The 2018 NFL Draft is now a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into the NFL Draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. You will find it here. Draftmas will continue with the Denver Broncos 2018 NFL Draft profile.
A colossal disappointment is the best way to describe the Denver Broncos in 2017. Denver won just two additional games after a 3-1 start. A quarterback carousel featuring Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch was the biggest reason for their 5-11 mark. It was Denver’s first losing season since 2010.
The offensive line continued to be a problem for Denver as well. Much was expected of free agent acquisition Ronald Leary, but he could not stay healthy. Fellow free agent signee Menelik Watson also dealt with injuries as well as poor performance. Last year’s top pick, Garett Bolles had an inconsistent rookie year. The unit as a whole ranked 30th in sacks allowed. The winless Browns were also the only team that turned the ball over more than the Broncos last year.
The good news for the Broncos is that the defense is still one of the best around. Von Miller and company struggled to force turnovers last year, but that is really the only negative on that side of the ball. The unit was put in many bad situations by the offense and still ranked third in total defense. The secondary will look a bit different for the upcoming season, but defense is still what the Broncos are about.
Picks and needs
The Broncos have nine total picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. That is ample opportunity for John Elway and second-year head coach Vance Joseph to improve the roster.
First round (1 pick): 5
Second round (1): 40
Third round (2): 71, 99
Fourth round (2): 106, 109
Fifth round (3): 142, 160,163
Sixth round (0):
Seventh round (0)
Offensive line – If Leary stays healthy, a line featuring him, Matt Paradis, Bolles in his second year and the recently acquired Jared Veldheer is formidable, but left guard is still a huge question mark.
Tight end – Virgil Green left in free agency. Also, Denver has not had significant pass-catching production at this spot in a very long time. Former Michigan standout Jake Butt essentially red-shirted his rookie season due to injury. He should be ready to produce this year, but how confident are the Broncos in him and his health? Regardless, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders need a third pass-catching option to emerge on this team in order to make their lives easier.
Running back – Denver wants to get the running game going, but the Jamaal Charles experiment failed and there is talk of C.J. Anderson being traded or let go. If that happens, Devontae Booker is going to need more help than the current roster can offer.
Photo from YouTube
Quarterback – With Case Keenum entering the fold via free agency, this need is just not as pressing as most people think. Also, the Broncos do not seem to have given up on Paxton Lynch or Chad Kelly yet. It is hard to imagine four quarterbacks on a roster that has more immediate needs, but it is not entirely out of the question that Denver goes here early.
Linebacker – Todd Davis returns to Denver on a team-friendly deal, but he was just okay last year. Von Miller and Brandon Marshall could use a more dynamic teammate at this position. Denver has had a knack for turning linebackers and defensive ends into sack artists in recent years. You can never have too many pass rushers.
Cornerback – With Aqib Talib now on the Rams, Bradley Roby becomes the cornerback opposite Chris Harris Jr. Roby should be fine as a full-time starter, but there is no longer a slam dunk option for third cornerback on the roster.
Pick No. 5: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
If Keenum can be half the player he was last year in Minnesota, quarterback is not an issue for this team for a couple years. The issue becomes the guys protecting the quarterback. If the best offensive lineman in the draft is still on the board, this is a no brainer for Denver.
Pick No. 40: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Oliver is a raw talent that would be helped greatly by being drafted to Denver. That secondary is loaded with talent for him to learn from. He would also fill an immediate and potentially long-term need for the Broncos.
Photo from Palm Beach Post
Pick No. 71: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
He is not a tight end, but there is a need for a third pass catcher to emerge in the Broncos offense, even if it is at wide receiver. Chark is an interesting combo of size and speed.
Pick No. 99: Oren Burks, ILB, Vanderbilt
Burks is not yet NFL ready yet, but doesn’t need to be right away for the Broncos. He made his way on to the stat sheet quite a bit at Vanderbilt, and he checks the boxes in terms of size and quickness.
The Broncos are not used to picking this high in the draft, but having nine picks is a great asset. If they are used properly, the Broncos won’t be picking this high again anytime soon.
Enjoy the days of Draftmas here at The Game Haus! Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Indianapolis Colts 2018 NFL Draft profile.
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As the NFL season wears on, it is becoming more and more apparent that this offseason could feature unprecedented levels of player movement at the quarterback position. Although his contract is up at the end of the season, Drew Brees and the Saints organization have given every indication that the future Hall of Famer will not get to free agency.
Assuming that is the case, the best quarterback that could hit the open market is Washington’s Kirk Cousins. His situation is a fascinating one.
Where Washington stands
Earlier this week, reports came out that Redskins management is still not sold on Cousins long term. The 29-year-old is playing under the franchise tag for a second straight year.
Cousins’ two top targets from last year left in free agency. Washington’s top two running backs are on injured reserve. Injuries up front have also forced the Redskins to use numerous offensive line combinations this year.
However, Cousins is third the NFC in passing yards and has thrown 21 touchdowns and just eight interceptions this year. The fact that he does not have this team in the playoff race means he cannot carry a franchise like Tom Brady can, but he is certainly good enough to be a long-term starter somewhere in this league.
Reading between the lines, the former Michigan State standout playing under the franchise tag for a third consecutive year would be unheard of. At the same time, Washington certainly does not seem eager to lock up Cousins.
The Redskins would be foolish to let Cousins walk, but with losses piling up and his supporting cast continuing to disintegrate, it sure looks like that is where things are headed. Then again, coming from an organization that gave $100 million to Albert Haynesworth and hired Jim Zorn and Steve Spurrier as head coaches, should we really be surprised?
Where Denver stands
Enter the Denver Broncos. This is a roster that is still loaded with talent and less than two years removed from winning a Super Bowl on the strength of a dominant defense and a quarterback whose mind was just smart enough to carry his deteriorating body to the ultimate fairytale ending.
Photo from 9news.com
Ever since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos have found themselves in both a familiar situation and an unfamiliar one. John Elway is still the best quarterback in the organization. Unfortunately for Broncos fans, Elway is now the 57-year-old general manager of the team and not the legendary gunslinger.
Prior to this season, Denver had as many Super Bowl appearances as losing seasons since 1991. With the Broncos loss to the Dolphins on Sunday, they now have clinched their fifth losing season since 1991. Quarterback is not the only need for this team right now, but it is by far the biggest.
Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler have each occupied all three spots on the quarterback depth chart this year. This, along with the fact that Denver has played hot potato with the winless Browns for the worst turnover margin in the NFL all season long, tells you all you need to know about why the Broncos sit at 3-9 right now.
Why Cousins fits in Denver
For a few reasons, Denver is not going to draft a quarterback high in the upcoming draft. The most glaring of which is their remaining schedule. They already have three wins and neither of their last four opponents are above .500.
At the very least, they should stumble into another win or two when playing other bad teams. Barring a trade, the highly-touted incoming rookies will be long gone by the time the Broncos are on the clock. Moreover, if Cousins were to enter the fold in Denver, he would inherit two elite receivers and a top-10 defense.
If Cousins can post numbers anywhere close to what he has this year, the Broncos suddenly look like a very dangerous football team again. This is a team that can be right back in the mix as soon as next year with average to above average quarterback play.
Photo from si.com
Also, Denver has a fair amount of resources in Lynch and Chad Kelly. Early indications are not good on Lynch, but he has only played in two full NFL games. That is hardly enough to bury his career. Kelly has missed his whole rookie season due to injury. In short, drafting another unproven commodity would only further muddy the water.
Lastly, it is worth keeping in mind that Cousins was drafted to Washington by former Broncos Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Shanahan. Shanahan is still very close with fellow Broncos Super Bowl winning head coach Gary Kubiak.
Kubiak was Shanahan’s play-caller in Denver for over a decade and now works with Elway in the front office. These links are tenuous, but could be very relevant.
The bottom line is ever since Elway entered the Broncos front office, he has always had the guts and found the money to make the Broncos as competitive as possible a timely fashion. Cousins is the path that best fits that bill.
Featured image from si.com
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If you do not have a quarterback, you don’t have anything in the NFL. Like any other year, quarterback battles are sprinkled throughout training camps. Here is a look at the top battles to keep an eye on during the preseason.
The players: Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson
Context: These first two situations are different from most quarterback battles. Whoever wins them will be inheriting a team that has realistic aspirations of playing meaningful games when the weather gets cold.
Photo: Houston Chronicle
Houston’s top-ranked defense carried them to the playoffs last year, but quarterback play was perhaps the only real weakness all year long. Brock Osweiler was the main source of that and is now in Cleveland.
Tom Savage was pretty ordinary in spot duty last year. In three games played, he completed just 46 of 73 passes while not throwing a touchdown. He was forced back to the bench for the playoffs due to injury.
Meanwhile, Watson comes in with all the hype and the glitzy college numbers. The first-round pick led Clemson to consecutive national title games and was named the MVP of last year’s comeback win over Alabama.
While back to back seasons of double digit interceptions scare me, the winning is hard to ignore. Throw in his mobility and the recent success we have seen by other NFL rookie quarterbacks, and his upside becomes very intriguing. The roster in Houston is loaded with talent. Thus, Watson presents the highest risk, but also the highest reward and may be able to take this team to the next level.
The players: Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch
Context: Even though the players themselves are saying as much, the notion that the Broncos had some kind of massive Super Bowl hangover last year is simply not accurate. They went 9-7, meaning a couple different bounces of the ball would have resulted in at least a return to the playoffs.
Surprise starter Trevor Siemian was by no means a disappointment in 2016. Throwing for 3,400 yards and eight more touchdowns than interceptions is nothing to sneeze at. Siemian also dealt with a shoulder injury for most of the year that required offseason surgery.
Despite winning one, Lynch was pretty bad as he started two games for an injured Siemian. He posted just 327 combined passing yards and struggled to complete half his throws. His numbers are somewhat skewed due to playing well in garbage time.
Lynch was drafted in the first round to be the franchise quarterback, but it is no secret that he was a project coming out of Memphis where he simply let it fly and never lined up under center.
Quite frankly, the project is probably coming along slower than the Broncos would like. Even so, whoever wins the job will have the benefit of playing behind a revamped offensive line, two top-notch wide receivers, a crowded but talented backfield and a defense that remains one of the best in football.
New head coach Vance Joseph has spoken very highly of Lynch this offseason, but Siemian has done nothing to lose the job. Until that happens, he is the present, even if Lynch or late-round draft pick Chad Kelly end up being the future.
New York Jets
The players: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg
Context: The Jets seemingly endless search for a franchise quarterback rolls on. McCown is what he is. That is a 38-year-old journeyman who has never been healthy (or good) enough to start for an entire 16-game season. He was clearly brought in to be a one-year bridge to one of the younger guys.
A brief late-season glimpse of Bryce Petty last year was nothing to write home about. Hackenberg is where all the intrigue lies here. The former Penn State star did not see the field in his rookie year. However, he is the only guy on the current roster who could be the future at quarterback.
No matter how little offensive talent they have around him, the Jets have to explore that possibility.
The players: Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer
Context: Hue Jackson and company have done an outstanding job adding talent to a roster that won just a single game last year. Additions like Kenny Britt, Kevin Zietler and Myles Garrett, among others have set the table for vast improvement in 2017.
Quarterback remains a major question mark though. Cody Kessler went winless in eight starts last year. DeShone Kizer was given the project label coming out of Notre Dame. The Browns say he is ahead of schedule, but it would be a surprise for him to start a game this year. Even so, his long-term upside has some folks salivating.
Despite posting a winning record as a starter in Houston, Brock Osweiler struggled in a big way after signing the big contract last year, completing just 59 percent of his throws and accounting for more turnovers than touchdowns.
Osweiler was just a bad fit from the start in Houston. He spent most of his time in the shotgun, which was not a strong point when he held down the fort quite well for the 2015 Broncos.
It has never been a work of art, but there is something to be said for going 13-8 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Supporting casts are not created equal, but no other quarterback in this competition has ever won an NFL game. If Osweiler has anything to give, Jackson is the kind of offensive mind that will get it out of him.
Chicago and San Francisco
Two other shaky quarterback situations reside in Chicago and San Francisco. However, those organizations continue to articulate their commitment to Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer respectively. As much as we all like to speculate this time of year, a quarterback competition can only exist if management says there is one.
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Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the eighth, and final edition, Super Bowl series: AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are entirely overlooked and it is egregious. Andy Reid has done incredibly well so far in Kansas City. Reid has gone 43-21 and the Chiefs have made the playoffs in three of his four seasons.
The only thing missing is the playoff success and thus a Super Bowl victory. Kansas City is just 1-3 in the playoffs during the Reid era. That can change this season as the Chiefs look to make a run at Super Bowl LII.
Kansas City is a team that wades in the water like a shark and out of nowhere will sneak up and attack you. Alex Smith gets the hate while the defense gets all the love but the Chiefs averaged 24.3 points per game last season, which was 13th best in the NFL. The Chiefs were able to get out in front of teams early, scoring the eighth most first half points with 12.8 per game.
The Chiefs weren’t special on offense but they were consistent. They ranked 18th in third down conversion percentage (38 percent), 15th in rushing yards (109.2 per game) and 19th in passing yards (233.8 per game). Again, the offense wasn’t spectacular but they are wrongfully accused of costing this team successful playoff runs.
There is still room for growth. The offense can help the defense out even more by running more plays to keep that stellar defense rested. The Chiefs ranked 27th last season averaging 61.9 plays per game. An effective rushing attack is one of the best ways to run more plays.
Kansas City has added veteran running back C.J. Spiller and rookie running back Kareem Hunt in hopes of improving the offense, but Spencer Ware should be the feature back. This offense has been consistent and as long as they improve just a tiny bit, the Chiefs can remain Super Bowl contenders.
In the Reid era, the Chiefs have averaged 27.5 points per game in the playoffs. They also lost a playoff game to the Colts, 45-44. Anytime a team scores 44 points, they should win. As much blame as this offense gets, they have performed well enough to win games in the postseason.
Stepping away from the offense, the Chiefs are truly Super Bowl contenders because of their defense. Despite losing Justin Houston after five games and Derrick Johnson after 13, the Chiefs were able to rank seventh in points allowed per game at 19.4.
The reason the Chiefs were good on defense wasn’t that they held teams to low amounts of yardage; they actually were bad at allowing yards. They ranked 24th in total yards (368.5 per game), 26th in rushing (121.1 per game) and 18th in passing (247.4 per game).
What Kansas City really excelled at was red zone defense and forcing turnovers. The Chiefs only allowed points in the red zone 49.1 percent of the time. They also led the league with 2.1 takeaways per game. There can be improvements made in how much yardage allowed but if the Chiefs can continue forcing turnovers along with getting stops in the red zone, then the Chiefs can remain a top-tier defensive team.
In order to win the Super Bowl, Kansas City must get home-field advantage. They are 18-7 at home in the past three seasons. They must also get over the tough schedule that includes New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas outside of the division, plus Oakland and Denver twice each.
If the Chiefs can navigate this schedule and make the playoffs, the offense needs to continue averaging 27.5 points per game and the defense must remain elite. Doing all of this will mean that Arrowhead will be home to the Super Bowl LII champions.
The Oakland Raiders were legitimate Super Bowl contenders last season but the injury bug bit at the worst time. Derek Carr broke his leg in week 16 and just like his leg, the Raiders playoff chances were shattered.
Offensive tackle Donald Penn also went down and if the Raiders can remain healthy at their key positions, then they have one of the best shots in the league to win Super Bowl LII.
In order to win the Super Bowl, the Raiders must improve defensively along with remaining healthy. The Raiders gave up 24.1 points per game and the problem was that they struggled in the second half of games.
Oakland ranked 29th in second half points, allowing 13.4 per game. The Raiders struggled in yardage as well, ranking 26th in total yards (375.1 per game), 23rd rushing yards (117.6 per game) and 24th in passing yards (257.5 per game). The Raiders spent their first three picks on the defensive side of the ball to address these defensive woes.
(Photo Credit: http://www.sportsworldreport.com)
Part of the reason they struggled so much defensively was that they couldn’t get off the field on third down. Opponents converted 39.4 percent of the time against the Raiders on third down. If they can fix this, it will improve their entire defense.
Fixing their third down defense starts with getting to the quarterback which the Raiders were the worst at. Oakland ranked 32nd in the NFL in sacks, accumulating just 25 for the season. Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and newly acquired Jelani Jenkins must make a bigger impact in rushing the quarterback.
Oakland must also find some discipline. The Raiders ranked dead last in both penalties (9.2 per game) and penalty yardage (77.9 per game). Without these improvements, the Raiders won’t be capable of making deep postseason runs.
The strength of the Raiders is, without question, their offense which averaged 26 points per game. Oakland seemed to get better as the game went on, averaging the fifth most points in the second half with 13.6. The Raiders had no trouble racking up the yardage either, averaging 373.3 yards per game.
They can thank their surprisingly good rushing attack. Oakland ran for the sixth most yards in the NFL last season with 120.1 per game. Adding Marshawn Lynch to the mix should improve this number and make the entire offense even better.
Oakland had the 13th best aerial attack in the NFL, throwing for 253.2 yards per game. Derek Carr has been exceptional and has also been given solid targets to throw to. His two main targets, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, combined for 176 receptions, 2,156 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
The Raiders decided Carr needed more and added talented receiving tight end Jared Cook and explosive wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Cook has struggled to remain healthy but has been effective when on the field. Patterson has been to the Pro Bowl as a returner but had a solid season catching 74.3 percent of the balls thrown his way last season. These two weapons could really push Oakland’s passing attack to the next level.
The only improvements the Raiders need to make on offense is on third down and in the red zone. Oakland only converted 38.1 percent on third down. Extending drives can help the defense get rest and therefore, perform better.
Although the Raiders averaged 26 points, they only scored in the red zone 58.6 percent of the time. If they can improve this percentage, then the Raiders could easily average 30 or more points per game. If the Raiders do that, then the Lombardi Trophy is going back to the bay, baby.
There weren’t many who believed the Broncos would struggle last season but Denver stumbled to 9-7. Similar to recent years, Denver’s defense was spectacular but the offense was just too far behind. The loss of Peyton Manning was more painful than fans care to realize. Denver might have a Super Bowl defense, but without a quarterback to make big plays, the offense is going to hold this team back.
Let’s start off with what this team is known for, and that’s defense. The Broncos have a reputation for beating up quarterbacks. Denver ranked third in the NFL last season with 42 sacks. This helped them get off the field on third down as they forced a third down stop 63.6 percent of the time. Getting to the quarterback often, and quickly, helped the secondary allow just 185.8 yards passing per game. That was the best mark in the NFL.
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Despite all the success against the pass, the Broncos did struggle against the run. Denver had the fifth worst rush defense in the league, allowing 130.3 yards per game. Altogether, Denver only allowed 316.1 yards per game and that resulted in allowing the fourth fewest points per game at 18.6.
In order to get back to the Super Bowl, Denver must clog up the running lanes. The Broncos have added Domata Peko at defensive tackle to help their run defense. Denver cannot depend on the play of the quarterback and therefore the defense must become elite in all facets of the game. All that is left to conquer is the run.
Offensively, the Broncos need to run the ball more often to make up for their quarterback play. Denver only ran the ball 40.2 percent of the time. This resulted in an average of 92.8 rush yards per game, sixth worst in the NFL. C.J. Anderson is a great back but has yet to play a full season in his career. Speaking of injury prone, the Broncos did add Jamaal Charles to the mix in the backfield as well. While neither can remain healthy on their own, maybe being paired together can help them stay healthy and turn Denver into a good running football team once again.
None of that will be possible without good offensive line play though. Losing Russell Okung isn’t a crushing blow because he had health problems anyway. This is why Denver drafted Garrett Bolles. Also, Matt Paradis is one of the best centers in the league and if he can lead the rest of the unit then Denver can improve their offense.
The Broncos’ passing attack was abysmal as well, ranking 21st. Because of the deficiencies on offense, Denver only managed to score 20.8 points per game. Either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch need to grab ahold of the quarterback spot with force and prove they can be the franchise quarterback.
If neither of them can, rookie Chad Kelly could sneak in and become the man. No matter how the cookie crumbles, one of these quarterbacks needs to have a great season to help get the Broncos to the Super Bowl.
For everything to fall into place the Broncos, offensive line play must improve which in turn will help the running game improve. Denver needs a quarterback to solidify their spot as the franchise quarterback and lastly, the Denver defense needs to stop the run. If the Broncos can solve all these problems, they can win Super Bowl LII.
Los Angeles Chargers
(Photo Credit: http://eastvillagetimes.com)
The Chargers have left San Diego and are embarking on the journey to run Los Angeles. Due to a slew of injuries and a sub-par defense, the Chargers finished last season 5-11. That record didn’t indicate how good the team really was. The Chargers went 1-8 in games decided by seven points or less. Los Angeles can become a contender simply by winning these close games.
The Los Angeles Chargers are going be a much improved defensive team. For starters, Joey Bosa will be ready at the start of the season and he had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games as a rookie. They also added safety Tre Boston to help out in a secondary that gave up 242.9 yards per game through the air.
The defense also includes Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane, Melvin Ingram, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. These are some really good players but they must play together to improve last year’s bad season.
Last year, the Chargers ranked 29th in the NFL in points, allowing 26.4 per game. It was so high because they really stunk in the second half of games. The Chargers gave up a total of 14.6 points per second half last season with 8.3 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers defense partly struggled just because the offense gave up 2.2 turnovers per game, which was worst in the NFL. The defense is really talented and if they don’t get put into bad situations due to turnovers, they will easily bring down that amount of points they give up.
Last year’s offense was really good aside from the turnovers. They averaged the ninth most points in the NFL with 25.6 per game. Philip Rivers’ aerial assault led the way. They averaged 262.4 yards through the air despite losing their best receiver Keenan Allen. A healthy Allen could allow Rivers to have a better 2017-18 campaign.
In order to really improve the offense, the Chargers must run the ball more effectively. They averaged 94.4 yards per game but a banged-up offensive line hurt their potential. The Chargers know that a better offensive line will improve everything. Los Angeles snatched offensive tackle Russell Okung from the division rival Broncos. They also drafted guard Forrest Lamp.
Improvement for the Chargers starts with the offense. Running the ball more and simply staying healthy will accomplish that. The defense will then be able to bring down a number of points they allow due to rest. Lastly, the Chargers special teams must stop shooting themselves in the foot with bad punts, missed field goals, botched snaps and just horrible coverage.
It will not be easy for the Chargers to make the playoffs, especially in their division. If they can make the improvements listed, then they will have a puncher’s chance. Once they get into the playoffs it is anybody’s trophy.
Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC West. This was the final edition of the Super Bowl series and you can find the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.
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Featured image courtesy of https://ryutorasthoughts.wordpress.com/tag/afc-west/
The first two days and three rounds of the NFL draft have finished. The third day of the draft is rounds four through seven. These players drafted on day three sometimes do not even make the roster. So what players remaining, after day two, have a chance to become stars in the NFL? Here are some who may answer that question.
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
(Photo Credit: Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports)
Chad Kelly is flying high under the radar. Kelly is the nephew of Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly. Chad Kelly had a pretty solid career while at Ole Miss. Going 14-8 as a starter and even notched a win against Alabama. Kelly threw for 6,858 yards, 50 touchdowns, and just 21 interceptions. He also added 958 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in his career.
Kelly had a lot of problems off the field that have derailed his career. He was kicked off the team at Clemson for actions against the coaching staff. Once he left Clemson he landed at East Mississippi Community College, more commonly known as Last Chance U. There Kelly led EMCC to a 12-0 season and an NJCAA National Football Championship.
If Kelly has learned from his past mistakes and can be a model citizen off the field then there is a chance he can become a star in the NFL. He has great arm strength and can make NFL throws. Kelly has played primarily in the shotgun and will need to work on his under center mechanics. Also he has great touch passing skills and is much better when moving outside the pocket and throwing. If a team takes a risk in the sixth or seventh round there is a good chance Kelly becomes an NFL starter one day.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Dede Westbrook was one of the top five receivers in all of college football last season. Some would argue he was the best. Last season he had 80 receptions, 1,524 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Westbrook is an excellent route runner with big play capability. In the open field, Westbrook is explosive and turns a lot of good plays into big plays. Some say his size is an issue but make no mistake, Westbrook could be a scary playmaker in the NFL.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego St.
Donnel Pumphrey is only still available because of his size, 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds.. The Las Vegas product is the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history. NFL tacklers will be able to arm tackling him but that is only if they can catch him. He is so quick and fast that when he sees a hole he hits it without a second thought. Pumphrey may not become an every-down back in the NFL but he can create momentum-changing plays. One NFL team will be very happy one day because of the risk they took on him.
Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
Malachi Dupre has fallen mostly because LSU has not had a quarterback capable of helping any receiver. LSU has had some of the worst quarterback play in the country which is why Dupre only put up 98 receptions, 1,609 yards, and 14 touchdowns in his three years at LSU. If you throw the ball in Dupre’s direction there is a good chance he will catch it. He has one of the best catch radii of all the prospects. He will have to work on his route running but with a solid quarterback Dupre could break out as the next great LSU wideout to turn pro.
Ryan Switzer may be the most underrated, underappreciated player in this draft. Similar to Dede Westbrook and Donnel Pumphrey, size is the only reason for that. In his senior season at North Carolina, Switzer snagged 96 receptions for 1,112 yards, and six touchdowns. He has also proven to be a great return man who returned seven punts for touchdowns in his collegiate career. Switzer can be a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman type playmaker in the NFL and that is a reason teams should draft him as soon as possible.
Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood
Connor Harris could have been a first round pick. He has it all, the size, the speed, and the intangibles. Teams seem to be holding it against him that he played in division II but Harris is a tackling machine. Harris holds the record at 633 career tackles. He has the ability to drop in coverage and has shown impressive ball-hawking skills as well. Any team that drafts him is getting a player who doesn’t have to come off the field and is a prototypical, old-school linebacker.
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Jake Butt is the victim of a bad injury at the worst time. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery got a lot of heat for skipping their bowl games but had Jake Butt done the same then he wouldn’t have torn his ACL for the second time in his career. Butt would have been a second round pick without the injury but now teams are scared. He averaged 11.9 yards per reception for his career and is a guaranteed first down waiting to happen. Every team in the NFL needs a tight end that can get them out of a jam like that. If Butt can become healthy and get a shot, he has a great chance of being a top 10 tight end in the league.
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After an entertaining SEC Media Week, I am doing a quick preview of one of the strongest conferences in the land.
Courtesy of Getty Images
SEC Player of the Year: LSU’s Running Back Leonard Fournette
For me it is a two horse race for the POTY for the SEC. It will be either be LSU’s running back Leonard Fournette or Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly. I think I am leaning closer to Fournette. He is just one of the unicorns of College Football. He is so powerful and so strong, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He does it all for the Tigers on the offensive side of the ball.
Last year, Fournette accounted for the 45% of the offensive touchdowns, which lead the nation. I think Fournette will comeback this season on mission to prove he should have been in New York last year. Fournette will easily have 2000+ yards on the ground and about 300+ yards receiving. With dual threat quarterback Brandon Harris improving from last year to spring ball and throughout the summer it will make the defense have to defend more than Fournette.
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SEC East Champion: Tennessee Volunteers
The SEC East is pretty much Tennessee’s to lose. The Vols are really only competing with Georgia and Florida for the crown in the East and that is not saying too much. This is because of all the turnover that UGA will have this year. And because Florida will have to play a new quarterback since former starting quarterback Will Grier is no longer there. Second year Coach McElwain has a great core of receivers for whoever the quarterback is but, I would not count on a new starter to take any team to Atlanta for a SEC Championship Game.
Tennessee is just the strongest team in one of the weakest divisions in College Football. South Carolina has a new coach, and possibly a new quarterback that has never played a down of college football. Vanderbilt is still climbing out of the basement of the SEC, but they do return a good defense. I think this year will be the year we look at as Vandy’s take off year. They will probably still miss a bowl game but the nation will know that Vandy is finally playing football again.
Do you see where I am going with this? Tennessee is the only logical choice to win the division. They have one of the best backfields in the league with quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd. On the defensive side they return seven starters from their stalwart defense of a year ago. Tennessee should run away with the East crown, but it is the SEC East. Anything can and will happen.
Courtesy of AP
SEC West Champion: LSU Tigers
On this side of the conference, we have one of the strongest division in College Football. My big favorites for the West are LSU, Bama and Ole Miss. All of those teams have great reasons why they can win the Division.
LSU with their tandem of Brandon Harris and one of the greatest running backs in school history, Leonard Fournette. Alabama still has Nick Saban, so it does not matter who their quarterback is because most of their quarterbacks are just game managers anyways. Ole Miss has the best quarterback in the conference with Chad Kelly. He is also the only quarterback in the conference with a win against the reigning National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
I think the division will be decided on Novemeber 5th when Alabama comes to LSU to play them under the lights of Death Valley. Whoever wins that game most likely wins the division. I think it will be LSU. We all should know that Saban has not found a way to stop a true dual threat quarterback. Until he shows that he can I will always pick the dual threat quarterback against Coach Saban. And LSU also plays Ole Miss at home this year but, they play Arkansas and Texas A&M on the road this year. Both teams look to be very dangerous this year and could spoil some teams National Championship aspirations.
SEC Champion: LSU Tigers
Les Miles has to do this year. After everything that has happened this summer in Baton Rouge, that area needs something to bring them together. Just like how Clemson did something wonderful for the state of South Carolina after the summer they had last year. Not only that, but, Les Miles need this to get the LSU fans off of his back. Last year they wanted him fired and a SEC Championship will be a great rebuttal to those fans. Miles has a great team coming into this season and he needs to strike now before they miss their opportunity with Brandon Harris and Leonard Fournette.
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I just finished my Top Quarterback list and now it’s time for my Heisman Watch List. Some of the quarterbacks I listed before might appear here. When I rank these players, I take into account how far I think the team will go and how important that player is to that team’s success.
He is finally going to get his shot to really be the man at Ohio State. Every year he has had another great quarterback on the roster. He played behind Cardale Jones for bits of last season due to his ankle injury to end his 2014 season.
But now for the 2016 Buckeyes he has his chance to do what he could not do in the 2014 season. He has a chance to start the whole season, go to NYC for a chance to lift up the 25-pound bronze trophy named Heisman.
He has put up big numbers almost every time he’s touched the field. Even as a redshirt freshman in 2014 before his season-ending injury, he threw for over 2,800 yards, 34 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions. Barrett also rushed for almost 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. In the limited time as a starter in 2015 he put up decent numbers coming in for an ineffective Cardale Jones. I believe with a full season of football at Ohio State with Urban Meyer’s offensive genius, he could get some Heisman votes.
On this list, he has what every player he wants on his resume, and a win against football royalty, the Crimson Tide of Alabama.
Kelly is also coming of a year where he and the Rebels only lost three games and won a New Year’s Eve bowl game. And individually he had a great season. He threw for 4,024 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, while also rushing for 500 yards and had 10 touchdowns on the ground.
This was his first season as a starting quarterback. In my opinion his resume is already quite impressive. The 2016 Rebels will be looking for Kelly to take them to Atlanta for an automatic bid in the College Football Playoff, sorry, I mean a SEC Championship.
Courtesy of Getty Images
#3-Louisiana State University’s Running Back Leonard Fournette
I will say it now: Leonard Fournette was robbed of his chance to go to New York because he was up against Derrick Henry from Alabama that had 95 more rushes than him but only 266 more yards rushing than him.
If you give Fournette the same amount of touches as Alabama’s running back plus Fournette’s 6.5 rush average, Fournette finishes with 2,571 rushing yards. That same running back also had three more games than Fournette and Fournette had 162 more receiving yards than the Alabama running back.
Leonard Fournette was the best running back in the SEC last year and the second best running back in the nation. Therefore I believe he just got overshadowed by the Alabama Crimson Tide name. In 2016, Fournette and the LSU Tigers have a great chance to run the table and get to the Playoffs. Leonard Fournette will be almost everything for this LSU offense. If he does not get over 2,000 yards rushing I will be surprised. Fournette will be in New York this year for the Heisman Ceremony.
Harry How/ Getty Images
#2-Stanford Cardinals’ Running Back Christian McCaffery
McCaffery was the best running back in the nation in 2015 and possibly the best one coming into this season. He should have won the Heisman, but he is another running back overshadowed by a running back from Alabama.
In 2015, he rushed for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns. He also was great at catching the ball; he had 645 receiving yards and 5 receiving touchdowns.
Also do not forget that he was also dangerous in the return game. As a kick returner, he averaged 28.9 yards per return, 1,070 kick return yards, and one touchdown. In the punt return game, he had 130 punt return yards on 15 attempts and had one touchdown.
McCaffery broke Barry Sanders’ all-purpose record. That should equal a Heisman Trophy. He is the closest thing we have to a Reggie Bush today, he even wears #5. If he breaks his all-purpose record this year and does not get the Heisman it will be a crying shame. It will almost be as bad as Ohio State winning the National Championship game over Miami because of a phantom pass inference call.
He is the best player right now in College Football. If he goes into the draft after this year, he will most likely be the number one pick.
Deshaun has only lost to teams that have been featured in the College Football Playoff (2014 FSU and 2015 Alabama). In addition, both of those squad had Heisman winners.
Watson is the ultimate leader. He will torch any defense with his feet or his arm strength. His resume speaks for itself. He threw for 4,104 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions last season.
On the ground, he ran for 1,105 yards and scored 12 times. He was in New York last year and coming into this season he has the best chance to win the Heisman. I think he and his team are favorites to win the National Championship.
#4 University of Ole Miss’s Chad Kelly- Kelly had his first season of football last year as a Junior. Kelly started his collegiate career at Clemson. Kelly didn’t play much as a freshman because he was behind one of the great Clemson Quarterbacks, Tajh Boyd and he sat out his sophomore year due to transfer rules. He found his future home at Ole Miss. The 6’2″ QB did well in his full first season as a starting Quarterback. He threw for 4024 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, while also rushed for 500 yards and had 10 touchdowns on the ground. Kelly led the Rebels to a 10-3 record including a bowl win against Oklahoma State, which was one of his best game of the season. Kelly came up big in many of the Rebels games this season.
On September 9th, the Rebels went down to Alabama for this SEC West showdown. The Rebels would win the game 43-37. The Ole Miss offense was hitting on all cylinders especially on Kelly’s miracle fling to Quincy Adeboyejo for 66 yards. For the game, Kelly threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns on the Alabama secondary. He also added 21 yards to the run game and one score on the ground. His passer rating was 171.3 and had an adjusted QBR of 95.8. This was Ole Miss’s first win at Bryant-Denny in about 25 years.
On November 7th, the Rebels had another SEC West showdown against Arkansas that had to be decided in overtime. The Rebels did not come out victorious, losing by a score of 53-52, but it was one of Kelly’s best games. He threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns, and also added 110 yards on the ground while finding the endzone three times using his feet. Kelly was hot, he completed over 70% of his passes, had a passer rating of 190.6, and a season high 98.3 QBR. Even though the team did not win, it showed how effective Chad Kelly could be if he is dialed into the game.
His last big game was against another SEC West bitter rival, Mississippi State. It was Senior Night, and their starting Quarterback, Dak Prescott wanted a win badly. Kelly and the Rebels out dueled Prescott and his Bulldogs. Ole Miss beat their rival 38-27. Kelly threw for 236 yards and had two passing touchdowns, while also having 74 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. He had a 70% completion rate, 158.1 passer rating, and also had QBR of 94.2. Out of 13 games Kelly only threw for under 300 yards five times and threw for over 350 four times.
Next year’s Ole Miss team has the potential to be even better. Though, Kelly will be missing his one of his favorite receivers, Laquon Treadwell, and his left tackle Laremy Tunsil, he still should have great success. He should have another 4000 passing yard season and hopefully less interceptions than his junior year. Kelly has the potential to be a Heisman candidate and one of the first Quarterbacks taken in next year’s NFL Draft.