2017 NFL DRAFT: Will Your Favorite College Player Make It?

By: Will Stevenson

The NFL DRAFT is upon us! Since the college football season ended, fans around the globe have been waiting of the Mock Drafts, pro-days, pundits and combine workouts. It has always been a mystery to me how draft prospects rise and fall after actual football has ended. It’s amazing to see a player like Jabril Peppers, a do it all player for Michigan, be as high as a top 10 during the college football season and then be rumored to drop to the bottom of the first round, and even to the second round. Most of these rumored predictions are all lies. General Managers and think-tanks are attempting to scare off potential suitors for the players they want to choose. Most if not all teams do not want to have to trade up in the draft just to get a player they thought would fall into their hands. For incoming draftees, the draft process can be a disservice to their actual talents. Although there are roughly 43 game-day spots, then to 53 an the practice squad, there doesn’t seem to be enough room for incoming players. With the special teams taking a hit due to personal safety, the numbers tend to dwindle for fringe players. Likewise, the passing offenses have allowed more receivers, tight ends, h-backs, nickel/dime cornerbacks, and hybrid safeties to earn more spots on given teams. Although the star running back has been cut down, running back by committee helps more players fill the running back position.

The college playbook and the NFL playbook are different. College offenses are geared to keep coaches employed, recruits coming in, and more money for big bowls. A college team may have the number 1 recruit at quarterback, but their team isn’t looking to get him to the NFL like Kentucky would in college basketball. More teams run the shotgun offense in college, while NFL teams still prefer quarterbacks to run offenses under center. So a guy who runs a shotgun or pistol specific offense runs the risk of being rated lower when it comes to being a pro prospect.

The wear and tear of playing a possible three years in college also lowers incoming prospects. How many Alabama and SEC running backs have we seen fall by the wayside in the NFL over the past few years? The playbooks may be different between college and the pros, but the hits are still the same. Injuries limit so many players as they attempt to stay on the field to improve their draft stock. Hamstrings always seem pop up during the combine and pro-days. Players must also evaluate if they will have that off-season surgery or hold off until they are drafted.

With the rookie scale in effect, NFL teams don’t have to worry about Sam Bradford or Jemarcus Russell weighing down their cap. The Jaguars can draft Blake Bortles and cut or trade him years after he’s shown no promise with little financial distress. Teams are also collectively willing to allow players to fall in later rounds, knowing they will drop. The days of Jacoby Ford going high in the first round are over. That 4th rated running back isn’t a first round pick, he’s now a 2nd or 3rd round pick at best.

So will we see another draft gaffe this year? Will a high profied player fall? Will another team trade up for the first pick? Who knows. Let’s take a look at the players and coaches joining this year’s 2017 draft.

1) Jamal Adams S Louisiana State   12) Marshon Lattimore CB Ohio State
2) Jonathan Allen DT Alabama   13) Malik McDowell DT Michigan State
3) Chidobe Awuzie CB Colorado   14) Takkarist McKinley LB UCLA
4) Derek Barnett DE Tennessee   15) Ryan Ramczyk T Wisconsin
5) Garett Bolles T Utah   16) Haason Reddick LB Temple
6) Gareon Conley CB Ohio State   17) Cam Robinson T Alabama
7) Corey Davis WR Western Michigan   18) John Ross WR Washington
8) Leonard Fournette RB Louisiana State   19) Solomon Thomas DE Stanford
9) Adoree’ Jackson CB Southern California   20) Mitchell Trubisky QB North Carolina
10) Kevin King CB Washington   21) Deshaun Watson QB Clemson
11) DeShone Kizer QB Notre Dame   22) Tre’Davious White CB Louisiana State

 

The college head coaches confirmed to attend this year’s NFL Draft:

1) Larry Fedora North Carolina   8) Chris Petersen Washington
2) P.J. Fleck Minnesota   9) Matt Rhule Baylor
3) Butch Jones Tennessee   10) Nick Saban Alabama
4) Brian Kelly Notre Dame   11) David Shaw Stanford
5) Urban Meyer Ohio State   12) Dabo Swinney Clemson
6) Jim Mora UCLA   13) Kyle Whittingham Utah
7) Ed Orgeron Louisiana State      

 

Which Team Will Sidney Jones Make Look Like Geniuses?

By Leo Silbert

After 3 seasons at the University of Washington, corner back Sidney Jones decided that it was the time for him to declare for the NFL draft.  He was one of the highest rated corners coming out this year which is also a year where corner back is one of, if not the, strongest position groups in years.  One NFC East scout said that Jones seemed to have taken all of the good qualities from fellow former Husky and off-season workout buddy Marcus Peters, with none of the behavioral issues.  He put up respectable numbers across the board at the combine and he seemed like a lock for the first round of the draft until he went to the ground during his pro day and had to be carted off the practice field.

Sidney Jones Injury

The diagnosis ended up being a ruptured left Achilles tendon, a devastating blow to his draft stock.  He went from being a potentially top half of the first round selection to being a mid-late round gamble on his ability to heal from this injury.  The worst part about this injury is that it might rob him of some of his speed and quickness and eventually shorten his career length, but if he is taken by a team in the right situation, he can end up living up to his potential for pennies on the dollar.  Now, he won’t be much use to a team that has an immediate need at the corner back position to make their defense improve since he may be unable to play until November, but he still has two types of teams that should be very interested in him.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

The first group of teams who should be interested in him are teams who have good corner back groups already, but with aging members.  As a Giants fan, the Giants were the first ones to come to mind to me here since they already have a very good trio of corner backs but with one member who is over the age of 30 and a contract that would save the team valuable cap space if it wasn’t on the books anymore with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  DRC is a great corner still and had one of his best seasons ever this past year, but he has a few issues going against him.  Most importantly is that even though he will start just about every game, he is a player that can’t stay on the field for an entire game anymore.  This past season, he only played 736 snaps while he only missed one game.  His teammate Janoris Jenkins who missed most of 2 games on the other hand played 1,028 snaps.  This means that the 4th string corner has to end up picking up most of the extra 292 snaps missed by DRC.  Also, the Giants need to clear up some cap space in the upcoming off seasons so they can give second contracts to players such as Odell Beckham Jr, Landon Collins, Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg.  The Giants also fit with their fondness for gambling corners as seen with both DRC and Janoris Jenkins.  Other teams that also fit this type of mold are: The Denver Broncos with Aqib Talib, the Dolphins with Byron Maxwell, the Panthers with Captain Munnerlyn, the Patriots with Malcolm Butler if they decide not to pay him highly, the Raiders with Sean Smith, the Steelers with William Gay, the Texans with Jonathan Joseph and the Titans with Jason McCourty.

Joe Haden

The other type of team that should be interested in Jones is the group of teams that are so talent deficient that a highly graded player joining or being hurt won’t affect their record much this season anyway.  The team that leads this group is the Cleveland Browns.  The Browns need capable bodies at positions across the board except for along their offensive line, at nose tackle and at weak side linebacker.  They are a team no one expects to compete this season and is likely due for another top 5 draft pick next year.  They are a team that has nothing to lose by gambling on such a talent as Jones is and in a few years if they build their team up to respectability, they may have a mid-round steal of a corner on their team helping to lead their defense.  The list of teams here is a lot shorter since the league is at the closest level of competition across the board it has ever had so there are fewer teams that qualify for that, and one of the few teams that do qualify have a scheme where Sidney Jones’ lack of height and arm length make it so he doesn’t fit the scheme like how it is with the San Francisco 49ers.  Other teams where Jones would fit with under this stipulation though are the Bears and Jets.  If Jones is picked by any of these three teams, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in 3 years he was helping to lead a great young defense.

Sidney Jones

Injuries suck in football, especially when they take away a player’s chance to get paid before they are even drafted.  They could rob careers from reaching as high as they could potentially go and they can shorten or even end them early.  Jones won’t have his career ended before it starts and with the proper attitude and system, he can end up as one of the best corner backs in the league, and his draft position will make whatever general manager pulled the trigger on drafting him look like a genius.

The Little Known Receiving Prospect Who Can Be the Steal of the Draft.

By Leo Silbert

Air Force vs New Mexico Football

When you think of universities who produce quality wide receivers you probably think of places like the University of Miami, Clemson, USC and recently LSU.  A school you wouldn’t expect to produce an NFL caliber wide receiver though is the option based offense at the United States Air Force Academy, but that is where the focus of this article comes in with Jalen Robinette.  Robinette is 6’3 and 220 pounds of a receiver who showed a great ability to get open and when he was unable to get open he was able to win jump balls. There is a reason not many receivers come out of offenses like Air Force as option offenses are running based and the receivers don’t run traditional routes.  There have been a few recent examples of option receivers finding success in the NFL though in Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas who both came out of Georgia Tech, but it still isn’t a common occurrence.  Robinette coming from Air Force makes it even more rare, since the last time a player who went to Air Force was drafted was back in 1999, when Robinette was only 5 years old.

What makes Robinette a viable prospect is that he has all of the desirable traits in the world for a great wide receiver.  He has the size and weight to win 1 on 1 matchups, he was able to do great after the catch (as the gif following this paragraph will show) and he averaged over 27 yards per catch this past season. He was the guy on Air Force’s offense who was always the guy they looked to when they needed a big play.  He also happened to be an incredible blocker for his position due to his size and the fact that in an option offense is absolutely necessary.

jalen-robinette-td

Now, there are a couple of reasons why he isn’t being heralded as the next great thing at the receiver position.  He didn’t have ridiculously over the top stats like Calvin Johnson had at Georgia Tech and he doesn’t have the same sub 4.4 speed at over 6’4 like Calvin Johnson or Demaryius Thomas had so it isn’t likely that he’ll get first round noise like the other two had.  He also is extremely raw as a route runner due to the option offense being mostly a deep passing game with few short routes because when they wanted to have a short gain, they would just run the ball.  Robinette is too raw of a prospect to take a chance on early in the draft, but if he is given the time to develop properly, he can be one of the best and toughest red zone threats in the league.

If you want to see more of Robinette, here is his entire catch reel from this past season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J66XahiG4gk

Each NFC West Team’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the NFC West:

  1. richard-shermanSeattle Seahawks- The Seahawks have been a powerhouse in the league pretty much since Russell Wilson became the quarterback in 2012, but this year they seemed to be missing a key piece and that is before Earl Thomas went down with an injury.  It just seemed like their offense could never get it going and that their defense wasn’t as much of a juggernaut it had been in years past.  The offense had lost Marshawn Lynch to retirement over the offseason and the defense lost Bruce Irvin to free agency and the Raiders so these can explain why they didn’t see the same.  Their defense was still top 5 so their defense’s demise may have been more due to them slightly underperforming from their 4 previous seasons of leading the NFL in points allowed per game.  Their offensive problems can partially be explained by Russell Wilson being hurt for the early part of the year, but even when he was back to full health the offense didn’t seem right.  Their offense was able to have a dominant ground game when Marshawn Lynch was on the team despite the team lacking a real offensive line.  They could try to get another Marshawn Lynch, but Lynch was more of a unicorn running back that only comes along once every few generations and Thomas Rawls isn’t a terrible running back, but he needs some help.  The Seahawks tried to start improving their offensive line last year when they selected Germain Ifedi in the first round, but Ifedi was incredibly raw and he graded out as one of the worst offensive linemen in the league.  The worst part about the Seahawks’ line this year was that Ifedi wasn’t even the worst lineman to play over 600 snaps.  The only consistently above average offensive lineman they had is their center Justin Britt.  The Seahawks need to build their offensive line up if they want to look like they did in 2013, because Marshawn Lynch isn’t going to be walking through that door anytime soon.
  2.  larry-fitzgeraldArizona Cardinals- If you look at the numbers, it is hard to see what happened to the Cardinals that led to their decline from 2015.  They had the 6th best scoring offense, the 2nd best yardage defense, and they were the league leaders in both sacks and forced fumbles.  They have one of the most electrifying talents in the league on offense with David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald led the league in receptions, and their offensive line held up adequately.  So what went wrong?  Mostly it seems like they let up too many big plays that led to scores.  They have one of the best corner backs in the league in Patrick Peterson, but across from him they didn’t really have much.  Teams were able to attack the #2 corner back with little resistance which was the Achilles heel of the defense.  If the Cardinals can get a little bit more luck next season as far as losing close games and if they get a proper #2 cornerback to compliment Peterson, they can be back to knocking on the door of the Superbowl by next season.
  3.  aaron-donaldLos Angeles Rams- In their first season back in Los Angeles since the early 1990s, some people expected the Rams to finally take a step forward into contending for a playoff spot since now they had a first overall pick quarterback on their team to go with a ferocious defensive line and one of the best young running backs in the league in Todd Gurley.  Then they started the season with their first overall pick as the third string qb and lost to the 49ers 27-0, starting of the trend for how bad the season was going to be.  The Rams were a mess all over the place, with no real offensive threat and their defense was not nearly good enough to carry them.  Now this season, they have a new young and innovative head coach in Sean McVay who brought in the legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to turn the defense into one of the top defenses in the league.  So, with Sean McVay’s recent history as an offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, you can assume that he’d want to model his offense after the one that he had there.  To do that they will need to build up their receiving corps.  They will need to retain the services of Kenny Britt to do this correctly, but when the Rams make their first pick in the 2nd round they should take a wide receiver who can be a deep threat a la Desean Jackson.  If the resign Britt then they’ll have their Garcon in him and their Jamison Crowder in Tavon Austin, but the ability to stretch the field is the real catalyst of the offense.  Then they would just be a Jordan Reed type and a complete offense away from having the same kind of offense that McVay had in Washington that got him the job.
  4.  carlos-hydeSan Francisco 49ers- Oh boy, where to begin here?  The 49ers went into this season with incredibly low expectations with needs all over the roster and a coach and gm that were paired up in a sort of shotgun wedding.  Their roster was depleted of talent from top to bottom, spare a few good pieces such as Carlos Hyde, Deforest Buckner and Navarro Bowman.  And possibly the worst thing that could have happened to the 49ers this season was how they started it off by blowing out the Rams in a week 1 shutout victory which made some people think that they really could be something.  That was the only win they would have until they played the Rams again in week 16.  The 49ers don’t even officially have a coach yet (though many speculate that the job will go to Kyle Shanahan once his current team has played in the Superbowl), so it is hard to even know which need they’ll need to deal with first in order to start succeeding.  I honestly feel like the 49ers are currently the least talented team in the NFL so I feel like if they added a young qb now that they would end up messing up his development so I believe they should go for defense above all else and grab an edge rusher who will be able to sack the opposing qb so the team will have a better shot at staying in games defensively while they build up the rest of their roster with enough talent to eventually compete.  They are in line for a long rebuild though.

And this is the end of my team draft needs series.  You can check out all of the other articles in the series by clicking on the corresponding links below.

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

NFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

NFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-norths-biggest-draft-need/

NFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/each-nfc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

Each NFC South Team’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the NFC South:

  1. julio-jones             Atlanta Falcons- The Falcons have made it to the Superbowl this year so calling anything a need is a little bit of a stretch since they didn’t need it this year so far.  They definitely were one of the surprise teams to win their division this season and even when they did not many people believed in them along the way.  I too am guilty of this, but they have continually proved me wrong.  Their offense is just incredible to watch.  Matt Ryan has re-emerged as a top 5 quarterback in the NFL, Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman combine for a great 1-2 punch at running back behind one of the 10 best offensive lines in the league and Taylor Gabriel and Mohammed Sanu have proved to be excellent complementary pieces to one of, if not the, best wide receivers in the league Julio Jones.  Their defense has been solid in the secondary led by rookie Keanu Neal, linebackers led by rookie Deion Jones, and a defensive line led by second year player Vic Beasley.  The defense is incomplete though.  The defensive line doesn’t have a great run stuffer and the linebackers haven’t been good at stopping the run either so I think that the better option for them would be to take a big interior defensive lineman who can stuff the run and help the linebackers by clogging up holes.  The Giants this year were a great example of how a run stuffing interior defensive line can mask deficiencies by the linebacker corps and can make a weakness at two places into a relative strength.  If the Falcons get a disruptive interior defensive lineman, then this year could be just the tip of the iceberg of their potential.
  2. mike-evansTampa Bay Buccaneers- This team looked for a while that it could arrive to the playoffs a year too early, but a late season mini-slide kept them out and sets them up to break out in Jameis Winston’s third season.  Their offense looks like it is just about there already with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans complementing each other greatly as a deep thrower paired with a guy who makes 50/50 balls seem more like 75/25 balls in his favor.  They also have 3 of their 5 offensive lineman performing above average and 2 capable running backs when they are healthy in Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers.  They also have some pieces on defense, but not a complete unit.  Their biggest weakness on defense is similar to the Falcons as they need run defense as none of their front 7 players are great in that area.  So since they have the same core problem as the Falcons, their draft need is the same as the Falcons in a disruptive interior defensive lineman.  The Bucs already have one disruptive interior lineman in Gerald McCoy, but he too doesn’t excel in run defense.  If they can get a guy in the mold of a Michael Brockers, then they can have one of the best defensive interiors in the league which will limit what opponents can do on offense and help out the rest of their defense against the run game.
  3. Drew BreesNew Orleans Saints- Does anyone remember the last time the Saints had a defense that could stop anyone?  That would be in 2013 when they were 4th in yards against and scoring against.  That is a long time in football terms, especially when at the time people were still more focussed on their offense.  But since then, it seems like Drew Brees has had to play 16 games worth of first to 40 wins every year and however great Brees is, he can only do so much.  The Saints are still the same offensive juggernaut they have been since Brees and Sean Payton arrived to the team in 2006.  Brees threw for over 5,000 yards yet again which has seemed to become routine for him, they had the best rookie wide receiver in the league in Michael Thomas, and their offensive line isn’t too good.  Their running back situation isn’t ideal, but the Saints pass the ball short often enough to simulate a running game with their short passing game.  Their defense though needs help at just about every spot not taken up by either Jordan Cameron or Kenny Vaccaro.  What they need more than anything though is someone who can match up with an opponent’s number one receiver and help to at least slow him down so the offense can maybe just play some games of first to 30 wins.
  4. cam-newtonCarolina Panthers- This team had one of the biggest negative turnarounds of any team in recent memory, going from 15-1 and losing the Superbowl to 6-10 and a top 10 pick.  Some people might be quick to overreact and say that the loss of Josh Norman made the team fall apart, but his replacement James Bradberry played pretty well in his stead and Norman, however good he was in 2015, was not worth 9 wins.  The biggest part of the Panthers’ regression was the regression of Jonathan Stewart as a running back.  The Panthers are at their best when teams aren’t able to key on whether Cam Newton will run the ball, throw the ball, or hand it off to the running back on any given play.  With Stewart showing his age this season, teams were able to key in on Newton and shut down the Panthers’ offense.  If the Panthers are able to grab a guy like a Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook, then you can see this team get back to close to their 2015 form really quickly.

Previous articles in this series:

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

NFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

NFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-norths-biggest-draft-need/

Each NFC East Team’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help.  Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks.  Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player.  I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the NFC East:

  1. ezekiel-elliotDallas Cowboys- The Cowboys put together a season that seemed to have come right outside of a movie script.  The veteran qb goes down with an injury and it is up to a couple of hotshot rookies to keep the team afloat until the star veteran could return.  Except, the veteran never returned and not because of his injury being too severe, the hotshot rookies were on a roll and looked unstoppable.  They seemed to be taking the team over in the same kind of way that Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk took over the Rams in their first years starting on the team, except Zeke and Dak were true rookies.  That was all until the team got to the playoffs and lost to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in their first playoff game.  Now it is time for them to find their flaws and the biggest one is their ability to rush the passer consistently on defense.  They might not be in this position where their biggest need is at this position if Randy Gregory didn’t end up becoming a head case, but it is where they are now.  And this draft, besides just being a deep edge rusher draft is also a draft where a late first round prospect at edge rusher plays for a Lovie Smith in college who runs the same defense as Rod Marinelli with a lot of the same terminology in Dawuane Smoot out of Illinois.  Dallas really is building something special here, and once they get a consistent pass rush, they can potentially advance to the next round of the playoffs.
  2. landon-collinsNew York Giants- Going into the season, most Giants fans expected the Giants to have the most explosive offense in the NFC East and one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL while their defense would be improved from the worst ranked defense in the league but not being anything special.  And that right there is why the games are played.  The Giants’ defense turned into one of the very best units in the NFL with all 3 of their big free agent acquisitions proving their worth, a 2nd year pro at safety going from looking lost in coverage into arguably the best safety in the NFL, and strong showings from multiple rookies.  So yea, for now the Giants’ biggest need isn’t on that side of the ball.  Their offense on the other hand looked like it was a Ferrari parked in a garage and not moving because no one knew where the keys were.  There wasn’t a 100 yard rushing effort by a running back until week 17, Victor Cruz couldn’t get separation on the outside, Eli Manning was missing some throws, the tight ends looked like they had anchors strapped to their feet after the catch, but most importantly was that the Giants had some of, if not the very worst offensive tackle play on both sides of offensive line in the NFL.  Eli Manning threw the ball sooner after the snap than any other quarterback in the league yet he was still constantly under pressure.  Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart are not good enough to be starting tackles in the NFL, and their inability effected how every other person on the offense struggled.  Now, I have said before that this draft is a weak offensive tackle draft, but late in the first round is where a team can actually get value at the position in this year’s draft.  If the Giants can fix their offensive tackle problems, they may be able to find the keys to the Odell Beckham Jr lead Ferrari.
  3. trent-williamsWashington Redskins- Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2012, the Redskins had high expectations for this past season.  On offense, they had some of the most yards in the league behind Kirk Cousins throwing for over 4900 yards and a receiving corps that ran deep with 2 great receiving threats at tight end.  They had a very good offensive line and they had a developing running back in Robert Kelly who can stand to have a change of pace backfield mate.  Their defense on the other hand needs some help.  They were the worst team in the NFL in 3rd down defense, allowing 46.63% of all third downs to become first downs.  By comparison, the Buccaneers who were first in the NFL in that category allowed just 34..36% of third downs to be converted.  That big of a difference is unacceptable and something needs to be done to fix that.  One thing that would help them greatly is an inside linebacker who can go out in coverage and stop the run equally well.  Mason Foster was adequate at that, but he doesn’t have sideline to sideline speed and none of the other linebackers on the roster have that kind of skill since Su’a Cravens will be moved to strong safety which will help that position.  If the Redskins get a speedy linebacker to compliment Foster, they will be a lot closer to having a competitive defense.
  4. NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia EaglesPhiladelphia Eagles- The Eagles came into the year with a rookie qb pegged as the starter after they traded away Sam Bradford with little time before the start of the season.  Carson Wentz started out fast but slowed down as the season went on.  They also switched to a new scheme on defense, switching to a 4-3 wide nine scheme from a 3-4 two gap system and for the front 7 it worked out wonderfully.  Brandon Graham had a career year, Fletcher Cox lived up to his contract, Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham were great at linebacker, and in the secondary Malcolm Jenkins showed how he is a top 5 safety.  But both their offense and defense had an Achilles heel.  For the offense it was their wide receiving corps which was one of the worst in the league with only Jordan Matthews playing at a passable level on offense while on defense their best corner back  was Leodis McKelvin who isn’t good enough to be a top 2 corner on most teams in the NFL.  According to Pro Football Focus they had the lowest ranked receiver in the NFL in Nelson Agholar and the lowest ranked corner in the NFL in Jalen Mills.  Both of these positions are in dire need of help, but their receivers need to improve to help the development of Carson Wentz.  If they get a good wide receiver, they may be able to help Carson Wentz into not having a near 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio in his 2nd year and may make the Eagles’ offense into a more serious threat across the board.

Previous articles in this series:

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

Each NFC North’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the NFC North:

  1. Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons  Green Bay Packers- The Packers started the season out very slow at 4-6 and there were rumblings of how they should fire Mike McCarthy and that Aaron Rodgers might be done.  Then Rodgers made his now famous “we just have to run the table” comment and he proceeded to do that for the rest of the regular season while putting together one of the best 6 game stretches of quarterback play ever with 18 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions.  His great play over the closing weeks of the season and through the first two playoff games helped to mask some severe deficiencies on the rest of the team.  They were down to using wide receiver Ty Montgomery as their starting running back while they were moving safeties to corner back due to all the injuries suffered there.  The latter of those two is their biggest need because Ty Montgomery didn’t look too bad as a running back and they may be able to get away with him and a healthy Eddy Lacy is he is resigned.  Their corner backs on the other hand were Micah Hyde and a bunch of warm bodies, and Micah Hyde was a safety.  Sure, they’ll be getting Sam Shields off of injury, but before his injury he wasn’t looking that good.  If Green Bay can start building their corner back depth chart with some real corners, then their defense can start to complement Aaron Rodgers’ ability to play incredible even when he is at a talent disadvantage.
  2. matt-staffordDetroit Lions- The Lions are a team that has to think “if only Matt Stafford didn’t injure his throwing hand in the last month of the season.”  Before Stafford’s injury, he had the Lions looking like the comeback kids of the league and he had an outside shot at being named the MVP.  That was when the Lions were 9-4 and Stafford had engineered 8 fourth quarter comebacks.  After he injured his hand though, the team finished with 3 regular season losses and a wildcard round exit in the playoffs.  It sucks when an injury causes a meltdown for a team but now they need to focus on what they can do next year to help the team if Stafford ends up dealing with another injury?  Something that would really help them is a good running game.  The Lions have a stable of running backs who are all primarily talented at receiving the ball, but aren’t much of a threat to run the ball which is their primary job.  They have an offensive line that can create holes and move on pull blocks so the blame really does go back to the running backs.  If the Lions can get a true running back instead of what basically amounts to a short yardage receiver, then maybe Stafford won’t have to make so many comebacks and the team’s fortunes won’t solely be tied to his ability to stay healthy.
  3. Xavier RhodesMinnesota Vikings- During the early part of training camp and the preseason, the Vikings were a trendy Superbowl pick.  They had a great defense some people thought could be as good as the 2015 Broncos defense, a legendary running back in Adrian Peterson, and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who was able to do enough to get his offense to score more than the defense would allow.  Then about a week before the season, Bridgewater went down with a horrific injury which prompted the Vikings to trade a first round pick and a future fourth round pick to the Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford.  They started the season out 5-0, showing that the Superbowl predictions may have been well warranted, but after that hot start, they finished a disappointing 8-8.  Losing eight of your final 11 games shows that they had the same old Sam Bradford as he has always been (inconsistent qb who can show flashed of brilliance, but flashes of “why is this guy an NFL qb”).  That also shows that they had more deeply entrenched  deficiencies throughout the team.  The biggest need for this team is the same as many other teams I have done this for (and likely will again), offensive line.  Matt Kalil when healthy is one of the biggest draft busts of the last 10 years while his replacement TJ Clemmings was somehow even worse.  When you have some of the worst tackle play in the league, the rest of your offense suffers.  They also had some of the worst play in the league of any center in the league.  Nick Easton was below average in pass blocking and in run blocking he struggled to create any push.  The Vikings had okay play from their guards, but when they are surrounded by bad play, it is hard to see their impact.  If the Vikings can fix their offensive line, they may be able to prove that they could deserve Superbowl talk next season.
  4. leonard-floydChicago Bears- The Bears are a team of many needs at many positions.  They went into the season with many people having low expectations for their team and they definitely lived up to those lowly expectations.  They made some good draft picks with Leonard Floyd and Cody Whitehair, but there is a position that they need more than any other, and it is one of the positions they are most highly invested in.  Jay Cutler is done as a starting caliber NFL quarterback.  If the Bears want to compete in this league, they need a quarterback who can lead them there.  They have the pieces to have at least an average offensive line.  They have a good running back tandem, good receivers, a good tight end and a bunch of pieces on defense.  This team needs a quarterback probably more than any other team in the league and if they get a good one, then the Bears can finally be relevant again in today’s NFL.

Previous articles in this series:

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

NFC East-