The NFL is wildly popular in America for many reasons. One of the biggest is that it is the only mainstream American sport where it is not all that uncommon for a team to go from really bad to really good in a very short amount of time. The Super Bowl champion Eagles as well as the Jaguars finished at the bottom of their respective divisions in 2016 before winning them last year.
Also, it is not like teams like the Bills and Saints were on everyone’s radar as far as contending last year either. Still, the worst to first turnaround is most impressive. There are three teams with a realistic shot at doing what the Eagles and Jags did last year.
Denver Broncos: The AFC West is pretty unique headed in to 2018. It is not difficult to imagine any one of the four teams winning it, or finishing last. A lot depends on whether or not two-time defending division champion Kansas City misses a beat in the transition to Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. The former first-round pick is basically a rookie apart from a throwaway start at the end of last season.
The addition of Case Keenum gives the Broncos some long-sought and much-needed stability at the quarterback position. Even if he regresses closer to the player he was prior to last year in Minnesota, he is certainly an upgrade over what Denver put on the field at that spot last year. Only Cleveland had more turnovers than the Broncos in 2017. A quarterback carousel was not the only reason for this but was certainly the biggest factor.
If Keenum only raises the turnover numbers to the middle of the pack, Denver will be a much better football team in 2018. A defense that was top five in both rushing and passing yards allowed last year got younger and hungrier with the addition of Bradley Chubb up front and the departure of Aqib Talib at the back end.
The Broncos also spent another offseason taking a big swing at improving the offensive line. They are counting on veterans to stay healthy and youngsters to improve. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas saw their production drop off last year, but Keenum showed last year he can get the ball to talented wide receivers. With the improvements made and the question marks that surround their division rivals, the Broncos could be in for a very quick turnaround.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are going to win the NFC West this year. They won five games in a row once midseason acquisition Jimmy Garoppolo was inserted as the starting quarterback to finish out the season. This included defeating three playoff teams. The most impressive showing was putting up 40+ points on a Jacksonville defense that carried that team to within an eyelash of the Super Bowl.
Everyone has been singing the praises of the Rams all offseason long. However, the Jared Goff/Sean McVay offense took everyone by surprise last year. Whenever that happens, defensive coordinators always adjust the next year. Then, the offense either readjusts or never gets back to where it was. The same thing happened with the Wildcat offense in Miami as well as the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys. The Wildcat vanished almost as quickly as it appeared and this year will be the moment of truth for Prescott as an NFL quarterback.
For the Rams, this is the year where the offense regresses a little bit. We will see what Goff and McVay come up with in 2019. Los Angeles added some very splashy names on defense.
However, when you put that many strong personalities on one side of the ball, it is going to backfire. Los Angeles is a horrible place for guys like Talib and Marcus Peters to go. Their previous teams could not wait to unload them and it wasn’t because they are not good football players. To think those guys are going to be on their best behavior in Los Angeles is just plain dumb.
Seattle’s roster is a complete mess outside of Russell Wilson and Arizona is starting over as a franchise. Neither team will be a factor in the division race. San Francisco’s roster outside of Garoppolo is not full of household names.
The former Tom Brady understudy completed 67% of his passes and went 5-0 as a starter for a team that had won one game without him. Imagine what the 49ers can do with an entire off-season to build around their franchise quarterback.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has proven to be one of the league’s finest quarterback gurus in recent years. What those two are capable of doing together is flat out scary. The small sample size for Garoppolo is worrisome, but his toughest challenge should be being thrown on the field with last year’s awful team. He passed with flying colors.
Houston Texans: This one probably has the most ifs attached to it, but it is very intriguing. Prior to getting injured last year, then rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson had Houston looking like Super Bowl contenders. He threw 16 touchdown passes in one month and went toe to toe with Brady and Wilson on the road.
Blake Bortles is still Blake Bortles. If the Jacksonville defense is even slightly less dominant than it was last year, that team will take a step back. Tennessee has similar limitations at quarterback with Marcus Mariota. You can only go so far ranked 23rd in pass yards per game.
If Watson can stay healthy on offense along with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus on defense, it is sure going to be fun to see what this team is truly capable of. The Colts are capable of a similar turnaround in the same division if Andrew Luck stays healthy.
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Dreams really do come true during the NFL draft. Every year, players are surrounded by family and loved ones, waiting for their names to be called across the screen. Emotions are built up to this moment. Many players that have struggled in the past feel accomplished as they walk across that stage. They stand proud, holding their new jerseys, and they finally say, “I made it.”
They all have been through adversity, and this player is an example. He even did it with one hand! Yes, Shaquem Griffin made it to the NFL with only one hand.
Meet Shaquem Griffin
Griffin was born with amniotic syndrome, which is a congenital disorder that narrows the appendages, including the hands and feet. He was born with soft tissue in his fingers. When Griffin was four years old, he attempted to self-amputate his fingers with a kitchen knife, because he was in so much pain. Then, his parents caught him and they scheduled an amputation on his left hand the next day. His parents raised him the same way along with his twin brother, Shaquil.
Shaquem Griffin (Sporting news)
When Shaquem started playing football at a young age, a coach tried to get him disqualified because he believed that football was a two-hand sport. That didn’t stop Griffin. He and his brother continued to play the sport that they love all the way through high school. Both of them were offered and ended up committing to the University of Central Florida during their senior year.
Career at UCF
Shaquem only played one game during his sophomore year and a little bit of special teams. Then he was moved down to third string while his brother started at corner, and eventually making it to the league a year later. Shaquem was left behind, being demoted to a redshirt, then getting sent back home during the start of his third season. It felt like all hope was lost for him, but he still refused to give up. Shaquem returned to UCF in 2016, and played linebacker. He led the Knights with 92 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and an interception, yeah, an INTERCEPTION. He was also named the American Athletic Conference Defensive player of the year.
During 2017, Griffin led the defense again with 74 tackles, seven sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, three pass break ups and an interception. Pretty amazing for a guy that’s six foot, weighing 227 lbs, with one hand right? He even made first team all-conference for the second year in a row and helped UCF to become the only undefeated team in the nation. Shaquem even tried out for the NFL combine.
On his day at the combine, Griffin showed the scouts what he was made of. He ran a 4.38 in the 40 yard dash, (which is the fastest time from a linebacker since 2013), 20 reps on bench press with 225 lbs, and 117 inches on the broad jump. Due to his numbers, many NFL scouts were impressed.
On Saturday, April 22, 2018, it was Griffin’s moment of truth. With the 141st pick in the fifth round of the NFL draft, Griffin was selected by the Seattle Seahawks. That’s not all, he is also reunited with his twin brother who plays as a corner for them. This has been the brothers’ dream to play on the same team with each other, since they were little and now it’d finally became a reality.
Shaquem Griffin going through drills at the NFL draft Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
He would be an outstanding addition to the Seahawks’ legendary defense. Sources say that head coach Pete Caroll would put Shaquem at outside linebacker where he can put his speed to good use and come off the edge to make plays. Safe to say, that dreams do come true to those who are patient and never give up.
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The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books. It takes a couple years to really know which teams nailed it and which teams whiffed. Thus, the concept of giving out nothing more than simple draft grades in the days immediately following it is fun, but somewhat foolish.
However, we now have a better idea of how teams view themselves and how they will fare in the fall. Here are a few things we learned over the three day extravaganza.
Denver does not view Case Keenum as a stopgap
After scouting every elite quarterback in the draft, Denver passed on drafting a quarterback altogether. Instead, the Broncos bolstered an already loaded pass rush after Bradley Chubb fell into their lap. Then, John Elway spent five of his remaining picks on running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
Incoming rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton in particular could be asked to make an impact right away. A consistent third pass catcher to take the heat off of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders has been lacking for a few years now.
(Photo from wralsportsfan.com)
The Broncos clearly think Case Keenum can lead them right back into contention in 2018 and beyond. He has almost everything a quarterback needs to succeed, much like he did in Minnesota. Defense was the centerpiece of the Vikings last year and it will be for the Broncos this year.
It is a little bit surprising that Denver spent only one draft pick on offensive line. The decision-makers there are putting their faith in Garett Bolles to make a huge leap forward in his second year and veterans Ronald Leary and Jared Veldheer to stay healthy and stabilize a unit that has needed help for a long time.
Still, it is now apparent that the Broncos think they can win now and are reloading, not rebuilding.
Cleveland did not learn from history, but also hopes not to repeat it
Baker Mayfield and Johnny Manziel are different people, but the comparison really does write itself. They are both undersized quarterbacks who won the Heisman Trophy after dominating college football for a very short period of time. Moreover, the Browns ignored significant off-the-field concerns in hopes that they could resurrect a dead franchise.
Manziel failed spectacularly, and that is largely on him. But Cleveland has been the worst culture for young quarterbacks to develop in the last 20 years. Manziel had no chance to succeed there. Tyrod Taylor is a solid quarterback that is more than capable of getting the Browns at least four wins this year. That should lessen the immediate pressure on Mayfield. This, combined with the fact that Mayfield’s rough edges are a little smoother than Manziel’s give him a better chance to do well in Cleveland.
Still, the Browns going with Mayfield after the Manziel experience straddles the line between gutsy and stupid. No one would argue that Sam Darnold is not a safer prospect, even the temperamental Josh Rosen would have raised a few less eyebrows.
The Patriots are not concerned about Tom Brady’s age
Whether it is Robert Kraft or Bill Belichick calling the shots in Patriot land nowadays, this is the only conclusion that can be drawn. Jimmy Garoppolo is in San Francisco, Tom Brady is 40 and New England passed on taking Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph.
New England did take a quarterback in the seventh round, but LSU’s Danny Etling was not on most radars as a draftable prospect. The Patriots have outsmarted everyone with quarterbacks in the late rounds of the draft before, but it is hard to imagine Etling was drafted with the idea of being Brady’s successor. We know that 32-year-old Brian Hoyer certainly is not Brady’s successor either.
Regardless of how dedicated Brady is, quarterbacks fall off a cliff quickly in the NFL. The most recent example of this is Peyton Manning, who was younger than Brady is now when he played his final season, which was also his worst statistically. The lack of a long-term plan at quarterback is slowly putting New England’s position as the NFL’s gold standard in more and more jeopardy.
Russell Wilson is going to run for his life again in 2018
When the awesome story of the Griffin brothers is put aside, Seattle’s draft as a whole is worrisome. They reached by as much as two rounds for running back Rashaad Penny and tight end Will Dissly, but that is not all.
(Photo from nocoastbias.com)
Seattle’s offensive line was atrocious last year. At its worst, there were games where Russell Wilson was pressured on a third of his drop backs. The only reason Wilson lived to tell about it is because he is one of the most mobile quarterbacks on the planet. His arm and legs created all but one of Seattle’s offensive touchdowns last year. Wilson was able to keep Seattle relevant until the very end of the regular season.
Wilson will need a repeat performance to do the same this year. The Seahawks continued their long standing reputation of refusing to invest in the offensive line. They only took one and waited until the fifth round to do so. They even traded up to take a punter before paying any attention to their biggest need.
This was a very deep draft for offensive lineman. Thus, it feels like the Seahawks missed a big chance to improve. With the “Legion of Boom” pretty much a memory, Wilson really is the only thing this franchise has going for it. After this draft, the weight of the world remains on his shoulders.
Featured image from tylermorningtelegraph.com
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Seattle Seahawks defensive end Branden Jackson has been through quite a bit to get this far in his football career. The Texas Tech product went undrafted in 2016, bounced around a couple teams and even spent time on the practice squad.
Last season, Jackson served as the primary backup to Michael Bennett on the Seahawk’s defensive line. Now with Bennett gone, Jackson could finally get his chance to break out as a starter in the NFL.
Jackson has definitely worked hard to get where he is at today. He has also been doing a lot of work off the field this offseason. Jackson has been working with the American Diabetes Association and also took a visit to his hometown to talk with some of the kids at the schools.
So why is Jackson giving all this time off the field instead of relaxing this offseason?
“I honestly just feel like it’s my duty,” Jackson said. “I’m a guy who loves where he is from.”
Here is a closer look at what Jackson has been doing.
Visit to his hometown
Jackson grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, which is about 30 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh. Jackson was a two-sport at the high school, playing both basketball and football. He was a four-star recruit by scout in football, was named first team all-conference and helped lead the team to a league championship.
Jackson speaking at his former high school. (Photo by Tim Brown)
Jackson returned to his hometown to share some lessons he has learned in life with the kids there. He said his main focus was to challenge the kids to be themselves and not to worry about fitting in. He told them that if they want something in life, go and get it.
“When all else fails, just dream. Don’t ever be too prideful to dream,” Jackson said. “Don’t ever think that what you want in life is too big or too unachievable.”
Playing in the NFL can be a dream that seems too big or unachievable at times, and Jackson had to go through a lot to get where he is now. Jackson was undrafted. He spent time on the practice squad. He has been a reserve. Jackson also wanted to point out that when failure comes, you can learn from it. Your dream does not have to end because of a bump in the road.
“You have to allow failures to be a failure and just kind of look at them as a lesson, a lesson learned, and move on from that,” he said. “You got to grow, you got to improve and keep fighting and keep dreaming.”
Jackson also gave recognition to those in his hometown that helped him get where he is now. He pointed out to the students that the very teachers and coaches they have also were his teachers and coaches. He challenged them to not be afraid to lean on the people around them, because they were some of his biggest supporters.
Work with the American Diabetes Association
According the the American Diabetes Association, One in 11 Americans is living with diabetes with millions more at risk. Jackson has multiple family members that have been diagnosed with diabetes, making his involvement with the ADA a little more personal.
Last season during the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign, 25 players supported the ADA, including Jackson. The players wore custom-designed cleats to help raise awareness for diabetes.
Jackson is also associated with the ADA’s Team Tackle, a group of former and current NFL players that help raise awareness for diabetes and help raise diabetes research funding.
With his involvement in the organization, Jackson hopes to show that living with diabetes does not have to be a negative.
“I want people to understand that the disease isn’t a crutch,” Jackson said. “I come from a long line of people affected by the disease. My grandmother is the primary reason why I want to help raise awareness because of her impact on my life and how she raised me and how she never let that be a crutch.”
Along with his grandmother, Jackson has cousins, aunts and nieces that have diabetes. Jackson said the only way it can be a negative is if you allow it to be. He said taking insulin and following a diet is not always ideal or even cool, but it should not prevent people from doing certain things or even prevent them from being themselves.
“Learn to take care of yourself, and eventually it is just going to be another day, you will be yourself,” he said. “You can be the person you want to be despite having to take a different route.”
Jackson believes people can do better when it comes to a disease as serious as diabetes. Jackson said often times it can be swept under the rug with comments like “stop eating junk food” or “work out.” Jackson said it all starts with realizing diabetes is serious and that people die from it.
“It’s not taken as serious as something like cancer,” Jackson said. “I understand there is no cure for cancer, but all diseases alike need to be taken seriously. We need to be made aware, especially with a disease that is so commonly diagnosed.”
Jackson just wants the cause to be respected, adding it should not be something put off to the side just because it does not kill instantly.
Jackson was supposed to attend a meeting with congress back in March to further discuss diabetes and the impact it has had on his family, but his flight to Washington D.C. was canceled due to snow. However, Jackson still plans on attending another event in the future.
Jackson will get another opportunity to speak on diabetes in Washington state. Jackson will be a guest speaker at the ADA’s Tour de Cure Championship Dinner on May 4.
The Tour de Cure is the ADA’s signature fundraising event and will take place at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. The event itself has over 65,000 cyclists and volunteers each year from all over the country. The dinner Jackson will be speaking at celebrates the top fundraisers who have each raised at least $1,000 in support for the cause.
*Special thanks to Glen Wallace and Peterson Sports for the story pitch and photos
Featured image by Ken Obusek
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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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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
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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After an invigorating seven games where Deshaun Watson set the football world on fire he deserves to be the first quarterback taken. Leading the NFL in touchdowns with 19 through 7 games while playing as a rookie is no small feat, in fact, it’s almost unheard of.
2nd Overall, Chicago Bears – Myles Garrett, DE
Actual pick – Mitch Trubisky, QB
With no quarterbacks worthy of the second overall pick left, the Chicago Bears settle for the best player available and take the most talented player in the draft. Garrett was limited last year by injuries but when he was on the field he showed the special talent that made him first overall last year. He had seven sacks and a forced fumble in just 11 games played last season.
3rd Overall, San Francisco 49ers – Alvin Kamara, RB
Alvin Kamara splits two Green Bay defenders for a big gain. Photo by Sports Illustrated
Actual pick – Solomon Thomas
Sure, this is early for a running back, but with Alvin Kamara in the fold it opens up a lot of options for Kyle Shanahan to exploit in his offensive attack. Kamara had 1,500 yards from scrimmage while spliting time with Mark Ingram and as the year progressed he appeared to take the mantle of starter from Ingram as well.
4th Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars – Patrick Mahomes, QB
Actual pick – Leonard Fournette, RB
Yes, I know that Leonard Fournette had a great year and rushed for over 1000 yards. However, he was injured for three games and this seems like the perfect time for a team loaded with talent to grab a very talented quarterback to compete with and later replace Blake Bortles.
Worries about Juju Smith-Schuster’s long speed are no longer a problem after he was shown to be a blazer last season, even scoring a 97 yard touchdown where he outran the whole Lions’ defense. He would step in and make an immediate impact for the Titans.
6th Overall, New York Jets – Marshon Lattimore, CB
Actual pick – Jamal Adams, S
The Jets get the best corner in the draft with the sixth pick, Lattimore, a lockdown corner who will help sure up the Jets defense for a long time. Lattimore was a big part of the reason the Saints defense jumped from 31st to 10th in scoring defense and 32nd to 15th in passing yards allowed. He could have a similar impact with the Jets.
7th Overall, Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, S
Actual pick – Mike Williams, WR
The Chargers needed a safety and luckily the best one fell into their lap at 7th overall. Adams is a safety that you can keep single back or move him up into the box and either way he will make an impact.
8th Overall, Carolina Panthers – Dalvin Cook, RB
Actual pick – Christian McCaffrey, RB
Cook had a very promising rookie season for the Vikings until his season-ending injury. Cook looks to be the best running back left in this draft in terms of running and catching out of the backfield. Some would say that Kareem Hunt belongs here but I believe Dalvin Cook has a higher ceiling. He would provide the Panther’s offense with what they thought they were getting when they drafted Christian McCaffrey.
9th Overall, Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Ramczyk, OT
Actual pick – John Ross, WR
The Bengals deal with their biggest problem on offense by drafting a big guy to help them win in the trenches. Ramczyk would shore up a line that was terribly leaky last season which caused many of their offensive issues. They allowed 40 sacks last season and had the second worst rushing attack in all of football last season. With most of the issues coming from the offensive tackle position it makes this pick easy.
10th Overall, Kansas City Chiefs – Mitch Trubisky, QB
Actual pick – Patrick Mahomes, QB
The Chiefs wouldn’t have traded up for anything else, they still need a rookie to develop behind Alex Smith and they get theirs in Trubisky. He had some promising moments in his first year as a starter, but clearly still needs the right situation to thrive. Andy Reid is a play calling magician and a quarterback whisperer if he cant make Trubisky work, no one can.
11th Overall, New Orleans Saints – Tre’Davious White, CB
Actual pick – Marshon Lattimore, CB
The New Orleans Saints needed defensive help and with Lattimore off the board, they grab the next best corner in White. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the second best corner in the league last year, the Saints are getting some serious value.
12th Overall, Houston Texans – O.J. Howard, TE
Actual pick – DeShaun Watson, QB
With all the potential quarterbacks worthy of a first-round pick gone, the Houston Texans go with someone who will help out the running and the passing game in O.J. Howard.
13th Overall, Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis, WR
Actual pick – Haason Reddick, LB
The Cardinals finally find someone to pair up with the great Larry Fitzgerald to create a truly dominant receiving duo. Davis struggled with injuries in year one but started to come on towards the end of the season. Year two will be a more accurate measure of where he is developmentally, he lands here with the Cardinals based on potential.
14th Overall, Philadelphia Eagles – Derek Barnett, DE
Derek Barnett sacks Dak Prescott. Photo by Hunter Martin
Actual pick – Derek Barnett, DE
Barnett was the right choice for this team. That, coupled with the fact that there are no glaring needs on Philadelphia’s roster make Barnett the perfect choice. Edge rushers are the second most important position on the team and with Barnett in line for an even bigger role in 2018 this pick seems like a huge success.
15th Overall, Indianapolis Colts – Cam Robinson, OT
Actual pick – Malik Hooker, S
The Colts are a team with many holes, none of them as poor as the offensive line, which is truly offensive to football fans. They draft Robinson and he can help keep whoever is quarterbacking the Colts (hopefully Andrew Luck) safe for years to come.
16th Overall, Baltimore Ravens – Cooper Kupp, WR
Actual pick – Marlon Humphrey, DB
It feels like the Ravens haven’t had a competent receiving corps in years, drafting Cooper Kupp to play with Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace might give them the firepower they need on offense. Kupp had 865 yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie and really helped elevate the Rams recieving corps.
17th Overall, Washington Redskins – Kareem Hunt, RB
Actual pick – Jonathan Allen, DE
Hunt would add a new layer to the Redskins already multifaceted approach. He might just be the piece that could have made the Redskins’ offense elite. Hunt finished with almost 1800 yards from scrimmage on the season as the focal point of the Chiefs attack and earned the rushing title with 1327 yards in his rookie season.
A crazy athlete that also fills an important need in the Titans defense. Foster would step in and be an immediate starter in Tennessee’s defense. His range is his biggest asset and would help a Titans defense that struggled with its linebacking corps in 2017. His only downside has been off the field issues.
19th Overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Solomon Thomas, DL
Actual pick – O.J. Howard, TE
A slightly below than expected season performance from Thomas causes him to slip until here. That being said, the Buccaneers would run this pick up to the table. The talent and potential have made him a top-five prospect and he fills a need on Tampa’s desolate defensive line.
20th Overall, Denver Broncos – Malik Hooker, S
Actual pick – Garrett Bolles, OT
The Broncos look to keep their defense at the top of it’s game with this pick, which truly solidifies Denver’s defense. Hooker is a safety with incredible range, he has the ability to truly shut down the middle of a football field.
21st Overall, Detroit Lions – Christian McCaffrey, RB
Actual pick – Jarrad Davis, LB
The Lions need a running back. The last time a running back rushed for 100 yards on the Detroit Lions was Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving, in 2013! Lion’s fans know this after hearing it in pretty much every game last season. McCaffrey is a good pick at 21st overall and although he made less of an impact than expected in year one he still has the talent that made him the eighth overall pick last year.
22nd Overall, Miami Dolphins – Haason Reddick, LB
Actual pick – Charles Harris, DE
Reddick is a really good player who would get some playing time almost immediately in Miami, they definitely need him. After playing defensive end in college he gained attention by showing that he can also be an inside linebacker in the NFL. He would be a great fit for the Dolphins with their need for both a pass rusher and a linebacker.
23rd Overall, New York Giants – Garrett Bolles, OT
Actual pick – Evan Engram, TE
The Giants take steps to help out Eli Manning by drafting an offensive lineman. Needs meet best player available again.
24th Overall, Oakland Raiders – Gareon Conley, CB
Actual pick – Gareon Conley, CB
The Oakland Raiders had a huge hole at cornerback, Conley is a over 6 feet tall and showed immense potential in his time at Ohio State. The Raiders wouldn’t let this opportunity slip by.
25th Overall, Cleveland Browns – John Ross, WR
Actual pick – Jabrill Peppers, S
Ross did not have a good first year in the NFL but he will surely develop in year two and his speed is a huge asset. After all he does have the fastest 40 yard dash at the combine ever. The Cleveland Browns seem like the team that would draft him here.
26th Overall, Atlanta Falcons – Takkarist McKinley, DE
Actual pick – Takkarist McKinley, DE
The Falcons made the right pick as far as I’m concerned, McKinley looked good last year and seems to fit the scheme well.
27th Overall, Buffalo Bills – Jonathon Allen, DE
Actual pick – Tre’Davious White, CB
Jonathan Allen slipped on draft day because of health concerns, now he’s slipping again because of them. Jonathon Allen looked good last year but how long can he stay healthy? You can’t make an impact if you’re not on the field.
28th Overall, Dallas Cowboys – T.J. Watt, OLB
Actual pick – Taco Charlton
T.J. Watt showed explosion at times last year, I just don’t believe he was as consistent as I would have liked, but, despite that, and his size concerns, he rose two spots. The Cowboys were disappointed by Taco Charlton last year they wouldn’t be disappointed with this pick. I believe Watt could be an effective pass rusher for the Cowboys.
29th Overall, Cleveland Browns – Marlon Humphrey, DB
Actual pick – Deshone Kizer, QB
Marlon Humphrey is a big, fast, and strong corner. His biggest question mark was his ball skills but his two interceptions last season in Baltimore showed that it probably will not be too much of a problem.
30th Overall, Pittsburgh Steelers – Shaquill Griffin, DB
Actual pick – T.J. Watt, OLB
Shaquill Griffin showed off some real potential in his rookie season earning himself the corner spot opposite Richard Sherman. He would be a great asset for Pittsburgh to have as they reshape their defense.
31st Overall, San Francisco 49ers – Evan Engram, TE
Actual pick – Rueben Foster, LB
Engram is not the best at blocking, but he is a good reciever, with good hands and good speed for a tight end. Exactly the kind of player coach Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch would want to add to his team.
32nd Overall, New Orleans Saints – Marcus Williams, S
Marcus Williams misses a tackle in the NFC Championship game. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Actual pick – Ryan Ramczyk, OT
Williams has shown to be a great fit in the Saint’s defense, a good tackler who makes good decisions (except that one play in the NFC divisional round). Why not take the same guy since he worked out so well.
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The 2018 NFL Draft is just a few weeks 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 Seattle Seahawks 2018 NFL Draft profile.
Russell Wilson (Photo by www1.cbn.com)
Seattle was able to get to nine wins last season but were not able to secure a wild-card spot. It will be a lot tougher for the Seahawks in the coming year, as a lot of new faces will have to come together in order for them to achieve their goals.
The offensive line needs a lot of work every year and rarely gets addressed, but it was a little better last season. The line, and subpar running backs don’t leave much room for a running game. The Seahawks ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing yards last season, which made it hard to get consistently good offensive production.
This has put a lot of pressure on Russell Wilson to produce. He has done well, but even he can’t carry an offense all by himself. He does have Doug Baldwin, his longtime favorite target, and Tyler Lockett returning, but will be without Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson who left via free agency. Wilson will have to do even more next season to keep Seattle in contention.
They rank in the bottom half of the league at stopping the run and have to get some better interior defensive linemen. Their linebackers will also need some help as former top pick Barkevious Mingo was signed. He is the starter as of now but will look out of place next to K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. More depth at the position needs to be added.
The pass defense ranked sixth in the NFL but will have a completely new look without Michael Bennett rushing the passer and Richard Sherman locking down his side of the field. Having Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor back definitely helps, but they need to find replacements for Bennett and Sherman.
Picks and Needs
The Seahawks have eight picks in this draft to fill some of their needs, but only have one pick in the first three rounds.
First round (1 pick): 18
Second round (0):
Third round (0):
Fourth round (1): 120
Fifth round (3): 141, 146, 168
Sixth round (0):
Seventh round (3): 226, 248, 250
Offensive tackle- Duane Brown was a huge improvement for the line last season but is 32 years old. Germain Ifedi hasn’t played well, even though he was a first-round pick. If the Seahawks want Wilson to play much longer, they have to start doing a better job of protecting him.
Guard- The Seahawks signed D.J. Fluker, but that may not work out. They may also elect to move Ifedi to the inside. Neither of these are definitely going to work, so another guard will be needed.
Running back- Thomas Rawls is now a Jet, which leaves the Seahawks with Mike Davis, Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic. Rawls likely wasn’t the answer for the Seahawks either, but they need someone who can give them some sense of a running game.
Defensive tackle- Sheldon Richardson signed with the Vikings and Michael Bennett won’t be there to move inside on passing downs. Currently, Nazair Jones and Jarran Reed are starting at the position. They signed Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson for depth, but need better starters.
Edge rusher- Cliff Avril went on IR last season and had neck surgery. He contemplated retirement and Frank Clark is the other starting defensive end. The defense will be a shell of its former self if it can’t get pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
Cornerback- Shaquill Griffin played well last year, but outside of him Seattle doesn’t have too many good corners. They have to find players who fit their zone scheme but can sometimes find players like this later in the draft.
Mike McGlinchey (photo by youtube.com)
Pick No. 18: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
This pick will be tough with how many needs that Seattle needs to fill and only having the one pick in the first three rounds. The Seahawks have to protect Wilson and therefore should take some sort of lineman with this pick. McGlinchey is the best tackle in the class and can play both right and left tackle. For the time being, McGlinchey can start at right tackle, but could eventually take over for Duane Brown at left tackle. He isn’t the most athletic but is solid and the lowest risk tackle to take. With him and Brown being the two tackles and the rest of the line featuring the best of what’s left of their linemen, the unit should be improved for next season.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 Chicago Bears 2018 NFL Draft profile.
The Chicago Bears enter draft season with an entirely different outlook after free agency. Despite a 2017 season that ultimately ended John Fox’s time with the Bears, there are some promising signs for this team moving forward. However, that only happens if general manager Ryan Pace is able to land impact players in the 2018 draft. The Bears are teetering on relevancy for another season, picking in the top 10.
First and foremost, the development of Mitch Trubisky is vital to any future success the Bears might have. Pace ensured this by trading up last April to grab his favorite quarterback in that draft, and after a rather typical freshman season, it’s time for Trubisky to take a jump in year two.
Fortunately, the Bears went out and grabbed a number of offensive free agents to help ease Trubisky into new coach Matt Nagy’s system. Acquiring Allen Robinson was a huge step in the right direction for a wide receiver group that caught four touchdown passes all of last season. Add speed demon Taylor Gabriel and the versatile Trey Burton to the list of signings, and the Bears have the start of something.
As for the rest of the team, it’s still going to be a work in progress. It’s no secret the Bears have little to offer at outside linebacker, and if one position of need sticks out, it’s an edge rusher. The offensive line also needs some help due to the ongoing health-related problems with Kyle Long and the release of Josh Sitton. If the Bears wish to compete in 2018, Pace has to hit on impactful players in the draft.
Picks and Needs
The Bears have seven picks in the 2018 draft.
First round (1 pick): 8
Second round (1): 39
Third round (0):
Fourth round (2): 105, 115
Fifth round (1): 145
Sixth round (1): 181
Seventh round (1): 224
Offensive line – One unit that had plenty of promise heading into last season that did not live up to expectations was the Bears offensive line. Injuries and regression plagued the line last season, and despite a solid pairing of Long and Cody Whitehair inside, the Bears need to touch up the tackle position and secure Whitehair’s spot at center. Jordan Morgan is still a question mark, and Charles Leno Jr. is already signed through 2020 and looks to have another effective season. If the Bears have a shot at the golden boy prospect, Quenton Nelson, it’s hard to see Pace passing even with a need on the edge.
Slot receiver – Yes, the Bears brought in two wide receivers and a pass-catching tight end this free agency, but there is still a missing piece in the slot. Looking at this draft, a particularly strong area is the slot receivers, especially value picks that will go on day two and three. The Bears needed an overhaul to the worst wide receiver group in all of the NFL in 2017, and a player like Christian Kirk or Anthony Miller would do the trick.
Outside linebacker – As alluded to earlier, outside of Leonard Floyd, the Bears have little to no pass rush on the edge. Pernell McPhee and Willie Young were promptly cut, saving the Bears some money to buy free agents, but leaving a gaping hole at linebacker. Luckily, Akiem Hicks alleviates some of that concern, but the Bears need some new pass rushing blood more than ever.
Cornerback – The Bears cornerbacks were one of the most underrated units in all of football last season. The resurgence of Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara fueled a total turnaround for a young Bears secondary. However, with Fuller signing an offer sheet and Amukamara back for a couple more years, it would be a good time to add depth and find the next potential starter.
Pick No. 8: Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech
The Bears won’t likely win the Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb lottery, even if there is a run of quarterbacks. But Edmunds would be an underrated, value pick at eighth overall. Looking back at what Pace’s prototypical prospect is, Edmunds fits almost perfectly. Edmunds has elite, athletic ability at 6-foot-5 and is still learning the game. He will continue to grow into whatever position he plays at the NFL level.
Edmunds is not that Week 1 impact player. He will take plenty of time to learn the game, but there is not a better coach to utilize his talents than defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Two things are clear: he is raw and undefined as a defender. But with his frame and speed, there is a chance he develops into one of the most imposing defenders in football. Edmunds arguably has a higher ceiling than even Chubb and is considered one of the best raw talents in this draft.
However, this pick is going to be volatile towards draft day. It is a quarterback-driven top of the draft, and with so many moving pieces, Quenton Nelson could end up being the pick. It is likely that Nelson is the first player on Pace’s draft board, but based on previous drafts and characteristics, Edmunds might be second.
Pick No. 39: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Pace has made it abundantly clear that this offseason’s sole purpose is to give Trubisky all the tools he needs to succeed as an NFL quarterback. Christian Kirk would cap off an addition to a now talented group of skill position players. The Bears need a slot receiver, and unless Nagy has ideas for Tarik Cohen in the slot, a player like Kirk would be a great addition.
Now, spending early draft capital on a position the Bears spent lavishly on in free agency might seem counterproductive and could lose out on more needy positions. However, Kirk would be an excellent value in the early second and would make an immediate impact on the field. On top of good football instincts, Kirk runs a fast 40-time and has excellent ball skills. Another dangerous weapon to add could help push this team into contention.
The Bears might be just out of the picture of getting Nelson, but Edmunds is nothing to be upset about and brings much-needed help to the pass rush. Kirk would cap off a great supporting cast for Trubisky to work with.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the San Francisco 49ers 2018 Draft profile.
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The Vikings continue to make big moves in free agency.
Days after landing free agent prize Kirk Cousins, the Minnesota signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. The deal is for one year and worth $8 million. The deal also includes $3 million worth of incentives, allowing Richardson to earn up to $11 million next season.
How we got here
Sheldon Richardson at his introductory press conference in Minnesota. (Photo by Andrew Krammer)
In his first two seasons with the New York Jets, Richardson was a dominant defensive tackle. In 2013, he was named Defensive Rookie of the Year and followed up with a Pro Bowl season in 2014.
Since then, however, Richardson has been suspended twice for off-the-field issues and has seen a steep decline in his production. In 2016, the former first-round pick only tallied 1.5 sacks on a struggling Jets team.
At the beginning of last season, he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round draft pick. Richardson performed well in 2017, but Seattle was not comfortable with signing him to a long-term contract.
What the Vikings are getting
Sheldon Richardson as a Seattle Seahawk. (Photo from vikingsterritory.com)
In Minnesota, Richardson will play next to Pro Bowl nose tackle Linval Joseph. This dynamic duo, along with ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, will form one of the most intimidating defensive lines in football. The Vikings were in the defensive tackle market after the departures of veterans Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen.
Although he may not have the game-changing ability he once did, Richardson is still an immensely talented player. In 2017, he showed improvement in transitioning to Seattle’s 4-3 defense and displayed excellent pass rushing abilities. Entering the offseason, Richardson was by far the best defensive tackle on the market.
After making big-time additions at quarterback and defensive tackle, the Vikings’ main need will be improving their offensive line.
Featured image from turnonthejets.com
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