Wearing Down Defenses: Quarter-by-Quarter Rushing Breakdown

Many of the “bruiser” type running backs in the NFL are praised for being able to “wear out” the defense. As the game goes on, they start to gain more and more yards because the defense is tired and can’t hold on in their hits. One rusher that heard plenty of this was former Patriot LeGarrette Blount. His aggressive and physical running style was praised by fans in the fourth quarter, but in the majority of the rest of the game he would get tripped up early on, or dance in the backfield too often for a slower back. One would assume he earned the majority of his yards late in the game. We can take the top 10 rushers from the 2016 season and compare them all to see if these assumptions hold up.


LeGarrette Blount should be one of the best fourth quarter rushers on this last. He had 90 carries for 357 yards in the fourth quarter last year. That’s good for 3.96 yards per carry, just about a tenth more than he averaged this year. He did his best work in the first and fourth quarters, which makes a lot of sense for a rusher who should be used to set the tone in a game. The biggest difference between first and fourth quarter rushers was in David Johnson’s game, with a 12.28% difference.

The best fourth quarter rusher in terms of yards was Ezekiel Elliott, who had 84 carries for 404 yards (4.8 yards per carry). Elliott wasn’t known as a strictly power runner coming out of college, and he did his best work at the end of the game. The best first quarter rusher was also Elliott, with 95 carries for 528 yards (5.6ypc). LeSean McCoy came close in terms of an efficiency basis, averaging 5.1 yards per carry in the opening frame.

Most of the best rushers have a balanced attack throughout the game. There isn’t a huge difference in the game for last year’s top ten, but many of them go through different approaches. The best comparison for Blount is likely Bears rookie Jordan Howard, who is almost the same size, and collected relatively similar totals early on in the game, while deviating greatly in the fourth. All things considered, the size of the back doesn’t particularly matter when you want a better late-game rusher as much as the overall efficiency of the back does.

2018 Potential Cap Savers

Each free agency period, teams pledge hundreds of millions of dollars to players that have never been within their own systems, taking on new roles and expecting big breakouts. As you can imagine, these deals don’t always go the right way, and teams are forced to get rid of the players at some point to relieve salary cap space. While the cap rises each year, there are always new players coming onto the market that front offices see as better fits, so they clear out space to add the new players. Whether it be due to a scheme mismatch or just poor play in general, big-deal players get cut all the time. Each team has some, whether they come from their own team or if they are free agent add-ons. Let’s look through which players could get cut from teams before the 2018 season.

Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Cap Hit: $20,600,000 (11.3% of cap)

Dead Money: $3,600,000 (nets $17,000,000)

Smith has been one of the most boring and unexciting quarterbacks in the league, and their offense and team as a whole will not move forward until he is replaced. 2017 10th overall draft pick Patrick Mahomes was chosen for this sole reason, and he should be ready to replace the former Utah Ute as soon as the 2017 regular season. Smith could certainly be on the outs soon, as trade bait or as an outright cut. The Chiefs have an estimated $-15 million in cap space for 2018, and this would allow them to clear a roster spot for a veteran option in free agency.

Derek Wolfe, DL, Denver Broncos

Cap Hit: $10,925,000 (6.65% of cap)

Dead Money: $3,750,000 (nets $7,175,000)

Wolfe has been an important part of a Broncos defensive line that has lost key players for much of the past few years. He also has suffered plenty of injuries throughout those years. Wolfe plays through most of these, and has hit a recent span of back-to-back solid years with near 50 tackles and 5.5 sacks consecutively. He also hasn’t topped 6 sacks since his rookie year in 2012 and is being paid like a top 15 defensive end, which he is not. On a team that may be facing a mini-rebuild in the coming years, Wolfe would be a nice piece to send away for a late Day 2 or early Day 3 draft pick in 2018. For a team projected to have less than $4 million in cap space, this would be ideal.

Byron Maxwell, CB, Miami Dolphins

Cap Hit: $10,000,000 (5.56% of cap)

Dead Money: $0 (nets $10,000,00)

The Dolphins have been in a bit of purgatory since Ryan Tannehill came to the team, but they finally made the playoffs last season. The team was expected to get better before their quarterback was injured and out for the season, but now this has unfolded this seems like a wasted year. Maxwell came with linebacker Kiko Alonso in a trade with the Eagles, and while Alonso has been much better, Maxwell has been an okay player. He is paid much more than what he is worth, and the team should look to either move him or cut him soon. He could fetch a Day 3 pick from a team that is in desperate need of secondary help, and his absence of dead money is a positive in negotiations. Miami is expected to have $-12 million in cap space, and this almost lets them break even.

Sean Smith, CB, Oakland Raiders

Cap Hit: $8,500,000 (5.18% of cap)

Dead Money: $0 (nets $8,500,000)

Sean Smith is playing behind an undrafted defensive back in training camp this year, and one of Oakland’s prized signings from last offseason isn’t looking too great right now. There’s a good chance his starting spot is taken over by 2017 first round pick Gareon Conley in this season, and that leaves someone being paid over $8 million in a bad spot. Smith was expected to be an important piece in a secondary in dire need of help, and it never worked out. He probably wouldn’t fetch much on the trade market for Reggie Mackenzie and co., but the lack of dead money is a nice way to get out of a contract with no penalty. The Raiders are projected to have just $4 million in cap space, and this cut would allow them to sign a legitimate player in the secondary.

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

Cap Hit: $22,200,000 (13.96% of cap)

Dead Money: $12,400,000 (nets $9,800,000)

This may be a surprise to Giants fans who are blind to this, but Eli Manning was not a great quarterback last season, and he’s never really been special. While PFF insists that interception rates have decreased in recent years, Elisha’s has been high, especially for someone who is considered a Hall of Famer by many. The Giants have a few problems on offense (certainly not receiver), and removing a quarterback that costs this much would help them fix other problems. Saving that near-$10 million in space would allow them to pick up a mid-high tier running back, as well as possibly pick up a draft pick in a trade to use on a new, younger quarterback. The Giants have a projected $9 million in space for now, and if they added $9,800,000 to that, that’s enough money to sign a good quarterback (or let Geno Smith play. #Believe)

What to Expect: Patriots vs. Jaguars

Well, we’ve finally made it.

The Patriots are returning to the field for the first time since winning Super Bowl 51. There will be plenty of interesting things to pay attention to this week. Although they are playing the Jacksonville Jaguars, who aren’t exactly a contender this year, new players have been brought into the Patriots’ system, and tonight will be the first glimpse into how those players will be used throughout the season. Rookies will have their chance to shine against NFL talent and compete for a spot on one of the most stacked 53 man rosters in the league. Let’s see what we should be expecting in this week’s game.

1. Defense on Display

“Defense wins championships.” That’s the truth. And it appears as though the Patriots defense might be better than last year’s. It will be put to the test early on, with the fourth overall pick Leonard Fournette rushing against them. Blake Bortles might not be a star, but with receivers like Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, it will be important to shore up the secondary early on. Rookies like Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler will get to test their pass-rushing prowess, while DJ Killings and Kenny Moore will test their fortitude in the secondary. We will also see linebackers Harvey Langi and Brooks Ellis backing the front seven. I would expect the Patriots to hold the Jaguars to less than 4 yards per carry, while keeping the team under 300 passing yards and collecting 2 or 3 sacks. Allowing 13-16 points would make sense.

2. Third String Strength

We found out what Jimmy Garoppolo was in the 2016 regular season. We saw a glimpse of a young Jacoby Brissett in Weeks 3 and 4 last year as well. While it is uncommon for a backup “project” quarterback to impress three weeks into his career, the first year teaches rookies plenty. They are generally able to build on it in the second year. A third string quarterback isn’t going to be a gamechanger, but it can be fun to see them perform against young players from the other teams. Going against a Jaguars secondary that doesn’t have plenty of studs after their top pairing should allow Brissett to do something for the Patriots. Fans should expect about 150 yards and a touchdown from Brissett, and not much more.

3. Second Year Studs

Many of the Patriots’ starters will not be playing in tonight’s game,  but there are some second year players that we should expect to play major minutes. Devin Lucien and new 2017 addition KJ Maye could be the top two receivers for the team, while Glenn Gronkowski will likely get some play as a fullback blocking for impressive sophomore DJ Foster. We can also expect Ted Karras to play a lot of minutes as either a guard or center. Vincent Valentine and Woodrow Hamilton are the top two defensive tackles ahead of the rookies. Valentine was impressive as a rookie, and Hamilton made some moves when he had a chance to play in the regular season. Jonathan Jones will be the starting nickel cornerback tonight, with Cyrus Jones being given a chance as well. Cyrus played was slightly below average as an actual cornerback last season, but as a returner he was abysmal. Giving him a chance to play more defense will be good, as well as allowing some leeway in the return game considering it’s preseason. Reasonably, Maye could have 50-75 yards, while Gronkowski provides good blocking for Foster, who could see 65-100 yards on the ground. Karras should be solid. Valentine and Hamilton will be a force in the run game, and the two Joneses can provide solid coverage in the passing game. Cyrus Jones should provide a few 10-15 yard punt returns, with a muffed punt being very likely.

Has The NFL Really Become A “Passing League”?

The NFL has seen plenty of different evolutionary effects across its lifetime. The invention of different positions and playing styles has drastically changed the game from how it used to be, even in the past decade or so. While all of these changes have occurred, many believe that the NFL is now a “passing league.” Up until the 1940s, the leagues didn’t even have a player throwing passes. Now, the quarterback position can be considered the most important out of all 22 players on the field. Teams win and lose based on how well their quarterback plays, and defenses shape their schemes differently each week to defend the better passers.

While many have talked about the league being a passing league, we can’t say for sure it’s true until we look at how teams collect their yards. We also cannot tell if the league has become more prone to passing unless we look at historical trends over time. For now, we can start with the 1970s, when football started to come into its own and become one of the top sports in America. We can compare the percentages of yards and touchdowns that came from passing and rushing from the average of all the top offenses in each decade (top offenses being the ones who scored the most points, NOT the most yards). Without further ado, let’s take a look.





The data that comes from this is pretty interesting. The total yard numbers trended upward quickly twice, with either a fall or short gain in between (70s to 80s, 00s to 10s). The number of pass yards decreased just once, from the 80s to the 90s, which could be tied to the talent at subsequent positions at times. From 2000 on, passing offenses haven’t looked back, and rushing numbers have consistently decreased. It’s clear that most teams keep around a 65-35 balance of passing and rushing, even as numbers changed in both touchdowns and yards. While the numbers may average there, it has become increasingly clear since the 70s that the league is now a passing league, jumping from 51.14% in the 70s to almost 70% in the current decade. This is a large difference that easily shows the stark contrasts in era. This also shows how it can complicate the comparisons between different quarterbacks. When Terry Bradshaw was winning his rings, teams were almost perfectly balanced, with 51-49 and 52-48 pass-run ratios in yards and touchdowns, respectively. Now, when guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are winning, teams are increasingly relying on their quarterbacks, with 68-32 and 60-40 pass-run splits in the 2000s, and 70-30 splits in the 2010s. It is clear that the league is trending toward the passing game, and the real question should be when the next evolution and trend back towards balancing the offense begins.

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.


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.

The Running Quarterback’s Conundrum

Quarterbacks with enough athletic ability are often some of the most fun to watch. Whether it be college or NFL-level play, “mobile” QBs are able to make plays with their feet and arms, which is exciting for fans, and allows teams to do plenty more than they could with a “regular” passer. This is a relatively new dimension of the game that can be taken advantage of now, and it makes the game better in all cases.

Many people look at the stats of these running quarterbacks and are surprised at what they see. The numbers seem to bare a stark difference in terms of completion percentages, which is regarded as an important stat for QBs. Cam Newton, considered one of the better “running QBs” of this generation of passers, had a frightening 52.9% completion rate. This didn’t give a great look to this group of players, but there may be a reason behind it.

Recently, Derrik Klassen, a former colleague (RIP QB Mecca) and all-around knowledgeable person, posed a question on Twitter.

This question seems to provide a logical answer to the reasoning for such low completion percentages. But we don’t know that is exactly what happens. So let’s look at the data and find out.

We can take a select group of 5 “running” quarterbacks. Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Mike Vick, Marcus Mariota, and Tyrod Taylor. Let’s consider their run/pass ratio, attempts and yards in a season, and then their passing stats in seasons in which they threw at least 200 passes. Then we can compare to a group of “average” quarterbacks, say, Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford, Derek Carr, Sam Bradford, and Philip Rivers. Look at the tables below to see how they match up.



The league average completion percentage for QBs with at least 200 attempts is 63.33%. Completion averages highlighted in red are below that mark.

There is some interesting data to be found here. Running quarterbacks average 100-200 less passing attempts than their peers, while averaging 40-50 more rushing attempts. The pass/run ratios for running quarterbacks is significantly low, with an average around 5.1/1, where a regular quarterback’s hovers around 19.5/1. Running quarterbacks clearly recorded below-average completion percentage numbers, but so did 3 of the 5 regular quarterbacks (who are considered in the top half of the league by most). The yards per attempt numbers are relatively similar, but the yards per completion is very different. Only one running quarterback averaged less than 12 yards per completion, and he (Tyrod Taylor) missed it by .1 yard. On the other hand, just two regular quarterbacks recorded over an average of 12 yards per completion.

This would generally mean that while running quarterbacks are throwing less, they are getting more yards for each time they throw the ball. You could conclude that this means they are throwing less checkdowns than their peers, and instead running the ball. These running quarterbacks are averaging 5 rushes for 33 yards a game, or 6.4 yards per rush. That’s about 2-3 yards more per carry than a running back would get. You could infer that a quarterback running the ball instead of throwing a checkdown will get them more yards, and it will also hurt the defense in that they have to worry about the quarterback running instead of just the passing game and the running backs.

All in all, it’s possible that running quarterbacks are better for an offense, even with the decrease in completion percentage. It makes the offense more multi-dimensional, and with a smart offensive coordinator, it can be lethal. Rushing is an important part of the game, and when your passer can do it, it’s that much better.

Describe in Five: Corey Davis

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 Western Michigan’s Corey Davis. A lower-level FBS star for a few years with the Broncos, Davis is going to be a premium pick at the wide receiver position with his skill set. 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 moving on to one of the top wide receivers in the class with Davis.

1. vs. Wisconsin (2017 Cotton Bowl)


After an undefeated season playing smaller schools, Western Michigan was able to get a Cotton Bowl bid against Wisconsin. While the Badgers were much tougher than the rest of the Broncos’ opponents, Davis was still able to make this impressive touchdown catch that could’ve been important to a WMU comeback. After his initial route fails and quarterback Zach Terrell needs to find another man, Davis makes a break towards the opposite end of the end zone and is able to reach over the man in coverage to make the catch. This is impressive tracking and catch in traffic skills puts into use. It also shows that Davis understands the hole in the coverage after the play breaks down. This is an important trait, especially when playing against better defenses in the NFL.

2. vs. Eastern Michigan (2016)


Here we see an area that is one of Davis’ strengths, and one that is a weakness of his. The strength is his run after the catch (RAC) ability. He is able to catch  the ball while being hit, and also able to spin off the defender and try to work for more yards before being tackled by more than half the defense. His RAC ability was one of the best in college football last year, and with his size it’s a great thing to have. The area in which he has some struggles is his route running. The Broncos are running a sort of levels concept in which in routes are run at different levels to make the safety bite on one. Davis sort of rounds out his route instead of making a hard cut which can help shake the defender. The man in coverage is able to easily follow with him while playing off coverage, and joins in on the tackle. The cut in a route is one of the most important parts of it, and one aspect that Davis could use work on.

3. vs. Ball State


This is another area in which Davis struggles at times, but is not always shown: “focus drops.” This is a catch that if made would likely be a home run. While a bit underthrown, there is not enough coverage on Davis that warrants a drop, and he should be able to bring this in and possibly get the touchdown. Davis’ separation is great, especially on deep routes, but he needs to work on finishing the play and bringing balls like this one in.

4. vs. Ball State (2016)


A few plays later, Davis goes and does this. His ability to make contested catches is almost unmatched in this class, and he shows it off well here, reaching over a cornerback to snag a 55 yard touchdown pass. A receiver that has a catch radius and ability like Davis is able to mask mistakes made by quarterbacks at times, and he would be a great benefactor for any offense. Davis’ leaping ability is also shown here, and it adds a great aspect to his game when he can reach balls that smaller defenders can’t.

5. vs. Toledo (2016)


This is one of my personal favorites while watching Davis. His red zone ability is great, and he plays big here. Davis tosses the defender aside while he fakes a fade route, then breaks back to the ball and keeps both feet in bounds while he comes down with it. This play was run in a similar fashion by a certain All-Pro tight end for the Patriots in 2015. It’s what you look for in a big wide receiver in the red zone, and Davis is one of the best there. Bigger receivers need to be able to use their size to their advantage, and there’s two ways of doing that; you can either beat them in the air on a jump ball, or beat them on the ground with physicality. Davis chooses the latter, and it works well for him and the quarterback Terrell here.

In Conclusion

Corey Davis seemed to have a few issues against top competition, but his all around skill set as a wide receiver gives me no pause in his ability to translate to the league. He will likely be a top 15 pick in this year’s draft, and he will likely have a strong career full of 1,000+ yard seasons. Davis needs to work on limiting focus drops and improve the refinement of his route running, but these are common problems that virtually every wide receiver is able to fix when they come to the NFL. His run after the catch ability, especially while being 6-3, is unmatched by the other big bodied receivers in this class, and will be a crucial part to his game at the next level. There is no doubt that Davis will be a great player in the NFL.

Describe in Five: Leonard Fournette

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 player that may be mentioned in the conversations is Leonard Fournette, who is the top running back in this year’s draft. Fournette was a star for LSU’s run-first offense since his freshman year, and he has succeeded for three straight years and will now head to the NFL to be a great player. There are virtually zero scenarios in which Fournette is not picked within the top 10 of the draft. 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. After talking about Deshaun Watson yesterday, we can move on to someone who is considered the best running back in Fournette.

1. vs. Alabama (2016)


This is a solid example of Fournette’s balance and running ability. Alabama’s defense beat up on the Tigers’ offensive line all night long, and general held the running back to a small amount of yardage. On this play he’s able to pick up just about 9 yards and show off his short jump cuts, vision, and ability to stay on his feet when a defender comes in contact with him. This game was full of bad plays from the offensive line and at times, Fournette himself, but there were points in the game that showcased his abilities and why he is considered such a good running back.

2. vs. Wisconsin (2016)


In the season opener for the Tigers, Wisconsin’s defense was able to key in Fournette’s run for most of the game.There were points at which he was able to break off some big runs, though, like the one shown above. This play shows Fournette’s vision when reading blocks and running lanes, and his ability to move to the open lane as fast as possible and get outside. After a slow start when the Badgers’ defense was on to him, Fournette was able to collect six yards a carry and finished with almost 140 yards. This is a good example of him being able to make some yards for himself.

3. vs. Mississippi State (2016)


This shows a time where Fournette misses a chance to create a couple yards for himself and settles for getting stopped just after the line of scrimmage. He tries to lower his shoulder to beat the safety coming down, but the SAM linebacker is able to read the run and help secure the tackle. Fournette has the opportunity to make a cut outside, where there is just a cornerback waiting for him with a receiver able to offer blocking. This is an issue that could possibly be fixed, but vision issues have plagued top running backs before (hey, Trent Richardson).

4. vs. Mississippi State (2016)


People looking at the stat sheet for Fournette’s game vs. Miss State would probably be impressed: he rushed for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns. What they won’t see is that he also lost the ball twice, and one came on a fourth down play that could’ve been important to the game. This is ball security that you don’t want to see. A running back should be able to hold onto the ball through a rip, especially when he already has two hands on. In 2016, Fournette fumbled 3 times on 129 carries. That turns out to be an average of one fumble every 43 carries. If Fournette ends up being your primary back, that means that he’s going to fumble once every game or two, which is not ideal with a “star” back.

5. vs. Ole Miss (2016)


This was an interesting play that shows a few things. First, Fournette is lined up as the offset fullback on this play, and he runs a flare to the flat to catch a pass. Fournette is normally targeted about 2 or 3 times a game as a receiver, so it was good to see him catch the ball and make it work after the catch. The play also shows Fournette’s ability to turn his speed into power, when he crushes a defensive back that tries to tackle low on him. While the DB was using the correct technique, Fournette’s ability to lower himself to that level and deliver a blow like this is impressive. Power backs are important in the NFL, and Fournette has that sort of element to his game while keeping speed in as an option as well.

In Conclusion

Leonard Fournette has been called a generational talent since stepping into Death Valley. I do not believe he is one of those that will be considered an all-time great, but I believe that Fournette will be very successful in his career and end up a Hall of Fame candidate. He is a strong runner and is able to create for himself when he can lower his shoulder on smaller targets. Fournette spends too much time dancing in the backfield at times, and that will lead to issues if he does not have a strong offensive line playing in front of him. He also needs to improve a bit on his ball security, as it could end up being a problem like former LSU back Stevan Ridley. If he has a group of road graders that can create holes for him, he will have an Ezekiel Elliott-type rookie year. If he goes to a team like the New York Jets that is rebuilding their offensive line, he will need time to develop his creation skills. For now he is a great talent that needs to be put in the right place to succeed in the NFL.

Describe in Five: Deshaun Watson

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 player that a lot of these topics will surround is Deshaun Watson, who is arguably the best quarterback in the draft. The former Clemson Tiger capped off his college career with a comeback win in the College Football Playoff Championship, and he will likely be QB1 and a top 10 pick. 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. What better place to start than with the best quarterback in the draft?

1. vs. Alabama (CFP Champ., 2016)


This play shows Watson’s ability to understand coverages, and it came during one of the most important plays of the Championship Game. On third down, and just out of field goal range, Watson sends receiver Hunter Renfrow across the formation. Since Alabama’s cornerback (#2) follows him, Watson knows this is man coverage, with a good amount of space between the two.

d read

The cornerback gives Renfrow a solid 7 or 8 yard cushion, which Watson takes advantage of to throw a quick slant pass to give Clemson an important first down and put them into better field goal range.


2. vs. Ohio State (CFP)


People have been knocking Watson for his low velocity score at the Combine, but when you watch his play it certainly isn’t noticeable. If he really is throwing the ball slow, he makes up for it with great anticipation, timing, and ball placement. He is able to keep the ball away from defenders like he does, threading a pass between a linebacker and cornerback to Hunter Renfrow for a first down.

3. vs. Florida State


One thing Deshaun Watson deserves credit for that he doesn’t often get is his toughness. His offensive line played poorly in 2016, and he had to take plenty of hits that many other signal callers around him weren’t faced with. In this play he shows off his ability to stand tall and take a hit while making a throw. One play after a missed facemask penalty by DeMarcus Christmas sacked him, Watson shifts out of the collapsing pocket, plants, and makes a throw to Renfrow for a near first down in the fourth quarter.

4. vs. Auburn


Plays like these are where the velocity problems will show up with Watson. Outside screen and swing passes are often going to be led by wide receivers blocking, and they cannot be expected to hold their blocks for more than a few seconds. The premise is to create a hole for the screen receiver to be able to get around those defenders and get to the open field. When the ball takes too long to get to the receiver, the blocks will be lost and the receiver is not going to get where he needs to go (in this case, the first down marker). While Mike Williams is one of the best physical pass catchers in college football last year, he should not be expected to beat a linebacker coming right for him and get the extra yard for the first down. If the ball is there sooner from Watson, he has a better chance, but it fails because of the slow delivery.

5. vs. South Carolina


The final play we’ll look at is one against South Carolina. While most teams don’t often continue passing while up by 35 points in the second half, Clemson did, and it worked out for them here. This play shows Watson’s anticipation skills. He has a wheel route run out of the backfield by running back Corey Fuller, which was a common play for the team in 2016. Before Fuller even beats his man, Watson is preparing to throw to him. He uses a pump fake to move the linebacker, which gives the receiver a better chance to use his speed to win the route. Watson then drops a nice, arcing pass over the linebacker to Fuller, who is able to bring it down in the end zone and collecting the 6th touchdown for the Tigers on the day.


While Watson may have some knocks to his game, such a few questionable decisions and a slow velocity, he is the best quarterback in this year’s draft. While he should not be given full credit for beating Alabama in the National Championship game, he is a quarterback that puts his team in the best position to succeed and will not be making mistakes when the game is on the line. Watson may not be the first quarterback picked in this year’s draft, but he certainly has the tools to be the most successful of the bunch.


Teams That Could Host The Johnny Manziel Comeback

After a tumultuous two seasons in the NFL, Johnny Manziel was out of the pros in 2016. He has suffered due to a lack of discipline and poor play, including the team around him when he played in Cleveland. While Manziel showed some flashes, he ultimately was not what the Browns were looking for, and after a domestic violence charge came up, he was released in early 2016. After a year off, a stint in rehab, and some personal work, the former Texas A&M star is ready to compete for a job in the NFL again. There are plenty of teams in need of a quarterback, and word is that not many executives are high on this year’s draft class. Now that the first wave of free agency is over and some teams may still be looking for a signal caller, here are a few team names that could be thrown around in the hunt for Manziel, if they believe he is ready to come back and earn his spot.

Cleveland Browns

A sort of homecoming for Manziel, he could return to the team that selected him 22nd overall in the 2014 Draft, but with a whole new and improved executive team and coaching staff above him. Former GM Ray Farmer, who made the choice, is long gone, and has been replaced by Sashi Brown, who is working towards a more analytics-based decision making process. They also removed coach Mike Pettine, and replaced him with former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. The team is slowly improving, and with new coach Hue Jackson at the helm, and no true starting quarterback on the team, Manziel could return to a better roster and make some magic happen for Cleveland as they search for their first playoff birth in forever. The Browns fortified their offensive line this offseason with the signings of Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter, and they have some improved weapons in Isaiah Crowell and Kenny Britt. The team appears to be on the upswing, and with the draft capital they have in 2017, Cleveland could be making moves in the regular season if Manziel was at the helm.

Houston Texans

The Texans are even more of a hometown team of Johnny Football, who grew up a few hours from Houston. With a stellar defense, a good running game, and some new receivers that will improve with time, it appears as though Manziel would be a great fit for the team. Head coach Bill O’Brien recently lost his starter in Brock Osweiler, who was horrid in his one season in Houston, and it seems doubtful that he has full confidence in fellow 2014 Draft mate Tom Savage. Manziel would be a great fit, and his running ability would add a new wrinkle to an offense that could be even more exciting. With a star receiver like DeAndre Hopkins, a burner in Will Fuller, a young up-and-comer in Braxton Miller, and one of the league’s most exciting players in Manziel, the Texans would be back in the playoff hunt in 2017.

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger, and the Saints will need to look for a replacement in the near future. The 38 year old is still playing at a level as high as he ever has been at, and the “air-raid”-esque play style is still on full display. The Saints have no hope with Garrett Grayson being a future starter, and Luke McCown is nothing special. With an infusion of talent, the offense could keep up its high level of play and bring some exciting new opportunities with it. Although they recently traded Brandin Cooks, they still have a second year #1 wide receiver in Michael Thomas, and Willie Snead has been a great secondary option in recent years. With some additions to the offensive line and the continued slightly-above-average performance of Mark Ingram, Manziel could be an addition to the team that allows the team to stay in contention. The coaching staff has been in place for some time, and will likely be around for a while, which is ideal for a quarterback who could use a stable organization that can put its confidence behind him.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are in a positions similar to the Saints’, with a quarterback unlikely to be around much longer and no solid presence behind him. While Larry Fitzgerald is also likely retiring after the 2017 season, there are still exciting players on the offense like John Brown and David Johnson, who can be centerpieces for the team moving forward. Add in a high first round draft pick where they could possibly add a future #1 target in Mike Williams or Corey Davis, and the team is sitting pretty instead of using a first round pick to draft a future QB replacement. Bruce Arians has been a strong coach for the team, leading them to the NFC Championship in 2015 before suffering in a down year from Carson Palmer. The team must take stock at the quarterback position and look towards the future, and the future could be found in Manziel. He would be an exciting fit, with a deep game working with Brown and a reliable check-down and running presence in Johnson.

Pittsburgh Steelers

While it seems very unlikely, the Steelers also fall into the same category as the aforementioned two teams above. Ben Roethlisberger was weary of returning to the game in 2017, and the options behind him are slim. Landry Jones is not a full-time NFL starter, and Zach Mettenberger is ineffective. Imagining an offense with Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Manziel is scary. It would easily be the most exciting in the league, and one of the fastest as well. The team already scores at will, and with a new element in the offense, it would be even better. Mike Tomlin is a great player’s coach who could keep Manziel in the game, and the offense run by Pittsburgh is a fun one. Now that Antonio Brown is locked up and Bell is scheduled to get a great payday, it would be best to invest in a low-priced option that could end up scoring big for the team, and allow them to compete for the throne in the AFC for years to come after Ben’s departure.