NFL 2016 Preview: Crazy Season Is Ahead

 

It’s that time of year again.   Training camp’s here, and the draft is in the books.  It’s time for this year’s NFL predictions.  Get ready for some big shockers, this year will be very different from recent ones.  Some of the NFL’s once horrible teams will rise from the bottom, and some of its top teams will finally slide.  A crazy NFL season is about to begin.

AFC East

  1. New_England_Patriots.jpg New England Patriots 12-4 (1)
  2. buf.jpg Buffalo Bills 10-6 (6)
  3. Jets-Logo.png New York Jets 6-10
  4. Dolphins-logo.jpg Miami Dolphins 4-12

Patriots

After a 2015 disappointment when they lost in Denver twice, 2016 is looking good for the Pats.  The first few games could be tough if Brady is out, but I’m sure he’ll find a way out of this nonsense for good.  Even if he does remain suspended, they’ll sign a veteran QB, and when Brady returns, him and his new weapons in Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and Nate Washington plus his old targets like Gronk, Edelman and Amendola will bounce back and finish off well.  This team has an improved offensive line and front seven and if they can keep healthy, and Jimmy Garoppolo can lead a loaded receiving group to victory in the first four games, they will be dominant.

Bills

The Bills had a rough free agency season, but they didn’t need that much.  They knew they had many players on the rise that could work towards a rebuild.  It’s a lot more likely after the Bills just came out of their best draft in years in my opinion.  They have a dramatically improved pass rush, added to a blooming offense, and overall, improved. The Bills filled almost all their major holes.  After all that, this roster is outstanding on paper. As long as this young team meets its expectations, it will be good for real too, and the Bills could be headed for playoff town.

Jets

What a disappointment.  The one year they had a chance to return to playoff form, they blew it in Week 17.  Ryan Fitzpatrick did resign after a lot of melodrama, but the defense lost Antonio Cromartie and is a little out of shape. They have the right pieces, they just need to put them together, make up for the losses on defense, piece together a better offensive line, and they can thrive in the league.

Dolphins

What the heck is this team doing?!! They had an ugly draft, completely ignored their backfield woes, and have done nothing to bring themselves in an upward direction.  The offense is declining, the defense is declining, and keeping the team like this is not going to make it easy for a bounce back season.  Personally, I think the Dolphins will finish even lower this year.  This is getting pathetic.  Make some moves that actually will help your team next time.

 

AFC North

  1. pittsburgh-steelers.jpg Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6 (4)
  2. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo.jpg Baltimore Ravens 9-7
  3. cincinnati-bengals.jpg Cincinnati Bengals 9-7
  4. cleveland-browns-brown.jpg Cleveland Browns 3-13

 

Steelers

The Steelers have been called Super Bowl LI Winner by many.  I still think the Steelers have what it takes to win the division (just barely), but the Steelers are not winning the Super Bowl, especially without Martavis Bryant, and Le’ Veon Bell for the first four games!  The defense just isn’t there yet and they a don’t have enough receiver depth to help out Big Ben.  Did I mention injuries?  How do you know that won’t interfere?  They do have a lot of amazing, league-best stars, but the holes they have are too big to call them a Super Bowl threat or contender.  Looking for a contender in the AFC besides the Patriots?  Call up the Texans, they have a better idea of what they’re doing than the Steelers.

Ravens
The Ravens had an ugly 2015 campaign, caused by some injuries and some roster holes. But the Ravens really stocked up this off season, and they probably won’t have that many health issues two years in a row. Between the draft and free agency, they filled most of their major roster holes, and they look like a division competitor. However, after all that last season, some of it had to be roster holes, and the holes they didn’t fill could cause this team to lose some games, and will keep them out of the playoffs this year. Sure, Eric Weddle, Ronnie Stanley and Mike Wallace are game changers, but they can’t address all the Ravens’ issues. That’s management’s job, and right now is a little too late.
Bengals

The Bengals are still relevant now, but little by little, they are on the decline and nobody has noticed.  Andy Dalton is on the decline and Tyler Eifert was already at his best last season. The loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu has also caused lack of wide receiver depth. They lost Reggie Nelson and have a hole at safety, and Vontaze Burfict´s 3 game suspension creates a hole at linebacker, despite signing Karlos Dansby. The Bengals are losing more and more pieces, and if they do not take action in the next few off-seasons, they could fall apart, they could eventually fall below the young Cleveland Browns even. They seem to have more and more holes every season, and it´s not leading them in the right direction.

Browns

The Bengals may be in a bad direction, but this team has already lost hope. If they make the playoffs, I will have no idea how. Unless they become the 2016 Orioles of football, you can rule out the Browns. They may have had a league best draft, but that will take a while to kick in. For now, they are an old washed up team that needs to keep going younger. The draft definitely helped, and Corey Coleman should definitely make a big impact, but is it enough to change a franchise completely, even with such an overpowered draft class?  Two words.  No.  way.   What they have done the past few off-seasons is not enough. They need to go full rebuild, or they are not going anywhere.

AFC South

  1. hou-texans Houston Texans 10-6 (3)
  2. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7
  3. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans 6-10
  4. indianapolis-colts Indianapolis Colts 5-11

 

 

Texans

 

In recent years, the Texans have had one of the best defenses in the league.  Last year and likely this year, the ferocious front seven combined with a quality secondary has led to league best defense.  But good offense helps good defense, and that’s the one thing the Texans had lacked, until this off-season.  After star receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ breakout a season ago, the Texans added elite RB Lamar Miller and rising QB Brock Osweiler, who is finally out of Peyton Manning’s shadow.  They drafted a WR2 and WR3 to add to it, and now their offense looks much better, despite lacking tight end depth.  Good offense plus good defense equals good team, and that’s what the Texans appear to be.

 

Jaguars

 

The Jaguars were showing signs of a breakout last year, but they just didn’t have the defense.  This off-season, they have boosted a young team with veterans to support the defense and offense, and push towards a full breakthrough.  I especially like the moves they made on defense.  They upgraded a once weak defense with quality starters in the front seven and secondary.  In addition to the big defensive upgrade, the offense has a ton of rising talent.  Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns all just keep getting better.  Julius Thomas should be better too.  He wants to win after all those years on such a good Broncos team and a better Jaguars team will help him.  The Jags are a changed team, and they will be able to contend in 2016.

Titans

The Titans have a lot of developing talent that could lead to a better 2016.  Marcus Mariota is feeling more comfortable at the NFL level, especially with better protection in front of him.  The Titans added RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to additionally support him.  He now has some good offensive depth and plenty of weapons to throw to after this off-season.   Although they may see some improvement, I don’t expect them to contend for one reason.  Their defense still has many issues of its own.  Despite a defense centered draft, the Titans still have big problems at linebacker and the front seven in general.  They boosted their secondary big time with Rashad Johnson, but the draft just won’t do enough to fix all of the front seven’s problems.  Expect a jump in 2016 but I don’t think the Titans will be anything near playoff material.  

Colts

What did the Colts do to lead to improvement?  Not very much.  They did ink Dwayne Allen to a new contract.  But they are leaning too much on luck.  Speaking of which, one of the main things they’re leaning on is the comeback of quarterback Andrew Luck.  They also are relying on Frank Gore to stay in shape, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett taking the next step and the defense to carry on without Jerrell Freeman and Greg Toler.  I just don’t see how the Colts are going to do all that, especially after an 8-8 season.  If they don’t act fast, they won’t do better, but they’ll slide even further in 2016.  They need to either try and trade for game changers, dig through the bottom of the barrel of free agency, or find another way to make all these questionable aspects of the team work out.  The Colts need a miracle to make that happen.  The next time you want to say the Colts are going to be back to business next year, think before you speak.

 

AFC West

  1. kansas-city-chiefs-logo.jpg Kansas City Chiefs 11-5 (2)
  2. oakland-raiders.jpg Oakland Raiders 10-6 (5)
  3. denver-broncos-logo.jpg Denver Broncos 8-8
  4. San_Diego_Chargers.jpg San Diego Chargers 6-10

 

Chiefs

Please don’t criticize me for this prediction.  This is just my opinion.  I know how much grief the Chiefs have gotten in many people’s predictions, but I think this team will rise in 2016.  Alex Smith looked great last year and I think he could put up a strong performance again this year.  The now healthy Jamaal Charles rejoins a young backfield in good condition, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin plus star tight end Travis Kelce could bring in a lot of receptions.  The offensive line has two new tackles, and the Chiefs pass rush should be unstoppable, especially when Justin Houston comes back.  Despite a quiet off-season, the Chiefs even have rising young talent in corner Marcus Peters, linebacker Dee Ford, wide receiver Albert Wilson and running backs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West.  I’m liking this new era of the Chiefs between unstoppable defense and better offensive depth.

 

Raiders

I love what the Raiders have done in their rebuild.  This off-season they added to young talent with some veterans to upgrade a defense that lost Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson to retirement.  Going for dirty players might be an issue, last off-season they signed Aldon Smith, who’s suspended yet again.  This off-season, they signed Bruce Irvin.  Yes, it’s Mr. I Started A Fight After The Game Was Practically Over In Super Bowl XLIX And Got Ejected himself.  They also signed deals with safer options to rebuild the secondary, Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith.  The offensive line is revamped as well.  The Raiders already had young stars  in Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray.  Now, with a revamped defense and o-line to ad to it, they’re ready to break through this season.

 

Broncos

Four words.  What did Denver do?  They let Brock Osweiler, their five year development float in free agency after Peyton Manning retired.  Then they were down to their third string QB, and have since only put Paxton Lynch and Mark Sanchez ahead of him in the pecking order.  Due to free agency and other problems, they also had holes at third receiver, tight end and inside linebacker.  Their offensive line is highly questionable as well.  They did resign C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman and draft DeVontae Booker to fix the RB problem, but they only have Garrett Graham, Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman at tight end and desperately need a third receiver.  All they have is two elite ones, not three!  Shane Ray can move to inside linebacker, and the defense is still strong, but major holes across the offense will bring this team down to .500, especially the issue at quarterback.

 

Chargers

Alright, I have to give the Chargers credit for some things.  They filled some of their holes on defense.  Brandon Mebane and Casey Hayward help make up for the lack of veterans Eric Weddle left behind.  They still won’t be playoff material, but they will make some improvements.  Melvin Gordon definitely has room to do better and carry the team.  Hunter Henry can make up for Antonio Gates’ decline, and a full season from Keenan Allen will help the receiving corps, along with depth behind him in Travis Benjamin, recently signed James Jones and Stevie Johnson (depending on Johnson’s health).  However, the offensive line still has holes, and across the team there are still risks of injuries and bust seasons.  Guys like Brandon Flowers and Melvin Gordon have make or break seasons ahead of them.  I don’t feel comfortable saying that the Chargers will definitely go back to their form from a few years ago.  I do see small improvement happening, but nothing major.

 

NFC East

  1. dalcowboyslogonew.png Dallas Cowboys 11-5 (4)
  2. new-york-giants-logo.jpg New York Giants 10-6
  3. washingtonredskins2.png Washington Redskins 7-9
  4. philadelphia-eagles-logo.jpg Philadelphia Eagles 4-12

 

Cowboys

Last season was just unlucky.  That won’t happen again.  Especially with big name rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott entering the backfield, a 4-12 season won’t happen again if the Cowboys can stay healthy.  When healthy, this offense is just plain out ferocious.  Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott stand behind a league best offensive line.  The offense has depth, plenty of stars, and is very well protected.  The defense may be some of an issue, but after the first four games, what’s the big issue?   All they’ll be missing is Rolando McClain, and Dwight Freeney is still available. I think the secondary is extremely underrated and the front seven isn’t that bad when you throw in McClain, Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.  In such a weak, crazed division, an 11-5 or 10-6 season will make the cut for the playoffs, and I think that they are highly capable of that.

Giants

The Giants had a really strong off season, and it should pay off.  They made some major upgrades to the front seven, by hauling in Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison and resigning JPP, who will play a full season this year.  They also signed big name corner Janoris Jenkins, and drafted Eli Apple.  The Giants also added to an already powerful offense, especially in the draft.  They selected running back Paul Perkins and wide receiver Sterling Shepard.  They also have Larry Donnell coming back healthy this season in addition to Will Tye at tight end, and they signed Bobby Rainey at RB.  The only thing preventing the Giants from playoff contention is a weak offensive line.  There’s no point in having a growing offense if they have no protection.  If they don’t have protection, their weak spot at starting running back could also factor in.  If they do, that issue might not show up.

Redskins

I feel like Kirk Cousins’ breakthrough season will end up being a fluke.  The kind of sudden rise Cousins went through is not a permanent breakthrough.  Kirk Cousins will be known as a one year wonder.  It doesn’t help when you have an empty backfield to add to it.  The Redskins won’t be able to lean on Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Keith Marshall.  The defense may have made improvements, and the receiving corps may have grown stronger, but without a quarterback, running back and even a consistent offensive line to protect them, a season above .500 will not happen.  They did sign Josh Norman in the off season and upgraded the defense, but will it be enough?  I’m expecting the Redskins to fall a few wins this year.  They won’t be as bad as the 2013-14 version of themselves, but the Redskins won’t even come close to matching last year.

Eagles

The Eagles are looking so bad right now that they’ll miss Chip Kelly.  This team is rebuilding from a rebuild, there’s no way they’ll compete this year!  It’s bad enough what Kelly did.  What’s worse is how Howie Roseman attempted to fix it.  They were in a decent spot with Kelly; I could’ve seen them easily return to contention, but they’ve made the team look foolish.  Ryan Mathews is not an RB1 at this point in his career, and the Eagles are in desperate need of a wide receiver and are in such a bad situation with Sam Bradford that they traded up a total of 11 spots (between two trades) to draft Carson Wentz!  In the process, they gave up DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell.  I don’t know what the heck the Eagles are doing, but whatever their plan is, it isn’t helping, especially for the current team.

 

NFC North

  1.  Green Bay Packers 12-4 (2)
  2.  Detroit Lions 10-6 (6)
  3.  Minnesota Vikings 10-6
  4.  Chicago Bears 4-12

 

Packers

This dominant team won’t lose the division two years straight.  Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the league, and he along with wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed all of last season, are ready to strike back.  This offense just looks a lot better.  Eddie Lacy slimmed up a bit, Jordy Nelson has returned to health, even Aaron Rodgers took part in some serious off-season workouts.  Jared Cook joins Richard Rodgers at tight end, and this offense is suddenly looking dominant again.  The defense may have lost B.J. Raji and Casey Hayward, but still have plenty of key players to run the team, including Julius Peppers, Damarious Randall, Morgan Burnett, Sam Shields, Sam Barrington, Mike Daniels, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Clay Matthews, who’s back to his natural position, outside linebacker.  He was actually a lot better as an OLB than he was in a couple years at middle linebacker.

Lions

You may think that the Lions are in some rough times without Calvin Johnson, but really, if they buff up on depth with guys like Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts, who both worked out and signed with the Lions, they’ll be fine.  Golden Tate should breakthrough without Megatron limiting his targets.  Marvin Jones is a big sleeper ready to breakout.  Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron have plenty of room for improvement, and Matthew Stafford can still play at an average QB level.  You can’t discredit all that.  You may say the defense isn’t doing enough, but really, they’re not in too bad of shape.  The addition of A’Shawn Robinson should help.  They still have Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah too. I don’t think DeAndre Levy is too bad, and I don’t know why Stephen Tulloch was released.  The secondary has some breakout candidates too.  Darius Slay has been underrated all his career, and Glover Quin is still playing well.  I don’t see the problem with a few holes considering the stars they already have, especially if it’s just for a 6th seed.

Vikings

The Vikings 2015 season was no fluke, but it was a high point for them.  They’ll still be in contention, but they’re going down the mountain now.  They were going up until last year.  Why is that?  Well, for one, the Vikings don’t have depth behind Adrian Peterson!  Peterson is not at his peak anymore, and this may be his final elite season.  Laquon Treadwell may help, but the receiving game is still thin, with just him and Stefon Diggs worth throwing to frequently for wide receivers.  The Vikings may have fierce defense and some stars on offense, but they don’t have the depth at running back, wide receiver and offensive lineman to match last year’s performance.

Bears

I know a lot of people are predicting the Bears at higher records, I’m rating them a lot lower than I have in recent years.  The Bears may have some serious talent developing but they’re rebuilding, let them rebuild.  They aren’t ready to return to contention quite yet.  They don’t even have many other options besides the young guns.  In the past two off-seasons, they’ve let Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett go.  Kevin White, Zach Miller, Jordan Howard and Jeremy Langford should build up the skill to replace them eventually, but for now, they can’t run the team by themselves!  Besides Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal at receiver and Ka’ Deem Carey at running back, the Bears have no impactful backups for these players.  Don’t even get me started on the defense.  The defensive line has practically no significant players.  They do have some decent veterans at LB and on the secondary, but they don’t have any stars, and despite an underrated secondary and linebacker corps, the defense is in pretty bad overall shape.

 

NFC South

  1. carolina-panthers-logo.jpg Carolina Panthers 13-3 (1)
  2. tampabaybuccaneers.png Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6
  3. nosaints.png New Orleans Saints 4-12
  4. atlfalcons.png Atlanta Falcons 3-13

 

Panthers

Especially with Kelvin Benjamin back, I think the Panthers can have another strong year, but it won’t be flawless.  The Panthers either just got lucky to be able to carry on with slim receiving depth in 2015, or Cam Newton was just an absolute monster.  Probably the Cam Newton thing.  There will be rough weeks for Cam Newton and the Panthers offense.  But still, the defense is monstrous, even though it lacks corner depth beyond Bene’ Benikwere.  The o-line has some weak spots, but is dominant in other ways, and the offensive players at the top of the depth chart are beastly, including Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.  The Panthers will never match last year’s numbers, but they will be dominant, and they could come close.

Buccaneers

The Bucs have a lot of talent developing, and a defensive boost this off season helps.  One thing the Bucs never had before was a legitimate secondary.  They now have a pair of powerful corners in Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III.  They also added to an already fierce pass rush.  The signings of Daryl Smith and Robert Ayers along with the draft selection of Noah Spence put some of the pressure off just Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David.  They also have some serious stars developing, especially on offense.  Jameis Winston has the potential to be great, especially with rising receivers Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, possibly even Cameron Brate in his receiving scheme.  Although ASJ has looked lousy this off-season, he could be a TE2 for the Bucs, considering the fact that the Bucs only have two receivers worth noting (Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson).  They even have a developing star on defense, Kwon Alexander.  He was in the race for the DPOY award Marcus Peters won.  It looks like the Bucs’ rebuild could finally pay off this season.

Saints

The Saints’ offense may be in shape, but the defense is just too broken down for this team to function.  They have serious problems in their pass rush, and lack depth at corner.  Drew Brees isn’t even in full condition anymore.  He’s only going to get older and weaker, and that could additionally hurt the Saints.  He may have a good receiving staff to throw to, but if he can’t complete passes as often, he’ll have to rely on a weak and overrated running game.  It doesn’t help that the offensive line has holes and is inconsistent and overrated.  So, the offense is in declining in condition and the pass rush is just pathetic.  The only pass rusher that the Saints really have contributing is Cameron Jordan.  Really, what backup do the Saints have to support a good season?   Until they find that out, they’ll have no chance of bouncing back.

Falcons

Everyone thinks this team will be the closest to dethroning Carolina, but really, this team has some serious problems.  First of all, Julio Jones is a great player, but do they have any quality pass catchers besides him?  The next best option is MOHAMED SANU.  He’s more of a WR3 than a WR2, which the Falcons desperately need.  The Falcons are also counting too much on Devonta Freeman.  He had one good season, and just like that he’s considered a star?  Not in my book.  He needs to earn back his job, especially with Tevin Coleman developing.  Speaking of which, they need to give that guy a chance.  I also think the secondary is very slim besides Desmond Trufaunt.  They need more quality corners and safeties.  Really, even with some all stars leading the offense, this team has no offensive depth.  Depth is a problem all over this team, and they won’t do anything without some insurance for their best players.  Even a mediocre defense has depth problems.  The pass rush is revamped, but the secondary has nothing.  How does lack of depth affect a team?  The Falcons will find out this season from a rough ride.

NFC West

  1. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks 12-4
  2. az-cards Arizona Cardinals 12-4
  3.  Los Angeles Rams 3-13
  4.  San Francisco 49ers 3-13

 

Seahawks

The Seahawks are back and better than ever.  The offense has gotten younger, as Thomas Rawls steps into Marshawn Lynch’s shoes.  Jimmy Graham should be back fresh, and Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin also look to be in great shape for this season.  The offense may have lacked depth, but the last two drafts have helped.  They now have Trevone Boykin at QB, Luke Willson at tight end, C.J. Prosise, Christine Michael and Alex Collins at running back, and Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse at receiver.  The defense is still powerful as well.  The secondary got boosted even further with the resigning of Brandon Browner, and the front seven may have some holes, but is still ferocious.  This team is ready to climb back to the top of the division and dominate, and a quiet but active off season has helped.

Cardinals

Alright, last year the Cardinals were at their absolute peak.  If they stay healthy, they can do well again, but they won’t match last year.  Last year, the Cardinals had a magical season.  Everything worked out.  The defense made a big jump, and the offense’s best players stayed healthy, and did well.  You can’t guarantee that things will work out again.  the defense is still very fierce, but it has some missing pieces, and if Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd gets hurt, the Cards could be in big trouble.  Still, I don’t expect them to slide too significantly, they have one of the best coaches in the league, they have a Top 10 defense in the league, and the offense has reformed in to a dominant force.  There are problems that could hold them back, but they’re looking good overall.

Rams

Recent news about Jared Goff being nowhere near ready to start in Week 1 makes things even worse for this team.  If he can’t step in and produce, how will this team be any better, let alone as good as they were last year?  Todd Gurley could step up big time, but that’s not good enough.  The Rams need a dependable QB to thrive.  They may have some ferocious pass rushing, but without a QB, and even an elite pass catcher, this team is going nowhere.  The Rams have a tough schedule.  They can’t count on running the ball every game, especially against other teams with a powerful pass rush, who they will face plenty of this year, including the Dolphins, Giants, Bucs, Panthers, Cardinals and Seahawks.  Unless Jared Goff and his receivers can make the leap, the Rams won’t be going anywhere.

49ers

Don’t even get me started here.  Look, I’ll tell you broad and clear.  The 49ers are terrible!  Their QB job is a battle between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick (remember him?), they have no backup if Carlos Hyde goes down again, and Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton (who’s he?) are their starting wide receivers.  The defense is in even worse shape!!  Their secondary depends on Kenneth Acker, Tramaine Brock and Antoine Bethea to perform, and the pass rush has some serious holes next to NaVorro Bowman, Arik Armstead, Glenn Dorsey and DeForest Buckner.  Look, this team won’t be a contender in a million years without some sort of unimaginable miracle!  They have nothing!!!!!!!!!

 

2016 NFL Playoffs

 

FullSizeRender (12).jpg

My playoff bracket may look crazy, and it’s full of upsets, surprises, blowouts and underdogs, but here I will breakdown every match up.

Wild Card Weekend

Bills @ Texans

Young, but powerful defense and a strong backfield despite a lack of weapons for Tyrod Taylor got the Bills into the playoffs, but against the Texans, it won’t pass for a even a chance at winning.  This team’s defense has been some of the best over the last few years, led by sack king and legendary edge rusher J.J. Watt.  With a healthy weapon in the backfield (Lamar Miller), and a better QB in Brock Osweiler, a much improved offense will be the deciding factor in the Texans winning this game.  I say the Texans offense may have some troubles with the Bills D, but they’ll edge them slightly, and the Texans pass rush will annihilate the Bills backfield full of depth.

Prediction: Texans win, 34-17

 

Raiders @ Steelers

The Steelers offensive force may be dominant and full of stars on the outside, but especially without Martavis Bryant, the Steelers don’t have too much depth.  The defense doesn’t seem to belong to a contender either, although it is mediocre.  The newly upgraded Raiders defense may be trampled, but young Derek Carr and his superior target Amari Cooper will be all over the defense, and the Raiders will shock the Steelers.  In a huge upset, Big Ben, Le’ Veon Bell and Antonio Brown get topped by a revamped Raiders team, simple as that.

Prediction: Raiders win, 24-16

 

Lions @ Seahawks

I said the Lions would make the playoffs, with some clear defensive holes and lack of a true star on offense.  They do have a lot of potential breakout players, especially on offense, but against the Seahawks and their mighty defense, do you expect this riddled team to win?  In the playoffs?!!  Not happening.  The Seahawks defense will win them this game, with a thin but powerful offense with plenty of star power edging out the Lions D.  I doubt the dark horse of the NFL will beat out the #1 defense in the league.  Barely anyone else expects the Lions to even be playoff contenders!  This one’s an easy pick.

Prediction: Seahawks win, 27-13

 

Cardinals @ Cowboys

Yes, at this point in the season (as long as Ezekiel Elliott isn’t suspended through the playoffs), the Cowboys should be at full strength.  But the Cardinals will be relentless and win hungry in this game.  This team’s offense is dominant with a strong QB/RB/WR combo, even with the lack of an offensive line and an true starter at tight end.  The defense also has plenty of talent scattered across the different positions.  There may be a slight lack of star power in the front seven especially, but this team has few defensive holes, and the ones they do have are small.  Even with a revamped pass rush and underrated secondary, I think the Cardinals offense will be all over the Cowboys, and Dallas’ superior offense won’t get a chance.  It will be a tough competition, but the Cards should win in the end.

Prediction: Cardinals win, 33-27

 

 

Divisional Round

 

Raiders @ Patriots

With Brady most likely back at full speed by this point, the Patriots will crush the Raiders.  Oakland does have revamped defense and rising offense, but this 10-6 wild card surprise will be no match for Bill Belichick’s Patriots.  Hey, the Pats had defensive upgrades too, and the offense is better than ever, with tight end Martellus Bennett playing across from Gronk.  The Patriots will rout the Raiders, I can guarantee you that.  Even against the Steelers they’d win.  At full power, the Patriots are by far the best AFC team.  The Steelers are overrated and dirty, and this game is only the start of the Patriots’ path to victory.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 37-23

 

Texans @ Chiefs

The Chiefs will go all this way, having an awesome regular season, Jamaal Charles completely bouncing back to revamp the offense, Justin Houston coming back better than ever, to lose to Houston.  Sounds like a terrible note to end on, but actually not.  Houston’s a strong team.  The Chiefs are pretty darn good, but in Houston, you have youth, new signings in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, a star receiver, and the best defense in the league led by J.J. Watt, who should return from injury sometime around October.  The Chiefs don’t have anything close to a guy like Watt.  The Texans defense is even better than the mighty Chiefs D.  That plus the diverse, but strong offense will be the difference in this game as the Texans head to the AFC Championship Game, in hopes of dethroning the almighty Pats.

My Prediction: Texans win, 24-13

 

Cardinals @ Panthers

We saw this game in the NFC Championship last year, Carolina won.  We saw the same match-up in 2014’s Wild Card Weekend.  Carolina won both.  With the Seahawks winning the division, the Cardinals would fall to the 5th seed, making this a Divisional Round match-up.  I think the Panthers will take the cake again.  The Panthers may have lost a ton of key secondary guys, but the front seven is still going to be on to David Johnson.  They don’t have much to rely on besides Bene’ Benikwere and rookies James Bradberry, Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez for receiver coverage.  However, Arizona’s stars are scattered.  I think things will be a little easier for the run game in Carolina.  That’s good for Cam Newton, who loves to run the football.  Personally, I think Carolina’s slightly better defense will make the difference in this game.  They have a superior defensive line, some star pass rushers behind them, and even some possible future big names at corner.  The Cardinals may have Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, but have some holes and weak spots in the front seven, and even some playing across from Peterson and Honey Badger.

My Prediction: Panthers win, 33-28

Seahawks @ Packers

Seattle will be good again this season, especially if everyone’s healthy.  They have the offense now, Jimmy Graham will be back, Thomas Rawls and Doug Baldwin should help.  But Green Bay’s offense could be unstoppable.  With Jordy Nelson back, the Packers have yet another weapon for Aaron Rodgers.  The only reason they lost to the Vikings in the NFC North is because of Nelson’s absence!  The Packers offense will be a challenge for Seattle’s Big D.  This should be a high scoring back and forth game, but in the end, the Packers have the better roster, I like Mike McCarthy as head coach, and they will edge the Seahawks.

My Prediction: Packers win, 34-20

 

 

AFC Championship

Texans @ Patriots

This is an awesome match-up.  The Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller led Texans are extremely underrated, and a league best defense leads them to be a great team this year, even dark horse Super Bowl contenders, because if they make it there, they’re sure to win in their home stadium, but this is the New England Patriots we’re talking about.  Yes, the same New England Patriots with Tom Brady and Gronk who won 4 Super Bowls, their only Super Bowls since Brady joined the team.  Brady is easily the greatest to play the game, all time.  He truly has defined himself as the G.O.A.T.  If he gets a fifth ring, that would be true dominance.  Bill Belichick should be at his old tricks again and the powerful Patriots offense and underrated defense will work their way through the great wall of Houston, AKA: the Texans pass rush, and the defense should be able to hold the strong QB/RB/WR combo up while the offense does its thing.  This is a Patriots team hungry for revenge, and they will be motivated to rout the Texans, and they will go out there and do their job.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 34-27

 

NFC Championship

Packers @ Panthers

The Panthers will have another strong season.  At 13-3, they should earn the #1 seed.  But the Packers will have more challenges on the 2016 schedule, and they still will go 12-4 and get the 2nd seed.  The Packers are a dominant team, especially in these clutch playoff situations.  With Josh Norman, Charles Tillman and Roman Harper off the secondary’s depth charts, Carolina’s much less likely to reach the Super Bowl, especially in a tough, straight forward NFC.  Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of Carolina’s holes, and throw to underrated receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.  Eddie Lacy could also be successful against an aging defensive line, and the Packers offense will edge out Carolina’s D.  I think Cam Newton and Co. should be about evenly matched with the Packers defense, even lacking receiver depth, but the new holes in the secondary will be the sole deciding factor in the game.

My Prediction: Packers win, 37-31 in OT

 

Super Bowl 51

Patriots (AFC) vs. Packers (NFC)

This may be one of the toughest Super Bowl matches ever.  the 2016 Patriots and Packers are two of the most well crafted teams of their era.  Part of this will be based on the performance of the two star QBs, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.  Both these offenses are also very strong.  The Packers may have more dependable wide receivers but Gronk and Bennett act like receivers, so the Pats have a lot of edge at tight end.  the defenses are very similar as well.  There are holes in each pass rush, but also stars.  Green Bay may have more big names, but this young Patriots group was led and mentored by veteran Jerod Mayo.  Mayo retired, but now in comes Terrance Knighton.  Malcolm Butler and crew should cover the Packers receivers better, where as the young, still developing Packers secondary may struggle to keep up with the best Pats receivers, especially Gronk.  Tom Brady and his bunch plus excellent coaching from Bill Belichick that I think is slightly better than Mike McCarthy’s should boost the Patriots to edge out the Packers.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 34-30

 

Awards:

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB

Offensive Player of The Year: Le’Veon Bell, RB, PIT

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, HOU

Offensive Rookie of The Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, TB

Comeback Player Of The Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, GB

Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

 

Between the shocks, blowouts, amazing plays and more, the NFL 2016 season is going to be great, and I can’t wait for it to come back.  For now, I’m following training camp and you guys can look at my season previews by team.  I have a couple up and more are coming soon.

 

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2016 AFC Draft Grades: Determining The Winners and Losers

The NFL draft has concluded, and as usual, my mock draft sucked because of trades.  But now it’s time to reflect on the draft.  Below I have graded every pick made by each AFC team and given each team an overall draft grade.  Undrafted free agents will not affect these grades.

 

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1           19          Shaq Lawson              DE     Clemson    A

2            10         Reggie Ragland          OLB    Alabama   A-

3            17      Adolphus Washington   DT    Ohio St.    A-

4           41          Cardale Jones                QB     Ohio St.    B

5           18       Jonathan Williams          RB     Arkansas  B+

6           17         Kolby Listenbee              WR    TCU           A-

6          43          Kevon Seymour             CB      USC            A-

Overall Grade: A-

What They Did Right: This is one of the better teams in this draft.  As usual, Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley went straight for defense.  They could’ve mixed it up and went after offense early in this draft, but I think Whaley & Ryan  actually took the right approach this time.  They had a serious need for pass rushers after losing Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, and Mario Williams the last two off-seasons.  Intriguing prospects like Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland going that late in the draft was a big steal for Buffalo.  Why did they draft a DT then?  Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus aren’t going to last forever, and the Bills already filled their urgent needs in rounds 1 and 2.  I also liked their late round selection of Kolby Listenbee.  He can develop behind Robert Woods and eventually be a companion to Sammy Watkins.  This draft just made an already scary defense better, but their offense may still need work, especially if Jonathan Williams isn’t ready for Week 1.

What They Did Wrong: After taking solid, safe, large school pass rushers in the first three rounds, their fourth and fifth round selections seemed off to me.  Since when is E.J. Manuel not an acceptable backup?  I guess they didn’t think of him when they took Cardale Jones.  Sure, Jones might not be ready to start, but I’m sure he was ready to at least be an NFL QB’s understudy.  Unless Manuel gets cut and ends up at rock bottom, Jones won’t see a game until Tyrod Taylor or Manuel is gone.  Yes, they needed a running back, but that was a pretty urgent need with Anthony Dixon gone.  Jonathan Williams, really?  He missed all of last season with a torn ACL.  There’s no telling when and if he’ll come back from that.  But guess what, Manuel might be released, and Williams might come back.  This draft has high upside, and with a safe group of picks chosen in days 1 and 2, the Bills look to be a team that will be highly impacted by this draft.  This class can win Rex Ryan games.  No more 8-8 seasons?  That is highly possible.

Miami Dolphins

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1           13            Laremy Tunsil           OT     Ole Miss    C

2           7              Xavien Howard         CB      Baylor        A-

3           10             Kenyan Drake           RB     Alabama    B+

3           23             Leonte Carroo           WR   Rutgers       A-

6           11              Jakeem Grant            WR   Texas           B

6          29              Jordan Lucas             SS       Penn St.    B+

7           2               Brandon Doughty   QB   West Kentucky   B+

7          10              Thomas Duarte        TE        UCLA        B

   Overall Grade: B-

What They Did Right: The Dolphins may have wasted some of their picks, but the important thing is they addressed all of their main urgent needs at some point during the draft.  Kenyan Drake is an efficient RB option that will split time with sophomore player Jay Ajayi, and Xavien Howard fills the need at cornerback across from Byron Maxwell.  They got Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant to mix into the current wide receiver group, and they got an acceptable backup for Ryan Tannehill that will play ahead of Matt Moore.  What they did wrong is they picked the wrong guys at the wrong time.  They took Howard when Top 5 corner Mackensie Alexander was still on the board, and he was expected to go in Round 1.  They took Drake without recognizing that DeVontae Booker and Kenneth Dixon were much better prospects left.

What They Did Wrong: Really, an offensive tackle in Round 1?  Really, picking Laremy Tunsil after his Twitter got hacked and a video of him taking marijuana got posted?!!  They could’ve let him slide a little further and gone after a corner, or Kevin Dodd, who ended up out of Round 1.  This means that Ja’Wuan James will have to either fill the smaller need at guard, start ahead of Tunsil or Branden Albert, or lose his starting job.  Tunsil has so many off the field issues, and it was not necessary to pick him, even if he was best available.  The late round picks had the opposite issue of the Day 2 ones, good players at inconvenient positions.  Jordan Lucas and Thomas Duarte are great guys. But the Dolphins are fine at tight end. They could have used that pick on a pass rusher or something like that, and unless Reshad Jones plays free safety this season or Jordan Lucas switches positions, they’re all set at strong safety.  The Dolphins had an efficient draft as they filled the holes, but may have taken the wrong players at the wrong times, and completely blew their first round pick.

 

New England Patriots

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

2           29           Cyrus Jones                CB     Alabama    B-

3            15            Joe Thuney                OG     N.C. State   A-

3            29           Jacoby Brissett         QB      N.C. State   B

3            34            Vincent Valentine   DT     Nebraska      B

4            14             Malcolm Mitchell    WR    Georgia       A-

6            33             Kamu Grugier-Hill  OLB   East Illinois  B

6             39             Elandon Roberts        ILB      Houston     A-

6              46            Ted Karras                    OG         Illinois      B+

7                4             Devin Lucien               WR        Arizona St.  B-

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: Belichick and crew had another efficient draft.  They filled most of their major needs.  Joe Thuney is in to replace Ryan Wendell.  Malcolm Mitchell will join the deep wide receiver rotation.  I just don’t see why they A) Drafted multiple guys at one position and B) Passed on quality running backs and defensive ends early.  I also like how they drafted a possible Brady replacement in case Brady’s suspension is upheld or he declines.  TB12 won’t last forever, but Brissett when Dak Prescott, Connor Cook and RBs Kenneth Dixon and DeVontae Booker available?  Bad idea.  They also took a lot of long shots, for example, Vincent Valentine, but he took far down players for a reason.  Valentine’s the size of Vince Wilfork.

What They Did Wrong: Where’s the franchise RB?  Blount’s on the decline, and Dion Lewis is coming off a torn ACL.  They took a corner, they took two guards and two receivers, and no running back?  Come on Pats.  You’re better than that.  I also don’t like how after they had gotten up to 12 total picks, traded some big ones away.  They needed those picks if they wanted to win a title.  I like who the Patriots picked, but I think they may have used picks in an unnecessary way and left out certain areas of need in this draft, especially the need in the backfield.

 

New York Jets

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            20          Darron Lee                 OLB   Ohio St.     A-

2            20         Christian Hackenberg  QB   Penn St.  A-

3            20         Jordan Jenkins           OLB     Georgia    A-

4            20        Juston Burris                 CB     N.C. State  B

5             21        Brandon Shell                OT    S. Carolina  A-

7              14        Lac Edwards                   P    Sam Houston St   A-

7             20         Charone Peake           WR     Clemson     B+

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

What They Did Right: This was a pretty strong draft for the Jets.  Almost all of their needs were filled, and their picks (most of them, at least) were under the radar.  They went with some of the safest guys at their needed positions on Days 1 and 2 including Darron Lee and Christian Hackenberg.  On days 1 and 2 they did a pretty amazing job, their only problems were taking two OLBs instead of an OLB and an ILB, and ignoring their need at OT.  They filled it later with Brandon Shell, and minor needs at WR, corner and punter were filled, also mostly with under the radar picks, they were at least considered that for how late they went.

What They Did Wrong: The Jets had a great draft, but their grade goes down significantly for one reason.  They still need an ILB!  Taiwan Jones is the best they’ve got at ILB, and unless also inconsistent Lorenzo Mauldin moves over, they have a serious issue.  A near perfect draft class has its flaws, this is the biggest one.  Next time, don’t draft Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins unless you know an efficient linebacker that can move to the interior.

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             6          Ronnie Stanley          OT    Notre Dame   A+

2            11          Kamalei Correa        OLB    Boise St.        B+

3             7           Bronson Kaufusi       DE        BYU               A-

4             6           Tavon Young              CB        Temple       B-

4             9           Chris Moore                WR     Cincinnati    B-

4            32          Alex Lewis                   OT      Nebraska        A

4            34           Willie Henry              DT      Michigan        A-

4            36           Kenneth Dixon         RB      LA Tech          A-

5             7           Matt Judon                 DE     GV State           A-

6             7           Keenan Reynolds     RB     Navy                 A

6            34         Maurice Canady         CB     Virginia           A-

Overall Grade: A-

 

What They Did Right: The Ravens filled most of their major needs and got some real good players in the process.  They may have gone for many long shots, but they really upgraded their weakest spot, the line of scrimmage.  Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis will really help the offensive tackle depth chart.  Bronson Kaufusi, Willie Henry, and Matt Judon will bolster the defensive line and add to an already scary pass rush.  The Ravens also had some big steals.  They snagged Kenneth Dixon after falling to late Round 4.  They also got intriguing Navy RB Keenan Reynolds, and after drafting long-shot corner prospect Tavon Young, they snagged Maurice Canady soon before the conclusion of Round 6.  What a draft class!

What They Did Wrong: This was a great draft class full of steals and studs, but every near-perfect thing has its flaws.  For Baltimore, the biggest flaw is too many long-shots.  A long-shot pick could always be good if you know what you’re doing, but in great numbers, it gets out of hand.  They needed a wide receiver and drafted Chris Moore, but he’s not the future of this franchise for when Steve Smith and Mike Wallace get old.  Each long shot pick comes with risk, and you want to have a lot of safe selections.  You don’t want your whole draft class to become busts, even for a 4th or 5th rounder, where 3 of their 5 picks made are guys I would consider long-shots.  They additionally never filled their need at inside linebacker, and a few other long-term needs.  This team is good now, but what has happened to their future?  The Ravens will know what I mean when they are desperate for a starting wide receiver a couple of years from now.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1          24            William Jackson III    CB     Houston   B

2          24             Tyler Boyd                    WR    Pitt            A

3          24             Nick Vigil                      ILB    Utah St.   B+

4         24              Andrew Billings          DT     Baylor       A

5          24             Christian Westerman  OG    ASU          B+

6         24              Cody Core                        WR   Ole Miss  B

7         24              Clayton Fejedelem         SS       Illinois    A

Overall Grade: B+

 

What They Did Right: This is a good and deep draft class with very high potential.  This class had many late round steals.  Andrew Billings, expected to go in the first two rounds, fell to Cincy in Round 4.  Christian Westerman fell to them in Round 5 after being projected as a 3rd rounder.  They also filled their biggest needs by far, safety, and wide receiver.  William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Clayton Fejedelem will all battle for the left corner and strong safety spots.  Nick Vigil will be an understudy for Rey Maualuga, and Andrew Billings will split time with Domata Peko.  Tyler Boyd will be an efficient WR2 or WR3, and Cody Core will fill the depth beyond the top 3 receivers.

What They Did Wrong: They didn’t do too much wrong.  This was a pretty good draft, but let’s go over a few small things that affected certain picks in a different way than it did to the overall grade.  For example, drafting a corner in Round 1 over wide receiver Michael Thomas wasn’t a great pick.  They had a burning need at receiver, and a deep receiver class to fill it with.  The secondary was more of a Day 2 issue.  They did fill the receiver position later.  Then, they didn’t fill the need at safety in Round 3 but instead went for a non-urgent selection of an inside linebacker.  Just something to keep in mind, a little shuffle of positions taken each round would’ve helped this class majorly.

Cleveland Browns

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            15           Corey Coleman          WR    Baylor        A

2              1           Emmanuel Ogbah       DE    Oklahoma St.   A

3              2           Carl Nassib                    DE      Penn St.     A

3             13         Shon Coleman                OT     Auburn      A

3             31         Cody Kessler                    QB       USC         A-

4                1         Joe Schobert                   OLB     Wisconsin    A+

4                16      Ricardo Louis                    WR     Auburn       A-

4               31        Derrick Kindred               S         TCU          A

4                40        Seth Devalve                  TE        Princeton   B+

5                 15         Jordan Payton                WR         UCLA        A

5                  31         Spencer Drango            OG        Baylor       A

5                  35           Rashard Higgins         WR    Colorado St.  A

5                  36           Trey Caldwell               DB     LA-Monroe     A-

7                 29            Scooby Wright III       ILB    Arizona          A+

Overall Grade: A

What They Did Right: Almost everything.  What a draft class.  I loved how the Cleveland Browns plotted their draft day.  First, a trade back to let the Titans snag an OT and drafting wide receiver Corey Coleman (great fit, by the way!).  Then they get DE Emmanuel Ogbah in Round 2 and steal DE Carl Nassib in Round 3.  That already makes their defensive line and receiving game a whole lot better.  In Round 3 they also snagged offensive tackle Shon Coleman and went for a QB late in the round.  They filled their hole at just about every position of need, with a quality pick and pulled the steal of the draft when they took Scooby Wright III (projected for Rounds 3-4) with the 29th pick of Round 7.

What They Did Wrong: I can’t stop complementing at this amazing draft class, but it does have a couple minor issues.  First of all, filling the need at receiver is great, but four receivers?  That can fill an entire depth chart.  I bet Ricardo Louis will be cut before Week 1, and Coleman, Brian Hartline, Higgins, Andrew Hawkins and Payton will fill the depth chart.  They probably should have spent a couple of those receiver picks on more defensive help, especially at linebacker and in the secondary.  They also drafted a couple too many long shots.  Cody Kessler won’t have a chance to compete with RG3, and that’s their biggest need.  I couldn’t even find Trey Caldwell or Seth Devalve in CBS Sports’ 2016 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings.  However, between all the good picks, all the huge steals, all the positions filled, this was an amazing draft class.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            25           Artie Burns                  CB      Miami      A-

2           27           Sean Davis                    CB      Maryland   B-

3          26            Javon Hargrave           DT          SC State   B

4          25          Jerald Hawkins             OT           LSU         A-

6            45          Travis Feeney               OLB      Washington  B

7              8            DeMarcus Ayers          WR           Houston    B-

7              25          Tyler Matakevich      ILB             Temple      B

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Steelers came into this draft with a few major needs.  They focused solely on those needs and drafting the perfect players to fill them.  They didn’t necessarily pick the biggest prospects, but they did an outstanding job filling most of their major needs.  They received two strong corners, an offensive tackle to replace Kelvin Beachum, and a pass rushing  defensive tackle.  They have good fits for a lot of the guys they drafted, and that led to an acceptable draft.

What They Did Wrong: They may have drafted perfect fits, but the prospects that were taken weren’t as appealing to most scouts.  Sean Davis was a risky pick, he just recently shot up draft boards, and another slightly safer guy like him, Artie Burns, was drafted ahead of him.  Still risky for their biggest need.  They also forgot about a safety in the process.  Travis Feeney and DeMarcus Ayers are also risky picks, and Ayers is a real long shot.  Although I did like their strategy, I just think they picked the wrong set of prospects.

AFC South

Houston Texans

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            21           Will Fuller                   WR    Notre Dame   A

2            19          Nick Martin                  C      Notre Dame    B

3           22          Braxton Miller            WR   Ohio St.    B+

4           21          Tyler Ervin                    RB  San Jose St.    C+

5             22         K.J. Dillon                     SS     West Virginia   B+

5             29         D.J. Reader                   DT    Clemson      B

Overall Grade: B

 

What They Did Right: The Texans had a great draft, with lots of good picks.  However, they failed to fill their major needs precisely.  They got a lot of good prospects and did go after guys at positions of need.  This draft class has a ton of potential, but it needs to find a place to fit in.  There may be concerns unless D.J. Reader can shift to edge rusher, they can find some undrafted FAs to finish off the secondary, and Nick Martin can learn to play not just center but also guard at an NFL level.

What They Did Wrong: As I said before, they did not cover their main needs precisely!  Several examples are shown above.  Why’d the Texans take Tyler Ervin when they could’ve had their hands on Kenneth Dixon or DeVontae Booker?  Ervin likely won’t see a start, Booker or Dixon would’ve competed with Alfred Blue to be a handcuff to Lamar Miller.  They didn’t draft enough for the secondary and drafted two very good receivers when they had depth beyond the WR2 position, now filled by Will Fuller.  Braxton Miller was a bit of a waste after that selection in the first round.  Although they came close and drafted many high upside prospects, those prospects are also high risk, and some don’t fit into the Houston scheme.

Indianapolis Colts

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1              18          Ryan Kelly                    C     Alabama    A-

2              26          T.J. Green                    FS    Clemson     A

3              19          Le’Raven Clark          OT      Texas Tech  B

4                18        Hassan Ridgeway     DT      Texas          B-

4               27         Antonio Morrison    ILB     Florida       B-

5                17         Joe Haeg                       OG     NDSU          A

7                 18       Trevor Bates                 LB       Maine        B

7              27        Austin Blythe               C         Iowa         A

Overall Grade: B+

What They Did Right: The Colts’ draft was a roller-coaster ride.  One pick was amazing, the next pick, risky or off.  What I liked is that they went right for the biggest missing pieces first.  They started by rebuilding the offensive line.   Ryan Kelly and Joe Haeg will compete for starting jobs.  Le’Raven Clark has some time to develop at tackle, but may be able to get some starts at guard.  T.J. Green can fill the hole at safety and possibly even switch back to a receiver in the NFL, his old position.  Not bad for filling the top needs.  But the Colts really wasted their other picks.

What They Did Wrong: Okay, I understand if they wanted d-line insurance, but the Colts wasted two picks on linebackers!  That’s their strong position!  They have D’ Qwell Jackson, Robert Mathis and Nate Irving playing LB!  They don’t need any more help there.  I also think a tackle was unnecessary, their needs for the offensive line had no more to them than just the interior.  Not a bad draft in filling the needs with safe players, but the same draft class wasn’t great in overall efficiency and doesn’t fit with the team.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             5             Jalen Ramsey           CB/FS    Florida St.   B+

2            5              Myles Jack                OLB         UCLA            B

3             6              Yannick Ngakoue   DE        Maryland      A-

4           5               Sheldon Day              DT      Notre Dame   B

6         6                Tyrone Holmes       OLB       Montana     A-

6         26                Brandon Allen        QB        Arkansas    B+

7          5                 Jonathan Woodard    DE    Central AR     B-

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Jags may have had some issues with this draft, but overall, between free agency and the draft they really boosted their defense.  They added to what they already had in 2015 with DT Malik Jackson, DT, Sheldon Day, DEs Yannick Ngakoue and Jonathan Woodard and linebackers Myles Jack and Tyrone Holmes.  The biggest upgrade was in the secondary, which already had Jonathan Cyprien.  They added with two strong corners, Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara and safety Tashaun Gipson.  The Jags defense is among the most improved units in the NFL.

What They Did Wrong: They went after the right positions, but they took the wrong guys at the wrong positions at the wrong times.  They also had some late round shockers that I didn’t like. I did like how they stole Myles Jack in Round 2, but he’s risky, and they only drafted Tyrone Holmes behind him at the position.  They should’ve taken a better DE like DeForest Buckner.  They additionally wasted some picks on extra positions like DT and QB instead of drafting a center or safer LB.

Tennessee Titans

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            8            Jack Conklin             OT    Michigan St.   A-

2            2          Kevin Dodd                DE     Clemson        A+

2            12        Austin Johnson        DT       Penn St.       B+

2            14         Derrick Henry          RB      Alabama       C+

3              1          Kevin Byard              SS       Mid Tennessee  B

5             1           Tajae Sharpe           WR      UMass             B-

5             20        LeShaun Sims          CB        South Utah   B-

6             18         Sebastian Tretola    OG       Arkansas      B

7               1           Aaron Wallace          OLB        UCLA        A-

7             32           Kalan Reed                 CB       South Miss   B

Overall Grade: B+

What They Did Right: The Titans, at some point in the draft addressed most of their major needs.  They filled holes at OLB, defensive end, defensive tackle/nose tackle and offensive tackle.  What were their major needs going into the draft?  Offensive lineman and pass rusher. They got Sebastian Tretola as well to fill those needs, a sixth-round steal who can play guard and center.  They even planned for the future a little bit, taking another receiver in this draft, and drafting two mediocre corners late (even though Kalan Reed is technically considered Mr. Irrelevant).

What They Did Wrong: The Titans had the same issue as the Jags.  They were fine in the first couple rounds but after those rounds things got out of hand.  They drafted a running back, safety, and receiver before a guard or linebacker!   Oh, and the biggest problem with this draft?  DERRICK HENRY!!!  For crying out loud, this team just acquired DeMarco Murray!!!  Why did they set that plan on fire to draft Derrick Henry, and if Murray still is starting running back, why did the Titans draft the 2nd best running back, in Round 2, ahead of a linebacker just so he could be DeMarco Murray’s handcuff?!!!  They had a handcuff for him.  Remember Antonio Andrews, that guy who suddenly worked his way up to starting running back?  He’s still relevant, as a handcuff at least.  From what I’ve heard, Derrick Henry is a lot like DeMarco Murray.  That’s not good considering the fact that you could end up with two busts on one team.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             26          Paxton Lynch             QB      Memphis    A-

2           32            Adam Gotsis             DT      Georgia Tech   B-

3           36            Justin Simmons       FS       Boston College   B

4           38            DeVontae Booker    RB            Utah         B

5            5             Connor McGovern   OG          Missouri    A

6           1                Andy Janovich        FB            Nebraska    B

6           44              Will Parks                S              Arizona     B-

7            7              Riley Dixon              P        Syracuse         C+

Overall Grade: B

What they Did Right: The Broncos filled some major holes in this draft, and they may have failed to fill all their needs, but they drafted some pretty convincing players when they were filling holes.  Paxton Lynch was a pretty good pick on Denver’s part, and they didn’t need to trade up, but it was worth it to secure such a good pick.  I also really liked their selections of running back DeVontae Booker and guard Connor McGovern.  They didn’t just fill those three holes, they made sure they had a relevant player there, a rookie who can be a Week 1 starter.  Paxton Lynch may need some time, but Mark Sanchez can be the placeholder.  DeVontae Booker will grow behind two strong running backs, and Connor McGovern should be able to work into the system right away, linemen typically develop faster from what I’ve seen.

What They Did Wrong: The Broncos may have locked up some of their needs, but they slipped up on a few of their other picks, they could’ve just filled their minor needs with those picks rather than trying to pull the shocker of the draft, or draft the biggest sleeper.  I just don’t understand why they went for positions like safety and punter.  Even their pick of DT Adam Gotsis was questionable.  Not a bad draft in terms of upside, but not a great draft in terms of making sure they don’t have any major holes.

Kansas City Chiefs

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

2            6           Chris Jones                 DT     Missippi St.    B-

3           11             KeiVarae Russell      CB    Notre Dame   A-

4            7             Parker Ehinger         OG    Cincinnati      A-

4           8              Eric Murray                CB      Minnesota    B-

4          28             DeMarcus Robinson   WR     Florida     B

5          25             Kevin Hogan               QB       Stanford    B+

5             28          Tyreek Hill                   WR     West Alabama   C

6              3             D.J. White                CB       Georgia Tech   A-

6             28             Dadi Nicholas             DE     Virginia Tech    B+

Overall Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Chiefs had a pretty efficient draft.  They have Marcus Peters’ new partner in crime.  They have a guard to fill in the hole.  They have a new backup QB, and they got defensive line help.  In terms of filling the holes, this draft was great for the Chiefs.  Most of their major needs were filled, some by very high upside players.  I like Chris Jones, I like Kevin Hogan, and although I was questioning some of the picks, I like a lot of the players in this draft class.

What They Did Right: Okay, they had some picks with high upside.  Some of the rest were long shots and busts.   Had you ever heard of Tyreek Hill or Eric Murray before reading this article?  Well, I would be shocked if you did, you would have to be either a college football fanatic or draft guru.  They did fill the holes, but some of their picks were big risks, might not fill them yet or won’t fill them very long.  Only a few picks were in the A-range on my grading scale.  Therefore, I have to give this team a pretty low grade compared to what I’ve given to everybody else.

Oakland Raiders

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             14           Karl Joseph                 FS      West Virginia    B+

2            13             Jihad Ward                 DE     Illinois           B

3             14              Shilique Calhoun     DE   Michigan St.  B+

4             2               Connor Cook             QB    Michigan St.  B-

5           4               DeAndre Washington   RB  Texas Tech    B-

6         19             Cory James                         OLB     Colorado St.  C+

7         13              Vadal Alexander                 OG          LSU       B

Overall Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Raiders definitely got some players at positions of need, even if they might not be the right guys.  They filled the hole at defensive end, outside linebacker (partially) and free safety.  They picked the right positions in the right rounds, the draft was supplemental and filled their major needs and they drafted somewhat intriguing picks, whether they were surprises, steals or expected picks.  What did the Raiders do wrong?  Just about everything else.

What They Did Wrong: The Raiders seriously wasted a good number of their picks.  DeAndre Washington is not an efficient RB.  Cory James?  Connor Cook?  Those picks also caught me off.  They took Karl Joseph and Jihad Ward too early, and that leaves the Raiders without any guaranteed rookie starters this season.  Why Karl Joseph when they had the chance to take Kevin Dodd?  Why Jihad Ward over A’Shawn Robinson?!!  Some aspects of this draft class are crazy, and the things that make sense could’ve been done better.

 

San Diego Chargers

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            3            Joey Bosa                     DE     Ohio St.     B

2            4            Hunter Henry           TE      Arkansas    B

3           3              Max Tuerk                   C          USC          B

4            4           Joshua Perry              OLB       Ohio St.    B

5            38         Jatavis Brown            OLB       Akron       B

6             4        Drew Kaser                    P        Texas A&M   B+

6            23       Derek Watt                   FB       Wisconsin    B-

7               3       Donovan Clark             OG      Michigan St.  C+

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: I actually really liked this draft class.  I’m a huge fan of Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry and even like Max Tuerk.  All three could be Opening Day starters.  This draft class has a lot of depth, with a high-potential player picked almost every round.  The class also fills the Chargers needs pretty well.  There were no wasted picks, a reason behind each, and almost all of these guys could see significant playing time in 2016 and many years to come.

What They Did Wrong: What’s not to like about this class?  None of their picks went after the hottest players available giving the Chargers a potential steal, and they drafted some players at unnecessary positions.  Sure, guys like Derek Watt and Joshua Perry are good players, but they might not see significant playing time, a long-time veteran will likely be starting instead for this class’ first few years.  But overall, well done San Diego.  You got yourself the draft class I would love to have as an NFL GM.

Catch my NFC Draft Grades coming soon.  Who do you think aced the draft?  Comment below.