Tag Archives: NFL Draft

NFC North Team Needs

Detroit Lions: WR, DT, OT

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The Lions were blindsided by the sudden retirement of stud wide receiver Calvin Johnson.  He figured that being healthy and rich at his age was better than the stress of being a member of the Detroit Lions.  With that, the Lions had a gaping hole in the wide receiver department.  One day after Johnson’s announcement the Lions signed free agent Marvin Jones to a five year, $40 million contract.  Pairing Jones up with Golden Tate is nice, but it’s a far cry from any wide receiver duo who just lost the likes of Calvin Johnson.  . . Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 44 times last season and the Lions had the NFL’s worst rushing attack at 83.4 yards a game.  The Lions also have issues on the defensive side of the ball.  The acquisition of Haloti Ngnata was “underwhelming” to say the least and the hole left in the departure of N’Dmakong Suh is evident.  The Lions need to not overpay for anymore talent, as they did with Jones and in the draft go with the credo of “best talent available.”   It might be tempting to go with a wide receiver pick early in the draft but with so many holes at both sides of the line of scrimmage they would be better off trying to get veterans like Anquan Boldin and Marques Coltson for “the cheap.”  The Lions would be ecstatic if they acquired Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankings in the first round, but that’s if he lasts to the 16th pick – Detroit may be looking at Alabama lineman Jarran Reed or Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler.

Chicago Bears: OT, WR, CB

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The Bears addressed their linebacker needs in free agency.  More impressive was how general manger Adam Pace didn’t overpay for the likes of Danny Trevathian (the 25 year old linebacker signed for four years, $24.5 million) and Jerrell Freeman at 3 years, $12 million.  They even added to their pass rush by acquiring the talents of former New England Patriot defensive end,  Akiem Hicks.  If the Bears are looking to add to this 3-4 defense and if Shaq Lawson from Clemson is still there, he’ll be hard to pass up on.  At the eleventh pic of the draft, the Bears will most definitely miss out on the top two corner backs in the nation in Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey, but picking up one of the “second level” corners at this spot may be a reach.  The Bears can cross their fingers that in round two that University of Houston’s, William Jackson III will be around but they might have to wait for the fourth round  on a sleeper like Will Redmond out of Mississippi State.  While all the attention is on the Bears trying to re-create the “Monster of the Midway,” this team still has to answer the call on their offensive line.  The Bears released Jermon Bushrod and would like to move Kyle Long back inside, where he is dominant at the guard position.  Tackles  Ronnie Staley of Notre Dame, Jason Spriggs of Indiana and Germain Ifedi of Texas A&M could be getting looks from the Bears if they decide on the tackle position early – if not, the Stamford product, Kyle Murphy might be someone they look at in the later rounds.

Green Bay Packers: DT, TE, DE

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If Shaq Lawson doesn’t go to Chicago early in the draft (which he most likely won’t, the Bears will surely go tackle) the Green Bay Packers might make that pick later in the first round to wreck havoc on the Bears down the line.  The Packers front seven was worked last year and was bailed out more times than not by their aggressive secondary.  It’s not in the Packers DNA to spend bucks in free agency, they usually do their damage in the draft.  Tight end is a spot they tried to fill in last year with Richard Rogers, but if Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is available it will be an easy decision for Green Bay who saw last year they needed to get more weapons for Aaron Rodgers.   The Packers surprisingly have more holes than people care to talk about as defensive tackle is a position they may have to look at in the later rounds which means a guy like Anthony Zeddle of Penn State or DJ Reader, another Clemson defensive player, could be a pick for them in the fifth or sixth round.  And hey, what about the big-fat-elephant in the room?  Yeah, saying Eddy Lacy disappointed the Packers last year would be an understatement.  Still the Packers won’t give up on him but they should look to do something in terms of depth at the running back position.  James Starks – is what he is.  A free agent signing of Joique Bell might be what this team could be looking for.  He won’t come with a high price tag and he has proven his worth in the league.

Minnesota Vikings: WR, SS, OG

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The Vikings are everyone’s “sleeper” team or the team someone you knew said to “watch out for.”  Whatever, nonsensical notion one wants to compound with the Vikings, the truth is they have a solid roster and just need to fine tune some of their points.  With the 23rd pick in the first round, the Vikings may have to look at the wide receiver spot.  They really don’t have a threat at receiver (calm down Jarius Wright and Stefon Diggs fans. . .) and Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be nothing but a disgraceful first round bust.  The Vikings can do something interesting here though.  They can go after TCU’s Josh Doctson who has the looks to be a number one receiver in the league, or they can pull the rug out from under everyone and draft Braxton Miller, who brings the versatility they had in Percy Harvin and they thought they could attain in Cordarrelle Patterson.   The Vikings may use two or three picks in this draft to bulk up their offensive line.  If they get lucky they can land a stud like the big guard out of Stanford Joshua Garnett.  Alex Redmund out of UCLA is a late round guard who is a little bit of a project but could work out well, even as a rotational guy in his rookie year for the Vikes.  If free saftey Harrison Smith could get a running mate with him in the secondary it could prove to make this defense even better.  In the third or fourth round the Vikings can look at a guy like LSU’s Jalen Mills.  If for no other reason, he’s used to be a grown man wearing purple. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Those Gamblin’ Cowboys

The stereotype of a cowboy consist of a whiskey drinking, gun toting, roaming gambler who has no fear of another man.   This isn’t the place to determine if Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is either drinking whiskey or “packing heat,” but he has certainly shown his gambling side during this off-season.

The Cowboys have been making some interesting roster moves this off-season and although the rhetoric usually goes “teams who make the most noise in the off-season, never make the post-season,” it’s different in the case of this Dallas Cowboys team.  Yes, if you’re a bad team, or a middle of the road team and you decide to make big splashes in the off-season (for example, the Miami Dolphins of this year) it usually doesn’t amount to much.  On the other hand, if you’re already a playoff team and are looking to satisfy a few spots to help you become that much better – it  pays off.  Remember when the Eagles made the move to get Terrell Owens? Or most recently when Denver acquired Peyton Manning?  Those kind of moves help good teams move a step in the right direction.

The Dallas Cowboys already have a good team, but some adjustments/additions had to be made in order for them to take the necessary steps forward.   The Cowboys gambled and gambled early.

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As soon as the season was over the talk around the NFL was who out of running back Demarco Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant, would the Cowboys dedicate a long term contract to?  The Cowboys surprisingly didn’t sign either one long term, letting Murray sign away to division rival Philadelphia and although much to the chagrin of Dez Bryant, Jerry Jones and the boys decided to slap the franchise tag on Bryant.   Letting go of Murray was surprising to some because last year he was their rock and rushed for over 1800 yards, but the Cowboys feel that after the nearly 400 rushing attempts he had last year and his injury history, he wasn’t worth the big bucks.  One can also say that running behind the best offensive line in football will raise any running back’s Madden rating by 15 points. . .   Dez is a top five wide receiver – and in some circles he may be considered a top 2 wide receiver, but the Cowboys are leery of trusting Dez off the field more than on it.  The franchise tag is a way of telling Dez “we need to see maturity from you before we commit to you long -term.”

The Cowboy’s gambling ways did not stop there as they signed defensive end Greg Hardy.  They signed often injured running back Darren McFadden and in this year’s draft they used their second round pick on the first round talent of Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory.   The Cowboys weren’t done there as they signed un-drafted rookie La’el Collins, the 6’5″ tackle out of LSU.

Now, how are these moves “gambles?”

Let’s start with the most obvious, Greg Hardy.  Hardy was facing some pretty serious domestic abuse chargers, and although the case was settled out of court, the “court of public opinion” has labeled Hardy as a low-life to some degree.   The Cowboys defense needed a player of this caliber and decided to deal with the public criticism and signed Hardy.  Hardy will be facing a ten game suspension this year, but the Cowboys are hoping he’ll be there for them late in the season and most importantly for their playoff run.  Let’s also not forget last year how the Cowboys added one of the NFL’s oddest characters in Rolando McClain.  McClain was a stud linebacker in Alabama and saw on field success with the Oakland Raiders.  McClain has been arrested four times, married and divorced in the same year (2013) and was even a suspect in some kind of insurance fraud. . . He has retired, came back and been a headache for the most part.  The Cowboys paid a low-price to get him on their defense and hope it’s one of those gambles that are “low-risk, high reward.”

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Randy Gregory was projected to be taken within the top ten picks of this year’s draft, but his positive marijuana test and his admittance to being addicted to marijuana raised enough red flags that some teams wiped him off their draft boards completely.   Not the Cowboys.  The Cowboys see the need for a pass rusher like Gregory, and there is no doubt with the suspension of Hardy, the need became even more apparent.  Addicts usually fall back to their old habits, but expect the Cowboys to babysit this situation as the season goes on.   La’el Collins was another first round talent that slipped so far in this year’s draft, that nobody touched him.  A pregnant woman who La’el had a relationship with, was shot to death and rumors ran rampant about Collins’ involvement.  It was enough for every team to bail on the LSU tackle.  When the smoke cleared and it appeared Collins was not a suspect in the shooting, he was courted by some teams, but decided to sign with the Cowboys.  The Boys already had the best offensive line in the NFL, the addition of Collins is a gamble worth taking, because this elevates this line from the possibility of being the best, to one of the “greatest” we’ve seen in recent history.

The McFadden signing, isn’t a gamble that comes with the red flags as the ones already mentioned, but McFadden’s injury history has plagued him (and fantasy football owners) his whole career.  McFadden is being looked to fill the shoes of a running back that carried the ball nearly 400 times last season.  That just isn’t realistic.  McFadden, when healthy is one of the most versatile tools that can be added to any offense and if he is healthy within a stable of running backs, this can prove to be a very valuable addition.

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Dallas Cowboy fans everywhere should be happy with the moves Jerry Jones and company have made this off-season.   They don’t care about the criticism they may receive because of the character issues surrounding their newly acquired players.  They shouldn’t anyhow.  Let’s be honest, they are the Dallas Cowboys, their moves are under the biggest microscope no matter how minor or major.   The Cowboys have raised the anti and with that raised their expectations for the on-coming season.  If they are hoisting the Lombardi trophy at the end of it all, the gambles would have paid off and Jerry Jones can let out a sigh of relief.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The Aftermath of the Draft

Maybe we as fans have given the sport we love too much power.  Seriously, think about it.  The NFL has taken over our lives so much that even something as trivial as a schedule for the upcoming season being released becomes the buzz across the nation.  One could even argue that the NFL releasing it’s schedule during the NBA and NHL playoffs was another way football just flexed their muscle on the other sports brands.

The NFL Draft has become almost as big as the first round of the NFL Playoffs.  Advertisers line up to get their time in, fans set up “draft parties” for the first round and the football pundits have been rehashing arguments and repositioning players on their “big boards” for over a month – adding to the intrigue the draft presents.

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It’s all a big spectacle at the expense of exploiting these college kids one last time.   The word “exploit” may be a bit harsh, but there is nothing else left to call it.   The lead up to the draft becomes tiring though, as the same rhetoric gets spit back and forth on sports radio/tv for months.   Every year around draft time we get reminded of how much of a bust Jamarcus Russell was as a number one overall pick and that Tom Brady was drafted with the 199th pick of the 2000 draft.

We hear these stories every single year. . .

This year’s draft brought it’s own little story lines and now it’s over.  For better or worse, each team has made their draft picks and are now hoping these young kids will earn roster spots and be building blocks for the team’s future.  With that being said, here are five reasons why, we all should be thankful the draft is finally over.

1. No More Winston / Mariota comparisons:  

It was pretty clear from day one, Winston was more of the prototypical quarterback that came with off the field issues, while Mariota was the untraditional quarterback who is a model citizen.  That was it but every blow hard with an opportunity felt the need to bring that up to the media whenever given the chance.    The debate of who should go number one and why, has been given the same story by a hundred different voices.  It was enough to make you not like either or both of these young men for no reason what-so-ever other than that you were tired of hearing their names.

2. No More Mock Drafts: 

While acknowledging that their are a lot of folks out there who put in the hours and energy to watch film and break down team needs in order to write up a decent mock draft – it’s over-bearing.   Everybody who is anybody with a blog site or twitter handle makes up their own mock draft.   Sometimes it’s not even one mock draft either.  You have some guys who do “Mock Draft 2.0,” “Mock Draft 3.0,”  “Mock Draft (with trades)” etc, etc.   Now that the draft is over, about 90% of  those guys see how wrong they were (uh, me included.)

3. The Term “40 Time” Goes Back to Meaning Nothing :

Everybody likes speed.  Fast cars, fast money, fast. . . everything.  How many times have we seen a player’s speed be talked about more than his actual skill-set, just to see it blow up in some NFL scout’s face?   There’s no other time but draft time when you hear people talk about an athlete’s “40 Time” as if a forty yard dash would shorten the gap between Amari Cooper and some wideout from a division two school who ran a 4.2 40 Time – just stop it.

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4.  Your Nerves Are A  Little More At Ease:

Whether your team made a steal in the draft or totally blew it in every round, at least now you have piece of mind.  For better or worse, at least this thing is over.   The football pundits lead you to believe your team will trade players for picks, move up or down in the draft or have their eyes set on “one player in particular” and it drives you crazy.  Yes, it was fun to believe that Chip Kelly would’ve traded away every and anything to attain the services of Marcus Mariota, but let’s all be certain that the Philadelphia Eagle’s fans were nervous as all hell, because there is absolutely no telling what Chip Kelly’s next move is.

5. Mel Kiper Hibernates For About 10 Months:

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Kudos to Mel for all the draft work he does and for all the research he’s done over the years, but there is something about him that makes us all cringe.  Maybe it’s because we’ve come to know Mel as the “do all, end all” of the NFL draft and we put too much stock into his words.  If Mel says your team should do something, and if it’s something you like, you just don’t want to hear from Mel or his ridiculous hair.   At least Mel doesn’t say bonehead things though as Jon Gruden did in this year’s draft. . .  After the Rams drafted running back Todd Gurley, Gruden said that the Rams franchise hadn’t had a featured back since Eric Dickerson.  Gruden must’ve been asleep during the reigns of Steven Jackson, Marshall Faulk and Jerome Bettis – but it’s cool Jon, you still have “Gruden’s Quarterback Camp” every draft year in which you try to convince us that a quarterback with 4th round talent is going to be a steal.  .  . riiiiight.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Chicago Bears Mock Draft

Last year’s 5-11 season was nothing short of atrocious for the Chicago Bears.  They entered the season with the highest of expectations and finished the season as a laughing stock.    The Bears’ new general manager Ryan Pace has made moves in free agency to rid himself of pieces he no longer feels the need for and acquiring pieces to help build a 3-4 defense and reconstruct a feeling of optimism in the  locker room.    Taking a lot of things into consideration, here is one way the Bears could see things working out in this year’s draft.

First Round – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

The guess here is that the Raiders will be the only team in front of the Bears who are in need of a wide receiver.  The Raiders have their young quarterback Derek Carr and it would be ideal to pair him up with either Kevin White of West Virginia or Amari Cooper from Alabama.  Cooper is the better route runner so that might give him the edge in going earlier.  White is not a bad consolation prize though.  He is the faster of the two wideouts and comes with 6’3″ 215 pound frame – pretty much identical to Bears’ wideout Alshon Jeffrey.  The Bears have needs all over the field so taking the best player on the board should be the blueprint – and in this case, it would be White.

Second Round – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington

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The Bears signed a few defensive players to one-year contracts in an effort to “feel out” who they would want to keep in their newly formed 3-4 defense.  This second round pick would have to be a main stay in the defensive scheme for years to come and Shaq Thompson could be that guy.  Thompson is one of the better athletes at the linebacker position in this year’s draft and there has been word that some NFL general managers have likened Thompson to make a transition to safety – which is another position the Bears would like some long term stability at as well.  Thompson has already said his “heart is at playing linebacker” but folks question if his frame can handle playing that close to the line of scrimmage in the NFL.  He is six feet tall and 228 pounds.   He has great lateral movement and instincts though, and although he is used to a 4-3 defense, he is no stranger to playing inside or outside, so the transition shouldn’t be  difficult.  New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would love to have a swiss army knife like this to add to his attack.

Third Round – Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon

The Bears have recently parted ways with center Roberto Garza which means there is a vacancy in the heart of the offensive line.  The Bears may roll the dice with another Oregon offensive lineman, considering their best player (arguably) is guard Kyle Long, another Oregon Duck.  Aside from the college connection, Grasu is an athletic center, who is used to a quickly paced offense, and one would guess to minimize Cutler’s mistakes, the passing attack will consist of getting the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible.  He’s not the most powerful center but his athleticism and awareness make up for what he lacks in sheer strength.

Fourth Round – Kurtis Drummond, Safety, Michigan State

The Bears signed Antrel Rolle in the off-season and it would be smart to pair the veteran with a rookie to mold.  The Bears have long been weak at the safety spot and now that they’re free of the Chris Conte Curse, they will be able to draft Kurtis Drummond in the fourth round.  Drummond is a “gamer” who does his best to keep the game “in front of him.”  He broke up eleven passes last season, but playing in the Big 10 conference against Big 10 quarterbacks, that number should be at about 20.

Fifth Round – Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State

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If the Bears are looking for a sleeper it may be here in the fifth round.  Defensive tackle projections are usually tough, but better to miss on a fifth rounder than draft a bust in the first, right?  Anyhow, Cooper has incredible speed for the position and his hand mechanics are impressive as well as important considering he lacks the size of most defensive tackles.  Even if he doesn’t turn out to be a sleeper-starter pick – he can no doubt provide depth as a rotational player.

Sixth Round – Ladarious Gunter, CB, Miami 

Gunter is a big physical corner at 6’1″ 202 pounds.  He won’t keep up with the speediest of wide outs but he is as aggressive as they come.   Considering this 3-4 defense is a work in progress it would be good to have a corner like Gunter in the rotation because he is an above average corner in attacking the run game.   He worked his way from junior college to “The U” – and has also played some safety and has experience in playing in kick coverage.

With no seventh round pick this year, the Bears will most likely make some kind of trade to get a mid or late round pick in the draft.  Any and everybody could be on the trading block come draft day, so it should be an entertaining (gut-wrenching) day for Bears fans.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The “Other” Quarterbacks in the Draft

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have gotten most of the attention going into this years draft and for good reason.   Winston displays everything on the field that you want from the quarterback position, while Mariota’s Heisman year was complete with eye popping video-game like statistics.   Believe it or not though, there are other quarterbacks in this year’s draft.   This isn’t the “sexiest” quarterback class to come out though and teams that are in need of that position, may want to tread lightly.

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Brett Hundley (UCLA) – Hundley entered last season with expectations to rival the hype around Winston and Mariota.  Although his season wasn’t awful, it also didn’t make many take notice.  In his three years at UCLA there is really no sign of growth statistically.  At 6’3″ and 225 pounds, he has ideal size and even brings a strong arm to the table, but his inability to read defenses consistently and relying on his athletic ability too much throw signs of caution.   Surprised that UCLA head coach Jim Mora didn’t shy away from running an offense that is predominately run from the shotgun to help Hundley’s transition to a pro style . . . Hundley is an intriguing prospect.

Best Fit: If the Arizona Cardinals get a shot at him in the second round, it would benefit Hundley greatly to learn behind a veteran like Palmer while being coached up by possibly the best coach in the league in Bruce Arians.

Bryce Petty (Baylor) – Much like Mariota in Oregon, Petty has a system at Baylor that is very quarterback friendly.  Unlike Mariota though – Petty was also blessed with having arguably the best wide receiver depth in college.  Baylor has become a place where top wide receiver recruits flock to because of it’s aerial assault.  Petty is a big, strong and confident player but his tendencies to stare down a single target and check down as soon as the primary receiver is covered are things seen week to week in Baylor games.

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Best Fit: If the Philadelphia Eagles resist the (rumored) temptation to trade up for Marcus Mariota in the first round.  They may just be patient and wait to see if Petty, who relies on a similar system will fall to them.

Garrett Grayson (Colorado State) : It seems like every year there’s some quarterback that was on nobody’s radar during the season and all of a sudden becomes a “sleeper” when it’s draft time.   This year that player is Garrett Grayson.   He brings what the previous two lack, and that’s that he played in a pro style system which gets the NFL scouts all giddy with excitement.  He is accurate but nothing special when it comes to arm strength or athletic ability.  The tape on Grayson is pretty clear though.  Coming out of the Mountain West conference, Grayson played well against the level of competition that was presented to him, and yes, that is a big deal.  Sure Grayson looked good against the likes of Wyoming, Hawaii and New Mexico, but once Grayson played against good defensive teams like Boston College, Boise State, Utah and Utah State, the struggle was evidently real. . .

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Best Fit:  Alex Smith is in no danger of losing his job but injuries are a part of the league.  The Kansas City Chiefs have Andy Reid as their head coach who once upon a time made Kevin Kolb and Koy Detmer look serviceable, so this would be Grayson’s best spot to land at.

Bo Wallace (Ole Miss):  Wallace is a great athlete with a pretty strong arm but he’s inconsistent all across the board.  He is a fiery competitor and will impress some NFL types with his athleticism and demeanor but sometimes that demeanor of his turns into cockiness which results all too often in him making bad decisions.   He likes to talk trash and sometimes lets opponents get in his head as well.   Bo is a gamble if there ever is one in the draft, especially at the quarterback position.  When his number one receiver Laquon Treadwell went down for the season, Bo Wallace was exposed even further as he totaled 6 interceptions and zero touchdowns in his last 3 games of the season.  It also doesn’t help that two of those games were losses to Arkansas and TCU in the Rebels offense was held to 3 and 0 points respectively.

Best Fit: Any desperate team that is primarily a run-based offense.  Buffalo Bills, maybe? . . .

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G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio