How Have Expansion Franchises Fared In Their Inaugural Years?

This is a football site, but today we’re gonna look at the “core four” sports in America in regards to one thing: expansion teams.

Every league has gone through an expansion draft since 1990, with 18 teams being added, and the NHL gaining one tomorrow night. The Las Vegas Golden Knights will hold their expansion draft Wednesday night, where they can select a number of players from each existing team’s roster to create their own. These players are supposed to be at least league average, with a certain number of years played (in some sports), and multiple years remaining on their contracts. Typically, that means they are not throwaway players and will contribute to their new franchises.

With that in mind, and taking into account all things, let’s look at how these expansion teams have fared in their inaugural seasons. Each tie is counted as a half win, half loss. You can also see where each team placed in their division, if they made the playoffs, and how many player awards were won by the team. Teams denoted in bold are ones that have won a championship in their respective leagues since coming to fruition.

first year teamss

These results do not bode well for the Golden Knights. The best team on the list, the 1995 Carolina Panthers, posted a record 2 wins below .500, or .0625 away from breaking even. None of the teams did better than two places out of last in their divisions, and none made the playoffs. The Toronto Raptors, Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies, and the Charlotte Bobcats are the only teams that had players on their teams win awards. The Raptors’ Damon Stoudamire won multiple awards (Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team). He is the only player to do so.

While this is never truly indicative of team success, and it appears as though there is viable talent in this year’s expansion draft, it would be smart to bet against the Golden Knights for the majority of the year. You can see a breakdown of strictly NHL teams below. The results are not great.

nhl teams

Just two teams did better than place last in their division in their first year, with the Panthers coming one win away from .500. Historical trends would say that the Golden Knights will either come in last or second to last, winning around 28 games. Not exactly playoff material.

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.

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

ttech

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.

 

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)

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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)

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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

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

bama

2. vs. Ohio State (CFP)

ohiost

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

fsu

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

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

scar

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.

Conclusion

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.