defensive backs

Top 10 DBs that could make an impact in the NFL

There were a lot of players that were in the NFL Draft that would make an impact next season. Every defense needs good defensive backs that will be able to make plays and help win games. Here are the top ten defensive backs that could make an impact in the NFL.

1. Denzel Ward, CB—Cleveland Browns

defensive backs

Denzel Ward hits receiver. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

No question that the Browns are blessed to have one of the most phenomenal cornerbacks in the draft. Ward is a game changer. He plays excellent man coverage and is very physical. During his college career, Ward had a total of 67 tackles, 24 pass breakups and two interceptions. Ward is able to play tight on receivers and read routes very well.

2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S—Miami Dolphins

Fitzpatrick is everything you want in a defensive back. He can read the quarterback really well, he’s a ballhawk, able to return interceptions back and is able to blitz and make plays in the backfield.  Fitzpatrick was a Freshman All American when he played for the University of Alabama. He was also named first team All American in 2017. He had a total of 171 tackles, five sacks, nine interceptions, 24 pass breakups, and ran four interceptions back for touchdowns. With his size and speed, Fitzpatrick will be a dangerous threat in the secondary.

3. Jaire Alexander, CB—Green Bay Packers

Alexander is an excellent playmaker who is able to cause turnovers. He’s able to play well in man coverage, and he’s able to catch interceptions and return them for touchdowns. Alexander is also phenomenal on special teams, catching punts and returning them to score. He had 77 total tackles, seven interceptions and 15 pass breakups for his whole career at Louisville.

4. Donte Jackson, CB—Carolina Panthers

defensive backs

Donte Jackson tackles receiver at LSU
(NOLA.com)

Jackson is young, tall, fast and physical. He is excellent at playing man coverage, and he knows how to track the ball very well. During his college career, Jackson had a total of 109 tackles, 17 pass breakups, four interceptions and a forced fumble. Jackson has also been second team All-SEC in 2017. He uses his speed in order to track down the ball and make something out of nothing.

5. Derwin James, S—Los Angeles Chargers

James was known for being one of the hardest hitting safeties in the ACC. Not only that he can read the quarterback in zone coverage, and play man-to-man coverage, he can come down and lay the boom on any offensive player. James is an athlete that can track down and make a play on the ball, and he is able to go down and blitz. James had a total of 186 tackles, 11 pass breakups, 5.5 sacks, and three interceptions during his college career at Florida State. He also earned second AP All American and All ACC honors. With James’ natural athletic ability, he will be a dangerous threat in the NFL.

6. Deshon Elliot, S—Baltimore Ravens

Here’s another hard-hitting safety that could also possibly become a threat later on. Elliot is an incredible athlete who can play outstanding zone defense, catch interceptions and can come down and lay the boom. He can also play the linebacker position. Elliot was a first team All-American and first team All-Big 12 honors back when he played for the University of Texas. He had a career total of 105 tackles, nine pass breakups and nine interceptions.

7. Anthony Averett, CB—Baltimore Ravens

Here is an underrated defensive back that is really slept on. Averett was able to show what he could do in the 2016-2017 season. Averett caught a lot of people’s attention, starting in 13 games and playing excellent man coverage on receivers. He may not be that big in size, but he’s fast and able to get to the quarterback during blitzes.

Averett had a career total of 90 tackles 15 pass breakups and an interception.

8. Josh Jackson, CB—Green Bay Packers

Jackson is an outstanding athlete who can play man coverage very well and play zone coverage. He is fast and has hands like a receiver. Jackson was the nation’s leader with eight interceptions and 26 pass breakups. He also earned first-team AP All American and first team all-Big Ten.

9. Mike Huges, CB—Minnesota Vikings

Huges is a major threat when it comes to making interceptions. He is an extraordinary ball hawk, he has speed and he can play zone and man coverage. Huges can also make an impact on special teams, returning kicks and running them in for touchdowns. He was an All American first team as a defensive back, with 44 tackles and four interceptions, and first team as a returner with 635 yards and two touchdowns.

10. Quenton Meeks, DB—Jacksonville Jaguars

Meeks is an all-around defensive back who can play the cornerback and safety position. He can read the quarterback really well and pick the ball off, and he can lock down a receiver pretty well. Meeks had a total of 113 tackles, seven interceptions and 12 pass breakups for his career at Stanford. With his amazing athletic ability, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ will be a great fit for him.

 

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AFC East West quarterbacks

Quarterback questions loom largest in AFC East and West

We now have a pretty good idea of what NFL rosters will look like come September. Predicting team records is still very difficult to do in May. However, it is now easier to understand the factors that will lead to success or failure for certain teams. Thus, here are the biggest questions in a couple of AFC divisions. One that is wide open now, and another that could be before long.

AFC West: Is Patrick Mahomes any good?

AFC East West quarterbacks

(Photo from 610sports.com)

This might be the biggest question in the entire NFL. Kansas City has taken control of this division over the last two years as Denver has struggled to transition away from Peyton Manning.

Despite a few playoff failures, Alex Smith never posted a losing record as the starting quarterback for the Chiefs. So replacing him with Patrick Mahomes is pretty bold.

Mahomes is headed into his second year with just one career start. Young quarterbacks have to get handed the keys at some point, but was Smith really what was holding the Chiefs back? His career-high passer rating of 104.7 last year would suggest otherwise.

No quarterback does it alone. Kansas City has an average defense and an offense littered with playmakers, but bad quarterback play can drag a very good roster downward. Last year’s Broncos are a prime example. That was not going to be a concern with Smith. There has to be at least a little bit of doubt when it comes to Mahomes.

One start is nowhere near enough to determine whether any player can be successful in this league, and Mahomes may come out and play very well. If he does, Kansas City will win this division again.

Still, the Broncos upgraded at quarterback, the Chargers improved the middle of their defense, and Oakland is once again being coached by Jon Gruden, the last guy that made and kept that franchise relevant. If Mahomes struggles, at least one of those teams will be right there to pounce, and one of the most consistent teams in the NFL over the last half decade will quickly turn into a non-factor.

AFC East: When do we see the rookie quarterbacks?

As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around, the Patriots will win this division. They have done so for nine consecutive years. The drama in the division this year is going to be when we see Sam Darnold in New York and Josh Allen in Buffalo. In a perfect world, both guys would probably benefit from a year on the bench.

Particularly in Darnold’s case, that does not seem to be feasible. This is a franchise that has won five or fewer games in three of the last four seasons. It needs a sign of hope and fast. When the inevitable losses start to mount under veteran quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown, the Jets will need to get a glimpse at what they hope is a bright future.

The Jets do have a workable schedule for the first month of the season and could get off to a decent start. So it would not be shocking to see one of the veterans last as the starter until the Week 11 bye. Of course, there is always a chance that the rookie could impress enough in training camp and the preseason to start the season opener.

Either way, the Jets know Brady and Belichick won’t be around forever, and New England does not seem to be ready for life after either one. With Darnold, the Jets have a chance to be the kings of this division in a few years. The first step to helping make that happen is making him the starter at the right time.

Josh Allen is a little more tricky. The Bills made the playoffs last year, but were anemic on offense at times and scored just a field goal in their playoff loss. AJ McCarron replaces Tyrod Taylor as the veteran presence at the quarterback position. Allen was drafted more on measurables than college production and clearly needs time to develop.

However, it is hard to imagine him being afforded that luxury if Buffalo gets off to a bad start under McCarron, who is basically a career backup except for a handful of mediocre performances filling in for an injured Andy Dalton late in the 2015 season.

The Dolphins are just sort of existing in this division at the moment. They regressed last year with Jay Cutler taking the place of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Even though Tannehill is coming off an injury, Miami was linked to several of the top quarterback prospects in the draft. This could be a make or break year for him as well as head coach Adam Gase.

AFC East West quarterbacks

(Photo from presnapreads.com)

These two divisions are interesting in their own way for 2018. The AFC West is intriguing right now because it is impossible to know what to expect from the team that has dominated it for the last two years. Meanwhile, the AFC East could look very different in a couple years.

This year might provide us with at least some answers in that regard. It all comes down to changes that already have and will eventually need to be made at the most important position in all of American sports, quarterback.

 

Featured image from nydailynews.com

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NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

With the NFL Draft beginning later today, all of the rumors of the the last few months will finally be shown to be either true or false. Today we cut through the noise and misdirection employed by many of the NFL’s teams and give a reasonable summary of some things to expect in this upcoming draft. To be more specific, who could slide and become a bargain, and who could be selected earlier than expected?

Sliders

Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft, playing in three separate pro-style offenses at UCLA. He knows much of the terminology used in the NFL as a result.

NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

Josh Rosen (Photo from AP)

However, with Sam Darnold the likely first overall pick in the draft and Baker Mayfield looking like he may have jumped up to be the second quarterback selected, Rosen could be left in a bit of a free fall. In addition to all of this, if a team becomes enamored with Josh Allen, he could be selected before Rosen. Therefore, it is not out of the question that he could fall all the way until the Miami Dolphins take him at the 11th pick.

Look for a team like Arizona to trade up to 10th to get ahead of the Dolphins if Rosen does slide. Overall, a slide on draft day might work out in Rosen’s favor. This is because he could end up on a team with a much higher talent level. For example, the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals are much better than a team like the New York Jets.

Antonio Callaway

News recently broke about Callaway testing positive for marijuana in his combine drug test. Callaway was considered a high upside day-2 pick. However, now he could be a late-round pick or even undrafted.

Callaway has the talent of a first-round prospect. This is offset by the fact that he has a poor reputation. He has already faced significant concerns off the field regarding a sexual assault allegation and drug misdemeanor charges. Although he was eventually cleared of wrongdoing in the sexual assault case, many people worry because the investigator looking into the incident was also a Gators football booster.

Callaway should still be selected. An NFL team would be hard-pressed to overlook the talent of a prospect who, minus the character concerns, could have been a day-1 selection.

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick is a very talented defensive back. The issue that could cause him to slide is that teams may value Derwin James over Fitzpatrick. This is because James is more athletic and versatile. This is supported by the fact that Fitzpatrick may have been a little overhyped as a top-10 lock, especially when not many teams in the top 10 are looking for a defensive back. There also may be a rush for quarterbacks in the top 10, forcing top prospects at other positions to slide back.

Risers

Josh Sweat

NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

Josh Sweat (Photo from Glenn Beil of USA Today)

Pass rushers are valued at a premium in the NFL. The only position considered more important by evaluators is quarterback.

Josh Sweat went to Florida State as a five-star prospect and has all the athletic tools to become a dominant pass rusher. He stands at 6-foot-5 with long arms and a 4.53 40 time, which projects well for his ability at the next level. Main concerns about Sweat are his thin frame and injury history.

If we have learned anything in the last few drafts, it is that teams are willing to overlook some problems. Recent years of the draft have shown us many teams reach for a guy whose potential they believe in. In 2014, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Marcus Smith in the end of the first round despite his thin frame. In last year’s draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Taco Charlton at the end of the first round regardless of concerns about him. This year could be similar with Josh Sweat sneaking into the end of the first round.

Baker Mayfield

Over the last few weeks, we have seen Heisman winner Baker Mayfield rise from being projected in the mid to late teens. Now he is seen as a potential top-five pick. Originally, many thought he would not be selected early due to his size and character concerns. However, rumors have recently surfaced that Mayfield was being considered by the Browns at first overall. Plus, many well-informed insiders have been projecting him to be drafted in the top five or top 10.

Courtland Sutton

Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley has been considered the top receiver in this year’s draft for the most part. After a middling combine performance that failed to build hype, concern has been voiced about Ridley’s size and athleticism.

In addition, Courtland Sutton had a very nice combine performance and has prototypical size at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds. This means that he could rise up and surprise as the first receiver selected in the NFL draft. He has even been endorsed by the all-time best receiver Jerry Rice through a tweet on April 23.

Justin Reid

NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

Justin Reid at the NFL Combine. (Photo by Pats Pulpit)

Reid is an athletic playmaker at the safety position. He is able to play a center fielder type role as well as cover the slot. He could actually be the best center fielding safety in this whole draft.

Teams will see this, and a team who needs a cover safety as opposed to an enforcer type box safety could draft him towards the end of the first. At that point in the draft, many teams are looking to grab players they think will not last through the beginning of the second round. Teams to look out for are the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

In the end, just like every year, this draft is sure to have some major surprises that no one saw coming. It will be interesting to see who will rise and fall this year.

 

Featured image from Yahoo Sports

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NFL draft trades

Intriguing NFL draft-day trades

All the waiting and anticipation is almost over. Only one more day until the 2018 NFL Draft begins and all our questions are answered. That is why today, we will be listing some potential NFL Draft trades that you should look out for once the draft comes around.

Denver Broncos trade the fifth overall pick to the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins or Arizona Cardinals

NFL draft trades

Four of the quarterbacks projected to go in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. (Photo from Sporting News)

All of these teams could trade up to draft their signal caller of the future, especially if Josh Rosen from UCLA or Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma are still available, as at least one should be. The Buffalo Bills possess the 12th and 22nd picks in this year’s first round, which is very valuable ammunition. Those firsts and a second or two could make this trade very persuasive for the Broncos.

Conversely, maybe the Dolphins or Cardinals first rounders this year and next will be considered more valuable. They could feel this way because the chances of the Dolphins or Cardinals having a first-round pick lower than 22nd next year are pretty likely.

In the end, it probably depends on how Denver feels about the prospects in this year’s draft versus next years.

Philadelphia Eagles trade the 32nd pick for a couple of day-2 selections

The Philadelphia Eagles lack a selection in the second and third rounds. This, compiled with the fact that teams often like to trade into the end of the first round, means that there will most likely be suitors should the Eagles want to trade back. Teams like to trade into the last spot because it secures the extra fifth-year option in the rookie contracts of the player they draft. Therefore, if a player a team loves is left on the board at 32nd, they could be tempted to make the trade.

In addition, Philadelphia has the luxury of not having large holes on their roster, which means they can draft the best player available. Therefore, if the Eagles have similar grades on a few prospects at 32nd, it would not be surprising for them to trade away the pick and add some picks later on in the draft.

New England Patriots trade up for Lamar Jackson

NFL Draft trades

Lamar Jackson (Photo from Chowder and Champions)

After Lamar Jackson’s visit with New England  it was reported that the Patriots were intrigued and impressed by the former Louisville quarterback. That being said, it would not be surprising if the Patriots move up a few spots to secure Jackson. The Patriots have two first-round selections and two second-round picks, so if he is still on the board into the teens, New England could move up to draft him.

The Baltimore Ravens trade back, potentially with the Patriots

The Ravens have the 16th pick in the draft. This position lines up very well with where Lamar Jackson is expected to be drafted. The Ravens, on the other hand, have holes at the playmaking positions on offense. Due to the potential flood of quarterbacks selected early in the draft, much of the offensive skill players could slide. This means that Baltimore could trade down and gain some additional draft capital while still being able to take a premier wide receiver like Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore or Courtland Sutton at New England’s 23rd pick.

Philadelphia Eagles trade Mychal Kendricks on day 2 for a pick in the third or fourth round

NFL draft trades

Mychal Kendricks and Jalen Mills celebrating. (Photo by Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Mychal Kendricks had a bounce-back year last season. That means this could finally be the year this trade happens. Kendricks filled in admirably for Jordan Hicks, who was lost for last season with an Achilles tear. A team could have interest in Kendricks to fill a weakside linebacker role for a second-day selection.

Kendricks has two years left on his contract, both with a cap hit of around $8 million. That is pretty expensive, which limits his value as a trade chip. However, a  team trading a third or fourth for the speedy linebacker is not out of the question.

New York Giants trade left tackle Ereck Flowers for a late-round draft pick

Ereck Flowers has been largely a disappointment after being selected ninth overall by the Giants in 2015. The Giants signed left tackle Nate Solder this year and are expected to trade Flowers. A trade could be the best option for both the team and Flowers, who could benefit from a fresh start. A team could be interested enough to part with a late draft pick because he still has the athleticism that made him a top-10 selection in 2015.

 

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Detroit Lions Schedule Prediction

2018 Detroit Lions schedule predictions

Well, it’s official, the NFL schedules have been released! Fans are busy planning which games they will attend and predicting ways for their team to make the playoffs. If predicting these games were possible, there would be no need to play the games. In the NFL, there are too many factors to consider when predicting who will win games. Injuries are unpredictable and often will reveal the character of a team. Additionally, the chemistry within the locker room will dictate how well these teams perform. Chemistry is affected by many things like, the personality of the coaching staff, new players melding together with returners, and the amount of trust built between the players and staff. Without further ado, here is the Detroit Lions schedule predictions for the 2018 season.

New York Jets – Week 1 – September 10, 2018 – Home (1-0)

The Detroit Lions start the 2018 season on primetime, Monday Night Football, at Ford Field. With the New York Jets coming to town, this figures to be a very winnable game for the Lions. The Jets finished in the bottom quarter of the league last season. However, they present a tough physical challenge, which should provide insight into Matt Patricia’s coaching style.

Lions win, 27-17

San Francisco 49ers – Week 2 – September 16, 2018 – Away (2-0)

Traveling out west in week two should be a great early season test of a road trip. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded midseason to San Francisco. He took the reigns of a team that was 1-10. He started the final five games of the regular season, earning a 5-0 record. They beat the Titans, Jaguars and Rams in weeks 15, 16, and 17 respectively, all three teams participated in the playoffs. This will be a very close game and a hard-fought road win for the Lions.

Lions win, 24-21

New England Patriots – Week 3 – September 23, 2018 – Home (3-0)

Matt Patricia is reunited with his old team, this time on opposite sides of the field. Will he be able to prove his ability to outcoach his mentor and longtime head coach, Bill Belichick? The good news for the Lions is they get the Patriots early in the year where they tend to struggle. Another bonus, the game is in primetime on Sunday Night Football and is going to be played in Detroit. The uncertainty hanging over the Patriots organization also leads to New England having a slow start, as they did last year.

Lions win, 31-27

Dallas Cowboys – Week 4 – September 30, 2018 – Away (3-1)

Dallas comes off a down year, largely due to the suspension of Zeke Elliott looks to rebound and should challenge Philadelphia for the division crown this year. This is a road game for the Lions and it is always tough to play down in Jerry’s World.

Lions lose, 27-21

Green Bay Packers – Week 5 – October 7, 2018 – Home (4-1)

After sweeping the Packers last season, Detroit needs to set the tone for this season by continuing their win streak against the hated Packers. Green Bay currently appears to be the third best team in the division as they let Rodgers’ top target and friend Jordy Nelson walk and have serious question marks on the offensive line. They have serious needs on both sides of the ball and if they can’t protect Aaron Rodgers, their season will be short lived yet again. The Lions take care of business at home against the Pack, finishing the first 5 games with a 4-1 record.

Lions win, 34-27

Bye – Week 6

Miami Dolphins – Week 7 – October 21, 2018 – Away (5-1)

Detroit Lions Schedule Predictions

Photo: Andrew Weber

After the strong start to their season, the Lions travel to Miami to play the Dolphins. Miami is in a rebuilding year of sorts after trading away Jarvis Landry and still searching for their franchise quarterback. They also released Ndamukong Suh and look to have a tough year ahead where they will be fighting to finish third in their division.

Lions win, 31-10

Seattle Seahawks – Week 8 – October 28, 2018 – Home (6-1)

The Seahawks are looking like a new team and it will be interesting to see how they rebound from losing some of their star players. Michael Bennett is now in Philly and Richard Sherman is with division rival, San Francisco. On offense, Jimmy Graham is in Green Bay and Paul Richardson signed with the Redskins. If they are not able to replace these players, they will be an average team. Also, the Lions get them at home.

Lions win, 20-17

Minnesota Vikings – Week 9 – November 4, 2018 – Away (6-2)

This will be a major challenge for the Lions heading to NFC runner-up Minnesota. However, they did win on the road against the Vikings last year, 14-7. With Kirk Cousins in town, the Vikings believe they have their franchise quarterback and have gone all-in on winning a Super Bowl. Dalvin Cook will return from injury as well and if he can run with the potential he showed last season, they will be a serious contender once again.

Lions lose, 28-17

Chicago Bears – Week 10 – November 11, 2018 – Away (7-2)

Detroit Lions Schedule Predictions

Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press

The Chicago Bears finished at the bottom of the division last year and are expected to struggle again this year. They have a young quarterback and it will be intriguing to see Trubisky’s development. Will he develop into a top-level quarterback or has he already reached his ceiling? Even though this is on the road and it is tough to win in the Windy City, Detroit still wins.

Lions win, 34-20

Carolina Panthers – Week 11 – November 18, 2018 – Home (7-3)

After losing to the Panthers last season, the Lions have a chance at revenge. Cam Newton and McCaffrey continue to develop chemistry and this will be a big game for both teams. The Lions will drop one here to the Panthers and look to rebound on Thanksgiving Day.

Lions lose, 31-24

Chicago Bears – Week 12 – November 22, 2018 – Home (8-3)

Thanksgiving Day games for Detroit Lions is a great tradition and Stafford tends to play well on Thanksgiving. He currently holds the record for most passing yards in Thanksgiving Day games over his career. Lions win this easily.

Lions win, 38-13

LA Rams – Week 13 – December 2, 2018 – Home (8-4)

The Rams are one of the most improved teams on paper. They added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh to their defense. They also acquire Brandin Cooks on offense from New England. This team appears to be a front-runner for the NFC title. Thankfully, the Lions have them at home and it should prove a lot about the team as the playoffs draw near.

Lions lose, 27-17

Arizona Cardinals – Week 14 – December 9, 2018 – Away (9-4)

After a tough week against the Rams, the Lions have three of the final four games on the road. The Cardinals are moving forward with Sam Bradford and could select a QB in next week’s draft. It’s hard to project how they will be, due to that uncertainty they appear to be a big underdog in this game. With QB questions looming as well as the return of David Johnson after injury, Detroit is able to pull this one out on the road.

Lions win, 28-13

Buffalo Bills – Week 15 – December 16, 2018 – Away (9-5)

Playing on the road in the NFL is always a challenge. Add to that the fact it is in a cold weather city in December and we have a recipe for a loss in upstate New York. This also could be a trap game as the Lions mentally prepare for the “Battle for the North” in the final two weeks.

Lions lose, 17-10

Minnesota Vikings – Week 16 – December 23, 2018 – Home (10-5)

The Lions are in prime position to make a push for the playoffs and that will start with a home win against the Vikings.

Lions win, 21-17

Green Bay Packers – Week 17 – December 30, 2018 – Away (10-6)

Detroit Lions Schedule Prediction

GREEN BAY, WI – NOVEMBER 06: at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Week 17 could very well decide the division but playing at Lambeau Field in late December is a challenge for any team, even more so for a team that plays home games indoors. Ultimately, eight months away from the game with no knowledge of the condition of the teams, the home-field edge goes to Green Bay.

Lions lose, 27-24

Recap

Overall, the season starts out with some big challenges and the entire season appears to be a difficult road. The Lions have the second toughest in the league. The final three games will prove tough and could make or break the season. Week 15 at the Buffalo Bills will be a cold outdoors game in the middle of December. Then, to end the season against the other two division contending teams could ultimately decide who wins the NFC North.

Based on these projections the Lions finish the season 10-6 which would put them in position to challenge for the division championship, at least a wildcard spot in the playoffs. This would be a great outcome and finish to the season. The Lions record could really end up anywhere from 6-10 to 12-4. There are six games on the schedule that are toss-ups and are nearly impossible to predict. No matter how it turns out, it will be interesting to see how the team responds to Patricia’s coaching. Can Detroit have a quick turnaround with a first-time head coach like the Rams did last season with McVay? Lions fans certainly hope so!

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Miami Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is just under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Miami Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft profile.

Summary

Miami Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft Profile

Ryan Tannehill (Photo by gridironnow.com)

The Dolphins had some optimism during the offseason heading into last year but lost some of it when Ryan Tannehill went down with injury and Jay Cutler was signed out of retirement.  They ended up going from possible playoff contenders to a 6-10 finish.

While Tannehill is set to take back over the starting quarterback role, he hasn’t really proved he can be a franchise quarterback yet. This season will go a long way to show one way or another whether Tannehill is someone for the team to put faith in.

In a head-scratching move, the Dolphins traded away Jay Ajayi to the Eagles in the middle of last season and only got a fourth-round pick in return. Kenyan Drake proved to fill in nicely for the Dolphins and will now be paired with Frank Gore, who just signed with the team.

Jarvis Landry was traded to the Browns after having a lot of catches in the first few years of his career. The Dolphins signed Danny Amendola to help replace some of the production provided by Landry. Kenny Stills has stepped up big time for Miami and they likely need more out of DeVante Parker. A new tight end will be needed, as Julius Thomas did not pan out for the Dolphins.

The offensive line has already seen some changes. Mike Pouncey was cut and Daniel Kilgore was acquired to compete with Jacke Brendel for the starting job. Josh Sitton was signed to give some much-needed help at guard, but more is probably necessary. Their tackles, Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Waun James are solid.

Ndamukong Suh is now a Ram, so the Dolphins need some interior defensive linemen. The edge rushers, Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake and William Hayes aren’t the youngest, but can still be productive.

Linebacker is a position that has to get better in order for the Dolphins to be successful. Raekwon McMillan got hurt so early in his career that it is hard to tell how much of an impact he can have at the NFL level. Kiko Alonso is solid against the run but hasn’t covered well. This position will be addressed in the draft.

While they do have decent young corners, they need some of them to develop and will probably select a corner or two in the upcoming draft. At safety, they have one of the NFL’s best in Reshad Jones and also have T.J. McDonald. Jones specifically is able to cover up for some of the corners when they get beat.

Miami does have some talent at certain positions but has some major holes at others. If Ryan Tannehill plays well, the Dolphins can be competitive, but they need a good draft to supplement him.

Picks and Needs

The Dolphins will have nine picks in the 2018 NFL Draft to fill some of their needs.

First round (1 pick): 11

Second round (1): 42

Third round (1): 73

Fourth round (3): 111, 123, 131

Fifth round (0):

Sixth round (1): 183

Seventh round (1): 227, 229

Offensive needs:

Tight end- Thomas is now gone after not doing too much. If Tannehill is to succeed this season he needs someone at the tight end position to throw to.

Guard- Josh Sitton was signed, but another guard will be needed before the start of the season.

Defensive needs:

Defensive tackle- With Suh leaving, the Dolphins are pretty weak on the interior of the defensive line.

Linebacker- McMillan can be a productive player and Alonso is a two-down linebacker. Another will be needed, especially one who can cover, to bolster the defense.

Cornerback- The corners aren’t a very great unit for Miami and will need to be upgraded in order to improve the pass defense.

Targets

Miami Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft profile

Roquan Smith (Photo by gridironnow.com)

First round: 

Pick No. 11: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith would help fill the linebacker need and be able to start from day one. He’s specifically good in coverage, which will drastically help Miami. He does a little bit of everything else well too, from rushing the passer to stopping the run. The Dolphins can get good value with this pick and fill a need, making it a solid choice.

Second round:

Pick No. 42: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State

With the second round selection, the Dolphins can get one of the many talented guards in the class. Price can play either guard or center, making him even more valuable. He has plenty of good experience at Ohio State and can start right away opposite Sitton.

Third round:

Pick No. 73: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

Gesicki had one of the best NFL Combines in recent memory for a tight end, but still hasn’t moved up mock drafts significantly. The Dolphins have to find some sort of pass catcher at tight end for next season and can get good value on Gesicki, who is a great receiving threat at the position.

Conclusion

The Dolphins lost a lot of talent off of last year’s team and will need to have a solid draft to replace some of the players lost. Being a true contender would be a surprise, but they can improve if Tannehill plays to the best of his ability.

 

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Richard Sherman: A crusader? Or a clown?

This offseason has already seen the making of a memorable one for history. Big crazy trades and free agent signing has set an overcast in the journey to the upcoming NFL Draft. One signing, in particular, would be the San Francisco 49ers acquisition of Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman. Sherman, whose season was cut short after an Achilles injury in week 8, agreed to a contract worth up to $39.15 million dollars for three years, three days before free agency opened up. But there has been some controversy surrounding the deal itself and Sherman’s role in it. It is reported that Sherman himself handled the negotiations without the representation of an agent.

Some questions now have surfaced to why Richard Sherman would go this route and the future of players handling their own affairs pertaining to contracts. Some see this as the future of the league while others see this as Richard Sherman’s ego getting in front of his talent once again. Sherman has been critical of how agents operate and encourages a path for players to be more proactive in these areas. However, the same can be said about the team he signed to minutes after he was released, comprised a deal that many have criticized.

The Contract

First, let’s talk about the contract. Richard Sherman has signed a deal that is worth $39.15 million dollars. The key word is “worth”. Most NFL contracts, like other sports and management positions, are worth a dollar amount. Most of the money to be earned is tied up in incentives, bonuses and allowances. Sherman’s deal includes $3 million dollars in full guarantees, $7 million in practical guarantees and up to $9 million in earnings baring injury during the 2018 season.

In an offseason where the value of individual prospects and a team’s desire to certain prospects have set an unprecedented amount of money for their acquisitions, this deal doesn’t seem to make much sense. This could be a fault towards Sherman who essentially worked out the deal himself. This contract is purely based on Sherman’s ability to stay healthy and perform at a high level.  However, this opens a door for other players. Sherman, who is also a Stanford grad, is a key player in the NFLPA and knows how the business works. If players are to take the same route, they too might be able to capture some control in the debating process.

Pros

Players ultimately have all the power. They decide whether to take deals or leave hem on the table. Agents look to give them the best deal possible. In return, this could leave the player losing the ability to play for a favorable destination. Not saying that players aren’t sitting at the negotiation table but what Richard Sherman did, extends the amount power a player has.

Because of this, the player is able to negotiate a deal that they might feel is good for them. Most agents meet with teams with a hardline offer and it doesn’t really dip or bend from there. Plus with the ability of players to sit out, this pretty much twists the hands of management into submission. Most teams now have tried to stay away from hardline offers as they have led to some of the worst deals. Kirk Cousins suffered from franchise tag-itis because of The Washington Redskins horrible deal with Albert Haynesworth. As other teams have been ultimately forced to give in to player demands. If players want to take slashes in their guaranteed money in favor of being placed with the team that they desire to be on, then they should have that power.

Negative

What makes this deal seem sour is the subject at hand, Richard Sherman. Richard Sherman anchored one of the best defenses in five years that led to two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title. With the right defense, Richard Sherman is arguably the best cornerback in the National Football League. With that being said he should be paid accordingly to his value. Looking at this contract, it seems that he is selling himself a bit short. For example, as an analogy, Richard Sherman believes he should get $10 million dollars a year. Team A is willing to give him $10 million dollars and Team B is willing to give him $15 million dollars.

Your value isn’t the price tag that you put on yourself but rather how much someone is willing to pay. Despite his wishes, Richard Sherman is worth $15 million dollars in actuality. In comparison to the deal made in reality, Sherman would never see those $15 million dollars. If he never talks to Team B, it would be impossible. The idea of him not talking to other teams is quite depressing. He would never fully exercise the potential of the deal. This could be a downside for players who really want to play for a particular team and might be blindsided by their “wants” when they should focus on what should be owed to them.

The Future

At the end of the day, Richard Sherman has to accept or decline a deal. This particular deal is what he wanted and it is what he got. Other players in the future may not be so lucky. Determining a players’ value really depends on a broad spectrum. It’s not a discussion with a team who only really seems to benefit themselves and not the player. Despite this, a lawyer never acts as a legal representation for himself and a doctor doesn’t examine herself.

Agents are there to work out a deal. They know more about the process and are able to twist numbers and squeeze out the best deal possible. If that means shelving off between 1.5% to 4% in earnings so be it, there is no such things as a free lunch. In the future, negotiations should be left to agents as most believe that one would never let Sherman walk away with that deal. Sherman’s deal isn’t bad at all for other cornerbacks.

However, for an all-pro player, that gravitates a brand presence and is arguably the best cornerback in the league, it’s a terrible one. This contract is a deal for players that are on the cusp of proving themselves. For Sherman, he doesn’t have to. Despite suffering an injury and turning 30 years old in a matter of days, Richard Sherman has already proved his worth. A contract suited for someone who hasn’t is deplorable in his situation.

Fortunately, Richard Sherman got the deal he wanted. He went to the team he wanted and is in the best situation for himself. He’s happy and everyone should. More than likely, the deal will mature to be a wise one. It also might open the doors for other players to follow. On the other hand, if it flops, it would be a disaster and cemented as “pulling a Richard Sherman”. Who knows? Only time will tell.

 

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The departure of Danny Amendola

A few days have passed now since former New England Patriot, Danny Amendola, signed a contract with the Miami Dolphins. One things for sure, he doesn’t leave New England without massive amounts of gratitude from fans and from the organization themselves. Danny Amendola was and still is exactly what the definition of the Patriot way meant.

A guy who came into the league undrafted, worked for everything he had and then was released time and time again, battled injuries and then one of his last stops was to get scooped up by Bill Belichick and company and turned into a two time Super Bowl champion. In his time in New England he took three separate pay cuts in the prime of his career to continue to play with a team that he thrived with.

The NFL has always proven to be a business first and friendships second league. As Tuesday afternoon came and went the New England Patriots and Danny Amendola found out just how true that was.

Background:

Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

In 2013, Danny Amendola found his way to New England. His job? Replacing one of, if not the best slot receiver(s) of all-time in Wes Welker.

What’s funny is in the greater Boston area there isn’t a transition period for athletes. There’s no time for them to get settled in. A player is expected to produce and Amendola had a bumpy start with the New England Patriots.

What’s even funnier is the guy that replaced Wes Welker wasn’t Amendola, it was Julian Edelman. The same guy that has grown so close to Danny Amendola and is undoubtedly his best friend to this day.

Amendola never let minor setbacks at the very beginning keep him from succeeding in New England. He just settled into a role that wasn’t exactly what Patriot fans painted him to be. Instead, he carved out his role and went to work.

Playoff ‘Dola:

Amendola, (USA Today).

There are few words to describe just how clutch a 5-foot-11 slot receiver can be. So let me bounce some statistics off of you instead.

Amendola had never reached the playoffs before coming to New England. In his 13 playoff games in five seasons, Amendola had 57 catches on 81 targets.

He racked up 709 total receiving yards in those 13 games, giving him a 55 yard average per game and a 12.44 yard per catch average. In the 2017 postseason alone, he accounted for 348 receiving yards, (49.1 percent of his total playoff receiving yards), picking up the slack for injured teammates Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell.

He also accounted for six touchdowns and 35 first downs made all by himself in that five year playoff span. The point is Danny Amendola got better when the game got tougher. He constantly made big play after big play for a Patriots offense that needed him.

He was reliable and trustworthy, and when Tom Brady needed a reception over the middle of the field, Amendola was there, calmly shaking countless defenders off him.

What the Future holds:

There is no doubt in my mind that Danny Amendola will thrive in his new role with the Miami Dolphins. Now that he can help compliment a guy like DeVante Parker, his new role could be even more of a fit for him than a crowded wide receiving core he leaves behind in New England.

The truth is, Amendola is one of the players that you never want to see walk out the door. He is an excellent personality and a hard worker who has cared about winning more than money his entire career. As maybe his last payday has come and gone, it makes the most sense for Amendola to take his last contract and go down to the warmth and out of the frigid Foxboro winters.

One things for sure, ‘Dola leaves a hole in Patriots fans hearts as he walks out. Regardless of what the future holds and what the end of Danny Amendola’s career looks like, he will always be remembered in New England for his receiving and passing touchdowns and his incredible playoff performances.

He will be remembered for his toe tapping touchdown to beat the Jaguars in the 2018 AFC Championship and his bubble screen goal line grab to score the two point conversion that effectively brought the Patriots all the way back to even the score in SuperBowl LI. He made most of his memories in the post season just like it should be. I mean come on, he is playoff ‘Dola.

Featured image from USA Today.

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NFL coach hot seat

An early look at the 2018 NFL coaching hot seat

Unfortunately, the NFL offseason has arrived, but the pressure on coaches to win never ceases. It is also never too early to start looking ahead at the NFL coaching hot seat heading in to the 2018 season.

It goes without saying that established winners like Bill Belichick, Sean Payton and Mike Tomlin should feel very good about their job security at the moment. The same can be said for rising stars like Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay.

Even though it is becoming less and less unheard of for head coaches to be fired after a single season, all the guys who just took new head coaching jobs are safe unless things go sideways to an extreme extent.

Also, Marvin Lewis has done a nice job in Cincinnati to bring that franchise back to a respectable level. However, the end of last year was the time for him to go and he got another contract extension. Thus, he is excluded from any article like this until further notice.

Here are the coaches not as lucky as those mentioned in the last three paragraphs.

Hue Jackson

Jackson is well respected around the league. So, it is not all that surprising that there was not much outrage when it was announced he would be back for a third season in Cleveland.

Still, this situation is about as cut and dry as it gets. Jackson is coming off a winless season and has won a grand total of one game with the Browns. Browns management actually sticking with a coach for more than a cup of coffee is refreshing and admirable. They could greatly assist their current coach by somehow finally getting the quarterback position right this offseason.

Regardless, if there is not significant improvement in 2018, Jackson is gone.

Vance Joseph

Much like Jackson in Cleveland, Joseph’s biggest issue in Denver last year was the quarterback position. The difference is the Broncos and their fan base are not used to picking in the top five of the draft.

How John Elway will address the quarterback position for the Broncos may be the single biggest question of the entire offseason. The roster has talent. Previous head coach Gary Kubiak guided many of the same players to a 9-7 mark in 2016 a year after winning the Super Bowl.

5-11 is not good enough for this franchise. Last year was Denver’s first losing season since 2010. Joseph will need to get this team in or very close to the playoffs in 2018 to keep his job.

No matter who the quarterback is, Joseph and his staff need to limit the careless turnovers and mindless penalties that doomed the Broncos in 2017. Only Cleveland had a worse turnover margin last year.

Andy Reid

Reid is an outstanding football coach who has won almost 200 games in this league when regular and postseason stats are combined. However, his lack of postseason success is starting to catch up with him in Kansas City, similar to the way it eventually did in Philadelphia.

NFL coach hot seat

Photo from 12up.com

Even with an 18-point halftime lead at home, league rushing champion Kareem Hunt was virtually invisible in the second half of Kansas City’s playoff loss to Tennessee. Reid is not solely responsible for the play calling, but that is the kind of loss that people lose their jobs over.

Reid and the Chiefs have taken a huge gamble to start the offseason by shipping ultra-consistent quarterback Alex Smith to Washington. This means the organization is now all in on second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has infinitely more upside than Smith at this point in their careers. But turning the keys to your franchise over to a young quarterback is always a huge gamble. This is especially true if the guy being replaced has been reasonably successful like Smith.

The bottom line is this. With the way last season ended and this offseason began, heads are going to roll in Kansas City if the 2018 season does not produce another trip to the playoffs as well as a win or two once the Chiefs get there. The first guy out is almost always the head coach.

Dirk Koetter 

Lovie Smith was forced out of Tampa Bay a couple years ago so that young quarterback Jameis Winston could be polished by Koetter, whose background is on the offensive side of the ball.

Year two of the Winston-Koetter marriage was a disaster. Tampa Bay’s win total decreased by four from 2016. Moreover, two of their five wins came with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at quarterback for an injured Winston.

The two big concerns on Winston coming out of Florida State were maturity and turnovers. Neither has been adequately cured under Koetter. Winston and the Bucs likely need a playoff appearance in 2018 to keep Koetter around. Otherwise, the head coach is always going to be shuffled out of town before the young quarterback with loads of raw talent.

Honorable mentions

NFL coach hot seat

Photo from profootballtalk.com

Even though the Cowboys have not reached the conference championship game since the glory days of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, Jerry Jones always thinks his team is a legitimate contender. So, Jason Garrett should be nervous if the 2018 season fails to live up to expectations that are probably unrealistic.

Adam Gase is also worth keeping an eye on in Miami. He gambled on bringing Jay Cutler out of retirement to fill in for an injured Ryan Tannehill and lost. Even with a playoff appearance in 2016, Gase has not yet turned the Dolphins offense into a consistent point producer. At some point, you have to live up to your “offensive guru” label or else.

 

Featured image from Cleveland.com

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Roger Federer Tom Brady

Federer and Brady: The two ageless wonders of our time

Tom Brady is about to be the centerpiece of yet another Super Bowl, and Roger Federer is fresh off his 20th major victory in Australia. We are witnessing two of the greatest athletes ever still at the peak of their powers.

Comparing individual sport athletes to team sport athletes is difficult. However, these two are running out of suitable comparisons in their respective sports. So, here it goes.

What makes them similar?

Unprecedented longevity

The Swiss icon and the former sixth-round draft pick are in uncharted territory for their age brackets in their sports. At age 40, Brady will become the oldest non-kicker to take part in a Super Bowl. This makes the fact that he is still playing quarterback at an MVP level all the more impressive.

The closest thing Brady has ever had to a consistent rival was Peyton Manning. Despite winning the Super Bowl in his final game at age 39, Manning was a shell of himself in his last year. He missed a handful of games due to injury and accounted for more turnovers than touchdowns. Yet, Brady just keeps rolling.

So does Federer. With his win in Australia, he joined Ken Rosewall as the only men to win multiple majors after the age of 35. Rosewall did it in the early 70s. The game is infinitely more physical now and has much more depth. Also, the 36-year-old has six Australian Open titles. Every player he beat to win his first in 2004 is now retired.

We keep waiting for these two to slow down. They seem intent on keeping us waiting a little while longer.

The ability to stay healthy

There is an old saying in football that availability is your best ability. The same is true in tennis or any other sport.

Whether you look at Federer’s younger challengers in tennis or Brady’s in football, almost every one of them has dealt with major injuries as their careers have worn on. Brady missed the 2008 season after a knee injury in the opener. Federer’s knee kept him off the tour from the summer of 2016 to January of last year. Other than that, neither have missed extended time due to injury.

Brady’s commitment to keeping his body fresh is well publicized. Other than very smart scheduling, Federer’s is less so, but clearly just as effective. To be a living legend at any sport, you have to almost obsess over your craft. These two have always had that covered.

A second run of dominance 

It would be a stretch to say either of these incredible athletes was ever an afterthought in their sport, but not much of one. Following a third Super Bowl in four years after the 2004 season, Brady’s Patriots were always in the mix for more titles, but were dealt a string of tough playoff and Super Bowl losses.

Had he walked away from the game without more Super Bowl wins, his legacy as the greatest quarterback ever would not be as secure as it is. This is especially true once we all learned of the Spygate and Deflategate scandals.

Minus the scandals, everything above can be said of Federer had he not won more majors following his win at Wimbledon in 2012. He already had the greatest of all time title in hand in 2012. Still, he was in danger of becoming something we see all too often in sports. A legend who held on too long.

Now, three more majors for Federer and another chance for Brady to win three titles in four years has us in awe of both of them. No matter what happens for the rest of their careers, they each have cemented their legacies as the best to ever undertake their respective crafts.

What makes them different?

Brady is a little more clutch

In football, history judges the best of the best based on the playoffs and the Super Bowl. In tennis, it is about major finals and head-to-head rivalries. Federer has contested 30 major finals and Brady has played 36 playoff games. Despite Brady’s teams having six more chances to lose on the biggest stages, they still have only nine playoff losses while Federer has 10 losses in major finals.

Moreover, Brady’s head-to-head edge over other great quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger has long been established.

Conversely, Federer’s chief rivals have been Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. When you take into account all meetings, Federer only has the edge against Murray. There is much more to be said about Federer’s competition later.

You don’t get as good as these two without being clutch, but Brady has the advantage in this area.

Brady has had better help 

At its core, tennis is obviously an individual sport. Despite that, it is also more of a team sport than people realize. There are many coaches and trainers that put a ton of work into getting a player on the court and in a position to be successful.

Roger Federer Tom Brady

Photo: si.com

Federer has had some legends like Paul Annacone and Tony Roche in the coaching box over the years. Even so, Switzerland did not have a rich tennis history prior to Federer. So, he likely didn’t have access to great facilities growing up.

Meanwhile, Brady was drafted to what many people feel is the greatest coach and owner ever. He would have been very good no matter where he ended up. Still, he would not be what he is today had he ended up in a place like Cleveland or Cincinnati. Brady has made the careers of several castoffs. However, he has also been surrounded by his fair share of all-time great talent like Bill Belichick, Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski just to name a few.

Federer has had stiffer competition

This is the most glaring difference between the two. Brady and New England have to beat great teams in the playoffs every year. However, the best way to ensure playoff success is playing at home.

Roger Federer Tom Brady

Photo: talktennis.com.

The best way to make that happen is winning your division. New England shares a division with Miami, Buffalo and the Jets. For the vast majority of the last 20 years, these organizations have not been able to get out of their own way. New England has failed to win the division just twice since 2001. You only need two hands to count the total number of playoff wins to count the rest of the division has combined for during the Brady-Belichick era.

On the other hand, Federer has had to deal directly with Nadal, Djokovic and Murray for 11 months a year for the past decade plus. All three of those guys will likely join Federer in the greatest of all time discussion when their careers are over. The only question mark is Murray. The other two are already well into double-digits as far as major titles.

As noted earlier, Federer’s record against his chief rivals is not all that convincing. Still, the fact that he has been able to rack up 96 total titles and 20 majors in an era of such great players speaks for itself.

Who is better

Tennis people are going to say Federer and football people are going to say Brady. I am a rarity in that I am both. I say who cares? They are both awe inspiring. Whether you tune in to see them win or to hope they lose, enjoy greatness while it lasts, because it does not last forever.

 

Featured image from SI.com

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