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NFL Combine and Draft news

27.04.2016
UKFirstdown
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Article by Ian Hughes Now for the second half of my mock draft. And remember, this isn’t how I think the draft will turn out. It’s who I would pick if I were the GM for all 31 picks in this year’s 1st round. #16 (Detroit Lions): Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss Detroit need to find an Interior Pass rusher. They haven’t filled that slot since the loss of Suh. Nkemdiche could be that difference maker in getting after the QB if he can find some consistency. #17 (Atlanta Falcons): Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State Atlanta need all the help they can find on Defence. They have needs everywhere. The best guy left for them on the board would be the 3 down LB out of Ohio State. He is a bit undersized for a LB but he is a great athlete that eats up the ground and cover in space. #18 (Indianapolis Colts): Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State A No Brainer here. The Colts saw last season how bad it could be if they don’t keep Andrew Luck upright. They have one of the best young QB’s that the NFL has seen, they don’t want him to turn into David Carr. Securing the line will make the whole Offence play better, letting them look to fix the Defence in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. #19 (Buffalo Bills): Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama Rex Ryan is desperate to build this Defence in his image. Reggie Ragland is the guy to do it. Old School Thumper that is going to provide a lot of attitude plays. Lacks some coverage skills but provides edge rush ability out of sub packages. A Prefect fit if ever I saw one. #20 (New York Jets): Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State This is where my draft board shows probably its biggest difference to the rest of the football world. I have Connor Cook as the 3rd best QB in the draft. And he just happens to be the best fit for the Jets. Will control the football game, get the ball where it needs to be and won’t lose the Jets many football games. #21 (Washington Redskins): Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama For all the problems Washington had on Defence last year, they really need to start solidifying their OL. There main problem with their Defence in up-front and they can fix that in round 2. They can’t wait till the 2nd round to pick up a Center as I expect the top 2 to be gone before they get another look. #22 (Houston Texans): Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame Texans need to start putting some points up on Offence, so this Defence can go out and win playoff games. They went and got a QB in FA, added some talent at RB. All they need is someone to complement Hopkins at the #2 WR spot. Fuller should be that guy. Real fast, Home Run threat. Not going to be a superstar, but will make the team better just by running Deep. #23 (Minnesota Vikings): Josh Doctson, WR, TCU We are in the area of the 1st round where we will start seeing the WR’s sneaking into the conversation. Minnesota probably have one of the most rounded Rosters in the NFL. They just need to solidify their position in the NFC North. Picking Docton should do that. With any rookie WR, he will have a slow start, but come the end of the season he will be a solid contributor. A pick for the future. #24 (Cincinnati Bengals): LaQuon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss Seen by some as the best WR in the draft. For me, his 40 time damaged his stock. Though that won’t make much difference to the Bengals who are really looking for a complement to AJ Green. Treadwell will go over the middle and get dirty. A great fit. #25 (Pittsburgh Steelers): William Jackson III I think the only way the Steelers don’t take a Corner at #25 is if the scouts have fallen in love with one of the Top OGs in this year’s Class. I have gone with the Corner, Jackson. The secondary in Pitt was just awful. They need help their more than they do on the line. Jackson gets the nod over Apple because of his aggressive nature when attacking the football. Will suit the scheme nicely. #26 (Seattle Seahawks): Cody Whitehair, OL, Kanas State Seattle’s OL has disappeared over the last couple of years, and with the loss of Lynch they will need to do a better job of creating running lanes for human RBs. Cody Whitehair would be the best guy for them. Has some value at all 5 positions, but is projected better at Guard. Will upgrade the OL day 1. #27 (Green Bay Packers): A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama It pains me as a Bears fan to try and make the Packers a better football team, but hey it’s only a mock. Green Bay need to get some consistency out of their Defence. They have been a lot of moving parts, players playing all different positions across the LB core. I feel they would be best taking a DL man, and I still had Robinson on my board. Personally I feel he can play a bit high at times, but at #27, I feel a bit happier taking the risk than I would of at say #15. #28 (Kansas City Chiefs): Corey Colman, WR, Baylor A Home Run threat on every touch, Colman is going to sneak into the bottom of the 1st round. A nice competent to Maclin. Is a bit small for a Wideout but if he produces, that conversation will stop quickly. Some like him more than Treadwell and Fuller. #29 (Arizona Cardinals): Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State All the Cardinals are missing is a Corner to play opposite Patrick Peterson. I will not deny them the opportunity to find that person in this draft. With only 2 Corners with a 1st round grade left on the Board, I decided to go with Apple. Is Pro ready, but needs to take some chances on balls thrown his way and step up his tackling. #30 (Carolina Panthers): Sterling Shepard. WR, Oklahoma The Carolina Panthers could have won the Super Bowl if they did 2 things better. Block Von Miller or Catch the Football. There is not a Tackle left on my board that can block Miller. But there is a WR sat on the board for whom drops are collectors items. Yes, he is a small guy. He will have to make his living in the slot, which will be no problem for him. #31 (Denver Broncos): Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State Denver have lost some guys from the trenches. This could be dangerous for them. There were options on both lines but Jones stood out for me. There was no OL player on my board that I trusted as a 1s round talent. So DL led me to take the highest rated 3-4 guy on my board. Jones is a big strong brute of a player. Has some pad level issues and his motor could do with some work, but stepping into that defence with Bill Kollar and Wade Phillips coaching. I see him exploding in the next 3 years. Notable Omissions: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia: He just isn’t on my board, it happens every year. Some teams will not have guys on their board, be it because of off the field issues or Scheme fits etc. For me, it’s his size. Built like a WR trying to play OLB in a 3-4 front. I just don’t see it going well. He might have some value as a Pass Rush Specialist, but that doesn’t give me enough value in the 1st round. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville: I see him as 4-3 Nose more than anything else. Lack of statue and arm length is a concern. I still think he could play very well in the NFL, but I think there are better options out there for a large portion of the team. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: I have Lawson as a 4-3 DE that has limited Pass Rush value. I just don’t see much of a market for him after the Raiders at #14, I just don’t like him that high. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: I will be very surprised if Lynch doesn’t get his name called Thursday night. But this is my mock, not yours (best Deion Sanders impression). I don’t think more than 4 QBs will go in the 1st round (at most) and I have him as the 5th best in the draft. Simple as. If this mock was 2 rounds long, you’d probably see his name called. But he’s not a 1st rounder for me.
25.04.2016
UKFirstdown
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Article by Ian Hughes I have left doing a mock draft till late in the process this year. The main reason being, the later you leave it, the better feel you have for how it will all lay out. That being said, this is going to be my draft. If I were the GM for each team picking in the 1st round. So I don’t expect this list to line-up well with what will actually happen on the 28th. Here are my 1st 15 picks. #1 (LA Rams): Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota St The Rams need a QB, they made to trade to go up and get the best one in the Draft. To me, I like Wentz a bit better starting Week 1. He ticks the boxes and has the bonus of fitting the Rams system that will revolve around Todd Gurley for the next 6+ Years minimum. #2 (Philadelphia Eagles): Jared Goff, QB, Cal Another team that jumped to get a QB, and I won’t deny them that. Goff is clearly in the conversation for top QB in the Draft, and I think the Eagles would prefer him to slide as he could be the better fit in Doug Peterson’s offence that we expect to look very similar to Andy Reid’s west coast system. #3 (San Diego Chargers): Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss The Chargers end up with the hardest decision in the draft in my opinion. Tunsil or Ramsey? Tunsil wins here for me, mainly because I feel you can find a passable Safety to sure up a defence elsewhere. Finding a starting Left Tackle can be an ongoing nightmare. I am taking the tackle and keeping Rivers upright for as long as he wants to play in San Diego. #4 (Dallas Cowboys): Myles Jack, LB, UCLA Another tough one but for me it’s not so tough. I think we all know what Dallas want to do on Offence, pound the rock. So for me, they need to solidify the Defence. That eliminates the RB argument. It comes down to where on the Defence you think they need the most help. I feel you can find a quality DL player in the 2nd or 3rd, they are pretty set at DB. Myles Jack can start Week 1 for Marinelli. Can Cover and Tackle, plays the run well. Also a security blanket as Lee has had injury issues. #5 (Jacksonville Jaguars): Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State Ramsey finally comes off my board. Personally I have him as a Safety, but his length and athletic ability has put him at the top of the Corner conversation. The Jags could do with an upgrade at either position. A FS to partner Cyprien, or #1 Corner. #6 (Baltimore Ravens): DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon The Ravens need help on both lines and Buckner is the highest rated guy left on my board. Big, Physical DL man. Will play the DE positon in the Ravens 3-4. Will dominate in the run and pass game, 3 down player that will never have to leave the field for sub-packages. #7 (San Francisco 49ers): Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida This roster is in desperate need of help at more positions than a GM would probably like. I have gone for the Corner out of Florida. Hargreaves has drawn comparisons to a Corner that played for the current DC in Cleveland, in Joe Haden. Jim O’Neal has a background in the Defensive backfield. This seems to me to be a great fit for the coaches and the team. #8 (Cleveland Browns): Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State Cleveland have dropped out of the big name picks after trading out of the #2 pick. This is where the saying ‘taking the best guy on the board’ starts to come into effect. Cleveland have a need at DL, outside rusher and WR. None of those players provide value at the #8 slot. So Elliot comes off the board to become a Bell Cow RB for a team that would previously done OK with RB by committee. #9 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame It’s all about the Offence in Tampa. They need to start thinking about protecting their young QB. Stanley is my #2 OT in this draft. More of a finesse guy but has the opportunity to be a starting LT for a long time in the NFL. #10 (New York Giants): Jack Conkin, OT, Michigan State This pick makes all sorts of sense. They need a Tackle. Conkin can play either side of the line. Physical guy. You need to protect your QB and block for your RB. The Giants aren’t far away from being a quality Offence. There isn’t much value at taking anyone else. #11 (Chicago Bears): Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama My Chicago Bears… I have done them over in my own mock draft. They want an OT; I have already picked the top three. They want a Baller at FS, they were never getting Ramsey. They want an every down 3-4 DE, I have given Buckner to the Ravens. Time to take the best guy left. A lot of people will still have Joey Bosa at the top of their board with the current picks. But by now you’ll know I am not that hot on him. I am going safe with Jarran Reed. The guy plays the run and plays it well. Not much of a Pass Rusher, but there is plenty of that elsewhere on the Roster. (side note: I want the bears to Trade down from the 11th pick to garner some extra selections this year or next) #12 (New Orleans Saints): Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson Dodd is THE pick for the Saints. It needs to be Defence here. Could be Corner or DL. I like the DE position over the Corner at #12. I think Dodd is diverse enough to help the saints right away, with the football IQ to learn and progress quickly into a full time 4-3 DE. #13 (Miami Dolphins): Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson I have 2 Tigers going back to back. The only real value to be found at #13 for the ‘Phins is a Corner. I have Alexander over some of the other because of his competitive nature and reactive. Just needs to play the ball a bit more to be a good NFL Corner. That’s before he tidies up his technique. Could be one of the best around in 4-5 years time. #14 (Oakland Raiders): Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio I would eventually take Bosa here. Oakland have lost Aldon Smith and gained Irvin, but I still thing the DL needs some work. Bosa will take one of the full time DE spots for the Raiders. Then move inside to DT in lighter sub-packages when they want Irvin and Mack rushing together. #15 (Tennessee Titans): Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor Tennessee I think would love to add some more Offensive pieces in the draft. Right now, there is no value for them at #15. So you look at the Defence and you see a hole at the NT position. Andrew Billings would be a great fit. Plays clean and is still raw. Physically dominant at the age of 21, I am scared to think what this guy could be with some quality coaching.
29.03.2016
UKFirstdown
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Article by Ian Hughes We know who the superstars are in the upcoming draft. I have covered those that I think will be busts and/or Overrated. Now it’s time to start looking at those under the radar guys, those that are not being considered as highly as some of their peers. So here are my guys that we should be talking about more than we actually are by Position. QB: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State Was one of the hot QBs coming into the season, but poor play around him has really hampered his Draft stock. He is a durable player that I expect to surprise any team that picks him up in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. To me, teams should really be looking at him at the bottom of the 1st. Should be a better player than Paxton Lynch straight out the gate, and could prove to be better in the long term as well. His slide could see him end up in a better situation than some of the top picks that could help his chances. Kenneth Dixon, RB Louisiana Tech RB: Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech This guy has scored more times than any other Running Back in NCAA Div. 1 history, yet here we are looking at a Mid-round pick. He can do it all. He can run inside, outside, catch out of the backfield and protect your QB. Yet scouts mark him down for being a physical runner. Workouts didn’t really help him as he lacks ‘Home Run’ speed. I would be looking to take him in the 2nd round, but there is a good chance he is still waiting for him name to be called when they start the 3rd round. WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma Are you guys kidding me. This is one of the smoothest route runners going. Forget his size or his speed. Has anyone watched the likes of Julian Edelman play the slot position? Sterling Shepard is a STARTING SLOT in year 2. And at the WR position, it’s the second year you’re looking at. The position is not conducive with starting a lot as a rookie. He should be hearing his name back end of the 1st to the top of the 2nd, but he could be waiting a bit longer because of the search for that bigger, faster #1 WR. TE: N/A I feel the TE position has been picked apart very well. There isn’t a lot of talent there and the value and type of player depends a lot from team to team. Offensive Line: Nick Martin, OG/C, Notre Dame Has a second round grade but I think he should be going late in the 1st round. The versatile Interior Lineman can fill a slot straight away. It seems foolish to me to not pick him if there was a hole on my line. Will help a team somewhere get their best combination on the field. There hasn’t been much talk about the line position in general outside of Tunsil. Kevin Dodd, DL Clemson Defensive Line: Kevin Dodd, Clemson The Depth at this position is outrageous. The only real stand out underrated guy in the group is Dodd. Yes, he is raw. Yes, there is work to be done. But he was a real handful in every game I watched. Relentless motor that will make DL coaches rave for him. He should be going in the 1st round, maybe in place of his Clemson teammate, Lawson. LB: Tyler Matakevich, Temple A Tackling Machine. This guy’s name is constantly coming up when watching Temple, and even in the Senior Bowl. It’s the measurables that are holding him back. Teams tend to fall in love with the stopwatch times and the drills in shorts this time of year. But the moment you see this guy in pads you know he can play. Shame he won’t get the draft slot he really deserves. CB: Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech (Another Fuller) Underrated because of his projected scheme at the next level. Here is the best Tampa 2 corner in the draft. Physical player that wants to be involved in the game any way he can. He wants to make every play he can, leads him to be a bit of a gambler but hey, there have been a few gamblers in the NFL that have done very well. Size isn’t great, but hey the kid plays. I don’t think I have heard his name in draft conversations yet.     Safety: Keanu Neal, S, Florida I have his as the second best Safety in the draft behind Ramsey. But he still isn’t expected to be picked before the 2nd round. You’d think with the increased use of Nickel packages, that this big hitting safety with good instincts would be someone everyone hopes slides to them after pick 15. It’s not like he’s immobile or a liability in coverage. Yet there will be teams that turn him down twice, maybe 3 times if you listen to some pundits. Outrageous.
24.03.2016
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Article by Ian Hughes Every year we get those prospects that look great as a 1st Round pick, but a few years later we look back and think about how wrong we got it. Teams will always flirt with the line when it comes to ‘High Ceiling/Low floor’ guys. Everyone want to draft the next best thing, and that can come with huge risks. J’Marcus Russel being the most famous draft bust in recent memory. The jury is still out on the likes of Jedeveon Clowney and Dion Jordan as they are still with their original teams and can turn it around. For Johnny Manziel though, we can safely say he has fell into the bust category for the Cleveland Browns. So who out of this year’s group is most likely to become the next big bust? Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss Of me, Treadwell could be one of those caution stories we here for years to come about selecting a WR high in a poor receiving class. This guy is getting a lot of the talk when it comes to the WR positon witch is slowly inflating his stock, but I feel there is a big risk in taking him High in the 1st (Which is where he is projected to go). WR’s always come out of the blocks slow because of the mental aspect of the position going from NCAA to NFL. All the route adjustments might be different, there will be a lot more plays to learn, All the Corners will be better than most they faced before etc., etc. But he worries me with his concentration, Speed and Release. Had problems making some catches that required focus to pull in during his last year. He is definitely not the fastest guy going, couple that with his problems getting off the line against Press. He could have a real tough time against the longer, more physical corners playing in the NFL. All that being said, there is no reason why he couldn’t be a strong NFL WR. But the Risk is very high if he can’t push his game to the next level. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis This guy could be one of the next quality QBs in the NFL. Has everything you want physically from someone in the Position. Has the height, frame and arm to be successful. However, he is extremely raw. Never played under-center before. This guy could end his career in 4 years’ time never having took a snap in a meaningful game. The Floor is so low it scares me, but his ceiling is high enough for teams to float his name around as the 1st Round winds down. Miles Jack, LB, UCLA I hate myself for including Jack in this little list. He is such a great player. I would have said he was one of the surest picks in the draft if it wasn’t for 1 thing. He can run, has great ball skills, scheme flexible, a bit small but physical enough to deal with it. The screaming problem??? The fact he is coming off a serious knee injury. Yes, the Medicals have come back ok, but you never know with these things. I really hope he plays for a Decade and lights the league on fire. But you never know how injures, especially knee injuries, will effect a player. Physically and Mentally. He might look great out on the field in shorts, but how is he going to do in pads with big NFL linemen looking to knock his socks off?    
21.03.2016
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Article by Ian Hughes One of the most exciting/unpredictable things that can happen during Draft season is the trade of Draft Picks. They become more and more valuable as the weeks and days count down to the main event. It’s so hard to judge who will move and where they want to move to. Draft Boards differ from one team to the next. One team might think their guy will fall to them at the bottom of a round, where another team above them feel the need to jump to the top of the round to get the same guy. I always like the philosophy of sticking with your pick, or gain as many picks as possible. Trading up to jump a team can guarantee getting your guy, but it can cost you a fortune in picks. Just ask the Redskins, who gave up 3 years’ worth of drafts to jump and get RG3, and look where he is now… These are my teams that might consider actively changing their Draft spot in the 1st round. LA Rams, #15: The LA Rams are the first of the QB needy teams that aren’t in position to have a shot at the top 2 Passers on most Draft Boards. #15 isn’t the worst spot to be coming from but I don’t see them getting all the way into the Top 5. The target will be to get above the Eagles at #8, maybe even the 49ers at #7. This leave the Ravens as their only real trade partner. Ravens might be willing, but they will take some persuading. You’ll need to get them to turn down a possible starting OT or DE. New York Jets, #20: This is a real interesting situation for the Jets. They are right up against the Cap ceiling, to the extent that right now they would be able to sign their Draft picks in their current slots. So they have a lot of shuffling to do, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them slide out of #20 to save some money. They are in the right position for the second tier QB market but not really in position for a trade for that position. Where they do sit nicely, is the Corner market. With Pittsburgh picking #25 and the likes of Kansas City, Seattle and Carolina all projected to be in the Cornerback market. Someone could make the jump to #20 to get ‘dibs’. Green Bay Packers, #27: Here is a good one for you. Green Bay need help. They have been carried by Aaron Rodgers recently without really protecting him. They could do with both a young pass catcher and OL help. It might be hard to get into the low teens to compete for with the Lions, ‘Phins and Raiders for one of the promising Tackles. It would be more reasonable for them to get to the front of the line for a Wide out. Buffalo could be a possible partner at #19 with their expected pick being at a very deep position.  Chicago Bears, #11: My Chicago Bears are currently picking at the #11 slot. They have been very clever in Free Agency, something GM Ryan Pace has been very wary of. He has gone out and made sure that he doesn’t have to draft a ‘NEED’ with his top pick. This makes them a prime mover in the Trade market. The main position needs are Defensive line and Safety. DL is very deep with no real big talents expected to be on the board at #11. There is only one nailed on 1st round Safety and he is going in the first five picks. So the Bears have 2 options open to them. Either Jump up into the expensive picks and go after the likes of Ramsey and Buckner, or trade down and stash some picks to help the re-building process that they are currently working through. Denver Broncos, #31: The Broncos currently have the last pick of the 1st round. They have a very obvious need at the QB position after the loss of Brock Osweiler to the Texans. #31 could be far too late for the QB they want. It’s would take a real big jump for them to get safely back into the market but if John Elway thinks there is a guy worth it, I can see him pulling the trigger on a big trade. They are still in the Championship window and should be for the next couple of years. They have all the pieces in all the right places, a young QB with plenty of potential could see them in the hunt while the team is still intact. Then carry them while they restock for another run. The Big Trade I would love to See but is compete madness??? The New York Jets to send the 20th pick, 2017 1st round pick, 51th pick, 2017 2rd round pick and the 83rd pick to the San Diego Chargers for the 3rd Pick and the 66th pick. This would be pure madness but help both teams. The Jets are right in the window to go to the Super Bowl. Yes, they are tight on the Cap, but that is fixable by moving around money on some expensive contracts. Jumping all the way to #3 would give them the best of all world. They could go DE and Buckner making Wilkerson and his Tag money expendable. They could go Safety and take Ramsey, filling an area of need in an otherwise solid secondary. They could even go QB if they don’t get Fitzpatrick or another QB between now and the draft. OT is even on the cards. San Diego want everything. So why wouldn’t they want to amass 3 extra picks at the business end of a draft over the next 2 years? Maybe the value isn’t quite there with the picks I put up, but I don’t think I am far off.
18.03.2016
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Article by Ian Hughes Every years there is a risk of drafting a Bust. A player that seems to be the next big thing, instant help, a future Hall of Famer or something like that. Then they get to the NFL and they just don’t perform up to that high expectation. Here is my list of players that I think won’t meet the expectations of scouts. 1.       Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State Every year it seems like the next great pass rusher is hitting the NFL. This year, people are looking at Joey Bosa to be that guy. He has the frame. 6’6 and plenty of weight. But there are some little things on tape that bother me. Firstly, he rarely lines up against the best OT’s in the NCAA. And when he did play against them, he found himself blocked with relative ease. Secondly, He is and effort player. He doesn’t always look exactly smooth getting to the QB. Now I wouldn’t hold this against him, but for the fact he’s motor isn’t always running. Those 2 things are enough for me to stay away from this Top 5 ranked prospect. 2.       Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis There are Scouts out there that have Paxton Lynch as their 3rd QB in this year’s draft. This wouldn’t normally bother me. On a Draft board. There will be teams that will be high on this guy because of the potential. But 3rd? really. This guy could easily fail as an NFL QB. Footwork issues, Coming out of an Air-Raid/QB friendly system, lacks ball location… the list goes on. But all scouts see is what he could be. Not what he’ll likely be, a Career back-up that could never quite make it stick as a starter. 3.       Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson This is a feeling pick here at the 3 spot. Clemson were a very good football team last season and I feel like Alexander was one of the bigger winners when it comes to Draft rankings. He’s under sized, footwork is ropey at times and his production was very, very low. Zero INT’s in the last 2 years. I like to see production from corners, its shows ball skills and ability to be around the football. That and the fact he didn’t take part in the Combine workouts leads me to question what I might be getting from a CB that is expected to go before the later parts of the 1st round. 4.       Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia So, I have seen Mock Drafts with Floyd being selected inside the Top 20. I just don’t understand why. This guy is projected to be a 3-4 OLB but is built like a WR. Very Slim, little play strength. Looks pretty useless at setting edges and defending the run. When it comes to the Front 7, I put a lot of value in how many downs they can be on the field for. Looking at Floyd, I only see him as a Situational Pass Rusher. That limits his value in my eyes. And I don’t think he’s a going to be a great one either, so for him to be as high at #20 seems strange. Maybe teams see something else but he is a second day guy to me. 5.       Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State (If he is selected as a Corner) I am putting Ramsey at 5 only if the team picking him thinks he is a corner. As a Safety, he is one of the best guys in the draft and would take him straight away if the fitted my organisation. But as a Corner, I think Ramsey will be a big bust. Has the size scout are looking for now, and is a great athlete. But he can be very stiff in close quarters action. Not very consistent with run responsibilities. He just screams to me as a Tree Safety, but with the value placed on a true shutdown corner, I won’t surprise me for a team to take a shot at him there and for it to backfire awfully.
16.03.2016
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Article by Ian Hughes There is only one group left to pick. The Specials. So let not over think this one and get out of here with a decent unit. Kicker Starter: Adam Vinatieri Vinatieri has been one of the best kickers in the NFL for what seems like a lifetime. Known for kicks in clutch situations, why would you want anyone else as your kicker. Back-Up: Greg Zuerlein Now, I have been very clever. Because of how I have structured my roster I have found myself with a spare space or 2. So I am going to stash some extra Specialists. Zuerlein will be my stashed kicker. Greg the Leg can help me in situations I think Vinatieri’s leg its quite enough. That and Kick-offs. Plus did I mention Vinatieri’s old. Punter Starter: Shane Lechler Lechler is another one of those guys that have been around forever. Starting to diminish in the production columns but you can’t put a price on experience at the punter position. They tend to hold on FG and PATs. I would rather take an experience guy that has enough leg, than a rookie that can kick out the stadium. That’s just me. Long Snapper Starter: Morgan Cox Yes, Long Snapper is a position too. I don’t always pick one, and I could have left it as Tyler Clutts who is down on my RB list has Long Snapped in the NFL under emergency circumstances. But taking this seriously, I decided to select one. This year was an easy selection, as Cox was a Pro Bowl selection that has ended up without an extension.
14.03.2016
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Article by Ian Hughes With Draft Boards starting to look like the finished article. It’s time for teams to look at value. What are guy’s worth to the organisation? One of the questions going round the scouting rooms is, ‘What can this guy give us Week 1?’ Personally, I don’t like this question. I come from the ‘best guy available’ school of thought. I don’t care what he can give me straight, what I want to know is who he can be going forward. With that being said, a lot of teams go into the draft hamstrung by needs with little choice but to draft players to fill them. So let’s get to it, the Top 5 Guys who you could see in a starting line-up Week 1.   1.       Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State This is a no brainer. The Running back position is one of those positions where football instinct can get you a long way. If Elliott can show a coaching staff he has it, he could leap frog any pencilled in starter. The tape is great, the combine was good enough. He just needs to show he can do it all at the NFL level and not become the Trent Richardson. 2.       Jack Cronklin, OT, Michigan State Cronklin has a great advantage in my eyes over the other top tackles in this Draft. That some teams might project him as a Right Tackle early in his career. This is what could make him one of the better rookie starters next year. He should be too good for Right Tackle but if he ends up on a Roster with an established Left Tackle, it would be very hard to keep him out of the other Tackle spot. 3.       Keanu Neal, Safety, Florida Neal is one of the best Safeties in the draft. And his number 1 advantage to beating out a veteran, Versatility. Can play Centre Field as a Free Safety, best when playing the Down Safety in a Cover 3 style defence. Has the coverage skills to match up in the slot or on TEs, and is the Hammer not the Nail in the run game. With the Nickle Defence taking a bigger role in the modern game, Neal looks to see plenty snaps weather he is named a starter or not. 4.       Nick Martin, OG/C, Notre Dame Anyone starting to see the pattern here? Another versatile guy on my list. Martin can play either Guard or Center. With Pre-Season being what it is, and Martins ability to play anywhere in the middle of the line, Martin could easily find himself starting in Week 1 either winning the job outright or being the 5th guy that makes the best unit. 5.       Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State This might surprise some of you but if the draft goes Cook’s way, he could find himself starting Week 1 for one of 3 teams. The guy knows how to look after a game and keep his team in it by limiting the mistakes. By no stretch is this a slam dunk, but I see him possibly being another Teddy Bridgewater. The problem is, only 3 teams are really searching for a QB, out of 32. And there is every chance that another team takes him to stash away for a rainy day. Honourable Mentions Jeremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss Best player in the draft in my opinion, but playing at that Left Tackle spot can be very hard for a rookie and I don’t see him at the Right tackle spot. It all about holding up for him in his rookie year. Jalen Ramsey, Safety, Florida State You’ll see I’ve listed him at Safety and not Corner. I think that’s where the problem will lie for Ramsey in his rookie year. He could find himself playing out of position and really struggling. If he does find his way to Safety for a Week 1 start, he could open a few eyes. Lack of picks at the NCAA level might be a sign of things to come… Andrew Billings, Nose Tackle, Baylor There aren’t too many true Nose Tackles knocking around. Billings is one. A bit short, a bit raw and struggle a bit getting after the passer. But if he ends up at the right team, he will turn heads in the middle of a 3-4 DL. Ryan Kelly, Center, Alabama Best Center in the Draft. Normally these guys don’t start straight out the bat, but I see Kelly getting the nod over an average starter in camp before a possible make or break Pre-season.
13.03.2016
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Article by Ian Hughes With the Offence done and out of the way, it’s time to look at the most important side of the ball (Defence wins championships). My Defence: 4-3 Tampa 2 Defensive Coordinator: Lovie Smith As a Bears fan, would my DC be anyone else. Should still be in a Job at Tampa, has been linked with the Illinois gig at the NCAA level. The Tampa 2 Defence is my choice right now for 2 key reasons. 1, the best coach available lives in that scheme. 2, It takes way the need to match up size-wise. You can get away with lightly shorter DBs, slightly lighter DLmen, and smaller LBs etc. Opens up the options from the available Free Agents. Player Talent Overview There is plenty of Talent lying around on the D side of the ball as always. Not any superstars, but enough pieces of the puzzle to go around the 32 teams who want to fill gaps with Vets over Rookies. DL is the spot with most potential to have a break-out player next year. Some good names in that group. Though there aren’t many quality Safeties around this year. Could get messy on the backend. DL Starters: RE – Chris Long + DT – Nick Fairley + DT – B.J. Raji + LE – Mario Williams There are teams at the NFL level that might want the entire starting that I have just names. Long and Fairley were both part of the terrifying line for the Rams. B.J. Raji had been the anchor for the Packers DL at Nose, clogs gaps and can get a bit of a pass rush going on a good day. Williams has been a star where ever he’s been. Cap casualty going into FA, Can play 4-3 End or 3-4 OLB. The 4 together should complement each other nicely. Back-Ups: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE + Charles Johnson, DE + Henry Melton, DT + Haloti Ngata, DT DL depth is critical and if you’ve watched any football over the last 4 years, you would be scared of any team that has these 4 players as back-ups. JPP, was a monster for the Giants. But some poor play by the entire unit and the firework incident have led this player to hit FA. Could be inserted into this Starting line-up or, if you’re like me and scared of the hand, could be used as a situational rusher. Johnson is second on the Panthers Sack list. Last great panthers DE to hit FA was a certain Julius Peppers, and he is still making plays. Might not want him in your starting 4, but you’ll feel safe knowing that you have him on the bench if someone goes down. Melton was a superstar in Chicago (had to be said). 1 ACL tear later and he is a dispensable member of the Dallas Cowboys. Not a great sign for him, but if you think there is any of that player that played for the Bears, you pick him up and rotate him into the line-up. Ngata was a beast, no ifs or buts about it. Now age and injuries have caught up with the one of the best around. Can still play, don’t get me wrong, but make many plays as a starter. I see him best used as a rotation guy that might just blow a play-up every now and again. LB Starters: Will - Danny Trevathan + Middle – James Laurinaitis + Sam – Nigel Bradham Easiest pick of the D group I think… Laurinnaitis is THE LEADER in this FA group. Might be losing a step, but Urlacher and Vilma had success in this Defence in that position as they got up in age. Clever players that will make sure the Defence is in the right place at all times. Trevathan and Bradham just scream 4-3 OLBs. Cover plenty of ground, can cover in space as well as add to the rush. Bradham gets the nod at Sam just, with Trevathan mopping up at Will. Back-Ups: Bruce Irvin, OLB + Zack Brown, MLB + Rolando McClain, OLB + Chad Greenway, OLB. Irvin was a part of the Seahawks Super Bowl team. Jack of all trades at LB. Will do jobs on ST as well. Brown was a one-man playmaking machine for the Titans at times. Trust issues have seen him hit the open market. Can play ST witch is always a bonus from your Back-up Defensive players. McClain is a run stuffing machine at LB. Can have problems in coverage but why would I not carry him on the roster just to knock some guys around in run situations. Greenway is probably the only LB I wouldn’t ask to play some ST. The vet has earnt a nice quite retirement somewhere, backing-up some youngsters, passing on knowledge etc. Could even see the field if guys go down. CB Starters: Janoris Jenkins + Adam Jones Jenkins has been one of the better guys in the Rams secondary. And he keeps on getting better and better. Will be a #1 Corner for someone somewhere, but for this list, it’s with me. Pacman is one of those guys I love. At the Corner position you can be too good. Like Revis, just blanket people, no-ones throws the ball your way. Jones is just good. Which means he sees the ball. Bad you’d think, well actually no. See he has great ball skills. Ball gets thrown his way and he want to pick it off. You have one of those guys sat in the flats staring down a QB and you could be onto a winner. Also can return Punts. Back-Ups: Leodis McKelvin + Jerraud Powers + Charles Tillman + Sherrick McManis McKelvin was a starter in Buffalo, an injury and good play from younger options led to him being dispensable. Capable ST player, good returner. Powers had been on some great Defences over the last few years but never seems to get raved about. One of those solid guys that just plays the game. Tillman is the living legend of Cover 2 Corners. Turnover machine, has cause too many fumbles. Getting up there in age, but who would say no to having Tillman around as a security blanket. McManis is a Special Teams pick that can give you a little something on Defence when you’re in a bind. Just to remind you, the last ‘ST player’ that played corner for the Bears that was let go, went by the name of Corey Graham… Safety Starters: Eric Weddle + Chris Conte Weddle is the man of the Safeties this year. All round quality player that can do whatever you ask. Might be regressing with age but can still make All-Pro status. Conte is a pick from a bad bunch. Is my, better the devil you know of the Defence. Plenty of plays along with plenty of mistakes. Conte is hit or miss on any given day, that and the fact he might not finish any given game. Made of glass. Back-Ups: Reggie Nelson + Rashard Johnson + Michael Griffin Nelson will get picked up by either the team that couldn’t afford Weedle, or lost the race for him. Reliable high safety but not what I would call a standout guy. Johnson was the loser in the race to start for the Cardinals. Has all the talent, but not quite the name or the tape of the player ahead of him. Someone with pick him up and fall in love with his versatility in camp. For me he’s the 3rd Safety in Big Nickle packages. Will also make plays on ST. Griffin is another one of my stashed veteran picks. The guy was considered past it in Tennessee, but I think he still has a year left.
12.03.2016
UKFirstdown
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Article by Ian Hughes With the Franchise Tag deadline passing. We now know which players are likely to hit the open market. This got me thinking about one of my yearly challenges. Can I put together a quality NFL roster made up of players hitting Free Agency? If you want to play along at home or send in your own rosters, the Rules are pretty simple. No more than 53 Guys. Must have sufficient depth to cover the starters, can’t just list 5 OL players and have a ton of WR’s for example. Linked to that, players must be listed in the position they have played NFL or a suitable alternative, no padding out positions with players that have no right being there. And that’s about it. Let’s see what sort of team I can scrape together this year. My Offence – Pro Style, 21/12 Personnel, Zone Run Offensive Coordinator: Mike Shanahan I try and include coaches where I can as it ties the whole thing together nicely and sticking with the same rules as the players makes it difficult, there are very few good coaches out of work. So for the OC position I will go to Mike Shanahan. Ran the Zone system with great effect during his career. Has been out of the game a while but showed that he wants back into the NFL circle by putting his name out there for HC jobs this season. I wouldn’t have him as my HC but is more than welcome to run my Offence. Player Talent overview Just having a quick glance at the talent available. This is not the year to be looking for a WR. Nothing much in the Draft and almost nothing in FA. Alshon Jeffery would have been the superstar target, but the Franchise Tag saved the Bear from losing their biggest weapon. There is depth at the TE position with some big names hitting the open market, leading me to build around that strength. QB Starter: Josh Freeman Once was seen as the Franchise QB for the Tampa Bay Bucs, Freeman almost feel out of the NFL circle. Reasonably athletic QB with a live arm would be my Starter. There isn’t much to choose from at the QB position this year, so the proven starter is the safest bet. Back-ups: T.J Yates + Travaris Jackson Yates and Jackson are 2 of the better back-ups in the NFL. Yates played well for the Texans as an emergency starter a few years back and Jackson was an average full-time starter in Minnesota. Both have movement skills and enough arm work the ball around the field. RB Starter: Matt Forte Could it be anyone else at Running back? Forte has been one of the best at the position for the last 5 years. The best catching out of the backfield. The only reasons he is out looking for are his age and the play of the younger backs in Chicago. Back-ups: Doug Martin + Pierre Thomas + Tyler Clutts Doug Martin was going to be the next big thing at RB until a decline in touches stalled his career. Had a resurgence last year but still had to fight of the rest of the depth chart. Thomas is that 3rd Down back teams crave to have, but don’t want to pay. Will find work but probably won’t get paid. Tyler Clutts, I LOVE THIS GUY! Chicago should never have let this guy go. Capable FB, stepped in as an emergency Long Snapper, played on ST and has recently been used as a Tailback by the Dallas Cowboys. This versatility will get him on a roster for sure. TE Starters: Vernon Davis + Dwayne Allen Both of these guys are receiving options from the TE position. And that’s key in a 2 TE offence. Davis has the speed to challenge teams vertically, Allen can find space and is a decent blocker. Both together will create mis-matches. Back-ups: Jared Cook + Ladarius Green Jared Cook had a big a problem while a member of the Rams, QB play. When Bradford was healthy, Cook had a good time. Shame Bradford was rarely healthy, then he left. As for Green, he made the most of his time as the only TE in SD while Gates was out. But that wasn’t enough to see him keep he job full time. WR Starters: Roddy White + Malcom Floyd As of writing this, Roddy White had just become a Free Agent. Which was great as I was really struggling to find 2 Starting receiver in this year’s group. He might be getting up there in age, but he can still run his routes and catch the football. Won’t be carrying a passing game at this stage for his career, but you pair him with an explosive partner and you’ll get fireworks. Malcom Floyd became a spare part at times in the Chargers offence. Another guy that is getting up in age, but can still produce. Back-ups: Marques Colston + Rishard Mathews + Brandon Tate Colston was recently cut by the Saints. Another guy that is being considered too old for his big pay check. A Luxury pick by me really. Would never make a roster as a 3rd receiver. But you put him on the field with 2 other ‘Starters’ and you start to win the personnel battle. Mathews had some big games for the Dolphins, but there problems protecting Tannehill effected his production. Well, that and the play of their Star Wideout. Tate rounds out my receiving core nicely. Has been a #2 in Cincy, more suited as a slot in my opinion. Can be useful in the return game. OL Starters: LT – Donald Penn + LG – Evan Mathis + C – Alex Mack + RG – Mackenzie Bernardeau + RT – Russel Okung Offensive Line talent is hard to come by in Free Agency. You can normally find just one guy at each position. Had that’s just what I have managed to do. Penn at Left Tackle is probably the easiest pick I had to make on Offence behind Forte at RB. Played there for what seems like forever. 11 Years in the league, 9 as a starter. He’ll play. Mathis was a nice pick-up by the Broncos to protect Peyton Manning. Again an aging player, but I am not building a franchise here, just a roster. Mack at Center is another obvious one. Might be the best Center in football, could finally have found a way out of Cleveland to play for a contender. Bernardeau was a major factor in the Cowboys success running the football over the last couple of years. Is due a nice payday, but weather he gets it is another matter. Okung will be the biggest winner of the Free Agency sweep stakes. I don’t see him as a Left Tackle, but teams searching at the position will spend good money to see if he can do it. I would rather have him at Right Tackle. Back-ups: Lance Louis, Guard + J’Marcus Webb Ok, so my Bears Fandom shows again. Both Louis and Webb played for the bears during a time when they were searching for the right 5 guys on the O-Line. Sometimes it’s better the devil you know. Louis was a competitive Guard that was best when working in space. Makes little sense you say, a Guard plays in a phone booth. But this guy gets better as the space opens up, loved to get out in front as a pulling blocker. As for Webb. A solid Right Tackle that was forced to play out of position at Left Tackle. Just a solid guy, that got the bad end of the stick.