NFL Week 13 Picks: Mediocre Teams Make For Great Matchups

Welcome to my NFL Week 13 Picks.  I went 12-4 last week, placing my overall record at 100-76.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

QB Marcus Mariota will lead the Titans offense to a huge game and a victory.  TE Delanie Walker and WR Corey Davis among others will help Mariota as the Titans offense takes advantage of the Texans weakening secondary.  With the help of the offensive line, the Titans RB duo will also help out the offense against the depleted Texans front seven.  For the Texans, QB Tom Savage will struggle to generate offense and score TDs, especially without WR Will Fuller.  Titans win after Houston’s struggles.

Upset of the Week

The Falcons depleted defense will fail to shut down the Vikings strong group of receivers.  Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will help lead the Vikings offense to dominance and help lead the Vikings to victory.   For the Falcons offense, QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones will lead the Atlanta offense to a strong game, but it won’t be enough against the relentless Vikings.

TNF

After a rough week last week, QB Dak Prescott will lead the Cowboys offense to a big game, even without RB Ezekiel Elliott.  Both defenses will struggle after losing key players.  The Redskins lost S DeAngelo Hall, and the Cowboys lost LB Sean Lee.  With Lee out, the Redskins will also thrive offensively in this game.  QB Kirk Cousins will lead them to dominance and keep this close.  But the Cowboys will outscore them in an offensive shootout.

Sunday’s Games

The Bills will struggle to establish a passing game here due to their QB problems, and the fact that WR Kelvin Benjamin is out.  The Pats secondary will be able to shut down the receivers that do play, as the Pats secondary has been dominant lately.  For the Patriots offense, a balanced attack will lead them to thrive against a Bills defense that has begun to struggle after a strong start to the season.  Pats win as the Bills can’t find their rhythm.

QB Jay Cutler will look a bit better in his return, but he will still struggle against the dominant Broncos defense.  The Dolphins defense will also do well though, shutting down the Broncos run game.  But despite a hole at QB, the Broncos will still be able to generate an offensive rhythm.  However, the Dolphins will win after a defensive rebound led by defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, as well as safety Reshad Jones.

The Chiefs offense hasn’t been able to lead Kansas City to victory lately, but in this game, I think the defense will.  The Chiefs D will shut down the pesky Jets offense with the addition of CB Darrelle Revis against his former team.  The Jets defense will fail to shut down deep threat Tyreek Hill and star TE Travis Kelce.  After the Jets D struggles and the Chiefs D dominates, the Chiefs will win on the road.

QB Matthew Stafford will lead the versatile Lions receivers to thrive against a banged-up Ravens secondary.  But the Ravens will fight back as their younger players like RB Alex Collins and WR Breshad Perriman help lead their offense to dominate.  In the end, the Ravens will win in a close game that results in one of the most underrated matchups of the season.

The Jaguars secondary will be dominant against the Colts receivers, and the Jags defensive front will look unstoppable as they shut down the Colts running backs.  Meanwhile, the Colts defense will struggle to shut down the Jags young receivers and standout RB Leonard Fournette.  The Jags will win after the young offense comes through.

QB Jameis Winston will return to rejuvenate the Bucs offense against a struggling Packers team.  The Packers will continue to struggle offensively as well, failing to produce much offense against the underrated Buccaneers defense.  Tampa will win after defensive dominance and an offensive bounce back.

This game won’t be too exciting, but the Bears RB duo will help bring some excitement and lead Chicago to victory.  The 49ers’ QB problems will cause them to struggle, even against the Bears.  The Niners lack depth at receiver, especially without WR Pierre Garcon.  The Bears will win,  but the game will bring some of the sloppiest defense of the season from both teams.

WR Josh Gordon will help lead the Browns offense to a slightly better game in his return, but it won’t nearly be enough against the Chargers’ electric offense.  Besides, this is Gordon’s first game since 2014, so there’s a chance he gets a rude awakening.  LA’s offense will just be too strong for the Browns, and Philip Rivers will toss for 400 yards and 5+ TD against the weak Browns defense.  The Chargers will win despite the Browns’ efforts to push closer to victory.  It will be a more exciting game than you might expect.

The Giants defense will slow down the Raiders’ versatile receivers, especially with WR Amari Cooper out.  But the Giants will fail to produce offensively with Geno Smith at QB, and Smith will be knocked around a lot by the Raiders strong defensive front.  The Raiders will win after Smith fails another New York team.

The Saints offense won’t be in full swing against the tough Panthers front seven, but they will still have a huge game, even without TE Coby Fleener.  The Panthers will struggle to match the Saints’ success without TE Greg Olsen (foot injury) and WR Kelvin Benjamin (mid-season trade).  New Orleans will win after their defense slows down the depleted Carolina offense, and the Saints offense puts up another strong game.

The Rams defense will shut down the Cardinals offense that will be without WR John Brown in this game and without RB David Johnson and QB Carson Palmer for the rest of the season.  The Rams offense won’t look like themselves against the stingy Arizona secondary, but they will still manage to pull away with a victory against a troubled Arizona offense.

QB Carson Wentz will lead the Eagles to victory in a Sunday Night offensive shootout.  Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will also look good during primetime and he will challenge Philly.  But the Eagles will be dominant as they take advantage of the depleted Seahawks secondary and win the game.  Seattle’s secondary will be without CB Richard Sherman and S Kam Chancellor in this primetime clash.

The Bengals offense will struggle in the heat of primetime, especially against Pittsburgh’s difficult front seven.  On the other hand, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense will look good against their divisional rivals on Monday Night.  Big Ben will lead a great group of Steelers receivers to dominate, and the Steelers will win again.  The return of WR JuJu Smith-Schuster will help them.

That’s all for my Week 13 Picks.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

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NFL Week 1 Picks: Football Is Back

 

 

Buccaneers, 27, Falcons, 16

 

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.

NFL Playoff Picks: Wild Card Weekend

4 non division winners will challenge the teams the edged a division win.  First, which teams are more of super bowl threats?  Second, who will win?  Let’s start with a look at my straight up playoff bracket.

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I have the Seahawks knocking out the top 3 NFC seeds and losing in the Super Bowl, and the Steelers upsetting Cincy in the wild card round but losing to Denver.

Here are my picks:

Texans, 23, Chiefs, 20: Saturday, 4:35 PM EST

Both of these teams are on fire.  Kansas City has clearly shown themselves by winning 10 straight.  Houston struggled for a longer period of time, but have bounced back with 3 wins in a row.  This will come down to every last second.  The Texans have DeAndre Hopkins at his prime, who has broken out this year, and the Chiefs have Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin who will make an impact.  But one thing that will surely impact this game is defense.  In my opinion, both teams have a top 10 defense in the league.  They both have extremely powerful pass rush and good to decent secondaries.

I don’t think this will be very high scoring, and I think it will come down to a field goal.  Neither of these kickers, Nick Novak and Cairo Santos, are that good, but Santos has been streaky in good and bad ways.  Novak once was very solid.  I think Novak still has some of that consistency in him and that he can save the Texans’ butts in this game.

Steelers, 34, Bengals, 26: Saturday, 8:15 PM EST

I think that Pittsburgh’s run game will really miss DeAngelo Williams, not to mention Le’ Veon Bell.  But the powerful pass and a solid QB in Big Ben should make up for it as he throws four TDs in this 8 point upset win.  Ben Roethlisberger will go to his favorite trusty receivers, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Heath Miller, maybe Darrius Heyward-Bey, Matt Spaeth and Jacoby Jones for a bit.  But the point is, Ben Roethlisberger and the pass will make a huge impact.

The Bengals on the other hand, have just mediocre receiver depth with a QB that’s a novice to the playoffs.  Their run game trumps Pittsburgh as it’s at full health, but passing and QBs, along with experience are very important in the playoffs.  Despite a much better defense than Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ offense will pay off.

 

Seahawks, 30, Vikings, 24: Sunday, 1:05 PM EST

Despite missing Marshawn Lynch this week, Seattle still has a shot to take down the Vikes on Sunday.  The Seahawks are starting to discover a decent pass game, and the defense has been awesome.  The pass rush should be good enough to limit AP, especially if he’s still a little banged up.  The secondary should help limit Teddy B’s new receivers as well.

The Vikings defense is still young and developing, and should be able to limit the Seahawks, but not as much as they limit Minnesota.  Seattle has edge in that way, and they should win, despite a weaker, more injured offense.  They have great sleepers that haven’t come out of their shell yet this season.

Packers, 34, Redskins, 27: Sunday, 4:40 PM EST

I think this is a game that will be surprisingly high scoring due to bad defense.  Aaron Rodgers is finally starting to throw the ball around a bit, and Eddie Lacy has begun to return to full form. James Starks has done well too.  This team has gone a little bit young, but is growing power once again, power that may be strong enough to take out a top seed team after this.  But Kirk Cousins will provide a challenge.

He has found his guys that he needs to win games and the Skins’ offense works very well together as a team.  They’re good too.  They’re o-line is much better, they have some reliable young receivers and the whole team is beginning to re-develop.  But in the end, the Washington secondary is just too empty to stop the Packers in their reign and they will win by a touchdown or so.

So those are my picks for the week.  Comment what you think will happen in the games.

 

NFL Third Quarter Report: Playoff Scenarios For All 32

For the first quarter, I cleared up a wacky start.  For the second quarter, I predicted the remainder of the season from scratch.  By the third quarter, playoffs is where it’s at.  There are only 5 games left for every team.  Some of these games could decide key playoff scenarios.  Here are the current playoff pictures.

AFC

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In The Hunt

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NFC

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In The Hunt

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Done For

San Diego Chargers, 3-8
Chargers Remaining Schedule

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This schedule spells disaster.  Any win over Denver is doubtful.  Denver  likely will dominate up until January.

The Chiefs are practically on fire.  They should’ve beaten them when they had the chance.  They could’ve beat the Chiefs in San Diego, but on the road, it will be extremely difficult.  They’re even hotter now.

Unless the Raiders collapse before Week 16, the Chargers will lose that too.  They lost to them at home, they should lose to them on the road.  The only winnable game is hosting the AFC East’s Miami Dolphins.  Miami is placed last in the AFC East, and the Chargers play them in San Diego.  But one more win only gets them to
4-12.  You need AT LEAST, like 7 to go to the playoffs, and that rarely even happens, although it might to another team this year.

Tennessee Titans, 2-9

Titans Remaining Schedule

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This is actually a decent schedule, but it has a tough two weeks in the AFC East.  One at the Jets, another against the mighty, but injury plagued New England Patriots.  The Jaguars and Texans games are winnable, although the game at the Colts could also be tough.

But besides the Pats, unlike San Diego, there aren’t many dominant teams they face.  But what draws me away from this team is their performance so far.  When you’re 2-9, even three or four wins isn’t enough for playoff contention, and that’s even highly questionable.

Honorable Mentions

San Francisco 49ers, 3-8 – What do they have?

Cleveland Browns, 2-9 – Potential, but are practically mathematically out from previous performance

Baltimore Ravens, 4-7 – Too injury-filled to survive.

 

Watch Out

New Orleans Saints, 4-7

Saints Remaining Schedule

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This is a pretty easy schedule, but there are a couple of games that I wouldn’t quite say are locks.  The Panthers are 11-0, and even beating them in New Orleans will be tough.  The Bucs are getting better and are actually in the playoff hunt now, led by Jameis Winston.  They beat the Saints in New Orleans, Week 2.

The Lions and Jags aren’t as bad as we originally thought, and the Lions are red hot.  And against such a feast or famine team, the Falcons could easily win.  So, the Saints could win the rest (9-7) or even lose the rest (4-12).

Philadelphia Eagles, 4-7

Eagles Remaining Schedule

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The Eagles have a winnable schedule, but they only have a shot at the playoffs if they play really well and have some good luck.  I think the home games vs the Bills and Redskins could easily be wins.  They will likely lose this week, but if they win those two, plus crucial grudge matches vs the Cardinals and Giants, which will be tough if they keep playing how they’re playing, they won’t do, they’ll have a shot.  But to make the playoffs, you need to be Carroll and make sure to win at leat four of the remaining games, (hopefully the loss is to the Pats ☺️).

Honorable Mentions

Dallas Cowboys, 3-8 – Tony Romo keeps this team hanging, and he’s done

Detroit Lions, 4-8 – Heating up, but really need to take it to the next level

Miami Dolphins, 4-7 – Beginning to blow it, but still have a shot in best case scenario

Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-7 – Improving, but still will likely miss playoffs

 

Somewhat Shot

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-6

Buccaneers Remaining Schedule

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The Buccaneers do definitely have potential, and that’s why they’re all the way up here.  But overall, this is a tough schedule.  St. Louis is still decent, Jay Cutler is looking young again, and Carolina is on an undefeated campaign that may never be stopped.  The best chance at wins are the next two weeks (vs ATL and NO).  Both of those teams are utterly struggling.  They could also beat the Bears in Tampa.  They won’t necessarily win all three of those.  They need to to even have a shot.

St. Louis Rams, 4-7

Rams Remaining Schedule

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The Rams do have a pretty respectable schedule.  The issue is,they have to win almost all of these to get a spot.  It’s a good schedule.  If they can upset Arizona this week, and win 3 of the 4 games after that.  They may have some tough trips, but it’s do-able.

Honorable Mentions

Chicago Bears, 5-6 – Jay Cutler and Forte are dominating, John Fox is a great coach, they have a chance

Oakland Raiders, 5-6 – They just need to revamp the offense

Buffalo Bills, 5-6 – Come on, keep on fighting!!!  You have a legitimate shot!

 

Fighting For A Spot

Atlanta Falcons, 6-5

Falcons Remaining Schedule

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This will be a tough schedule to overcome.  It includes two meetings with the 11-0 Panthers, an easier home game vs the Saints, and semi-tough games in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.  They may be able to defeat the Panthers at home, but doing it in Carolina will be hard.  With the way this team is struggling, I get Tampa and the Jags will beat them, while they beat the Saints, and maybe Carolina if they’re lucky.

Indianapolis Colts, 6-5

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The Colts have a somewhat easy schedule, but they have to take it like the schedule says @NE 5 weeks in a row.  The Texans, Jaguars and Steelers are improving and could easily knock down Indy.  Normally, at this point in the season, the Colts would be top contenders, but they lost their groove somehow this year.  The Dolphins game could even be tough.  But winning 2 or 3, which they can easily do, can win them this weak AFC South.  So, don’t overlook this schedule, and still try hard.

New York Giants, 5-6

Giants Remaining Schedule

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The Giants were NFC East leaders a couple weeks ago, but a tough late season schedule has slowed them down, and the Redskins, hopefully temporarily, have stolen their throne.
Home games against the Eagles and Jets could be among THE EASIEST games to win for the Giants.  I also think they can bull over Carolina and prevent an undefeated season.  But if those are the easiest, what is the toughest?  Oh no.  Vikings in Minnesota, Dolphins in Miami.  Those could be dangerous games.  They could win anywhere between 1 and 4 games, and for a 5-6 team, they need to be on the higher side of that, even in such a weakling division.

 

Honorable Mentions

Seattle Seahawks, 6-5 – Beginning to get it together

Houston Texans, 6-5 – Brian Hoyer is back in good hands

Kansas City Chiefs, 6-5 – Red hot, who can stop them?

Pittsburgh Steelers, 6-5 – Despite some injuries, are still relevant with Baltimore done

New York Jets, 6-5 – If what happened in Week 12 continues, they can regain their groove

Washington Redskins, 6-5 – Suddenly just stole the NFC East

 

Near Clinching

For these teams, rather than looking over the schedule, we’ll break down clinching scenarios

New England Patriots, 10-1

The Pats can clinch the division by simply winning, and making sure the Giants beat the Jets.  As Pats fans, we yes, have to root for Tom Coughlin’s New York Giants.  To clinch a playoff berth, they need to win, and the Bills need to win.  Come on Giants, don’t blow it just because you’re doing us a favor.

 

Arizona Cardinals, 9-2

If the Cardinals beat the Rams, and Seattle loses to the Vikings, all Arizona needs to clinch a spot is the same thing next week or a win when they host Seattle in Week 17.  But beating the Rams today could be a challenge.  Remember, the Rams are also still in the playoff hunt, and when the Cardinals hosted them, they knocked down a 3-0 undefeated season to happen.  They’ve only lost one game since!!!  You think it’ll be easy in St. Louis, and despite the worse record, with Todd Gurley already discovered?!!!  That’s a real challenge for Arizona.  So they better try hard to do well these next couple weeks if they want to ink the division.

 

Denver Broncos, 9-2

I think that Denver will clinch the AFC West today.  I bet they’ll beat the Chargers up, and the Raiders get an easy win over Kansas City.  They have the tiebreaker over Oakland, so that’s not an issue either.  The playoffs are near for Denver and four other great teams.

 

Honorable Mentions

Carolina Panthers, 11-0 – Can clinch NFC South with win or Falcons loss

Cincinnati Bengals, 9-2 – Could easily clinch a playoff berth, in a lock match-up

Minnesota Vikings, 8-3 – Getting there, just need a couple more wins

Green Bay Packers, 8-4 – If they keep it up, they could be back in clinching mode in no time.

 

So, that’s how the playoff scenarios are looking.  What do you think will happen? Tell me in comments.