NFL Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 144-81

After a slow start, I thought I recovered nicely last season to come up with a pretty solid season winning percentage. And now I can use PFF stats. So yeah, since nobody donated to my Patreon (except one, thanks Dad), I couldn’t pay for a PFF account to better analyze these picks, so I just went and got a job with them. Go figure. But anyway, picks are back and I’m off to a slow start, as I picked the Falcons to beat the Eagles on Thursday night, which didn’t happen so let’s hope this goes better.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns

This season of Hard Knocks may have been the best ever. It was funny, interesting, and eye-opening. It really makes me root for this Cleveland Browns team. However it also showed me another thing: Hue Jackson is a shitty head coach (great guy, though, would not mind having a beer with him). That coaches meeting from the first episode was all I needed to see to know why the Browns are 1-31 under Jackson. So despite the fact that the Steelers won’t have Le’Veon Bell, I still think they beat the Browns, though the influx of talent will make this a close game.

Projected Score: Steelers 31 Browns 24

Cincinnati Bengals vs Indianapolis Colts

San Francisco 49ers v Indianapolis Colts

Frank Reich’s debut as an NFL head coach comes at a perfect time as Andrew Luck is back from a shoulder injury that many believed could derail his career. We have yet to see whether that holds true, but Colts quarterbacks (Jacoby Brissett and Scott Tolzien) carried the 6th worst PFF grade in his absence. In 2016, the last time we saw Luck, Colts passers carried the 4th best PFF grade. So Luck makes a huge difference. It’ll be a challenge against the Bengals, who I think will quietly have one of the NFL’s best defenses. It’ll be interesting to see how Andrew Luck is protected against that vaunted defensive line. I think the Bengals come away with this one.

Projected Score: Bengals 24 Colts 17

Tennessee Titans vs Miami Dolphins

Another head coaching debut, Mike Vrabel now has the reins of the Titans and will begin his tenure in South Beach against the Dolphins. A lot has been made of the Titans trying to become the Patriots 2.0 by acquiring all their old players (Logan Ryan, Dion Lewis, Malcolm Butler, even Vrabel himself played 8 years there), but obviously they’re not going to replicate the same results. Marcus Mariota had a weird season last year, as he appeared to struggle with 13 touchdowns and 15 picks, but PFF actually graded him pretty well at 76.2 (for comparison, Kirk Cousins was a 70.0 and Cam Newton was 66.5). I think they get the win against the Dolphins, who are returning Ryan Tannehill but seemingly nothing else.

Projected Score: Titans 27 Dolphins 21

San Francisco 49ers vs Minnesota Vikings

I probably should abstain from this one like I did Clemson-Texas A&M yesterday because I’m working this one for PFF, but my work doesn’t start until well after the game ends so I think I’m okay to pick this. The Vikings are my pick to win the Super Bowl this year and they go up against Jimmy Garoppolo and his unbeaten record as a starting quarterback. Something has to give. I think I’m going to go with the Vikings, as I think they’re much more well-rounded.

Projected Score: Vikings 31 49ers 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Jameis Winston’s 3 game suspension for groping an uber driver begins and it’ll be Ryan Fitzpatrick taking on the Saints. I’m not going to lie, this game is going to get ugly. Yes the Bucs have a revamped defensive line, but the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in football and loads of weapons like Michael Thomas and last year’s rookie of the year Alvin Kamara. They’re going to be fine even without Mark Ingram, who is serving a 4-game suspension for PED’s.  Saints win easily.

Projected Score: Saints 38 Buccaneers 14

Houston Texans vs New England Patriots

The Texans are getting a LOT of key contributors back from a season that was lost due to injury so I think this will be a fun game as they take on the Patriots. But it’s still the Patriots, even with all the players they lost from last season. So I think they still win, but I think the Texans will make them sweat.

Projected Score: Patriots 28 Texans 24

Jacksonville Jaguars vs New York Giants

The Jaguars had a fantastic season on defense last year and basically everyone from that unit is back. The Giants are getting ODell Beckham back and Saquon Barkley will be making his debut but it won’t be enough as Jacksonville’s defense suffocates them and leads them to a victory. It won’t be a bloodbath like their opener against the Texans last year, but it will still be a relatively easy win.

Projected Score: Jaguars 34 Giants 17

Buffalo Bills vs Baltimore Ravens

It’s going to be a long season for the Bills, especially if they think Nathan Peterman was the best option at quarterback. I get not starting Josh Allen right away, because based on his up-and-down preseason, he could use some time on the bench, but did you have to trade AJ McCarron? I don’t know, man. The defense should be solid but the offense is going to struggle and I think the Ravens will win easily.

Projected Score: Ravens 28 Bills 10

Kansas City Chiefs vs Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs

The Pat Mahomes era has officially begun and it comes against a very tough Chargers defense. Cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams will have their hands full with Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins running under Pat Mahomes’ passes, but he’s only going to be able to get the ball down there if the offensive line holds up, which is going to be tough with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming off the edge. I think the Chargers win a fun back-and-forth affair.

Projected Score: Chargers 31 Chiefs 28

Dallas Cowboys vs Carolina Panthers

It’s the end of an era, as the Cowboys will play a game without both Jason Witten (retired) and Dez Bryant (released) for the first time since 2003. They take on the Panthers, who remain mostly unchanged from the team that made the playoffs last season. I think it’s going to be a low-scoring game, as both teams bring strong defenses to the table, but I think Carolina is going to come out on top.

Projected Score: Panthers 20 Cowboys 17

Washington Redskins vs Arizona Cardinals

Alex Smith debuts for the Redskins after a career year in Kansas City against the Cardinals, who get David Johnson back from a wrist injury. The Cardinals are a tough team to place this season. Sam Bradford is the new quarterback after Carson Palmer retired and while he is an accurate passer and has played well when on the field, his problem is he can’t stay on the field. There’s also a lot of talent on the Arizona defense but they did lose a BIG piece in Tyrann Mathieu this offseason. I think I’m going to go with Washington this week.

Projected Score: Redskins 24 Cardinals 20

Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos

This is a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch but both teams could not look more different. The Legion of Boom has pretty much completely dissolved while Denver is starting Case Keenum at quarterback. Seattle still doesn’t have an offensive line so I think I’m going to pick a Von Miller-led defense to take apart this Seahawks offense and lead the Broncos to victory.

Projected Score: Broncos 23 Seahawks 17

Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers

The oldest rivalry in the NFL is renewed with some new faces in Chicago. Matt Nagy is at the helm and he has a brand new toy after the team sent to first rounders to Oakland for Khalil Mack. All of a sudden this Bears defense looks formidable for the first time since 2012. But the Packers are also getting Aaron Rodgers back and their young secondary looks like it could have a similar effect on this year’s team as it did for the Saints last year and I think I’m going to take Green Bay.

Projected Score: Packers 28 Bears 20

New York Jets vs Detroit Lions

The first Monday Night game of the year features a couple debuts. Sam Darnold is the new rookie quarterback getting the start for the Jets while Matt Patricia is making his head coaching debut for the Lions. Darnold looked really sharp in the preseason and was doing things you don’t see 30 year-olds do. The Lions are in a similar position to the Cardinals in that they have some talent with a rookie head coach but I have no idea what to make of them. So I think I’m going to pick the Jets to come away with the win.

Projected Score: Jets 23 Lions 14

Los Angeles Rams vs Oakland Raiders

The other Monday Night game, this is going to be a blowout. I’m picking Oakland to pick first in the 2019 NFL draft as they have absolutely no defense, especially now that they’ve traded Mack. Meanwhile the Rams stocked up on talent in the offseason. This won’t be close, Rams win.

Projected Score: Rams 42 Raiders 14

So that’s it for my picks this week. Like I’ve said many times, I’m going to keep trying to do this every week, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Season Predictions

So instead of doing a “30 Clubs in 30 Days” thing like I did for baseball, I’m just going to do a generic preview for this upcoming NFL season. While 30 Clubs in 30 Days was a lot of fun for me to do, it ultimately was too time-consuming and not successful enough to be worth the time. But with the NFL season starting on Thursday with Falcons vs Eagles, I figured, what the Hell, let’s get this preview down now. So without further ado, here are my predictions for this upcoming season.

Projected Standings

AFC East

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Patriots at Panthers

1. New England Patriots (13-3)

2. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

3. New York Jets (6-10)

4. Buffalo Bills (4-12)

AFC North

Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)

4. Cleveland Browns (3-13)

AFC South

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

2. Houston Texans (8-8)

3. Tennessee Titans (8-8)

4. Indianapolis Colts (5-11)

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers

1. Los Angeles Chargers (11-5)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

3. Denver Broncos (6-10)

4. Oakland Raiders (3-13)

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles v Cleveland Browns

1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)

2. New York Giants (7-9)

3. Washington Redskins (6-10)

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-11)

NFC North

Seattle Seahawks v Minnesota Vikings

1. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)

2. Green Bay Packers (11-5)

3. Chicago Bears (7-9)

4. Detroit Lions (6-10)

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

2. New Orleans Saints (10-6)

3. Carolina Panthers (8-8)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

NFC West

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1. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

2. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)

3. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

Playoffs

AFC

1. New England Patriots (first round bye, home field advantage)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (first round bye)

3. Los Angeles Chargers

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

5. Kansas City Chiefs

6. Baltimore Ravens

NFC

1. Philadelphia Eagles (first round bye, home field advantage)

2. Los Angeles Rams (first round bye)

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Atlanta Falcons

5. Green Bay Packers

6. New Orleans Saints

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Round:

3 Chargers over 6 Ravens

4 Jaguars over 5 Chiefs

3 Vikings over 6 Saints

5 Packers over 4 Falcons

Divisional Round:

4 Jaguars over 1 Patriots

3 Chargers over 2 Steelers

1 Eagles over 5 Packers

3 Vikings over 2 Rams

Conference Championship:

4 Jaguars over 3 Chargers

3 Vikings over 1 Eagles

Super Bowl LIII:

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Vikings over Jaguars

So you don’t have to watch the NFL season anymore, I’m picking the Vikings to defeat the Jaguars in Super Bowl LIII. It’ll be a first for both teams: the Vikings’ first Super Bowl victory and the Jags’ first Super Bowl appearance. I have the Patriots getting upset in the Divisional Round for a couple reasons. Number 1 is that I feel like there’s just something not right about this year’s team. I’m not sure what it is, but the team just feels a bit thinner than usual. They’ll definitely win the AFC East again because it’s still Belichick and Brady, but after those two, there are a lot of question marks. I think the Chargers will have a breakthrough year by riding their defense (so long as they can stay relatively healthy). The offense will be fine, but the Chargers are going to be one of the more dominant defensive teams in the NFL this season, perhaps this year’s version of the Jaguars. Speaking of the Jaguars, I think they pull off the upset over the Patriots by doing the exact opposite of what they did in last year’s AFC Championship Game. Instead of playing not to lose, they go for the jugular and stomp on New England’s depleted receiving corps, leaving Tom Brady to have to continuously check down to James White, who keeps getting taken to task by Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. On the NFC side, I think the Rams could be a juggernaut this season. They didn’t lose anyone too significant and they reloaded on defense while returning all the important weapons on offense and adding Brandin Cooks. The Eagles I think will still be really good, but I don’t think Nick Foles will play as well in his first few games as the starter as he did in the playoffs last year. They’ll win the NFC East with ease, as the other 3 teams are hurting at the moment. The Vikings might be the most all-around sound team on paper heading into this season and that’s why I’m picking them as Super Bowl champions this year.

As for the bad teams, I still think the Browns will be near the cellar, mainly due to Hue Jackson. I have not been impressed by his coaching techniques watching Hard Knocks, as I think he’s way too soft to be a head coach. His tactics work as a positional coach, but to be the head guy, you need to have more of Todd Haley and Gregg Williams’ fire. Why is Bill Belichick so great? It’s because he doesn’t have a soul. The minute your skills start to deteriorate, you’re out the door. Jackson? It seems like he just wants to be friends with everyone on the team. I also think the Raiders are going to suck this year, but that’s not really news. Jon Gruden hasn’t been a coach in a decade and the game’s changed a lot since his last days with the Buccaneers. Now he doesn’t have a defense with the Khalil Mack trade and his offense is comprised of a bunch of old guys, Derek Carr, and a drop-happy Amari Cooper. I think they’ll end up picking first in April.

On to the awards.

NFL MVP:

Wild Card Round - Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Player of the Year:

Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year:

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots

Jalen Ramsey-CB-Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive Rookie of the Year:

1014201982-1024x1024

Saquon Barkley-RB-New York Giants

Defensive Rookie of the Year:

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Packers at Raiders

Josh Jackson-CB-Green Bay Packers

Coach of the Year:

Washington Redskins v Los Angeles Chargers

Anthony Lynn-Los Angeles Chargers

Comeback Player of the Year:

Arizona Cardinals v Detroit Lions

David Johnson-RB-Arizona Cardinals

Breakout Player of the Year:

Miami Dolphins v Carolina Panthers

Kenyan Drake-RB-Miami Dolphins

So yeah, that’s what’s going to happen this season. If you have any questions about this upcoming year, let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 College Football Preview

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but like I mentioned in the past, I’m a very busy man now. In addition to doing some work for Pro Football Focus, I’ve also landed a position with the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network as a Northeast Baseball Scout. So the blog has kind of gotten put on the backburner. However, with the college football season rapidly approaching (there will be some games on this weekend, including Colorado State vs Hawaii), I have found myself with a craving to get back into things. So let’s preview the college football season. I will be giving my preseason rankings, All Americans, Heisman winner, conference champs, and national champ. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Preseason Top 25

2018 University of Alabama Spring Football

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Clemson Tigers

3. Georgia Bulldogs

4. Wisconsin Badgers

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

6. Auburn Tigers

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

8. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

9. Washington Huskies

10. Oklahoma Sooners

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

12. Michigan State Spartans

13. Michigan Wolverines

14. UCF Knights

15. Stanford Cardinal

16. USC Trojans

17. West Virginia Mountaineers

18. Virginia Tech Hokies

19. TCU Horned Frogs

20. Florida State Seminoles

21. Oregon Ducks

22. Boise State Broncos

23. LSU Tigers

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

25. South Florida Bulls

A couple things to note about my rankings. Alabama mainly has the top spot again because they’re the reigning champs and I tend to lean towards the mantra of “you’re number 1 until someone proves otherwise.” But I actually think Clemson on paper is better. They’re basically returning everybody from the team that won the ACC and made the playoff last year. All they really lost were receivers Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud along with linebacker Dorian O’Daniel. Other than that, they’re returning QB Kelly Bryant, RB Wayne Etienne, OT Mitch Hyatt, DE’s Austin Bryant and Clellin Ferrell, and DT’s Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins. They also landed 5-star QB recruit Trevor Lawrence, who has reportedly looked so good in training camp that Kelly Bryant’s starting job may not be all that safe. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see part 4 of Alabama v. Clemson but unlike Cavs-Warriors, this one wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion as to who the victor ought to be. But basically I’ve got Alabama and Clemson as 1A and 1B in my preseason rankings. I’ve got UCF as my top non-Power 5 team despite the fact they lost head coach Scott Frost to Nebraska. McKenzie Milton is back at quarterback and if he has another strong season like he did last year, UCF could find themselves as not only the champs of the AAC, but potentially as the first non-Power 5 school to make the playoff. Florida State is coming off a horrid season and lost Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M (who barely missed the cut in this top 25), but they still have plenty of talent. Deondre Francois is returning from the ACL injury he suffered in Week 1 and Cam Akers was a revelation as a freshman last season. New head coach Willie Taggart’s task may not be as difficult as some may suspect.

Preseason All Americans

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QB: Khalil Tate-Arizona

RB: Bryce Love-Stanford, Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

WR: AJ Brown-Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry-Arizona State

TE: Noah Fant-Iowa

OT: Jonah Williams-Alabama, David Edwards-Wisconsin

OG: Martez Ivey-Florida, Michael Jordan-Ohio State

C: Ross Pierschbacher-Alabama

DE: Nick Bosa-Ohio State, Rashan Gary-Michigan

DT: Ed Oliver-Houston, Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

LB: Devin White-LSU, Devin Bush-Michigan, Cameron Smith-USC

CB: Greedy Williams-LSU, David Long, Michigan

S: Khaleke Hudson-Michigan, Lukas Denis-Boston College

K: Rodrigo Blankenship-Georgia

P: Mitch Wishnowsky-Utah

Return Specialist-Kavonte Turpin-TCU

Heisman Standings:

Valero Alamo Bowl - Stanford v TCU

1. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford

2. Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona

3. JK Dobbins-RB-Ohio State

4. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

5. Ed Oliver-DT-Houston

6. Nick Bosa-DE-Ohio State

7. Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

8. Will Grier-QB-West Virginia

9. Trace McSorley-QB-Penn State

10. Rashan Gary-DE-Michigan

Bryce Love is the obvious favorite here. He was last year’s runner-up after exploding on the scene by rushing for over 2000 yards on 8.1 yards per carry. I actually anticipated Love to declare for the NFL Draft, which was why in my way-too-early Heisman rankings a few months ago, I picked Arizona QB Khalil Tate to take home the prize. But Love returned to Stanford and with Baker Mayfield now a member of the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be number 1 in most people’s initial rankings.

Conference Champs:

ACC: Clemson Tigers

Clemson University Defensive Line, 2018 College Football Preview Issue

 

As I mentioned before, Clemson lost very little from a team that made the playoff last season and they look primed for another National Championship run. I’m expecting a decline from Miami after the phenomena that was the Turnover Chain and while I do think Virginia Tech could sneak up on people, I don’t think they have the talent to unseat Clemson.

Big 10: Ohio State Buckeyes

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 24 Big Ten Football Media Days

This one could be very tricky, especially considering all the controversy surrounding Urban Meyer right now. If Meyer gets canned as a result of the investigation about his potential knowledge of an assistant’s domestic abuse, the Big 10 gets a LOT more interesting. The last time Ohio State lost a coach due to investigation, Jim Tressel, they went 6-6 under Luke Fickel despite the extremely talented roster. Meyer is probably the second-best coach in college football after Nick Saban at Alabama so losing him could be catastrophic for this Ohio State team despite all its talent. And there isn’t a huge dropoff from Ohio State to the next-best teams in the Big 10 like Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State so Meyer could make all the difference.

Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners

UTEP v Oklahoma

Losing Baker Mayfield is going to hurt but Oklahoma’s got Kyler Murray as his replacement for at least this season. Murray was a top-10 pick in the MLB Draft by the Oakland A’s and he has signed with the club, however they are allowing him to play out this season in Norman. Murray was a former 5-star recruit who transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma and has an abundance of talent. While he isn’t the passer Mayfield is, he’s a much better runner and the tandem of him and Rodney Anderson in the backfield could be deadly. After them, though, I don’t see a whole lot coming out of the Big 12. Oklahoma State lost a LOT in Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman while TCU is losing Kenny Hill at quarterback (though they’re returning plenty on defense). West Virginia seems to be everybody’s dark horse pick to win the conference but I’m not sold on them just yet. Overall I think TCU is Oklahoma’s biggest threat but they still have some work to do offensively.

PAC-12: Washington Huskies

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington

The PAC-12 is a crapshoot right now as there isn’t a clear best team in the mix. Washington on paper looks like the best but Stanford, USC, and even Oregon all have legitimate shots at taking home the title. Also keep an eye out for Arizona as we could see Khalil Tate have a similar impact on that squad that Lamar Jackson had on Louisville.

SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia

While there are a ton of good teams in the SEC, it’s once again Alabama’s conference to lose. They did win the National Championship last season despite not winning the SEC (a poorly-timed loss to Auburn saw to that) but now they have an interesting quarterback situation on hand between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts had played well for most of the season but was struggling mightily in the National Championship game against Georgia. Enter Tua and he not only throws a better ball, but leads the comeback for the Alabama win. In truth, I think it would be better for everyone if Hurts move to runningback, not only for the depth chart situation but for his potential in the NFL. He’s not as good a thrower as Tua is but he can do a lot of damage with his legs, something he’ll have more opportunities to do as a runningback. Check out what happened with Braxton Miller when he took his name out of Ohio State’s QB battle a couple years ago. He goes from probably an undrafted quarterback to a third round pick as a wide receiver by the Houston Texans (hasn’t quite panned out yet, though). Hurts could see something similar. But as for the rest of the SEC, Georgia has a lot of production to replace in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are in the NFL with the Browns and Patriots, respectively, but Jake Fromm is back and so is much of the defense, though losing Roquan Smith is going to hurt.

Playoff/Championship Prediction:

1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs 4 Oklahoma Sooners

Alabama’s defense will suffocate Oklahoma’s high-flying offense and will lead the Tide to a surprisingly easy victory.

2 Clemson Tigers vs 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Again, Ohio State’s involvement in the playoff will hinge entirely on the Urban Meyer investigation. If he’s cleared, though, I expect Ohio State to be back in the playoff. However Clemson destroyed them in the playoff a couple years ago and while I do think it’ll be closer this time, it’ll be another Tigers victory.

National Championship: 1 Alabama vs 2 Clemson

The fourth straight year these teams will meet in the playoff and the third time they face off for the National Championship. Alabama won the first and third time while Clemson won the second. Clemson sorely missed Deshaun Watson in last year’s matchup and got beaten relatively easily. However I think they exact revenge and win their second title in three years, evening the rivalry to 2 wins apiece as Dabo Swinney cements himself as one of the best coaches of the last decade.

National Champion: Clemson Tigers

Clemson v Louisville

That’s going to do it for my college football preview. Please don’t save this to shove in my face in January, thanks. Let me know what your predictions for this season are in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Could the Cleveland Browns Actually Be Good this Year?

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The Browns have been an absolute dumpster fire since being revived in 1999 and even before then their existence in the Super Bowl era hasn’t been anything to write home about. The ineptitude that has been showcased by this franchise has made them the laughing stock of the league. From firing their head coach seemingly every year, to keeping the worst of the bunch longer than he’s earned simply because of the aforementioned reputation, missing out on a trade of a perceived franchise quarterback because you didn’t submit the paperwork in time, to going 0-16, the Browns have been pretty rough. And this was just last season alone.

Hue Jackson has been a disaster as head coach. While the talent around him hasn’t been great, most teams can usually “luck” their way into a victory or two. In his 2-year tenure, Jackson holds a record of 1-31 with the Browns, that one win being against the San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve in 2016 thanks to a late blocked field goal. That was on a Saturday. The Browns haven’t won on a Sunday since 2015 when Johnny Manziel was their quarterback. To make matters worse, Jackson swore that if the Browns went 0-16, he’d jump into one of the Great Lakes, implying he would do it at the end of the season. He just did it a couple days ago.

And then of course, there’s the jersey.

Screen-Shot-2016-03-25-at-10.43.23-PM

This picture of the jersey is a bit outdated because it doesn’t include Deshone Kizer, Cody Kessler, or Kevin Hogan, all of whom have made starts for the Browns in the Hue Jackson era, all of whom have since been shipped out since the start of the offseason when new GM John Dorsey took over. Quarterback has been the definition of a black hole since the Browns returned to the league. Starting with Tim Couch in 1999, the Browns have taken the following quarterbacks in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft: Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, Deshone Kizer, now Baker Mayfield. Everyone up until Mayfield has been a colossal bust, some were hard to dispute at the time of drafting (Brady Quinn seemed to be can’t-miss coming out of college), some were head scratchers (Brandon Weeden was 28 years old when the Browns made him a first round pick in 2012), while others made everybody question what they know about football (Johnny Manziel was the exact opposite of what a quarterback is typically classified as and the Browns still took him 22nd overall).

But is there hope? The team that the Browns are set to field in 2018 is, on paper, the best they may have had since their re-inception. With the recent addition of linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the Browns suddenly have arguably the best group of linebackers in football with Kendricks, Jamie Collins, and the VASTLY underrated Christian Kirksey. They’ve got a potent pass rushing duo in Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. They just drafted a very solid corner in Denzel Ward fourth overall. They’re getting Josh Gordon back for a full season and he looks as good as he did prior to his suspension. They acquired Jarvis Landry in a trade with the Dolphins. They acquired a competent quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. They drafted Baker Mayfield first overall to sit behind Taylor for a year to develop. Even without the recently retired Joe Thomas, the Browns still have a solid offensive line. Carlos Hyde is a new addition in the backfield. There is legit talent on this Browns team this year and it’s thanks in large part to the addition of John Dorsey in the GM’s seat.

Now am I saying the Browns are going to win a Super Bowl in 2018? Of course not, the dumbest football fan on the planet won’t even say that unironically. The only way anybody is placing any Super Bowl bets on the Browns is if they DESPERATELY need hundreds of millions of dollars right now to pay off their debt to the mob. But could they actually be competitive this year? Well…yeah! I’m actually going to go ahead and say I think this team could feasibly go 8-8…on paper.

The problem is, a culture of losing is very difficult to shake. Trust me, I know. My high school football team won 4 games in my 4 years there, 3 of those came in my sophomore year and my freshman and senior seasons were winless seasons. You always doubt yourself and your ability to win the game. In fact, I went into a few games thinking to myself “I hope the score will at least be close so we have something to hold our heads up high about.” It’s going to take a DRASTIC culture change if the Browns are going to take things to the next level and the type of thinking that’s probably running rampant amongst guys within the organization right now is going to hold them back. While the roster overhaul is a good start, this team needed to be gutted to the core. No seat is going to be hotter than Hue Jackson’s in 2018 and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see him get gutted the moment things start spiraling for the Browns in 2018. Besides, they do have Todd Haley at Offensive Coordinator, who does have head coaching experience with the Chiefs. He was 19-26 with the Chiefs, though he did lead them to the playoffs in his second of 3 seasons.

But I’m not just talking about Jackson. I’m talking everybody in the organization should be on the hot seat, INCLUDING owner Jimmy Haslam. While you can’t exactly fire the owner, I really don’t think the Browns are going to go very far while he’s at the helm. The ineptitude starts at the top with him. I mean for God’s sake, Dorsey wouldn’t even tell his boss who he was drafting first overall until the night before the Draft! If the Browns were to be sold, we could see things take a turn for the better provided it’s to a capable buyer. Just look at what happened with the New England Patriots. They were basically the Browns of the 20th century in the AFC and while they did appear in a Super Bowl prior to new ownership, they got absolutely DESTROYED by the Chicago Bears and really had no business being in that game in the first place (they upset Dan Marino’s Dolphins to get to the big game). However, since Robert Kraft bought the team in the early-90’s, pretty much everything has gone New England’s way. While it took a while for the Patriots to become what we know them to be today, they did eventually become arguably the most dominant franchise in NFL history. It’s not unreasonable to think that the Browns

That’s going to do it for today, let me know what you think of the Browns’ chances at future success in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights Are Headed To The Stanley Cup. Here’s A Look At How Other Expansion Franchises Did

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Before I get into this blog, I just want to apologize for how infrequent my posting has been. I haven’t been able to post much given my work schedule and it’s probably not going to get any easier. So for those of you who are bearing with me, thank you. I’m also coming off an illness. Saturday morning was AWFUL. I woke up at my buddy’s place in Lowell, Massachusetts about 45 minutes from my house. I’m puking my brains out and eventually dry-heaving. I then remembered my brother needed the car to go to work in a few hours so I couldn’t hang out on the toilet for much longer. Finally, when I decided I was done puking, I got in my car and just drove off. I’m about halfway home when I feel something coming up. I pull into a Starbucks parking lot in Littleton, open my car door, and puke in the space. I think someone who was sitting in their car saw me. I went into the Starbucks and put my head in their toilet for a few minutes before someone knocked on the door needing to go so I sucked it up and got back in the car, but not before texting my boss telling him I couldn’t make it to work that night. There weren’t any more problems until I just got back into my home town. I was too close to home to pull over and in a bad spot to do so, so I made the decision to puke on my shirt while I was driving. I don’t know how, but I made it home without causing an accident. It was one of the most miserable mornings of my life.

So with that, I don’t normally talk about hockey because I understand hockey about as well as I understand women (which is to say I know the basics but if you try and go into any depth, I’m lost). But I just can’t ignore the fact that the Las Vegas Golden Knights won the Western Conference and will be playing for the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season. That’s just insane. It’s a patchwork team full of castoffs and young guys and they won the Western Conference. They still have to face either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals, but the fact they got this far is absolute insanity. They really are the new gold standard for expansion franchises in professional sports now. So let’s put the Golden Knights’ season into perspective by looking at how other expansion franchises in sports did. I’m only doing the leagues I know, though (MLB, NFL, NBA) because otherwise this blog would take FOREVER. I probably should include the NHL seeing as how I’m comparing expansion franchises to an NHL team, buuuuut…

MLB

1961 Los Angeles Angels-The Angels were the first expansion franchise and went 70-91 in their inaugural season, finishing 8th out of 10 teams in the American League. They did not appear in a championship game until 2002, when they beat the Giants in the World Series.

1961 Washington Senators (later became the Texas Rangers)-The Washington Senators were revived after the previous rendition of the franchise became the Minnesota Twins. They eventually became the Rangers and finished tied for last place in the AL with a 61-100 record in their inaugural season. They first appeared in a championship game in 2010 where they lost to the Giants and have yet to win their first title.

1962 New York Mets-The expansion New York Mets had the worst season in Major League history, going 42-120. However, they appeared in and won their first title just 7 years later in 1969, in a team that is now referred to as the “Miracle Mets.”

1962 Houston Colt .45’s (later became the Houston Astros)-The Colt. 45’s had to change their name shortly after their inaugural season due to people being concerned over rooting for a team named after a gun. They finished 64-96 in their first season, 8th in the National League. They didn’t appear in a World Series until 2005 and won their first title in 2017.

1969 Kansas City Royals-The Royals went 69-93 in their inaugural season, finishing in 4th place out of 6 teams in the AL West. They did not appear in a World Series until 1980 and won their first title in 1985.

1969 Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals)-The Montreal Expos went 52-110 in their inaugural season and things haven’t gotten much better. They became the Washington Nationals in 2005 and neither rendition of the franchise has reached a World Series yet, one of two MLB franchises that have yet to do so (the Mariners being the other).

1969 San Diego Padres-The 1969 San Diego Padres also went 52-110 in their first season, matching the expansion Expos, who debuted in the same season. The Padres have yet to win their first World Series, but they appeared in their first in 1984.

1969 Seattle Pilots (now Milwaukee Brewers)-The Seattle Pilots went 64-98 in their first season, finishing in the basement of the AL West and were quickly moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers. The Brewers reached their first World Series in 1982, but they have yet to win the Fall Classic.

1977 Toronto Blue Jays-The Blue Jays went 54-107 in their first season, finishing in last place in the AL East. They reached and won their first World Series in 1992 and repeated in 1993 on Joe Carter’s walk-off home run (only the second time the World Series ended on a home run, the first being Bill Mazeroski for the Pirates in 1960).

1977 Seattle Mariners-The Seattle Mariners went 64-98 in their first season, finishing in second-to-last place in the AL West. They have yet to reach a World Series, though the 2001 Mariners have the winningest regular season ever at 116-46.

1993 Colorado Rockies-The Colorado Rockies went 67-95 in their inaugural season, finishing second-to-last in the NL West. They reached their first World Series in 2007 but have yet to win one.

1993 Florida Marlins-The Florida Marlins went 64-98 in their first season, finishing second-to-last in the NL East. They won their first World Series just 4 years later in 1997 and again in 2003. They have never lost a playoff series. They changed their name to the Miami Marlins in 2012.

1998 Arizona Diamondbacks-The 1998 Arizona Diamondbacks had a very similar path to the Marlins, going 65-97 in their first season but winning their first World Series 3 years later in 2001.

1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays-The 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays went 63-99 in their first season, finishing in last place in the AL East. They appeared in their first World Series in 2008, which is also the same year they dropped the “Devil” from their name. They have yet to win their first title.

NFL (post-merger with AFL)

1976 Seattle Seahawks-The 1976 Seattle Seahawks went 2-12 in their first season. They did not appear in a Super Bowl until the 2005 season and won their first Super Bowl in 2013.

1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers-The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14 in their inaugural season and proceeded to lose the first 12 games of the 1977 season before finally beating the Saints for the franchise’s first win. The 26 consecutive losses remain an NFL record to this day. The Buccaneers reached and won their first Super Bowl in 2002.

1995 Carolina Panthers-The Carolina Panthers went 7-9 in their first season, tying for last place with the Saints in the NFC West. They appeared in their first Super Bowl in 2003 but have yet to win one.

1995 Jacksonville Jaguars-The Jacksonville Jaguars went 4-12 in their first season but were in the AFC title game the following year with a 9-7 record. They have yet to appear in a Super Bowl.

1996 Baltimore Ravens (kind of)-The Ravens are technically an expansion franchise even though they were formed after the old Browns franchise moved to Baltimore. However when the Browns were reformed in 1999, they re-assumed their franchise’s history, retroactively making the Ravens an expansion franchise. The Ravens went 4-12 in their first season. They appeared in and won their first Super Bowl in 2000.

1999 Cleveland Browns (again, kind of)-As previously mentioned, the Browns were reformed three years after the original version moved to Baltimore but re-assumed their history. The new Browns went 2-14 in their first season. Neither rendition of the Browns has ever reached a Super Bowl.

2002 Houston Texans-The 2002 Houston Texans went 4-12 in their inaugural season, but set an NFL record for rookie quarterback David Carr getting sacked 76 times. They have yet to reach a Super Bowl.

NBA (post-merger with ABA)

1980-81 Dallas Mavericks-The Mavericks went 15-67 in their inaugural season. They appeared in the Finals for the first time in 2005-06 and won their first title in 2010-11.

1988-89 Miami Heat-The Miami Heat also went 15-67 in their first season. They appeared in the Finals for the first time in 2006, which they won.

1988-89 Charlotte Hornets (now New Orleans Pelicans)-The Charlotte Hornets went 20-62 in their first season. They have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1989-90 Minnesota Timberwolves-The Minnesota Timberwolves went 22-60 in their first season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1989-90 Orlando Magic-The Orlando Magic went 18-64 in their inaugural season and reached their first NBA Finals in 2009. They have yet to win a title.

1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies-The Grizzlies went 15-67 in their first season and later moved to Memphis. They have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1995-96 Toronto Raptors-The Toronto Raptors went 21-61 in their inaugural season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

2004-05 Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets)-The whole situation between which Hornets were the Bobcats at one point is similar to the Browns/Ravens situation but a lot more confusing so just go with it. But the Bobcats went 18-64 in their inaugural season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

So as we can see, expansion franchises are NOT supposed to be good out of the gates. The best winning percentage by an expansion franchise prior to the Golden Knights was the 1995 Carolina Panthers with a .438 winning percentage. Now they’ll be playing for the Stanley Cup in just their first year in existence after going 51-24-7 (.622) and obtaining the #3 seed in the Western Conference.

Let me know what you thought of today’s blog in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

 

General Sports: May 18

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-49ers linebacker Reuben Foster seems to be on the fast track to getting cleared of all charges. A little while ago, Foster allegedly assaulted his girlfriend so badly that he ruptured her ear drum and the charges he was facing could potentially land him in prison for up to 11 years. Well the “victim” gave her testimony where she basically stated that Foster never hit her and that she was actually the one who hit him (with a coat hanger) and that she wanted to “end him.” Now there is a possibility that she was paid “hush money” but I’m the type of person who will believe otherwise until it is proven to be true. But if the girlfriend did fabricate the story to try and derail Foster’s career, then quite frankly I’m sickened. Not only is she essentially trying to destroy an innocent man’s life, but she’s also making it harder for real victims to step forward. The reason there are people who will question victims of domestic assault is because of people like this chick who fabricate stories out of revenge. As long as people like this exist, there will people who will question the legitimacy of other assault victims and that’s just heartbreaking. That’s all I’m going to go into on the matter. It’s a sports blog.

-The Cleveland Browns have been chosen as this year’s Hard Knocks team and quite frankly, I’m kind of excited. It’s going to be risky choosing a team that’s coming off an 0-16 season but the Browns made so many moves in the offseason that they legitimately look like they could be halfway decent in 2018. There are also some legitimate personalities and some interesting storylines to boot. You can already tell that Baker Mayfield and Josh Gordon are going to be the stars of this show simply for their pasts and personalities. Hue Jackson, I feel, is going to be hit or miss. He’s been on Hard Knocks before as a runningbacks coach with the Bengals and he wasn’t that memorable so I’m interested to see if there’s going to be anything out of him. The best parts of these types of shows are coaches with personalities, which is a big reason why the 2010 Jets edition is pretty much unanimously considered to be the best season of Hard Knocks. Todd Haley and Gregg Williams are Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, respectively, so if Jackson doesn’t bring the energy to the show, these two will. The Browns were an excellent choice by HBO.

-So it’s the middle of May and at the top of the NL East Standings are the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, separated by just a game. What the Hell is going on out here? With Atlanta, it’s been the young guns, particularly Ozzie Albies, who is absolutely DESTROYING the ball through a month and a half, slashing .283/.320/.598 with 13 home runs and 31 RBI. His 13 home runs place him in a 6-way tie for the MLB lead and he leads the NL with 40 runs scored (next closest is Charlie Blackmon and Chris Taylor with 31). And he’s just 21 years old. Then there’s Ronald Acuna, who has picked up right where he left off after a big Spring Training, slashing .275/.348/.500 in his first 20 games. He’s 20 years old. These guys have lit a spark in this Atlanta lineup and it helps that Nick Markakis is having a HUGE year, slashing .333/.408/.518. Markakis hasn’t been relevant since 2014 so his presence on this Atlanta ball club has been huge for their turnaround. As for the Phillies, it seems like so long ago that Gabe Kapler was reportedly on the hot seat just 6 games into his big league tenure. Since toning it down after a rough first couple series, the Phillies have quietly been near the top of pretty much all major categories and are playing damn good baseball despite the fact that their prize offseason acquisition, Carlos Santana, is batting a measly .192. If the season were to end today, both clubs would make the playoffs. Might I remind you that these two teams finished in the cellar of the division last year. Crazy what difference a year can make.

-The Carolina Panthers are set to be bought by David Tepper, a hedge fund billionaire for $2.275 billion. This is a record purchase of an NFL franchise, eclipsing the $1.4 billion mark set by the Pegulas when they purchased the Buffalo Bills a few years ago. P Diddy, Steph Curry, and Colin Kaepernick all expressed interest in purchasing the Panthers when they went up for sale after sexual harassment allegations arose against now-former owner Jerry Richardson. But it’s going to be Tepper, a guy who I know literally nothing about except for what I read on an NFL.com article. But apparently he takes credit for coining the phrase “it is what it is,” which if that’s the case then I probably owe him some kind of royalties. Tepper does have experience in ownership to a degree, as he previously held a 5% stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, which he will now have to sell. So it’ll be interesting to see if there’s some kind of culture change in Carolina.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Rookies Best (and Worst) Set up for Early Success

So every year guys get drafted by teams that just put them in the perfect situation, whether that be the scheme fit or having the right supporting cast around them. A lot of times success and failure in the NFL is based on just being in the best situation. So with that, let’s take a look at some rookies that are in the best and worst position to succeed.

Best: Sony Michel-RB-New England Patriots

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This one’s not quite so obvious, but hear me out. Yes, Michel is in a VERY crowded backfield in New England and he’s going to be in an offense that prefers to throw the ball (who could blame them with the GOAT slinging it). However it’s a very similar situation to what he had at Georgia and look how that turned out. Michel shared a backfield first with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, then with Chubb and D’Andre Swift. Nowadays he’s going to be sharing with James White (pass catcher), Rex Burkhead (wildcard), and either Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillislee (power back) and replacing Dion Lewis as the de facto all-around guy. One of Michel’s main issues coming out of college was stamina and when you’re splitting carries, it allows you to remain fresh throughout the game. Michel will basically be doing the exact same thing in New England that he was at Georgia only this time the roles are more defined and there will likely be a specific gameplan geared towards his skills. I think that bodes well for his future NFL success. He may never reach 1000 rushing yards in a season, but his yards per carry is probably going to be nuts.

Worst: Sam Darnold-QB-New York Jets

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Darnold is probably the safest quarterback in this year’s class. There’s very little that he does poorly, or at least there are far fewer red flags than what you get from the other quarterbacks. However there was one major flaw at USC that had me a little concerned about team fits and that was the fact that his play dropped significantly when the talent around him wasn’t as good. He was awesome his redshirt freshman season when he was throwing to guys like Juju Smith-Schuster, however when Juju was drafted by the Steelers and Darnold’s entire offensive line went pro as well, he struggled mightily. While from a talent standpoint, the Jets are obviously better than USC, they are one of the least talented offenses on paper. Robbie Anderson is the #1 receiver and while he had a pretty solid season last year, that was more out of necessity than anything. The offensive line of the Jets isn’t great either and unless the front office somehow manages to swing a deal for some talent before Darnold gets the starting job (whether that be this year or next), he could be in for a world of hurt, no matter how good he is.

Best: Saquon Barkley-RB-New York Giants

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Barkley doesn’t really need help to be great but he’s going to get it anyway. Not only is he the most talented runningback to come out of college maybe ever, but he’s going into a situation that will be really beneficial for him. Now yes, the Giants sucked last season, but injuries and offensive line woes played a big part of that. Well ODell Beckham Jr is coming back healthy and the Giants signed Nate Solder at left tackle and drafted Will Hernandez out of UTEP to play guard. Plus, if they should decide to move Ereck Flowers to guard, that could wind up being beneficial for his career. So having Beckham back to take pressure off of him and an improved offensive line should set up Barkley nicely for early career success.

Worst: Denzel Ward-CB-Cleveland Browns

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Ward is a really good corner but given the Browns’ lack of options at the position, he may draw #1 receiver duties from Day 1. Now granted, it worked for Marshon Lattimore with the Saints last year, but I felt like Lattimore was a more complete player than Ward was. Ward struggled with the bigger receivers and there are plenty of them in the AFC North like AJ Green, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Michael Crabtree. Plus there’s also the smaller but even more dangerous Antonio Brown to contend with. Lattimore didn’t have an ideal group of guys to cover either like Julio Jones and Mike Evans, but again, he was more polished than Ward is and Lattimore also didn’t have to draw #1 receiver duties out of the gate. And even if he did, he had better safeties available to bail him out should he need them. I’m not saying Ward isn’t up to the challenge because if any cornerback in this year’s rookie class is it’s him, but his situation isn’t ideal by any stretch.

Best: Rashaan Evans-LB-Tennessee Titans

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Evans was a leader on Alabama’s National Championship-winning defense and it looks like he’s going to be thrust into the limelight in Tennessee as well, as he immediately becomes the best member of the Titans’ needle-thin linebacking corp. The offensive lines he’ll be going up against in the AFC South are mediocre and the only really potentially deadly runningback he’ll have to face at this point is Leonard Fournette. He’s also got an excellent coach of linebackers in Mike Vrabel as his head coach so he’s going to get even further mentoring. He’s in prime position for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Worst: Rashaad Penny-RB-Seattle Seahawks

<> on December 23, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Penny was a reach by Seattle, however given that he was likely going to be gone the next time they picked (late 3rd round), I can understand why they went that route if they were so high on him. Penny’s a good back, don’t get me wrong, and he fits the bruising style of running back the Seahawks like to employ. However the Seahawks have once again hardly touched that god-awful offensive line this offseason so they’re just setting Penny up for failure. Duane Brown at left tackle is the only competent guy on that offensive line and he’s going to be 33 when the season starts. He’s basically going to be running for his life out there. Plus aside from Doug Baldwin, there aren’t any receivers of note to take the pressure off the running game. Again, Penny does have the power to bulldoze over guys, but he’s going to get stuffed behind the line more often than not and I’ve got a feeling his yards per carry numbers are going to be pretty ugly.

So those are just a few guys that have some interesting situations brought about with them. I stuck with just first rounders given that the expectations for them are so much higher than the others. Let me know what you think of these conundrums in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft: Full Recap

This is the last I’ll post of the 2018 NFL Draft, which is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and it never ceases to disappoint. With all 256 picks made, I’ve gotten a chance to scour them all and decide what I think of each team’s class, which players got screwed, which players god overdrafted, etc., etc. So let’s get to the recap.

Best Draft Class: Green Bay Packers

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The Packers had the most picks (12) going into this Draft and they made very good use of them. This class is getting bonus points for the wheeling and dealing they did. First, they acquired the Saints’ 2019 first round pick to move down, then they gave up one of their third rounders to move back up and get a cornerback in Louisville’s Jaire Alexander. Then they doubled down on corner in round 2 and got a first round talent Iowa’s Josh Jackson, who led the nation in picks last season. The secondary was such a huge need for the Packers that I don’t mind that they hit the same position multiple times, especially considering both players they got were first round-caliber prospects. Aside from Haha Clinton-Dix, that unit is garbage. I would have liked to have seen them get another safety, but if I’m a Packers fan, I’m more than happy with the corners they got. The Packers also got great value for their wide receivers in an effort to find a replacement for Jordy Nelson as they landed Missouri’s J’Mon Moore in the 4th and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown in the 6th. Here’s every pick the Packers made.

18. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

45. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

88. Oren Burks-LB-Vanderbilt

133. J’Mon Moore-WR-Missouri

138. Cole Madison-OG-Washington State

172. JK Scott-P-Alabama

174. Marques Valdes-Scantling-WR-South Florida

207. Equanimeous St. Brown-WR-Notre Dame

232. James Looney-EDGE-California

239. Hunter Bradley-LS-Mississippi State

248. Kendall Donnerson-EDGE-Southeast Missouri State

Honorable Mentions: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Washington Redskins

Worst Draft Class: Oakland Raiders

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Jon Gruden’s first Draft in 10 years didn’t go great in my opinion. First, he traded down to take Kolton Miller. I liked the trade down and I like Miller, but there were far more pressing needs for the Raiders than offensive line and there were some damn good players available. There were a ton of needs on the defensive side of the ball, pretty much every position could have used a pick dedicated to it. When the Raiders took Miller, the following defenders were available: Tremaine Edmunds, Derwin James, Jaire Alexander, Leighton Vander Esch, and Rashaan Evans, all of whom would have started immediately on that defense. Then in the second round they took a defensive tackle named PJ Hall. At first I thought it was a typo and they meant NC State’s BJ Hill and I thought to myself “it’s good they addressed DT, and I like Hill, though I think this is a little rich for him.” Turns out it wasn’t a typo and they drafted some guy named PJ Hall from Sam Houston State, a player I had never heard of. They traded up for another tackle in the third, this time North Carolina A&T’s Brandon Parker, a guy I think I heard of in passing but never paid much attention to. I don’t know why they needed to trade up for a tackle from NC A&T of all places, but what do I know, I’m a blogger who lives in his parents’ basement. They took Arden Key in the third round, which I thought was a good value, but he’s a guy that has struggled with drug abuse and has failed to maximize his potential and I’m not so sure the Raiders would be the best place for him, especially with the eventual move to Las Vegas. They get bonus points for landing Maurice Hurst in the 5th round, though, so that keeps this Draft from being an utter shit show. There’s talent in this class, don’t get me wrong, and I think some of the guys taken later in this class could wind up being steals, but I thought the value of a lot of these picks, especially given who else at their positions were available, was pretty poor. I can’t in good faith give this class a good grade out of the gates. Here’s the rest of the class.

15. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

57. PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State

65. Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T

87. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

110. Nick Nelson-CB-Wisconsin

140. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

173. Johnny Townsend-P-Florida

216. Azeem Victor-LB-Washington

228. Marcell Ateman-WR-Oklahoma State

Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets

Best Bargain: Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan-Oakland Raiders (140th Overall)

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times during this draft process, but Hurst fell in this draft due to being diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine. I expected him to fall out of the first round, but I didn’t expect him to fall all the way to the 5th. Oakland got a tremendous value with this pick. I at one point had Hurst as the 12th best player on my Big Board. His reaction to the snap is basically perfect. As soon as the center even flinches his wrist, Hurst is off. The only knocks against Hurst for me was that he was a bit undersized (which didn’t bother me so much because Aaron Donald is considered undersized) and I felt that he would often be so consumed with the guy who is trying to block him that he’s not looking in the backfield to see where the play is going. But that’s something that’s easily coachable. The Raiders got a goddamn steal with this kid, which significantly helps what was otherwise a weak class.

Honorable Mentions: Bo Scarbrough-RB-Alabama-Dallas Cowboys (236th Overall), Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida-Seattle Seahawks (141st Overall), Deshon Elliott-S-Texas-Baltimore Ravens (190th Overall), Josh Sweat-EDGE-Florida State-Philadelphia Eagles (130th Overall), Tyrell Crosby-OT-Oregon-Detroit Lions (153rd Overall)

Biggest Reach: Terrell Edmunds-S-Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh Steelers (28th Overall)

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I had 8 safeties rated ahead of Terrell Edmunds, including one that went undrafted (Quin Blanding). Yet the Steelers still made him their first round pick, 28th overall. In fact, Edmunds was so surprised he was taken by the Steelers, he was in the bathroom when they called him. He had been sitting in the green room with his brother Tremaine, who was taken 12 picks earlier by the Bills and despite not technically having been invited to the green room, he still got to hold his jersey with the commissioner and Ryan Shazier because they had the Edmunds Steelers jersey lying around for his brother. It made for a nice story, but the Steelers could’ve gotten this guy in the third, maybe even the fourth round.

Honorable Mention: PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State-Oakland Raiders (57th Overall), Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T-Oakland Raiders (65th Overall), Joseph Noteboom-OT-TCU-Los Angeles Rams (89th Overall)

Notable Undrafted Free Agents and Where They’ve Signed

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Every year there are extremely talented players that get overlooked. Here are just a few.

Simmie Cobbs Jr-WR-Indiana-Washington Redskins

JT Barrett-QB-Ohio State-Indianapolis Colts

Josh Adams-RB-Notre Dame-Philadelphia Eagles

Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana-Los Angeles Rams

Akrum Wadley-RB-Iowa-Tennessee Titans

Allen Lazard-WR-Iowa State-Jacksonville Jaguars

Chase Litton-QB-Marshall-Kansas City Chiefs

Nic Shimonek-QB-Texas Tech-Los Angeles Chargers

Kurt Benkert-QB-Virginia-Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Allen-QB-Houston-Carolina Panthers

Kevin Toliver-CB-LSU-Chicago Bears

Jeff Holland-LB-Auburn-Denver Broncos

Davin Bellamy-EDGE-Georgia-Houston Texans

Riley Ferguson-QB-Memphis-Miami Dolphins

Hercules Mata’afa-DL-Washington State-Minnesota Vikings

Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State-San Francisco 49ers

Holton Hill-CB-Texas-Minnesota Vikings

And those are just the big names that didn’t hear their name called. There were hundreds of others. But as I said in yesterday’s blog, just because you weren’t drafted doesn’t mean your NFL dream is dead. Not by a long shot.

The Quarterbacks That Were Taken

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Football’s most important position is definitely quarterback and there was no shortage of signal callers in this year’s class. Here’s every QB that was selected.

1. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma-Cleveland Browns

3. Sam Darnold-USC-New York Jets

7. Josh Allen-Wyoming-Buffalo Bills

10. Josh Rosen-UCLA-Arizona Cardinals

32. Lamar Jackson-Louisville-Baltimore Ravens

76. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State-Pittsburgh Steelers

108. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond-New York Giants

171. Mike White-Western Kentucky-Dallas Cowboys

199. Luke Falk-Washington State-Tennessee Titans

203. Tanner Lee-Nebraska-Jacksonville Jaguars

219. Danny Etling-LSU-New England Patriots

220. Alex McGough-FIU-Seattle Seahawks

249. Logan Woodside-Toledo-Cincinnati Bengals

Of the 13 quarterbacks, all 10 from my rankings ended up getting drafted, a first for me (last year I had 9 out of 10, UPenn’s Alek Torgersen being the lone undrafted quarterback). Of the 3 that weren’t ranked, Lee, Etling, and McGough, none of them probably would’ve cracked my “first 5 out.” Lee is the most talented of the three but his play at Nebraska was far below his talent. I’ve seen Alex McGough (pronounced “Mah-GOO”) play a couple times, since Indiana and FIU have a home-and-home series and I’ve gotta say, I don’t know what Seattle sees in him. He just looked lost every time I watched him play (which, to be fair, was only against IU, which has a pretty solid defense). The Patriots and Saints were two teams I figured would be going after a quarterback in the middle rounds as hard as anybody, but the Saints didn’t take any and the Patriots took a guy that had defenders stacking the box to stop the run because they knew he wasn’t a threat. Perhaps both teams weren’t high on this year’s class and elected to try and find their Hall of Fame quarterbacks’ successors in next year’s Draft.

Most Confusing Draft Day Decision

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The Draft Day decision that confused me more than any other was the Cowboys not electing to take a wide receiver until the third round, and even then they took a pretty raw Michael Gallup out of Colorado State. They did trade a 6th rounder to the Rams for Tavon Austin, but Austin hasn’t lived up to his 8th Overall pick billing and has been a guy that you just get creative with rather than a real threat to the defense. They also didn’t address pass rusher until the 4th round with another raw player in Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr. I know they took Taco Charlton in the first round last year but pass rusher is still a big need, especially if they can’t sign DeMarcus Lawrence long-term. Overall I thought the talent the Cowboys got in the Draft was good, I just think they had their positional priorities out of whack a bit.

Secretly Genius Draft Day Decision

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A move that didn’t make sense to me at first but has really grown on me is Bill Belichick’s decision to take Georgia runningback Sony Michel with the 31st pick. I was a little taken aback by the decision at first since the Patriots had a very crowded runningback room, but then I thought some more about it. Only one of Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee is going to remain on the roster as the goalline power back. James White is just the pass catcher who never gets carries. Rex Burkhead is a wildcard who is only back on a 2-year deal. The Patriots were at their best last season when Dion Lewis was torching defenses in the second half with his all-around style of play. Michel is a very similar style of player and he was the most explosive player on Georgia’s offense that was a quarter away from a National Championship. There are people who are going to complain that the Patriots should’ve addressed the defense that got torched in the Super Bowl to which I say this: they kind of already did. The Patriots’ defense was riddled with injuries last year, particularly to Dont’a Hightower and 2017’s top Draft choice Derek Rivers (who was having a nice training camp before tearing his ACL). They’ll be getting those guys back and healthy They also signed Adrian Clayborn and traded for Jason McCourty to fill the holes for the meantime while also stockpiling on picks for next year’s Draft. The defense looks to be fine and in a win-now mode while the plethora of picks for next year’s class will likely be used to re-stock as this group gets older. So no surprise, but to me, the most genius Draft Day decision comes from the mind of Bill Belichick.

Some Prospects to Keep an Eye Out For in 2019

For scouting departments, when Mr. Irrelevant is announced, they get to work on next year’s class. Here are some guys that I think will go high next year.

Ed Oliver-DL-Houston

Nick Bosa-EDGE-Ohio State

Rashan Gary-DL-Michigan

Drew Lock-QB-Missouri

Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

AJ Brown-WR-Ole Miss

Dexter Lawrence-DL-Clemson

Christian Wilkins-DL-Clemson

Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

Austin Bryant-EDGE-Clemson

Just a few guys to look out for next college football season (you’ll notice a lot of defensive linemen. Next year’s class might be the best ever class for that position group).

And that’s a wrap on the 2018 NFL Draft. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

NFL Draft Recap: Round 1

The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft came and went and holy shit was it a doozy. Something to note at the beginning though. When announcing the players in attendance, the PA guy noticeably messed up. He went out of order a couple times (they announce the players alphabetically). He completely forgot Sam Darnold, who had to enter last. He then accidentally skipped Shaquem Griffin and went straight to Derrius Guice, which is why Guice was so late exiting the tunnel, he was probably confused because Griffin was supposed to be ahead of him. Josh Jackson was then announced but he didn’t come out, then the PA announcer finally got to Griffin, who came out, before going back to Jackson, who then came out. A little bit of pre-Draft entertainment. We’ve got 32 picks to sort through so let’s cut the intro short and get into it.

1. Cleveland Browns-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma (My Big Board Rank: 13)

This started gaining a TON of steam the morning of the Draft. Mayfield’s a great story, he had to walk on twice, first at Texas Tech, then at Oklahoma. He won the Heisman Trophy last season and is now the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. I’m not in love with the Browns’ decision but I think Mayfield is a better passer than people might give him credit for. Sitting behind Tyrod Taylor will be helpful for him because he really needs it. Also, you gotta respect this effort.

Also, fun fact, this is the first time since I started doing mock drafts in 2008 that I got the #1 overall pick wrong.

2. New York Giants-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State (1)

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Not a surprise here. Saquon Barkley is basically the perfect back and the Giants lack a running game. He’ll be a star in New York. The Giants still need some offensive line help but a guy like Barkley can help alleviate some of those pains. The Giants are able to land the best player in the draft and add another superstar to their roster.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)-Sam Darnold-QB-USC (9)

Great pick here by the Jets. Darnold is the safest quarterback in the draft and even if he does need a year, the Jets brought back Josh McCown and signed Teddy Bridgewater to start over him. I have an issue with his throwing motion but other than that I think Darnold is a very quality quarterback. He did turn the ball over a lot but the talent around him was VERY subpar. The talent with the Jets isn’t great either so they’re going to need to get him some weapons very soon if he’s going to be successful.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State (4)

Denzel Ward comes as a bit of a surprise, but they need corners. Ward’s definitely the best corner in this draft and he’ll likely be the Browns’ #1 corner from Day 1. He doesn’t have to go very far, having come from Ohio State. Ward may have benefited from Marshon Lattimore’s tremendous season last year with the Saints. I think he has the chance to be a Hell of a corner in Cleveland.

5. Denver Broncos-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State (2)

A little surprising given the fact that two quarterbacks, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, were both still available. But damn does this create a terrifying pass rush duo in Denver with Chubb and Von Miller. Denver is starting to rebuild their defense and getting a great pass rush is the easiest way to do it. Getting pressure on the quarterback makes life easier for everyone behind you and now with this pass rush duo, the Broncos look to be in great shape.

6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets)-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame (5)

This pick was clearly made with protecting Andrew Luck in mind. Nelson’s as good a guard prospect as I’ve seen in a looooooong time. He’s basically a perfect run blocker. On pass blocking, I’ve seen him get confused by some complex blitz packages, but usually he’s excellent.

7. TRADE!!! Buffalo Bills (from Tampa Bay Buccaneers)-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming (16)

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Shocker, the Bills traded into the top 10 to get their quarterback. According to Adam Schefter, the Broncos and Bills had a deal in place but when Chubb fell the Broncos backed out. The Buccaneers receive the 12th pick and both of Buffalo’s second round picks. The Bills take Josh Allen, who fell as a result of some pretty tough tweets he sent out in high school, which included the word “faggot,” talking about how he was against gay marriage, saying “if it ain’t white it ain’t right,” and saying he loves “touching kids’ peeters.” Now a lot of the questionable tweets were movie quotes or song lyrics but they’re still pretty questionable. Obviously he was an idiot in high school and I’m sure he’s grown since then. From a talent standpoint, Allen is about as physically gifted as they come, but he’s raw as Hell. He needs to sit at least a year before he’s ready. AJ McCarron should start at first and then they work their way to Allen.

8. Chicago Bears-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia (10)

When the Bears are good, they have imposing linebackers. From Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher, a great middle linebacker is essential for the Bears. Roquan Smith needs to get tougher against blockers, but his instincts are second to none and his fundamentals are excellent. The Bears have some talent on the defensive line that can take on some blocks for him but they will need to shore it up a little bit in order to maximize his potential.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame (21)

Jimmy Garoppolo faced a ton of pressure in his short period of time as the starter and this pick is meant to make sure he doesn’t have to rush his throws like he did. McGlinchey is probably better on the right side, but the value of a right tackle has been skyrocketing of late. I thought this was a bit of a reach but given that this is a poor tackle class, if you need a tackle you have to get the very best as soon as you can. You can’t risk your guy falling and then getting the next best guy later in this situation.

10. TRADE!!! Arizona Cardinals (from Oakland Raiders)-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA (8)

The Cardinals trade up with the Raiders, right ahead of the Dolphins who were rumored to be interested in drafting a quarterback. The Raiders get the 15th pick, a 3rd rounder, and a 5th rounder. Given how desperate the Cardinals reportedly were to take one, this doesn’t come as a surprise that they moved up to 10 from 15. Rosen was my number 1 quarterback but he’s the 4th taken in the top 10 (first time that’s ever happened). I think Rosen could start right away but he doesn’t have to with Sam Bradford in town. There are concerns with Rosen’s injury history and his commitment to football, but the tape is easily the best of any quarterback in this class.

11. Miami Dolphins-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama (3)

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The Dolphins missed out on a quarterback thanks to the Cardinals jumping up ahead of them, but they do end up with the very talented Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is at his best roaming the deep middle of the field but he’s also very capable of playing outside and slot corner and I’ve even seen him wreak some havoc at the line of scrimmage. Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke can get really creative with this guy.

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Buffalo Bills via Cincinnati Bengals)-Vita Vea-DL-Washington (18)

I’m not sure how you’re going to run on the Buccaneers now. With linebackers like Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander now able to run free because Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea are taking up all the blockers? Forget it. Considering the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons all have pretty solid ground games, I can see why they went with the pick. Not the pick I would’ve made with Derwin James available, I felt a secondary player was the bigger need, but it makes a strength even stronger.

13. Washington Redskins-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama (17)

I had Payne ranked right above Vea and I think he’s a more well-rounded guy. He was great in the CFP and he will be reunited with former Alabama line-mate Jonathan Allen with the Redskins. The Redskins ranked last in the NFL against the run so beefing up the interior of their defensive line was a must.

14. TRADE!!! New Orleans Saints (from Green Bay Packers)-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA (7)

The Saints trade up 13 spots to get Marcus Davenport. They’re sending Green Bay the 27th pick, a fifth rounder, and their first rounder next year to make the selection. This was an interesting decision. Davenport is a crazy athlete, but should they have traded up so high to get a guy as raw as he is? I’m not so sure because they essentially spent two first round picks to get this guy, given that Green Bay will be making their pick next year. I love Davenport, but I’m not in love with the selection by the Saints. Sure they don’t have a great pass rush outside of Cameron Jordan, but again, I thought they gave up too much for one.

15. Oakland Raiders (from Arizona Cardinals)-Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA (22)

I didn’t figure that offensive line was a need for the Raiders, but they go for a raw but extremely talented tackle prospect in Miller. I’m not going to lie, as a Patriots fan, I wanted Miller. I may or may not have cursed out loud when he was announced as the Raiders’ pick. Donald Penn is up there in age so perhaps they took Miller to groom behind Penn. The Raiders also traded the 3rd rounder they acquired to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant, meaning Jon Gruden is trying to build an elite offense in Oakland.

16. TRADE!!! Buffalo Bills (from Baltimore Ravens)-Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech (6)

The Bills acquired a fifth rounder and the 16th pick in exchange for the 22nd pick and a third rounder from the Ravens. The Bills get one of my favorite players in this class in Tremaine Edmunds. He doesn’t turn 20 for another week so he’s about as raw as you’re going to get. But at 6’5 250 pounds with 4.5 speed, you’re not going to find a better physical specimen at the linebacker position. He can play the edge or he can play up the middle and from a speed standpoint, he compares favorably to a lot of receivers in the league.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Derwin James-S-Florida State (12)

The Chargers have a pretty scary secondary now with the addition of Derwin James. At corner, they have Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett, now at safety they have James and the underrated Jahleel Addae. The Chargers had a pretty good defense already, now they may be looking at a powerhouse.

18. TRADE!!! Green Bay Packers (from Seattle Seahawks)-Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville (31)

Green Bay is involved in a trade yet again, this time trading up with the Seattle Seahawks for the 18th overall pick in exchange for the 27th pick, a 3rd rounder and a 6th rounder in order to select Jaire Alexander. Alexander is probably the most athletic corner in the Draft after blowing up the Combine. He’s a little small, but his athleticism makes up for it. The Packers were in dire need of corners and Alexander’s not a bad choice here.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State (27)

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I’m surprised this pick wasn’t a wide receiver. Vander Esch was a late riser and he’s got the thickest neck I’ve ever seen. He’s a big linebacker and he shores up a group in Dallas that seems to always be battling injuries. Sean Lee is always hurt and Jaylon Smith still isn’t all the way back from his ACL tear in college. There’s still a big need at wide receiver, though, after Dez Bryant’s release. As it stands, Terrance Williams is the #1 receiver. Every receiver was still available when the Cowboys made this pick so they must not be a huge fan of this class.

20. Detroit Lions-Frank Ragnow-C-Arkansas (N/A)

Ragnow is one of the best centers in the nation, though I felt that pass rusher was the biggest need for the Lions. The offensive line is still a big need, though, and Ragnow has the size to play every position on the offensive line and I think he could upgrade every spot for the Lions. Reportedly the Patriots were “all over” him so Matt Patricia may have stolen one from his former club. The Bengals were also reportedly going to take Ragnow 1 pick later so the Lions probably frustrated two teams by picking a center.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills)-Billy Price-C-Ohio State (N/A)

Billy Price might not be quite as good as Ragnow as a center, but he can also play guard, which is another position on the offensive line that the Bengals need. So Marvin Lewis has a lot of options here with Price and will be able to fill whatever need he wants.

22. Tennessee Titans (from Baltimore Ravens via Buffalo Bills through Kansas City Chiefs)-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama (23)

The Titans jump ahead of the Patriots and Panthers to take Rashaan Evans This pick has been held by 4(!) different teams but it ends up in Tennessee, who gave up a 4th rounder to move up. I figured the Titans would target this guy when they made the trade. The Patriots were reportedly interested in him and the Titans are in desperate need of a middle linebacker. Evans has had some injury problems but he’s a Nick Saban linebacker, which has proven to be pretty valuable lately, considering Reuben Foster, CJ Mosley, and Dont’a Hightower are the most recent of the bunch.

23. New England Patriots (from Los Angeles Rams)-Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia (28)

The Patriots needed a left tackle and that’s what Wynn played at Georgia, however I think he projects better as a guard since he’s a little on the smaller side for a tackle at about 6’2 302 pounds. Dante Scarnecchia is the best offensive line coach in the game, though and he’ll be able to do some good things with Wynn. We’ll have to see how he performs. Besides, if he doesn’t work out at tackle, he can slide into guard where I think he’s much better suited.

24. Carolina Panthers-DJ Moore-WR-Maryland (26)

First wideout off the board. I like Moore, but his film didn’t really wow me. The stats were really good and so were his workouts, but a lot of the routes he ran were tunnel screens. He’s a talented guy, though and a big need for the Panthers.

25. Baltimore Ravens (from Tennessee Titans)-Hayden Hurst-TE-South Carolina

Hayden Hurst is a guy I liked, but didn’t love. He’s 24 years old and will be 25 when the season starts. That late age is mainly because he played minor league baseball for a little bit before returning to school. He was my #3 tight end but there were a lot of analysts who had him as their best at the position. But he is one of the better athletes at the position who you can line up all over the field and is a very good blocker.

26. Atlanta Falcons-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama (11)

Wide receiver might not have been the biggest need for the Falcons (that being defensive tackle), but Ridley is my favorite receiver in this class and I think that he will be an absolute stud with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu also on the field. I would say he’s an upgrade over the departed Taylor Gabriel, for sure.

27. Seattle Seahawks (from Green Bay Packers via New Orleans Saints)-Rashaad Penny-RB-San Diego State (N/A)

Whoah…..uh, Seattle, I know you’re not usually accustomed to making first round picks, but this guy would’ve been there much later. Don’t get me wrong, I like Penny. He’s a bruiser and was the leading rusher in all of college football last season. But Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and Ronald Jones II are still there for runningbacks. Maybe the Seahawks know something about the kid that we don’t.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers-Terrell Edmunds-S-Virginia Tech (N/A)

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It was pretty cool seeing Ryan Shazier walking to make the pick. I was really impressed in the montage video that he was able to do pull-ups as well. He announced the choice of Terrell Edmunds, whose brother Tremaine was selected earlier in the night. It’s the first time ever that two brothers were taken in the first round of the same draft. I thought this was a BIG reach by the Steelers. He was my 9th-rated safety. Guys I had ahead of him who were still available are Justin Reid, Deshon Elliott, Jessie Bates, Jordan Whitehead, and Quin Blanding. But like with the Seahawks pick, maybe the Steelers know something we don’t. I thought Edmunds would be there in the third round, maybe the fourth.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida (40)

The Jaguars bolster a strength of this team on their defensive line. Bryan does a good job of disrupting guys in the backfield and creates plays for other guys on the defense. Defensive line wasn’t a need by any means, as Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, and Marcell Dareus are already there on the interior defensive line. Good luck getting playing time as a rookie, kid.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Mike Hughes-CB-Central Florida (33)

Hughes had a troubled past in college but is one of the best talents in the class. I figured the Vikings would go corner with Trae Waynes’ contract set to expire at the end of the 2018 season, though I had Josh Jackson and Isaiah Oliver rated ahead of Hughes. He can hit, he can cover, and he can return kicks, but again, the troubled past led me to lower him a bit in my rankings (got in a huge fight at a frat house at UNC, then was accused of rape at Kansas, though those charges were dropped). Given the quality of receivers in the NFC North, getting as many good corners as you can is going to be huge.

31. New England Patriots-Sony Michel-RB-Georgia (N/A)

I’m shocked the Patriots didn’t trade this pick. But they’re able to land Sony Michel, one of the more exciting running backs in college football. Michel is a similar player to Dion Lewis and I think he fits in nicely with the offense. He tore up the CFP running behind fellow Patriots first rounder Isaiah Wynn. My concern here is that is now a VERY crowded running back room with the newly-signed Jeremy Hill, Rex Burkhead, James White, and now Sony Michel, so I’m not so sure getting a running back in the first round was the best route to go. It should be interesting to see what New England has in mind for him.

32. TRADE!!! Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles)-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

The Ravens gave up a couple second rounders, one this year and one next year, to trade back into the first round for the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. Lamar Jackson will be sitting behind Joe Flacco for at least a year to develop, which is what he needs. Jackson has work to do as a passer, but the athleticism is off the charts. He has Michael Vick-like quickness. It’ll be interesting to see how the Ravens develop not only him, but their gameplan to accommodate him. He’s probably going to sit for a long time a la Aaron Rodgers, and we’ve all seen how that worked out.

Well that was a Hell of a first round. My mock did pretty poorly, but I kind of expected that considering it was such an unpredictable draft that we didn’t even know who the first overall pick was going to be until it was made. The only picks I nailed were Saquon Barkley at 2, Sam Darnold at 3, and Rashaan Evans at 22 (even though I got the team wrong). Here’s a list of my best players available for Day 2, ordered by their ranking on my Big Board:

14. Connor Williams-OT-Texas

15. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

19. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

20. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

24. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

25. Justin Reid-S-Stanford

29. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

30. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

So still plenty of talent still available for Day 2. I won’t get to watch the first half of it since I will be broadcasting a softball game between Indiana and Michigan at 6. So if you’re sick of the Draft, you can turn that on and hear my seductive voice. But that’s going to do it for the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Let me know what you thought of the picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Final Mock Draft

We made it, folks. It’s Draft Day! Round 1 starts tonight at 8 and the Cleveland Browns stated that they received no acceptable offers for the top pick, so it looks like they’re going to make the selection, not that there was a ton of doubt about it. As promised, here is my final mock draft of the year and my official guesses at what’s going to happen. The Draft is always damn near impossible to project. The best my mocks have ever done was 10 out of 32 correct picks in 2012. The worst was 3 the following year (that one got published in my high school’s newspaper). Last year I got 5, which is typically what I’m around. I’m going to do things a little differently with this mock than what I typically do with my mock drafts. I’m going to predict what I think will actually happen rather than what I would do if I were making the picks. Since I’m going to be predicting what I think will happen, I’m going to break one of my cardinal rules for mocks: I’m going to project trades. That’s where I’m probably going to get in trouble with the picks so at the end of the blog I’m going to link to the mock draft I made on NFL.com’s Predict the Pick with my picks on what I would do, which does not project trades so that you get both. As for the mock itself, these decisions are going to be based on not only what I think the team is going to do, but also based on what I’m hearing. The picks also may not necessarily reflect my rankings, either, since each team has rankings of their own. So with that, let’s get to the mock.

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

during the first half of a game on December 21, 2016 in San Diego, California.

Not what I would do by any means, but I am hearing that the Browns have narrowed the top pick down to Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Since Mayfield has been compared to Johnny Manziel, I think there’s a fear in the front office about repeating their mistake from 4 years ago and they go with Allen. With Tyrod Taylor in place, Allen won’t have to start right away and can sit and develop for a year, which is what he needs. Allen is as talented as they come but the tape and stats have me a bit nervous.

2. New York Giants-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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The Giants could choose to select a future franchise quarterback, but I think they go with the best player in the Draft. The Giants don’t have any runningbacks that make teams nervous and having a guy like Barkley around would force defenses to pay more attention to him, which can lead to more opportunities for ODell Beckham Jr to get open (as if he needed them). I think Eli Manning has another year or two left so they can draft his replacement in a later round or next year.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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I’ve heard the Jets are considering between Darnold and Mayfield and since the Jets have a poor track record of developing quarterbacks (see: Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg), I think they go with the guy who probably needs the least development in this class in Darnold. Darnold will have an opportunity to start right out of the gate but I don’t think it would hurt to have Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater start and have Darnold develop behind him.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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I think Minkah Fitzpatrick would be the better selection for the Browns here, but this is what I’m hearing they want to do. If they do pull the trigger on Bradley Chubb, they could have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the NFL. With Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah already looking like stud pass rushers, adding Chubb would give opposing offensive lines nightmares.

5. PROJECTED TRADE: Miami Dolphins (from Denver Broncos)-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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First big trade projection here. I think the Dolphins give the 11th overall pick and their 2019 first rounder to the Broncos to go up and take the guy they’ve reportedly been in love with for some time. I don’t think quarterback is the biggest need for the Dolphins, but Ryan Tannehill’s contract is up after this season and I doubt the Dolphins are going to want to give him the big contract he’s probably going to command, making quarterback an eventual need. Because Tannehill will still be on the roster, Mayfield can sit and develop, which is exactly what he needs.

6. PROJECTED TRADE: Buffalo Bills (from Indianapolis Colts via New York Jets)-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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Another big trade, this time I think the Bills give up both of their first rounders to the Colts to move up. The Cardinals are trying to move up as well and I think the Colts will use that as leverage because the Bills are reportedly “desperate” to draft a quarterback in the first round. In this scenario, I have them taking Josh Rosen, who I think is the best quarterback in this class. He can start right away and there isn’t a huge financial commitment to AJ McCarron so there isn’t any pressure to have the former Bengals quarterback start over Rosen like there was with Mike Glennon over Mitchell Trubisky last season for the Bears.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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Again, not the pick I would make but I’m hearing that the Buccaneers are “in love” with Derwin James and I think he would instantly become the enforcer on this defense. When the Buccaneers were wreaking havoc on the NFL in the late-90’s early-2000’s, they did it with a star defensive lineman (Warren Sapp), a star linebacker (Derrick Brooks), and a star safety (John Lynch). On their current roster, they’ve got their star defensive lineman (Gerald McCoy) and two star linebackers (Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David). They just don’t have that safety. Enter James, who would become the enforcer type that Lynch was.

8. Chicago Bears-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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The Bears need to aid Trubisky in any way they can. They already accomplished some of that in free agency by getting him some receivers to throw to in Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, now they need to shore up the offensive line and there isn’t a better offensive line prospect in this year’s class than Quenton Nelson. Nelson’s a dominant run blocker and a very good pass blocker and I think he’ll make life a lot easier for both Trubisky and Jordan Howard.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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With the uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster’s future, middle linebacker all of a sudden becomes a need for the 49ers. Tremaine Edmunds is probably the most physically gifted middle linebacker we’ve seen this generation, as he’s 6’5 250 pounds and runs a 4.5 40 yard dash so I think he could be the guy for them. And if Foster does manage to get cleared, Edmunds can play outside linebacker and rush off the edge as well.

10. Oakland Raiders-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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Everybody seems to single this out as a “Jon Gruden pick.” Roquan Smith is about as instinctive a linebacker as you’re going to find and he would be a leader on this Raiders’ defense. He doesn’t shed blocks very well so the defensive linemen may need to step it up a bit, but if he can go unblocked, your play is done.

11. PROJECTED TRADE: Denver Broncos (from Miami Dolphins)-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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The Broncos trade down, get an extra first rounder next year, and still get the guy they probably would’ve taken at 5 anyway in Denzel Ward. After losing Aqib Talib in the offseason, the Broncos have a need at corner opposite Chris Harris. Bradley Roby is a capable replacement, but he’s proven to be very useful at nickel and I don’t think tampering with that would be in Denver’s best interest. Ward is the best in a pretty good corner class and I think he will be a step in the right direction towards rebuilding this defense.

12. PROJECTED TRADE: Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo Bills via Cincinnati Bengals)-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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This isn’t the best fit in the world, as I think Fitzpatrick is best suited to be a centerfielding safety, which the Colts already have in Malik Hooker. However I think the Colts go “best player available” and find a way to get Fitzpatrick on the field any way they can. Fitzpatrick can play anywhere in the secondary so there won’t be a lack of options for him on a very thin Colts defense.

13. Washington Redskins-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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I’ve already stated before I’m not in love with Vita Vea, but you can’t deny he’s a space clogger. The Redskins’ run defense was poor last season but adding a guy with Vea’s size could alleviate a lot of those pains. Pair him with a healthy Jonathan Allen and the Redskins could see a huge shift in the right direction in their run defense.

14. Green Bay Packers-Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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The Packers NEED secondary help and it wouldn’t shock me to see them try and move up ahead of the Broncos to try and land Denzel Ward or Minkah Fitzpatrick. But I don’t think they’ll be successful and I think they’ll settle for Josh Jackson, whose instincts and ballhawking skills will make him a very valuable asset in Green Bay’s secondary.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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Here’s a shocker that may shake the entire draft. The Cardinals are reportedly trying very hard to trade into the top 10 to land a quarterback but I don’t think they have the ammunition to do so. Therefore, I think they’ll stay put and take a chance on Lamar Jackson, one of the most exciting playmakers in the nation. The former Heisman trophy winner won’t have to start right away, as the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to a 3 year deal in the offseason, so he can work on his passing mechanics in the meantime.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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Terrell Suggs will turn 36 during this NFL season so it’s high time the Ravens started grooming his replacement. Enter Davenport, who was one of the most entertaining film watches in recent memory. Granted, the talent he was going up against was subpar, but he was dominating like you’d expect a potential high draft choice to do. He’s still pretty raw, but pairing him with a great pass rusher like Suggs would be the perfect environment for him to take up the mantle as the Ravens’ pass rush extraordinaire.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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This could easily be a right tackle like Mike McGlinchey, but I think the Chargers are going to go with Leighton Vander Esch here to shore up their defense. Vander Esch reportedly may go higher than a lot of people might expect and the Chargers make a lot of sense, as they need that physical run stopper in the middle of their defense.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia

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The Seahawks appear to be preparing for a rebuild after blowing up their defense and I think the most important thing for them to do is address their offensive line. Isaiah Wynn would be a godsend for Pete Carroll’s staff because the Seahawks need help all over their offensive line and Wynn can play anywhere on it, filling whichever need they so choose.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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The Cowboys recently met with Sutton and I think with the release of Dez Bryant, this makes him the likely pick here. While Sutton is my 4th rated receiver, I have him going to Dallas because of his similarities to Bryant and I think it’s the best fit not only for him, but for the Cowboys as well. He’s a big guy with a large catch radius and I think he and Dak Prescott could form a fun connection.

20. Detroit Lions-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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The Lions managed to franchise tag Ziggy Ansah but even with him back for another year, pass rusher is still a major need as there’s nobody opposite him that teams need to worry about. Harold Landry has some work to do against the run but his pass rushing skills are so good that I think a pass rush-needy team like the Lions would be willing to overlook his flaws against the run.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills)-James Daniels-C-Iowa

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After losing Russell Bodine in free agency, there’s a huge hole at center. Considering how thin the rest of the offensive line class is, center is actually pretty deep and Daniels is the best of the bunch. He’s easily the best athlete in this class of centers and could kick out to guard if need be. You can get a lot more creative with your blocking schemes with an athlete like Daniels, which I think could really be helpful to the development of Joe Mixon.

22. PROJECTED TRADE: Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo Bills via Kansas City Chiefs)-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama

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This is the other Bills pick that would be acquired for the 6th overall pick. The Colts have numerous needs so stocking up on picks would be huge. Rashaan Evans was a leader on one of the top defenses in the country and this would be the second Alabama stud the Colts would be adding to their defense if my mock draft comes true. He’s a good athlete with some injury concerns. Despite not being “the guy” last year with Alabama with Reuben Foster being around, Evans still found ways to make plays an impact the game and continued to do so when he was given the reigns as the team’s MIKE linebacker.

23. New England Patriots-Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

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A lot of people think the Patriots made this pick to put themselves in a better position to draft Tom Brady’s successor. I don’t think they will in the first round. There’s too big a hole at left tackle that even a great coach like Dante Scarnecchia can’t fill. Kolton Miller is basically a carbon copy of the recently-departed Nate Solder and I think he can slide in Day 1 protecting Tom Brady’s blind side (and perhaps another quarterback in this draft class a few years down the road).

24. Carolina Panthers-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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I think the fact that Calvin Ridley is 24 years old will cause him to slide. I think he’s the best receiver in this class but there are plenty of people who disagree with me and think that honor belongs to DJ Moore. But Ridley is an excellent athlete and a great route runner and the Panthers can use all the receiver help that they can get. Yes they added Torrey Smith but Smith hasn’t really been relevant for years now so I think the addition of Ridley will be really helpful for the Panthers offense.

25. Tennessee Titans-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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The Titans need a middle linebacker but there really isn’t one available here for them. This pick could be on the move, whether the Titans try and trade up for that middle linebacker or they trade back and add more draft capital. The Titans could also use some help on the defensive line to aid Jurrell Casey and Da’Ron Payne is a guy I think could be useful for them. This is a case of “best player available” as interior line wouldn’t be their biggest need, but beefing up a strength can pay dividends.

26. PROJECTED TRADE: Jacksonville Jaguars (from Atlanta Falcons)-Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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I’ve got the Jaguars sneaking up ahead of the Saints to take a tight end. Dallas Goedert is the only first round talent at the position and the Saints have shown some serious interest in tight ends after having been rumored to be trying to bring back Jimmy Graham before the Packers snatched him up. Jacksonville has none so I think they take the risk and trade up. Goedert can help round out their offense and the more help you can get Blake Bortles, the better.

27. PROJECTED TRADE: Cleveland Browns (from New Orleans Saints)-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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With Goedert gone, I think the Saints try and build some draft capital. I think the Browns use their plethora of picks to trade back into the first round to have 3 first round picks for the second consecutive year. With Joe Thomas’ retirement, there’s a huge hole at left tackle and while there are people that think that Connor Williams should play guard, I think he’ll be fine as a left tackle and could be Thomas’ heir.

28. PROJECTED TRADE: New York Giants (from Pittsburgh Steelers)-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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The Steelers really don’t have a ton of needs so I think they listen to some trade offers. The Giants need offensive linemen and I think they’ll trade back into the first round to take Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey is probably better suited to play right tackle but anything is better than Ereck Flowers on the left side right now so I think McGlinchey will start out there while a pretty solid Justin Pugh mans the right side.

29. PROJECTED TRADE: Atlanta Falcons (from Jacksonville Jaguars)-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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The only real hole for the Falcons right now is defensive tackle after the departure of Dontari Poe. Grady Jarrett doesn’t really have anyone to line up alongside him in a base 4-3 front. I have Michigan’s Maurice Hurst ranked above Taven Bryan, but the heart condition Hurst was diagnosed with at the combine has scared some teams so badly that they took him off their board entirely. Bryan isn’t too far behind Hurst from a talent standpoint though so I don’t think the Falcons will complain too much about settling for him.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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Trae Waynes’ contract is up soon and even so, he hasn’t been great for the Vikings. I think they try and draft his replacement in Isaiah Oliver, who might be a different style of player, but is perfect to cover bigger receivers in the division like Allen Robinson and Marvin Jones.

31. PROJECTED TRADE: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from New England Patriots)-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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The Patriots like to move their picks so I think they will listen to offers. The runningback position is currently a black hole for the Buccaneers and there will be several teams ahead of them in the second round who could jump ahead and take Derrius Guice so I think they’ll decide not to risk it and will jump ahead to take the talented back, who will almost certainly start right away for them.

32. Philadelphia Eagles-Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

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Jaire Alexander is a really talented corner and after having to cut Daryl Worley shortly after acquiring him due to his recent arrest, corner is once again a need for the Super Bowl champs. Alexander had a big combine and his athleticism will make him popular in Philly.

Notable Players Still Available: DJ Moore-WR-Maryland, Justin Reid-S-Stanford, Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan, Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State, Mike Hughes-CB-UCF, Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

Also, as promised, here’s the link to my NFL.com Predict the Pick Draft that does not project trades and is based on what I would do given each team’s situation. I’m not sure if it will link to my actual draft or to a blank one for you to make your own. If it doesn’t link to my draft, let me know through your method of choice and I’ll send it to you. That’s going to do it for my final mock. Let me know what you think of the picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.