NFL Draft Quarterback

Contenders Who Should Take a Quarterback Early in the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is upon us. More so than any other year in recent memory, there is a wide range of opinions on the quarterback class.

Whether it is the small sample size of Mitchell Trubisky, the turnovers of Deshaun Watson, the college system that Patrick Mahomes played in or something else with another prospect, they all seem to have at least one thing that makes them very risky propositions in the NFL.

There isn’t a true first-round prospect at quarterback in this draft. Moreover, there is not a rookie that will be ready to play from day one. However, we all know how important the quarterback position is and how desperate teams like the Jets and Browns are for a good one.

So, these rookies will probably get drafted earlier than their talents merit and inherit bad situations where they are set up to fail.

In a perfect world, the ideal scenario would be for the youngsters to sit and learn behind a veteran quarterback on a contending team for a year or two. However, the NFL landscape has changed so much in recent years when it comes to quarterbacks.

Contending teams do not have high enough draft picks to get their hands on a coveted quarterback. If that is not true, many teams are simply afraid of wasting a draft pick on a signal caller who will not play right away.

With the stage set, here are three teams who should (but probably will not) take quarterback early in the draft.

Alex Smith Andy Reid

Photo: CBS Sports

Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith is a fine quarterback. However, last year proved once again that there is a ceiling as to how far Kansas City can go with him taking snaps. With a rock solid defense and the emergence of Tyreek Hill at wide receiver, Kansas City does not have a ton of needs.

Thus, snagging whoever the organization feels is the best available quarterback with pick number 27 would make sense. The Chiefs can remain competitive with Smith while grooming his replacement.

In an astonishing statistic, the last quarterback the Chiefs drafted to start and win a game for the franchise was Todd Blackledge in 1987. It is time to draft and develop a young quarterback.

New York Giants

Despite an uneven career, Eli Manning has given the Giants two Super Bowl titles, but he is 36 now. The organization has spoken openly about the need to find his successor. Free agent signing Geno Smith appears to be getting the latest crack at that gig and the Giants are clearly in win now mode. Even so, finding a way to snag a raw talent like Deshone Kizer wouldn’t hurt.

With the improvement of the defense last year and the addition of Brandon Marshall on offense, the Giants can afford such a move. The ownership of the Mara family always ensures this franchise has its act together. Any young quarterback has every chance to eventually thrive.

Arizona Cardinals

deshone kizer

Photo: Scout.com

Like the other two teams, Arizona has enough talent on the roster to win now. However, at 37 and with two major knee injuries under his belt, Carson Palmer is on his last leg.

Bruce Arians has rightly earned a reputation as one of the best quarterback coaches in the business. Patrick Mahomes would be an interesting project for him to work with.

While rumors of these teams addressing their long term quarterback needs are increasing, they are more likely to address short term needs that will get them from good to great. If I am a quarterback prospect, I would give up my non-throwing arm to go to one of these situations as opposed to one like the Jets, Browns or 49ers.

 

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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 – New Orleans Saints

For almost half the teams in the NFL, they are approaching 2017 with one question: do we have a championship caliber quarterback? Thankfully, the New Orleans Saints don’t have to answer that question. But how does a team with Drew Brees and Sean Payton go three years without making the playoffs?

As both are nearing the end of their tenure in New Orleans, what needs to happen in 2017 to have Saints fans celebrating next February?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

There’s not much to say. When Sean Payton calls the plays and Drew Brees is the field general, this offense will always be prolific. This offense finished second in points and first in yards in 2016. Brees and company finished first in passing yards and second in passing attempts. This team also took an important step for its rushing attack this season.

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees and Sean Payton are a historically great duo, but will it translate into a playoff birth in 2017? (Courtesy of: Sporting News)

Since 2013, the Saints have made a concerted effort to run the ball on first down. Since 2013, while they only attempted 87 rushes on first down, they have run the ball on first down at least 98 times. Sean Payton is trying to put this offense in the best position possible and is not falling in love with throwing the football.

The Saints routinely finish as one of the most efficient third down offenses and have gotten better when they run the ball more on first down. Since 2013, the Saints third down conversion rate is above 48 percent.

What the Saints are doing is incredibly effective and should be continued, especially as Drew Brees continues to age. However, this unit is not without flaws.

You’ll find play makers all over this offense except at one position: tight end. No matter who was playing, the production was still poor. Using Pro Football Focus player ratings, every Saints tight end was more effective as a pass blocker than they were a receiver.

While these ratings don’t tell the whole truth, it’s clear that Coby Fleener struggled this season. To be fair, it was his first season in Payton’s offense. This position could absolutely use in upgrade via the 2017 NFL Draft if Fleener continues to be incompetent.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

You could answer my initial question with one word, defense. Perennially weak defense is why this team continues to miss the playoffs and 2016 was no different.

New Orleans Saints

Delvin Breaux will look to bounce back in 2017 after missing 8 games this year. (Courtesy of: Alchetron)

The Saints defense finished 31st in points and 27th in yards. Specifically, this unit was horrible against the pass. What’s really troubling was the fact that this defense gave up the most passing yards on the 19th most attempts. This means that offenses, even if they were marginal, were incredibly efficient against this defense through the air.

What makes a team operate more efficiently? In the passing game, it happens when quarterbacks have more time than usual to make decisions and throw. The Saints lacked a consistent pass rush all season as they finished 27th in the NFL with 30 sacks. Cameron Jordan is a great player, but he alone is not enough.

They could also look to upgrade the linebacker position given how much they blitz. However, if you’re blitzing more than 40 percent of the time and still can’t apply pressure, a scheme change may be necessary. While either option could be effective, the best decision is likely a combination of the two.

Of course, there is also the option to upgrade players in the secondary. I don’t think this is as pressing as establishing a pass rush. Delvin Breaux, apart from having a great last name, is a talented player who struggled. He missed half the season, so it’s reasonable to think missing that many snaps would impact his performance. Breaux, along with Sterling Moore and potentially a talented free agent or rookie, could take this defense out of incompetency.

Divisional Analysis

I still maintain that this is the best division in football in terms of quarterback play. To combat these great quarterbacks, you have to keep them off the field and apply pressure. Offensively, the Saints are phenomenal. Aside from adding depth at a few positions and upgrading others, they don’t have pressing needs.

On defense, the Saints will have plenty of opportunities to accumulate talent. Secondary players like Marshon Lattimore, Adoree Jackson and Malik Hooker could absolutely improve this pass defense. There are also great free agents like A.J. Bouye and Trumaine Johnson available at the corner position that the Saints could target.

On the other hand, they could go a different route and address their weak pass rush. Derek Barnett seems like the right decision at the number eleven slot if he’s available. There are other defensive options like Reuben Foster, Solomon Thomas and Taco Charlton, but they may not be right in their scheme or warrant selection at the Saints position.

I know I claimed the offense doesn’t need to be a focus of the offseason, but, there’s always the idea of finding an eventual successor to Brees. I’m not saying spend a first-round pick on Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky, if they are even available. I am saying that the sooner the Saints plan for the future, the smoother the transition will be.

Postseason Prospects

While there are seemingly endless amounts of stats to comb through, some are more important than others. Here is where the Saints stack up in the following offensive and defensive categories.

New Orleans Saints

As we’ve outlined, the Saints offense is incredibly productive. It’s almost unprecedented to have an offense finish in the top six in every category and not make the playoffs. If the defense is able to improve in 2017, it is likely that their yards per attempt will decrease because they won’t be playing in as many shootouts.

New Orleans Saints

Conversely, the Saints defense needs to improve in every category. Thankfully, they don’t need to be top five or even top ten in every category to make the postseason. They just have to stop being totally inept. If the Saints are able to apply more pressure to opposing quarterbacks in 2017, look for improvements in sacks, third down percentage and turnovers.

2017 Prediction

While they have major defensive flaws, the Saints are prime to break their playoff drought. In 2016, the Saints lost four games by three points or less and another game by five points. If they won two of those five games against the right teams, they could have made the playoffs. I believe the Saints will find a way to win those close games in 2017 and make the playoffs as a Wild Card team at 10-6.

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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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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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NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in the 2016 Sun Bowl

Christian McCaffrey isn’t playing in this game, which will hurt his draft stock, but there are a lot of other good prospects to watch in the Sun Bowl. The possible first player taken in the draft, his favorite target and the man who will try to stop them. Here are the best prospects from this game:

Stanford Cardinal

Solomon Thomas, DE

Projected Draft Range: Second round-fourth round

Sun Bowl

Solomon Thomas (Photo courtesy: Twitter)

Thomas is just a junior, but has played so well that he should leave early for the NFL draft. His greatest asset is stopping the run. He is decent at rushing the passer too, with seven sacks on the year. Thomas is versatile enough to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme at the NFL level at six foot three inches and 273 pounds.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Mitch Trubisky, QB

Projected Draft Range: First Round

Scouts are tabbing Trubisky as the possible first quarterback taken in the draft. Trubisky has great size at six foot three and 220 pounds. He has thrown for 3,468 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions. His ability to protect the football is great, as two of his interceptions this year came in a hurricane. His completion percentage is high at 69%, but that is mostly due to a lot of screen passes. Trubisky also has decent mobility to use if needed. He is the main prospect to watch in this game.

Ryan Switzer, WR

Projected Draft Range: Fifth round-seventh round

Sun Bowl

Ryan Switzer (Photo courtesy: jimrome.com)

Switzer has the makings of a good slot receiver at the next level. At five feet ten inches and 185 pounds, Switzer uses his quickness to get separation. He is explosive once he has the ball in his hands and he hardly ever drops the ball. His added value comes in the return game where he can be lethal. A team that drafts him on the third day of the NFL Draft will at the very least get a dynamic special teams player.

 

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2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl Preview

North Carolina is playing Stanford in an intriguing match-up in the 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

Stanford Cardinal

The Cardinal started off the season well, faltered in the middle, then finished strong. They only lost to very good teams on the season. Stanford only beat two bowl eligible teams in USC and Kansas State.

The quarterback position has been a huge problem for the Cardinal this season. Keller Chryst took over and didn’t lose a game he started, but also didn’t beat any bowl eligible teams. He has only thrown for 837 yards and nine touchdowns, with just two interceptions. He adds the ability to run too, with 145 yards.

Sun Bowl

Bryce Love (Photo courtesy: thesportsfanjournal)

Chryst has a few receivers who he can go to in this game. Michael Rector has been doing it for the Cardinal for years, but has just 355 yards on the season. Trenton Irwin leads the team in receiving yards with 437. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside leads the team with five receiving touchdowns.

Christian McCaffery has elected to not play in this game to protect his NFL draft stock, so the rushing load will fall on Bryce Love. Love has 664 yards on the season and is averaging a whopping 7.4 yards per carry. Love will give fans a look into next season in this game.

Stanford allows 147 yards per game on the ground, which is pretty good. The pass defense is above average giving up 219 yards per game.

Harrison Phillips has had a tremendous season with 7.5 sacks and will be tasked with getting after UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

North Carolina Tar heels

North Carolina finished the season at a respectable 8-4 record. What wasn’t respectable was the bad loss they suffered to their rival, Duke. That was their only bad loss on the season. They did, however, beat Pittsburgh, Florida State, Miami and Georgia Tech for some solid wins.

Sun Bowl

Mitch Trubisky (Photo courtesy: sportingnews.com)

Mitch Trubisky might be the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft after just one season as a starting quarterback. He has a seven to one touchdown to interception ration with 28 touchdowns and four interceptions. Trubisky finished the regular season with 3,468 passing yards.

Ryan Switzer has 91 catches on the season, with a chance to get to 100 in this game. With 1,027 yards, he is a master of racking up yards after the catch. Bug Howard is a player that Trubisky likes to throw down the field to and he two have connected for 768 yards and seven touchdowns.

Running backs Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan both get carries for the Tar Heels. Hood is at 5.9 yards per carry, while Logan is at 5.7 yards per game. Hood has 858 yards and eight touchdowns. Logan has 578 yards and seven touchdowns.

The run defense is horrible for UNC with 236 yards allowed per game. Fortunately the pass defense is among the best in the country, giving up 183 yards per game.

Linebacker Cole Holcomb has stood out with 60 solo tackles on the season.

Prediction

Without McCaffrey, Stanford will still be able to move the ball, but won’t be able to score enough to keep up with North Carolina. Trubisky will find Switzer and Howard often for big plays and Stanford won’t be able to catch up.

 

North Carolina Tar Heels 41 Stanford Cardinal 29

 

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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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2017 NFL Mock Draft December 9

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

Hue Jackson loves Cody Kessler, and now RGIII is in the mix to start for the Browns. It would be a mistake to take a quarterback here, but I wouldn’t put it past Cleveland to make that mistake. If Jackson is able to have a say in who is drafted, Garrett will be the pick. Garrett is a freak athlete, who is a great pass rusher, but is also good at stopping the run. He is the best player in the draft class and can help the Browns get a defense to help their young offense.

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

No quarterbacks are worthy of being taken in the first round, but their values always rise on draft day. Kizer has all of the physical tools to be a franchise quarterback with a strong arm and good build. He misses some easy throws that he should make, which means accuracy is an issue. The 49ers need a quarterback to replace Collin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, as neither have been good this season.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

The Jaguars’ defensive line has been terrible. A lot of people thought that Jacksonville would be a surprise team this season, but you can’t win games if you aren’t good in the trenches. Allen is a good pass rusher and play-maker for the Alabama defense, as he has scored touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

4. Chicago Bears- Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC

Matt Barkley has been playing well, but the Bears will still want to go in a new direction. Trubisky only has one season of college football experience under his belt, but he has played well for the Tar Heels. His main asset is protecting the football, with only four interceptions thrown on the year, two thrown during a hurricane and two against rival Duke.

5. New York Jets- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Humphrey is only a sophomore, but has proven he is a reliable shut-down corner. He only has two interceptions on the season, which is a result of other teams not testing him too often. His length will be something that NFL scouts will like. The Jets need to upgrade their secondary, as they are getting torched far too often.

6. Tennessee Titans (Via LA)- Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

The Titans have a lot of needs, but luckily have two first round picks to fill those. Their linebacker core hasn’t gotten the job done this season. While inside linebackers don’t typically go this high, Foster might be the best linebacker that Alabama has produced under Nick Saban.

7. Carolina Panthers- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Secondaries that need upgrading is a problem that a lot of teams have. The Panthers could use a corner or a safety here. Adams can cover tight ends and play the run well, making him the most desirable safety in this draft class.

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

Peppers is a highly sought after player due to his versatility on defense. He was an elite defensive back, before moving to linebacker this season. His ball skills are his only true weakness, as he doesn’t have many passes defended and only one interception in his career. The Bengals have been terrible on defense all season and could use a versatile player like Peppers.

9. New Orleans Saints- Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

New Orleans’ defense isn’t playing as badly as they did to start the season, but they still aren’t an acceptable NFL defense. Jalen Tabor was supposed to be the first corner taken out of Florida, but Wilson has quietly had a great season across the field from him.

10. Cleveland Browns (via PHI)- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette will likely not drop this far, but running backs aren’t usually taken in the top ten, so maybe the Browns can get lucky for once. Cleveland already got their pass rusher in Garrett and now can take Fournette to help out Kessler and the rest of the Browns’ offense. Fournette has all the tools to be an elite NFL running back.

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

What Phillip Rivers has done with the Chargers this season is nothing short of amazing. He has a coach that isn’t great, an offensive line that is below average at best and not many weapons to throw to. The first thing the Chargers should do is get him some more help on the offensive line. Robinson will need to grow into it, but can be an effective starting tackle in the league.

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

Calias Campbell can’t play forever and is soon to be a free agent. The Cardinals should take a replacement here. McDowell is great at taking on double teams and stopping the run, but won’t ever record many sacks.

13. Indianapolis Colts- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Colts defense needs to be upgraded as a whole, and they can take the best player available. Lattimore is a ball-hawk at corner with four interceptions on the season.

14. Houston Texans- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Brock Osweiler has been a problem, but there are no quarterbacks worth taking here. The right side of the offensive line needs to be upgraded and McGlinchey will probably wind up at right tackle or guard for his pro career.

15. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

It isn’t a secret that Marcus Mariota needs more weapons. Williams provides a tall receiver who will be a great red zone threat for the Titans.

16. Buffalo Bills- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

The biggest surprise of this season may be how good Washington’s secondary has played. The Bills’ corners haven’t played well this season, but at the very least Jones can provide some good depth.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (via Min)- Adoree Jackson, CB, USC

Jackson is one of the best play-makers in the class. He plays both sides of the ball and returns kicks for the Trojans. His best skill is his speed. Jackson almost qualified for the Olympics in track, but came up just short. People watching Jackson play will be reminded of Deion Sanders with the way Jackson baits quarterbacks into throwing to receivers, before speeding up and intercepting the pass.

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

The running game has been a huge issue for the Packers. Cook is a first round talent, who can be a great receiving threat out of the backfield for Aaron Rodgers.

19. Washington Redskins- Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Hooker plays like Ed Reed. He follows the quarterback’s eyes very well and then makes a play on the ball. He may return to school, but if he comes out, he can start for the Redskins from day one.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

The Buccaneers drafted Noah Spence last year, who is having a solid rookie season. Williams Gholston is not playing well on the other side of the line. Barnett has had his best pass-rushing year at Tennessee of his career with 16 sacks. He is also able to stop the run at an average level for prospects.

21. Miami Dolphins- Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Miami’s offensive line hasn’t played well, despite Jay Ajayi and Ryan Tannehill heating up. Drafting Nelson will give the Dolphins options. They can move Laremy Tunsil back to tackle or just use Nelson to replace Jermon Bushrod, who has struggled this year.

22. Baltimore Ravens- Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

Some scouts believe that Tabor is better than Vernon Hargreaves III, who was drafted number eleventh overall last season, which shows how loaded this year’s class is at corner. Tabor’s ball skills will be questioned because he didn’t have an interception for the second half of the season, but for the most part he shuts down opposing receivers.

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

Pittsburgh is known for having great pass rushers, but they are right in the middle of the pack as a team for sacks. The Steelers drafted secondary help in last year’s draft and now can select  a pass rusher to supplement them.

24. Atlanta Falcons- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

There aren’t many better stories in college football than Cunningham. He grew up in Alabama, but was shunned by both Alabama and Auburn and elected to go to Vanderbilt. He is great at diagnosing plays and making great plays for his team. The Falcons need a lot of defensive help and can start by getting a great linebacker in Cunningham.

25. Detroit Lions- Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama

The Lions’ edge rushers haven’t played well this season. They rank near the bottom in sacks in the league and need to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Williams may not be an every down player in the NFL, but can rush the passer really well, helping out on third downs.

26. New York Giants- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Howard is under-utilized at Alabama, but is a good target and decent blocker. The Giants could use a good tight end to take some of the coverage off of Odell Beckham Jr.

27. Denver Broncos- Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida

Jared Crick hasn’t played well this season and if the Broncos want to keep up the elite defense they have, they will need to fill holes like this. Brantley is a good run stopper for Florida, making him a perfect fit for the Broncos defense.

28. Seattle Seahawks- Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple

There aren’t really any offensive linemen in range here, but the Seahawks are desperate. Dawkins may take some work, but could be an upgrade on a bad offensive line.

29. Kansas City Chiefs- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

The Chiefs offense is really opening up now with the emergence of Tyreek Hill. Smith-Schuster has had a disappointing season, but is talented nonetheless. If Kansas City wants to make their offense even more dynamic they can take Smith-Schuster here.

30. Oakland Raiders- Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Oakland’s corners are overpaid for the amount of their production. They need to continue to improve their defense to become an elite NFL team.

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

This season the Patriots have some glaring weaknesses. One of those is the front seven on defense. They need to start drafting players for depth purposes at the very least.

32. Dallas Cowboys- John Ross, WR, Washington

Ross is one of the fastest players in college football and makes explosive plays for the Huskies. The Cowboys’ defense can use some work, but Ross can be a great number two receiver behind Dez Bryant, making Dallas’ offense even better.

 

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

 

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