Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: guards and centers

The interior of the offensive line is not usually a position that is highly sought after in the NFL Draft. In the 2017 NFL Draft Forrest Lamp may have been the best lineman in the class, but he didn’t get drafted until the second round. These are still valuable players and will get some attention this season, even if it isn’t all the attention they deserve. Here are the best interior offensive linemen for the 2018 NFL Draft, as the college football season approaches:

Mason Cole, Michigan

Mason Cole NFL

Mason Cole (Photo by: mlive.com)

Cole is one of the few linemen in this class who has the capability to play both tackle and center. His best NFL position is center, so he moved there permanently in 2016. He has good size at 6’5″ and 305 pounds.

While he has played solidly, another year of good tape is needed to be the best interior lineman in this class. Getting better at pass protections would be a nice bonus heading into this season.

The Wolverines will go up against some good teams in 2017 that should give Cole the opportunity to prove why he should be the first center selected in the draft. Michigan plays Florida, Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State this season.

Will Clapp, LSU

LSU had a few good interior offensive linemen last season, but Clapp is the best one remaining. He can play both guard and center and likely will play the latter this season.

He is 6’5″ and 309 pounds, giving him decent size. Staying healthy will be a key for Clapp, as he has had some shoulder issues in the past. Clapp is good at both pass and run blocking and needs to continue to show that this season.

The Tigers will have a tough schedule as always in the SEC West. They have tough games against BYU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame

Nelson is another good offensive line prospect out of Notre Dame and would have been one of the first interior offensive linemen off the board. Nelson has great size at 6’5″ and 325 pounds.

He has the necessary athleticism to pass block in the NFL, but has been more of a run blocker at the college level. He has started for the past two seasons and helped get the Notre Dame run game going.

Notre Dame has some good teams on the schedule this year and they play Georgia, Michigan State, USC, North Carolina, NC State, Stanford and Miami.

Billy Price, Ohio State

Billy Price NFL

Billy Price (Photo by: landof10.com)

A lot of the interior linemen have good experience, and Price does as well. He has started since 2014 and really helped Ezekiel Elliot emerge as a top running back.

He is 6’4″ and 315 pounds, which is solid for a guard. He has the experience and the run blocking down, but needs to improve his pass blocking in his last season of college football.

Ohio State plays Oklahoma, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan. Price will have his hands full with a reloaded Michigan offensive line, but he has played well against them in the past. With a good season he could go in the top two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: offensive tackles

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

Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

Orlando Brown NFL

Orlando Brown (Photo by: zimbio.com)

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

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

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

Mitch Hyatt, Clemson

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

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

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

Martez Ivey, Florida

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

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

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

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

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

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

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

Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State

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

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

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

Connor Williams, Texas

Connor Williams (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

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

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

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

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: tight ends

As of now, there aren’t many great tight end prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. A lot of prospects will be looking to weed themselves out from the rest of the pack this season and get drafted early. Here are the top prospects heading into the 2017 college football season:

Troy Fumagalli, Wisonsin

Fumagalli has been a step above anyone else in this tight end class so far and is the favorite to be the first one taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has great measurables at 6’6″ and 248 pounds.

In 2016, Fumagalli capped off a solid season with an outstanding performance in the Cotton Bowl. His performance against Western Michigan in that game had plenty of highlight catches. He finished the season with 580 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but those are impressive numbers considering the type of offense Wisconsin runs and the lack of great quarterback play he had.

Paul Chryst has mentioned that Fumagali has developed as a blocker, but he still needs to improve if he wants to be a good all-round prospect for NFL Teams to draft.

Wisconsin will play a few teams that give Fumagalli a chance to against good competition. The Badgers play BYU, Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota.

DeAndre Goolsby, Florida

DeAndre Goolsby NFL

DeAndre Goolsby (Photo by: gatorcountry.com)

In the 2014 recruiting class, Goolsby was just a three star recruit, but has flashed good receiving potential and moved his way up the tight end ranks. He is a bit smaller than Fumagalli at 6’4″ and 244 pounds, but could end up being a better receiving threat.

Goolsby doesn’t have great numbers, but the quarterback play at Florida has been atrocious. He still has managed to put up 619 receiving yards and four touchdowns the last two years. His best game of last season came in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama, where he finished with 91 yards receiving and a touchdown on seven catches. Because quarterback play is so bad, he has to make the most of every catch-able throw that comes his way this season.

Like Fumagalli, and most tight ends coming out of college, Goolsby has to become a better blocker. If he wants his stock to improve he needs to produce more, even with poor quarterback play.

Florida plays some good defenses this season. Goolsby will have a chance to show off his talent against Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida State.

Cam Serigne, Wake Forest

Cam Serigne NFL

Cam Serigne (Photo by: zimbio.com)

A lot of casual fans won’t know who Serigne is because he plays for Wake Forest, but he can play. He doesn’t have great height at 6’3″, but does create separation and produces.

Over his first three years at Wake Forest Serigne has totaled 1,519 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He too has to put up with sub-par quarterback play, making his stats more impressive. In the bowl game against Temple, Serigne had three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. That was the best performance of the year for the junior tight end.

Over seasons Serigne has solid stats, but he does need to be more consistent. He also needs to prove he can block despite likely having shorter arms than most tight ends in the class.

Serigne will be on the big stage for scouts when the Demon Deacons play Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and Notre Dame this season.

 

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2018 NFL Mock Draft May 6

The 2017 NFL draft has just concluded, but it is never too early to look to next year. Draft picks are ordered by Super Bowl Odds.

1. San Francisco 49ers- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Brian Hoyer isn’t the long term answer for the 49ers and they reached on C.J. Beathard in the 2017 NFL Draft. Allen may be from a small school, but he has legitimate talent. He has the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 222 pounds. Allen will have to prove himself in his big games against Iowa, Oregon and Boise State in the 2017 season.

2. Cleveland Browns- Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Joe Haden is aging and the Browns did a great job of addressing the rest of their defense in the 2017 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick has started since his freshman season and is a very versatile defensive back.

3. Los Angeles Rams- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

If Jared Goff is going to be the long term quarterback, he needs more weapons. Ridley is a good option with 1,814 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in two years at Alabama. He can be a good outside receiver for the Rams, which is not something they currently have.

4. New York Jets- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold needs to improve his mechanics and have a strong second season as USC’s starting quarterback. If he does so, he will be a first rounder with no doubts. The Jets need to get a franchise signal caller and so far, this looks like a good quarterback class coming in.

5. Chicago Bears- Derwin James, S, Florida State

Derwin James NFL

Derwin James (Photo by: si.com)

Quintin Demps has had just one good season as a pro and that shouldn’t be expected to continue. James is an elite athlete at defensive back and will likely go in the top ten in the 2018 NFL Draft if he can stay healthy.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The USC-UCLA game will feature two great quarterbacks. Rosen has been a phenom since his freshman year at UCLA, but last year got his throwing shoulder hurt and even had some nerve damage. He needs to stay healthy and if he is able to, is capable of being the first quarterback selected. If the Jaguars are picking this high, Blake Bortles is out as the starting quarterback.

7. Buffalo Bills- Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Wilkins is overlooked because of how many talented players were on Clemson last season, but with a lot of them gone, it is his time to shine. The Bills need to address the defensive line early in this draft. Two first round picks gives them some versatility in this draft.

8. Los Angeles Chargers- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

The Chargers doubled up on guards in the 2017 NFL Draft, but the tackles could be improved to protect the aging Phillip Rivers. McGlinchey would have gone first round in 2017, but elected to go back to school for one more year.

9. Detroit Lions- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk might end up being the best receiver in this class, but will likely see his stock slide if he doesn’t produce this season with a new quarterback. He is a little shorter than most teams like at 5’11”, but can play on the outside and be a difference maker. The Lions need to upgrade their receiving corps to give Matthew Stafford some more weapons.

10. New Orleans Saints- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

One thing that the Saints didn’t address in the 2017 NFL Draft was a pass rusher who could play opposite Cameron Jordan. Key is a great speed rusher, who elected to go back to school for another season. The Saints would love if they fell to them so they could get after Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan more often.

11. Washington Redskins- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Mason Rudolph NFL

Mason Rudolph (Photo by: ncaa.com)

The Washington front office doesn’t have a good relationship with Kirk Cousins. He will likely leave after the season due to being franchise tagged the last two seasons. Rudolph is another quarterback who has great size at 6’5″ and 235 pounds. He only threw four interceptions last season, which shows how well he protects the ball.

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

Interior offensive linemen usually don’t go this high, but Nelson would’ve been a first rounder in the 2017 draft had he come out. The Dolphins were able to address a lot of their needs this offseason, but they still need to get a guard because they are moving Laremy Tunsil out to tackle.

13. Cincinnati Bengals- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Cincinnati addressed all of their skill positions in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, but their offensive line is not good. Williams has a lot of experience at Texas and should upgrade the offensive line instantly.

14. Philadelphia Eagles- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley helped lead Penn State to a Big Ten Championship last year and was their best offensive player. He does a little bit of everything well and will be one of the first running backs off of the board. The Eagles drafted Donnell Pumphrey, but he isn’t an every down back in the NFL.

15. Tennessee Titans- Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

The Titans don’t have too many needs, but can improve the pass rush. He was a monster for the Boston College defense last year, finishing with 16.5 sacks. There were only two games were he didn’t register a sack, which bodes well for his NFL future.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

Donovan Smith hasn’t gotten his career off to a great start, meaning if he struggles again he will be replaced. Protecting Winston’s blindside has to be the number one priority for the Bucs.

17. Baltimore Ravens- Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

The Ravens haven’t had an effective running back in years. Guice showed flashes of what he could do when Leonard Fournette sat out with injury last season. He should have a breakout year for LSU.

18. Carolina Panthers- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Panthers continue to not address the offensive line well. They need to clear some holes for McCaffrey and protect Cam Newton. Brown is a big prospect, who is another good tackle prospect in this draft class.

19. Arizona Cardinals- Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

Luke Falk NFL

Luke Falk (Photo by: seattletimes.com)

This year’s quarterback class is going to be loaded, if everything happens the way most think it will. That paired with the fact that there are a lot of aging quarterbacks and as usual teams that are bad and need new ones, A lot might go in the first found in the 2018 NFL Draft. Falk is a system quarterback, but Patrick Mahommes overcame that to be the second quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. He will need to have an impressive senior season where he shows he can read defenses to maintain his spot in the first round.

20. Minnesota Vikings- Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah

The Shariff Floyd injury complicates things for the Vikings. Lotulelei is a big physical defensive tackle that can really plug up the running lanes.

21. Indianapolis Colts- Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Jefferson has all the potential in the world and it should all come together for him this season for Texas. The Colts have started to revamp their defense, but it still needs a lot more work.

22. Buffalo Bills (via KC)- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Sutton was a fringe first rounder had he come out this year and will likely be one of the best wide receivers coming out next season. With Sammy Watkins possibly leaving in free agency, Sutton can be paired with current rookie Zay Jones.

23. New York Giants- Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

The Giants didn’t draft a tackle and now will need to get one next year. Fortunately for them, as it now stands, there are a lot of good tackles in this draft class.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers- Troy Fumagali, TE, Wisconsin

Troy Fumagali NFL

Troy Fumagali (Photo by: WXYZ.com)

If Jesse James doesn’t step up, the Steelers will need a new tight end. Fumagali made some incredible grabs in the Cotton Bowl and with a good season, will move himself into first round consideration.

25. Denver Broncos- Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Jamal Charles was just signed, but that isn’t a long term solution. Chubb could be the selection if the Broncos lose faith in Devontae Booker. He has some injuries, but when healthy Chubb is  a great running back.

26. Oakland Raiders- Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama

Hand has been burried on the depth chart at Alabama, but will get his chance this season. The Raiders have a terrible defensive line and need to start addressing it.

27. Cleveland Browns (via Hou)- Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

Whitehead can play a variety of positions in the secondary and can fit in next to Jabrill Peppers. The Browns’ luxury of a lot of picks, gives them a lot of options.

28. Atlanta Falcons- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

The Falcons need to get some players on the interior of the defensive line. Payne, like Hand, will get his chance to shine this season.

29. Seattle Seahawks- Martez Ivey, OL, Florida

Ivey could play guard or center for the Seahawks, but they need offensive line help so badly, it doesn’t matter. Protecting Russell Wilson hasn’t been a concern in the past for Seattle (even though it should have been), but it should be going into the future.

30. Green Bay Packers- Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

McFadden is a lengthy corner that can help the Packers stop the pass. They addressed the secondary this offseason, but if it doesn’t improve, they will target more secondary help.

31. Dallas Cowboys- Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

Hubbard got to start in Joey Bosa’s place when Bosa was suspended, but made a name for himself. After a few more years of good play, he could go in round one. Dallas picked Taco Charlton in the first round in the 2017 NFL Draft, but could still use pass rushing help.

32. New England Patriots- Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State

The Patriots have a glaring need at pass rusher and Lewis might be their guy. He has a lot of experience at Ohio State and New England can turn him into a star.

 

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New England Patriots 2017 NFL Draft Profile

By: Jonathan Reiter

Happy 32nd Day of Draftmas! To conclude our NFL Draft breakdown, we turn to the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Summary

The New England Patriots finished the season with a league best 14-2 record. Even with Tom Brady being suspended for the first four games of the season, the Patriots did not falter. The Patriots’ stellar season culminated with the raising of the Lombardi trophy after a 25-point comeback to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.

Tom Brady (Photo courtesy: abcnews.com)

The Patriots are setting their sights on another title run this upcoming season, but there have been a few key departures which threaten the chances of defending their crown. On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots saw Jabaal Sheard leave for the Colts and Chris Long went to the Eagles. Their defensive line is not getting any younger either with Rob Ninkovich entering his 13th season.

LeGarrette Blount still finds himself without a team. Patriots are still considering the possibility of bringing Blount back, but it would have to be at a discount rate with James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead already formulated into Brady’s offense.

The Patriots also may be looking into the possibility of an addition to the secondary. The Patriots resigned Super Bowl 49 hero Malcom Butler after he shopped around his services as a restricted free agent. Malcom Butler is still at the center of trade rumors, and he could be Bill Belichick’s ace-in-the-hole to trade into the first round.

New England also recruited some new faces to their title defense. Most notably, the Patriots traded for Brandon Cooks this offseason to add speed to Tom Brady’s spread offense. Rob Gronkowski found a new partner in crime in the veteran tight end Dwayne Allen. Martellus Bennett took on the work load at the tight end position after Gronkowski’s injury, but he will find himself playing at Lambeau Field with the Green Bay Packers next season.

Luckily for the Patriots they were able to re-sign Dont’a Hightower to lead the linebacker core for the defense. New England was also able to trade for Carolina’s DE Kony Ealy to help with the pass rush burden.

The Patriots fulfilled many of their key needs in offseason trades and free agency signings, but the kings of the NFL could use this 2017 NFL draft to solidify their spot as the Super Bowl 52 champions in 2018.

THE DRAFT:

New England’s draft plan will have to wait until the third round this year unless they trade up into the first two rounds.  Most teams’ plans would be hindered by such a late start in the draft, but the Patriots’ ability to find great, late round talent is unparalleled.  The Patriots find themselves with less picks due to trades and sanctions of the “ridiculous” Deflategate.

PICKS:

Third Round: 72nd and 96th Picks

Fourth Round: 131st Pick

Fifth Round: 163rd and 183rd Picks

Sixth Round: 200th

Seventh Round: 237th Pick

NEEDS:

Defensive End

The top priority for the Patriots is to solidify the defensive line. The Patriots will most likely find a player who works opposite of Kony Ealy at the defensive end position. New England’s rush defense was tied for 3rd best in the league last season, and an addition to the defensive line is key to keeping a top tier defense intact.

Cornerback

The Patriots also need to focus on a secondary option with the question surrounding Malcom Butler. A young cornerback is never a bad idea for a team with the youth needed at the position today. Even with the possibility of Butler staying on the roster, developing a rookie cornerback this year would be a great investment into the future of the defense.

Tight End

Rob Gronkowski has a new counterpart in Dwayne Allen, but both tight ends have been prone to injury. Tight end by committee could be an option for this upcoming season if the Patriots take a tight end with a mid-round.

Offensive Line

The Patriots do not have many needs on the offensive side of the ball with the trades and free agency signings, but they should invest for the future with a pick on the o-line. New England’s blind side tackle is in the last year of his contract, and the Patriots do not have anyone to fill his role after the 2017 season. The Patriots need to find someone in the draft to be groomed for the 2018 system. They need to find a reliable player in this draft to take over the role because protecting Tom Brady’s blindside may be the most important job in the NFL.

 

THIRD ROUND BREAK DOWN

72nd Pick: Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic

Hendrickson comes from a small school, but he turned heads at the NFL combine. He had 51 tackles last season with 13.5 of them being sacks.

96th Pick: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Sidney Jones (Photo courtesy: cbssports.com)

Jones, who was considered the top corner in the draft, tore his Achilles during his pro day with NFL scouts watching. Jones’ ability to be ready for this upcoming season is unlikely, but he could be the investment into the secondary the Patriots need for the future.

Conclusion

The Patriots are not in the ideal drafting scenario for 2017, but they will still be a top team for the upcoming season. If they can find the right players in the mid to late rounds of the draft to solidify the defense, the New England Patriots will be on pace for a second straight Super Bowl victory.

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Minnesota Vikings 2017 NFL Draft Profile

It’s day 31 of Draftmas and the Vikings are on the clock.

Summary

The Minnesota Vikings had a lot to deal with last season, as Teddy Bridgewater went down with a knee injury right before the start of the season. Sam Bradford was acquired and competed admirably, but Minnesota failed to make the playoffs at 8-8.

With Bradford and Bridgewater, the Vikings have two solid, but not great quarterbacks. If Bridgewater isn’t ready to go following the injury, Bradford will start until a competition can get underway. Adrian Peterson was not re-signed and is now a free agent, while Latavius Murray was signed to replace him. Stefon Diggs is a good young receiver, but last year rookie Laquon Treadwell didn’t see the field much and didn’t play all that well when he was on it. Minnesota does have a good tight end in Kyle Rudolph.

Mike Zimmer (Photo courtesy: upi.com)

The offensive line still needs to be addressed and was a major issue last year. Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff were signed to start at the tackle spots, but both had bad seasons last year. The Vikings will likely target a few offensive linemen in this draft.

Defense was the Vikings forte last season. They gave up the third fewest passing yards and were average stopping the run. The defense does have a few things to address this offseason.

Sharrif Floyd had complications with his recovery from knee surgery, which could be career ending. That leaves the Vikings thin on the interior of the defensive line. Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffin both had good years at defensive end.

Anthony Barr did not play well last year, but should be able to bounce back to good form. Eric Kendricks had a solid second season, but they might need some depth behind those two. Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes are both young corners who still need growth. Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in the game, but needs a partner in crime at the safety position.

 

Picks and Needs

The Vikings have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, but none in the first round.

First round: (0)

Second round: (1) No. 48

Third round: (2) No. 79, 86

Fourth round: (2) No. 121, 129

Fifth round: (1) No. 160

Sixth round: (1) No. 199

Seventh round: (1) No. 232

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Offensive Line- There is a pressing need for offensive line help and signing veterans who aren’t great, will only go so far.

Running Back- Murray was signed, but they will need depth behind him to groom.
Defensive Needs:
Defensive Tackle- This may not have been a huge need before the Floyd news, but it is now.
Outside Linebacker- Another linebacker is needed to go with Kendricks and Barr.

Safety- They will likely just get depth at this position to start.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Vikings could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

Second Round

Pick #48: Dan Feeney, G, Indiana

Dan Feeney (Photo courtesy: Drafttek.com)

Feeney is a physical guard that can help get the Vikings ground game going. They could go with a tackle here too, but there may not be any worth taking at this spot.

Third Round:

Pick #79: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

With the Floyd injury, the Vikings need to get at least one defensive tackle in this class. Watkins is good at stopping the run, but was Clemson’s best interior pass rusher last season.

Pick #86: Semaj Perine, RB, Oklahoma

Perine is a power back that can be a nice compliment to Murray. He set the single game rushing record for division I college football during his time in Norman.

Conclusion

The Vikings have more needs than originally anticipated, but if they get the right players in this draft, they can find themselves back in the playoffs.

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Los Angeles Rams 2017 NFL Draft Profile From Chat Sports

The Rams are on the clock for day 30 of Draftmas.

Summary

The 2016 season was not kind to the Los Angeles Rams. No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff struggled behind an iffy offensive line (as did RB Todd Gurley) and the Rams limped through the year as NFL’s worst offense with just 14 points per game. The defense was just below league average, but they couldn’t work miracles. A better offense would lift some of the burden off the defense and likely result in better play.

Todd Gurley (Photo courtesy: latimes.com)

Head coach Jeff Fisher was fired mid-year and now the young Sean McVay is in charge. He has a bright future and the presence of Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator will help on multiple levels. The main mission for McVay, who is a bit of a wunderkind and did great work in Washington, will be to ensure Jared Goff becomes the franchise option. Goff was not good last year, completing 54.6 percent of his passes of 1,089 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions. He never looked fully comfortable, likely due to a combination of a poor offense around him and Fisher’s strange decision to hold off on playing Goff early in the year. McVay will need to set up a system friendly to Goff, much like the Titans and Cowboys have done a fantastic job of doing with their young QBs.
Todd Gurley should be primed for a bounce back year, especially with the changes the Rams made on the offensive line. Andrew Whitworth, one of the better left tackles in the NFL, comes over from the Bengals. It was one of the best signings off the offseason: at a team-friendly price (compared to the rest of the OT market), Whitworth will provide a badly need blindside protector and veteran leadership. The rest of the offensive line will likely shake out as Rodger Saffold at LG, John Sullivan at C, Rob Havenstein at RG and Greg Robinson at RT. Havenstein and Robinson could flip spots, but the hope is Robinson locks down the RT spot after struggling badly on the left side. Sullivan isn’t a long-term answer, but he can be a stop-gap if the Rams select a young center in the draft. Maybe not for this year, but more OL help could be on the way if the unit doesn’t gel.
Weapons for Goff remain an area of concern. Tavon Austin has ability, but he’s on an unfriendly contract and the Rams have yet to use him properly. Robert Woods was signed to a big deal, but he never proved himself in Buffalo and that deal could look bad in a year or two. Pharoh Cooper has upside, but he’s not a legit No. 1 weapon. Getting that true No. 1 WR for Goff is a must in the near future. At tight end, last year’s fourth round pick Tyler Higbee might not be the answer. In a loaded TE class, the Rams should look for another option. Lance Dunbar will assume some of the third down duties at RB.
As mentioned, Phillips comes to town on the defensive side of the ball. The dirty little “secret” of Phillips vaunted defense is that it’s really just a 4-3 under with a defensive end standing up. So, Aaron Donald will still be one of the best 3-techniques in the NFL. How the rest of the defensive line fits is still up for grabs. Dominique Easley might be better as a 3-technique than a 5-technique or a 1-technique, so he might be relegated to backup duty. Michael Brockers could end up at either spot, but he’ll start somewhere. Where exactly he lines up most of the time might not be decided until after the draft.
The Rams overhauled the edge rusher spot, with Robert Quinn and Ethan Westbrooks the only notable players returning. Connor Barwin was a smart signing, as he’ll provide a veteran option. But a young piece or two is needed, especially if Robert Quinn can’t return to form. Alex Ogletree and Mark Barron should work as the two ILBs, but there isn’t much proven ability behind them.
In the secondary, picking up Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman were great moves. Webster, who knows Phillips defense, could break out as the No. 2 corner. Robey-Coleman will man the nickel role. That allows LaMarcus Joyner to assume free safety duties, as Maurice Alexander shifts to strong safety. Trumaine Johnson is back, for the time being, as the No. 1 CB.

Picks and Needs

The Rams have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. They are without a first round pick as a result of the Jared Goff trade, which also cost them a compensatory draft pick in the third round. The extra fourth is a compensatory pick, while the sixth is via the Dolphins from the William Hayes trade. The seventh is from the Ravens as part of the Chris Givens trade, as the Rams’ original pick was swapped in the Hayes deal.

First round: (0)
Second round: (1) No. 37
Third round: (1) No. 69
Fourth round: (2) No. 112, No. 141
Fifth round: (1) No. 149
Sixth round: (2) No. 189, No. 206
Seventh round: (1) No. 234
These needs are in no particular order and are the top ones.
Offensive Needs:
Wide Receiver – Tavon Austin has been inconsistent, while Pharoh Cooper hasn’t proven himself yet. Robert Woods is a No. 2, at best, so getting a legit No. 1 option for Goff is needed.
Tight End – It’s an amazing draft class for tight ends. The Rams should either add a legit No. 1 TE or a compliment for Tyler Higbee.
Offensive Line – I’ll group this together, since there are multiple needs. Whitworth and Sullivan are not long-term options, so young pieces will be needed at some point. In a bad tackle class, a center might be the route the Rams elect to go. A guard, even if it’s just a future backup, wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Defensive needs:
Defensive Line – Maybe it’s a true nose guard or maybe it’s another 5-technique. Either way, the Rams could use another piece alongside Brockers and Donald.
Edge Rusher – This might be the Rams’ biggest need. Robert Quinn is one keeper (hopefully: he’s had two down years in a row), but Connor Barwin isn’t a long-term option. Phillips’ defense is based on getting pressure. It’s a really good edge rusher class, so adding one early makes sense.
Cornerback – Kayvon Webster could have a breakout year and Nickell Robey-Coleman will man the slot, but Trumaine Johnson’s future is a question mark. He’ll likely get a year to see how he fits under Phillips, but there are no guarantees. With little reliable depth behind those three, another mid-round pick is needed.

Targets and Thoughts

Below are some potential targets for the Rams for each of their Day 1 and Day 2 picks.

Second Round: 

Pick No. 37: Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn

Carl Lawson (Photo courtesy: profootballfocus.com)

If it wasn’t for injuries at Auburn, Lawson would likely be a first round pick. The production is there and although he’s a bit undersize, he should fit in the Rams’ system. He could be a part-time player in year one before replacing Barwin full-time once Barwin’s deal is up. There will plenty of edge options on the board here for Los Angeles.
Third Round: 
Pick No. 69: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
The Rams have shown quite a bit of interest in the physical, productive WR from USC. He might not be a full-fledged No. 1 option, but he’s a very different player than Austin or Cooper. Concerns around his speed and separation ability (think Laquon Treadwell) could cause him to slide out of the first two rounds.
Conclusion
The Rams aren’t ready to truly contend next year. It’s a rebuild year, with the focus on Goff improving. Not having a first round pick doesn’t help, but the Rams can add a few pieces, on either side of the ball, as they continue their rebuild.
You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!
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2017 Atlanta Falcons NFL Draft Profile

For day 29 of draftmas, the Atlanta Falcons take center stage.

Summary:

Atlanta had a terrific season last year, finishing with a regular season mark of 11-5. Unfortunately, all that will be remembered is the Falcons blowing a 25 point third quarter lead in the Super Bowl.

Matt Ryan (Photo courtesy: twitter.com)

There are not many weaknesses on this football team. The Matt Ryan led offense remains loaded. A lineup that features Julio Jones, Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu and Devonta Freeman makes for an embarrassment of riches. Throw in an offensive line that was galvanized by free agent signing Alex Mack, and this offense went from talented to lethal last year. They were held under 20 points in just a single game

The defense was statistically below average, but the emergence of 2016 sack champion Vic Beasley and rookie safety Keanu Neal provides reason for optimism in 2017.

Pushing the right button on draft day makes a chance a Super Bowl redemption even more realistic than it already is. Here is a look at where the Falcons stand.

Picks and needs:

First round: (1) No. 31

Second round: (1) No. 63

Third round: (1) No. 95

Fourth round: (1) No. 136

Fifth round: (1) No. 174

Sixth round: (0)

Seventh round: (1) No. 249

These needs are in no particular order.

Defensive Needs:

Defensive Line- Vic Beasley needs someone else to get after the quarterback, while they could use some depth on the interior as well.

Linebacker- Deon Jones is great, but they don’t have much outside of him.

Offensive Needs:

Guard- Chris Chester retired and Ben Garland is the projected starter at right guard. They need to get that fixed before the start of the season.

Tight End- Austin Hooper is solid, but they don’t really have a big pass-catching threat at tight end.

 

Possible Targets:

These players could realistically be drafted by the Falcons where they are selecting. There will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #31: Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri

Charles Harris (Photo courtesy: stltoday.com)

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

Second Round:

Pick #63: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

McMillan needs to work on pass coverage, but can help stop the run. He will likely be a two down linebacker in the NFL to start. Atlanta doesn’t have many good linebackers outside of Deon Jones, so they can get another one with good value at this selection.

Third Round: 

Pick #95: Ethan Pocic, OG/C, LSU

Pocic has a lot of experience playing on the interior of the offensive line at LSU. He needs to work on his pass blocking, but is good at run blocking. He can start at guard from day one with a good training camp and preseason showing.

 

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2017 NFL Draft Profile: Dakota Cox

Dakota Cox definitely made his mark at New Mexico over the last four years.

The former Lobos linebacker started 43 of the 46 games he played in. He finished his career with 403 tackles, which ranks sixth in school history and third in the Mountain West.

Cox also was able to help rebuild the Lobos’ football program. The team finished with a 4-9 record the year before he got there.

“Coming here in 2013, the team wasn’t really where it needed to be,” Cox said. “Coming in, I knew I could help get it to the level where it should be and kind of put the Lobos back on the map.”

By the end of his career, he was able to help the Lobos to back-to-back winning seasons in 2015 and 2016. The team also played in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in both of those winning seasons, losing the first year and winning the second. Cox said playing with his New Mexico teammates was an awesome experience.

“I’ve made plenty of awesome friendships, just really kind of a brotherhood around here,” Cox said. “Guys I know are going to be friends for life.”

Photo Courtesy of footballmatters.org

Before 2015, the last time the Lobos finished with a winning season was 1997 when another stud linebacker, Brian Urlacher, was on the team. Urlacher was one of the guys Cox admired growing up.

“Brian Urlacher was one of the first I watched play,” Cox said. “He was a guy I watched growing up pretty heavily because I wanted to be a linebacker just like him.”

Urlacher and Cox were definitely standouts in college. One thing that does separate them is size. Urlacher stands 6-foot-4, 258 pounds while Cox stands 6-foot and 229 pounds. Cox is considered undersized for a linebacker, but he said his film proves his size should not be a concern.

“If you watch my film, I’m a guy that plays hard all the time,” Cox said. “I bring 100 percent effort everytime I’m on the field and try to bring that intensity. I do think I play much bigger than I actually am. That is kind of what I take pride in.”

Cox has not talked to any teams personally, but a few have contacted his coaching staff to see how he has progressed. Cox has been training at New Mexico with the strength coaches and had a great pro day. He ran a 4.62 40-yard dash and put up 20 reps on the bench press. Since then he has been doing more football specific workouts to get bigger, faster and stronger for the NFL.

Cox believes one of the biggest things he can provide an NFL team is his experience.

“I bring a different aspect to the linebacker position,” Cox said. “Just being knowledgable of the game. I definitely have a good football I.Q., which I take pride in.”

Cox believes his film and stats speak for themselves and that no team would regret giving him a chance.

“If I can get the opportunity to play on a team I definitely think that no one would regret signing me,” Cox said. “I definitely think I can be a great contribution to any team.”

DAKOTA COX SCOUTING REPORT

Dakota Cox has adequate size standing just under six feet tall and weighing 226 pounds, but plays bigger than that. Cox is one of the most experienced linebackers in the draft class, leading the New Mexico Lobos in tackles for all four of his seasons. He displays his good football IQ on the field every game.

When the ball is snapped, Cox recognizes plays well and has a quick first step. He has adequate speed for a linebacker and ran a 4.62 40 yard dash at his pro day.  He is good at shedding or dodging blockers and get to the ball carrier on running plays. Once he reaches the ball carrier, he tackles well and almost always makes the play, if he can reach it.

He is good at zone coverage and has a lot of experience playing zone at New Mexico. For him to be a good NFL linebacker, he will have to prove he can cover better in man to man coverage and stay on the field for all three downs.

Cox’s best asset is tackling and nose for the ball. He seemingly always comes up with tackles and stops big plays before they happen.

For Cox to make it at the next level he will have to use his great tackling abilities on special teams. With his skill of dodging and shedding blockers, he can use that on the punt and kick coverage teams and eventually earn more playing time at linebacker. He is a player that could make the Pro Bowl as a special teamer.

Watch Dakota Cox’s career highlights here.

You can listen to Josh Burris interview Dakota Cox in its entirety below.

Josh Burris contributed the story portion of this article. Joe DiTullio provided the scouting report.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 NFL Draft Profile

It’s day 28 of Draftmas and the Steelers will now be analyzed.

Summary

Pittsburgh went 11-5 last season, before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. It was a successful season, but the Steelers will be looking for more in 2017.

Ben Roethlisberger (Photo courtesy: bleacherreport.com)

Ben Roethlisberger has decided not to retire and will be back to lead the high-powered Steelers’ offense once again. He led the team to averaging the fifth most passing yards per game in the league. Le’Veon Bell has missed 20 games in his first four seasons due to suspension and injury, but looks to be ready for 2017. He finished with 1,268 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry.

The Steelers have Antonio Brown, one of the NFL’s best players, locked up at wide receiver for years to come. Behind him there are a lot of young and suspension-prone players. Martavis Bryant should be back for next season after sitting out 2016 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Eli Rogers played solidly in his rookie campaign last year, but another young receiver is needed. Roethlisberger wants (although he took a step back from that later) and needs a new tight end as the Steelers haven’t adequately replaced Heath Miller and luckily for him this class is loaded with great tight ends.

The offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and really doesn’t have much of a weak point. If anything Pittsburgh just needs to add depth, as players have gotten injured in the past (Maurkice Pouncey) and left the Steelers in a bind.

Pass defense for the Steelers was average in 2016, as they allowed 3,882 passing yards. The run defense was a little bit better, ranking 13th in the league and allowing 1,600 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh will load up on this side of the ball in the draft.

Starting in the trenches, Javon Hargrave had a solid rookie season at nose tackle. Stephon Tuitt is a good defensive end for the 3-4 scheme and so is Cameron Hayward, but he was injured last year.

Leading the team in sacks was an aging James Harrison, while Bud Dupree played the other outside linebacker when healthy, but was likely still dealing with injury issues when he came back. Dupree did have good showings in the playoffs though. Ryan Shazier has had a rough first few seasons in the NFL, but progressed last year and will need to continue that progression to be a leader for the Steelers’ defense. Vince Williams is projected to start at the other inside linebacker position and may need to be upgraded.

With William Gay, Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns, Pittsburgh has a lot of decent corners, but none that are elite. They need to add depth in this draft class at corner at the very least. Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell played safety last season, but the Steelers could do better.

Picks and Needs

Pittsburgh have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Steelers need to find the key pieces in this draft that can help get them a Super Bowl ring next season.

First round: (1) No. 30

Second round: (1) No. 62

Third round: (2) No. 94. 105

Fourth round: (1) No. 135

Fifth round: (1) No. 173

Sixth round: (1) No. 213

Seventh round: (1) No. 248

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

 

Tight End- Jesse James is an adequate tight end, but Roethlisberger has said he needs help at that position. Ladarius Green hardly played last year due to injury.
Wide Receiver- This isn’t a huge need, but if Bryant gets suspended again, the Steelers need a young receiver to fall back on.
Running Back- Bell misses a lot of games (five per year on average) and Knile Davis was signed, but Pittsburgh may want to take a young running back in the late rounds to develop.
Defensive Needs:
Edge Rusher- Despite doing well so far, James Harrison can’t play forever. Dupree needs to step his game up as well.

Inside Linebacker- Shazier started playing well last year, but Williams needs to be upgraded.

Cornerback- They just need a little more depth at corner, but it’s not a huge need.

Safety- Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis may not be the answer to get Pittsburgh’s passing defense where they want it to be.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Steelers could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

First Round:

Pick #30: Jabrill Peppers, S/LB/CB, Michigan

Jabrill Peppers (Photo courtesy: si.com)

Pittsburgh reportedly loves Peppers. He would fill one of their needs at safety and looks like a player that could buy into the Steelers’ culture. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense, but will be the safety that Pittsburgh needs. Peppers’ downside his his ball skills. He has all the fundamentals down, but had only one career interception in college.


Second Round

Pick #62: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

Another inside linebacker is needed and McMillan presents good value at the end of the second round. McMillan will help a lot against the run, but needs work on his coverage skills.

Third Round:

Pick #94: Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama

Williams is a first round talent, but has off the field issues. The Steelers’ will like his upside and could see him as the eventual replacement to James Harrison.

Pick #105: Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech

If Roethlisberger wants a tight end, he will likely get one. Hodges is a great receiving tight end who can even split out wide as a receiver. He does have to refine his blocking skills.

Conclusion

The Steelers are only a few players and plays away from being able to win a Super BDraftowl. With a solid draft this year, Pittsburgh can win a Lombardi Trophy.

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

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