Could Derek Rivers Be A Patriots Linebacker?

In the 2013 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected an edge rusher from a lesser-known school in the second round that ended up being a fantastic choice.

Jamie Collins.

Jamie Collins came out of Southern Mississippi and was one of the best young players that has come through Foxborough in recent years, being 1/3 of a terrific linebacker trio for the Patriots that helped him win a ring in 2014 and take part in a great season before being traded in 2016. The one thing Collins was most known for was the freakish athleticism he had, and his ability to easily blow up plays. His “freelancing” and willingness to get a big payday was what led to him being sent to Cleveland, and the Patriots were lucky enough to get Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts to play meaningful snaps for a team seemingly devoid of good linebacker talent.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Patriots selected an edge rusher from a lesser-known school in the third round that appears to have similar talent. That’s Derek Rivers from Youngstown State.

Rivers is a freak athlete that played the edge in a 3-4 outside linebacker-type position for the Penguins (GREAT team name. Love it.). It’s very similar to what Collins did as a member of the Golden Eagles (another solid name). Their profiles are relatively similar, but it is unclear whether or not Rivers’ story comes out in the same way as Collins’ did (in the playing style and fit sense, not the trading because he was looking for a contract way). Let’s compare them, as well as the other Patriots linebackers in recent years.

Athleticism

lb combines

The Patriots’ benchmarks for linebackers were found by NESN’s Doug Kyed. You can follow him on twitter here. Blanks were unable to be found, whether due to skipping tests or not attending the combine for measurements.

Rivers hits nearly every mark for a Patriots linebacker, save for being an eighth of an inch off on the hand size and .07 seconds off the short shuttle. When compared to Collins they are almost identical. Collins was a bit weaker and had better explosiveness numbers. Rivers and Collins match up very well here, and the Patriots clearly miss athleticism like that.

On-Field Talent

Jamie Collins was a 3-4 outside linebacker for Southern Miss, and he often showed how raw he was as a prospect. It was clearly warranted for him to end up as a second round pick, although he was put in a great position to learn. As a member of the Patriots, Collins spent most of his time in the OLB role, but did his best pass-rushing work as an A gap blitzer (highlight clip here). If the team wants Rivers to do that, they have to rely on his speed and strength to blow back interior linemen. I found some clips of him doing that on the outside and up the middle.

Rivers timed faster in the 40 yard dash compared to Collins, but was slower in the 10 yard split, which is more important in a role like this. While it is clear he has the talent to do that, it is unclear whether the Patriots would like to play him there.

The Patriots are one of the most unpredictable teams in the NFL, and the way they use their personnel in mix-and-match forms is impressive. Rivers clearly has the talent to play as a linebacker, and it’s likely that they’ll at least try him there. His true position lies on the edge, but when the season rolls around we will find out where Matt Patricia and co. want to play him.

2017 College Teams to Watch: ACC

This part of the year is the most “down” part in all of football. Spring games have wrapped up, the draft and OTAs are coming to a close, and we will be in a month-long dead space with no football to watch. We can always look ahead to the next season, and here we have done that. There will be plenty of teams that improve or regress in 2017 comparative to last year, and it is likely to happen in every conference. Whether it be to a new coach, a star departure, or something else, there will be plenty of turnover in college football. So let’s see which teams are the ones to pay close attention to, moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference (we covered the Big 10 here). The ACC saw a big year for the group in 2016, with member school Clemson knocking off the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Championship. There will be plenty of competition within the conference this upcoming season, with plenty of stud players that can improve their draft stock and hopefully propel their teams further than in years prior. Let’s take a look.

Louisville

Louisville returns its Heisman Trophy winner and star quarterback Lamar Jackson to the team, who will look to the lead them into a possible playoff position or bowl game. Jackson is one of the top draft-eligible quarterbacks for 2018, despite what you may hear about him from members of the media. Any quarterback that can collect 5,100 all-purpose yards and 51 touchdowns can play on my team. Alongside him on offense the team returns its third and fourth leading rushers, Jeremy Smith (382 yards, 8 TD) and Malik Williams (145 yards, 1 TD). The two will be taking off for Brandon Radcliff, who is now in the NFL. The Cardinals lost their top three receivers, but could see big years from sophomores Jaylen Smith (599 yards, 6 TD) and Traveon Samuel (230 yards, 1 TD), and could bank on freshman Seth Dawkins to step up and make things happen for the team. Redshirt freshman Dez Fitzpatrick shined in the spring game, catching nine passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns, and could end up being a top target for Jackson.

On defense, the team looks to replace stout defensive lineman Deangelo Brown, who is now in the NFL. The defensive line is likely going to be headlined by junior Drew Bailey, who had only half a sack as a bench player in 2016. Bailey is looking to increase his role, and he played well in the spring. The linebackers will likely be the stars of this defense, with Stacy Thomas and Malik Staples highlighting them. In the defensive backfield, the Cardinals will look for big years from Jaire Alexander (one of the best athletes on the team) and Lyn Strange to make some plays, as well as Trumaine Washington, who is the second leading returner in interceptions on the team. The Cardinals could end up as a very good team if the defense holds up.

Boston College

The Eagles lost some good talent after 2016, but a bowl win at the end of the year likely showed some positives to carry into the next season. The offense lost Patrick Towles at quarterback, but will likely replace him with one of Darius Wade or Anthony Brown. Wade looked good in the team’s spring game, but it is unknown which one really has a lead on the signal caller position. The Eagles return their top two leading rushers, sophomore Jon Hilliman (542 yards, 6 TD) and freshman Davon Jones (361 yards, 2 TD). Hilliman averaged a paltry 2.9 yards per carry, but will look to improve it with more opportunity this year. Both top sophomore receivers Michael Walker (420 yards, 4 TD), Jeff Smith (395 yards, 3 TD), and sophomore tight end Tommy Sweeney (353 yards, 3 TD) will be back for the team in 2017, and they will need to be a big part of the Eagles’ offense for them to succeed. Redshirt freshman Kobay White will likely be another factor for the team, as he has been a stud in spring practices.

The defense is the leader of the team, returning the 9th ranked defense in the NCAA. The leader of this group is without a doubt Harold Landry. Leading the NCAA in sacks with 16.5, Landry is the top returning edge rusher and will end up being selected in the top half of the 2018 draft without a doubt. Along with him on the defensive line will be Zach Allen, who had six sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 2016. The linebacker core lost Matt Milano this year, but still has Connor Strachan and Ty Schwab, as well as young gun Sharieff Grice. Strachan is a smart and sound player, being one of the best tacklers on the team. In the secondary, the team lost John Johnson, but still looks good as a unit. Will Harris, Taj Amir Torres, and Gabe McClary will likely all be starters that will make noise for the team, but Lukas Denis will also be a very important player for a team that looks to its defense to make plays often. Look for the Eagles to make moves, but they won’t be stars in the CFB world.

Clemson

The Clemson Tigers had an extremely successful run last year, coming back in the second half of the College Football Championship to knock off the Alabama Crimson Tide as time expired. While many of the players, especially on offense, departed for the NFL, the team still looks impressive and could be a top 10 contender. With star quarterback Deshaun Watson leaving for the Houston Texans, the quarterback position will be left to fight for with Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper, Hunter Johnson and Tucker Israel left to compete. Bryant and Israel were both on the team last year, but Johnson was a highly touted recruit that could be in play for the Tigers. Running back Wayne Gallman is gone, as well as second leading rusher Watson. Freshman Tavien Feaster and sophomore CJ Fuller were the next two in line, and they will both be returning, as well as dual threat Ray-Ray McCloud. Top two receivers Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett are gone as well, but Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow will remain to lead the receiving core, as well as McCloud. This team’s offense could be in a good situation even after losing a huge chunk of talent.

On defense there are still some stars that will be on the field for the Tigers. Clelin Ferrell had a great season in 2016, but will return to play the edge. Christian Wilkins was a possible first rounder this year that returned to the Tigers. Dexter Lawrence is another name to watch inside, replacing Carlos Watkins. The linebacker group lost Ben Boulware, but they have two good replacements in Shaq Smith and JD Davis. The secondary has plenty of talent, as per usual, even after Cordrea Tankersley and Jadar Johnson leaving. Trayvon Mullen looks like a legitimate man corner for the Tigers, and almost recorded multiple interceptions in the spring game. Van Smith and Denzel Johnson are other names to watch, although they may be lower on the depth chart. The Clemson Tigers are looking like a real team for 2017, and though they likely won’t be title contenders again, they could be seriously in the mix.

Florida State

The Seminoles pulled off a great win in their bowl game against Michigan with a beautiful pass in the final seconds. The quarterback, Deondre Francois, will be an interesting name to watch in the 2017 season. While he may not project to be a top signal caller in the class, there are some great traits he possesses to go along with his incredible toughness. Considering the offensive line he plays behind, he requires some mental and physical toughness. FSU loses their top running back Dalvin Cook to the Vikings, but they have some interesting names in Jacques Patrick (5.7 yards per carry) and true freshman Cam Akers, the top running back in last year’s recruiting class. Akers will likely be the lead back, with Patrick and Ryan Green to play behind him. The receiver group lost leading receivers Travis Rudolph and Cook, but returns two very impressive names in Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray, who caught the game-winning TD vs. Michigan. Tate is a big-bodied target that many are already falling in love with. Another name to watch for pass catchers is tight end Ryan Izzo, who finds a way to excel even while having average athleticism. If the pass-blocking can hold up, Francois and the Noles will have a great year.

The defense has some very interesting names in all areas. On the defensive line, Josh Sweat is gaining steam as a name to watch on the edge, and tackles Demarcus Christmas and Derrick Nnadi will be big players for the team. Jacob Pugh is another name that either comes off the edge or plays linebacker, and can do well at both. Matthew Thomas racked up 32 tackles and a sack in his last three games, and he should see a bigger role next to Ro’Derrick Hoskins (2.5 sacks last year). The secondary has a bona fide star in Derwin James, who could be a top 10 pick next year. He will play along with freshman Stanford Samuels and Kyle Meyers for a team that needs to regain its composure in the secondary. Look for this team to be in the mix for a playoff spot if their offensive line can hold up. The defense looks strong, and they have a for-real quarterback playing for them.

North Carolina State

NC State is a team that deserves more respect in the ACC than they get, and the Wolfpack may get their chance to earn it this year. They had strong play from quarterback Ryan Finley last year, who replaced now-Patriots third stringer Jacoby Brissett well. His 3,055 yards and 18 touchdowns were a positive for the team. The Wolfpack lose top running back Matthew Dayes, but return interesting players in Reggie Gallaspy II and Swiss army knife Jaylen Samuels. Samuels rushed for 189 yards and 6 touchdowns, while throwing a 59 yard touchdown on 1 attempt and catches 55 passes for 565 yards and 7 touchdowns. He will be one of the top threats for the offense, along with top receiver Stephen Louis, Nyheim Hines, and Kelvin Harmon. A team returning the majority of its offensive talent is likely to compete just as it did last year, as long as they can keep their running game moving like it was with Dayes.

On defense one big name comes to mind; Bradley Chubb. A cousin of Georgia’s star back Nick, he recorded 10.5 sacks in 2016, and will be a top edge rusher in the 2017 class if he declares. Justin Jones, BJ Hill, and Kentavius Street are all seniors to pay attention to. The defensive line collected 27 of the 36 sacks the Wolfpack had in 2016. The back of the front seven is no joke either, with linebackers Airius Moore (85 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Jerod Fernandez (89 tackles, 4.5 TFL) shoring up the middle. The Wolfpack had 10 interceptions last year, and Mike Stevens provided one of them. He will be a starter for the team across from Nick McCloud, with James Valdez suiting up behind them. Shawn Boone and Dexter Wright will patrol the back of the field, and hopefully make the Wolfpack defense a scary sight that demands respect.

2017 College Teams to Watch: Big 10

This part of the year is the most “down” part in all of football. Spring games have wrapped up, the draft and OTAs are coming to a close, and we will be in a month-long dead space with no football to watch. We can always look ahead to the next season, and here we have done that. There will be plenty of teams that improve or regress in 2017 comparative to last year, and it is likely to happen in every conference. Whether it be to a new coach, a star departure, or something else, there will be plenty of turnover in college football. So let’s see which teams are the ones to pay close attention to, starting with the Big 10 Conference. The B1G had a strong year last season, with four of the top ten spots in the College Football Playoff rankings. That could stay the same this year, with plenty of talent all around. Let’s look at what we could see in the college ranks next season.

Michigan

Last year’s 10th overall team is going to look a lot different this season. The Wolverines lost virtually all of their defensive starters after the 2016 season to the NFL Draft. Names like Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis, and Taco Charlton are gone, and it will be interesting to see who can step up to fill in those spots. One name to watch on the defensive line is former number one overall recruit Rashan Gary, who spent his freshman year playing behind a talented group of upperclassmen. He collected 23 tackles and a sack as a sub last year, and many were raving about how he played during Michigan’s spring game. Another returning player on defense is linebacker Mike McCray, who was the centerpiece of the front seven last season. He could be a draft riser once the season begins.

The major question with the Wolverines in 2017 will be their offense. The team returns just two players that had over 100 receiving yards last season, and their top trio of Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt have departed. Sophomore receiver Grant Perry, freshman receiver Eddie McDoom, and senior tight end Khalid Hill will look to the fill the holes left by the recent draftees. McDoom is a name to watch, as he played well as a slot receiver in 2016 for Jim Harbaugh. Former running back De’Veon Smith will need to be replaced after leaving for the pros, and freshman Chris Evans appears to be rising to a starting role.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin impressed greatly last year, rising to #9 in the College Football Playoff rankings and securing a 24-16 win in the Cotton Bowl over Western Michigan. The team returns the majority of its players on both sides of the ball, and has plenty of talent that will be interesting to see develop over the course of the year. On offense, freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook impressed last year, and he takes the reins as the full-time starter going into the summer. While Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale are out, the Badgers saw freshman Bradrick Shaw rush for 5.2 yards per carry last year, and will likely be the starter for the team, with Pitt transfer Chris James and Taiwan Deal shoring up the “committee” approach the team enjoys. Receiver Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagalli will be pass-catchers to watch, as they will only improve as time goes on. The two leading receivers are legitimate NFL prospects and can grow their stock with strong years. Junior receiver George Rushing and freshman Quintez Cephus will likely be the other two wideouts for the team.

On defense, the team lost some important pieces, especially their pass-rushing group. Linebackers TJ Watt and Vince Biegel are gone, and they leave behind a young stud in Jack Cichy, as well as Leon Jacobs, to fill the hole. Isaiahh Loudermilk, Connor Sheahy, and Garrett Rand will be names to watch on the defensive line after impressing in the spring game for Wisconsin. In the secondary, young guns Madison Cole and Eric Burrell will be in the back half, as well as Leo Musso and Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson. Derrick Tindal and a group of freshmen will look to impress this year and help propel the Badgers to the College Football Playoff.

Maryland

The Terrapins have had a string of down years recently, but with new coach DJ Durkin on the field, the recruiting has stepped up its game and should pay off this year. The team sees senior quarterbacks Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe leave the team, with new recruit Kasim Hill ready to take the field. The four star athlete will be competing with Caleb Henderson and Max Bortenschlager when summer comes around. The Terrapins second leading receiver, Teldrick Morgan, left for the pros, and DJ Moore will be left to carry the team in passing offense. Star running back Ty Johnson returns his big play ability, with a 1,000 yard rushing season in the bag from 2016. Lorenzo Harrison will play behind him after a rough prior year that included an airsoft gun incident. DJ Turneris another receiver that may be able to show something for the Terps. He had an impressive six catches for 126 yards in the spring game. With a bevy on firepower on offense, the team may be able to score much more than their paltry numbers in 2016.

On the other side of the ball, the team will look to create some turnovers and stop teams, unlike last year. Senior edge rusher Jesse Aniebonam will look to have a breakout year, similar to 2016 pick Yannick Ngakoue. Aniebonam has impressive athleticism and can bring the heat from the outside. RaVon Davis and Darnell Savage Jr. will be in the defensive backfield to make some plays. There haven’t been plenty of names that stick out on the defensive line or in the linebacker core, but Antoine Brooks will be a name to watch after a decent year as a freshman in Durkin’s defense. If the offense makes a turnaround, this team could do better than the 6 games they won last season.

Penn State

The Nittany Lions were justifiably placed at 5th in the final rankings going into the College Football Playoff, although many argued they should’ve replaced Ohio State, especially after their shutout loss to Clemson. Regardless, Penn State has plenty of talent returning the year, and the team will likely be in a situation close to what they saw this past year. The offense, led by athletic freak running back Saquon Barkley, will be very impressive, along with quarterback Trace McSorley, tight end Mike Gesicki, and receiver DaeSean Hamilton. The team returns other 300+ yard receivers in DeAndre Thompkins and Saeed Blacknall. Juwan Johnson is a big target for McSorley that impressed greatly in the spring game, with seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Miles Sanders and Andre Robinson will be running behind Barkley after having freshmen seasons that had some success within. There will be no shortage of offense for this team.

The team lost a few players on its defense, like Garrett Sickels and Malik Golden, but there are plenty ready to take their place and take steps forward. Defensive linemen and edge rushers are looking to stand out, and players like Shareef Miller, Torrence Brown, and Shane Simmons are looking to stand out. The linebacker core looks to be the heart and soul of the defense, with veteran Jason Cabinda leading a group that includes Jarvis Miller and Cam Brown, who looked like stars in the spring. Koa Farmer is a weak-side linebacker that looks great, especially when pass rushing. The secondary is looking great, even after starting cornerback John Reid injured his knee. A new five star recruit in Lamont Wade will likely see some action for the team, with Grant Haley and Amani Oruwariye poised to make plays. Marcus Allen will be in the defensive backfield at safety, and there will be some competition across from him with players like Troy Apke, Will Blair, and Garrett Taylor. Considering the immense talent on this team, it will be a surprise if they don’t creep into the top four in 2017.

Minnesota

There are two major reasons for a possible Minnesota turnaround this season: the arrival of head coach PJ Fleck and the departure of quarterback Mitch Leidner. Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft will be in a tight competition until the fall, and Fleck will likely need to see more from both of them. It may be a hard competition considering the receiving talent, or lack thereof. Two of the top three 2016 receivers are gone, with Drew Wolitarsky graduating and Brian Smith being dismissed. Aside from Tyler Johnson and Rashad Still, there aren’t many standout talents for the Gophers. Brandon Lingen is a tight end to watch, though his 2016 season was limited. The running back group looks impressive for 2017. Rodney Smith, who had 1,158 yards in 2016, looks just as impressive this season, with Jonathan Femi-Cole coming in behind him as a strong power back. The Gophers’ offensive line will be an average group as long as everyone is healthy, though that isn’t the case at the current moment.

On defense, the line looks impressive and should show some growth. Tackle for loss leader Steven Richardson, who had 7 sacks in 2016, returns to lead the team, along with Winston DeLattiboudere and Tai’Yon Devers. Carter Coughlin will be leading the edge rushers after only scoring two sacks last season. the linebacker group looks strong for this defense, with Jonathan Celestin and Thomas Barber looking to lead a younger group on the field. Cody Poock looks to have a healthy season after missing half the year, and Jaylen Waters looks to grow after a solid first year. A real issue lies within the secondary, as Damarius Travis and Jaylen Myrick are both departed for the pros. Kiondre Thomas and Coney Durr will likely be the starting corners, and the safety spots are still questionable. Antoine Whitfield and Duke McGhee could be the leading role players. If everything comes together on both sides of the ball, this team could be special. But that’s a big “if,” and it’s likely that the team regresses after overachieving in 2016.

Which Undrafted Rookies Could Make the Patriots’ Roster?

The Patriots aced the draft this year. To recap how they used their picks:

Round 1, Pick 32: Traded to Saints for WR Brandin Cooks and a 4th round pick.

Round 2, Pick 64: Traded to Panthers for DE Kony Ealy

Round 3, Pick 83: Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State

Round 3, Pick 85: Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy

Round 4 Pick: Traded to Colts for TE Dwayne Allen

Round 4, Pick 131: Deatrich Wise, EDGE, Arkansas

Round 5 Pick: Given up to Bills for RB Mike Gillislee

Round 5 Pick: Traded to Chiefs for TE James O’Shaughnessy

Round 6, Pick 211: Connor McDermott, OT, UCLA

Round 7 Pick: Traded to Lions for TE Michael Williams

All of these players will be important pieces for the Patriots this year, and this is easily the best haul of the year compared to the rest of the league. Even though the team only drafted four players, they ended up with six more in other ways, and still had a decent amount of roster spots left to fill to get to the limit of 90 for training camp and the preseason. This meant that they could sign plenty of undrafted free agents. These are players that were not selected for any reason. Undrafted free agents, or UDFAs, that have made the Patriots in recent years are Malcolm Butler, David Andrews, and Brandon Bolden. Other former UDFAs that impacted the team recently include Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and LeGarrette Blount. There is a very clear track record of succeeding within the organization as an undrafted player, so here we can look at some people from this year that have a chance to make an impact. Let’s get into it.

Harvey Langi, LB, BYU

Most well-known for supposedly being given a first round grade by the Patriots last year despite staying in school, Langi is an impressive linebacker prospect that should have been considered in the later rounds of the draft. He is a very athletic linebacker that was questionably moved to the edge rusher position in 2016 after finding success playing the MIKE and WILL roles for the Cougars in the year prior. He collected 68 tackles with 6.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions as a linebacker, and in his lone year coming off the edge he had five tackles for loss and two sacks. It is clear that he will fare better if the Patriots move him to linebacker, as he shows good range and instincts that can translate to the pros. Langi moves very well and flies around the field, delivering hard hits wherever he goes. He may need more work with his discipline, and he missed tackles at times, but there’s a solid foundation to work upon for Matt Patricia. Considering the lack of depth and talent at linebacker for New England, it would not be a surprise to see Langi make the team for Week 1.

Jacob Hollister, TE, Wyoming

Hollister’s brother Cody, a former receiver at Arkansas, was also brought onto the team, which is a cool thing to see in football. Jacob was arguably more important to his team in 2016, where he was part of a potent offense with Brian Hill and Tanner Gentry, as well as some underclassmen. He was able to collect 32 catches for 515 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2016. In the Cowboys’ offense Hollister was frequently moved around in an Aaron Hernandez-esque role, where he went from fullback to in-line to wideout in almost every game. Hollister shows decent blocking skills, although he could add more strength in an NFL weight program. He has impressive run-after-catch ability where he shows some good elusiveness and speed for a tight end. While he did have some issues with drops, he was not helped by his quarterback, future draft bust Josh Allen. The reason Hollister has such a good chance to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster is because of a large question mark at the third tight end spot behind Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen. While the team traded for James O’Shaughnessy, he is mainly a special teams player that was not much of a factor on offense. The team also returns former tackle Michael Williams, who is not much of a threat in the passing game either, remaining more of a blocker. Ideally there is a good in-between player, and that just may be Hollister.

DJ Killings, CB, UCF

Killings earned the most money out of any Patriots UDFA, with over $30,000 in guarantees. While teammate Shaq Griffin got most of the buzz around draft season, Killings is a talented CB that tested very well for his class. At Central Florida’s pro day, he ran a 4.38 40 yard dash, as well as bench pressing 22 reps, which would have been tied for the most of any defensive back at the NFL Combine. Killings may be considered a little undersized at 5-10 and 190 pounds, but he showed off his strength and he plays with tenacity. While at Central Florida, he was able to collect 8 tackles for loss, as well as five interceptions. Showing the ability to attack the ball is an important trait that Bill Belichick greatly values in his defensive backs. The Patriots have a stacked cornerback depth chart, but one spot left up in the air is the cornerback who plays in the slot, who must have good man coverage skills and be very athletic. This may be the spot for Killings, who could follow in the footsteps of Malcolm Butler and make the team early in his career.

Josh Augusta, DL, Missouri

To call Josh Augusta a space eater would be an understatement. At 6-4 and 345 pounds, he is a mass that can be hard to move when he is on his game. Augusta makes his best moves in the run game, where he uses his strength and leverage to collapse lines. He collected 19 tackles for loss and 4 sacks in his Tigers career, and while he’s a little slow to be a sack master on the interior, he’s a clear force against the run. Augusta was also known for being used in the run game on the other side of the ball as well, collecting two rushing touchdowns in the red zone. While that’s less likely to happen in New England, the former Mizzou standout will likely have a chance to make some plays on the Patriots’ defensive line. While they have a solid four interior linemen with Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, and Lawrence Guy, Branch may be on his way out soon and a younger player with similar talents could take his place.

Cole Croston, OL, Iowa

A former 225-pound walk on for the Hawkeyes, Croston comes out as a 6-4, 315 pound offensive tackle with experience all across the offensive line. The Patriots went back to a very familiar pipeline with Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, who has a history of churning out strong prospects on both sides of the lines. Croston missed four games in the past season due to a lower body injury, but when healthy he played on both the left and right tackle spots of the offensive line. While he played on the outside for his career, many believe he best projects to the inside as a guard. Croston is relatively weak for the position, only benching 17 times, but he had an impressive 3-cone as a bigger guy, and his athleticism is decent for his size. His true weakness is just that; weakness. He gets pushed around far too often as a tackle, and that must change if he is going to face bigger players inside. The Patriots enter training camp with not a lot of depth on the interior of the line, with just Ted Karras behind Joe Thuney, David Andrews, and Shaq Mason. Most teams carry around 8 or 9 offensive linemen, and with four tackles and four interior players solidified, it will be a fight for Croston. Considering his advanced technique while working with Ferentz at Iowa, I would say he has the upper hand in the battle.

2017 NFL Draft: The Green Room Remainders

The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft was an exciting one. Plenty of trades, moving up and down, and interesting selections for most of the teams involved in the process. Fans watching on TV got to see some of the top prospects celebrate with their families in Philadelphia as they awaited their selection in the Green Room. While the majority of the 22 players were selected, there are four players remaining in Philly as we move onto Day 2, with rounds 2 and 3 starting at 7pm ET tonight. So, judging by who went in the first round, and the remaining team needs, where are those four guys going to end up playing after tonight?

DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

Many people, including myself, expected Kizer to be seleceted somewhere in the first round. When the Browns made their trade back to pick #29, I was sure I had it right with the former Fighting Irish signal caller being selected. Instead, Sashi Brown’s crew went with Michigan do-it-all Jabrill Peppers. Kizer may not have displayed his first round talent in 2016, but he was surrounded by worse starters than in 2015, and head coach Brian Kelly put plenty of unwarranted pressure on him. The potential is certainly there if he ends up in the right environment. Now that Kizer remains on the board, there are surely plenty of teams thinking about selecting him. While it may be a team that expects to need a quarterback in the next year after the starter retires or leaves, or a team that is desperate for anyone to start for their team, there is definitely some sort of interest in him going in round 2. Teams to think about here would be the Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and New Orleans Saints. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills may be in play as well.

Best Guess: Arizona Cardinals

Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State

Malik McDowell is a sort of polarizing prospect. There were certainly plenty of flashes and sustained displays of extreme talent that would warrant being selected in the top 10 of this year’s draft. According to some of the media members, McDowell didn’t display the right amount of effort during many of his plays. This wasn’t entirely true, but it appeared to have worn off on teams, and many believe his attitude may be hard to deal with, especially early on. There must be a team that has a stable coaching staff that will keep him in check if these reports are true. He would be a great pick for any team that needs a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense, or a 3-4 defensive end. Some of these teams include the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens. McDowell could be an exciting player in any of these defenses, and should likely be a top 50 or 55 pick tonight.

Best Guess: Baltimore Ravens

Kevin King, CB, Washington

Kevin King was never really a project first round pick until very close to the draft. He was not as talented as his former teammate Sidney Jones, but he was a very good corner with plenty of potential upside. Considering Jones’ injury and new Las Vegas Raider Gareon Conley’s possible rape case, he was sort of vaulted into round one consideration for teams. He is a long press corner that would excel on a team that plays a lot of man coverage. I would expect King to be a high pick tonight, but there is always a chance he falls farther due to the amount of projected first round players falling, like Quincy Wilson, Forrest Lamp, Zach Cunningham, Cam Robinson, and more. Some of the fits for Kevin King would the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks. It will be interesting to see where King goes, considering his up-and-down draft stock.

Best Guess: New York Jets

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado

Awuzie is in the same position as King is; never really was a first round prospect, but many members of the media started to push him higher up due to injuries and questions. He is a very talented cornerback that played on a strong Colorado defense, and he deserves top-75 consideration. His athleticism and IQ would be impressive in a zone coverage scheme like a Cover 1 or Cover 3, but he also has decent man coverage skills that could possible translate if a team was interested in doing so. Awuzie also could use his athleticism to play slot cornerback, which is becoming more and more important in today’s NFL game. He will likely go in the middle of second round, and there should be plenty of teams interested in the former Buffalo’s talents. The same teams in on Kevin King will also be listed for Awuzie. His skillset is deserving of being picked early on in Day 2, but teams may value him less than many people outside the NFL do. Irregardless, it will be an interesting few rounds today, as well as Day 3.

Best Guess: Seattle Seahawks

The Final, Best, Most Definitive 2017 NFL Mock Draft

We are getting very close to the night of the NFL Draft. In 8 days we will have the final answer as to what is going on in the draft world, and how teams view the prospects that we debate constantly. But this is obviously the most comprehensive, most correctly, definitely 100% righto mock draft you will read. Go check it out and tell me how wrong I am on twitter. (FULL DISCLOSURE: the Patriots are probably getting a first round pick but we’re gonna roll with this for now)

1. Cleveland Browns – EDGE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

People seem to be very intrigued and amazed by Garrett’s skill set, or very underwhelmed. I would say he really falls somewhere in between those two on the scale. He’s not this all-time great that some are hyping him up to me, but the truth is he’s a very good pass rusher. His problems lay mainly in the run game, where he is not always able to make a big impact inside, and his lack of great production against top talents. Garrett is certainly the best edge rusher in this class, and worthy of taking with the first overall pick if the Browns are not interested in a quarterback. There has recently been some buzz around the team and Mitchell Trubisky, but if anything it’s likely a smoke screen.

2. San Francisco 49ers – QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson

The 49ers signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley this offseason, but it would be hard to pass up the opportunity to draft a quarterback who is the most “pro-ready” in the class. Watson is easily the most talented of this year’s crop of signal callers, and while he may not have the best potential, it is certain that he is going to be at worst an average NFL starter. Many have knocked him for his interceptions, but Mark Schofield of Inside the Pylon was able to put that to bed a while ago. I think Watson is a great quarterback that could drastically improve San Francisco’s offense, especially with new coach Kyle Shanahan.

3. Chicago Bears – QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

The Bears are going to be an interesting team to watch if the top quarterback is off the board. That is obviously their greatest need, even after signing the great Mike Glennon and the ever so talented Mark Sanchez. If Watson is gone, they may consider taking a look at someone like Jonathan Allen, or they take the next quarterback in Trubisky. While some hold the fact that he was a one year starter against him, Mitchell Trubisky showed some traits that define a good NFL quarterback, and if he is able to adjust his mechanical issues, he may become a very good starter in the league. He would like be the Week 1 starter for the Bears, and could lead the team for years.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars – DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Someone who knows the Jaguars better than I do, Zach Goodall, wrote about the possibility of choosing Allen here. The Jaguars recently added a great component to their defensive line in Calais Campbell, but they could get even better with this addition here. Allen is a great defender, and although there are some injury concerns and positional fits for him, he would be able to find a place to work within the Jaguars’ system. A defensive line of Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Campbell, and Allen would be a scary sight for offenses.

5.  Tennessee Titans (from LAR) – CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

The Titans are in one of the best positions in this draft; they were able to trade back for a future pick last year, which ended up as a top 5 selection, and were also on the verge of competing in the playoffs this past year. Here they can get the best cornerback in the class with Lattimore. Although he was a one year starter with an injury history at Ohio State, he showed off abilities and traits that could make him a #1 cornerback for a team. He would be an excellent pairing along with Logan Ryan in Tennessee’s secondary, along with taking over Jason McCourty’s old role and helping the team get back to the playoffs.

6. New York Jets – S Jamal Adams, LSU

I found that this piece from Justis Mosqueda was interesting in regards to positional value within the top 5 picks. While this is pick #6, the point still stands, and taking a safety might not be the best value in terms of contract here. But when there’s a talent such as Adams available, a team may not be able to pass on him, especially with a need as great as theirs. Former first round pick Calvin Pryor hasn’t exactly panned out, and Marcus Gilchrist isn’t a top-tier player. Jamal Adams has the potential to be a great safety in the NFL, and he could likely start over either of these two if given the chance by Todd Bowles. Adams is a pretty decent player in coverage, and his instincts and athletic ability allow him to be a great run defender. He would be a solid pick for a Jets team that is in need of a rebuild.

7. Los Angeles(?) Chargers – OT Cam Robinson, Alabama

People have been looking down on this year’s offensive tackle class since the final decisions were made, but the NFL is much higher on these bookends than the public is. One of these players in Cam Robinson, who has been a great player for the Crimson Tide over the past few years. Robinson could play either side of the line, but would be best protecting Philip Rivers’ blindside as the end of his career comes. The Chargers have looked into the top quarterbacks in this class, but the chance to get a solid tackle and draft a developmental player in the later rounds is too enticing for them.

8. Carolina Panthers – RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

The Panthers have put Cam Newton into a similar situation as the Colts and Ryan Grigson had Andrew Luck in for the past few years: the team has not put strong enough talent surrounding their star quarterback to help him succeed and reach far into the playoffs. After a free agency period where they signed some backup receivers and even worse offensive tackles, they could at least look to make a change in the run game with the selection of McCaffrey. Jonathan Stewart isn’t much to believe in, and Mike Tolbert and Cameron Artis-Payne are not starting running backs. McCaffrey is an incredibly special player, and he could be a game changer for a team that could use a running game to help take some pressure off their quarterback. He also adds a new element to the passing game that they don’t necessarily have with their current stable.

9. Cincinnati Bengals – LB Reuben Foster, Alabama

The Bengals’ defense has been fading in recent years, with age and free agency departures catching up to them. The issue with Vontaze Burfict also remains. The team should look to add a new linebacker that provides the same physicality with more talent, and Foster is that guy. With news that his injury rehab is ahead of schedule, he could still be in consideration as a top-10 pick. He has great coverage, run defending, and blitzing skills, and would be a perfect fit for a team who needs to improve their defense. While some people have been worried about the whole combine incident, it is easy to brush away as it was a stressful situation that many players were unhappy with. Foster checks out and will be a great player for the Bengals.

10. Buffalo Bills – WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan

The Bills’ team is returning a combined 42 catches from the wide receiver position next year. This is a scary number to read, and shows just how much they could use offensive health. While this stat includes the oft-injured Sammy Watkins, they should expect him to be on the field more often. The fact still remains that there is a major need there, and Corey Davis could fix some of their woes. Davis has the skillset of a top-2 receiver on a team, and would be an instant starter for the Bills. Tyrod Taylor would love to have another target aside from Watkins, Lesean McCoy, and whatever a Walt Powell is.

11. New Orleans Saints – DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State

The Saints were able to pick up a second draft pick from the Patriots in the Brandin Cooks trade, so they have a bit of flexibility with what they can do with pick #11. Here they choose Malik McDowell, who is a Day 1 starter with immense talent. He is a perfect fit for the Saints’ defensive front, where he could play between Sheldon Rankins and Cameron Jordan. The team’s main issue is their defense, and getting better in the trenches would only help them. They should look to either add to the tight end or defensive back position with their second pick, if they still have it when the draft comes around.

12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia) – CB Gareon Conley, Ohio St.

The Browns decide to skip on drafting a quarterback here, instead bolstering a major need for the team. Jamar Taylor was a solid pickup for the team, but Joe Hayden has declined in recent years, and Cleveland could use a new cornerback in the mix. Conley is a top cornerback in this year’s class, and would be a great player to have on a defense that could be adding two great talents to it. Quarterback is an obvious need, but the team is higher on Trubisky and Watson than the other two, and both are gone. A guy that Hue Jackson coached at the Senior Bowl, either Josh Dobbs or Davis Webb, may be the target later on, while Cody Kessler can hang on to a starting job for a while.

13. Arizona Cardinals – TE OJ Howard, Alabama

The Cardinals are another team that should be considering drafting a quarterback, but here they decide to upgrade a spot on their offense to try to make the best of Carson Palmer’s twilight years. OJ Howard is supposedly a generational player for some, but I believe he’s just a really good tight end. He’s more than capable of being a great blocker, and when he was given the chance to catch passes he shined. Howard is a decent route runner, although it could use some refinement, and he needs to make sure he’s not reaching on all of his blocks. He will be a major upgrade over Jermaine Gresham, who is a number two or three tight end at best on a good roster. The team could also look to find a defensive lineman, but there isn’t much to look at around here.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota) – RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

The Eagles found who may be their next quarterback in Carson Wentz, but he can only improve if the team improves the talent around him. They can do that with the selection of Leonard Fournette, who is a major upgrade over an older Ryan Mathews and not-a-starter Darren Sproles. He is a good runner who has a beautiful blend of power and speed, and is a better pass protector than some may expect. The Eagles have made some decent moves with the signings of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, they could add another great offensive talent for four years with Fournette. He may not exactly be deserving of a top-10 pick, but he is a very good player that could be a great player behind a strong offensive line like Philadelphia’s.

15. Indianapolis Colts – DB Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut

The Colts finally rid themselves of a hopeless GM, and new arrival Chris Ballard has been making plenty of smart moves, especially focusing on defense in free agency. They make another smart move here with the selection of another athletic freak from UConn, just like Dallas’ choice of Byron Jones in 2015. Obi Melifonwu was largely unknown until the Senior Bowl and Combine, but he exploded onto the scene and is deserving of a top pick in this year’s draft. While it is debated whether or not he should be a cornerback or safety, it is obvious that he will be a great defensive back in the league, and here he could be a starter almost instantly when he joins the Colts in a quest to get Andrew Luck to the playoffs.

16. Baltimore Ravens – WR John Ross III, Washington

The Ravens are another team to watch because they have a plethora of different ways they could attack the draft. They have needs on the offensive line, linebacker, defensive back, and wide receiver spots, and possibly the running back position too depending on how they value Terrance West. Here they are able to upgrade their receiving spot with the selection of Ross, who now holds the 40 yard dash record. While his speed is good, he is also a great separator early on in his routes, and would be able to use this combination to work wonders along with vertical quarterback Joe Flacco. His knees are worrisome, with two different ACL injuries, but he could be worth the selection here at #16.

17. Washington Redskins – QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

The Redskins’ front office is an absolute dumpster fire and I feel bad for anyone on the team or anyone drafted by them. That being said, the team is likely to move on from Kirk Cousins after this season if they can’t come to terms on a long-term agreement, so it would be smart to find you quarterback of the future here. While they could use some help in the secondary, or maybe find a great running back, the best move here is to select Kizer, who was a great player or the Fighting Irish. Some of his issues stem from a lack of confidence from his former coach, but that should not affect him if there is a team that is willing to put their full confidence in him at any point. Kizer has some of the best potential out of all the quarterbacks in this class, but he may need to wait his turn here.

18. Tennessee Titans – WR Mike Williams, Clemson

The Titans are back for their second pick in the draft, and here they get a great primary target for Marcus Mariota. The team was able to do decently well with their receiving core that was headlined by Rishard Matthews and 2016 fifth-rounder Tajae Sharpe, but the addition of Williams would push this team right over the edge. He is a great boundary receiver and was Deshaun Watson’s favorite target. Putting Williams and Lattimore on this team makes them immediate contenders in the future.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – S Malik Hooker, Ohio State

The Buccaneers are in a similar spot as the Titans, but without the luxury of two first round picks. Here they can ugprade a spot that remains a major need after free agency with the choice of Malik Hooker. Hooker was an amazing safety for the Buckeyes in 2016, showing off incredible range and ball skills. While his tackling may be shaky, his coverage ability may keep him from having to make tackles on his own assignments. This selection would greatly benefit the Bucs as they push to get some of their star players in the playoffs for the first time in their careers.

20. Denver Broncos – OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

The Broncos were surprisingly decent, but there are very clear needs within their team. TJ Ward is aging quickly, they need new inside linebackers and defensive linemen, and Demarcus Ware just retired, leaving only Shane Ray behind him. The other major problem is their offensive line, especially their tackles, which were horrendous. Russell Okung and Donald Stevenson were pretty bad, but here they can add a player that might be the best tackle in the class. Ryan Ramczyk was a great player for the Badgers, and might be the next great tackle to come from that Wisconsin pipeline. He would be a great addition to a team that is in dire need of new bookends for their line.

21. Detroit Lions – LB Haason Reddick, Temple

The Lions’ group of linebackers was among the worst in the league last year. They were headlined by DeAndre Levy, who was released, Kyle Van Noy, a mid-season trade, and Tahir Whitehead, the sole leftover. They also signed Paul Worrilow this offseason, but he is on the downside of his career and does not offer much aside from his average run defense. Enter Haason Reddick, a former edge rusher who projects to be a good linebacker prospect in a 4-3 scheme. He first played the position at the Senior Bowl, where he showed decent hip fluidity and coverage skills, and his remaining prowess against the run and pass still remain. Detroit should be ecstatic to happen upon Reddick at this point in the draft, as many teams love him.

22. Miami Dolphins – LB Jarrad Davis, Florida

There has been some buzz around the Internet’s media saying that there could be some surprise first round picks, and Jarrad Davis’s name showed up on a short list. While he was injured in his last season as a Gator, the linebacker was able to impress greatly at his Pro Day last month, and he has some decent abilities that could warrant a look at the end of the first round. The Dolphins are bringing back Kiko Alonso as one of their only productive linebackers, and the addition of Davis, who showed he can bring some physical play to the run and provide average coverage ability, would be very helpful for a team that is looking to stay in the playoff race after a successful 2016.

23. New York Giants – OT Garett Bolles, Utah

The Giants might just ignore the fact that their offensive line, especially Ereck Flowers, caused their offense the most strife and just choose to make another move, but I think that they may understand what they have done wrong and work to rectify it. It’s also a possibility that Garett Bolles isn’t even on the board at pick 23, but for here we’ll allow it. Bolles is a great tackle and played exceptionally well for the Utes. While he’s going to be 25 going into this year, he is already a plug-and-play guy for a team that has struggled on the outside of their line. A running back could also be the choice here, but the team might stick with who they have, or find a free agent available like LeGarrette Blount to lead the team.

24. Las Vegas(boo) Raiders – CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

The Raiders went far last year, with a great offense that could keep up with any teams that could blow by their bad defense. The team should look to fix these issues early on in the draft. Sean Smith was a disappointment for the team, and David Amerson is looking at a year in which he needs to bounce back early on. The Raiders found a great safety in round one last year in Karl Joseph, and here they can look to the former Crimson Tide defensive back in Humphrey to help ease their woes in the secondary. Humphrey has great athletic ability and tackling skills, and while he isn’t the best cover man, he’s a very capable player. If the team decides that they want to fix their interior defensive line early, that could be another option, but it should be unlikely.

25. Houston Texans – QB Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech

The Texans probably could have beat the Patriots in last year’s Divisional Round if they had a quarterback other than Brock Osweiler at the helm. Now that he is gone, the team can look to fix one of their few needs early on. While they could add an offensive tackle or another defensive back, their best option is to find a new signal caller that Bill O’Brien could work with. Patrick Mahomes has some of the best upside out of any of the quarterbacks in this draft, and while many think he is reckless with his decision making, he was one of the most impressive passers last year. He is decently athletic and has some of the best arm talent in recent memory. If given the time he needs to prepare himself for the pros, he could be a great choice for the team that selects him. In Houston, they can afford to let Tom Savage play for a few games if Mahomes needs more time, and if not, they can get a great offense going early on.

26. Seattle Seahawks – OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

This is probably a very common pick for most people, and it makes the most sense in the eyes of the team and its fans. The Seahawks’ offensive line was terrible last year, and it may have gotten even worse after the team recently allowed tackle Garry Gilliam to walk, and signed Luke Joeckel, a former bust at left tackle. Offensive line coach Tom Cable isn’t exactly a cultivator of talent, so it’s great that he is given one of the best interior offensive linemen in the draft this year in Forrest Lamp. A former left tackle for the Hilltoppers, it is expected that Lamp will move inside in the pros, although he is one of the best in this class. Lamp is a very good linemen that will improve a team that needs to add to Russell Wilson’s group of protectors, who have not been great in recent times.

27. Kansas City Chiefs – RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State

The Chiefs probably think they are in a good position to compete since they hosted a playoff game last season. The real problem is that they have not done much to improve this offseason, and allowed one of their best defensive players in Dontari Poe to leave. The team is also going to be without Jamaal Charles, who is aging and has already gone through two knee surgeries. The other remaining issue is that Alex Smith is not exactly a great starting quarterback, and the team could do much better if they trade up to find a top-4 guy. They stand pat and make do here, choosing to take the Seminole’s career leading rusher in Dalvin Cook. While he tested very poorly at the NFL Combine, Cook’s tape is hard to argue against, and he is a very talented runner that seems to be a boom or bust prospect. While there are some concerns about his off-field character, it doesn’t seem to be a problem to Kansas City after they brought Tyreek Hill onto their team last year.

28. Dallas Cowboys – CB Quincy Wilson, Florida

The Cowboys are in a very good place right now, finding their quarterback and running back of the future in last year’s draft, as well as having a star receiver and great offensive line around him. The problems they must address lie on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the secondary. Dallas lost Mo Claiborne and Barry Church, and while they did bring in Nolan Carroll and trust in Anthony Brown to grow, there is still a need remaining. Here they select Quincy Wilson, another defensive Gator that was a great asset for the team in his time there. He and Jalen Tabor teamed up to be a fantastic cornerback pairing in 2016, and Wilson tested better of the two after some scary numbers from Tabor. Wilson shows traits that could make him a very good or great corner in the NFL, and the Cowboys should not pass up on this opportunity, unless they deem another edge rusher worthy of this selection. Another choice could be Charles Harris from Missouri, or any other EDGE left.

29. Green Bay Packers – CB TreDavious White, LSU

To bring back Mosqueda’s work, he ran the numbers of all of the recent Packers’ draft picks’ athletic profiles, and he found which guys may fit this year here. One of the names that sticks out and is left on the board is TreDavious White out of LSU. He was somewhat forgotten when guys like Lattimore, Conley, and Wilson blew up this season, but White has constantly been a great defensive piece for the Tigers. He was a team leader last season, donning the iconic #18 jersey in Death Valley, and he shows great traits that could make him a premier corner in the league with time. The Packers have a legitimate need for cornerbacks, especially after the last postseason’s showing. Here they can find a new team leader and a great defensive player in White. They may look into other linebackers or defensive linemen, but this seems like the best option available for them now.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers – EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn

The Steelers’ offense will perennially be great, but they need serious work on their defense. They found two young rookies for their secondary in Sean Davis and Artie Burns, but they should not stop there. Here they can add an edge rusher in Lawson that would make the team drastically better. After Jarvis Jones left, their sole good edge player is James Harrison, who had 5 sacks in 2016 and is nearing 40 years of age. Lawson has been a great player for Auburn in recent years, collecting 10.5 sacks in the past two seasons, one of which he was partially injured in. The team should be paying strong attention to the EDGE position in the draft, and here they can get one of the best remaining ones in Lawson. Other options include Charles Harris,  Jordan Willis, and Derek Rivers.

31. Atlanta Falcons – EDGE Jordan Willis, Kansas State

The Falcons were almost able to seal a victory in Super Bowl LI, and they may have if their secondary was healthy. While they will have Desmond Trufant back and locked up in the long term, they should address their defensive line. They signed Dontari Poe from the Chiefs to play in the interior, and Grady Jarrett showed great promise in the Super Bowl to play the 3-technique in their 4-3 front. The last need is one that could push their defense over the edge in 2017, with the selection of former Wildcat Jordan Willis. The team mainly needs a player across from Vic Beasley that is better than Brooks Reed, and that very well could be Willis. When watching him play at Kansas State, he didn’t flash great bend, but he was still able to rush the passer well, and he tested very well for his position at this year’s Combine. It has also been said that the Falcons love him, and will likely choose between him and Derek Rivers when pick 31 rolls around. This is almost a lock to happen next week.

32. New Orleans Saints (from New England) – TE David Njoku, Miami

The Saints made a savvy deal with the Patriots to ship Brandin Cooks out for pick 32, and here they can replace an offensive stud with a player at a bigger position of need with David Njoku. While he doesn’t offer the same Day 1 talent that OJ Howard does, Njoku is an athletic freak that was one of Brad Kaaya’s favorite targets as a member of the Hurricanes. He still needs work as a blocker, but he is one of the better receiving talents at the tight end position this year. This would be a very smart pick if the big tight end is still available at the end of the first round, although the team may still consider drafting another defensive player.

Teams without a first round pick

37. Los Angeles Rams – OT Taylor Moton, Western Michigan

The Rams are a mess, and their huge dumping of draft capital to move up and take a bad quarterback first overall last year will likely haunt them for some time. If the team wants to try to make the best of a bad situation, they should look to build the offensive line around Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, who struggled last year. Greg Robinson might as well officially be a bust, and Rob Havenstein might be salvageable on the right side. Here they can select Taylor Moton from Western Michigan, who may eventually be able to play either side of the line in the future, and would be an immediate upgrade over whoever the team has currently. Moton may need time, but it’s a sure thing that he will be able to play well in the NFL for a while.

48. Minnesota Vikings – WR Zay Jones, East Carolina

The Vikings gave up their first round pick to get a viable quarterback in Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater’s horrific injury, but they are in a better place than Los Angeles is. The team stalled at the end of the regular season, where if their offensive line wasn’t hit with a myriad of injuries they likely could have been a wild card choice. They were able to help themselves a little bit by signing Riley Reiff, but they should consider drafting another linemen early. Here they look at another position of need and fix it with the selection of Zay Jones, who caught a preposterous amount of footballs in the past two years (256, to be exact). Jones is a very good route runner who can compete for the ball when needed to, and he tested well for being an above average-sized receiver. Bradford/Bridgewater would likely enjoy another target that isn’t Adam Thielen, who was great but may not exactly be a premier receiver for the league.

72. New England Patriots – CB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan

The Patriots just won their fifth Super Bowl, and they added an immense amount of talent to make their team even better in the coming season. While they have drastically improved again, there are still some small areas of need to address in the draft. It is likely they get pick 32 back from the Saints in a trade for Malcolm Butler, but this pick will not change because of that. The team needs a new slot cornerback after the departure of Logan Ryan and Butler, who could both play inside and out. Jourdan Lewis was a very good player for the Wolverines, and if his apparent domestic violence charge (which he pleaded not guilty to) is cleared up, the team would likely be interested. He was in for a visit at Patriot Place this past week, and has the talent to be a top-50 player in this year’s class if not for his size and off-field risk. The Patriots are poised to return to the Super Bowl again this season, and adding new players will definitely help them even more. Other options here are EDGE Trey Hendrickson, LB Alex Anzalone, and DL Ryan Glasgow.

JuJu Smith-Schuster Is Being Underrated In A Deep Class

The 2017 NFL Draft is being regarded as a deep draft class at plenty of positions, and wide receiver is one of them. Many argue that you can find a solid player, whether it be a Day 1 starter or a future dependable guy, across the draft. The group is headlined by a big three: college superstar Mike Williams, do-it-all Corey Davis, and speedster John Ross III. There are plenty of other names to be included, while there are others who are rarely mentioned. Count JuJu Smith-Schuster as a member of those forgotten ones.

After three strong seasons playing with average quarterbacks in Cody Kessler, Max Browne, and Sam Darnold, it is time for Smith-Schuster to move on to the NFL. His three seasons (40 games total) included a career statline of 213 catches, 3,092 yards (14.5 yards/reception), and 25 touchdowns. That’s 70 more catches than Odell Beckham Jr., 613 more yards than Allen Robinson, and 7 more touchdowns than Michael Thomas. All of these players played three seasons in college with similar quarterback talent, and all of them have become #1 receivers on their teams. Here’s how Smith-Schuster stacks up against his competition in combine numbers.

NAME 40YD VERT 3CONE BENCH
Smith-Schuster 4.54s 32.5in 6.92s 15rep
Beckham, Jr. 4.43s 38.5in 6.69s 7rep
Robinson 4.60s 39.0in 7.00s n/a
Thomas 4.57s 35.0in 6.80s 18rep

While this doesn’t mean everything, and many systems can be designed around certain players, it is impressive that Smith-Schuster had a better college career than most of these players, even though at times he had lesser talent around him. The knocks for Smith-Schuster, according to CBS, is that he cannot separate from cornerbacks well, and will need to work on refinement of his routes. This is one of the most common weaknesses in the game of many receivers coming from the college game to the NFL. It is very likely that this issue is fixed. His physical ability shows, especially when it comes to contested catches and having to block in the run game. He ran faster than everyone on this last except for Beckham, Jr., who is two inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. All signs point to him being a good NFL receiver, and reaching that level quickly with the right quarterback and offense with him.

In a league that is increasingly looking to pass the ball upwards of 35 times a game, strong receivers are necessary up and down the depth chart, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, listed as the 9th best receiver in this draft class, deserves a much higher spot than he is being given. Virtually every facet of his game is refined, and he will be able to compete early on in his NFL career for starting snaps. He will likely end up being drafted in a similar position as Allen Robinson was, and have a similar career trajectory where he will be a top receiver for his team soon after he starts. After the “Big Three” of this year’s receivers, Smith-Schuster should be right behind them, and deserves to be a top-50 pick when the draft rolls around.

Describe in Five: Cam Robinson

Now that the NFL Draft Combine has wrapped up, we now have the fullest view we can get of most of the draft’s prospects. This allows us to finalize rankings, or our so called “big boards,” and determine who us experts have ranked in order based on talent. There are plenty of talented prospects across all possible rounds of the draft, and there will surely be steals and busts labeled everywhere. Players will be knocked for random things, and we’ll hear plenty from “an anonymous scout” until the Draft rolls around in late April. One of the guys who may have some news and highlights around him is the offensive tackle from Alabama, Cam Robinson. Robinson was in some legal troubles that made people doubt his round 1 pedigree, but it is clear that he is one of the best offensive tackles in the class. The goal of Describe in Five is to try to get the best picture of a prospect in just five .gifs, with an explanation behind each one. While you can see who we’ve already discussed here, it’s time to look at the offensive line, starting with Robinson.

5. vs. Texas A&M (2016)

tamt

This is the best example of Robinson’s ability in college. He faced off against the consensus #1 prospect in this year’s draft in Texas A&M rusher Myles Garrett, and for the most part, he had a good game. On this play, he is able to easily set his base while Garrett starts his wrap-around speed rush. Robinson is able to shut him down before he can get outside, and he keeps him in place while the rest of the pocket stays clean for quarterback Jalen Hurts. The pass was incomplete, but it shows Robinson’s ability to shut down strong rushers. He is even able to stop the counter move from Garrett when he tries to push inside. Robinson is even able to stop him so well that the rusher disengages and sets up to make another run before the pass. Robinson is a strong pass blocker, and it is clearly on display here and for most of this game.

4. vs. LSU (2015)

lsu

Run blocking is half the battle as an offensive lineman, and Cam Robinson is a solid one. Here he ends up blocking edge rusher Arden Key, who is part of a 5-2 formation. This play clearly shows Robinson’s ability to keep his legs driving and how he can latch onto a defender that he is blocking. Leg drive shows his lower body strength that is so vital for a lineman, and his strength to not allow his defender to disengage is very important. This is solid blocking that any running back would like to have. The rest of the line may not be doing the same, but Robinson is clearly doing his job on this play.

3. vs. Tennessee (2016)

tenn

This is a play that highlights a clear problem with Robinson’s kick slide, which turns into doubting his pass protection. The good part about his short, choppy slide is that it allows him to keep a strong base and take rushers head on. Here it becomes a problem when he’s facing an edge rusher who sticks to using his speed alone to win. Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett is able to burst off the line and bend under Robinson, who is getting beat laterally. Robinson ends up reaching for Barnett, who sneaks past him and is able to get a fumble-sack on Alabama’s freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. When Robinson is using his choppy steps to set his base, a quick edge rusher is able to speed off the line and beat him, which leads Robinson to miss on his block and allow his quarterback to get hit. There are some clear pros and cons when it comes to Robinson’s kick slide, but this displays a clear con.

2. vs. Mississippi State (2015)

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This play is able to show Robinson’s ability to get to the second level of the defense. Offensive linemen being able to move forward quickly is important, especially on a run play. Here he gets past the defensive end who is collapsing on the weakside run, and moves up to the MIKE linebacker. While he misses the block, the burst is shown on the play, and that’s what matters most. The projection is the most important part of evaluation, and it’s clear that Robinson could do this in the NFL. He is a slightly above average run blocker, and his quickness will help him in the future. While some may believe this is a skill that mostly guards need, it is beneficial if you have five offensive linemen that can move well, and it can add a new element to the running game. Robinson could be one of those five players.

1. vs. Western Kentucky (2016)

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Lateral movement is important for offensive linemen, and while it’s not vital to a team’s offense, it can help coordinators run certain plays and increase the chance of success for some offenses. Robinson shows off his quickness here on a screen play. While receiver Calvin Ridley doesn’t use his block, Robinson paves over a defensive back crashing on the play. If the other blockers were able to do their job, a decent hole near the sideline would have been open for Ridley. This is a good example of the tackle’s ability to make blocks on the move, as well as his ability to actually get to the spot. Offensive line coaches will like his quickness and strength on the move, and it can add portions to the offense that teams with less athletic tackles can’t run.

In Conclusion

Cam Robinson may be the best offensive tackle in this class, and he is a good candidate to start on the blind side for a team in 2017. He has good talent, solid techniques, and decent athleticism for a position that doesn’t often require it. While there are some mechanics, like his kick slide, that some teams might not like, there are certainly teams that value his skillset and would like to draft him early on. He should be a Day 1 pick in the draft, and a Day 1 starter in the NFL for the right team.

Describe in Five: Jamal Adams

Now that the NFL Draft Combine has wrapped up, we now have the fullest view we can get of most of the draft’s prospects. This allows us to finalize rankings, or our so called “big boards,” and determine who us experts have ranked in order based on talent. There are plenty of talented prospects across all possible rounds of the draft, and there will surely be steals and busts labeled everywhere. Players will be knocked for random things, and we’ll hear plenty from “an anonymous scout” until the Draft rolls around in late April. One of the guys who may have some news and highlights around him is former LSU safety Jamal Adams. Adams enjoyed a breakout year in 2016 where he showed his skillset that makes him arguably the most talented safety in the draft. While others may be better in one area or another, Adams has the best all-around talent of all. The goal of Describe in Five is to try to get the best picture of a prospect in just five .gifs, with an explanation behind each one. While you can see who we’ve already discussed here, we are going to focus our attention on the former Tiger, Adams.

5. vs. Alabama (2016)

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This play is able to show off Adams’ zone coverage ability. He reads Aabama quarterback Jalen Hurts’ eyes to understand where he wants to go with the ball, and gets himself into position to make a play where receiver ArDarius Stewart should be. While Hurts may have been targeting the underneath receiver, he overthrows his man and Adams is able to make a play on the ball during Alabama’s first offensive possession. The LSU safety’s ability to play in zone is a major part of the game as a safety, and Adams clearly has this talent.

4. vs. Texas A&M (2016)

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This play helps show off Adams’ play recognition and burst to get to the ball. As soon as the ball is snapped and he sees the two outside receivers blocking, he knows this is a screen pass. His man is the receiver, so he attacks the ball before it is thrown, and shows up in time to stop the target behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of a yard or two. This is exactly what you want to see from a defensive back in man coverage, and it is a great example of Adams’ “football IQ”.  He is also able to make a secure low tackle, which he hasn’t always shown the ability to do. Sniffing out plays before they happen is a special talent in the NFL, and when a young player like Adams can do it, it is a great indicator for his success at the next level, as long as he continues to be correct.

3. vs. Wisconsin (2016)

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One of Jamal Adams’ greatest skills is his ability to sniff out ball carriers, and it especially shows in his run defense. While he isn’t making the tackle on Wisconsin back Corey Clement, you can see him “sift through trash” and make his way to the ball carrier, and he is the only defender not on the play-side to get to the ball. Being able to sift through trash and flow to the play is an ability that linebackers and defensive backs should be able to showcase in the run game, and here Adams does it well. His talent at finding the ball carrier is special, and it helps add to his case in the hopes of him getting selected early on in the draft.

2. vs. Florida (2016)

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While Adams is a hard hitter that is considered strong for his position, there are times where it does not show. This also shows his poor tackling technique at times. Florida’s running back, Jordan Scarlett, is a decent power runner, but Adams should be able to bring him down here. He attacks the ball carrier too high, and instead of going for a low, secure tackle, keeps trying to bring him down up high as he is carried for an extra 10 yards. This is an issue that some players show in college, where they go for the highlight play like stripping the ball or laying the wood on a ball carrier, and instead are made to look foolish. Here Adams is the victim, but this won’t always happen to him.

1. vs. Texas Tech (2015 Texas Bowl)

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Adams again shows off his great ability to attack ball carriers and read plays early. It’s also a play that shows off his skillset against another highly regarded talent in this year’s draft, Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes. Here the Red Raiders are running a screen pass, and Adams sees the delay from the back and the offensive lineman break away from the strong side. Adams reads this and makes a break for the running back as soon as Mahomes turns to face the play. As the back starts to come down with the ball, Adams is there to lay a hard hit on him, making him drop the ball and possibly force a fumble. The mental side of football is more than half the battle, and Adams’ mental capacity when it comes to the passing game is incredibly important. He is a special player here, and he should be able to continue this trend into his NFL game.

In Conclusion

Jamal Adams is well deserving of being given the title of the best safety in the 2017 NFL Draft. He hows the ability to play the passing game both in man and zone, and he is a great run defender. His hard hits add even more value to his game, as well as his special teams ability (he played as a gunner for the punt team at LSU). While he could use some work on his tackling ability, Adams is a special talent at a position that doesn’t have as much value as others. While convention may say that drafting a safety in the top 10 of the draft is a bad idea, if a team is going to do it, they should choose Jamal Adams.

Describe in Five: Marshon Lattimore

Now that the NFL Draft Combine has wrapped up, we now have the fullest view we can get of most of the draft’s prospects. This allows us to finalize rankings, or our so called “big boards,” and determine who us experts have ranked in order based on talent. There are plenty of talented prospects across all possible rounds of the draft, and there will surely be steals and busts labeled everywhere. Players will be knocked for random things, and we’ll hear plenty from “an anonymous scout” until the Draft rolls around in late April. One of the guys who may have some news and highlights around him is former Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore starred in his one season starting, and he just may be the best corner in a draft class full of legitimate starting talent. The goal of Describe in Five is to try to get the best picture of a prospect in just five .gifs, with an explanation behind each one. While you can see who we’ve already discussed here, now we shift to the defensive side and take a look at things with Lattimore.

5. vs. Oklahoma (2016)

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This is one of the plays that makes Lattimore so special. He is able to bait the quarterback, Baker Mayfield, into throwing to his receiver because it appears that Lattimore is lagging behind. Once the ball is thrown, he uses his catch up speed to get in front of the pass and return it for 10 or 15 yards. “Baiting” the quarterback is a move that faster and smarter cornerbacks can use, and in an era where teams are passing 30-35 times a game, it is a great trick to keep in the back pocket. Lattimore’s incredible athleticism helps him do this, and he made a very good read on the play when making it.

4. vs. Oklahoma (2016)

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Another impressive play from the same game here for Lattimore. He frequently played “bail” coverage in this game, where instead of facing the receiver, the cornerback turns and runs to cover vertical routes. On this play, he does a very good job of staying on top of the receiver so as to disrupt the route. The quarterback still tries to throw the pass with the expectation that the receiver will fight for it, but Lattimore is able to catch up to the ball and make a great interception late in the game. Man coverage skills like these, especially in different techniques, are great to have, and many teams will be looking for a cover corner with Lattimore’s skills.

3. vs. Wisconsin (2016)

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One area of play on defense that many people fail to look into with cornerbacks is run defense. Tackling and being able to play the run is an extremely important thing for every player on defense, and Lattimore shows that he has that ability. Here he is able to sniff out of the running back and sort of flow down to the play and make a strong tackle. Corey Clement is a very good running back with decent strength, but Lattimore is able to wrap up his lower body and bring him down, which is very sound technique for a member of the secondary. Stopping the run is half the battle on defense, and with Lattimore, you have a corner that can help you with that.

2. vs. Michigan (2016)

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Here is one area that Lattimore will need to work on in the pros: route recognition. Here he is playing with the bail technique again, this time against Michigan receiver Amara Darboh. Lattimore reads the play as a vertical route, but Darboh is able to make it into a sort of hitch route where he can sit below a linebacker in zone coverage and beat out Lattimore. He is lost on the play, and this is a common thing in the NFL. Cornerbacks need to be able to recognize the route their receiver is running, and Lattimore missed out here. Plays like these get easier with more work in practice, so it will likely be something that is smoothed over in time.

1. vs. Nebraska (2016)

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Ball skills are what people care about the most with players in the defensive secondary, and Lattimore definitely has them. He had 4 interceptions and 11 passes defensed in his one year as a starter. This play accurately shows what he can do. While he is being beaten vertically, Lattimore is able to catch up and make a diving pass break up on a big play. If he misses this, it is easily a touchdown for the Huskers. He does well to keep up the hand fighting as the ball is coming down, and he times his reach perfectly with the receiver jumping and coming down with the ball. This is exactly how you want to see this ball played, and it is an important trait to have for cornerbacks.

In Conclusion

Marshon Lattimore was a great one-year wonder for the Buckeyes, and he showed in that one season that he has traits that translate well to being a top cover corner in the NFL. He showed great ball skills, solid coverage techniques, and good skills in the run game and tackling. While it may take him some time to the adjust to the NFL game and play style, he could likely be a #1 shutdown corner for a team picking in the top of the first round of this draft. If a team in the top 10 picks is in need of a new #1 (like the Jets after losing Darrelle Revis), they would be smart to choose him, where they get a great starting defensive piece from Day 1 on.