NBA Midseason Awards

So it’s roughly the halfway point in the NBA season and I’ve barely blogged about basketball since the preseason, so I feel it’s high time I said something. I have been following basketball, I just haven’t found anything blog-worthy of late. Except that whole exchange between the Rockets and Clippers, but I had already written my McCutchen blog by that point. I guess what I will say about that is I’ve never seen anything like it. For those who missed it, apparently the Rockets and Clippers were jawing at eachother during the game. Then after it was over, a few Rockets players, namely James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green, made their way to the Clippers’ locker room in an attempt to “confront” Clippers guard Austin Rivers. Security did escort them out before anything violent could break out. How did the Rockets get to the Clippers locker room you might ask? Well new Rocket Chris Paul was a Clipper last year…nothing has been confirmed outside of the fact that the three aforementioned Rockets players tried to confront Rivers in the Clippers locker room. The NBA is currently investigating. Once we have all the details I’ll try and get something complete out there. Now with that, on to my midseason NBA awards.

NBA MVP: LeBron James-F-Cleveland Cavaliers

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Believe it or not it’s actually been a while since LeBron won an MVP. He’s won it 4 times but last time was 2013. There hasn’t been anything wrong but he’s been so consistently great that people have come to expect it of him and it would take an otherworldly performance for him to actually win the award nowadays. I wouldn’t say his numbers are otherworldly this year in particular, but I do think he’s most deserving of the MVP out of all the other candidates. He’s 4th in the NBA with 27.3 PPG while playing the third most minutes, 26th with 8 RPG, and 5th in APG with 8.8, which is 1.2 per game more than the next closest non-point guard, Draymond Green. LeBron continues to do it all and while I do think that the Cavaliers are overall having a disappointing year, you can’t put that on him.

Others Receiving Consideration: Giannis Antetokounmpo-F-Milwaukee Bucks, James Harden-G-Houston Rockets, Kyrie Irving-G-Boston Celtics

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Drummond-C-Detroit Pistons

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Andre Drummond is the best rebounder in the league and the only other guy you can make an argument for is DeAndre Jordan, who also could’ve won this. But I’m going with Drummond for a couple reasons. One, he’s the number 1-rated defender in the NBA. He’s the only guy with a rating under 100 (the lower the better) at 98.5. Two, he’s tops in the NBA in rebounding at 14.9 per game. Three, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the game at 1.3 per game. I gotta go with Drummond. He may be statistically the worst free throw shooter of all time, but that doesn’t matter for this award.

Others Receiving Consideration: Kyle Anderson-F-San Antonio Spurs, Clint Capela-C-Houston Rockets

Rookie of the Year: Jayson Tatum-F-Boston Celtics

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As I highlighted in my preseason awards, I don’t count Ben Simmons for this award even though he qualifies as a rookie. He had his chance and missed last season due to injury. But I do think he’s going to win the actual rookie of the year award because NBA writers don’t think the way I do. I’m going with Jayson Tatum because he’s blended into the league seamlessly and is a well-deserving starter on arguably the best team in the NBA in the Boston Celtics. In fact, he leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 45.9%, better than even notorious sharpshooters like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. He’s also shooting 49.9% from the field on top of that so if there’s a more efficient offensive rookie, I’d like to see him. Donovan Mitchell was also heavily considered as he has basically already become the face of the Utah Jazz. I’d make him a close second.

Others Receiving Consideration: Donovan Mitchell-G-Utah Jazz, Dennis Smith Jr-G-Dallas Mavericks

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

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Spoiler Warning, this is the only award that has remained the same from my preseason awards. The 76ers have done what I anticipated them doing, which is playing significantly better than in year’s past but not quite where they could end up. They currently sit on the brink of a playoff berth at 20-20 and are 1 game behind the Pistons for the 8 seed. If the 76ers manage to get in, consider Brown a lock for this award.

Others Receiving Consideration: Brad Stevens-Boston Celtics, Erik Spoelstra-Miami Heat

Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo-G-Indiana Pacers

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I’ve always been a fan of Victor Oladipo even before I declared my intentions to attend Indiana University, Oladipo’s alma mater. He was just oozing with talent and we saw occasional flashes of it when he was with the Orlando Magic and as Russell Westbrook’s sidekick in his brief pitstop in Oklahoma City last year. Well the Thunder traded him to the Pacers for Paul George and every Pacers fan I knew was HEATED by that trade because they felt it wasn’t a fair swap. Since then, Oladipo has the Pacers in the thick of the playoff race, as they’re currently the 6 seed at 24-20. Oladipo is 11th in the league in scoring at 24.3 PPG on 49% shooting with 5.2 RPG and 4 APG. He’s really come into his own this season.

Others Receiving Consideration: Dennis Schroder-G-Atlanta Hawks, Jaylen Brown-G-Boston Celtics

Comeback Player of the Year: Tyreke Evans-G-Memphis Grizzlies

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After missing half of last season due to injury, it seemed that the former Rookie of the Year Evans was at a crossroads. He had yet to realize his full potential since a stellar rookie season in Sacramento. Well he’s pretty much returned to that form this season, as his 19.6 PPG is the best rate he’s had since his rookie year when he averaged 20.1. Evans is back to being an offensive threat and despite the fact that the Grizzlies have had a terrible season, Evans at least has been a bright spot.

Others Receiving Consideration: Michael Beasley-F-New York Knicks

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams-G-Los Angeles Clippers

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Williams is averaging 23.3 PPG coming off the bench, which is just absurd. Out of all the players in the top 25, Williams is the only player that hasn’t started every game. In fact, he’s only started 12 out of 42, yet he still plays just as many minutes as a lot of the others on that list. That just goes to show how much the Clippers value him. One could argue that Williams should start at point guard over Patrick Beverley, but he has played so well in this role for so long that it appears that Williams is becoming this generation’s version of Jamal Crawford.

Others Receiving Consideration: Eric Gordon-G-Houston Rockets, Rodney Hood-G-Utah Jazz

That’s going to do it for my NBA midseason Awards. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

CFP Championship Recap

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Alabama defeats Georgia 26-23 in overtime for their second CFP title, Nick Saban’s 6th championship, 5th at Alabama. Saban’s 6 titles ties Bear Bryant for most by a head coach all time and is more than all active coaches in the FBS combined. Let’s get into some quick thoughts.

-To be honest, I missed a large chunk of this game. I had an “Intro to Games” class from 7-10 (game started at 8). Now normally I would’ve skipped this class, but it’s a class that only meets once a week and there wouldn’t be a class next week since it will be Martin Luther King Jr Day, so I kinda felt obligated to attend. I tried streaming the game on first my phone then my laptop, but the connection wasn’t even close to being satisfactory. Then we had to play a board game called “Ogre” and I couldn’t dedicate my attention to the game. Ogre kinda sucks. It’s a needlessly complicated version of Stratego, which is already kinda needlessly complicated. I didn’t get a chance to REALLY sit down and watch the game until about 10:51 left in the third quarter, so you can imagine my shock when I saw someone else in at QB for Alabama.

-If you picked Tua Tagovailoa (that’s the only time I’m writing out his last name. If I have to do it every single time I mention him I’m going to go insane) to be MVP of this game, I’d like your opinion on some stocks, though I would settle for picking my football games for me. He was totally unknown until he replaced Jalen Hurts at quarterback to start the second half. This decision by Saban apparently was originally supposed to be a rotation, with Tua and Hurts alternating drives. Well Tua led Alabama down the field and threw a touchdown on his first drive and it appears the decision was made. It was a good one too, because after Tua was inserted into the lineup, Alabama outscored Georgia 26-10 after trailing 13-0 at halftime.

-Occasionally, Tua’s inexperience showed through. Look at this interception he threw.

I’m not so sure that play was designed to be a pass. Look at how not a single Alabama receiver is looking in Tua’s direction.

-Speaking of true freshmen, this game was dominated by them. From Jake Fromm to Tua to Najee Harris to DeVonta Smith, this game was all about the 18-19 year olds.

-I’ve gone through four bullet points and haven’t even shown the walkoff touchdown throw by Tua to fellow true freshman DeVonta Smith. Here it is.

If you’re wondering what the caption is all about, Tua got sacked for a loss of 16 on the play immediately preceding this one by Davin Bellamy (who famously mocked Baker Mayfield after the Rose Bowl to “humble himself”). Not to take anything away from Tua or Smith, but where the Hell was Georgia safety Dominick Sanders on this play? I think cornerback Malkom Parrish thought he had help over the top, which would explain why Smith was so open. Maybe Sanders was paying more attention to tight end Hale Hentges (#84) underneath? I mean, the guy did have a whopping 1 catch for 2 yards on the day.

-Nobody is happier than Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos after Smith made that catch. At the end of regulation, he lined up for this 36-yarder.

I’m actually kind of glad Alabama won after a moment like that. We have enough Scott Norwoods in the world.

-Jake Fromm looked like a true freshman with the game on the line. He had some good moments throughout the game, like this throw to MeCole Hardman.

But when the Bulldogs needed him to be great, he wasn’t. After Alabama tied the game up, the Bulldogs ran twice, then Fromm missed an open receiver running a crossing route. Then, in OT, he took a bad sack that nearly knocked them out of field goal range. Luckily for him, Rodrigo Blankenship nailed a 51-yarder to give the Bulldogs the 23-20 lead. He’s got plenty of growth left in him.

-Probably the guys who helped their draft stock the most this game was the defensive linemen. Da’Ron Payne dominated the point of attack and Raekwon Davis was all over the place, including this odd interception.

I don’t think Davis is draft eligible yet, but he’s going to be another guy to look out for when 2019 rolls around. But the guy that really elevated his stock to me was Georgia interior lineman Trenton Thompson. He was all over the place for the Bulldogs and really gave the Alabama offensive line fits all game. He also delivered probably my favorite hit of the game.

I’ll have to go back and take a closer look at this guy because he was catching my attention seemingly every play in this game. Could be a potential sleeper for a defensive line-needy team *cough* Patriots *cough*.

-Take a good look because this is the one time the “WildDog” formation worked all night.

Georgia tried running it several more times throughout the night, and notably in key situations I might add. They got stuffed on seemingly all of them.

-Tua wasn’t perfect throughout the night, in fact there were times where I thought he downright sucked. But his touchdown passes were absolute things of beauties. Here’s the one that tied the game to Calvin Ridley, who had been shut down for most of the game by DeAndre Baker.

He did a similar thing on the first touchdown to Ruggs. Neither he nor Ridley were open when Tua threw the pass, however the pass was thrown in the exact perfect spot. This is the exact definition of “throwing your man open.” Tua also displayed some surprisingly solid arm strength. I was caught a little off guard by how well he can sling it. Probably just because I’m not used to lefty quarterbacks.

-Mekhi Brown is VERY fortunate he didn’t get sent to the locker room for this.

A lot of coaching staffs would’ve sent him packing for trying to fight a coach in the middle of a national championship game after he just got called for a personal foul for seemingly throwing a punch (which the refs should’ve ejected him for anyway). He kind of made amends later, as he made a nice one-armed tackle on kick coverage. It was the exact opposite of form tackling, but it looked cool.

How he managed to not grab any facemask on that is beyond me.

-Jalen Hurts was the definition of class during the postgame interview after getting benched in the biggest game of his life. ESPN had been running the story of how the background on his phone was his defeat in last year’s championship game against Clemson to try and motivate him. This was his opportunity to exorcise those demons and a lot of guys would’ve viewed this benching as their coach taking that away from them. But during his postgame interview, I got the sense that Hurts didn’t care about what kind of impact he had as long as his team won the game. Really classy guy right there and the definition of a team player at that.

-To be perfectly honest, I felt kind of empty after this game ended. It was a crazy finish to an excellent game, but I felt nothing. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown bored of Alabama’s dominance in the national title picture? Perhaps I’m disgruntled that a team that didn’t even win its conference is champ? Couldn’t tell you, but I definitely felt a lot more when Clemson won with 1 second to go last year or even when Alabama was able to hold off Clemson’s comeback the year prior. This game just kind of left me in a weird place. It’s probably just the knowledge that the college football season is over. That usually puts me in a depressing mood. Oh well, time for draft season.

-A couple quick interesting facts about the playoff before I put a bow on the college football season. All 4 championships have been won by the lower-seeded team, or the team wearing their white uniforms. #4 Ohio State beat #2 Oregon, #2 Alabama beat #1 Clemson, #2 Clemson beat #1 Alabama, #4 Alabama beat #3 Georgia. Odd numbered seeds have also yet to win the title game, as only the 2’s and 4’s have won it all.

-I’m going to add one last thing before I end it: my year-end rankings, now that all is said and done.

1. Alabama

2. Central Florida

3. Ohio State

4. Georgia

5. Oklahoma

6. Clemson

7. Wisconsin

8. Penn State

9. Notre Dame

10. Michigan State

11. USC

12. Washington

13. Miami (FL)

14. TCU

15. Oklahoma State

16. Stanford

17. Northwestern

18. Auburn

19. Mississippi State

20. North Carolina State

21. LSU

22. South Florida

23. Wake Forest

24. Boise State

25. Virginia Tech

Welp, that’s gonna do it for this one. This was my 100th blog, by the way. When I started this thing up in late September, I honestly figured I would’ve given up on it by now but the positive responses I’ve been getting to this thing have kept me going so I just wanted to take time to thank all my readers for sticking with me throughout, particularly Heidi and Tom Wyman, my parents. Whenever I look at my site stats and only see 1 or 2 views on a blog, I can safely guess who it is. That’s going to do it for this college football season. Let me know your thoughts on the title game in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

2018 NFL Mock Draft #1

As promised, the series finale of my NFL postseason series, here is my first NFL Mock Draft. Now a lot is expected to change between now and April. Some of these guys I select to be drafted may even return to school and not even be in the Draft. The top 20 picks are pretty much set in stone (I think there’s a tie breaker between the Raiders and 49ers for the 9th and 10th picks that has yet to be decided). Also, for picks 21-32, since those aren’t solidified yet, I’m going to order them based on their current playoff seeding, but keep in mind that those slots are more than likely going to change based on how the playoffs work out. I will also not being projecting trades, though I may mention if a trade is a possibility. I’m going to provide explanations for each pick, so here goes nothing.

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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This could be a bit controversial because Rosen has gone on the record stating that he does not want to play for the Browns and that he would rather fall down the draft board a little bit and play for the right team. We could see wind up seeing a similar situation to what happened in 1983 with John Elway and the Colts or 2004 with Eli Manning and the Chargers if Rosen gets taken by the Browns. Knowing this, perhaps the Browns could continue to build draft capital and trade this pick to a QB-needy team desperate for one of the top 2 arms. In fact, I think the Broncos at 5 could try and move up and send the Browns an absolute haul. With their newly acquired pick, the Browns could take a chance on someone like Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield with the 4th or 5th pick. But for now, as it is, I think Rosen is the top pick, though I wouldn’t be surprised come April if it’s another team making that pick.

2. New York Giants-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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A lot of people have hopped on the “Sam Darnold is Overrated Bandwagon” after getting his ass kicked by Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. I am not one of them. While I have been critical of his delivery and propensity for turnovers, I think Darnold will be fine given more talent around him. I don’t think returning to school to develop would have been the best idea because there really isn’t much of a supporting cast at USC right now to help him grow like there would be in the NFL. Especially a team like the Giants, where he’d have a healthy ODell Beckham and a continuously developing Evan Engram to throw to. I think Darnold made the right decision by declaring for the Draft. Granted the Giants will also need to solve their offensive line problems, but this isn’t the class to do it. I think free agency would be a better bet.

3. Indianapolis Colts-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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This might be a bit of a reach because Connor Williams is merely the best of a weak tackle class, however the need for the Colts is so great that it trumps overall value. Williams is talented, sure, but he missed most of the year with a knee injury, which is something that has haunted the Colts the last few years. But Indianapolis NEEDS offensive line help. They gave up the most sacks in the NFL last year and have been a big reason why Andrew Luck has yet to reach his potential and missed the entire 2017 season due to injury. I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade down to settle for a similar talent in Mike McGlinchey and build draft capital, much like I think the Browns could.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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The Browns need playmakers. Period. Aside from Josh Gordon, there is nobody on their offense that opposing defenses really need to worry about. Isaiah Crowell isn’t a bad runningback, but he’s not the difference-maker the Browns need to get them over the top. Saquon Barkley could be that back. I think wide receiver is a bigger need, as Josh Gordon needs a battery-mate to take some of the pressure off and Corey Coleman can’t seem to stay healthy, but I think the Browns would be better off waiting until the second round for a guy like DJ Moore or Simmie Cobbs. Barkley reminds me a bit of Ray Rice in that he’s not the biggest guy, but he packs so much punch and can be so quick in his cuts that it really doesn’t matter. Plus he hasn’t openly stated that he doesn’t want to play for the Browns, so that’s a positive.

5. Denver Broncos-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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This could be a fallback option if the Broncos can’t strike a deal for the top 2 picks and are forced to remain at number 5. While I don’t think Josh Allen is a finished product by any means, I do think he has all the potential in the world. Whether the Broncos are going to be able to develop that talent remains to be seen. I think they’ve gotten the most out of Trevor Siemian but Paxton Lynch has been a major disappointment and we’ve all seen what Brock Osweiler can do in a starting role, so quarterback is really what’s holding this team back from returning to contention. But don’t be surprised if the Broncos also go for a free agent acquisition or some kind of trade (Kirk Cousins, perhaps?).

6. New York Jets-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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The Jets’ approach to the Draft has typically been “best player available.” Chubb isn’t my best available player at this stage, but that’s mainly because my highest ranked player from my initial big board, Minkah Fitzpatrick, is a safety; a position that the Jets have a plethora of young talent at. However, I’m of the belief that a team can never have too many pass rushers and the Jets could use a guy like Bradley Chubb to wreak havoc on offensive lines. They have a ton of holes on offense, but aside from the guys I have already being taken, there is nobody worth this draft slot on that side of the ball. I think they’ll start addressing the offense in round 2.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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Minkah Fitzpatrick is the top player on my big board, yet I have him going 7th to the Buccaneers. That’s just the way the Draft shakes out sometimes. The Buccaneers ranked last in yards allowed in 2017 and can use an upgrade pretty much anywhere on the field. I could also see this pick being Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry, however I think Fitzpatrick’s versatility will earn him the Bucs’ preference. He can play both corner and safety and I’ve seen him play up on the line of scrimmage at times (and seen him cause problems in the backfield to boot!). Fitzpatrick could add a much-needed boost to this Bucs defense that’s a long ways away from the days of Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch.

8. Chicago Bears-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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Harold Landry is one of the quickest and fastest defensive linemen I’ve ever seen, which is something the Bears need more of. Leonard Floyd is a nice player, but aside from him there isn’t much of a pass rush to speak of. Chicago’s secondary played reasonably well in 2017 but an improved pass rush could help them out immensely. Enter Landry, who led the nation in sacks in 2016 and actually managed to show improvement in 2017. I think he could be a big lift for the Bears defense.

9. Oakland Raiders-Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

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Arden Key’s a little raw, but he is oozing with talent. He kind of reminds me of Aldon Smith given his skinnier frame and elite athleticism. I watched some highlights on him and he has a tendency to disappear from games at times, but I think the right coach can get the most out of him. Enter Jon Gruden, who appears to be the next Raiders head coach. Gruden is a guy who has a history of firing up his team and getting the most out of his guys. Plus, Key will have Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to learn from as this Raiders defense looks to improve on a very unimpressive 2017 season.

10. San Francisco 49ers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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Watching Jimmy Garoppolo play well with the 49ers is like watching my son succeed. That’s why is pains me when I see him get drilled by pass rushers while trying to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. He needs a better offensive line so that he can go through his reads more easily. A lot of scouts think McGlinchey would be better at right tackle as opposed to left, where he played in college, and that’s probably where the biggest hole on the 49ers offensive line is. At least, when I watch Garoppolo highlights it is. McGlinchey can step in day one and protect Garoppolo for at least the next 10 years.

11. Miami Dolphins-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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Derwin James showed a lot of promise as a freshman before getting injured and missing most of his sophomore season, then having a disappointing junior season in 2017. However that talent would emerge in flashes and I think given the right circumstances, he can reignite the spark that had scouts so excited for him when he was a freshman. James is a similar type of player to Jamal Adams of the Jets, who went 6th overall last year, in that he’s a traditional all-around safety in the mold of Brian Dawkins who can not only cover well, but bring the boom. The Dolphins need a guy like this roaming the secondary, as they really lack an enforcer away from the defensive line.

12. Cincinnati Bengals-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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Quenton Nelson is probably the safest pick in this year’s class, as he consistently goes up against top competition on the defensive line and puts up great performances. Plus, I find that top-end guards tend to transition to the NFL really well. The Bengals need someone like that badly. After the departure of Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati’s offensive line was a mess and was a big part of the team’s struggles offensively. Nelson won’t fix their problems by himself, but he could become this team’s version of Zack Martin.

13. Washington Redskins-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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This one was kind of tough because Calvin Ridley is also a very viable option here and I’m not 100% sold on Courtland Sutton’s ability to transfer from playing at SMU to the pros. I think he has the highest ceiling of any of the receivers in this class, as he reminds me a lot of Alshon Jeffery, but I also think he has the lowest floor, as he never really had to face any top-caliber corners. The Redskins need more receivers. Josh Doctson is still figuring out how to play in this league and Jamison Crowder can’t be your top guy if you hope to compete in the NFC East. If Sutton can have the type of impact I think he’s capable of, the Redskins will be right back in the hunt for a division crown.

14. Green Bay Packers-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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Overall I thought Derrius Guice was kind of a disappointment in 2017. As Leonard Fournette’s backup for the first couple years of his college career, Guice showed to practically be his counterpart’s equal, as he would torch defenses on days that Fournette couldn’t go. Perhaps it was for a similar reason to Todd Gurley in 2016 as to why Guice didn’t have the breakout year I hoped for, as he was his team’s only real option on offense, allowing defenses to stack the box to stop him. Nonetheless, he still finished with over 1000 yards rushing on the season and could provide a huge boost to a running game in Green Bay that has had its struggles since Eddy Lacy’s rookie year.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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With the retirements of head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer, the Cardinals may be in a state of panic, as they appear to be in limbo. They need a new quarterback and they need him now because the ACL-less Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert aren’t going to cut it for the long haul. Baker Mayfield is a guy I think has an extremely high ceiling but an extremely low floor. We saw a bit of both in Oklahoma’s Rose Bowl defeat against Georgia. When Mayfield was on, like in the first half and fourth quarter, the vaunted Bulldogs defense stood no chance at stopping him. When he was off, like he was in the third quarter, he played like how I would in that spot. There’s plenty of talent on offense in Arizona and I think this could be a great spot for Mayfield to land depending on who the Cardinals’ brass decides on for their next head coach.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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Calvin Ridley is a lot of peoples’ favorite receiver in the 2017 class, and he might even be mine, too. However he doesn’t do a whole lot that really stands out to me. He’s got good hands, good route running skills, and he’s reasonably quick. But there isn’t really anything that just makes you say “wow!” However, a team in need of a good receiver like the Ravens probably won’t care too much about “wow” factor as long as he can move the sticks. Ridley has kind of been kept under wraps since Jalen Hurts became the starting quarterback and Alabama became a more run-heavy offense (they’ve always been run-heavy, but under Hurts it feels like it’s gone up a notch). With a guy with an arm like Joe Flacco, I think Ridley can unlock his full potential.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Rashaan Evans-ILB-Alabama

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Rashaan Evans has battled injuries throughout the year but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best linebackers that have come out in a while. He’s not as polished as Reuben Foster was coming out last year, but he does a lot of things similarly to the young 49ers stud. For a team that missed out on the playoffs, the Chargers surprisingly don’t have that many holes. Ideally, I think they’d like to get someone opposite Keenan Allen, but I’d give Mike Williams a chance to get healthy before pulling the trigger on another guy this early. I think the Chargers can afford to go with the best on the board and for me, that’s Evans.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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Denzel Ward is a guy I’ve gone back and forth on. He didn’t impress me in the season opener against Indiana, but he was lights out against Wisconsin. Granted, he was on Simmie Cobbs much of the night against Indiana and Wisconsin doesn’t have anybody near that caliber, but still, holding any opponent to zero catches when targeting you is something special, which is what Ward did on the Big Ten’s biggest stage. Offensive line is still the biggest need for the Seahawks, but I don’t see any quick fixes in this class worth spending a high pick on so I think solidifying their secondary should be a priority. Shaq Griffin looks like he could be a solid player, but after him and Richard Sherman, there isn’t a whole lot in terms of long-term ability. The Seahawks’ secondary was super inconsistent after Sherman and Chancellor went down for the season and adding a guy like Ward could make Pete Carroll a little more comfortable with their depth.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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Maurice Hurst is a guy I want to highlight on future scouting segments so I won’t go into TOO much detail about why I like him so much, but just know now that he’s probably the best defensive tackle in the nation in my opinion and I think he could really help the Cowboys, who once again dip into the Michigan well after taking two Wolverines defenders with early picks in last year’s Draft (Taco Charlton and Jourdan Lewis). Dallas could be losing DeMarcus Lawrence to free agency and they’ll need other guys to pick up the slack in case Taco Charlton doesn’t develop the way they hope. This pick could be Clemson’s Clellin Ferrell if they aren’t confident in him, however.

20. Detroit Lions-Ronald Jones II-RB-USC

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The Lions have no ground game whatsoever. Ameer Abdullah has struggled in the feature back role and I think he’s better suited as a change of pace guy. Theo Riddick is purely a pass catching option. They really lack that one guy that can carry the load. Ronald Jones II can do that and then some. He kind of reminds me of a bigger Alvin Kamara with his skills not only as a runner, but as a receiver running routes. Watch his performance against Texas early in the season to see what I mean. He could be the feature back the Lions haven’t had since Barry Sanders.

21. Buffalo Bills-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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I’m not in love with Lamar Jackson as a passer, I’d be a lot more intrigued by his potential if he were to convert to wide receiver, where I think is where teams can best utilize his abilities for the long term. However the former Heisman trophy winner does bring a lot to the table in terms of athleticism and he did improve his passing game from 2016-17, so it’s not unreasonable to think he can continue to grow in an NFL system. The Buffalo Bills clearly don’t envision Tyrod Taylor as their future, hence why he was randomly benched for Nathan Peterman midseason. Jackson plays a similar type of game to Taylor so they won’t have to adjust their playbook too much to accommodate his skillset like they might have to with a less mobile quarterback like Mason Rudolph. Plus the Bills already have a guy like LeSean McCoy at runningback, who could form a DEADLY read-option combination with Jackson.

22. Atlanta Falcons-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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Da’Ron Payne was the star of Alabama’s Sugar Bowl semifinal win over Clemson, as he had an interception AND a touchdown reception as a 310-pound defensive tackle. That’s the big man’s dream right there. Payne is also an excellent run stuffer, which could be very useful for a team like the Falcons, who currently employ Grady Jarrett and had to release Ra’Shede Hageman amidst domestic violence charges. Jarrett is set to become a free agent after the 2018 season, so establishing a running mate or potential heir would be beneficial in clogging the middle of the defense for the foreseeable future.

23. Tennessee Titans-Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

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The Titans are fairly old on the pass rushing front, as both Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are hovering around the age of 30 (Orakpo is 31, Morgan is 28). Both are also set to become free agents after 2018, heightening the need for an heir. Ferrell isn’t a finished product, but he’s super athletic and can really benefit from learning from the veteran pass rushers.

24. Carolina Panthers-Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma

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The Panthers have always been in need of offensive linemen, though in 2017 they weren’t too bad, though Cam Newton was sacked 35 times, tied for 9th in the league. You’d like to bring that number below 30 if you can help it and if you’re going to grab an impact tackle in this Draft, you have to pull the trigger right now because after Orlando Brown there is a pretty steep drop-off in offensive line talent. Brown is pretty raw, but he is so freaking huge (6’7 340 pounds) that you can’t help but take a chance on him. He was Baker Mayfield’s chief protector at Oklahoma and helped Rodney Anderson rush for over 1000 yards.

25. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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Time to give Lamar Jackson a new toy to play with. Bills receivers had a pretty rough year in 2017, even after the acquisition of Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers, as Antonio Brown outpaced their entire group by himself. They’ve got some size to them, as Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, and Zay Jones are all at least 6’2, but they lack that quick route runner that can act as kind of a safety blanket. Enter Christian Kirk. What he lacks in size (5’11 201 pounds), he makes up for in quickness and agility. No matter who is quarterbacking the Bills in 2018, I’m sure they’d love to have this guy in the slot.

26. New Orleans Saints-Christian Wilkins-DL-Clemson

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Christian Wilkins was a guy a lot of people had in their preseason top 10 players, but he kind of fell off as the season went along, with some experts leaving him out of the first round altogether. I watched footage from the Auburn game and I can kind of see why Wilkins might have fallen off. He doesn’t really do anything particularly special. His technique is good, but I think he lacks the ideal strength you want out of your interior linemen, though I will admit, watching that tape, he improved in that as the game went along. But he is pretty quick and athletic and I think with a few more trips to the weight room, he could become a dangerous force. The Saints don’t have a single hole on their team that I can see so they can afford to draft and stash a guy like Wilkins and bank on his development.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars-Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

Quarterback is the biggest need for the Jaguars, but given that Blake Bortles is set to hit free agency after this season, you would need that quarterback to start immediately and none of the remaining QBs are day one starters. I think the Jaguars will franchise tag Bortles before looking for a potential replacement (though he has looked really good these last few weeks). They could also go receiver here, but I think they’ll get another defender to add to that ruthless defense like Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison. Barry Church is up there in age and finding another enforcer-type in the secondary could help turn the Jaguars defense from a really exciting one to an all-timer. Harrison’s hit in the photograph above was one of my favorite plays from the Iron Bowl, as Kerryon Johnson was trying to make his way for the pylon before getting earholed by Harrison.

28. Los Angeles Rams-Joshua Jackson-CB-Iowa

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Joshua Jackson led all of college football with 8 interceptions and the Rams could use a ball hawk like that at corner. Trumaine Johnson has been in the perpetual franchise tag so finding a potential successor could be in the Rams’ benefit. Jackson played with Chargers rookie standout Desmond King at Iowa so one would be forgiven for thinking he could provide a similar boost to an already strong defense. Plus, like with pass rushers, I feel that one can never have too many good corners.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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I disagree with a lot of scouts on Malik Jefferson when watching footage. I read that he’s super athletic and he’d be best suited as an edge defender. Watching that footage, I didn’t think Jefferson looked that athletic, though I did like his technique a lot and he looked like he had a solid future as an off the ball linebacker. He rarely ever goes for the risky knockout hit, he consistently wraps up, and he’s pretty good in zone coverage (his man coverage leaves some to be desired). The Steelers could be in need of an inside linebacker soon. Vince Williams was a revelation this season, but the scary injury to Ryan Shazier could be career threatening and the Steelers may need to find a guy to fill the potential void.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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A guy built like Vita Vea should not be as quick as he is. He’s 6’5 340 pounds but he moves like a guy 100 pounds lighter. Analysts, myself included, seem to be all over the map about where his projected value is and I think how he does at the Combine could be a huge barometer as to where he might end up. My main beef with him is I think he has a slow get-off. When I watched some of his early-season highlights, it seemed like the ball would be snapped, a whole second would pass by, and then he’d break out of his 3-point stance. If he can work on anticipating the snap, he’ll be unblockable. As if the Vikings need another impact defender, though I think defensive tackle is a weak spot for them. Sharrif Floyd is a really good player, don’t get me wrong, but he’s often injured and the Vikings fear they may have seen the last of him in the NFL. Plus, current starters Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson will each be in their 30’s next season, so getting younger at that position seems to be the wise move.

31. Philadelphia Eagles-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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On paper, it seems that the Eagles’ weakest position would be runningback and Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrogh, or Damien Harris could all be the pick here. However they seem to have found a way to make it work so I don’t think they will go that route. Instead, I think they go with the big corner in Isaiah Oliver. I only watched footage of one game on Oliver, I don’t even remember who they were playing, but he never got beat once in coverage by any receiver. He doesn’t appear to be particularly fast, but that’s not really his game a la Richard Sherman. I think he could struggle against smaller, shiftier receivers, but in a division with bigger receivers like Dez Bryant, Josh Doctson, possibly Courtland Sutton based on this mock draft, and ODell Beckham, a big corner to match up is a must.

32. New England Patriots-Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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Patriots fans, settle down. I can explain. Quite frankly, I think the Patriots’ biggest needs are edge defender and potentially cornerback, depending on what happens with Malcolm Butler. If there isn’t a guy they like when they pick, I fully believe they will trade out of the pick. However I’m not projecting trades, so they have to stick here and in this mock I have them drafting a potential successor for Tom Brady. Bill Belichick is always grooming quarterbacks and they’ve all been used as trade pieces in the past. In fact, I thought Jacoby Brissett was far more raw than Mason Rudolph is when the Patriots took him in the third round of the 2016 Draft and he was able to start an entire season for the Colts. Rudolph has some pretty good arm talent, which I highlighted in my scouting quarterbacks blog, he just comes from a system that transitions pretty poorly to the NFL. However if he lands with the Patriots, I think he will be in the perfect situation to develop. Who better to learn from than Tom Brady and what better offense to work with than the Patriots? Plus, if Brady continues to play well into his 40’s and Rudolph impresses in practices and preseasons, the Patriots could have another trade chip on their hands.

That’s it for my first mock draft of the year. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Top 10 NFL Players By Position for 2017

Yesterday was my NFL Awards for 2017, now we move on to the next segment of my postseason NFL series: Top 10 players by position. Now I’ve got to put a disclaimer on this: this isn’t necessarily who I think is the best at each position, I’m going by who had the best seasons. So guys who missed significant time due to injury will be at a serious disadvantage. For example, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt did not make the lists and will not appear on my Top 100 that I’m posting tomorrow, which follows the same rules. I’m trying to not take past success into consideration, buuuuut I’m only human and certain guys may have gotten some preferential treatment due to what they’ve done in the past. It’s my list, if you think it sucks, make your own. Better yet, leave a comment and tell me how bad my list is. So with that, let’s go position by position to see who the best in the NFL were.

Quarterback

at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

1. Tom Brady-New England Patriots

2. Carson Wentz-Philadelphia Eagles

3. Russell Wilson-Seattle Seahawks

4. Alex Smith-Kansas City Chiefs

5. Jared Goff-Los Angeles Rams

6. Drew Brees-New Orleans Saints

7. Philip Rivers-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Matt Ryan-Atlanta Falcons

9. Kirk Cousins-Washington Redskins

10. Ben Roethlisberger-Pittsburgh Steelers

If you read my awards blog, you would know that Tom Brady was my runner-up for MVP, an award he has somehow only won twice. Then again, Babe Ruth only won 1 MVP in baseball (granted, he played at a time when the MVP award was the Chalmers Award and the trophy was a car so you were only allowed to win it once. What a strange thing classic baseball was). But Brady, at 40 years old, is still the best quarterback in the game and it doesn’t matter who is on the field or is injured or whatever, Brady’s going to do big things. Carson Wentz and Jared Goff were revelations this season as they seem to be jumpstarting the next wave of superstar quarterbacks in the NFL. Philip Rivers quietly finished second in the NFL in passing yards and was instrumental in helping the Chargers out of a 0-4 hole and nearly became the second team ever to make the playoffs after starting so poorly.

Runningback

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1. Todd Gurley-Los Angeles Rams

2. Le’Veon Bell-Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Kareem Hunt-Kansas City Chiefs

4. Mark Ingram-New Orleans Saints

5. Alvin Kamara-New Orleans Saints

6. LeSean McCoy-Buffalo Bills

7. Jordan Howard-Chicago Bears

8. Ezekiel Elliott-Dallas Cowboys

9. Leonard Fournette-Jacksonville Jaguars

10. Dion Lewis-New England Patriots

Naturally, my league MVP is going to finish at the top of my positional rankings. Todd Gurley had over 2000 yards from scrimmage so naturally, being the most complete back in the NFL today, he’s going to win out. Le’Veon Bell was also terrific, but his yards per carry was below 4.0 for much of the season, which is probably the thing that hurt him the most in my rankings. The fact that I had to say that and he’s still #2 on my list goes to show what I think of the guy. Ezekiel Elliott likely would’ve been much, much higher had he not had to serve the suspension because he actually was pretty quietly his same old self on the field. Dion Lewis makes the list purely for how well he finished the season, as he was torching opposing defenses to the point where it didn’t matter if Brady wasn’t at his best.

Wide Receiver

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1. Antonio Brown-Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Julio Jones-Atlanta Falcons

3. DeAndre Hopkins-Houston Texans

4. Keenan Allen-Los Angeles Chargers

5. Michael Thomas-New Orleans Saints

6. Adam Thielen-Minnesota Vikings

7. Tyreek Hill-Kansas City Chiefs

8. AJ Green-Cincinnati Bengals

9. Brandin Cooks-New England Patriots

10. Golden Tate-Detroit Lions

After the top 2, this list got pretty tough. Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are clearly the two best receivers in the game. After that things get pretty tight. I went with Hopkins at 3 because he was the league leader in receiving touchdowns. Keenan Allen was nearly my comeback player of the year, perhaps should’ve been because he was terrific. Adam Thielen carried my fantasy team to another third-place finish. Deciding who was 10th was probably the hardest choice, as there were a lot of different guys that could’ve been there and no matter who I chose, somebody deserving would be left out. I went with Golden Tate, though his teammate Marvin Jones could have also been the choice. Tate is one of the more dynamic receivers in the league and is basically a poor man’s Antonio Brown.

Tight End

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1. Rob Gronkowski-New England Patriots

2. Travis Kelce-Kansas City Chiefs

3. Zach Ertz-Philadelphia Eagles

4. Delanie Walker-Tennessee Titans

5. Evan Engram-New York Giants

6. Jack Doyle-Indianapolis Colts

7. Hunter Henry-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Jason Witten-Dallas Cowboys

9. Charles Clay-Buffalo Bills

10. Cameron Brate-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gronk could be the greatest tight end of all time when all is said and done, his career has been that tremendous and he’s not even 30 yet. He led all tight ends in receiving yards despite missing a game due to suspension and having no catches in the season finale, hence my conspiracy theory that he finished with exactly 69 catches for the season on purpose. Evan Engram was probably the lone bright spot for the Giants this season, as they appear to have a really talented player at the tight end position. I hate making this comparison because of the things that happened off the field, but Engram kind of reminds me of Aaron Hernandez with his athleticism and ability to play all over the field.

Offensive Tackle

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1. Tyron Smith-Dallas Cowboys

2. Trent Williams-Washington Redskins

3. Alejandro Villanueva-Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Andrew Whitworth-Los Angeles Rams

5. Taylor Lewan-Tennessee Titans

6. Lane Johnson-Philadelphia Eagles

7. Terron Armstead-New Orleans Saints

8. David Bakhtiari-Green Bay Packers

9. Cordy Glenn-Buffalo Bills

10. Jack Conklin-Tennessee Titans

The main thing that put Tyron Smith at the top of this list is what happened to the Cowboys while he was injured. His replacement, Chaz Green, let up 6 sacks against Adrian Clayborn of all people and the Cowboys offense couldn’t even score on a hooker for the couple weeks Smith was out. But once he was back, it was like they were their old selves again even without Ezekiel Elliott. That’s MVP stuff right there out of the offensive line. Alejandro Villanueva is not only a really good football player, but he’s a Hell of a man as well, particularly as a veteran of the Armed Forces. Go read up on the guy, you’ll see some pretty cool stuff.

Offensive Guard

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1. Zack Martin-Dallas Cowboys

2. Brandon Brooks-Philadelphia Eagles

3. Marshall Yanda-Baltimore Ravens

4. Kelechi Osemele-Oakland Raiders

5. Joel Bitonio-Cleveland Browns

6. David DeCastro-Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Xavier Su’a Filo-Houston Texans

8. Brandon Scherff-Washington Redskins

9. Kevin Zeitler-Cleveland Browns

10. Shaq Mason-New England Patriots

The Cowboys front office continue to reap the rewards of telling Jerry Jones “no” when Jones wanted to draft Johnny Manziel over Zack Martin. This is what happens when you don’t surround yourself with “yes men.” Martin is about as well-rounded an offensive lineman as you’ll ever find. Despite their poor season, the Browns had some pretty solid pieces on the offensive line in Bitonio and Zeitler. They would’ve had Joe Thomas too if not for injury.

Center

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1. Alex Mack-Atlanta Falcons

2. Travis Frederick-Dallas Cowboys

3. Jason Kelce-Philadelphia Eagles

4. Rodney Hudson-Oakland Raiders

5. Maurkice Pouncey-Pittsburgh Steelers

6. Max Unger-New Orleans Saints

7. Brandon Linder-Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Mitch Morse-Kansas City Chiefs

9. Ryan Kalil-Carolina Panthers

10. Corey Linsley-Green Bay Packers

I don’t know if I respect any player in the NFL more than I do Alex Mack, who played the Super Bowl on a broken leg, and played well I might add. I don’t think people understand just how much of a factor your legs play in blocking, given how large the upper bodies of these offensive linemen are. Jason Kelce, brother of Chiefs tight end Travis, is quietly his brother’s equivalent on the offensive line, as he was arguably the most important part of keeping Carson Wentz, and then Nick Foles, upright.

Defensive Line

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1. Calais Campbell-Jacksonville Jaguars

2. Aaron Donald-Los Angeles Rams

3. Cameron Heyward-Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Geno Atkins-Cincinnati Bengals

5. Malik Jackson-Jacksonville Jaguars

6. Kawann Short-Carolina Panthers

7. David Irving-Dallas Cowboys

8. Gerald McCoy-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

9. Jurrell Casey-Tennessee Titans

10. Fletcher Cox-Philadelphia Eagles

This was kind of a tough one because while it’s hard to leave JJ Watt off any list, I really had no choice but to do it. He didn’t play enough. It became tough again putting Campbell over Donald because while I do think Donald is the best at his position, I think Campbell had a better season. Plus Donald held out the first game of the season, losing some ground on surpassing the Jaguars stud. David Irving was quietly among the best pass rushing interior linemen in the NFL. After having previously been best known as being the guy who got his nipple ring ripped out during practice, Irving went on to record 8.5 sacks at a position of constant double teams. Maybe that dumb thing was holding him back, who knows?

Edge Defender

at the Hard Rock Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

1. Von Miller-Denver Broncos

2. DeMarcus Lawrence-Dallas Cowboys

3. Chandler Jones-Arizona Cardinals

4. Khalil Mack-Oakland Raiders

5. Joey Bosa-Los Angeles Chargers

6. Everson Griffen-Minnesota Vikings

7. Cameron Jordan-New Orleans Saints

8. Ryan Kerrigan-Washington Redskins

9. Yannick Ngakoue-Jacksonville Jaguars

10. JaDeveon Clowney-Houston Texans

Von Miller might not have had as many sacks as the guys behind him on the list, but he impacted games the way no other edge defender could. You have to double team him on the edge to really stop him and even then it might not work. When running the ball, you have to run to the opposite side of the field and he’s still fast enough to catch you. Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks and as a Patriots fan, letting him go for just a second round pick that was used on Cyrus Jones continues to haunt me, especially when we had to go to a 39 year-old James Harrison to get some competence opposite Trey Flowers. JaDeveon Clowney continues to get better with each year as his pass rushing skills are starting to catch up to his dominance against the run.

Linebacker

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1. Bobby Wagner-Seattle Seahawks

2. Luke Kuechly-Carolina Panthers

3. DeMario Davis-New York Jets

4. CJ Mosley-Baltimore Ravens

5. Deion Jones-Atlanta Falcons

6. Telvin Smith-Jacksonville Jaguars

7. LaVonte David-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8. Vince Williams-Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Joe Schobert-Cleveland Browns

10. Alec Ogletree-Los Angeles Rams

I feel like people don’t give Bobby Wagner enough credit for what he does for this Seahawks defense. Everyone likes to point to the Legion of Boom, but Wagner may be even more critical than the tandem of Earl Thomas-Richard Sherman-Kam Chancellor. Telvin Smith played a similar role with the Jaguars, as their secondary got a lot of the praise, but he was the main cog that made things go. Joe Schobert may be a surprising entry on this list but he actually led all NFL linebackers in run stops.

Cornerback

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1. Patrick Peterson-Arizona Cardinals

2. AJ Bouye-Jacksonville Jaguars

3. Xavier Rhodes-Minnesota Vikings

4. Marcus Peters-Kansas City Chiefs

5. Darius Slay-Detroit Lions

6. Marshon Lattimore-New Orleans Saints

7. Casey Hayward-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Jalen Ramsey-Jacksonville Jaguars

9. Jimmy Smith-Baltimore Ravens

10. Tre’Davious White-Buffalo Bills

This one’s kind of tough because it’s hard to measure a cornerback’s success. On the one hand, you can go with interceptions, but that’s often the result of being in the right place at the right time or could be an indicator that quarterbacks think they can challenge you. Really you have to go with advanced metrics, which I can’t provide without a Pro Football Focus subscription, which I’d be able to get if PEOPLE CONTRIBUTED TO MY FUCKING PATREON! *Exhales* I’m calm, I’m calm. But Patrick Peterson is not only an excellent corner, he’s also dynamite in the return game, which kind of puts him over the top for me. Darius Slay tied for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions this season, which when watching him play seemed to be more of a skill thing than a luck thing. Richard Sherman was left off this list mainly due to the fact he was battling injuries, which hurt his production some before he had to get shut down for the season.

Safety

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1. Earl Thomas-Seattle Seahawks

2. Harrison Smith-Minnesota Vikings

3. Eric Weddle-Baltimore Ravens

4. Kam Chancellor-Seattle Seahawks

5. Landon Collins-New York Giants

6. Kevin Byard-Tennessee Titans

7. Tashaun Gipson-Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Jamal Adams-New York Jets

9. Glover Quin-Detroit Lions

10. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix-Green Bay Packers

It was a hard choice between Earl Thomas and Harrison Smith for top safety in the NFL this season, as both guys were terrific and leaders of top defenses. I went with Thomas simply because he’s been doing it for longer, though they’re basically 1A and 1B. Kevin Byard tied with Slay for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions, which I actually think means more for safeties than it does for corners because playing safety is more about reading the field and deciphering what the quarterback is thinking rather than just straight up covering a guy like a corner. Jamal Adams was one of my favorite prospects from the 2017 NFL Draft and he and fellow rookie Marcus Maye were big parts in the Jets being somewhat relevant in 2017.

Those are my rankings by position for the 2017 NFL season. Check back in tomorrow for my Top 100 players, followed by my first Mock Draft. Let me know what you thought of these rankings in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Wyman’s Sports College Football All Americans

My apologies for there not being a blog yesterday. I did have some material but I was absolutely exhausted. I had to fight to keep myself from passing out in the middle of my Inside Nazi Germany class. Just had a terrible night of sleep the night before. But I’m very well-rested now and college football awards are starting to roll in, such as the Heisman finalists having been released (that blog is coming tomorrow) and I thought it would be a good idea to get into who I thought the cream of the crop in college football was this season. I will be breaking this up into 3 teams and will encompass all of FBS college football.

First Team:

Quarterback: Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

Runningback: Bryce Love-Stanford

Runningback: Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

Wide Receiver: James Washington-Oklahoma State

Wide Receiver: Anthony Miller-Memphis

Tight End: Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

Tackle: Dalton Risner-Kansas State

Tackle: Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

Guard: Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

Guard: Will Hernandez-UTEP

Center: Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

Defensive End: Sutton Smith-Northern Illinois

Defensive End: Nick Bosa-Ohio State

Defensive Tackle: Maurice Hurst-Michigan

Defensive Tackle: Jalen Jelks-Oregon

Linebacker: Micah Kiser-Virginia

Linebacker: Roquan Smith-Georgia

Linebacker: TJ Edwards-Wisconsin

Cornerback: Joshua Jackson-Iowa

Cornerback: Denzel Ward-Ohio State

Safety: DeShon Elliott-Texas

Safety: Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

Kicker: Matt Gay-Utah

Punter: JK Scott-Alabama

All Purpose: Saquon Barkley-Penn State

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So for this team we have a few obvious names (Mayfield, Love, etc). One name that you might not recognize on here is Norther Illinois defensive end Sutton Smith. Well get to know that name, because he led the nation in sacks this season with 14 and added 28.5 tackles for loss. He was an absolute game wrecker for the Huskies. DeShon Elliott for Texas was a guy I picked up on when I was watching highlight tapes for his teammate Malik Jefferson. The guy was all over the field, always making plays and it showed, as he was amongst the nation’s leaders in interceptions with 6.

Second Team:

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson-Louisville

Runningback: Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

Runningback: Josh Adams-Notre Dame

Wide Receiver: Anthony Johnson-Buffalo

Wide Receiver: Michael Gallup-Colorado State

Tight End: Adam Breneman-UMass

Tackle: Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

Tackle: Will Richardson-North Carolina State

Guard: Kyle Bosch-West Virginia

Guard: Cody O’Connell-Washington State

Center: Billy Price-Ohio State

Defensive End: Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

Defensive End: Anthony Winbush-Ball State

Defensive Tackle: Ed Oliver-Houston

Defensive Tackle: Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

Linebacker: Joe Giles-Harris-Duke

Linebacker: Garrett Dooley-Wisconsin

Linebacker: Uchenna Nwosu-USC

Cornerback: Darious Williams-UAB

Cornerback: Jalen Davis-Utah State

Safety: Derwin James-Florida State

Safety: Lukas Denis-Boston College

Kicker: Eddie Pineiro-Florida

Punter: Michael Dickson-Texas

All Purpose: Ronald Jones II-USC

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You might find it weird to see a UMass player on this list. Well Adam Breneman is about as good a tight end as they come. He had the most targets in the nation at any position without registering a single drop. Get to know him as well, as he is on a lot of NFL radars. The defensive tackles on this team are two of the best football players in the country, Ed Oliver and Dexter Lawrence. If both were eligible, they’d likely be in the discussion for top 10 draft picks. But alas, we will have to wait for 2019, when the defensive line class will be STACKED (Oliver, Lawrence, Bosa, and Michigan’s Rashan Gary will all be in the running for top 10 picks).

Third Team:

Quarterback: Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

Runningback: Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Runningback: David Montgomery-Iowa State

Wide Receiver: Steve Ishmael-Syracuse

Wide Receiver: Trey Quinn-SMU

Tight End: Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

Tackle: KC McDermott-Miami (FL)

Tackle: Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

Guard: Hjalte Froholdt-Arkansas

Guard: Jacob Alsadek-Arizona

Center: Brian Allen-Michigan State

Defensive End: Mat Boesen-TCU

Defensive End: Hercules Mata’afa-Washington State

Defensive Tackle: Will Geary-Kansas State

Defensive Tackle: Taven Bryan-Florida

Linebacker: Ja’Whaun Bentley-Purdue

Linebacker: Josey Jewell-Iowa

Linebacker: Malik Jefferson-Texas

Cornerback: Brian Peavy-Iowa State

Cornerback: DJ Reed-Kansas State

Safety: Tarvarious Moore-Southern Miss

Safety: Armani Watts-Texas A&M

Kicker: Griffin Oakes-Indiana

Punter: Johnny Townsend-Florida

All Purpose: Marcell Ateman-Oklahoma State

<> on November 7, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.

We have one of the most intimidating names on this list, Hercules Mata’afa, and one of the least intimidating names, Josey Jewell. A name like “Hercules Mata’afa” just screams “power” and that was exactly what you got out of him, as he registered 10 sacks this season while facing a lot of double teams. Don’t be fooled by his girly name, Josey Jewell is one of the best linebackers in the country, in fact he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in a conference with the likes of Nick Bosa, TJ Edwards, and Maurice Hurst to compete with. That should tell you something right there.

So those are my All Americans for the 2017 college football season. It was an entertaining season and there is a lot of talented kids out there, so it is more probable than not that some deserving players got left off. Agree with my teams? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NFL Draft Big Board 1

I know it might seem a little bit early to do an NFL Draft Big Board, but look at it this way: some teams’ seasons are over and they need to look towards the draft. How can they know who’s good and who’s not if I don’t post this thing? The college football regular season is over anyway so why not? When football season ends, I’m going to end up doing a bunch of Draft-related stuff because I love this event more than a 21-year old dude probably should. I don’t know what it is that gets me so excited for the Draft, but I almost made my family late for a wedding to try and squeeze in one more pick during the 2009 Draft (that pick ended up being the Broncos taking Knowshon Moreno. Not super exciting I guess). I’ll probably post a new Big Board at select intervals, the next one will probably come after the National Championship Game next month. My Big Boards will consist of my Top 50 players, regardless of position. So without further ado, here are my Top 50 favorite Draft prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name still have eligibility remaining and could return to school.

50. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville*

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49. Anthony Averett-CB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

48. Frank Ragnow-C-Arkansas

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47. Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana

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46. Mitch Hyatt-OT-Clemson*

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45. Tremaine Edmunds-EDGE-Virginia Tech*

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44. Shaun Dion Hamilton-LB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

43. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville*

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42. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia*

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41. DeShon Elliott-S-Texas*

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40. James Washington-WR-Oklahoma State

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39. Braden Smith-OG-Auburn

860687052

38. Dre’Mont Jones-DT-Ohio State*

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37. Dorance Armstrong-EDGE-Kansas*

860224484

36. Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State*

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35. Marcus Allen-S-Penn State

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34. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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33. Mark Andrews-TE-Oklahoma*

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32. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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You know you go to a small school when Getty Images doesn’t have a single picture of you (photo credit: HERO Sports)

31. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC*

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30. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State*

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29. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State*

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28. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas*

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27. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

492180502

26. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU*

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25. Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma*

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24. Vita Vea-DT-Washington*

842326242

23. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M*

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22. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama*

873799154

21. Christian Wilkins-DT-Clemson*

849296312

20. Joshua Jackson-CB-Iowa*

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19. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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18. Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson*

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DT-Alabama*

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16. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama*

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

15. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado*

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14. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU*

868393550

13. Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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12. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame*

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11. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama*

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

10. Connor Williams-OT-Texas*

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9. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU*

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8. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming*

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7. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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6. Derwin James-S-Florida State*

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5. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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4. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State*

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3. Sam Darnold-QB-USC*

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2. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA*

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1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama*

Alabama at Vanderbilt

So that’s my first edition of my Big Board for the 2018 NFL Draft. I expect a lot to change by the time I do this again. I’ve only been able to get around to watching footage (mainly Youtube highlight videos) on some of these guys so many of these aren’t set in stone. Is there anybody I forgot about? Did I rank somebody too high or too low? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NFL Midseason Awards

It’s Week 9 and that marks the official halfway point of the NFL regular season so I thought it was high time I got to prematurely handing out awards I have no authority to give. These are my thoughts on who I would vote for if the NFL season were to end today. I’m going to touch on the major awards as well as a few made up ones. So without further ado, here are my midseason awards.

NFL MVP: Carson Wentz-QB-Philadelphia Eagles

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photo credit: Philadelphia Sports Nation

Wentz has taken a HUGE step forward in his second year in the league, leading the Eagles to the NFL’s best record at the season’s halfway point while also being third in passing yards and first in passing touchdowns. His elusiveness in the pocket has been the talk of the league as day-in and day-out he makes plays that are just shocking to behold. This was a tough choice because there are two other really legitimate candidates: Tom Brady and Alex Smith. Brady leads the NFL in passing yards by almost 400 yards despite not having safety net Julian Edelman and Alex Smith has yet to throw an interception this season. But I think I’m going to go with Wentz simply because I think the Eagles would absolutely IMPLODE without him, whereas I think the Patriots and Chiefs would remain afloat without Brady or Smith (that’s more a credit to the coaching than anything).

Others receiving consideration: Tom Brady-QB-New England Patriots, Alex Smith-QB-Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers

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photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I want to set one quick ground rule about my edition of this award. I don’t consider quarterbacks mainly because the MVP is basically already a quarterback’s award unless a runningback has a mind-blowing season (each of the last 3 runningback MVP’s have set a major record in the season they won the award or at least approached one). So you won’t be seeing Brady or Wentz or Smith here. I’m going with Antonio Brown mainly because of how far ahead of other receivers he is right now. His 835 receiving yards leads the NFL, next closest is Adam Thielen with 627. His 57 catches lead the NFL, next closest is Jarvis Landry with 50. His 287 yards after catch is 5th, however everybody else in the top 10 on that list is a runningback, whose yards after catch are pretty much all of their receiving yards because of where they typically catch the ball. So not a difficult decision for me here.

Others receiving consideration: Kareem Hunt-RB-Kansas City Chiefs, Toddy Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams, Le’Veon Bell-RB-Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year: Calais Campbell-DT-Jacksonville Jaguars

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photo credit: Big Cat Country

Not only is Calais Campbell a terrifying physical specimen (6’8 300 pounds), he’s also a damn good football player. After the Cardinals didn’t resign him in an effort to get younger defensively, Campbell signed with the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars and he has been a leading catalyst in this “Sacksonville” revolution. He’s tied for second in the league with 10 sacks and he’s doing it from the interior of the defensive line, where he faces constant double teams. The potential knock against Campbell would be that perhaps his numbers are so good because opposing offensive lines have to deal with Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr, and people who argue that would have a point. But I present a counter point: why didn’t Ngakoue and Fowler have great production until Campbell got to Jacksonville?

Others receiving consideration: DeMarcus Lawrence-DE-Dallas Cowboys, Marcus Peters-CB-Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kareem Hunt-RB-Kansas City Chiefs

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photo credit: Fake Teams

I want to give a quick shoutout to Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who may have won this midseason award had he not just torn his ACL as I was starting this blog (seriously, I had my opening paragraph written when a buddy of mine texted me the news). Watson was tied with Wentz for the most passing touchdowns in the NFL with Wentz and his insertion into the starting lineup for Tom Savage changed the Texans from an absolute joke to a juggernaut. Now that I’ve given Watson his due, it’s time to talk about the insane season Kareem Hunt is putting forth. Hunt leads the NFL in rushing at 763 yards. Le’Veon Bell trails him by just 3 yards, however Bell needed 48 more carries and Hunt still leads. Since fumbling his first career carry against New England, Hunt has arguably been the best runningback in the league. Not bad for a third round pick from a mid-major school. I feel ashamed for having 8 runningbacks ahead of him in my NFL Draft rankings.

Others receiving consideration: Deshaun Watson*-QB-Houston Texans, Leonard Fournette-RB-Jacksonville Jaguars

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore-CB-New Orleans Saints

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photo credit: The Advocate

I really wanted to consider Browns DE and #1 overall pick Myles Garrett for this, as he has 4 sacks in 4 games played, but he’s missed too much time for me to consider him. There really aren’t a whole lot of other defensive players who stand out outside of the cornerback position, which has been really good for rookies. Bills and Cowboys rookies Tre’Davious White and Jourdan Lewis have been excellent in their roles but I think Marshon Lattimore has been the absolute best of the bunch. Lattimore is already the top corner for the Saints and has been a major factor in this defense’s turnaround. He typically follows the opposing team’s number 1 receiver and can keep up with any receiver in the NFL with his 4.36 speed.

Others receiving consideration: Tre’Davious White-CB-Buffalo Bills, Jourdan Lewis-CB-Dallas Cowboys, Jarrad Davis-LB-Detroit Lions, Carl Lawson-DE-Cincinnati Bengals

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick-New England Patriots

NFL: Houston Texans at New England Patriots

photo credit: Patriots Wire

The league almost has to cast Belichick aside because otherwise he would win this award every year. The Hoodie is arguably the greatest coach to put on a headset and he continues to do great work this season. The Patriots have dealt with a number of injuries to key contributors, such as Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower as well as down years from guys like Malcolm Butler but the Patriots still find themselves at 6-2 heading into their bye. The defense also struggled MIGHTILY to start the season but since the Tampa Bay game this defense has gone from embarrassing to very competent and even held the high-flying Falcons offense to 7 points. There’s nobody better in sports today than Bill Belichick.

Others receiving consideration: Andy Reid-Kansas City Chiefs, Sean McDermott-Buffalo Bills, Sean McVay-Los Angeles Rams, Doug Marrone-Jacksonville Jaguars

Comeback Player of the Year: Keenan Allen-WR-Los Angeles Chargers

San Diego Chargers v Baltimore Ravens

photo credit: Chargers Wire

Keenan Allen tore his ACL and lost his season in Week 1 of the 2016 season, devastating Chargers fans and me, having drafted him in the fourth round of my fantasy draft. The loss of Allen was a huge blow to the Chargers but he returns this year healthy and is 8th in the NFL in receiving yards at 548.

Others receiving consideration: Julius Peppers-DE-Carolina Panthers, Rob Gronkowski-TE-New England Patriots

Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Alex Collins-RB-Baltimore Ravens

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photo credit: Field Gulls

Alex Collins was a guy I liked coming out of the 2016 NFL Draft from Arkansas. He reminded me a little bit of a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch but my main knock was he had bricks for hands. Nevertheless, I thought of him as a third round pick. The rest of the league disagreed with my projection and Collins wasn’t taken until the 6th round by the Seattle Seahawks. He bounced around from practice squad to active roster before getting cut before the 2017 season and claimed by Baltimore. All he’s done for Baltimore is win the starting job and lead the league in yards per carry (6.0). Meanwhile, Seattle struggles to find a runningback that sticks.

Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Dante Fowler Jr-DE-Jacksonville Jaguars

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Dante Fowler Jr was a borderline bust entering this season, who was more known for “savage” moments off the field rather than his performance on it. However this season, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft looks like a completely different player, as he is constantly getting pressure in the quarterback’s face and is on pace for a double-digit sack season.

All Pro Teams (First player listed is First Team, second player listed is Second Team)

QB: Tom Brady-New England Patriots, Carson Wentz-Philadelphia Eagles

RB: Kareem Hunt-Kansas City Chiefs, Le’Veon Bell-Pittsburgh Steelers

RB: Todd Gurley-Los Angeles Rams, Jordan Howard-Chicago Bears

WR: Antonio Brown-Pittsburgh Steelers, Adam Thielen-Minnesota Vikings

WR: DeAndre Hopkins-Houston Texans, Brandin Cooks-New England Patriots

WR: AJ Green-Cincinnati Bengals, Tyreek Hill-Kansas City Chiefs

TE: Zach Ertz-Philadelphia Eagles, Travis Kelce-Kansas City Chiefs

OT: Tyron Smith-Dallas Cowboys, Taylor Lewan-Tennessee Titans

OT: Trent Williams-Washington Redskins, David Bakhtiari-Green Bay Packers

OG: Marshall Yanda-Baltimore Ravens, Shaq Mason-New England Patriots

OG: Zack Martin-Dallas Cowboys, Trai Turner-Carolina Panthers

C: Alex Mack-Atlanta Falcons, Travis Frederick-Dallas Cowboys

DE: DeMarcus Lawrence-Dallas Cowboys, Joey Bosa-Los Angeles Chargers

DE: Everson Griffen-Minnesota Vikings, Yannick Ngakoue-Jacksonville Jaguars

DT: Calais Campbell-Jacksonville Jaguars, Geno Atkins-Cincinnati Bengals

DT: Fletcher Cox-Philadelphia Eagles, Akiem Hicks-Chicago Bears

LB: Justin Houston-Kansas City Chiefs, Ryan Kerrigan-Washington Redskins

LB: Bobby Wagner-Seattle Seahawks, CJ Moseley-Baltimore Ravens

LB: Von Miller-Denver Broncos, Chandler Jones-Arizona Cardinals

CB: Marcus Peters-Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

CB: Richard Sherman-Seattle Seahawks, Jalen Ramsey-Jacksonville Jaguars

S: Earl Thomas-Seattle Seahawks, Devin McCourty-New England Patriots

S: Glover Quin, Detroit Lions, Micah Hyde-Buffalo Bills

K: Greg Zuerlein-Los Angeles Rams, Kai Forbath-Minnesota Vikings

P: Bradley Pinion-San Francisco 49ers, Pat O’Donnell-Chicago Bears

Those are my midseason NFL Awards picks. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

NFL Trade Deadline Recap

Holy shit, trades actually happened at the NFL Trade Deadline. Midseason trades typically don’t happen in the NFL because of the learning curve to switching systems midseason that is usually required. But this year some teams have chosen to be active this past week or so in the attempt to bolster their roster. A look at the major trades that took place:

Buffalo Bills trade DT Marcell Dareus to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 2018 6th Round Pick

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

That’s it? That’s all the Jaguars had to give up to acquire a stud defensive tackle? Sure Dareus may come with some baggage, but he’s one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. He seems to be worth much more than a 6th rounder. For Jacksonville, they acquire an excellent run stuffer that will help a unit that ranks 31st against the run. And yes I am aware this trade took place days ago and not during today’s Trade Deadline. But Dareus is a good enough player and the timing is close enough that I’m including it.

Houston Texans trade OT Duane Brown to the Seattle Seahawks for CB Jeremy Lane, a 2018 5th Round Pick, and a 2019 2nd Round Pick

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

I thought the Seahawks gave up a little much for Brown here (I thought the trade would’ve been fair without the 2nd rounder), but the need was so great that I don’t fault them for it. In fact, there were reports saying that the Seahawks were so desperate for a left tackle, they were willing to trade superstar TE Jimmy Graham for one. They receive stud Texans tackle Duane Brown, who has had his issues with the Houston organization this season. Brown had been holding out for most of the season before playing his first game this past Sunday (against the Seahawks, no less). Brown is a former All Pro and immediately becomes the best lineman on this Seahawks roster, even if he’s only half the player he was a few years ago. Jeremy Lane is by no means a star corner, but he can impact the game and I think the Texans will be happy to have him.

New England Patriots trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2018 2nd Round Pick

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

This was the most shocking trade to me. I figured that the reason the Patriots acquired so much ammunition in the offseason was because they felt that Tom Brady’s career was on its last legs and they wanted to set him up for one final run. This trade of Garoppolo tells me that they are confident that he has a few more great years left in him (he has given them no reason to believe otherwise, as he leads the NFL in passing by almost 400 yards). I have no issue with the compensation, as a lot of other Pats fans do. The 49ers are currently 0-8 and Garoppolo isn’t going to magically turn them around, so this second round pick will likely come at around pick #33 or #34, which is basically a first round pick. There were reports that the Browns offered the Patriots the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft for Jimmy G, which they traded to the Texans to draft Deshaun Watson when New England turned them down, so one must wonder if the Patriots got all they could for the fourth year pro. The Patriots now only have Tom Brady on the roster at quarterback and will likely sign the newly-released Brian Hoyer, who had backed up Brady for the first three years of his career. Or maybe even another former 49ers signal caller…

Miami Dolphins trade RB Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2018 4th Round Pick

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photo credit: CBS Sports

This came as a shock to me because at no point were there any whispers that Ajayi was on the block or that the Eagles were searching for a runningback. Ajayi is having a down year from his breakout 2016 season, but that could be due in large part to the bad quarterback situation in Miami allowing defenses to stack the box against the run, much like what happened with Todd Gurley last season. The Eagles already have options at runningback, as LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood have been a part of a rotation that is 4th in the NFL in rushing. Also, really? Just a 4th round pick? Ajayi ran for 200 yards on 3 separate occasions last season and finished with over 1200 yards. I read somewhere (I think it was reported by Jeff Darlington) that the Dolphins were concerned about Ajayi’s long-term knee health stemming from an injury he suffered in college and that was why they sent him to Philly. That might also explain the lower draft pick because Philly may also have had that concern. We may learn more in the coming days.

Carolina Panthers trade WR Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills for a 2018 3rd Round Pick and a 2018 7th Round Pick

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photo credit: Bleacher Report

Like Ajayi, this trade also came as a surprise to me, as I didn’t think Benjamin was on the market, though it didn’t surprise me that the Bills were searching for a receiver. Buffalo receivers are dead last in the NFL in yards and catches this season and Benjamin is a big-bodied receiver with loads of potential. This move surprises me from Carolina’s standpoint because not only do they now have limited options at receiver, but the compensation I felt was subpar for the former first rounder. Benjamin has been solid (albeit inconsistent) since entering the league in the star-studded 2014 receiver class. I think the Panthers could’ve gotten more for him, maybe even the extra first rounder the Bills acquired from the Chiefs in the 2017 NFL Draft. But nonetheless, Benjamin adds a whole other dimension to this Bills offense that has been lacking, yet finds themselves in the thick of a playoff hunt.

Cincinnati Bengals don’t trade QB AJ McCarron to the Cleveland Browns

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photo credit: UPI.com

The Bengals and Browns agreed on a trade for QB AJ McCarron at 3:55 pm (deadline is at 4) but the Browns did not relay their half of the agreement until after the deadline, so McCarron is staying in Cincinnati. Classic Browns. Who knows what they would have given the Bengals for the former Alabama signal caller, but in the past the Bengals had reported that they were looking for as high as a first round pick for him. The Browns have 2 first rounders and 3 second rounders in the 2018 draft. We may never know what the compensation would have been. Also, curious that these two arch rivals would be doing business together over a quarterback.

Those are my thoughts on the trades that took place today. Did any of these moves surprise you? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Season Preview

The NBA season opens on October 17 in a game between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, which couldn’t be more perfect considering these two teams pulled off a huge trade a month ago where they swapped superstar guards. I felt that just under a week left until the start of the regular season would be the perfect time to give my predictions on how this season will play out. This will be a 3-part series, much like my postseason MLB series, with top-10s by position coming tomorrow and a top-100 coming Friday. However that one I’m considering breaking up into multiple parts. Stay tuned for that. For this preview I will project awards, All-NBA teams, and the playoffs. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Awards:

NBA MVP: Kawhi Leonard-F-San Antonio Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard already has a Finals MVP on his resume, now he looks for League MVP (photo credit: Slam Online)

After flirting with the idea of Leonard as MVP for a few years now, I think this is the year he finally gets it. Leonard has been the best player on the Spurs for some time and that’s saying something, considering the team is typically littered with Hall of Famers and has the best coach in the game in Gregg Popovich. Leonard is a stud defender who also puts up over 20 points per game and will lead this Spurs team on another deep playoff run.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert-C-Utah Jazz

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Rudy Gobert has been a nightmare for anyone brave enough to enter the paint (photo credit: Salt City Hoops)

Truth be told, I thought Gobert should have won this award last year. His 8-foot wingspan along with his 7’1 height make it damn near impossible to score in the paint, as he consistently swats away any shot that has the audacity to approach his territory. I think he gets this award this time and gets the recognition he deserves after a few years of really strong defensive play.

Sixth Man of the Year: Andre Iguodala-F-Golden State Warriors

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Andre Iguodala looks to add another trophy to his mantle (photo credit: Sporting News)

This is always a hard award to predict and it feels like kind of a cop out to pick Iguodala here. The guy could not only start for most teams, but be their best player (looking at you, Nets). Yet on this stacked Warriors team, he comes off the bench and he does it as well as anybody. How many players can say they were Finals MVP while coming off the bench? Just Iggy.

Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr-G-Dallas Mavericks

Milwaukee Bucks v Dallas Mavericks

Dennis Smith Jr has looked really impressive in his small body of work with the Mavericks (photo credit: Sports Illustrated

I was really tempted to choose Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, or De’Aaron Fox for this spot, but I felt that Dennis Smith Jr would ultimately be the guy to go with. He’s locked down the starting point guard job for the Mavericks already, coming off a really strong summer league performance that reminded me of Damian Lillard’s quick ascension. I think Smith is in the best position to succeed early out of any rookie in the league (and I’m not counting Ben Simmons for this even though he technically still qualifies. He had his chance at a ROTY in my book and couldn’t stay healthy).

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

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Brett Brown looks to reward Philly fans’ patience with a playoff berth (photo credit: CSN Philadelphia)

I don’t know if Brown will do anything otherworldly, but if you check my playoff predictions below, you’ll know why I have him winning coach of the year. After years of Trusting the Process, it seems that the 76ers are primed and ready to be relevant again. I think they have the pieces in place to make a playoff run if they can stay healthy. And that’s a BIG “if.” But I think they will be healthy enough and capture the 8th seed in the East. And since Brown will be at the helm of this resurgence, he will get the honor of Coach of the Year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Chandler Parsons-F-Memphis Grizzlies

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The normally deadly sharpshooter didn’t look like himself in 2016-17 (photo credit: Sporting News)

Parsons struggled mightily in the first year of his big contract from the Grizzlies. His points per game was cut in half, his FG% dropped from 49.2% to 33.8% and his 3-point shooting, his best trait, was down from 41.4% to 26.9%. A shooter of his caliber should not have a lower 3-point percentage than DeMarcus Cousins (36.1%). I think he bounces back this season and gets recognized for his return to shooting prominence.

Most Improved Player: Myles Turner-C-Indiana Pacers

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Myles Turner looks to take a big step in his development (photo credit: NBA.com)

Myles Turner is a guy oozing with ability and I was praying he would fall to the Celtics at 16 in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Pacers took the Texas product at 11 and have reaped the benefits thus far, as he has averaged 12 points per game and 6 rebounds per game over his career. However when you watch him play, it is pretty clear that those numbers should be higher as he is seemingly always around the ball and the loss of Paul George for the Pacers will open up more opportunities for him to get big numbers this year.

All-NBA Teams

First Team

G-Stephen Curry-Golden State Warriors

G-James Harden-Houston Rockets

F-LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers

F-Kawhi Leonard-San Antonio Spurs

C-Anthony Davis-New Orleans Pelicans

Second Team

G-Russell Westbrook-Oklahoma City Thunder

G-Kyrie Irving-Boston Celtics

F-Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors

F-Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks

C-Karl-Anthony Towns-Minnesota Timberwolves

Third Team

G-Damian Lillard-Portland Trail Blazers

G-John Wall-Washington Wizards

F-Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder

F-Kristaps Porzingis-New York Knicks

C-Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz

Projected Playoff teams with Seeds

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Charlotte Hornets
  7. Detroit Pistons
  8. Philadelphia 76ers

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Houston Rockets
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. New Orleans Pelicans

Playoff Round-by-Round Predictions:

Eastern Conference:

(1)Cavaliers def. (8)76ers

(2)Celtics def. (7)Pistons

(3)Wizards def. (6)Hornets

(5)Bucks def. (4)Raptors

(1)Cavaliers def. (5)Bucks

(2)Celtics def. (3)Wizards

(1)Cavaliers def. (2)Celtics

This conference is really a 2-man race between the Cavaliers and Celtics. The Wizards and Raptors may make things interesting, but overall Cleveland and Boston are the teams to beat as they will duke it out for the Eastern Conference championship for the second straight year. I have the Cavs winning it over the Celtics for a second straight year and fourth straight overall as they are just too deep for the much-improved Celtics to compete with. It won’t be as lopsided a series as it was last year, but the Cavs will prevail.

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The Cavaliers and Celtics are the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference (photo credit: Newsday)

Eastern Conference Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers

Western Conference:

(1)Warriors def. (8)Pelicans

(2)Spurs def. (7)Clippers

(3)Rockets def. (6)Trail Blazers

(5)Thunder def. (4)Timberwolves

(1)Warriors def. (5)Thunder

(2)Spurs def. (3)Rockets

(1)Warriors def. (2)Spurs

Unlike the East, the West has 5 teams that I could envision winning it, however the Warriors will win once again because they are just that much better than everyone else. As long as Gregg Popovich coaches the Spurs, they will compete for a title but they aren’t quite as deep as they have been in years’ past. The addition of Chris Paul will be big for the Rockets as James Harden has a world-class distributor to feed him the ball. The Timberwolves had a fantastic offseason and they have the look of a team that is sick of losing. I think the Thunder will struggle out of the gate with their new Big 3, but I think they will put it together by the end of the year in time for a run. There are a lot of mouths to feed in OKC and that could lead to some on-court issues between Westbrook, George, and Carmelo Anthony. But again, the Warriors are just better than everyone else and they will win the West.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs

The Warriors and the Spurs have been two of the elite teams in the West for the last few seasons (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Western Conference Champion: Golden State Warriors

NBA Finals:

(1)Warriors def. (1)Cavaliers

I’m getting pretty sick of this matchup but it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. I have the Warriors and Cavs meeting in the Finals for the fourth straight year, which has never happened before and will beg the question: is this a better inter-conference rivalry than Celtics-Lakers? I think the Warriors take it in 7 and Steph Curry wins Finals MVP. Fun fact, Curry didn’t win Finals MVP either time the Warriors won under his tutelage.

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Could we really get a fourth consecutive Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals? (photo credit: Sporting News)

NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors (MVP: Stephen Curry)

Those are my picks for this NBA season. I’ll revisit them at some point this year. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.