the defensive side of the ball they could go after, but Cunningham can have an impact immediately.

18. Tennessee Titans- Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

Tre’Davious White

The Titans will take a wide receiver here if they don’t get one with their first pick. If not they will try to improve their defense. White is a good team leader, who is very athletic. He doesn’t have the best size for a corner, but can cover with the best of them. His added value comes in the return game, where he did a solid job for LSU.

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

Tampa Bay signed Desean Jackson so they likely won’t draft a wide receiver. Howard is a great receiving tight end, who didn’t get the chance to produce much at Alabama due to play-calling and quarterback issues. He can be another good target to help Jameis Winston.

20. Denver Broncos- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Robinson can slide right in and start on a team that doesn’t have good tackles. He did a solid job pass blocking Myles Garrett in their match-up. Before the Broncos give up on Trevor Siemian they need to protect him to give him a fair shot.

21. Detroit Lions- Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple

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

22. Miami Dolphins- Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC

Jackson has all of the capabilities necessary to be a lock-down corner for many years in the NFL. He can play both sides of the ball and also help in the return game. His ability to play both ways and to bait quarterbacks into throwing passes, just so he can intercept them, shows his likeness to Deion Sanders. The Dolphins have Byron Maxwell at corner, but don’t have much else.

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

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

24. Oakland Raiders- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Christian McCaffrey

The Raiders lost Latavius Murray in free agency and have not signed Adrian Peterson or brought Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. Their offense is predicated on big plays and McCaffrey can provide that in a variety of ways. His impressive showing at the combine solidified his first round status. Behind Oakland’s offensive line and with Derek Carr at quarterback, McCaffrey could have a season of greater than 2,000 all purpose yards.

25. Houston Texans- Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

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

26. Seattle Seahawks- Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah

Seattle’s offensive line problems have been well documented. Any lineman prospect near this range should be considered. Bolles is an athletic tackle prospect, who uses his mobility to his advantage. He may need to add some strength to be successful in the NFL.

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

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

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

Jabrill Peppers

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

29. Green Bay Packers- Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Conley has risen up draft boards, partially because of injuries and bad 40 times by other corners. He does have good play recognition skills that he uses to his advantage.The Packers had terrible corner play last season and need to take one early in this loaded draft class.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers- Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut

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

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

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

32. New Orleans Saints- Kevin King, CB, Washington

The Saints have already addressed their pass rushing need and can now focus on coverage. King is a big corner who can cover big receivers, but also possesses speed to keep up with the faster ones.

 

Round 2

33. Cleveland Browns- Budda Baker, S, Washington

Cleveland needs secondary help badly. Baker makes plays in the passing game, but isn’t afraid to come up and help in the run either. He isn’t the biggest safety, but is productive.

34. San Francisco 49ers- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

John Lynch is going to want to sure up the offensive line and can get Ramczyk with good value here. Ramczyk is a solid left tackle, who is a good run and pass blocker. He did a pretty good job blocking Taco Charlton when the Badgers played the Wolverines. He doesn’t have good mobility and athleticism and can be beat by fast rushers and blitzers.

35. Jacksonville Jaguars- Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss

Engram is a good receiving tight end that will help the Jaguars because they traded Julius Thomas to the Dolphins. If this truly is the last year for Blake Bortles to prove himself, Jacksonville will give him plenty of weapons to use to be sure.

36. Chicago Bears- Zay Jones, WR, ECU

Zay Jones

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

37. Los Angeles Rams- Forrest Lamp, OG/C, Western Kentucky

Lamp played tackle in college, but will likely be kicked inside in the NFL. The Rams do need other positions, but in order for this team to be successful, they need to open up some holes for Todd Gurley.

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

With the Chargers already getting Jamal Adams, they can work on protecting Phillip Rivers for a few more years. Feeney would be a great value to them at this point.

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

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

40. Carolina Panthers- Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida

Brantley only had 2.5 sacks on the season, but did a great job of getting pressure on quarterbacks and disrupting the pocket. He is very good at run-stopping and is quick at the snap of the ball. The Panthers need to get some more interior linemen.

41. Cincinnati Bengals- Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

The Bengals signed Kevin Minter to a one year deal, but could still use linebacker help. Davis is a strong linebacker who is decent in coverage. His willingness to make plays in the running game can really help the Bengals defense.

42. New Orleans Saints- Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

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

43. Philadelphia Eagles- Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado

The Eagles need to focus on improving their secondary and can get quality players after the first round in this draft. Witherspoon has speed, but needs to add strength for the NFL.

44. Buffalo Bills- Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

Smith-Schuster was once thought of as one of the premier wide receivers in this draft class, but he lacks the speed necessary to go round one. The Bills need to get a receiver across the field from Sammy Watkins.

45. Arizona Cardinals- Pat Mahommes, QB, Texas Tech

Patrick Mahommes

Bruce Arians loves big, strong-armed quarterbacks and can get one for the future in round two. Mahommes has the chance to prove that system quarterbacks can make it in the NFL if they have talent.

46. Minnesota Vikings- Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan

The Vikings have addressed some of their line problems via free agency, but they still need some upgrades there. Moton at the very least can provide depth, which is not something Minnesota had last year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

50. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State

Samuel had a good combine and can help a team as a slot receiver or running back. Jameis Winston will love all these new weapons.

51. Denver Broncos- Montravious Adams, DL, Auburn

Jared Crick should not be starting for Denver. Adams may not be the best fit in this defense, but Denver will make the most of him.

52. Cleveland Browns- Cooper Kupp, WR, EWU

Cleveland can now get another target for whoever their quarterback might be. Kupp did not run well in his 40 yard dash, but is a solid receiver and the stats don’t lie.

53. Detroit Lions- Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Jalen Tabor has shown that he doesn’t have great speed, but he is physical and has a high football IQ. The Lions still need to upgrade their secondary.

54. Miami Dolphins- Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama

Cameron Wake is still a very good player, but the Dolphins need more pass rushers. Williams is very good and has a quick first step, but some have brought up character concerns with him.

55. New York Giants- Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple

The Giants got their tight end in the first round and can now get some offensive line help. Dawkins wouldn’t regularly go this high in the draft, but the lack of good offensive linemen will work out for him.

56. Oakland Raiders- Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

The Raiders have some pass rushers, but need interior defensive lineman. Watkins is a good pass rusher for a defensive tackle and finished with 10.5 sacks last season.

57. Houston Texans- Ethan Pocic, G/C, LSU

Pocic has a lot of experience and is a solid interior offensive linemen. The Texans have a terrible offensive line and need to protect whoever ends up being their starting quarterback.

58. Seattle Seahawks- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Jones tore his Achilles at his pro day, but is optimistic about his return to football. The Seahawks can bring him on slow and reap the rewards for years.

59. Kansas City Chiefs- Desmond King, CB/S, Iowa

The Chiefs could use a guy like King who can play multiple positions in the secondary. His best position will likely be safety, due to his good run support and lack of speed.

60. Dallas Cowboys- Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA

McKinley has fallen down in mocks because of his shoulder injury, but he is a good pass rusher. He should be ready for training camp. The Cowboys have a desperate need for pass rushers and will love McKinley’s value.

61. Green Bay Packers- Marcus Williams, S, Utah

Green Bay doesn’t have much of a secondary. Williams can play beside Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He is a safety with range, but isn’t the greatest tackler.

62. Pittsburgh Steelers- Demarcus Walker, DE, Florida State

Demarcus Walker

Pittsburgh needs to get to the quarterback more often. James Harrison led the team in sacks last season and he is aging. Walker is good at rushing the passer and disrupts passes by sticking his hands up into the passing lane.

63. Atlanta Falcons- Pat Elflein, OG/C, Ohio State

The interior of the offensive line could use some upgrades for the Falcons. Elflein is versatile enough to fill in at multiple positions.

64. Carolina Panthers- Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

Dupre didn’t have great quarterback play, but was productive at LSU. The Panthers need some wide receivers to step up for Cam Newton.

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

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Franchise Analysis – Denver Broncos

Entering the 2016 season, the Denver Broncos had one question: “Who will take over for the legendary Peyton Manning?” One could argue that the question still remains. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback, but not capable of overcoming below average running back and offensive line play. Other than the quarterback position, where else do the Broncos need to improve to make another run at a Lombardi Trophy in 2017?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

The Broncos failed to pick up where they left off in the 2015 season. Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler both contributed to an offense that ranked 19th in points and 16th in yards. The offense dropped to 22nd in points and 27th in yards this season. Who carries the blame for such a decline? We’ve already outlined the quarterback regression, but let’s take a closer look.

Trevor Siemian proved he has limitations this season. Will the Broncos be able to elevate his play by improving his supporting cast this off season (Courtesy of; DenverBroncos.com).

If it wasn’t apparent last year, it should be now. Peyton Manning covered up a lot of holes on this team last season. Even in his diminished state, Manning’s mind and control of the offense allowed him to put the Broncos in the best play possible on every snap. When Manning played, he accounted for 16 of the 39 sacks allowed. He was able to call plays that wouldn’t ask the offensive line to block for four to six seconds. He was able to minimize the impact that his average to below average linemen had on the passing game.

Even with an upgrade at the left tackle position from Ryan Clady to Russell Okung, the Denver Broncos still struggled. The biggest hole in this starting unit was the right tackle Donald Stephenson. Using Pro Football Focus player rankings, Stephenson was rated as the 77th best tackle out of 78 qualified players. Stephenson was also rated as the worst pass-blocking tight end in football. No quarterback can have success when one of his tackles is constantly getting beat.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

One aspect of the Denver Broncos that was never in doubt, was their defense. As a whole, they ranked 4th in both points and yards allowed. The unquestioned strength of this defense is their secondary. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. provide this defense with incredible flexibility. Talib is able to match up with the top tier receivers on the outside and Harris can lock down even the best slot receivers. When a defense doesn’t have to roll coverage to a player or exchange responsibilities in the secondary, they can focus on rushing the passer.

Sylvester Williams had a down year defending the run. Will the Broncos look to upgrade the nose tackle position, or hope Williams will bounce back in 2017? (Courtesy of; Predominatelyorange.com)

When Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and the emerging Shane Ray are able to rush the passer, this defense is suffocating. However, they must get better at stopping the run. This defense, despite their greatness, was 28th in rushing yards allowed. In their 3-4 defense, the nose tackle must be able to occupy double teams and keep linemen from blocking linebackers. Sadly, Sylvester Williams was unable to do that. Williams ranked as the 106th best interior defender against the run out of 117 qualified players. Denver must upgrade their nose tackle in their base defense if they hope to have more opportunities to rush the passer in 2017.

Divisional Analysis

The best way to ensure a spot in the postseason is to win your division. What does this team need to ascend back to the top of the AFC West?

Clearly, Denver needs to have more production from the quarterback position. However, that doesn’t mean the position needs an upgrade. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback and can absolutely play better with an improved supporting cast. They also have their 2016 first round pick, Paxton Lynch. What Siemian lacks in talent, Lynch has. With these two players on the roster, they don’t need to try and upgrade the position.

Outside of the right tackle position, Denver could benefit greatly by upgrading their tight end. In 2016 we saw Carson Wentz be productive with an average at best collection of receivers. While they may be better than my analysis, they certainly aren’t as talented as Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders. What allowed Wentz to succeed? He had a receiving first tight end that worked the middle of the field in Zach Ertz. Given that this team isn’t great in pass protection, an upgrade at tight end will allow whoever is starting to get the ball out of their hands quicker.

Some options in the draft include David Njoku from Miami, Gerald Everett from South Alabama, and Evan Engram from Ole Miss. I know I didn’t include O.J. Howard, but I don’t think Denver will use their first round pick on this position and Howard most likely won’t be available in the second round. If Denver wanted to use a day two or three pick to address this position, they could select Tyrone Swoopes from Texas or Eric Saubert from Drake University.

We talked previously about their lack of production from their nose tackle. Given the importance of that position in the 3-4 defense, they need to bring in another player. Given John Elway’s track record of acquiring defensive free agents, I could see them going that route instead of the draft to address this need.

PostSeason Prospects

There are certain criteria that can translate into post season success. Where did the Denver Broncos stack up to the rest of the league in 2016?

It’s almost incredible that this team won nine games and didn’t finish inside the top 20 at any of these critical criteria. What’s most telling is their third down conversion ranking. It goes beyond just third down. This statistic gives you an idea about their success on first and second down. Because they struggled so much to run the ball effectively on first and second down, they often faced longer third down attempts than most NFL offenses. Also, if you can’t convert on third down, you won’t have prolonged drives. Thus, their ranking of 28th in Time of Possession.

This defense is unbelievable. Despite having a bottom third offense, the Denver defense was top 10 in every relevant defensive metric. Of course, they were not good against the run. No team can just run the ball for four quarters. When teams put the ball in the air, most of the time, it fell incomplete or in the hands of a Broncos defender. If they can just be an average team against the run in 2017, they will find themselves in the post season.

2017 Predictions

There’s no reason to doubt that John Elway will address their needs this off season through the draft and free agency. I think they will absolutely find a way to get more production out of their quarterback, whoever it is. I do want to say, under no circumstances should they try and acquire Tony Romo. Yes, Romo is talented. He’s better than every quarterback on that team, but he isn’t a good fit. Putting an injury-prone quarterback, who’s older than 30, behind a suspect offensive line is foolish because they will have to give up substantial defensive assets to acquire Romo.

This team cannot sacrifice their defense to support their offense. Elway and company will do everything possible to put their team in the best position possible. Overall, I think it will be enough to get them back into the playoffs. I believe the Denver Broncos will finish 11-5 and second in the AFC West and enter the 2017 postseason as a Wild Card.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in the Russell Athletic Bowl

There are a lot of prospects in the Russell Athletic Bowl between the Miami Hurricanes and the West Virginia Hurricanes. Miami has a lot of players all over the NFL, but West Virginia has produced some NFL talent as well, including first round pick Karl Joseph. There are plenty of prospects to watch in this game, but these are the most notable:

West Virginia Mountaineers

Rasul Douglas, CB

Projected Draft Range: fourth round-sixth round

Douglas is a big corner back that can match up with a lot of the taller receivers in the NFL. He is a ball hawk with eight interceptions on the season. His speed will be questioned, as many of the bigger corners get questioned. This match-up will present him with a chance to guard a lot of good receivers and go up against a good college quarterback.

Tyler Orlosky, C

Projected Draft Range: third round-fifth round

Russell Athletic Bowl

Tyler Orlosky, (Photo courtesy: hailwv.com)

Orlosky is one of the best centers in the class, the problem is that centers aren’t normally drafted as highly as they should be. He has good size at six feet four inches and 296 pounds. Because the Mountaineers run a system offense, Orlosky will have to show that he knows blitz pick ups and pre-snap recognition. If he can do that, Orlosky may get a chance to start from day one depending on the team that drafts him.

Miami Hurricanes

Brad Kaaya, QB

Projected Draft Range: third round-fifth round

He should probably go back to school for his senior season, but Kaaya will get selected if he decides to enter the draft. Kaaya has shown that he is able to do most things well. One area he can work on is how he handles pressure. Kaaya also isn’t very mobile. With some work he could develop into a nice NFL quarterback.

Stacey Coley, WR

Projected Draft Range: fourth round-sixth round

Coley is one of the fastest players in the class and will have a chance to prove that at the draft combine. That is his main asset. He has shown signs of being able to also be a possession receiver with 12.1 yards per reception. Coley is only 185 pounds so he needs to add some weight to his frame to be a durable NFL receiver.

David Njoku, TE

Projected Draft Range: third round-fifth round

Russell Athletic Bowl

David Njoku (Photo courtesy: zimbio.com)

There are a lot of good tight ends in this class, so Njoku can be a steal for a team later in the draft. He only has 38 receptions on the season, but has made the most of them with 654 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. NJoku is only listed at six feet four inches tall, so he has to measure at least that at the combine to be seen as a viable tight end at the next level.

Rayshawn Jenkins, S

Projected Draft Range: fifth round-seventh round

Jenkins has great size at six foot two inches and 210 pounds. He isn’t afraid of coming up and making tackles and had 14 total tackles against North Carolina. Jenkins only has two interceptions, but has the necessary ball skills with a lot of passes defended. Speed will be a big question with Jenkins.

 

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2016 Rusell Athletic Bowl Preview

The West Virginia Mountaineers had a ten win season and earned the right to play the Miami Hurricanes in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl.

West Virginia Mountaineers

West Virginia only lost to the two schools from Oklahoma in the Big 12 on the season. Both of those schools are playing in great bowl games, so they aren’t bad losses. The Mountaineers have beaten numerous bowl eligible teams including: Kansas State, BYU, TCU and Baylor.

Russell Athletic Bowl

Skyler Howard (Photo courtesy: wikipedia)

Quarterback Skyler Howard wasn’t recruited by a lot of schools, but has made the most of his time at West Virginia. This season he has thrown for 3,194 yards and 26 touchdowns. He has a completion percentage that is mundane at 60% and 10 interceptions thrown, but is for the most part a reliable quarterback.

Shelton Gibson is the big play receiver for the Mountaineers with an average of 23.3 yards per catch and eight receiving touchdowns. Daikel Shorts is the possession receiver with 833 receiving yards and 58 catches. With thirteen receivers with passes caught, the Mountaineers have plenty of play-makers to throw to.

Running back Justin Crawford has a staggering 7.4 yards per rush this season and has 1,168 rushing yards. They have three other rushers with over 400 yards rushing.  Most would think a Dana Holgorsen offense would be more of a passing attack, but West Virginia is really balanced.

The rush defense of the Mountaineers is average, allowing 176 yards per game. The pass defense is the problem for the Mountaineers as they allow 256 yards per game. They need to hope their offense can outscore the other team.

Rasul Douglas has been a ball hawk as a corner with eight interceptions. He will need to help the Mountaineers win the turnover margin to win the game.

Miami Hurricanes

Mark Richt has had a decent first year as the head coach of Miami and finished at 8-4. They lost four in a row in the middle of the season, which included a bad loss to a four win Notre Dame team. The Hurricanes doe have good wins against Appalachian State, Georgia Tech and NC State.

Brad Kaaya has had a tremendous junior season with 3,250 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has done a pretty good job of protecting the football. Kaaya does a lot of things well, but has yet to realize his full potential. Kaaya is a good college quarterback who is capable of getting the Hurricanes a win in this game.

Russell Athletic Bowl

Brad Kaaya (Photo courtesy: miamiherald.com)

Kaaya has three really good targets. Tight end David Njoku is a reliable target that could be drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. Stacy Coley has the most catches (58) and touchdowns (nine) on the team. Ahmmon Richards has 866 receiving yards to help Miami move the chains.

Mark Walton has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. He wasn’t supposed to be the starting running back, but has made the most of his opportunity. Joseph Yearby has added 592 rushing yards on the season.

The rush defense of Miami has been solid, allowing 135 rushing yards per game. Miami is average at pass defense and gives up 220 passing yards per game.

Defensive lineman Joe Jackson has been a force with 7.5 sacks on the season. He will be tasked with getting pressure on Skylar Howard.

Prediction

The balance of the West Virginia offense will keep the Hurricanes on their toes. Howard will have a good final game and be sent off with a victory.

 

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