NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East Edition

Welcome to my first NFL Draft Report Card article of 2018.  I have given a grade to every pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and compiled the grades onto 32 report cards, one per team.  I averaged all the grades on each team to determine my final grade for each team’s NFL Draft.  To avoid overly long articles, I have split it into eight parts, one for each NFL division.  Let’s start with the AFC East, the home of the New England Patriots.

NFL Draft Report Cards

Image result for saquon barkley nfl draft photo

AFC East                                                              NFC East

AFC North                                                           NFC North

AFC South                                                           NFC South

AFC West                                                             NFC West

 

Miami Dolphins

Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Dolphins started off the draft on a strong note.  Rather than trading up for a QB of the future that they do not need quite yet, they took Minkah Fitzpatrick, a versatile defensive back who fits well into a Dolphins secondary that needs significant help.  This was a big steal by the Dolphins, and it’s not the first time they have done this.  They took T Laremy Tunsil, originally the projected No. 1 pick after he slid in the 2016 NFL Draft.  They also did a good job filling their needs early on, taking a strong pair of tight ends, a defensive back, a young RB, and a linebacker.

What They Did Wrong: They made some reaches in the later rounds, and they took a second linebacker, TE, and cornerback when they could have used some offensive line help.  But there are no fatal flaws here.  The Dolphins arguably had the best draft in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills

Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Bills had a spectacular Day 1.  They took two grade-A prospects in Round 1, making smart trades to put themselves in position to get what they needed.  Josh Allen has very high potential, and he will definitely compete for the starting job.  Tremaine Edmunds brings much-needed help to the linebacking corps on the outside and on the inside.  They got a steal in Edmunds with the 16th pick. They also had two other quality steals. They took DT Harrison Phillips after he nearly fell to Round 3.  They do not really need a DT, but Phillips was a valuable pick for the Bills at this point in the draft.  They also scored a steal in G Wyatt Teller. Not only was Teller projected to be drafted much earlier, but he fills the hole that Richie Incognito left behind.  Teller has the chance to compete for a starting job and thrive in one across from fellow Bills linemen John Miller and Vladimir Ducasse. They topped off their strong draft with a couple of good wide receivers in the late rounds.

What They Did Wrong: The Bills already had what is emerging as one of the league’s premier secondaries.  Yet they drafted not just one, but two defensive backs. In the meantime, they failed to fill some of their more important needs like tackle and linebacker (they could have still used another prospect there after Edmunds). Despite many steals, they also took a couple guys too early, and they could’ve done a better job addressing their current needs.

New England Patriots

Grade: B-

What They Did Right: The Patriots addressed all of their major needs despite many trades down. They ended up with nine total draft picks and they used them wisely. They eventually selected a QB, RB, WR, TE, offensive lineman, corner, and a linebacker. They started things off strong with two good players out of Georgia to address major needs. They also picked up a major steal in WR Braxton Berrios.

What They Did Wrong: The Pats may have waited too long for a QB, but reports say that they would have traded up if Baker Mayfield is available, which would not be the right strategy either. They could have also taken a linebacker or a tight end earlier. They had four picks in the first two rounds, and they used them on one T, one RB, one CB, and a trade down. I didn’t really see RB and CB as needs that were urgent enough to spend a first or second rounder on, and they did not need to trade down. Their grade gets a boost for addressing all their major needs, something no other AFC East team did in my eyes. But they waited too long for certain needs I saw as urgent.

New York Jets

Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Jets started off strong by taking an NFL ready QB with the 3rd pick. I also liked the players they picked in the 3rd and 4th rounds. These two players addressed needs and are on my list of draft sleepers. But the Jets draft began to plummet from there. Day 3 did not end up looking so good for them.

What They Did Wrong: The Jets could have had a good draft if they continued to address their needs or take top available prospects in the later rounds. But they took CB Parry Nickerson when they did not need a corner, and took a running back I had never heard of when they were totally fine at running back. They have Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell to handle the backfield. I doubt the RB they drafted will ever make an NFL roster, let alone an NFL start. They also took another DT in Round 6 when they had already done enough to address the defensive line.  If they were going to take two d-linemen, at least one of them should’ve been a defensive end, which is more of where the Jets need d-line help.

That’s all for Part 1 of my NFL Draft Report Cards. Stay tuned for more post-draft analysis soon.

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NFL Week 7 Picks

Here are my NFL Week 7 Picks.  Last week I went 5-9, placing my overall record at 41-50.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

Teams on Bye: Detroit Lions, Houston Texans

Note: In the images, the team on the top is the road team, and the team on the bottom is the home team.

Lock of the Week

Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi had another 100-yard game last week and he led Miami to victory.  Expect that to happen again against the Jets.  The Jets have allowed the 5th most rush yards per game this year (138.8), and Ajayi should be the next to dominate against them.  I also think Miami QB Jay Cutler will find an offensive rhythm against the young Jets D, as a good run game should set up the play action passing game.  The tough Dolphins front seven will pressure Jets QB Josh McCown and hold the Jets to field goals.  Dolphins win with ease.

 

Upset of the Week

Just because QB Aaron Rodgers is hurt, it doesn’t mean the Packers won’t win any games, especially at home.  I like Packers new QB Brett Hundley and he will get the chance to prove himself in this game.  The Saints will fail to pressure him and he’ll thrive in this game by spreading the ball around to top GB receivers Jordy Nelson and DaVante Adams.  Even without Rodgers, this will still be an offensive shootout as both teams have struggled defensively especially against strong passing offenses.  The Saints will fall short of the 52 they put up last week without the benefit of the home dome.  Packers pull the upset on the not yet frozen tundra.
TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday before the game)

I thought Kansas City would come into this game undefeated after winning their first 5 games but the Steelers had their number.  The Raiders will be able to do the same.  Oakland has struggled over the last couple weeks but at full health I expect them to rebound on Thursday Night.

Chiefs corner Marcus Peters will limit Oakland WR Amari Cooper but Raiders WR Michael Crabtree will have a huge game.  Raiders QB Derek Carr, Crabtree, and Raiders TE Jared Cook will dominate against a Chiefs secondary that lost playmaking safety, Eric Berry.  The Chiefs offense will make it close as QB Alex Smith finds a rhythm with his star tight end Travis Kelce but the rest of the offense will continue to look off their game against the tough Raiders D.  Raiders win in a close one.

 

Sunday’s Games


The Rams offense may have had an off week against Seattle last week, but I expect them to rebound this week and find ways to score against the tough Arizona secondary.  Defensively, the Rams will slow down RB Adrian Peterson after his big debut in Arizona.  However, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and his receivers will find a rhythm and thrive.  But in the end, I have the Rams winning in a close one as London will feel like home for them after playing there many times before.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston was injured in last week’s game but he’s expected to return this week.  I see him returning strong with 2 TDs as Bucs WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson will challenge the Bills secondary and keep breakout star S Micah Hyde without an interception in this game.  Hyde may lead the league in interceptions but he won’t have one this week.  The Bucs defense will shut down the Bills offense that’s without top TE Charles Clay.

The Vikings will find an offensive rhythm in this game even without WR Stefon Diggs.  WR Laquon Treadwell will continue to make an impact in Diggs’ absence and I also expect WR Adam Thielen to keep making plays for Minnesota.  However, they will struggle in the run game without RB Dalvin Cook, especially against the Ravens’ tough run defense.

Even with TE Kyle Rudolph matched up against Baltimore’s star safety Eric Weddle, the Vikings should be successful on offense.  Defensively, the Vikings will do a good job pressuring and shutting down Ravens QB Joe Flacco and give the Vikings offense plenty of opportunities.

The Titans offense will continue to look strong against a young Browns D that is still finding its way.  QB Marcus Mariota will play like he did on Monday Night against the Colts and should have another 300-yard game.  Defensively, I think the Titans will struggle to stop RB Isaiah Crowell and the Browns run game, but without a strong passing offense, the Browns won’t have enough to keep up with the Titans.  Cleveland QB Hogan will struggle and the Browns will fail to challenge the Titans in this game.

The Jaguars run game will dominate against the Colts this week.  The Colts weak defensive front will not be able to stop the Jaguars running game even with RB Leonard Fournette out with an injury.  Fournette was injured late in last week’s game and while his injury was not deemed serious, he has been ruled out for this game.  The Colts, however, will still be without star QB Andrew Luck.  Backup QB Jacoby Brissett will make some plays but the Jaguars versatile defense will limit him enough as Ivory carries the Jags to victory.

The Panthers will dominate offensively in this game as I expect RB Christian McCaffrey to make an impact in both as a runner and as a receiver.  In addition, QB Cam Newton will have a big day against a weak Bears defense.  Expect RBs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to struggle against a tough Carolina defensive front and force Bears QB Mitch Trubisky to carry the Bears offense.  It won’t be enough and the Panthers will win this one on the road.

The Cowboys will have a huge offensive day in San Francisco.  The run game will do especially well against the young 49ers defensive front.  The Cowboys’ dominant o-line will create running lanes for RB Ezekiel Elliott (still active thanks to winning another legal battle) as well as other Cowboys backs.  The 49ers may have some success offensively with rookie C.J. Beathard at QB facing a weak Cowboys secondary but they will be outscored by a large margin.

After seeing what the Steelers did to the Chiefs last week, I’m taking the Steelers.  They proved that they can win a big game against a tough AFC opponent.  Their defense will continue to step it up and they will shut down QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense.  I don’t see this being very high scoring as both defenses slow down their opponent.  In addition, neither Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown nor Bengals star receiver A.J. Green will have good games against these tough defenses.  I have the Steelers winning it at home by a touchdown.  

I think this week could be a turning point in the AFC West.  With this win for LA, the Chargers and Raiders will continue to gain on the Broncos and Chiefs.  By the end of the year, I still think the Raiders will take the division lead in the AFC West, as the Chiefs and Broncos falter down the stretch.  

In this game, the Broncos may limit RB Melvin Gordon but they won’t stop QB Rivers who will find enough time to connect with his receivers despite pressure from the Broncos front seven.  Siemian and the Broncos offense will continue to struggle as they did last week to become the only team to lose to the 1-5 Giants last week.  Even against a subpar Chargers defense, the Broncos will fail to find their offensive rhythm, especially without top WR Emmanuel Sanders.


Seattle has one of the top defenses and with the Giants top 2 WRs out for the season, I’m predicting my first shutout game this year.  The Seahawks defense will hold the depleted Giants offense scoreless.  QB Eli Manning will struggle without his star receivers especially because I see the Seahawks pressing him all day.  The Seattle offense will struggle as it has but will score enough to win in this defensive battle. 


Expect a Sunday Night thriller in this Super Bowl LI rematch.  I think Pats QB Tom Brady will thrive against the Falcons D like he did in the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, especially with star LB Vic Beasley banged up.  However, it won’t be easy for the Pats.  Falcons WR Julio Jones will dominate against a banged-up Pats secondary, and RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will have good days against a struggling Pats defensive front.  But in the end, Brady and the Pats offense will find a way just as they did in the Super Bowl.

This one should be fun to watch.  I expect the Eagles offense to explode for 5 TDs as the Redskins defense looks off their game.  The Redskins offense will also thrive, continuing their momentum from last week.  Washington will come close but the Eagles will come out on top in this Monday Night Football division showdown.  

Please comment with your thoughts.

NFL Week 2 Match-Up Preview

Another week of exciting football is almost here!  But unless you’re a fantasy football fanatic like me, watching NFL RedZone from 1-8 each week, or are a diehard fan of one team that plays at an off time, the one thing you don’t know is which games to watch!  Even if you are a diehard fan or fantasy football fanatic, there will be extra time to watch another game during Football Sunday.  That is the purpose of this article.   Who’s ready to dig in?

Each week, I will go over five of my favorite matchups. I will provide detail about each matchup so you know which game is for you. It’s an extended preview beyond my NFL Picks for my five favorite games.

 Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM, CBS

The Jaguars absolutely dominated the Texans last week and the Titans fell short at home against Oakland.  Week 1 showed the Titans aren’t necessarily up there with teams like Pittsburgh, Oakland, and Kansas City, and it also shows that the Jaguars are legit.  Will the Jaguars be a fluke as the Titans show what they can do, or will Jacksonville continue to thrive in the AFC South?

Keys to a Win

Titans

  1. The Titans can’t let the Jaguars defense control them.  They have a very good offense, led by QB Marcus Mariota and RB DeMarco Murray.  But they will continue to struggle if they let defenses contain them.
  2. They also need to take advantage of the fact that the Jags lack depth at receiver.  Allen Robinson is out for the season.  If nobody steps up in his place, the Jags will have an ugly season.

Jaguars

  1. The Jags need someone to step up at receiver.  They have no good tight ends, and right now Allen Hurns looks like their only viable option at receiver.  They need somebody to step up.  Maybe Marqise Lee will?  If he doesn’t, who will?  Dede Westbrook is on IR.
  2. They also need to stop the run.  Tennessee has a great run game.  But if the Jacksonville front seven can get in their heads, they will struggle.

3 Burning Questions

  1. With Dede Westbrook on IR, who will assist Allen Hurns at receiver for the Jaguars?
  2. What is the weak spot of Jacksonville’s D and will the Titans take advantage of it?
  3. The Titans have a lot of good players, but who will play like their superstar this week?

The Jags are running out of options here.  Could Max McCaffrey do big things?  If not, can Marqise Lee be their guy this season?  Hopefully, they can survive until Westbrook returns.  It’s hard to find a weak spot in this improving Jacksonville D, but the Titans should look to take advantage of the Jags d-line.  The Titans have plenty of budding stars on their team, but this week, I think veteran tight end Delanie Walker will be their go-to guy.

Key Injuries

Jaguars

  • Allen Robinson – WR (Knee) – IR
  • Calvin Pryor – SS (Ankle) – Out
  • Jalen Ramsey – CB (Ankle) – Questionable

Titans

  • Johnathan Cyprien – SS (Hamstring) – Out

Bold Prediction: With the receiving game lacking depth, the Jags score 2 rushing TDs as Fournette and Ivory will combine for 250 rushing yards

Leonard Fournette could be the Jags’ biggest weapon this week.  Chris Ivory will also continue to get touches.  I think both of them could be in for big games today.  It’s a pretty good match-up for them, the Titans lack a good front seven aside from defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.

The Pick

jacksonvile-jaguars

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM EST, FOX

This could be a very good game.  The Eagles looked great after a blowout over the Redskins, and the Chiefs look like one of the best teams in the AFC after pulling an upset over the Pats.  Will Carson Wentz and his offense keep flying, or will the Chiefs bring them back down to earth?

Keys to a Win

Eagles

  1. Carson Wentz can’t let the Chiefs pressure him too much.  The Chiefs defense knows how to rush the passer.  If Wentz can’t overcome a pesky Chiefs defense, the whole Eagles offense could fall apart.
  2. The Eagles can’t allow any 75-yard TDs like the Pats did.  Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill can be very dangerous for defenses.  They are both very fast.  Fast enough that they can speed past the entire defense.

Chiefs

  1. Whatever Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill had going last week will need to continue this week.  The Chiefs may be lacking offensive depth, but they don’t need it as much if Hill and Hunt can supply them with all the offense they need.
  2. With Eric Berry hurt, the Chiefs need to find a new defensive leader.  Justin Houston is a sack machine, but will he thrive in a defensive leadership role?

3 Burning Questions

  1. Will the Chiefs miss Jeremy Maclin after this week?
  2. Who will emerge as Carson Wentz’ favorite target?
  3. Which defense will have the better game?

I think the Chiefs will miss Maclin pretty soon.  I don’t care if Hill and Hunt are superstars, they will burn out eventually.  I think new receiver Alshon Jeffery will have a big week and emerge as Wentz’ favorite target this season.  Lastly, I think the Eagles defense will have the better game.  The Chiefs defense need a new leader.  The Eagles have a dangerous front seven that could really make Kareem Hunt look like a fluke if they do well.

Key Injuries

Eagles

  • Ronald Darby – CB (Ankle) – Out
  • Corey Graham – FS (Hamstring) – Questionable

Chiefs

  • Eric Berry – FS (Achilles) – IR
  • Parker Ehringer – G (Knee) – Doubtful
  • Reggie Ragland – OLB (Knee) – Doubtful
  • Ron Parker – SS (Ankle) – Questionable
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis – OLB (Illness) – Questionable

Bold Prediction: Carson Wentz will throw for 350+ yards, 3 TDs

Wentz really looked like an elite QB last week, and I expect that to continue throughout the season.  I think he will really develop as a QB this season.

The Pick

UPSET ALERT

philadelphia-eagles-logo

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM EST, CBS

This could actually be a close game.  Both these teams are coming off wins, but they were both against bad teams.  This game will really test if these teams are for real or not.  Who’s the contender in this match-up, or are both teams really pretenders?

Keys to a Win

Bills

  1. The Bills need to take advantage of the Panthers’ biggest weakness: their secondary, but do they have the receivers to do it?
  2. The Bills also need to keep Greg Olsen covered well.  His performance can really decide how the Panthers offense does.

Panthers

  1. The Panthers need to look out for LeSean McCoy.  They have a great front seven so it shouldn’t be too difficult.
  2. They also need Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel to be at their best.  The rookies on this offense could be the difference in who wins this game.

3 Burning Questions

  1. Who will lead the Panthers in receiving this week?  Will anyone have a 100-yard game?
  2. Will LeSean McCoy be able to score a TD against this Panthers defense?
  3. Will the Bills defense cost them the game if they can’t keep the Panthers offense under control?

Greg Olsen is going to have a big week for Carolina, I think he leads in receiving.  On the other hand, I don’t think LeSean McCoy will be able to score on Luke Kuechly and the Panthers front seven.  Lastly, I think there’s a chance the Buffalo offense will be able to save them in this case but it’s very unlikely.

Key Injuries

NONE

Bold Prediction: The Panthers will rush for 250+ yards 

Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey are both great running backs, but they’re not the only ones I see having big rushing games.  Curtis Samuel and Cam Newton can both run the ball so it won’t be as hard as it seems to rush for 250 yards.

The Pick

carolina-panthers-logo

 

 

 Sunday, 9/17/2017, 4:05 PM EST, CBS

The Dolphins will make their debut away from home as they visit the Chargers in LA.  With Tannehill out for the year, the Dolphins are not as sharp as they have been.  In the meantime, the Chargers could be in line to be better this season if they stay healthy.  In the end, these two things could combine to make this a very close game.  Who will come out on top?

Keys to a Win

Dolphins

  1. With Tannehill out, running back Jay Ajayi needs to step it up.  The Chargers defense isn’t that good so it might not be as hard as it usually is this week.
  2. The Dolphins need to rush the passer.  They have a great defense, and stopping Philip Rivers is the key to slowing down the LA offense.

Chargers

  1. The Chargers need to mix up who they throw it to.  They have so many good receivers and they can confuse the Dolphins secondary by doing this.
  2. They also need to contain Jay Ajayi.  Ajayi was a machine at times last season and he might be even more effective with Tannehill out.

3 Burning Questions

  1. Will Jay Cutler make a good connection with DeVante Parker like he did in the preseason?  If this happens, will Jarvis Landry struggle?
  2. Which third-year running back will have a better day, Jay Ajayi or Melvin Gordon?
  3. Do the Chargers have enough depth at receiver without Mike Williams?

I think Cutler will continue to connect with Parker, and Landry will not benefit from this.  In my opinion, Jay Ajayi will have the better day, but this is all about the match-up.  Melvin Gordon is facing one of the better run defenses in the league.  Lastly, between Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, and Tyrell Williams, I think the Chargers have plenty of receiving options.  Mike Williams will just add to that when he returns.

Key Injuries

Dolphins

  • Rey Maualuga – ILB (Hamstring) – Out
  • Jarvis Landry – WR (Knee) – Questionable

Chargers

  • Jason Verrett – CB (Knee) – Out
  • Mike Williams – WR (Back) – Out
  • Jeremiah Attaochu – DE (Hamstring) – Questionable
  • Dontrelle Inman – WR (Groin) – Questionable

Bold Prediction: Philip Rivers throws for 400 yards and 4 TDs

I think Rivers is set up for success if he takes advantage of the Dolphins’ weak secondary and his great group of receivers and tight ends.

The Pick

San_Diego_Chargers

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 8:30 PM EST, NBC

Sunday Night Football tonight could very well be the game of the week.  This is a clash of two great offenses that just faced off in the 2016 NFC Championship.  Each of the last two times these teams clashed, the Falcons won.  Will the Falcons make it a streak, or will the Packers give them a rude awakening?

Keys to a Win

Packers

  1. The Packers need to find their run game and avoid being stopped by Vic Beasley and the Falcons front seven.  Hopefully, they’ll still be able to score rushing TDs without Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and Christine Michael.
  2. They also need to pressure Matt Ryan.  Matt Ryan isn’t the same elite QB when he’s pressured well.  With how inconsistent he is, it’s doubtful he’ll win MVP for the second straight year or even come close.

Falcons

  1. Whatever the Falcons had going on offense last year needs to continue.  Last year’s Falcons offense was one of the best in the league.  Will that continue into this season?
  2. The Falcons secondary needs to keep Jordy Nelson and Martellus Bennett covered.  Aaron Rodgers has some great receivers that could score multiple times if they aren’t covered well.

3 Burning Questions

  1. In their first real challenging match-up, will the Falcons offense look better, worse, or the same as they did last season?
  2. Which receiver will make a big impact for the Pack in this game?
  3. How will the Green Bay run game look?

I think the Falcons offense will be about as good as they were last season, not much better, not much worse.  They should be good enough to get them into the playoffs but not as far as they did last season.  I think both Nelson and Bennett will make a big impact for the Packers in this game, especially if the Falcons fail to cover them.  I don’t think the Green Bay run game will look that bad, and I’ll explain why in my bold prediction.

Key Injuries

Packers

  • Jason Spriggs – T (Hamstring) – Out
  • Ahmad Brooks – OLB (Concussion) – Doubtful
  • David Bahktiari – T (Hamstring) – Questionable
  • Kentrell Brice – SS (Quadricep) – Questionable
  • Bryan Bulaga – T (Ankle) – Questionable
  • Mike Daniels – DT (Hip) – Questionable

Falcons

NONE

 

Bold Prediction: Jamaal Williams will break out for 150 yards and a TD

He’s the reason why the Packers run game won’t be all that bad.  I think he’s a very intriguing rookie RB, one of many in the league.  By the end of this game, he will have stolen the starting job instead of Ty Montgomery.

The Pick

atlfalcons

 

 

That’s all for this week.  Comment what your favorite match-up of the week is.  Stay tuned for more NFL and Pats articles, including a recap of today’s Patriots game.

 

NFL Week 1 Picks: America’s Game Will Return with a Bang

It’s that time of year again.  Opening Night is just a few days away.  Soon enough, Tom Brady will be throwing the season’s first TD.   It’s time to figure out who’s going to win the first slate of games.  Who will start the season strong?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock Of The Week 

Note:  The top team listed is the road team for all games listed in my score predictions


The Browns should be a bit better this year but this Pittsburgh offense is just going to be too much for Cleveland.  When the Steelers offense is at full strength they’re nearly unstoppable.  The Ben-Bell-Brown combo is one of the best offensive trios in the league. Martavis Bryant and Vance McDonald also add a nice touch to this potent offense. Although the Steelers offense will go full out, I don’t see this as a shutout.

The Browns offense has gotten better.  Crowell will have a good year and Corey Coleman and David Njoku will help out rookie QB DeShone Kizer.  The secondary is Pittsburgh’s Achilles Heel and the Browns will take advantage of that.  But they won’t come close to topping the Steelers.

Upset of the Week


I wouldn’t consider this much of an upset after the Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill for the season.  But I want to make sure that A) Everyone knows Jay Cutler will be horrible in Miami and B) Everyone who didn’t read my NFL 2017 Predictions knows that the Bucs are my #1 dark horse team this season.  I believe that the Buccaneers have the potential to shock us all.  They have a solid young defense and the receiver duo of Jackson and Evans alone makes the offense have a good one-two punch.

In addition to that Jameis Winston is primed for a complete break through. Doug Martin is back in football shape and while he’s suspended, Charles Sims is a reliable option.  I also believe that tight end O.J. Howard will have a huge rookie season.  Don’t expect every Bucs game to be a blowout though.  The Dolphins defense could be a challenge for Tampa Bay.  In the end, though, the Miami D is no better than Tampa’s defense and the Dolphins offense just isn’t the same without Tannehill.  I think this calls for a Bucs win.

The Other Games

TNF

The football season will open with this intriguing match-up.  Both of these teams lost key players for the season but I don’t think either team will fall significantly from it.  So this is still going to be close.  But I have to go with the defending champs here.  The Chiefs defense is still solid but their offense is wearing down.  They need breakout performances from Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt to be any more than a one and done wild card team.  The Chiefs are a playoff team right now but they just don’t match up to Brady’s Bunch.

The Pats have improved upon last year’s championship team.  They made some nice moves to keep the defense good and despite the losses of Martellus Bennett and LeGarrette Blount (free agency) as well as Julian Edelman (ACL injury), this offense is still the best in the league.  I see James White as the new starting back after his stellar Super Bowl showcase.  Dwayne Allen and Brandin Cooks will be top receiving targets for Brady and watch out for Chris Hogan.  He was great in Super Bowl LI and is ready to take his game to the next level.  I almost forgot to mention that Gronk was hurt when they won the Super Bowl.  They’ll be even better with Gronk at full speed.  There is no way the Chiefs will upset them on Opening Night.

Sunday’s Games

Meredith’s injury and Cruz’s release just makes these Bears even worse.  Although the Falcons won’t be as good as they were last year, this game will be a clinic.  The Falcons offense knows what they’re doing.  Matty Ice, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones are still one of the league’s best offensive trios.  The Bears have nothing on defense to stop them and although the Atlanta D isn’t great either, the Bears don’t have much left for an offense.

Unless Mitch Trubisky comes in and shocks the world, the Bears have no QB, barely any receiving weapons, and are left with just one quality offensive player, running back Jordan Howard.  I’m even a little worried about Howard’s potential to suffer a sophomore slump.  The Bears could be in some deep trouble going into this season and it will all start in this Week 1 game.

The Jets may be one of the worst NFL teams in history.  They have no reliable receivers, no QB, and Bilal Powell is the offense’s only bright spot.  Their other running back Matt Forte is on the trade block.  What are the Jets doing?  This isn’t a rebuild so I think this might be tanking for the #1 draft pick as they hope for a reliable QB to emerge.  The defense is this team’s only hope which is nothing more than mediocre after trading Sheldon Richardson.

The Bills aren’t much better, but at least they have a star running back in LeSean McCoy, a half decent QB, and a few good receivers.  The defense isn’t that bad either.  Expect a shutout that will completely embarrass the Jets to start the season.


This will be a close one for sure.  Neither of these teams is going to have a great season. But these teams are pretty much evenly matched talent-wise.  The Ravens have a good defense but don’t have anything going on offense.  The Bengals are very similar, except their offense isn’t quite as horrid.  The Bengals may have good depth but none of their players are eye-popping and the defense’s dirty plays will get old very quickly.

They are going to wear each other down so much that by the 4th quarter, the 12th man will be the difference.  This will be a long game and it could even go into overtime.  But in the end, I see Cincy winning with the fans giving them the extra push to squeeze out a win.


The Redskins won’t be as good as they’ve been in previous years and the Eagles have gotten better.  But in Washington, I can’t see Philly winning.  The Eagles have a decent all-around team, but the Redskins have a really strong receiving game and parts of their defense will neutralize Philly’s game plan.  Although the Eagles are the better team, the home field advantage will make things easier for Washington.  It will be close but I’ve got to go with Washington in this one.


This is going to be fun to watch.  Two quarterbacks coming off major injuries ready to come back strong and lead their teams deep into the playoffs.  Both of these teams have superstar offenses this year.  Mariota’s offense has continued to improve.  They now have multiple reliable receivers and a strong RB duo.  The Raiders are coming in with the same offense that may have led them to the AFC Championship last year if Carr wasn’t hurt.  The only differences are that Latavius Murray and Mychal Rivera have been replaced by Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook.  Those moves just made the offense better.

This game could come down to how good the defenses are.  Home field advantage could also be a factor.  I think this game will be an offensive shootout, with both offenses going all out.  These teams are pretty equal, so I’m going to go with the home team here.  Titans win by a field goal.


Although the Jags looked good this preseason, I’m not going to buy into their interesting off-season moves again.  I made that mistake in 2016.  The Texans should win this game. Their defense will just be too much for the Jacksonville offense especially since J.J. Watt is back to full speed and motivated to uplift a city torn by Hurricane Harvey.  The Jags defense may not be anything special but neither is the Texans offense, so the Jags defense should be alright.  However, as long as the Texans are smart and start Deshaun Watson over Tom Savage in Week 1, I think they’ll have just enough to pull away with the win at home.

The last time these two faced off, the Lions got clobbered.  But that was 2 years ago and a lot has changed since.  The Lions offense has improved significantly and the Cardinals are not the same team that made the NFC Championship in 2015.  Their offense is lacking weapons and the defense just doesn’t have the same powerful core.  The 2015 Cardinals were a strong all-around team but now Arizona has some serious holes.

I like this Lions offense as Ameer Abdullah is very intriguing at RB.  Kenny Golladay could be yet another Lions breakout star at WR, and the Lions have plenty of other key playmakers on offense.  With the highest paid NFL QB, home field advantage, a much better offense, a slightly better defense, and a weaker Cardinals team, the Lions should win this game.

I know that some of you might think I’d pick the Rams in an upset here.  Since my 2017 NFL Predictions, my thoughts about the Rams have changed.  The Sammy Watkins trade was great for them while the Phillip Dorsett trade was not good for the Colts.  If Watkins stays healthy, the Rams have the upside to win as many as 9 games.  But even if Luck is out early on, I can see the Colts doing better than previous years.  They don’t have an established Week 1 QB, but as long as Scott Tolzien can do a decent job filling Luck’s role, the Colts can take advantage of the Rams’ weak secondary.  If Donte Moncrief has the huge season I think he will, the Colts should be able to pull away with the win here, even if it’s an ugly win.

This is starting to become a serious rivalry.  When these two teams play, it’s always a close game.  This game won’t be any different.  The Packers offense has improved since last season.  They added Top 10 tight end Martellus Bennett and drafted running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones.  Jamaal Williams is a first-year breakout pick for me and I think he will greatly improve the Packers run game.  Both these defenses are good, but Seattle’s spotless defense has just gotten better while Green Bay’s stays strong.

I just don’t think the Seahawks have such a good offense this year.  They have a controversy at running back, are very thin at wide receiver, and have offensive line problems as well.  This offense is no match for the Green Bay Packers and although the Seahawks D will make it hard for the Packers, Green Bay will get the win in the end.  Not an easy win but a well-earned win at home.

I know Kyle Shanahan was a good offensive coordinator and he will be a better coach than Chip Kelly for the Niners.  But the 49ers need some more talent before Kyle Shanahan has the chance to succeed as a coach.  Brian Hoyer is a well seasoned veteran QB but he lacks good weapons.  Who else do the Niners have on offense worth noting other than Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garçon?  Nobody.  That’s why Carolina will win this game.  Their defense will have it easy and their offense should be good enough to overcome a decent San Francisco defense.

The Panthers have young talent on offense in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel and established veterans in Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, and Kelvin Benjamin.  Their offense will be strong this year or at least better than last year.  Enough to win them a game against the struggling 49ers.

SNF

This classic rivalry is set for Week 1 once again.  These teams are the two frontrunners for the NFC East and this game will be close.  The Giants are beginning to become an all around team.  They have a good running back in Paul Perkins and arguably have the best receiving trio in the league with OBJ, Marshall, and Shepard.  They lack a tight end and need some O-line help, but those are their only noticeable holes.  They are solid on defense as they have a great D-line and secondary.

The Cowboys will be a challenge for them though.  They may be missing Ezekiel Elliott but with the offensive line that Dallas has, any running back can be set up for success. Remember what Darren McFadden did with them in 2015?  It can happen again until Zeke comes back.  Their offense is as sharp as it was in 2016 except they’re without Zeke for 6 games.

The defense may be a problem though.  The secondary suffered some serious losses.   But the front seven is looking good going into the season, and they will be able to try and stop the New York run game.  It will be tough for the Cowboys secondary to stop these receivers.  However, despite the Giants making 4 TD catches, I think the Cowboys will be able to find the Giants’ weaknesses and pull away with the win with home field on their side.

MNF

The Vikings may not have the offense that the Saints have but the Vikings defense may be able to slow the Saints down.  The Saints offense isn’t as good as it was last year now that Brandin Cooks is in New England.  They will probably have trouble with this tough defense especially with Willie Snead suspended for the first 3 games.

The Vikings may not have the best offense especially without Peterson but I believe they can have success against a weak Saints defense.  Dalvin Cook and Kyle Rudolph will give the Saints tough match-ups.  Stefon Diggs should have a better year too.  So, if all goes well for Minnesota, they should be able to win this game.

The Broncos just aren’t the same anymore.  But although I think the Chargers will be better, they’re a mediocre team.  They’re not quite good enough yet to beat the Broncos in the thin air of Denver.  The Denver defense is going to slow down the Chargers revamped offense significantly.  The Chargers offense will only be good if they stay healthy.   Even at full health, they are not good enough to put up 30 points on the Broncos D.

The Broncos should do well offensively in this game because the Chargers defense doesn’t have too much to stop them.  The Chargers have a good front seven but Denver’s run game is not their strength and Denver will attack in the air against a weak Chargers secondary.

I see this one going to Denver in the end.  It will not be easy for the Broncos though, as they are far from the Super Bowl team led by Manning.  At least they’ll have Osweiler again if Siemian struggles, and Osweiler has already proved he can play in Denver.

This week will be full of surprises with close games, non-stop action, and a few blowouts. I expect to give the CBS reporters good competition like I did last year.  How do you think Week 1 will unfold?  Share your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for more NFL and MLB articles soon.

 

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 2016 Mock Draft 1.0: Jets Find QB, Elliott Finds Perfect Home

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Welcome to my 2016 1st round mock draft.  With just one week left till the big day, I decided to make my first mock of the year.  My mock draft is new and improved with in depth analysis on each pick.  Some picks might surprise you, others may be obvious to you.  I would like to give credit to NFL.com for the format and logos of my mock.  Let’s get started.

 

  1. LOS ANGELES RAMS
    LA
    CARSON WENTZ
    QB
    NORTH DAKOTA STATE

    Wentz has quickly emerged into the top QB prospect in the draft.  He put on a show at the Combine, and would be a good fit for the Rams system.  Jared Goff has the small hand issue, and despite being from a small school, Wentz has the most future upside of any quarterback in this draft class.  

     

  2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
    PHI
    DEFOREST BUCKNER
    DE
    OREGON

    The most likely outcome of this pick is that the Eagles, who recently traded up, take advantage of it and go with QB Jared Goff.  But what the Eagles don’t realize is that they should’ve shut their mouths and sat tight, they have plenty of talent at the position now that they re-signed Sam Bradford and signed Chase Daniel as backup.  What the Eagles really need is a flex defensive end/defensive tackle.  Joey Bosa is strictly an edge rusher.  Buckner can do both and is a much better fit in Philadelphia.

  3. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
    SD
    JALEN RAMSEY
    FS
    FLORIDA STATE

    As one of the top prospects left at this point, Ramsey would be a good fit in the Chargers’ secondary.  Ramsey fits the needs of San Diego very well, and the Chargers do lack a defensive line, as Joey Bosa would still be available.  Laremy Tunsil would also be available, and he is the top prospect in the draft and is at a position the Chargers kind of need.  But Ramsey is a very strong prospect who can bring serious change of tone to the secondary.

     

  4. DALLAS COWBOYS
    DAL
    JOEY BOSA
    DE
    OHIO STATE

    Bosa has a ton of upside and has been atop the boards since the start of the season. He really fits the Cowboys system and knows how to fix a defensive line.  This would be a great pick for Dallas, and Bosa is my top prospect of this draft.    

  5. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
    JAX
    LAREMY TUNSIL
    OT
    OLE MISS

    At first I thought this team wanted an OLB like Myles Jack with this pick but now I’m having second thoughts.  First, it has been rumored lately that Jack still has knee issues, and second the Jags need serious o-line help  Laremy Tunsil, possibly the best prospect in this draft is still on the board is available here.  Tunsil will fill in opposite Luke Joeckel and will play right tackle. Sorry Mr. Jack, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer.

  6. BALTIMORE RAVENS
    BAL
    RONNIE STANLEY
    OT
    NOTRE DAME
    The Ravens no longer have the temptation of DeForest Buckner hanging from a thread.  With Buckner going 2nd overall, the Ravens have to move on to assess their other need, o-line, offensive tackle in particular.  Laremy Tunsil was just taken, but there is a prospect left worth going top 10.  Ronnie Stanley.  Stanley has been atop draft boards since the first mocks were coming out around mid-season.  Stanley has nearly as much potential as Tunsil and is an amazing alternative.
  7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
    SF
    JARED GOFF
    QB
    CALIFORNIA

     

    If Goff plummets this far, the 49ers need to take advantage of it.  The 49ers may have a need at pass rusher, offensive line, wide receiver, even running back, but their main need by far is QB.  Goff will be ready to start in Week 1, and he’s the best option when your starting QB spot is between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert before the draft.

  8. CLEVELAND BROWNS
    CLE
    MYLES JACK
    OLB
    UCLA

    The Browns have four main needs, quarterback, wide receive, linebacker and defensive end.  It’s a little early for LaQuon Treadwell to be selected, same with Paxton Lynch and Shaq Lawson.  Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are gone and Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner are long gone.  Who’s left at the four positions?  Myles Jack. Jack, the top linebacker prospect passed up for Laremy Tunsil by the Jags, fits into the Browns scheme and is the best option remaining.

  9. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
    TB
    VERNON HARGREAVES III
    CB
    FLORIDA

    After signing Robert Ayers to help the D-line, the Bucs’ top need is to find a consistent top prospect for the secondary.  With Jalen Ramsey long gone, Hargreaves is by far the best fit in Tampa.  Hargreaves will play right corner, where they have their biggest hole of all, by far.  

  10. NEW YORK GIANTS
    NYG
    LAQUON TREADWELL
    WR
    OLE MISS

    Treadwell’s strong upside makes him an amazing counterpart to OBJ.  I could see this rookie wide receiver playing at Odell Beckham Jr.’s level by the end of the season.  Who do the Giants have behind OBJ at receiver that is at full health?  Victor Cruz could still be hurt and Dwayne Harris just isn’t ready to be WR2 for New York.  

  11. CHICAGO BEARS
    CHI
    SHAQ LAWSON
    DE
    CLEMSON

    NFL experts have this defensive end all over the place.  The Bears could use this strong pass rusher as a big upgrade at defensive end.  With Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner gone, Lawson should have an easy way into Chicago.  

  12. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
    NO
    SHELDON RANKINS
    DT
    LOUISVILLE

    Rankins has shot up draft boards to become #1 DT in recent days, and he is the Saints best option after his breakout.  Robert Nkemdiche and others have gone down in stock.  Rankins remains the best option at DT, and New Orleans is the perfect fit for him.  

  13. MIAMI DOLPHINS
    MIA
    EZEKIEL ELLIOTT
    RB
    OHIO STATE

    After losing Lamar Miller to free agency, the Dolphins may have the biggest hole at running back in the entire NFL.  After the Eagles, Cowboys, Browns, Ravens, 49ers and Giants pass on the running back Elliott will be left for the Dolphins to snag as a steal.  

  14. OAKLAND RAIDERS
    OAK
    NOAH SPENCE
    DE
    EASTERN KENTUCKY

    After a change of schools, Spence quickly became a top prospect, but his stock has gone down most recently.  But with the big guys off the board, Spence has a decent shot of making it with the Raiders.  

  15. TENNESSEE TITANS
    TEN
    JACK CONKLIN
    OT
    MICHIGAN STATE

    Even if the Titans traded down, they might want a lower tier offensive tackle instead of Laremy Tunsil.  If Conklin isn’t taken by the Bears, he would be a strong fit in Tennessee.  Marcus Mariota is ready to breakout in his sophomore year, but he’s a sack target if he doesn’t get some o-line protection in currently weak spots like tackle.

  16. DETROIT LIONS
    DET
    TAYLOR DECKER
    OT
    OHIO STATE

    It’s the trade effect again, with Laremy Tunsil falling to Jacksonville and Ronnie Stanley heading to Baltimore, the Titans now take Jack Conklin.  That leaves Detroit with this tackle out of Ohio State.  I see a lot of potential for this guy, and personally, I would take Decker over Conklin, but I think Tennessee will go after Conklin over Decker.  

  17. ATLANTA FALCONS
    ATL
    DARRON LEE
    OLB
    OHIO STATE

    Wow, that’s the second straight OSU pick.  It’s a good school with a good 2016 class, what can I say.  This top linebacker fits what the Falcons are looking for.  The Falcons were somewhat active this off season, but have serious holes to fill.  Darron Lee could easily take care of that issue at outside linebacker.  Lee has amazing upside and is a good next prospect behind Myles Jack.  

  18. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
    IND
    CODY WHITEHAIR
    OG
    KANSAS STATE

    Whoa, there, Whitehair already?  That’s no error.  The Colts have some issues all over the offensive line, but their need for a guard is so urgent, that I say they go for one (Whitehair) rather than going for a top tackle (Germain Ifedi or Jason Spriggs).  Even if the guard and center positions are weak in this draft, like I said, Whitehair is good enough that the Colts will grab him in the first round to fill a big need.  

  19. BUFFALO BILLS
    BUF
    KEVIN DODD
    DE
    CLEMSON

    Dodd could go a lot earlier, and he has been a trending name lately on draft boards, but not as many teams need an early defensive end as you think, and if other teams with the need pick other guys or go with another top prospect at a position they need, Dodd could fall to the Bills, who are in desperate need for veteran DE Mario Williams, who was cut early this off season.  

  20. NEW YORK JETS
    NYJ
    PAXTON LYNCH
    QB
    MEMPHIS

    With the Rams trading up to snag Wentz or Goff,  the Eagles passing on the remaining guy, and the Niners stealing Goff, the Browns would be left with Lynch, and they would not want him that early in the draft.  So Lynch now falls to the Jets, who can’t seem to tie the knot with Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Just Geno Smith, one of the worst starting quarterbacks of 2014 (led the Jets to 4-12 season), and Bryce Petty (2015 rookie, may not be ready, hasn’t seen a start) are left to fill his gap.  It would be very helpful to get this top draft prospect if they can’t sign Fitzy or new free agent Brian Hoyer before Draft Day.  

  21. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
    WAS
    REGGIE RAGLAND
    ILB
    ALABAMA

    The Skins still need some pass rush help, but the defensive line appears to be all set, and the rumored signing of Josh Norman may rule out drafting a corner. The signing of Junior Gallette will fill the hole at outside linebacker.  That leaves a space at inside linebacker.  Ragland is a very strong prospect who could be a serious playmaker in Washington.  He won’t just fill the hole, he’ll make sure he has a strong rookie year in the process.  

  22. HOUSTON TEXANS
    HOU
    COREY COLEMAN
    WR
    BAYLOR

    The Texans need a partner in crime for top receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  Nate Washington left for New England.  Free agency is practically over.  They missed out on LaQuon Treadwell.  That leaves this Baylor playmaker.  Coleman plays an important role in making Brock Osweiler comfortable in his new home of Houston and makes sure he has enough weapons.  They do also need a tight end, but I don’t think Hunter Henry will be first round material.  

  23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
    MIN
    VADAL ALEXANDER
    OG
    LSU

    Again with a long shot guard?  The Vikings may need a wide receiver in this draft, but they have Stefon Diggs and Charles Johnson, that can wait.  Maybe they’ll pick someone in the later rounds like Sterling Shepard who becomes the next Stefon Diggs.  For now they may need to focus on offensive line help.  They already picked up LG Alex Boone and RT Andre Smith, and already had LT Matt Kalil and C Joe Berger.  That leaves right guard.  Alexander is the next best guard behind Cody Whitehair (selected by Colts) and should at least be a placeholder in Minnesota, if not a long term option.  

  24. CINCINNATI BENGALS
    CIN
    WILL FULLER
    WR
    NOTRE DAME

    If you haven’t been following free agency, Cincinnati lost two of their top receivers behind A.J. Green, Marvin Jones (to Detroit) and Mohamed Sanu (to Atlanta).  They did sign Brandon LaFell, but he’s a risky WR2.  Who do they have behind him and Green?  Brandon Tate?  James Wright?  Half of you probably have never even heard of those guys.  If the Bengals go after this Notre Dame stud, he will probably be the WR2 over LaFell, who will fall to WR3.  Now that’s a little better.  I can accept Brandon Tate at WR4 and James Wright at WR5.  Most of all, I accept Fuller as WR2.  

  25. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
    PIT
    VONN BELL
    SS
    PITTSBURGH

    Besides flex defensive back Jalen Ramsey, this Pittsburgh prospect is the top safety of the draft.  The Steelers need some secondary help.  They could draft a corner, as Eli Apple would still be an option, but the need for a safety is stronger in Steel City.  Vonn Bell is ready to take on the NFL, and it would be even better to stay in Pittsburgh while in the pros.  I like Bell as a first round pick, and without the temptation of Taylor Decker (who would have been drafted here if my mock was released before the trade), and they can focus on the secondary with this pick.  

  26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
    SEA
    RYAN KELLY
    C
    ALABAMA

    Alright, the Seahawks could upgrade their already all-powerful defense.  Or they could upgrade a free agency weakened offensive line.  Which sounds better?  We all know the o-line does.  Kelly will fill the hole at center.  They also have a hole at guard, but the need for center is greater, and my gut feeling leans on this.  

  27. GREEN BAY PACKERS
    GB
    LEONARD FLOYD
    OLB
    GEORGIA

    Alright, the Packers definitely need a linebacker.  They may need a potential replacement for Julius Peppers.  They may need an outside linebacker on the other side.  They may need an inside linebacker if Clay Matthews is going back to being an OLB.  I think it makes more sense to go for an OLB than to push Clay Matthews into a different position and draft an ILB!  Reggie Ragland isn’t even available anymore!  Could you really see Green Bay drafting Kentrell Brothers at ILB and moving Matthews when Matthews could stay at MLB and the still remaining Leonard Floyd is free to be picked by Green Bay?   I can’t.  

  28. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
    KC
    ELI APPLE
    CB
    OHIO STATE

    Although Marcus Peters already boosted the secondary last year, Sean Smith’s departure left yet another hole on the opposite side of Peters.  Now Peters needs a partner in crime, not veteran corner Smith.  Peters made such a splash in season one, that he’s playing at Smith’s level now.  Apple is in a similar position in this year’s draft to the situation Peters was in last year.  Not the very top prospect at the position, but worth some serious first round consideration.  They chose the right breakout corner in the first round of last year’s draft. Why can’t it happen again?

  29. ARIZONA CARDINALS
    ARI
    A’ SHAWN ROBINSON
    DT
    ALABAMA

    The Cards already got a defensive end.  This strong defensive tackle prospect, once the top defensive tackle just ahead of Alabama’s Robert Nkemdiche, could continue to reformation of a strong defensive line in Arizona.  Yes, the Cardinals already have a strong defense, but it has holes, and the offense appears to be all set now.  This is just a good football team.  Why not improve it further with this intriguing pick?  

     

    (Note: The New England Patriots lost their pick that would be in this spot because Roger Goodell had some stupid suspicions that Tom Brady and the Pats were responsible for the partially deflated footballs in the 2014-15 AFC Championship game, not science.)

  30. CAROLINA PANTHERS
    CAR
    MACKENSIE ALEXANDER
    CB
    CLEMSON

    Yes, the Panthers did sign Brandon Boykin to fill the position, but he’s no permanent option.  He doesn’t match up to Charles Tillman either.  Therecent loss of Josh Norman could also be a deciding factor if he doesn’t sign with the squad long term.  This top corner prospect in the draft doesn’t necessarily match up to Norman or Tillman yet, but has a long career ahead of him and could greatly improve.  Boykin isn’t a permanent option, but he can at least start some games over the next couple of years until Mackensie Alexander fully emerges.  Right now, the Panthers have an amazing team so this pick should be and will be spent on the future of the franchise.  

  31. DENVER BRONCOS
    DEN
    CONNOR COOK
    QB
    MICHIGAN STATE

    Look, the Broncos aren’t going to start Mark Sanchez come Opening Night.  Unless they get Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer or Colin Kaepernick (not much of an upgrade), they will go after a quarterback in the first couple rounds of this year’s draft.  If one of the top four QBs (Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook) is still available on this pick, they’re going to take advantage of it.  John Elway may be content with Sanchez as starting QB, but it doesn’t mean he may be interested in upgrading.  It just means if they can’t find anyone better, he’ll start.  Connor Cook, the only top 4 QB that would be left on this pick, is a better option than the declining seven year veteran.  

That concludes my 2016 one-round mock draft.  How do you think the first round will play out?  Comment below or go to predictpick.nfl.com.  Once you get there, go to groups and join my group.  It is a public group called Boston SportsMania (no password required).  Also be on the lookout for my recap of free agency in the NFL.

Week 14 Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em: Dominate Your Fantasy Playoffs

Get your team to the next round of the playoffs in no time.  I’ve mentioned below the players I am most confident about starting or letting ride the pine.  My starts and sits are below.
QB
Start
Carson Palmer
Palmer should be able to beat up the Vikings on Thursday Night.  The Vikings rush defense is still figuring itself out, and I saw a blowout coming last Thursday Night.  I would start Palmer any week, he just really stands out this week.  Still a must-start quarterback.  Why would you sit Carson Palmer this season if you have the option?!!
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has a lock match-up over the Titans, and with the running game a little banged up, and with the Titans beginning to become a little more scary to face again, passing will be key to beat Tennessee.  The main reasons Ryan Fitzpatrick should be started is a) The Tennessee defense still needs lots of work and b) Fitzy might have a QB sneak or two himself to help the running game
Sit
Matt Ryan
The Falcons are just such an “early-season” team, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  Matt Ryan has had what might be the worst second half of a season in his career. Well, maybe not.  This is how the Falcons typically are, even though last year was the opposite.  But I just can’t trust Matt Ryan anymore, especially when he’s trying to stop the undefeated Panthers on the road!!!  At home it might be different but this is a lock in Carolina’s favor.
Derek Carr
I just don’t trust him and the Raiders against a really good Broncos team.  This is a feast or famine team, a young, still developing quarterback, facing a tough, amazing, unstoppable Denver team.
RB
Start
Chris Ivory
Ivory is one of the only legitimate backs left on the Jets, and this lock match is time for him and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to shine, against a weakling, possibly worst in the league Titans defense.  Prove yourself as a star, Ivory.
Charcandrick West
West has been dealing with injuries, but expect him and backs Spencer Ware and Knile Davis to bounce back versus a practically empty Chargers front seven.  West has looked great in Jamaal Charles’ spot.
Isaiah Crowell
Crowell may not be on the best team but the Niners defense just plain out sucks, and expect Crowell to break free, even if NaVorro Bowman bothers him.  Crowell has emerged into a solid RB1 that could really help the Browns prevent too many struggles down the road, even if they’re long gone this season.
Sit
Latavius Murray
Murray has lived up to feast mode these past couple weeks, but it’s famine’s turn to work its magic on Murray, especially against the amazingly good Denver Broncos, who are very solid and consistent this season, and are also one of the healthiest football teams in the currently banged up NFL that’s missing many of its best superstars, and letting the less noticed guys like Murray get more.  But he’s really not. Guys like Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles and Le’ Veon Bell are.
Danny Woodhead
Woodhead, the team’s passing back has surprisingly led the Chargers horrible running game.  But they’re up against a powerhouse Chiefs rush D that will put full force into stopping Woodhead and fellow teammate Melvin Gordon.
Tevin Coleman
Coleman never fully emerged this season, but showed himself when Devonta Freeman was hurt.  But against this tough Carolina front seven, only Freeman is a good enough Falcons running back to overcome it.  The rest, like Coleman and Terron Ward, likely won’t be able to.
WR
Start
Tavon Austin
Austin had never had a breakout season until lovely old, injury filled, 2015.  This week should be a dominant week for Austin, as he faces a struggling, banged up Lions secondary, who are missing Ezekiel Ansah and Glover Quin, and are left with just James Ihedigbo.  Ihedigbo may bother him, but him and fellow teammate Wes Welker should overcome it.
Willie Snead
Snead and Brandin Cooks have struggled these past couple weeks, but even though the defense will likely blow the game, I think the offense has a chance to make an impact and really show that this team may be done, but if they improve their defense, they could have some serious potential, even with Mark Ingram now on IR.
Anquan Boldin
I know this isn’t necessarily a win for the 49ers, but veteran receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will not be prevented from having big games against an easy Browns defense.
Sit
Amari Cooper
Cooper is very similar to Latavius Murray.  I would just leave everyone on the Raiders to ride the pine.  It’s famine’s turn to control not just these players, but the faith of the entire Oakland Raiders team.  Last week they fared well, just couldn’t beat the red hot Kansas City Chiefs.
Charles Johnson
Johnson isn’t the WR1 anymore, but he shouldn’t have slipped away from the Cardinals D as easily as Stefon Diggs should’ve.  All these Vikings receivers were not good options, and should be avoided if possible.
Kendall Wright
Wright really just has a bad match-up against one of the best secondaries in the league when it’s healthy, which it now pretty much is.  Wright, along with Delanie Walker, should not expect to have big games today.
TE
Start
Charles Clay
Even though I think the Eagles will hold on in this game, it doesn’t mean Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay can’t take advantage of a weak Eagles secondary.  Clay, the former Dolphin, has been a key weapon for Tyrod Taylor this season.  Clay should overcome a beaten up Eagles secondary that has Nolan Carroll hurt, and despite Byron Maxwell’s presence, him and Watkins can still have big days.
Jared Cook
Like Tavon Austin, Cook has potential to have a breakout day.  The difference is, Cook might do better as long as he’s left unguarded as expected.  Both could make a big impact on your fantasy team’s playoff status.
Sit
Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph has began to bounce back, but the Vikings are just facing such an overpowered defense.  Rudolph still hasn’t fully emerged, and he shouldn’t have a day every week at this stage of his development.  Rudolph still needs to work on his consistency, and that won’t call for a good day in fantasy this week.
Ladarius Green
Green and Antonio Gates are facing a premier defense in the league, and don’t expect them to do much.  The Chargers alone have very low likelihood of winning this game.  If Gates will struggle, Green won’t be any better.  He likely will even do worse than Gates does.
DST
Start
Dolphins
I think Monday Night‘s grudge match will be a game of defense, with the Dolphins having the edge.  Both defenses, the Dolphins and Giants, should keep up the good work, but Miami has the edge, so the Giants won’t score as much, earning Miami some extra points for holding them to a certain amount.
Sit
Steelers
I just think Cincy is too good and I don’t think the Steelers are at any edge in this game.  This game will be such a shootout, even the Bengals defense will be bench-able, let alone the Steelers defense.  I didn’t want to have too little faith in Cincy, or too much in Pittsburgh.
K
Start
Brandon McManus
I’ll tell you right now, Denver will win this game in a blowout, but the defense, at some points, will give Denver a challenge, even if their own defense dominates.  That’s the perfect recipe for a great day from the kicking position.  In Denver’s case, that’s Brandon McManus.  McManus has had a great bounce back season, after being held to just kick offs after losing his job to Connor Barth last season.  He was meaningless in fantasy.  Now he’s back on fantasy owners’ radars.
Sit
Steven Hauschka
In this upset I picked in my picks, the Seahawks are left to rot.  Kicker Steven Hauschka will be held to just one extra point and not do any better.  Horrible situation here for any kicker, even a star like Hauschka.  Kickers are really just based on the match-up.   You have to go week by week with them.