A Roller Coaster Ride: Reviewing the Patriots Draft

Welcome to my in-depth draft review for the New England Patriots.  I have already begun writing draft grades for each team (organized by division), but I figured I’d go more in depth for my favorite team.  Plus, I was able to submit this as a critical review for English class.

Read below for my draft grades for the Pats alongside my review.

In addition, I had the chance to catch up with Bob Socci about New England’s draft:

Now, let’s jump right in:

new_england_patriots New England Patriots

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

 

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Analysis:

Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Patriots should remain elite in 2019.  However, with tight end Rob Gronkowski hanging up his cleats and multiple receivers leaving through free agency, the Patriots still had a few tasks to accomplish coming into the NFL Draft.  

First of all, they needed to find quarterback Tom Brady some receivers.  Going into this draft, Julian Edelman was the only capable pass-catcher on the roster that Brady already has a strong rapport with.  Their depth behind Edelman was limited to Demaryius Thomas (coming off torn achilles) and Phillip Dorsett (has yet to prove himself dependable).  They also added Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a veteran tight end who was signed to help fill the hole Gronk left behind. But ASJ is no more than a temporary solution.  He has been terribly inconsistent throughout his career, and after playing 5 years on 3 different teams, he has never reached 400 receiving yards or 5 TDs in a season.  The Pats will eventually need to find another option there.

Second, they needed to fill some of their other positional needs.  They lack defensive line depth and are in desperate need of an elite pass rusher.  They brought Adrian Clayborn on board for 2018, but he didn’t consistently produce.  They haven’t really had a consistent one since DEs Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich left a few years ago.  The team could also use help at linebacker and in the o-line. Lastly, Brady’s not retiring anytime soon unless his stats suddenly decline.  But they still need time to start planning for the post-Brady era.

I feel the team worked towards achieving all of these objectives, but still could have done more to achieve them.  

There were rumors that New England would consider trading up to draft an elite tight end.  Instead, they opted to wait on a tight end and draft WR N’Keal Harry in Round 1. At #32, Harry was one of their best options, and he fills a need.  Once he gets into a rhythm with Brady, expect to see him starting and producing across from Edelman, so this was one of their better picks in the draft.

I wasn’t a huge fan of their 2nd round trade up for cornerback Joejuan Williams though.  Round 2 is a bit early for Williams; the Pats had bigger needs at #45. For example, they could have taken Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr.  But if they were going to trade up for a cornerback, it should have been LSU’s Greedy Williams. He ended up going to the Browns at #46. He may be a flawed prospect, as he’s not a very physical player and he opted out of visiting with teams prior to the draft.  But he has insane potential and refuses to leave receivers open.

The Pats redeemed themselves in the 3rd round.  After trading their later 2nd round pick, they managed to snag edge rusher Chase Winovich early in Round 3.  At the age of 24, Winovich is an older rookie, but he should still bring the energy to the locker room that Gronk left behind and make an instant impact in the pass rush where Ninkovich previously thrived.  This was the perfect choice for the Pats.

In this round, they also snagged a running back, Damien Harris and a tackle, Yodny Cajuste.  Harris is one of the better RB prospects in this draft, and he was a steal at #87. He has played in committees, but it’s hard to get a lot of opportunities in New England’s four-man backfield, something established in 2017.  As long as Michel is healthy, I’m not so sure they needed a fourth man. But he’s still a decent investment in my eyes.

Cajuste was one of the best tackles on the board and fills a need for the Pats, so I liked the pick.  Isaiah Wynn has yet to play a regular season game after losing his rookie year to an ACL tear, so the left tackle job is anyone’s for taking.

Though it received mixed reviews overall, one of my favorite picks in this draft was the selection of Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham in Round 4.  Stidham may have struggled at Auburn, but he wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for Auburn’s system, and I trust that he’ll fit better with the Pats and is capable of replacing Brady when he retires.

They also took guard Hjalte Froholdt in this round.  This was a bit of a reach, but he does help fill the team’s need for o-line depth.  

I was a bit disappointed at first when the Pats took DT Byron Cowart in Round 5, when better options were on the board.  But since then, I’ve looked further into this pick, and it actually makes sense. It fills a need, and as a former top high school prospect, Cowart has plenty of potential despite underperforming in college.  

On the other hand, it’s hard to argue in favor of the selection of punter Jake Bailey.  First of all, Bailey is a right footed punter, the first right footed punter on the Pats in a long, long, time.  Plus, they already resigned punter Ryan Allen. In baseball, they put right handed batters in a platoon with left handed batters.  Would the Pats consider something similar with punters? Regardless, the 5th round was a bit early to draft one.

Their drafted concluded with the addition of cornerback Ken Webster.  This pick didn’t make much sense, as they had already added depth at the position by drafting Joejuan Williams.  But it’s the 7th round, so I doubt it’ll have that much of an impact in the long run.

Overall I thought this draft class was pretty solid.  Some of the decisions they made were a bit confusing, but that was mixed in with some amazing picks, and it’s hard to doubt Bill Belichick.  This draft class makes a lot more sense now that the Pats have reunited with TE Ben Watson and LB Jamie Collins in free agency.  So if I had to give this draft class a letter grade, it would be somewhere in the B-range.

Stay tuned for more draft grades soon.

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2019 NFL Mock Draft: Who Takes the QB of Their Future?

Welcome to my 2019 NFL Mock Draft!  Today, I’ll be sharing a one-round NFL mock draft with trades.  I have also predicted what the rest of the New England Patriots’ draft will look like (Rounds 2-7).  There’s always a handful a QB prospects who are lined up to be future starters.  But while there’s a lot of teams that could use a young QB on the roster, most teams would do alright without one.  Even the Giants, who have been rumored to replace Eli Manning since the start of 2018 could make do with just Manning, Kyle Lauletta (drafted later last year), and Alex Tanney.  But I do see a few teams making their move this year, some in the first round, and some waiting till later rounds.  Who will they be?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Let’s begin with the Arizona Cardinals.  They own this year’s first overall pick and are likely close to making a decision.  But I cannot see them trading down.

1.  With the 1st overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals select…

Kyler Murray

QB

Oklahoma

I don’t typically predict something in a mock draft solely based on rumors, but all signs have pointed to Arizona taking Kyler Murray #1 after Kliff Kingsbury’s statement a year ago about taking Murray #1 if he ever had the chance.  If they do decide to stick with Josh Rosen at QB (who they drafted last year), they can take edge rusher Nick Bosa #1, who could definitely help this defense.  I have them trading Rosen to the Giants for a second or third round pick.  This will allow the Giants to use their first rounder to improve the team around Rosen while Arizona moves on to Kyler.

 

2.  With the 2nd overall pick, the San Francisco 49ers select…

Nick Bosa

DE/OLB

Ohio State

The 49ers could use Bosa as an OLB or a DE.  At whichever position they don’t put Bosa at, they can start the recently acquired Dee Ford.  The Niners definitely improved their front seven this off-season, but they could still benefit from more depth on the outside.  They can wait on a wide receiver, their biggest need, thanks to the deep WR class.

3. NYJ With the 3rd overall pick, the New York Jets select

Josh Allen

OLB

Kentucky

New York signed ILB C.J. Mosley this off-season, but after a failed attempt to add OLB Anthony Barr, the Jets are left with a gaping hole at outside linebacker.  Their 3-4 scheme is a perfect fit for Allen, who will fill a need and significantly boost the pass rush.  Allen totaled 17 sacks in his senior year at Kentucky, which nearly tops Nick Bosa’s college career total of 17.5.  The Jets have been rumored to trade down, but the outside linebacker class isn’t very deep.  They should take advantage of the 3rd overall pick here.

 

4.   With the 4th overall pick, the Oakland Raiders select…

Quinnen Williams

DT

Alabama

The Raiders have been linked to Ed Oliver frequently, and if Williams is taken Top 3, the Raiders should consider taking Oliver.  But if Williams is available, this pick is a no-brainer.  The Raiders still have a gaping hole at defensive tackle despite drafting Maurice Hurst in 2018.  Williams is one of the best prospects in this draft and should definitely fill that hole playing next to Hurst.  The Raiders could also snag ILB Devin White or CB Greedy Williams, but it would be smart to take Quinnen while he’s still available, and who knows, Greedy might still be available at #24.

 

5.  With the 5th overall pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select…

Rashan Gary

DE

Michigan

Though the Bucs drafted Noah Spence a couple years back at this position, they would still benefit from drafting another edge rusher.  They have been linked frequently to Devin White since Kwon Alexander’s departure, but I don’t see it happening and trust Kendell Beckwith as the starting middle linebacker in his 3rd NFL season.  The Bucs also added Deone Bucannon, who can play on the outside or inside.  So rather than drafting a linebacker, they’ll draft Rashan Gary for additional d-line depth.

 

6.  NYG With the 6th overall pick, the New York Giants select…

Jonah Williams

T

Alabama

There has been a lot of Top 10 buzz surrounding T Jawaan Taylor, but I still think Williams, the Alabama product is the best o-lineman in this draft class.  The Giants finally released T Ereck Flowers in 2018, so Williams can start on the right side in Flowers’ former spot..  The G-men will stick with Nate Solder at left tackle for now.

 

7. JAX With the 7th overall pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars select…

Noah Fant

TE

Iowa

A lot of people have projected TE T.J. Hockenson in the Top 10, but the Jags are the only team I could see drafting a tight end in this Top 10.  My personal belief is that Fant is the better of the two Iowa TEs, and I have the Jags taking him over Jawaan Taylor or T.J. Hockenson.  The Jags don’t really need Jawaan Taylor even though they’ve been linked to him.  Though Hockenson outperformed Fant at the Combine, Fant has scored double the TDs Hockenson has scored in their final two years at Iowa.  With Fant off the board, Hockenson may fall to the latter portion of Round 1.

8.  With the 8th overall pick, the Detroit Lions select…

Montez Sweat

OLB

Mississippi State

If I were Detroit’s GM, I would be concerned about Sweat’s heart condition and consider Brian Burns instead.  But the Lions seem to like Sweat, who could fit in as a defensive end next to Trey Flowers or fill a gaping hole at outside linebacker.  Also, Sweat’s heart condition is not as concerning as DT Maurice Hurst’s.  Sweat’s was just noticed at the Combine, while Hurst couldn’t participate in the Combine at all.

 

9.   With the 9th overall pick, the Buffalo Bills select…

Brian Burns

OLB

Florida State

The Bills may like Ed Oliver as a prospect, but it’s too early to give up on 2018 2nd round pick Harrison Phillips at DT.  Instead, I have the Bills drafting someone on the outside in this defense-heavy draft.  This draft is flooded with elite edge rushers, and the Bills need help at both outside linebacker and defensive end.  Burns can help fill both of those needs, but they’ll need some pass rushers in the later rounds or free agents to support Burns.

 

10.  With the 10th overall pick, the Denver Broncos select…

Ed Oliver

DT

Houston

The Broncos could still use a QB despite upgrading in consecutive off-seasons.  Denver went from starting Trevor Siemian to starting Case Keenum to starting Joe Flacco in the span of two seasons.  But the Broncos don’t need a rookie QB in Round 1 as they should be able to trust Flacco as this year’s starter.  Plus, waiting will allow them to take advantage of the elite d-line class.  The Broncos have needed d-line help ever since Sylvester Williams left in free agency.  They could reunite with Williams, who is once again a free agent.  But if DT Ed Oliver is available at #10, it would be a no-brainer for Denver to take him.  In general, I feel that Denver should wait and see how the draft goes before making a move on any more free agents.

 

11.  With the 11th overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals select…

Dwayne Haskins

QB

Ohio State

Andy Dalton has definitely declined in the last few years, and he has been inconsistent throughout his career.  It’s a shame that the Bengals couldn’t hold onto A.J. McCarron as a backup.  But it’s time to move on and draft another QB.  They’ll have plenty of options here with Haskins, Drew Lock, and Daniel Jones all available.  But Haskins would be the best QB left on the board.  It’s easy to forget that he threw 50 TDs in 2018 alone at Ohio State, and he could learn a few things backing up Dalton.
12.  With the 12th overall pick, the Green Bay Packers select…

D.K. Metcalf

WR

Ole Miss

After dominance at the Combine, Metcalf has proven himself as the best receiver in this draft class.  People have overrated his Combine performance, but it’s not too crazy to mock him at #12.  This would be a smart pick for Green Bay, who would add a solid WR2 with WR1 potential.  Metcalf would not have as much pressure on him in Green Bay as he plays next to star WR Davante Adams.
13.   With the 13th overall pick, the Miami Dolphins select…

Drew Lock

QB

Missouri

The Dolphins weren’t smart to trade away Ryan Tannehill so soon, especially to the Titans, who didn’t need a starting QB.  Tannehill will be forced to battle with Marcus Mariota for a starting job.  Meanwhile, in Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the best QB left on the roster.  He’s a respectable bridge QB, but he is not meant for a full time starting job.  The Dolphins should draft Lock behind Fitzy if Murray and Haskins are off the board.

 

14.  With the 14th overall pick, the Atlanta Falcons select…

Devin Bush

OLB

Michigan

With Vic Beasley in the 4-3 defensive end slot, Atlanta has a big hole at outside linebacker.  They don’t really need another edge rusher, but Bush is a quality outside linebacker who recorded 161 tackles and 10 sacks in his last two seasons combined at Michigan.  He can add depth to Atlanta’s defense, allowing Beasley to play defensive end full time.
15.  With the 15th overall pick, the Washington Redskins select…

Devin White

ILB

LSU

White falls to #15 since there are very few teams with a gaping hole at inside linebacker like Washington’s.  It’s very rare that linebackers of White’s ability level enter the draft, but unfortunately, there aren’t many teams in the Top 10 that need to draft someone like White.  He falls to the Redskins, who look to replace the released Zach Brown.  It’s a steal for the Redskins, who fill their #1 need in the 1st round.
16.  With the 16th overall pick, the Carolina Panthers select…

N’Keal Harry

WR

Arizona State

The Panthers may miss out on Metcalf if Green Bay or Washington drafts him.  But I think their need at WR is desperate enough for them to snag N’Keal Harry if Metcalf is drafted and Harry is still available.  They could also draft a tackle to replace Matt Kalil, and Cody Ford would be available.  But I think it’s more important for them to have a top line receiver than a top line tackle.

 

17. NYG With the 17th overall pick, the New York Giants select…

Clelin Ferrell

DE

Clemson

Ferrell doesn’t fit the Giants’ defensive scheme as well as some other prospects, but would fill a huge hole for New York and would be the best d-line prospect remaining by far.  Ferrell recorded 11.5 sacks last season, leading a stacked Clemson defense.  Hopefully, New York can adapt their defense to be favorable for prospects of different backgrounds, because they may need to start a lot of rookies on defense this season.

 

18.  With the 18th overall pick, the Minnesota Vikings select…

Christian Wilkins

DT

Clemson

Wilkins has been targeted by Tennessee aggressively.  Though the Vikings do need a defensive tackle to replace Sheldon Richardson, the Titans haven’t even thought about trying to trade up and could be left shocked if the Vikings snagged Wilkins one pick before them.  Defensive tackle is Minnesota’s top need in my eyes, so I’d have them taking Wilkins regardless of who was up next.  But preventing Tennessee from snagging him is an added bonus.

 

19.  With the 19th overall pick, the Tennessee Titans select…

Greedy Williams

CB

LSU

With Wilkins off the board, I have the Titans signing free agent DT Ndamukong Suh rather than reaching for a defensive tackle.  They will think about their other positional needs with this pick.  They could use another WR, and Kelvin Harmon would be available.  But if Greedy Williams is still available at #19, the Titans cannot pass up on him.  The Titans are deep at corner, but don’t really have a true #1 CB.  Greedy wouldn’t be their #1 right away.  He may even start on the bench as the #4 CB.  But he has the upside to eventually fill that #1 slot, which is what the Titans are looking for.

 

20.  With the 20th overall pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers select…

Cody Ford

T

Oklahoma

Nothing against Alejandro Villanueva, but it’s a problem if Villanueva’s the only viable starting tackle on a roster.  If the Steelers add Ford to the mix, they should be able to trust Ford and Villanueva as starters.  The Steelers will have to figure out which of the two pays left tackle, but with this pick, they at least fill the hole Marcus Gilbert left them with and draft their 2nd viable starting tackle.

 

21.  With the 21st overall pick, the Seattle Seahawks select…

Byron Murphy

CB

Washington

With S Earl Thomas out of Seattle, the Legion of Boom’s entire core has left Seattle’s active roster.  It’s time to begin rebuilding this secondary.  They already added Shaquill Griffin in the 2017 NFL Draft, but they still have a huge hole at safety and could use another CB.  There’s no safety in this draft class I would take #21, but Murphy would be a steal at #21.  Murphy caught 4 interceptions in his final year at Washington, which is more than any Seahawks current corner has caught in their entire career.

 

22.  With the 22nd overall pick, the Baltimore Ravens select…

Kelvin Harmon

WR

North Carolina State

The Ravens don’t really have a #1 receiver right now, so wide receiver is by far their biggest need.  Harmon posted back-to-back 1000 yard seasons at NC State.  He should quickly obtain the WR1 role playing alongside Willie Snead IV, Seth Roberts, Chris Moore, and others.  The Ravens may need to add another receiver later in the draft for depth, but the NC State product will at least help make the WR corps look respectable.

 

23. HOU With the 23rd overall pick, the Houston Texans select…

T.J. Hockenson

TE

Iowa

Houston has plenty of tight ends on the roster after adding Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins in 2018.  But there is no clear #1 TE, so tight end is still one of Houston’s biggest needs.  Hockenson should be better than any tight end on this Texans roster from Day 1, so it would be smart for Houston to draft him, especially at #23.

 

24.  With the 24th overall pick, the Oakland Raiders select…

DeAndre Baker

CB

Georgia

With Devin White off the board, Mack Wilson would be the top inside linebacker available here, and Wilson is not Round 1 material in my eyes.  It would be smarter for Oakland to take a corner here.  There are plenty of corners who are Round 1 material.  I’m not ready to trust Nick Nelson or Daryl Worley (who has off the field issues) as Oakland’s #2 corner.  Even Gareon Conley, Oakland’s #1 CB has off the field issues of his own.  Baker will provide stability to this secondary, and should eventually become the reliable #1 corner they have needed for a while.

 

25. TRADE ALERT (see details after pick #32): With the 25th overall pick,            the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select…

Josh Jacobs

RB

Alabama

Tampa reportedly has significant interest in making Jacobs their starting RB, but with the Raiders interested in drafting Jacobs at #27, there’s no guarantee the Bucs can draft Jacobs unless they trade up and leapfrog the Raiders.  It might be smarter to trade with a team who picks before Oakland’s #24 pick, but I can’t see them taking a RB until #27, so I don’t know if that’s necessary.  If the Bucs miss out on Jacobs, they could always sign Jay Ajayi to be their new RB1, but Jacobs wouldn’t just give them a 2019 RB1.  Jacobs gives them long term stability at running back, where Tampa has had issues since Doug Martin (now a free agent) began to decline.  Jacobs rushed for 640 yards and 11 TD in just 120 attempts during his junior year at Alabama, where he played as a part of a committee alongside fellow draft prospect Damien Harris.  Imagine what Jacobs could do as a full time NFL starter.

 

26.  With the 26th overall pick, the Indianapolis Colts select…

Dexter Lawrence

DT

Clemson

The Colts will take another Clemson d-lineman here.  Cornerback is probably their #1 need this year, but the CB class is pretty deep, and they should be able to wait until the #34 pick they acquired from the Jets to draft a corner.  Their current d-line is made up of washed-up, borderline starters, so Lawrence will bring some livelihood to Indy’s front seven if they draft him.

 

27.  With the 27th overall pick, the Oakland Raiders select…

A.J. Brown

WR

Ole Miss

With Jacobs off the board, I have Oakland drafting A.J. Brown, a teammate of D.K. Metcalf who actually outperformed Metcalf at Ole Miss.  Even with Metcalf healthy all season in 2017, Brown totaled 1252 yards while Metcalf, then a redshirt freshman totaled just 646.  Metcalf will be drafted before Brown as his Combine performance and play style boost his draft stock.  The stats aren’t everything when it comes to NFL scouting.  But don’t discount Brown’s back to back 1000 yard seasons at Ole Miss.  He should still be a top 5 receiver off this draft board, and the Raiders could still use another WR for depth despite adding Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams.

 

28.  With the 28th overall pick, the Los Angeles Chargers select…

Jerry Tillery

DT

Notre Dame

The Chargers finally released injury prone DT Corey Liuget this off-season, but it would be smart to draft a young, healthy DT in Round 1, filling the hole Liuget left behind.  Tillery was a big contributor to Notre Dame’s dominant defense in 2018 as he led the team in sacks (7).  He would make a strong Chargers defense even stronger as he competes for a starting d-line job.

 

29. KC With the 29th overall pick, the Kansas City Chiefs select…

Garrett Bradbury

C

North Carolina State

Kansas City would have also benefitted from drafting Jacobs here, but there is no other RB I see as first round material, and they have a bigger hole at center anyway.  Bradbury should be able to fill this hole if they draft him.  Bradbury played parts of his college career at other positions (tight end, guard), but should fit in as a center in Kansas City.  If he wanted to go back to playing guard, the Chiefs could use some depth there as well.

 

30.  With the 30th overall pick, the Green Bay Packers select…

Deionte Thompson

S

Alabama

This year’s safety class wasn’t the greatest even before Thompson’s draft stock began to fall after an underwhelming Combine.  But I still see Thompson as the best safety in a weak class; the best of the worst.  I wouldn’t have a problem with safety-needy teams like Green Bay drafting Thompson later into Round 1.  The Alabama product caught 2 interceptions in his senior year.

 

31. LA With the 31st overall pick, the Los Angeles Rams select…

Dre’Mont Jones

DT

Ohio State

With Ndamukong Suh on the open market, the Rams will need a new defensive tackle to play next to Aaron Donald.  They could draft an interior offensive lineman here, but Bradbury is the only interior lineman I’d feel comfortable drafting in the first round.  Defensive tackle is LA’s next biggest need after Suh’s departure.  Only sophomore DE Chase Young had more tackles for a loss and sacks for Ohio State than Jones in 2018.  He could be a quality supplement to Donald in a strong Rams d-line.

 

32.  With the 32nd overall pick, the New England Patriots select…

Irv Smith Jr.

TE

Alabama

Fant and Hockenson may be off the board at #32, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins can fill in as New England’s starting tight end.  But I still think the Pats should draft their TE of the future in Round 1 after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement.  They could also go for WR Marquise Brown or DT Jeffery Simmons here, but the TE class is not as deep as the WR and d-line classes in this draft, so it’s important they draft one early.  Smith caught 44 balls for 710 yards and 7 TD in his final season at Alabama and in my eyes, he’s the best tight end on the board that wasn’t an Iowa Hawkeye.

 

TRADES:


 

TB acquires: 2019 1st rounder (#25)

PHI acquires: 2019 2nd rounder (#39), 2019 5th rounder (#145)

 

NYG acquires: QB Josh Rosen

ARZ acquires: 2019 2nd rounder (#37), 2020 4th rounder

 

(FOR PATRIOTS MOCK DRAFT BELOW)

NE acquires: 2019 2nd rounder (#60)

LAC acquires: 2019 2nd rounder (#64), 2019 6th rounder (#205)


 

Patriots Mock Draft (Rounds 2-7)

I will not be a sharing a full seven round NFL Mock Draft, but as a Patriots fan, I figured I’d share my later round Pats’ predictions.  I have them drafting TE Irv Smith Jr. at #32 (as seen above), but what will they do after that?  Read below to find out what I think:

I have the Pats drafting the QB of their future on Day 2 so he’s ready to start by the time Brady retires.  It will be easier to find viable starters at WR and in the d-line than at QB, and the WRs the Pats would be willing to draft here will probably already be off the board.

Winovich led the Wolverines in tackles for a loss (15.5) in 2018.  He should boost the New England pass rush and fit in New England’s 4-3 scheme after the release of Adrian Clayborn.

Jelks’ draft stock has fallen of late, but he is still a good third round investment for the Pats, who could seek an upgrade over Elandon Roberts and another linebacker in the mix in case the injury prone Dont’a Hightower misses time in 2019.  The Ducks installed a 4-3 defense in 2018, so Jelks should be used to New England’s 4-3 schemes.

Copeland will replace Malcom Brown, who left for the Saints via free agency.  He should   be able to compete for the starting job next to fellow DT Lawrence Guy.

Though he will be the last of the four Clemson 2018 starting d-lineman to be drafted, Bryant will add more depth to the Patriots d-line.  He will join Michael Bennett, Winovich, and Deatrich Wise Jr. on the Pats defensive end depth chart.

So long as he is healthy, Demaryius Thomas should serve in the WR2 role for the Pats.  But if Thomas is hurt and Josh Gordon remains suspended, the Pats are left with Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and who else?  That’s why they should still draft a receiver at some point.  However, they should be okay to wait till Day 3 due to the deep WR class.  Guys like Mitchell and DaMarkus Lodge should still be available come Round 4.

New England owns one of the best interior o-line trios in the league, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another guard for additional depth.  Ted Karras is their best backup at guard, but injuries are frequent in this league, and if Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason both get hurt, there could be a slot open for Gray.

.

A lot of times, Round 7 is solely about taking some of the better available options and adding depth to shallow positions.  Saunders would be drafted to add more depth at DT in case Copeland or Guy struggles.

One of New England’s biggest questions headed into 2019 is whether Isaiah Wynn can be trusted as Trent Brown’s replacement, especially after missing all of 2018 with an injury.  Frantz will provide New England with another option at tackle in case Wynn or Marcus Cannon isn’t doing his job.

This pick will add more depth to the WR corps if they keep Hardman on the roster.  Hardman will likely compete with 2018 late round pick Braxton Berrios for the #6 or #7 WR slot.  Matthew Slater will most likely remain on the roster for his special teams abilities though.


 

That’s all for my 2019 NFL Mock Draft. Stay tuned for Patriots draft grades and possibly other teams’ draft grades after the draft!  On a side note, New England’s schedule has come out.  I will be posting NFL Predictions and Pats Game-by-Game Predictions sometime before the season.

 

 

The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game

Welcome to my 7th and final post in my series of Super Bowl LIII Preview articles.  With just hours till game time, I will be giving you guys a final update on injuries among other things before the game begins.  In addition, I have included an iMovie trailer to get everyone excited. You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below.

Image result for super bowl liii

Super Bowl LIII: Official Boston Sports Mania Preview Schedule

January 28: Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here

January 29: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 30: The Case for the Rams: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

February 1: Super Bowl LIII Fast Facts and Their Significance

February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

February 3: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview

February 3: The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game (Including iMovie Trailer)

February 3: Enjoy the game and stay tuned for my recap after the game!

Part 1: iMovie Trailer: Back to their Roots

Part 2: Final Injury Report

Both teams are pretty much at full health, which will make for an exciting game.  RB Todd Gurley may not be 100% after an injury suffered late into the regular season, and DE Deatrich Wise Jr. of the Patriots was hurt in the weeks leading up to the game, but unless Wise is a healthy scratch, both Gurley and Wise are expected to play.  I’m hoping DE Adrian Clayborn isn’t an inactive instead of wise.  We need some good pass rushers in this game.

Part 3: Final Outlook

I’m pretty confident that the Patriots can win this.  But in addition to winning the turnover battle, scoring early, and stopping the run, they’ll need the special teams to step it up.  If the Patriots want to win, they need to play complimentary football: good offense, good defense, and good special teams.  Though a big game from Edelman or Gronk would be nice, I see WR Phillip Dorsett as an X-factor for us.  Some games, he has made next to no impact.  In other games, he has been an unsung hero.  I saw Dorsett at training camp, and he looked like one of the best receivers there.  Apparently, Bill Belichick had wanted to draft this guy in 2015 (he traded for him later on).  There’s got to be a reason for that.  I have confidence that Dorsett has the potential to make a big impact.  Plus, if he does well, he may be rewarded with a return to the Patriots (he is an upcoming free agent).

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If the Rams can outrun the Pats, they’ll be in good shape.  But they’ll also have to outplay QB Tom Brady, which will require not only Gurley and Anderson but also QB Jared Goff to be at his best.  If Goff has a big game, and the Rams defensive line (who I see as their X-factor) is at their best, pressuring Brady and stopping the run, the Rams have a chance.  But I still have more confidence in my home team.

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This will definitely be close, and it could be another classic, as most Patriots Super Bowls are.  But I think this is the year that the Pats finally get their sixth ring and tie the Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins ever.

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That’s about all I can say that I haven’t already said.  With just about six hours left, food has been purchased.  Parties have been planned.  Commercials have been made.  Now, it’s just time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the game with friends and family, commercials, halftime, and all.  Unlike other football games, anyone can enjoy the Super Bowl thanks to the funny ads and the halftime show added in to appeal to all audiences.  I hope everyone enjoys the game, and stay tuned for my recap when it all ends.  Go Pats!

 

 

Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

Welcome to my 5th post in my series Super Bowl LIII Preview articles.  Now that I’ve looked back at previous stat nuggets that could be significant to the game and established the keys to victory for each team, it’s time to unveil my official Super Bowl LIII prediction.  Who will win Super Bowl LIII?  Will it be a nail-biter?  A blowout?  Something in between?  What players will have the biggest impact on the game?   Keep reading to find out what I think.  You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below.  I will be posting preview articles throughout the week as festivities in Atlanta take place.

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Super Bowl LIII: Official Boston Sports Mania Preview Schedule

January 28: Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here

January 29: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 30: The Case for the Rams: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

February 1: Super Bowl LIII Fast Facts and Their Significance

February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

February 2: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview

February 3: The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game (Including iMovie Trailer)

February 3: Enjoy the game and stay tuned for my recap after the game!

The Final Pick

Typically, I just predict the score. But it’s the Super Bowl, so I went a little deeper.  I simulated the entire game based on my basic score prediction.  Below are the final score, scoring summary and stat predictions I came up with.

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Though I don’t see QB Tom Brady matching his Super Bowl LII stats, he will outplay QB Jared Goff, tossing 2 TD and no interceptions while Goff throws more picks than TDs.  But it’s not the stats that matter for the Pats – it’s winning the game.  Expect a close, back and forth match-up, as RB Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson dominate against a weak Pats run defense.  But QB Tom Brady will find open men and put up a quality victory in his 9th (yes, that’s a record) Super Bowl.

Projected Stats and Scoring/Turnover Summary

Note: I showed a projected scoring summary for the purpose of highlighting who makes an impact, not to predict the order of events in the game.

Team   1  2  3  4   TOTAL

NE        3 10 10 3  26                                                                                                                            LAR     3  7    7  7   24

1st Quarter

  • Greg Zuerlein 52-yard FG made (3-0 LAR)
  • Stephen Gostkowski 28-yard FG made (3-3 TIE)

2nd Quarter

  • Todd Gurley for 2-yard rush TD.  Greg Zuerlein PAT made (10-3 LAR)
  • Tom Brady to Cordarrelle Patterson for 9 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (10-10 TIE)
  • Stephen Gostkowski 37-yard FG made (13-10 NE)
  • Jared Goff intercepted by Devin McCourty (13-10 NE)

3rd Quarter

  • Stephen Gostkowski 51-yard FG made (16-10 NE)
  • Jared Goff to Robert Woods for 9 yard TD.  Greg Zuerlein PAT made (17-16 LAR)
  • Tom Brady to Julian Edelman for 8 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (23-17 NE)
  • Jared Goff intercepted by Patrick Chung (23-17 NE)
  • Stephen Gostkowski 54-yard FG missed (23-17 NE)

4th Quarter

  • Greg Zuerlein 54-yard FG blocked by Albert McClellan (23-17 NE)
  • C.J. Anderson for 4-yard rush TD.  Greg Zuerlein PAT made (24-23 LAR)
  • Stephen Gostkowski 36-yard FG made (26-24 NE)

Stat Projections

NE

Passing

  • Tom Brady: 33/49, 284 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack (My projected Super Bowl MVP)

Rushing

  • Sony Michel: 17 rush, 64 yards
  • James White: 10 rush, 47 yards
  • Rex Burkhead: 4 rush, 9 yards

Receiving

  • Julian Edelman: 9 receptions, 96 yards, 1 TD
  • Rob Gronkowski: 8 receptions, 56 yards
  • Phillip Dorsett: 5 receptions, 53 yards
  • Chris Hogan: 3 receptions, 31 yards
  • Cordarrelle Patterson: 3 receptions, 21 yards, 1 TD (Will be Unsung Hero)
  • James White: 4 receptions, 21 yards
  • Rex Burkhead: 1 reception, 6 yards

Defense (Best players ONLY)

  • Adrian Clayborn: 2.5 tackles, 1 sack
  • Devin McCourty: 6.5 tackles, 1 INT
  • Kyle Van Noy: 8.0 tackles
  • Patrick Chung: 4.0 tackles, 1 INT

LAR

Passing

  • Jared Goff: 23/40, 234 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 sack

Rushing

  • Todd Gurley: 22 rushes, 100 yards, 1 TD
  • C.J. Anderson: 17 rushes, 57 yards, 1 TD

Receiving

  • Brandin Cooks: 6 receptions, 86 yards
  • Robert Woods: 7 receptions, 74 yards, 1 TD
  • Josh Reynolds: 3 receptions, 31 yards
  • Gerald Everett: 3 receptions, 19 yards
  • Todd Gurley: 3 receptions, 18 yards
  • Tyler Higbee: 1 reception, 6 yards

Defense (Best players ONLY)

  • Aaron Donald: 4.5 tackles, 1 sack
  • Bryce Hager: 8.0 tackles
  • Marcus Peters: 8.0 tackles

That’s all for my Super Bowl LIII prediction.  Stay tuned for a video preview to sum up my takes on the game tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Patriots Training Camp with Bob Socci

Today, I had the opportunity to spend a day at Patriots training camp as a member of the press, shadowing Patriots radio play-by-play announcer and Patriots.com Beat Reporter Bob Socci.  I first met Bob at the NFL Kickoff event with the Patriots broadcast team, held at Mr. Sid last year.  (Note: I will be going back to a similar event on September 6th).

Bob learned about the work I had done as a sports blogger and offered to help me by inviting me to Patriots training Camp with him.

Before Practice Began:  “Pre-Game” Videos and Fan Experience

I arrived a little bit early so I could do a live stand-up in front of Gillette Stadium and also conduct some interviews with fans.

First, I interviewed a long-time Pats fan named Jan.  She meets a friend at Gillette every year who gives her the insight on the players at Patriots training camp.

After that, I interviewed Arjun, a 6th grader from Philadelphia who likes the Patriots so much that his parents decided to make the trip north this year.  He was very excited to see the team live for the first time.

Many young fans like Arjun also had the opportunity to take advantage of Fan Experience activities held around the practice fields.  My Dad further explored some of the activities while I was with Bob and the rest of the media.

They had football activities where they tracked your performance and created a Player Profile.  Jimmy from the Patriots staff was really nice and created my card with Pat Patriot’s stats.

Training Camp Profile Card

There were also a number of booths with give-aways for participating in small games like mini-golf skee ball and photo opportunities like the one with my dad.

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Becoming Official Pats Media Member for the Day

Bob Socci met me soon after my interviews in front of the stadium.  I said goodbye to my dad and Bob took me to go get my press pass.

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We walked to the other side of the stadium and went through media security there.  After I gave them my name and affiliation, they handed me my press pass.

My press pass from training camp

All media members received a detailed Patriots preseason roster and media guidelines from the media security table to help us learn about who we were covering and what coverage was permitted and when.

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On my way to the media tent, Bob explained a few things to me about the training camp roster:

  1. Since there are many players on the roster and the roster is not finalized, there may be pairs of players who share a number
  2. Rookies wear numbers based on when they were drafted during training camp and their camp numbers do not usually correspond with their position.  The team’s first draft pick, T Isaiah Wynn wears #50, their second pick, RB Sony Michel wears #51, their third pick, CB Duke Dawson wears #52, and so on.  For the regular season they receive new numbers.
  3. During training camp, quarterbacks wear red while the rest of the offense wears white and the defense wears blue.  On the roster, offensive players who share a number with defensive players (and vice versa) have (o) for offense or (d) for defense next to their name.

Bob also mentioned that during camp, there would only be a 10-20 minute session for media to take photos and videos, and that no tweeting was allowed during camp for media members.  We were allowed to take notes during the no photo/video portions of practice.

Bob told me that after practice the media guidelines would be more flexible.  The only major rules were to stay within certain interviewing boundaries and not take any photos or video of players with their families without permission.

Before practice began, Bob introduced me to the vice president of media relations at training camp, Stacey James, as well as fellow media member Jim McBride.  I also had time to catch up with ESPN Patriots beat reporter Mike Reiss, who I had met earlier in the week at Sports Broadcasting Camp.   I also met a friend of Bob’s, Steve Yood, along with his sons Alex and Josh.

Watching Practice from the Media Tent

Practice started about 5 minutes after we arrived at the media tent.  During practice, I also met Marc Cappello of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Josh Brogadir of WCVB, and Steve Atkinson of Boston Sports Extra.  They were surprised to see someone my age in the media tent.  Some of them told me what they did at my age and how they wished they had started earlier.

The Patriots practice began with some warm-ups.  The team stretched, jogged a little bit, and threw the ball around.  Afterwards they began a walk-through of some plays they would use later in 11 on 11 drills.

Positional drills began after the walk-through portion practice.  This was the portion of practice when the media photo and video session took place.  Offensive lineman competed 1 on 1 against defensive lineman, wide receivers caught balls from a receiving coach, and quarterbacks stayed together as well to take practice throws.  During this time, PK Stephen Gostkowski practiced field goals.  Here is some of my video coverage.

After the photo and video session ended, positional drills continued.  The QBs began throwing to the receivers directly.  Soon after that, they had the Pats secondary go 1 on 1 against receivers catching passes from QBs Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Danny Etling.  The Pats ran a few more offense vs. defense practice plays before starting the 11 on 11 drills.

The Patriots alternated personnel during the 11 on 11 drills with quarterbacks Brady and Hoyer getting most of the reps at QB .  Before practice ended, the Pats held a few more running drills on the hills around the field.  Then, for most of the team, practice ended.  A few guys, including Danny Etling, put in a little extra work after the full team practice.

Some of my Observations from Day 4 of Patriots Training Camp

Keep an eye out for Phillip Dorsett and Jacob Hollister

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WR Phillip Dorsett (#13) after catching a ball from the coach during positional drills

I kept a tally of Brady’s ball distribution during a couple of his drills, and his most frequent target during those drills was Dorsett.  Dorsett had an especially strong catch on a deep pass from Brady during the offensive walk-through.  Hollister had a nice jumping catch in the end zone that Brian Hoyer threw to him during 11 on 11 drills.

Patriots RBs could be a big part of the offense again this season

Brady wasn’t just throwing to receivers and tight ends today.  Brady, Hoyer, and Etling all participated in a drill where they threw short passes to RBs including James White and Pats 2018 2nd draft pick from the first round, Sony Michel.  Michel caught a short pass at the 30 yard line and took it to the house during 11 on 11 drills.

After practice, I was happy to see Meredith Gorman who I worked with last summer at the Boston Herald.  Meredith, now with Patriots.com, conducted a 1 on 1 interview with Michel.

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Meredith Gorman, who now works for patriots.com, interviewing rookie RB Sony Michel after practice

Great to see Julian Edelman back on the field

I enjoyed seeing Tom Brady connecting with WR Julian Edelman for the first time since Super Bowl LI.  Even though he is suspended for the first four games, Edelman missed the entire season last year and now he is back and seems ready to play and make more amazing catches like the one that most remember as “the catch” from the Pats 5th Super Bowl win.   Edelman looked like his old self out there making some good plays along with Pats newcomer WR Jordan Matthews.  Other pass catchers I liked seeing were TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Hogan.  Gronk had a catch deep up the seam even though he was tightly covered, which is one reason Pats fans love watching him.

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Super Bowl LI “the catch” by Edelman

Brian Hoyer had some good end zone connections

I watched all 3 of the Pats quarterbacks perform today but the QB I was most impressed with was Brian Hoyer.  Hoyer made successful end zone connections on his first two passes, including a great throw to Jacob Hollister in the corner of the end zone.

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QBs Hoyer (2) and Etling (58) during practice
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Brian Hoyer after practice

 

Don’t Discount New England secondary

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Stephon Gilmore being interviewed after practice

Even though one of last year’s starting CB and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler signed with the Titans in the offseason, I still believe that Pats will have a good secondary.  For example, today I saw CB Stephon Gilmore break up several pass plays in 1 on 1 coverage against Julian Edelman, nearly intercepting one pass thrown by Tom Brady.  Rookie and Pats 2018 #3 draft pick CB Duke Dawson also came close to picking off Brady while covering Phillip Dorsett.

Trey Flowers was back at practice with bandage on forehead

Flowers returned to practice after leaving yesterday with an ice pack on his head.  In other injury news, Jordan Matthews left today’s practice with an unknown injury, and CB Keion Crossen (back) and RB Mike Gillislee (unknown) did not practice.  Bob Socci told me that WR Kenny Britt, CB Cyrus Jones, CB Jonathan Jones, and WR Matthew Slater were on the PUP list.  However, I did notice Britt participating in warm-ups.  According to the official training camp roster, WRs Darren Andrews and Cody Hollister are on the Reserve/NFI list.

After Practice: Media Session and Tour

After practice ended, Bob and I headed to the designated player interview zone.  I watched some of the interviews.  Bob Socci conducted a stand-up recap with Megan O’Brien as they discussed their own observations from the day.  Some of the topics he mentioned in the interview were things we talked about in the media tent together during the practice:

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Bob Socci and Megan O’Brien Day 4 Recap

James White, Sony Michel, RB Rex Burkhead, T Trent Brown, DE Derek Rivers, and QB Brian Hoyer were among those interviewed.  Although he didn’t stop for interviews, I did see Gronk walk by, as well as a few other players like Phillip Dorsett and Dont’a Hightower.  I also saw the McCourty twins with all their family on the field.  I think it is really cool that after many years on different teams they will now play on the same team and they seem to be enjoying camp together.

Nobody was interviewed at the podium today like Tom Brady was yesterday.  This area is primarily used for interviews with star players like Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

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The empty podium at practice today

In between and after the media interviews, I met some media members including Levan Reid of WBZ, Joe Gallant of WNRI (a radio station in Providence), and Megan O’Brien of Patriots.com.   I also said hello to patriots.com’s Meredith Gorman and the Boston Herald’s Meghan Ottolini.

After the post practice interviews were over, Bob took me inside Gillette Stadium so I could see the media area.  He showed me the TV studio where Patriots All Access is aired.  The studio was filled with football helmets on the shelves and Patriots logos all around.  Bob mentioned he hosts a show with Scott Zolak in the studio next door.  We also walked by the game day media workroom, the writing rooms for various newspapers and blogs, and the weekday press conference room which was the biggest room of them all.

In total, I spent about 4 hours with Bob today and feel like I learned so much about covering the Patriots.  In addition, I saw so much from the media’s point of view.  It was truly incredible and surreal at times.

I’d like to thank Bob Socci and Stacey James for making this experience possible for me.  I’d also like to thank all the media members who spent the time to talk to me and give me tips on sports reporting.

Scouting Report: Atlanta Falcons

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The Falcons were Carolina’s closest competitor in the NFC South last year.  Most people think due to a weak division, they will be again.  But I say no.  The Falcons have some serious problems.  They have no offensive depth, and the defense has some good players, but also some holes, underachieving players and depth problems.  The Bucs are a big sleeper, and I think the Saints young receiving staff could even top what the Falcons have.  Matt Ryan is being cocky by saying this offense can score 30 points a game.  This team will have a rough ride, and Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and more overrated stars will fall.  What does this team have to win?

3 Players to Watch For

1. Tevin Coleman, RB

I know how much attention Devonta Freeman got last season, but with the kind of numbers he put up, and with Tevin Coleman healthy and ready to improve in his sophomore year, I think Freeman had a one and done season that will never happen again.  He is a potential bust for the Falcons in 2016.  Coleman underachieved last year, and he’s hungry to prove to defenders that he still is what he was in college.  I don’t see him doing that badly again.  I see at least 500 yards, and he could even come close to topping Devonta Freeman’s yardage this season, even with the Falcons counting on Freeman to start, at least to begin the season.

2. Mohamed Sanu, WR

Sanu may have not been as impressive in 2015 as he was in 2014 when A.J. Green and Marvin Jones were hurt, but Sanu is still a major underrated sleeper.  Having just one receiver ahead of him helps this year, even though Julio Jones is a little better than A.J. Green, so Sanu should get more targets.  Sanu knew he didn’t want to return to Cincinnati, but this was an interesting and underrated free agent pickup by Atlanta.  The Falcons clearly trust Sanu to step up this season, as they released Roddy White and return specialist Devin Hester, who’s probably the best ever at his position.   The Falcons do have some depth at the position in Justin Hardy, Devin Fuller, Eric Weems and Nick Williams, the only key names are Jones and Sanu.  Sanu is a big sleeper on the Falcons, and I think even with the offense struggling, him and Tevin Coleman will come through this season.  The question is, will guys they trust like Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman, even Julio Jones keep doing their job, and will problems at tight end and even the o-line make a mark?

3. Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE

Since being drafted by the Ravens with an early 2nd round pick in 2012, Upshaw has never been an explosive player, and the Ravens have plenty of other linebackers that they’ve started in his place, like Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and 2014 1st rounder C.J. Mosley.  Suggs and Dumervil have been hurt a lot, but even in a starting role, he’s only racked up 5 sacks.  He’s played in every regular season game since his NFL career started, and still only 5 sacks?  Upshaw does have a lot of upside, but he will have to compete with the youngsters for a starting job in Atlanta after the Ravens declined his fifth year option.  However, I think he’s a sleeper to rack up more sacks than he has so far in his career.  If he finishes camp strong, he should take a starting job at outside linebacker opposite rookie Deion Jones or veteran Sean Weatherspoon, who came boomeranging his way back to Atlanta after a 1-year stint in Arizona.  Courtney Upshaw could be a strong source for the Falcons pass rush this season.  Trust me, he will show up!

 

3 Questions That Must Be Answered

 

1. Can the offense consistently be a force?

That’s very tough to say.  This offense has never been known for consistency, but when they do well, they do very, very well.  the Falcons have usually either gotten off to a terrible start, or fallen apart after a potential playoff contending run.  I don’t trust Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman to consistently run this offense, although when Ryan finds his receivers in the games he performs in, the Falcons thrive.  I see Matt Ryan as a bust.  He usually is a dominant offensive force but it has tapered off over the last couple seasons, and since when is Devonta Freeman an elite RB based on one great year.  If Freeman struggles, and then Tevin Coleman fails to fill the starting position has well, they could have a problem at RB.  They will be missing elite Steven Jackson, who is lost in free agency, declining in condition as he ages.  I don’t think this offense can be a consistent force, and that will be one thing causing the Falcons to have the terrible season I’m projecting.

2. Will some small defensive tweaks help in 2016?

Vic Beasley Jr. is moving to defensive end, and the linebakcer corps is revamped with Courtney Upshaw and Sean Weatherspoon along with draft pick Deion Jones playing next to veteran Paul Worrilow.  Beasley should be able to find his groove at a new position, and after a rookie year disappointment, could finally be the intriguing pass rusher he was in college.  Upshaw, Weatherspoon and Jones are all getting a fresh start with a new team, even though Jones is new to the NFL, and Weatherspoon has been here before.  The secondary even looks like a minor improvement, even with Jalen Collins suspended for a quarter of the season.  Robert Alford now plays across from Desmond Trufaunt, and Ricardo Allen plays accross from Collins.  I think in the end, the moves will add up to minor improvements in 2016, but nothing major, and it won’t quite make up for the problems on offense.

3. Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman: STUD or DUD?

I know Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman have don some pretty good things in their past, but Ryan just doesn’t have it in him anymore, and Devonta Freeman looks to me like a one year wonder that will be overused in 2016, with Tevin Coleman being held to minimal touches, ready to break though.  Ryan lost production in 2015, and I could see that continuing to happen to him in 2016, and this year Freeman.  Both have overachieved at certain points, and really, this Falcons offense is going to have some serious problmes this year if they can’t even figure themselves out.

 

3 Bold Predictions

1. Vic Beasley Jr. or Courtney Upshaw will lead the team in sacks

I think this year is the year for some of Atlanta’s younger pass rushers to thrive.  Adrian Clayborn, Paul Worrilow, Sean Weatherspoon and Dwight Freeney aren’t as productive as they used to be, and young pass rushers Vic Beasley Jr. and Courtney Upshaw could be sleepers to rack up double digit sacks.  Personally, I see the duo will get between 8 and 12 sacks apiece, and the older guys will all be held to 5 or 6 sacks at most.  Upshaw and Beasley are major sleepers, and the guys around them are getting to the age where their prime has ended and they can’t do what they used to be able to do anymore.

2. Tevin Coleman will lead the team in rushing

Like I said earlier, I don’t think Devonta Freeman will ever be what he was last year again.  Tevin Coleman was a highly drafted RB in the 2015 draft, and like a lot of the 2015 RB class, I think he should blossom this year.  He may not get many carries to start the season, but once he gets the chance to prove he’s better than Freeman, his carries will increase, and he will thrive in the Falcons system. Tevin Coleman is a big sleeper, and I like what he’s doing, especially with my faith in Devonta Freeman pretty low right now.

3. Julio Jones will break the 1500 yard barrier, but he’ll be 1 of 5 or more to do so

Julio Jones is a dominant wide receiver, but this year’s wide receiver group is domInant as well, especially with Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant.  I’m sure Julio Jones will break the 1500 yard barrier, but he is one of many that is highly capable.  I expect Antonio Brown, OBJ, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson and maybe A.J. Green or DeAndre Hopkins to match that stat.  Plenty are capable, and several will do it.  I don’t even expect Julio to make the Top 3 in receiving yards.  This wide receiver group is loaded, and lots of shocking stats will prove it.

Schedule Breakdown

The Falcons have a couple winnable games, but have a relatively tough schedule, and the way things are looking, I don’t think the Falcons will fare very well.  With revamped defense and young offense, Week 1 already boasts a tough match-up against the Bucs.  Even at home, the Bucs are a major sleeper and I like Tampa to win this.  That could be winnable though.  Then they face a similar team in Oakland, that’s another loss, especially on the road.  The Saints offense could be a little overwhelming for the Falcons secondary in New Orleans, and they will lose under road trip pressure.

Weeks 4-6 boast some very strong opponents.  They can not beat Carolina this year.  The Broncos will be tricky and tough on the offense in a road match-up, and they definitely can’t beat Seattle on their own turf.  They get a one week break at home, hosting the Chargers.  I do think they can win this one, Stevie Johnson is likely out for the year, and although I do see some improvement in San Diego, nothing major will happen.  This is an easy W for the Falcons at home.  But it’s back to the tough schedule in Week 8 against the Packers, who will blow them out.  Then they go to Tampa Bay.  If they can’t beat the Bucs at home, it definitely won’t happen on the road.  After a tough 6-week stretch where the Falcons go a horrid 1-5, they play one more game before the bye, in Philadelphia.  The Eagles will be pretty bad as well, but still have enough in them to beat a sucky Falcons team with home field advantage.  The team will enter the bye at a horrid 1-9, one of the worst first 10 weeks in the league.

Then after the bye come another two terrible match-ups, as they host the powerful Cardinals and sneaky, underrated Chiefs.  Two losses at home fresh off a bye is not good, but is bound to happen with these match-ups, much unlike what would of happened in these games a couple years back.  They get a tough break at the end of the season though.  One tough game stuffed between three easier match-ups.  The first is against the Rams in Los Angeles.  I have to give LA the win here though. At home, the Rams defense will outsmart Matt Ryan’s offense.  They host the 49ers, which I think is an easy W for Atlanta.  The Niners have it even worse then they do.  The Falcons at least have stars on offense.  That just isn’t there in San Francisco.  They get beaten by Carolina on the road, but I think they will close out the season with a third win in New Orleans.  With that weak a defense, this is one game Matt Ryan and the offense could thrive in.

My Prediction

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The Falcons will have a lot of trouble on the road, and the offense may struggle to get going.  An inconsistent Falcons team will not win on the road, even with easy match-ups against the Eagles and Rams.  I say they finish the season 3-13 instead of 2-14 or 1-15.  3-13 is pretty terrible, but at least the Falcons got those wins a little easier then the teams below them in my ranks, and hey, they won three easy home games.  They were just inconsistent and did terrible on the road.  Yes, even with a 3-5 home record.