Tennessee Titans 2017 NFL Draft

Tennessee Titans 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Welcome to day five of TGH Draftmas. Coming up today we have the Tennessee Titans.

Titans Summary

2016 was a year of nearly’s for the team out of Tennessee. Missing out on the playoffs because of a poor divisional record will have left a sour taste in the mouths of Titans fans. Tennessee ranked 30th in pass defense last year, which is simply not good enough for a team with playoff aspirations.

Logan Ryan Tennessee Titans

Logan Ryan during his time at the Patriots. Courtesy of the bostonherald.com

As a result, the Titans have begun to strengthen the defensive backfield during the free agency period. Adding cornerback Logan Ryan from the Patriots and safety Johnathan Cyprien from the Jaguars, have shown an intent to rectify the defensive issues. However, it is still a need that will likely be addressed in the draft.

In addition to Ryan and Cyprien, the Titans have brought in another five players so far during free agency. Other notable pickups include Super Bowl winner Sylvester Williams at nose tackle. The Titans have put a lot of emphasis on defensive and special teams pickups, which could lead to them addressing some of the more pressing offensive needs over the course of the draft.

 

 

Titans Picks and Needs

Tennessee has eight picks in this draft, including two in the first round. This is a perfect chance for them to pick two solid starters that can push them into the playoffs in 2017.

 

First Round:(2) No.5, No.18

Second Round: No picks.

Third Round:(2) No.83, No.100

Fourth Round:(1) No.124

Fifth Round:(1) No.164

Sixth Round:(1) No.214

Seventh Round:(1) No.236

With four picks in the first three rounds, the Titans have an excellent opportunity to add some much-needed depth all over the field. Tennessee’s activity throughout free agency leans towards an offense-minded draft.

With this in mind, these are some of the biggest needs in no particular are.

Offense

Wide Receiver – A No.1 receiver to pair with Marcus Mariota is a must in this draft.

Interior Offensive Lineman

Defense

Safety

Cornerback

Defensive Tackle

Titans Targets and Thoughts

As with all the other Draftmas profiles, we will take a look at the first three rounds and there will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #5: Marhson Lattimore CB, Ohio State

Mashon Lattimore Tennessee Titans Draft

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com

If Lattimore is still available, Tennessee will surely take him. In a stacked class for cornerbacks, Lattimore is certainly one of the best. Last year he recorded 41 tackles, four interceptions and nine passes broken up. With these figures, Lattimore would be a welcome addition to a defense that struggled against the passing game in 2016. If Lattimore goes early, as some predict, Tennessee will likely look to secure either Jamal Adams or Marlon Humphrey.

Pick #18: John Ross WR, Washington

Tennessee have two major needs early in the draft one is depth in the backfield, the other is a strong No.1 receiver and John Ross will provide that. In Marcus Mariota, Tennessee have a strong quarterback who managed to rack up over 3000 passing yards without a standout receiver. Ross has blistering pace, which he showed off at the combine, he is agile and will be perfect as a mismatch receiver.

Third Round:

Pick #83: Adam Shaheen TE, Ashland

Tennessee ran more two tight end sets than anyone in the league during 2016, however they have lost Anthony Fasano in free agency. At 6-6, 278 pounds Shaheen is a freakish athlete. Combine him with Delanie Walker and they could be a pair to be reckoned with. Also with just sheer size, he will likely create mismatches with most defenses.

Pick #100: Duke Riley LB, LSU

At linebacker the Titans have two strong starters, beyond that they do not have much else. Riley will provide them with the depth they require. Finishing 2016 with 93 tackles, 9 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 12 games, Riley looks to be a good option to give the Titans some much needed depth in the linebacker position.

Conclusion

The 2017 draft will be a chance for the Titans to pick up some real talent with four picks in the first three rounds. Falling short in 2017 will not be an option and some strong draft picks will show a signal of intent to the rest of the league.

Thank you for joining us on our fifth day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the New York Jets

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

Draftmas Day 3: Chicago Bears

Draftmas Day 4: Jacksonville Jaguars

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2017 NFL Mock Draft February 27

2017 NFL Mock Draft

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.

2. San Francisco 49ers- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

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. For now, Jonathan Allen would be a great pick. He can play any position on the defensive line and succeed. 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.

3. Chicago Bears- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

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. The Bears will love his big hands because he will have to play late season games in the cold weather at home and at Green Bay.

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.

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- 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. The Jets need secondary help and will likely cut Darrelle Revis due to his his huge cap number. Lattimore could slide right in and start for the Jets.

7. Los Angeles Chargers- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Phillip Rivers deserves the most credit in the league for keeping his team competitive with all of his skill position players hurt and a bad offensive line. Robinson can slide right in and start protecting the aging Rivers and give him more time to make plays. There aren’t many great tackle prospects in this class, so the Chargers may elect to snag one early, regardless of value. Robinson did a solid job pass blocking Myles Garrett in their match-up.

8. Carolina Panthers- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

The Panthers may not have had the season they wanted, but they don’t have too many needs to fill. One position they do need to upgrade is corner after not fairing so well without Josh Norman. 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.

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford

When Cincinnati was at their best, they rushed the passer well. Michael Johnson no longer does that well, so he needs to be upgraded. 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.

10. Buffalo Bills- Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC

I haven’t mocked a quarterback to Buffalo, but it is looking more like they are going to need one with the Tyrod Taylor situation not being resolved. 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.

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

The Saints need defensive help wherever they can get it. Improving the pass rush will be an easy decision if they see Derek Barnett on the board. 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- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Hue Jackson believes in Cody Kessler, so he may not elect to take a quarterback in the first round. They will have a really good draft if they get both Garrett and Foster. Foster was the best player for Alabama in the National Championship Game. He was all over the field and showed great closing speed on ball carriers. In addition to that, he was a very effective when blitzing, knocking down Deshaun Watson plenty of times. He is also good in coverage, which doesn’t leave many holes in his game.

13. Arizona Cardinals- 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 Cardinals need to get another corner across from Patrick Peterson and beside Tyrann Mathieu in order to have a great defense.

14. Indianapolis Colts- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Indianapolis needs defensive help all over. Stopping the pass could be a place to start, as they already have decent players at safety. Jones is the best corner in this class in zone coverage. He needs to work on his man to man coverage, but in the right scheme, should fit in well. Jones does not have great size, but makes up for it with his great coverage.

15. Philadelphia Eagles- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Davis is a premier talent at wide receiver. He is big, at 6 feet 3 inches, but his skills match that of a smaller receiver, making him a unique prospect. Davis knows where to go on broken plays and fights for the football with resiliency. The Eagles need to get a wide receiver for Carson Wentz as a lot of their young receivers have been disappointments.

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

The Ravens need a rushing attack if they want to get back to being a premier team. 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.

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

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

18. Tennessee Titans- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Adams will likely not fall this far, but if he does the Titans will pick him within minutes. Tennessee 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.

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

Hooker is another safety that will not likely make it this far in the round, but the Bucs would love to get him. 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.

20. Denver Broncos- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

The Broncos desperately need tackle help for the upcoming season. They might be able to address the issue in free agency, but in case they can’t, it would be prudent to take one here. Ramczyk is a solid left tackle, who is a good run and pass blocker, who 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.

21. Detroit Lions- Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan

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

22. Miami Dolphins- Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri

Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh hold down half of the Dolphins’ defensive line, but the other half leaves a lot to be desired. 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.

23. New York Giants- 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 Giants never seem to have good linebackers. They filled a lot of their needs last season through free agency, so now they can get a linebacker to anchor their defense.

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

The Raiders’ defense wasn’t good last season. They have to get better to help Derek Carr and the high-powered offense win games. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense and will give the Raiders a lot of flexibility and a good player behind Khalil Mack. He will likely play safety/nickel corner back when he settles in, but he can also help the Raiders at linebacker.

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. 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

Tyreke Hill jump started the Chiefs offense this season, so they may try to open up the offense even more. Ross is a play-maker like Hill, but is more polished as a receiver. He is very speedy and even expects to run in the 4.3 range at the combine.

28. Dallas Cowboys- 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 Cowboys need to get better defensively and Brantley’s ability to push back into the pocket would help a lot.

29. Green Bay Packers- Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

Aaron Rodgers has the offense rolling, so the defense has to get better in order to win the Super Bowl. 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.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers- Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

The Steelers’ linebackers played terribly this season and they need to select another one in the first round this year. Davis is a strong linebacker who is decent in coverage. His willingness to make plays in the running game is something that wasn’t seen too often last season by Steeler linebackers.

31. Atlanta Falcons- Takkarist McKinnley, DE/OLB, UCLA

Atlanta’s offense is amazing, so they can try to improve their defense with this pick. McKinnley is a good edge rusher who had 10 sacks for the Bruins in his senior year. He doesn’t have prototypical size for an edge rusher, but makes up for that with his strength.

32. New England Patriots- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Martellus Bennett is set to hit free agency. Rob Gronkowski is often injured and the Patriots like having multiple tight ends anyways. Bill Bellichick loves Alabama players, so this pick will make sense if Howard falls to the Patriots. 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.

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

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2017 NFL Mock Draft February 16

2017 NFL Mock Draft

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

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

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

San Francisco has a lot of needs, including a new coach. Kizer has the size and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. He has some issues with being consistent with the accuracy of his passes, but for the most part is decent. If he wants to be successful he should work on putting passes in areas for wide receivers to run after the catch.

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

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

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

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

5. Tennessee Titans- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Adams is the most complete safety in the class. He stops the run, covers well and even hits hard. Against Ole Miss he showed he can cover good tight ends when he was matched up against Evan Engram. The Titans need to improve the pass defense if they want to make the playoffs next season, making Adams the pick.

6. New York Jets- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

It is obvious that Matt Forte isn’t the same player that he once was. The Jets need to get a play-maker and although running back isn’t their biggest need, shouldn’t pass on Fournette. Fournette can do everything required as a running back. Their offense can be dynamic with the combination of him and Forte.

7. Los Angeles Chargers- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

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

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

The Panthers may not have had the season they wanted, but they don’t have too many needs to fill. One position they do need to upgrade is corner after not fairing so well without Josh Norman. Lattimore is a shut-down corner, who has good ball skills.

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Solomon Thomas, DE/DT, Stanford

When Cincinnati was at their best, they rushed the passer well. Michael Johnson no longer does that well, so he needs to be upgraded. Thomas is a well rounded defensive end, who is as good at stopping the run as he is rushing the passer.

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

Malik Hooker

The Bills have a lot of uncertainty at safety with Aaron Williams, but Adams could be the pick anyways. Hooker is a ball-hawk who has great coverage skills, but needs to provide more run support.

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

The Saints need defensive help wherever they can get it. Improving the pass rush will be an easy decision if they see Derek Barnett on the board. Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the class and can also help stop the run at an average level.

12. Cleveland Browns- 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.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

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

14. Indianapolis Colts- Adoree Jackson, CB, USC

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

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

Cook and Fournette are really close in terms of who is the better running back. Cook is elusive and quick. He provides a real weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. The Eagles need a running back, and help elsewhere, in order to enhance Carson Wentz’s development.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Quincy Wilson, CB Florida

Quincy Wilson

The Ravens have a lot of options with this pick, but taking a corner will help shut down receivers in the AFC North like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. Wilson is a tall corner, who has good speed. He isn’t the best in run support and is suseptible to pass interference calls.

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

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

18. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

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

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

Secondary play is where the Bucs fall short. Fortunately for them this class has a lot of good secondary players. Tabor has fallen down draft boards, which may have come at the expense of teammate Quincy Wilson’s improved stock. Lock down coverage is Tabor’s best asset, but he also has good ball skills once passes come his way.

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

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

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

Chris Wormley

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

22. Miami Dolphins- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

The Dolphins need to spend some picks on their secondary and their defensive line this year and Jones can compete for a starting job. He is a great cover corner, who grew a lot his last year in college and has the potential to grow even more at the next level

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

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

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

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

25. Houston Texans- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

Davis is a premier talent at wide receiver. He is big, at 6 feet 3 inches, but his skills match that of a smaller receiver, making him a unique prospect. The Chiefs can draft the receivers, but ultimately Alex Smith has to throw it to them to make this pick worthwhile.

28. Dallas Cowboys- John Ross, WR, Washington

John Ross

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

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

Aaron Rodgers will always have the offense rolling, so the defense needs to start getting more stops. The secondary was awful. Conley is one of many talented corners in this class that can have an immediate impact.

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

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

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

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

32. New England Patriots- Caleb Brantley, DE, Florida

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

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

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Franchise Analysis – Carolina Panthers

It’s safe to say the Panthers Super Bowl hangover was real, as 2016 was not kind to this franchise. Coming off their appearance in Super Bowl 50, expectations were higher than ever. How did a team with the defending NFL MVP go from first to worst in their own division?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

With any team, a quarterback will get all of the credit, and all of the blame as well. It looked like Cam Newton finally realizd his potential and established himself as one of the next great quarterbacks. It was evident this season that something wasn’t right with the 2015 NFL MVP.

Overall, this offense finished 15th in points and 19th in yards. That’s a drastic drop off from finishing first and 11th in those respective categories in 2015. Was Cam Newton really to blame for this sharp decline in production? The answer: not entirely.

The 2015 Panthers ran the ball 526 times, which was more than any other team. Next season they only attempted 453 runs, good for seventh in that category. Many factors contributed to this decline. First, Jonathan Stewart missed three games. The Panthers averaged less than 100 yards rushing and three turnovers per game during that stretch.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

Will Cam Newton try to reincorporate running the ball as part of his game for the 2017 season? (Courtesy of; ABC News Radio)

Second, Cam Newton failed to run the ball effectively. At times, he even seemed unwilling to run. Compared to his MVP season, he rushed the ball 42 fewer times and scored five fewer rushing touchdowns. This could be the result of the punishment he continually took this season. It’s smart for Newton to run less, but he’s always been more effective as a threat to run.

In the last two seasons, the Panthers are 14-5 when Newton has at least seven rushing attempts and are 6-2 when Newton runs at least 10 times. Double-digit rushing attempts is probably too much, even for Newton. He has to find a medium between running too much, and not at all. Since his completion percentage has never been above 60 in consecutive seasons, running the ball must be a part of his game.

Third and finally, the Panthers offensive line did not produce to the same level as they did in 2015. Michael Oher, Mike Remmers and Dan France couldn’t stay healthy enough or play well enough to maintain the run game.

Entering 2017, this offense needs to focus on rebuilding their running attack in order to shake off the Panthers Super Bowl hangover.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

If the 2016 Panther’s offense took a step back, then the defense fell off a cliff. This defense finished 26th in points and 21st in yards after being top 10 in those categories a year ago. Specifically, this team could not stop anyone through the air.

In 2016, opponents on average had three less passing attempts against the Panthers per game, but had more success. They gave up 34 more passing yards per game on average. That may not seem like much, but 34 yards equates to three more first downs per game. That impacts field position and scoring.

It’s evident that this unit missed Josh Norman. He’s not the sole reason for this decline. However, when this defense is still top 10 against the run and is decidedly worse against the pass, his absence played a role in contributing to the Panthers Super Bowl hangover.

Apart from inconsistent play from young but talented players, the Panthers’ defensive scheme needs tuning. This defense would routinely ask linebackers and defensive linemen to play an active role in coverage. Using less athletic defenders to cover tight ends and slot receivers should be used sparingly, not featured. If this defense can adjust their scheme to minimize the impact linebackers and defensive linemen have in coverage, they will undoubtedly improve.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

Luke Kuechly’s return in 2017 will no doubt have a positive impact on this lackluster Panthers defense. (Courtesy of; Deadspin)

The Panthers also suffered from one of the most heartbreaking injuries of the season. It was painful to see Luke Kuechly miss the last six games as a result of a concussion. Kuechly is always one of the best linebackers against the run and is incredibly versatile in coverage. The Panthers will no doubt improve with a healthy Luke Keuchly back in the lineup.

What’s incredibly frustrating about this defense is that they finished second in sacks and 10th in third down defense and teams could still pass against them. This team needs more consistent play from all of their players. It’s clear they are capable of top defensive play, but they must become more consistent if they wish to return to the Super Bowl.

 

Divisional Analysis

Unfortunately, the Panthers reside in the NFC South. This division is the best in terms of quarterback play from top to bottom. What other division has a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, two MVP’s, and a rising star all at the quarterback position? Thus, the Panthers have to build their team to combat such players.

The Panthers are already capable of rushing the passer. They must upgrade their secondary to get more consistency against the pass. There are a plethora of good defensive backs in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the eighth overall pick, the Panthers will be able to address this need, should they make it a priority.

With players like Marlon Humphrey, Quincy Wilson, Marshon Lattimore, and Adoree’ Jackson available, the Panthers will have plenty of good options. Because there are so many good defensive backs, they could look to trade back and still be able to select one of these top prospects.

They could also use this pick to address their diminished rushing attack. The Panthers could make a splash and select Leonard Fournette. Infusing a talent like Fournette in this offense could allow the Panthers to return to their 2015 dominance.

The Panthers could also use this opportunity to address their left tackle position. If Cam Robinson is not on the board when the Panthers pick, I don’t see them selecting a tackle. There isn’t a player, besides Robinson, worthy of a top 10 selection at this point.

The point is, the Panthers were dominant when their offense was effective running the football. They were able to keep the opposing teams’ quarterback off the field, and thus limit their impact on the game.

Postseason Prospects

Clearly, the Panthers have certain strengths that give them the potential to be a playoff team. Here are the Panthers’ ranks in the following offensive and defensive metrics that can indicate postseason success.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

It’s nearly impossible for an NFL team to be great in every facet of the game. Often, teams are very good at a few things, and are at least competent at the rest. For Carolina’s offense, they weren’t particularly good at any one part of the game. Yes, they finished top 10 in time of possession. Outside of that metric, they were mediocre in all other categories.

This doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t improve next season. However, the Panthers need to re-establish their identity as a run first team. If they are successful, they will have increased time of possession, third down conversion rate, and allow less sacks.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

While the drop off for the defense was significant, they still show flashes of greatness. Finishing in the top 10 in three of these categories is great. However, they failed to even be average in terms of points and yards allowed. If they could have just been top 20 in both of these statistics, this team would have had a chance to make the playoffs.

Hopefully the Panthers will continue to build upon the defensive success that made them conference champions in 2015.

2017 Predictions

I see improvement in the Panthers future. They will be returning key players who missed time from injury, as well as acquiring new talent through the draft and free agency.

The only question is, will the coaching staff and quarterback be willing to regain their run first mentality? I think the answer is yes. However, with ascending teams like Tampa Bay and Atlanta, the Panthers Super Bowl hangover will remain. I like Carolina to improve to 9-7, but miss the playoffs.

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2017 NFL Mock Draft January 24

2017 NFL Mock Draft

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

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

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

San Francisco has a lot of needs, including a new coach. Kizer has the size and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. He has some issues with being consistent with the accuracy of his passes, but for the most part is decent. If he wants to be successful he should work on putting passes in areas for wide receivers to run after the catch.

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

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

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

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

5. Tennessee Titans- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Adams is the most complete safety in the class. He stops the run, covers well and even hits hard. Against Ole Miss he showed he can cover good tight ends when he was matched up against Evan Engram. The Titans need to improve the pass defense if they want to make the playoffs next season, making Adams the pick.

6. New York Jets- Derek Barnett, DE, Tenessee

The Jets finished the season with just 29 sacks. Their secondary needs improvement, but improving the pass rush will help the secondary. Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the class and can also help stop the run at an average level.

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

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

8. Carolina Panthers- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

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

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

When Cincinnati was at their best, they rushed the passer well. Michael Johnson no longer does that well, so he needs to be upgraded. Thomas is a well rounded defensive end, who is as good at stopping the run as he is rushing the passer.

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

Malik Hooker

The Bills have a lot of uncertainty at safety with Aaron Williams, but Adams could be the pick anyways. Hooker is a ball-hawk who has great coverage skills, but needs to provide more run support.

11. New Orleans Saints- Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama

The Saints need defensive help wherever they can get it. Improving the pass rush will be an easy decision if they see Tim Williams on the board. He has played better against the pass this season too, which will make him more desirable.

12. Cleveland Browns- 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.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

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

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

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

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

Cook and Fournette are really close in terms of who is the better running back. Cook is elusive and quick. He provides a real weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. The Eagles need a running back, and help elsewhere, in order to enhance Carson Wentz’s development.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Quincy Wilson, CB Florida

Quincy Wilson

The Ravens have a lot of options with this pick, but taking a corner will help shut down receivers in the AFC North like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. Wilson is a tall corner, who has good speed. He isn’t the best in run support and is suseptible to pass interference calls.

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

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

18. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

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

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

Secondary play is where the Bucs fall short. Fortunately for them this class has a lot of good secondary players. Lattimore is a shut-down corner, who has good ball skills.

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

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

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

Chris Wormley

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

22. Miami Dolphins- Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

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

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

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

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

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

25. Houston Texans- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davis is a premier talent at wide receiver. He is big, at 6 feet 3 inches, but his skills match that of a smaller receiver, making him a unique prospect. The Chiefs can draft the receivers, but ultimately Alex Smith has to throw it to them to make this pick worthwhile.

31. Dallas Cowboys- John Ross, WR, Washington

John Ross

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

32. New England Patriots- Caleb Brantley, DE, Florida

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

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

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Franchise Analysis – Arizona Cardinals

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

2016 Evaluation – offense

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016 Evaluation – Defense

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

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

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

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

Divisional Evaluation

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

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

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

Post Season Prospects

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

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

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

2017 Predictions

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

 

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2017 NFL Mock Draft January 12

2017 NFL Mock Draft

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

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

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

San Francisco has a lot of needs, including a new coach. Kizer has the size and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. He has some issues with being consistent with the accuracy of his passes, but for the most part is decent. If he wants to be successful he should work on putting passes in areas for wide receivers to run after the catch.

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

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

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

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

5. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

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

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

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

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

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

8. Carolina Panthers- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

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

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

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

10. Buffalo Bills- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

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

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

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

12. Cleveland Browns- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

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

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

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

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

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

15. Philadelphia Eagles- Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22. Miami Dolphins- Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

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

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

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

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

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

25. Houston Texans- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davis is a premier talent at wide receiver. He is big, at 6 feet 3 inches, but his skills match that of a smaller receiver, making him a unique prospect. The Chiefs can draft the receivers, but ultimately Alex Smith has to throw it to them to make this pick worthwhile.

31. Dallas Cowboys- John Ross, WR, Washington

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

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

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

 

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

 

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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 to Watch in the 2016 Peach Bowl

If a team makes it to the College Football Playoff, they more than likely have a lot of guys that are NFL prospects. In the 2016 Peach Bowl, Washington and Alabama have plenty of players who will be playing in the NFL next season. These are the best prospects from this game:

Washington Huskies

Sidney Jones, CB

Projected Draft Range: First round-second round

Jones is a shut down corner for a Huskies’ secondary that has been compared to the Legion of Boom for the Seattle Seahawks. He doesn’t have many balls thrown his way, but he makes plays on them when they do. Jones has average height at six feet tall, but needs to add muscle to his 181 pound frame so he isn’t pushed off of the line of scrimmage.

John Ross, WR

Projected Draft Range: First round-second round

Peach Bowl

John Ross (Photo courtesy: lmtribune.com)

A lot of people have called Ross one of the fastest players in college football. His speed has helped him to create a lot of separation for big plays. He isn’t the biggest at five feet eleven inches tall, but Odell Beckham Jr. is the same height and is effective. He will be able to play on the outside and in the slot.

Budda Baker, S

Projected Draft Range: Second round-fourth round

Baker is a great free safety for the Huskies. His coverage is great and he is decent at coming up and playing the run too, with 8.5 tackles for loss. He has the versatility to play safety or slot corner at the next level. His ball skills aren’t great, but he does have good range for a safety.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Jonathan Allen, DL

Projected Draft Range: Top 10

Allen has so many diverse talents that he can play any position on the defensive line. He has played on a three man front at Alabama as a defensive end. With 8.5 sacks, he is a great pass rusher, that often times gets double teamed. Allen is really good at stopping the run too, making him one of the best prospects in the class.

Cam Robinson, OT

Projected Draft Range: First round

Peach Bowl

Cam Robinson (Photo courtesy: walterfootball.com)

This is a weak offensive tackle class and although Robinson isn’t the greatest prospect ever, he should be one of the first taken. He has good size at six feet six inches tall and 310 pounds and has decent athletic ability. At times he can look stiff on the field and needs to demonstrate better mobility against the pass rush.

Marlon Humphrey, CB

Projected Draft Range: First round

Humphrey should be one of the first corners taken in a very deep draft class at the position. He has good size at six feet one inch and is still growing into his body as a red-shirt sophomore. Humphrey has completely locked down his side of the field. In order to be elite he needs to help stopping the run more.

O.J. Howard, TE

Projected Draft Range: First round-second round

Alabama doesn’t utilize Howard as much as they should. Howard shouldn’t be faulted for his lack of production, as they just don’t throw him the ball often enough. At six feet six inches tall and 251 pounds, Howard already has a good body for the NFL. His athleticism is also good enough for the NFL. Hopefully the team that drafts him knows how to use him.

Tim Williams, DE/OLB

Projected Draft Range: First round-second round

Williams is a great pass rusher with 8.5 sacks this season, making him a great edge rusher prospect. He has gotten better at defending the run, but still needs to work on that. Williams has the necessary size and athleticism to get after the quarterback in the NFL, but has to get better at other facets of his game to stay on the field for all three downs.

 

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2017 NFL Mock Draft December 14

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

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

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

Chip Kelly needs to attempt to find a quarterback to run his system. Kizer has the size and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. He has some issues with being consistent with the accuracy of his passes, but for the most part is decent. If he wants to be successful he should work on putting passes in areas for wide receivers to run after the catch.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory haven’t been great for the Jaguars so they can get a running back who has game-changing capabilities here. Fournette can do everything required as a running back and can really help out the struggling Blake Bortles by providing a running game.

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

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

5. Tennessee Titans (via LA)- Adoree Jackson, CB/WR, USC

Tennessee has two first round picks via the Jared Goff trade and have to use one of those picks on secondary help. Jackson is one of the fastest players in the entire class and almost qualified for the track and field team in the Olympics this summer. He is a shut down corner, who plays like Deion Sanders. The most impressive thing he does is slow down to bait the quarterback into throwing a pass and then speed up to intercept it.

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

Florida has plenty of good defensive players, but Wilson is the one who has risen up draft boards the most. The Jets could use a good corner as theirs are aging. Their defensive line is good so now they need to improve the secondary to make their defense better.

7. Cleveland Browns- Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

Inside linebackers don’t usually get drafted this high, but Foster is that good. The Browns drafted their pass rusher and now can get an inside linebacker. Foster and Garrett can be the start to a decent defense if Hue Jackson is sold on starting Cody Kessler.

8. Carolina Panthers- Jonathan Allen, DT/DE, Alabama

Carolina hasn’t been the same team as last year and that starts in the trenches. Allen is the best prospect available and fills a need. The Panthers would have a dynamic defensive line heading into next season if they could score Allen, leading to another playoff run.

9. New Orleans Saints- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Saints defense gives up 27 points per game and is one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Their offense is great as usual, but if they want to win the division they need to select a corner like Lattimore.

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

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

11. Cincinnati Bengals- Jabrill Peppers, CB/S/LB, Michigan

The Bengals defense has a lot of deficiencies and Peppers can fill in at several different positions. He has been successful at corner and safety for his career and done well at linebacker this season. He could fit in wherever the Bengals feel they have the biggest hole and be productive.

12. Arizona Cardinals- Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

Calais Campbell can’t play forever and at the very least McDowell can play alongside him. McDowell is a great run stopper and often takes up two blockers when opponents try to pass.

13. Indianapolis Colts- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

The Colts defense is an absolute mess, but they really need safeties. Adams is the best one in the class and has proven to come up and play the run well. He has also shown the ability to cover elite college tight ends, which should translate well to his future role in the NFL.

14. Buffalo Bills- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Buffalo has a pretty good pass rush, but it could be better. Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the class and can also help stop the run at an average level.

15. Philadelphia Eagles- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

The secondary play has improved since the departure of Chip Kelly, because they aren’t on the field as much, but they still aren’t great. If the Eagles can nab a corner, their defense could become elite.

16. Houston Texans- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Houston would really like a quarterback after whiffing on Brock Osweiler, but none will fit in this range. They can improve their defense though, as their corners haven’t played great this season. Jones will be an upgrade over the Texans corners from two on down.

17. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Williams is the best red zone threat in college football from the wide receiver position. He is tall and lanky, but athletic to make great catches. Mariota needs a go to receiver to throw to, if they improve their secondary with their first pick.

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

The Ravens haven’t had a good running back since Ray Rice when he was in his prime. Cook is a fast back, who can still run in between the tackles. He will also be a very valuable target for Joe Flacco out of the backfield.

19. Green Bay Packers- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

Cunningham is from Alabama, but wasn’t recruited by the big name schools in the state, so he elected to go to Vanderbilt. He is long and lanky, some say too much for an inside linebacker, but has used that to his advantage. He is a tackle machine who is great at diagnosing plays. He also had a great blocked kick, which was one of the plays of the season.

20. Washington Redskins- Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

With the exception of Josh Norman, the rest of Washington’s secondary has been horrendous. White is a great corner, who also can be dynamic in the kick return game. He is a team leader who was awarded the number 18 for two straight years at LSU, which is given by the former wearers of the number.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri

The Buccaneers defensive line needs to be upgraded. Gerald Mccoy and Noah Spence have played well, but no one else has. Harris can play the opposite end of Spence and provide a good pass rusher and an average run defender.

22. Miami Dolphins- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

Jay Ajayi and Ryan Tannehill brought their games to a new level on their win streak, but the offensive line still isn’t great. The interior of the line is the main issue that will have to be addressed. Nelson is a plug and play guy from Notre Dame who is overshadowed by McGlinchey, but has had an impressive season himself.

23. Denver Broncos- Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida

Jared Crick hasn’t played well this season. Brantley cloggs up running room in the middle of the defense and can make guys like Von Miller even better.

24. Atlanta Falcons Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois

Vic Beasley is killing it this year for the Falcons, but needs a partner in crime. Smoot is a good pass rusher that can develop into a better players in the pros. The year under Lovie Smith at Illinois can’t hurt either.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers- Desmond King, CB, Iowa

There is talk of King having to switch to safety due to his lack of speed, but both positions are needs for the Steelers. King was the defensive back of the year in 2015 and was still productive this season. He has safe hands in the return game and can bust some loose. The Steelers need to stop putting Antonio Brown back for returns, as he is too valuable to get hurt.

26. Seattle Seahawks- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Seattle’s offensive line struggles have been well documented. McGlinchey’s versatility is key for the Seahawks as he has played left tackle, right tackle and could play guard if needed.

27. Detroit Lions- Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan

Wormley isn’t the greatest pass rusher, but has a great motor. He is also above average at stopping the run. His six foot six inch height and 302 pound weight will be something that NFL teams covet. The Lions’ defensive line needs some consistent production like Wormley will provide.

28. New York Giants- Carroll Phillips, DE/OLB, Illinois

The Giants’ defensive line stepped up in the Dallas game, but for now they still need help there. Phillips can be another pass rusher that can at the very least come in on third downs and help out.

29. Oakland Raiders- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Clive Walford is ok, but the position could be upgraded to provide an even more dynamic offense. O.J. Howard is under utilized at Alabama, but Derek Carr will use him to make a good offense great.

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

There may not be a faster player in college football than John Ross. The Chiefs’ offense looked a lot better with Alex Smith actually throwing the ball downfield.

31. New England Patriots- Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M

Watts is good in coverage and can also hit hard on occasion. The Patriots need to get Patrick Chung out of the lineup, as he has really struggled.

32. Dallas Cowboys- Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama

The Cowboys need defensive line help yet again and can go for Williams, who was a pass rush specialist last year, but has improved against the run this year.

 

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

 

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