Atlanta Falcons 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is under two 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 Atlanta Falcons 2018 NFL Draft profile.

Summary

Atlanta Falcons NFL Draft profile

Julio Jone (Photo by thefalcoholic.com)

After their Super Bowl appearance two seasons ago, the Falcons won 10 games last year. They were bounced out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round by the eventual champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Their defense stepped up last season, ranking eighth in points allowed per game. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t get going like in previous years and they ranked 15th in point per game. The Falcons were able to move the ball decently but failed to reach the end zone on a lot of drives.

A lot of the blame has been placed on offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, as he failed to get wide receiver Julio Jones involved in the offense near the goal line. Jones finished the season with just three receiving touchdowns, which severely limited the Falcons’ offense.

Sarkisian and most players from the Falcons’ offense return for next season, so they will have to figure out how to get the most out of the talent on their roster. Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu and Austin Hooper are the playmakers on offense. Atlanta should be pretty set with that but may need some more depth at some of those positions heading into next season.

The offensive line was solid for Atlanta last season, but this might be a place where they try to use a draft pick for depth or to enhance one of their weaker positions.

On the defensive side of the ball, the unit was improved, but Adrian Clayborne left via free agency. Takkarist McKinley will be tasked with stepping up on the opposite side of the field of Vic Beasley Jr. Beasley only had five sacks in 14 games and will also need to improve for next season. Grady Jarrett is solid at the defensive tackle position, but more will be needed.

Their linebackers are young and talented, leaving little to be addressed at the position. The Falcons have made a concerted effort to improve their secondary through the draft the last couple of years and have built a good secondary, which allows the 13th fewest passing yards per game in the league.

Atlanta still has a solid roster and with a good draft, can put themselves right back in the Super Bowl next season.

Picks and Needs

The Falcons have seven picks in the draft. They traded their fifth-round pick to the Bills and received a compensatory pick in the seventh round to reach that number.

First Round (1 pick): 26

Second Round (1): 58

Third Round (1): 90

Fourth Round (1): 126

Fifth Round (0): 

Sixth Round (1): 200

Seventh Round (2): 244, 256

Offensive needs:

Wide receiver- Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu are a good start to a receiving core, but there isn’t much behind them. They can take a receiver in the middle rounds of the draft, who should be able to give them more depth at the position.

Offensive line depth- Brandon Fusco was signed to play guard, but a few more players to fill out the roster could be added in the draft.

Backup quarterback- Matt Ryan is here to stay, but if he goes down with an injury, the Falcons aren’t looking too great. Matt Schaub and Garrett Grayson are the other quarterbacks on the roster, but Atlanta could take a project quarterback to sit and learn behind Matt Ryan.

Defensive needs:

Defensive tackle- Jarrett is good, but after Dontari Poe left in free agency a replacement is needed. They gave up the ninth fewest rushing yards in the league last season and will want to keep that up.

Defensive end depth- Brooks Reed and McKinley will help fill the void left by Clayborne, but more pass rushers will be needed in to bolster their depth chart.  

Targets

Atlanta Falcons 2018 NFL Draft profile

Taven Bryan (Photo by draftblasters.com)

First round: 

Pick No. 26: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida 

The Falcons can likely get a replacement for Poe in round one. With a few talented defensive tackles in the class, one could fall to number 26. Bryan is athletic for a defensive tackle and can start from day one if needed. He is most known for stopping the run, but can also help out the pass rush, as he had four sacks last season for the Gators.

Second round: 

Pick No. 58: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

In order to find another viable option at the receiver position, the Falcons can select Anthony Miller. He has the versatility to play in the slot or on the outside and made tons of highlight reel catches in college. He does have inconsistent hands and isn’t the biggest, but he makes plays. With him, Sanu, Jones and Hooper on the field, the Falcons should be able to return to offensive prominence.

Third round:

Pick No. 90: Austin Corbett, G/C, Nevada

Atlanta will see how Fusco does at right guard but may want to have a backup plan in case things don’t go well. Corbett has drawn comparisons to the Browns’ Joel Bitonio because they both played at Nevada and will move from tackle to the inside of the line. If he can figure out the nuances of playing guard at the NFL level, he could take the job from Fusco.

Conclusion

There isn’t much separating this team from another shot at the Super Bowl. If Sarkisian calls the right plays, this team has the talent to do a lot of damage. If they can fill their few needs in the draft, they will be ready to roll for the start of the 2018 season.

 

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Drew Brees

NFL bye week check: Week 5

Week 5 of the NFL season is upon us. It marks the first official week of byes. The bye week is always a good time to evaluate the teams who have the week off. So, here it goes.

Denver Broncos, 3-1

Biggest positives: We knew the defense would be really good, and it is. However, Denver is third in rush yards per game so far this year. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles have managed to stay healthy. The revamped offensive line has also exceeded expectations.

NFL bye week check: Week 5

Photo: denverpost.com

It was not uncommon for Trevor Siemian to have to throw 40-45 times a game last year. Siemian is better than most people think, but he is not built to do that. If the Broncos keep running the ball anywhere near their current clip, they will be back in the playoffs again and well-equipped to do damage.

Areas of concern: Winning on the road in the NFL is hard. Denver’s first road game of the year in Buffalo was a failure. Coming off the bye, the Broncos will be on the road seven of the next ten weeks. The AFC West is absolutely loaded. One or two bad games could sink any one of the three contenders. With that many road games coming up, Denver will have several landmines to avoid.

New Orleans Saints, 2-2

Biggest positive: The Saints have not quite figured out their running back rotation yet, but the offense continues to be very productive. Averaging 370 yards per game and putting up 23 points per game will give you a fighting chance every single week. Drew Brees may be 38, but he is still a premier player. He has yet to throw an interception this year.

Area of concern: The book on the Saints has been the same for several years now. As good as the offense is, the defense is that bad. Even after giving up 13 combined points in two games leading into the bye, they still rank 28th in total defense. The Saints got themselves back in the mix after an 0-2 start. However, the defense must continue its recent upswing for this team to be a true contender going forward.

Washington Redskins, 2-2

Biggest positives: Despite losing its two top pass catchers from last year, quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offense continue to produce. A three-headed monster has created a top ten rushing attack thus far. Washington remains hesitant to commit to Cousins long term. With 77 touchdowns to just 43 career interceptions, he has a long-term future as a starter, even if it is not with the Redskins.

NFL bye week check: Week 5

Photo: si.com

For now though. Cousins is averaging almost eight fewer pass attempts per game this year than last. A legitimate ground game is a huge help to any quarterback. Jay Gruden is doing a great job of putting his offense in positions to be successful each week.

Areas of concern: The defense is middle of the pack in almost every category. Also, this division is another that is very strong. The Eagles are leading it at the moment and getting better each week. The Redskins have already lost to Philadelphia. With five division games left, a lot can change. However, Washington is already behind the eight ball for tiebreakers in what promises to be a tight race.

Atlanta Falcons, 3-1

Biggest positives: The defending NFC champions have found ways to win. That counts for a lot. This is not college football. Style points do not matter. With three of four games decided by one possession, their record could easily be flipped.

NFL bye week check: Week 5

Photo: thefalconholic.com

Areas of concern: They have found ways to win, but the offense just is not as good as it was last year. It was unrealistic to expect them to put up 33 points a game again. The defense was not special last year and is not this year. The Falcons are scoring a touchdown less per game this year under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Unless the defense improves, that will show up in the win/loss column before long.

 

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Top five 2017 fantasy wide receivers

In fantasy football, the deepest position is wide receiver. Teams have a plethora of different receivers and many of them have different skillsets. Some are the dominant number one options, some are the big red zone threats and others the speedy slot receivers.

But these five receivers separate themselves from the rest and these are the top five fantasy wide receivers in 2017.

No. 5 A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

A.J. Green (Photo by:www.sbnation.com)

Green has been dominant ever since he came into the league in 2011. In his first five seasons, he posted over 1,000 yards every year. He joins only Randy Moss in that category.

Twice he has finished as a top-five receiver in fantasy and once in the top-10 in those five seasons. He has also been Andy Dalton’s favorite target as he has seen over 100 targets in each of those five seasons.

In PPR leagues, he has finished in the top-nine at the position during three of the past five seasons.

However, in 2016 Green struggled with injuries and missed out on 1,000 yards. He averaged 96.4 yards per game on 6.6 catches per game (both personal bests) before a hamstring injury sidelined him for six games. He still managed to have 100 targets and caught 66 passes for 964 yards and four scores in 10 games. Green still ranked in the top-30 in standard leagues.

Green is finally healthy and expect him to still be a target machine for Dalton. There is a little concern due to Tyler Eifert finally being healthy taking away some targets from Green. That shouldn’t be enough to shy away from Green as a roster asset. Green is a no-brainer No. 1 receiver that is a high second-round pick if not a end of the first round.

No. 4 Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

The best fantasy wide receiver last year, Jordy Nelson ranks fourth on my list for 2017.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson (Photo by: chicago.cbslocal.com)

The Comeback Player of the Year recipient also deserves the nod for fantasy comeback player of the year. He led fantasy scoring over 16 games and posted 10-plus points in nine of them. A lot of that last year was because the Green Bay Packers threw the ball 62.7 percent of the time thanks to a depleted run game.

He finished the 2016 campaign with a career-high in targets (152), and caught 97 passes for 1,257 yards and league-high 14 touchdowns.

But what puts Nelson on this list is his play in the red zone. He led all receivers from inside the 20-yard line with 29 targets, 19 catches, 127 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also led receivers inside the 10-yard line in targets (15), catches (11), yards (45) and touchdowns (9).

Nelson has been known to have very good hands and in the red zone he seems unstoppable. Some of that credit goes to Aaron Rodgers, but Nelson was on a mission in 2016 after missing 2015 with a torn ACL.

I don’t expect Nelson to have the dominant year he had in 2016 due to the improvement of their ground game in the draft and the signing of tight end Martellus Bennett taking some targets away especially in the red zone. I do believe Nelson will have a solid season still racking up over 1,000 yards, over 90 receptions and double digits in touchdowns.

When drafting Nelson, he is a No. 1 receiver and should be drafted by the second round.

No. 3 Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

When it comes to being a big play highlight reel, Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t disappoint. The New York Giants’ star ranks third for wide receivers in fantasy.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by: giants.com)

In 2016, Beckham had a slow start compared to what he did in 2015. But Beckham finished strong and had career bests in both targets (169) and receptions (101). He still maintained well over 1,300 yards and double digits in touchdowns.

In a three-year average he has 96 receptions for 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s finished as a top-seven fantasy wide receiver in each of those three years. He also ranked seventh in the NFL with 15 end zone targets last season (up from 11 in 2015) and led the league target percentage in the red zone from inside the 20-yard line.

The numbers and records he has at age 24 is historic and he is just getting started.

This coming season, Beckham should only improve and the ceiling for him is high. Even though the Giants signed Brandon Marshall, have second year receiver Sterling Shepard and drafted tight end Evan Engram, this should benefit Beckham in the long run. With the plethora of weapons for opposing defenses to cover, Beckham should get his reps and my bold statement is that he very well could finish the year as the best fantasy player in 2017. He is a definite middle pick in the first round.

No. 2 Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Even though his numbers were down in 2016, Julio Jones is still a top two fantasy receiver.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Julio Jones (Photo by:thefalconswire.usatoday.com)

When you compare Jones’ stats from 2015 to 2016, you can’t expect him to repeat those numbers especially the way the Atlanta Falcons offense played in 2016. His targets dropped by over 30 percent, his receptions by nearly 40 percent and his yards by nearly 25 percent. He also missed two games with a toe injury.

But it was the evolution of the Falcons’ offense that really dropped Jones’ stats. Players on the Falcons stepped up and helped Matt Ryan to not force the ball in Jones’ direction.

Jones was the league leader in 100-plus yard games at the receiver position with seven. He still managed to thrive in this offense as the sixth fantasy wide receiver. Jones has finished as a top-11 fantasy receiver during four of the past five seasons.

There is some concern though that comes with Jones. The first is his durability as he’s missed at least one game during four of his six NFL seasons. The other is former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaving to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

The team hired Steve Sarkisian, a former college head coach who hasn’t been in the NFL since 2004. Sarkisian saw success as the Oakland Raiders quarterback’s coach, compiling more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams in passing yardage.

Jones should continue to be a no-brainer as a reliable fantasy receiver as a middle pick of the first round pick.

No. 1 Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

You don’t have to be an expert in fantasy to know that the number one receiver is Antonio Brown.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown (Photo by: linkedin.com)

Compare his numbers from 2015 to last year and you will see that his numbers went down. He had 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. Even with the missed game he had, he still topped wide receivers in fantasy points for the third consecutive season.

He finished top-five in targets, receptions and receiving yards for the fourth straight year and Brown has delivered 10-plus fantasy points in 70.2 percent of his games over the past four seasons.

Brown should have another great season with Martavis Bryant back from a year suspension on the other side of him. With his addition, along with other targets, it will be impossible to double-team Brown all the time.

He’s averaged over 11 targets per game over the past four years and should repeat this stat again in 2017, even with the Steelers’ deep receiving corps and Le’Veon Bell at running back. He will remain Ben Roethlisberger’s top target and fantasy’s most consistently dominant wide receiver. He is worth taking in the top four picks and potentially the number one pick in PPR leagues.

 

Featured image from nj.com.

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“From our Haus to Yours”

2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Preview

It all comes down to this game. A rematch of last year’s National Championship. The Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the Clemson Tigers in the biggest game of the season in Tampa Bay, Florida.

There are so many talented players making this match-up great. Alabama has a lot of defensive NFL prospects, while Clemson has prospects on both sides of the ball.

This game will be a clash of the titans.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama’s team was more thoroughly reviewed before the Peach Bowl.

Jalen Hurts is going to have to complete passes in this game for Alabama to win. In the win over Washington Hurts threw for just 57 yards. Lane Kiffin didn’t have a great game plan and is now off to Florida Atlantic, but Hurts is also to blame. Having Steve Sarkisian calling plays won’t likely help that much, as he is very similar to Kiffin.

National Championship

Reuben Foster (Photo courtesy: Profootballfocus.com)

Alabama has great play-makers as targets for Hurts in Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and O.J.Howard. That doesn’t matter if he can’t get the ball to them. Hurts is the key to the Alabama offense, because if he can’t complete passes, Clemson’s defense can focus on just stopping the run.

The Crimson Tide rode the hot hand in the Peach Bowl. Damien Harris, along with Hurts, had been the best at running the ball for Alabama. Against the Huskies, big Bo Scarborough rumbled for 180 yards on just 19 carries for two touchdowns. He doesn’t have great vision, but if the holes are there, is tough to bring down at 235 pounds. Between the two of them, either Harris or Scarborough need to produce in this game.

The defense has been dominant for Alabama all season long. They scored ten touchdowns this season and don’t show any signs of stopping. The front seven is great and led by Jonathan Allen. He had a sack, two tackles for loss and one fumble recovery against Washington. Reuben Foster is one of the best inside linebacker prospects in a while. With pass rushing help from Tim Williams, the front seven is stacked with great players.

Eddie Jackson, the safety, will be out for this game, but the secondary has done well without him in the past few games. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey will be the ones making plays for Alabama in the secondary. Both have plenty of experience and should feel a sense of pride after allowing Clemson to score 40 points in last years National Championship Game.

Clemson Tigers

Clemson was more thoroughly reviewed before the Fiesta Bowl.

The Tigers have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Deshaun Watson. He is dynamic with his legs and pretty good with his arm. He will have to use both effectively to beat Alabama. Watson only rushed or 57 yards against Ohio State, but had two rushing touchdowns. With Ohio State playing so poorly, he didn’t need to run much more. He did, however, throw two interceptions. This has been a big theme all season long, as his decision making has been questionable at best. With 17 interceptions thrown on the year, his main priority has to be protecting the football against a good Alabama secondary.

National Championship

Mike Williams (Photo courtesy: si.com)

Mike Williams is the good news for Watson. He is the top NFL Draft prospect at the wide receiver position and creates match-up problems for opposing teams. With other productive players like Hunter Renfrow, Jordan Leggett and Artavis Scott on the team, opponents can’t really double team Williams much either. If Watson makes a bad decision, these guys have to turn into defenders and knock the ball down to keep possession of the football.

There are a lot of good running backs in college football, but Wayne Gallman might be the most underrated of all of them. He did decently in the Fiesta Bowl with 85 rushing yards and a touchdown. Going up against that Crimson Tide front seven will be tough, but if Gallman can keep chipping away early with four and five yard runs, he should be able to bust one loose late in the game.

Clemson’s defense haven’t scored as much as Alabama’s, but they are coming off one of the best performances of the season, holding Ohio State to no points.

The Tigers also had a great defensive line this season, which is led by Carlos Watkins. He has 10.5 sacks with two coming against Ohio State. Watkins is one of the best interior pass rushers in college football.

Ben Boulware leads the linebacking core. The senior had 81 total tackles in the 2015 season and has 110 this season. He only had three total tackles in last year’s National Championship, but will have to do more to help stop the Alabama rushing attack in this game.

In the secondary Jadar Johnson is a safety that covers the whole field and has five interceptions on the season. The corners, specifically Cordrea Tankersley, shut down opposing wide receivers.

Prediction

Both teams have distractions going into this game. A new offensive coordinator for Alabama. A mini-scandal for Clemson’s defense after Christian Wilkins violated Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel during the Fiesta Bowl. Keeping that stuff out of their minds and focusing on the game is imperative.

The quarterbacks will be the key in this game. Can Hurts complete passes? Can Watson make good decisions and protect the football? Both have tall orders, as they go up against great defenses.

Alabama’s rush defense is the best in the country and holds opposing teams to just 62 yards per game. That is 61 yards better than what Clemson’s good run defense holds opponents to. The last time a team held a team to below that number of rushing yards was 2008.

All of Nick Saban’s national title teams with the Crimson Tide have been featured the top rush defense, besides the 2009 season, when they placed second to National Runner-up Texas. In the years since 2009 that they didn’t win it all, Alabama didn’t finish as the top rush defense in the country (once finished second in 2014 in that span).

National Championship

Nick Saban (Photo courtesy: sltrib.com)

That classic Alabama rush defense will save the day and be the difference-maker. Gallman will be shut down by Alabama. Watson will probably have a good rushing performance, but it won’t be enough.

When the run game is shut down by Alabama’s run defense, Watson will throw and be intercepted in a key situation. The Crimson Tide will run the clock out and be champions once again in another close game against Clemson.

 

Alabama Crimson Tide 38 Clemson Tigers 33

 

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