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

888027830-1024x1024

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.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Miami Marlins

I’ve decided against doing a whole Combine blog because to be totally honest, I didn’t end up watching as much of it as I usually do. School has been more of a pain in the ass at this time of year than it usually is. So I’m just going to briefly go position by position and list the player who most helped himself and most hurt himself.

Quarterback: 

Helped: Josh Allen-Wyoming

Hurt: Luke Falk-Washington State

Runninbgack:

Helped: Nick Chubb-Georgia

Hurt: Kamryn Pettway-Auburn

Honorable Mention: Saquon Barkley. Had best combine but was already #1 Overall Prospect

Wide Receiver:

Helped: Antonio Callaway: Florida

Hurt: Auden Tate-Florida State

Tight End:

Helped: Mike Gesicki-Penn State

Hurt: Ryan Izzo-Florida State

Offensive Line:

Helped: Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

Hurt: Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

Edge Rusher:

Helped: Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

Hurt: Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

Defensive Line:

Helped: Breeland Speaks-Ole Miss

Hurt: Vita Vea-Washington

Linebacker:

Helped: Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

Hurt: Chris Worley-Ohio State

Defensive Back:

Helped: Donte Jackson-LSU

Hurt: Jordan Thomas-Oklahoma

Alright, let’s get to the Marlins.

855723350

2017 Results:

Record: 77-85, 20 games behind Washington Nationals, 10 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: 2B Starlin Castro, OF Cameron Maybin, OF Lewis Brinson, RP Jumbo Diaz, OF Scott Van Slyke, IF Christhian Adames, C Bryan Holaday, Magneuris Sierra

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RF Giancarlo Stanton, CF Christian Yelich, LF Marcell Ozuna, 2B Dee Gordon, C AJ Ellis, OF Ichiro Suzuki

Best Offensive Player: C JT Realmuto

Best Pitcher: Dan Straily

Depth Chart:

C-JT Realmuto, Tomas Telis

1B-Justin Bour, Gary Cooper

2B-Starlin Castro

3B-Martin Prado

SS-JT Riddle, Miguel Rojas

LF-Derek Dietrich

CF-Lewis Brinson

RF-Cameron Maybin, Magneuris Sierra

SP-Dan Straily, Wei-Yin Chen, Jose Urena, Adam Conley, Justin Nicolino

Bullpen-Brad Ziegler (CP), Kyle Barraclough, Junichi Tazawa, Drew Steckenrider, Nick Wittgren, Brian Ellington, Sandy Alcantara

Coaching Staff-

Manager-Don Mattingly (3rd season with Marlins)

Hitting Coach-Mike Pagliarulo

Pitching Coach-Juan Nieves

1st Base Coach-Perry Hill

3rd Base Coach-Fredi Gonzalez

Bench Coach-Tim Wallach

860848624

Shield your eyes, children. Parents, be good parents and don’t let your kids watch the Marlins this season. Don Mattingly has been put in a no-win situation and I’m surprised Derek Jeter hasn’t already sent him packing, too (could be Yankees’ honor or something). But this is far and away the least talented roster in baseball. What was once one of the most promising young rosters in baseball got completely uprooted in a matter of months, as superstar caliber players like their entire outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna are all gone. I mean, my word, look at this lineup.

1. Starlin Castro-2B

2. Martin Prado-3B

3. JT Realmuto-C

4. Justin Bour-1B

5. Derek Dietrich-LF

6. Cameron Maybin-RF

7. Lewis Brinson-CF

8. JT Riddle/Miguel Rojas-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Honestly if you kept their outfield from 2017, this lineup could be seen as imposing, that’s how good Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna are. But without them, there are only a few guys that can be deemed “good” and they’re not happy. Starlin Castro hasn’t played a regular season game in Miami yet and he already wants out, Realmuto wants out, pretty much the only player worth a damn that hasn’t vocally expressed his displeasure with the situation in Miami is Justin Bour. A lot of these guys would probably be in the Minor Leagues on most other teams like Cameron Maybin or JT Riddle. Though I hate to knock Maybin because he threw me a baseball once, but the fact that he’s probably the best outfielder on the team right now is alarming. Lewis Brinson is talented but he’s only played 21 career games and has a career .106 batting average. That’s your everyday centerfielder right there. Now, being one of the top prospects in baseball, he’s expected to get significantly better, but he certainly doesn’t inspire hope at the moment.

during a game  at Marlins Park on September 29, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

Dear God, I didn’t think it was possible to have a starting rotation that makes me weep for the fans, but I think the Marlins may have pulled it off. Dan Straily, who would probably be the #4 or 5 starter for most other teams, is the ace of the Marlins. Last season he went 10-9 with a 4.26 ERA and a 4.58 FIP. His best season was 2016 with the Reds when he had an ERA of 3.76 but a FIP of 4.88. Wei-Yin Chen is one of the least impressive pitchers that I’ve seen live. I saw him pitch for the Orioles once and it was the one time where I ever watched a pitcher and thought to myself “I could totally take this guy yard.” His fastball just looked so flat and easy to see, I’m not shocked that the Indians tagged him for 3 home runs that day. Granted they were all solo shots and were the only runs he allowed that day, but still. Jose Urena has some talent to him, as he had a 3.82 ERA but a 5.20 FIP and a higher walk rate of 3.39 BB/9. There is basically nothing to be excited about by this staff.

843930362

There’s really only one guy in this Marlins bullpen that I liked going into this blog and that’s their closer Brad Ziegler and I don’t even like him in that role. Ziegler is a submarine pitcher with a vicious sinker and that makes him one of the greatest pitchers ever at forcing ground balls. In fact, Ziegler has the second highest ground ball rate of all time after Dennis Springer. But Ziegler is best used when you need to get out of a jam, like runners on first and third, one out, and you have a one-run lead. Ziegler gets a ground ball at such a high frequency that you basically have a 2 out of 3 chance (his ground ball rate) of getting that double play you need. After him, though, the Marlins bullpen does have some decent pieces but nothing too spectacular. Drew Steckenrider is far from a household name but he quietly had a 2.34 ERA and struck out over 14 batters per 9 innings in 37 appearances. I had never heard of this guy prior to writing this but I’m suddenly intrigued by him. Kyle Barraclough was a guy I’d heard of in passing and he had an ERA of 3 and struck out over 10 batters per 9. Both guys had high walk rates, but they also have swing and miss stuff and they’re surprisingly an element of the Marlins that might be worth watching this year.

Overall, the Marlins are going to suck ass. Even in a weak division like the NL East, they’re far and away the worst of the bunch. Not only is there very little talent, but the talent that they actually do have doesn’t want to be there and have publicly expressed their desire to be traded. If the Marlins somehow don’t finish with the worst record in Major League Baseball, Don Mattingly or whomever finishes the season as manager should be a candidate for NL Manager of the Year.

Projected Record: 62-100, Last in all of Major League Baseball

That record’s a bit generous but I find it insulting to a group of guys to project they’ll lose more than 100 games, so that’s my max right there. That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, join me tomorrow when I discuss the Milwaukee Brewers, who made some big moves to try and gain some ground on the Cubs in the NL Central after a surprising playoff run in 2017. Let me know what you think of the Marlins’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Chicago White Sox

There isn’t really a whole lot of news to talk about today so I’m going to spare you with the rambling intro I usually do at the start of these things. Today we’re going to take a look at the Chicago White Sox, whom I don’t expect much out of considering they’re all in on their rebuild. So without further ado, we’re in Day 7 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Chicago White Sox.

854408288

2017 Results:

Record: 67-95, 35 games behind Cleveland Indians, 18 games behind Minnesota Twins for second Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Hector Santiago, RP Bruce Rondon, RP Joakim Soria, SP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo, RP Luis Avilan

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Derek Holland, RP Jake Petricka, 2B Alen Hanson, RP Al Albuquerque, LF Cody Asche, SP Mike Pelfrey, RP Zach Putnam, C Geovany Soto

Best Offensive Player: 1B Jose Abreu

Best Pitcher: James Shields

Depth Chart:

C-Welington Castillo, Kevan Smith

1B-Jose Abreu

2B-Yoan Moncada

3B-Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino (DH)

SS-Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez

LF-Nicky Delmonico

CF-Adam Engel, Leury Garcia

RF-Avisail Garcia

SP-James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez, Carson Fulmer, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago

Bullpen-Joakim Soria (CP), Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, Danny Farquhar, Luis Avilan,  Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Bruce Rondon

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Rick Renteria (2nd Season with White Sox)

Hitting Coach-Todd Steverson

Pitching Coach-Don Cooper

1st Base Coach-Daryl Boston

3rd Base Coach-Nick Capra

Bench Coach-Joe McEwing

846982782

The White Sox may have arguably the thinnest Major League roster in the American League at the moment. Aside from Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, there isn’t really anybody on the team that will keep opposing managers up at night and even in Garcia’s case, we’re not sure if his big 2017 season was a fluke or not. Here’s how the White Sox are projected to look in 2018.

1. Tim Anderson-SS

2. Yoan Moncada-2B

3. Jose Abreu-1B

4. Avisail Garcia-RF

5. Welington Castillo-C

6. Matt Davidson-3B

7. Nicky Delmonico-LF

8. Tyler Saladino-DH

9. Adam Engel-CF

The only guy in that lineup who really instills fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers is Abreu. Last season he was particularly dangerous as he hit .304 with 33 home runs, 102 RBI, 95 runs scored, slugged .552, and was worth 4.1 WAR. He’s driven in at least 100 runs in all 4 of his Major League seasons and is an imposing threat in the batter’s box at 6’3 255 pounds. Avisail Garcia had a breakout season in 2017, as he hit .330 with 18 home runs, 80 RBI, slugged .506, and was worth 4.2 WAR. However those numbers could be a bit fluky. Garcia hit .392 on balls in play which suggests that he got lucky at times because a number that high is unsustainable. Plus he had a very low walk rate of 5.9% suggesting that he may not see the plate as well as others or simply lacks the patience. Plus it was his first season where he was worth more than 1 WAR, as he had actually had a negative WAR in each of his first 3 seasons. Perhaps he has turned a corner, but I suspect Garcia may be in for a hefty decline in 2018. But the main story surrounding this White Sox team, like the Braves, is their extremely loaded prospect pool. Arguably the best member of that pool, Yoan Moncada, whom the White Sox acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade, is expected to open as the everyday second baseman and Chicago is expecting big things out of him. He’s been compared to Robinson Cano and that’s quite a tall order for a guy who is a career .229 hitter in 62 games at the Major League level. There isn’t a whole lot of Major League experience with Moncada, however what we have seen is a second baseman with a good amount of pop, good speed, and a good stick when he manages to put the ball in play. Moncada had a .325 average on balls in play last season however he only hit .231 and a big reason for that is he struck out 32% of the time he came up to bat, which would have ranked 4th in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. He struck out at an even higher rate than Aaron Judge and Mark Reynolds, who have gained reputations for being big power bats that strike out a lot. He NEEDS to bring that number way down if he hopes to maximize on his potential. A guy he might want to take a look at is Javy Baez of the Cubs, who came up in a similar fashion. He boasted tremendous power for a middle infielder but he struck out at an alarming rate. In his first taste of the Majors in 2014, Baez struck out 41% of the time. However since then, he has brought that number down every season until 2017 and his production has been better for it. He got his strikeout rate as low as 24% (which still isn’t great but it’s at least respectable) in 2016 and in that season, he hit .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBI en route to helping the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. So if Moncada can follow the improvements made by the other Chicago second baseman, he would become a huge asset for the White Sox.

<> at Comerica Park on September 14, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

White Sox pitching is currently an absolute shit show right now. Their ace, James Shields, hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014 and hasn’t had an ERA under 5 since 2015. In 21 starts last season, Shields went 5-7 with a 5.23 ERA, a 5.83 FIP, 103 strikeouts, and was worth -0.2 WAR. That’s not even #5 starter numbers and this guy is the favorite to be the Opening Day starter. There was a time when Shields was an ace, his time with the Rays was very good, but those days are long gone and Shields is basically a batting practice pitcher at this point. In fact, had he pitched enough innings to qualify, Shields’ 2.08 Home Runs per 9 innings allowed would’ve topped all of baseball. Lucas Giolito is a guy the White Sox hope can reach his potential as well. Like Moncada, Giolito was at one point the #1 prospect in baseball on another team whom the White Sox acquired in a trade for one of their best players (OF Adam Eaton). He struggled mightily with the Nationals but his first stint with the White Sox showed a lot of promise. He only made 7 starts but in those starts he went 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA (though his FIP was 4.94, the largest differential I’ve ever seen). He didn’t strike out a ton of batters, as his Strikeouts per 9 was just 6.75, but he was helped by the fact that opponents only hit .189 on balls in play against him. If he can continue to show the promise he showed in his brief stint with the White Sox, they may have their future ace on their hands. Carson Fulmer’s another guy they hope will take the next step into ace status. As of right now, I am a bit ashamed to admit, but in the 2015 MLB Draft, I was upset the Red Sox took Andrew Benintendi with the 7th overall pick when Fulmer was still on the board, whom the White Sox snatched up with the very next pick. While Benintendi is a future stud for the Red Sox, Fulmer has yet to leave his mark with the White Sox. In his first stint in 2016, he made 8 relief appearances and pitched to an 8.49 ERA. His second stint in 2017 was much better (can’t do much worse) where he pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 7 appearances and 5 starts. His control has been a big problem in both stints, as he walks over 5 batters per 9 innings. There are a lot of issues currently in the White Sox pitching staff but if their young guys can step up, then things will go a lot more smoothly.

670641446

The White Sox bullpen is one of the weaker units in the American League. Joakim Soria is slated to be their closer and along with Nate Jones, he’s probably the only one who is even remotely capable of holding the job. Last year in Kansas City, Soria pitched to a 3.70 ERA (though he had a FIP of 2.23) and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings so he still has something left in the tank despite being 33 years old. Nate Jones is also a capable reliever, as he pitched to a 2.31 ERA last season and struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings. Should Soria struggle in the closer’s role, manager Rick Renteria ought to be more than confident in his next best option in Jones. After those two guys there really isn’t much to write home about.

Overall, I don’t expect the White Sox to sniff .500 at any point this season. Aside from Jose Abreu there aren’t any established Major League studs. The excitement for them, though, is in their prospect pool, which is arguably the best in baseball. To go along with young Major Leaguers Moncada, Giolito, and Fulmer, the White Sox have waiting in the wings guys like OF Eloy Jimenez (acquired in the Jose Quintana trade), OF Blake Rutherford (acquired in the Todd Frazier trade), P Michael Kopech (acquired in the Chris Sale trade), OF Luis Robert, P Alec Hansen, P Dylan Cease, and P Dane Dunning, all of whom rank amongst MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. So the future is bright in the south side of Chicago, but the present leaves much to be desired.

Projected Record: 70-92, 4th in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Cincinnati Reds, who will try and escape the cellar of the NL Central for the first time since 2014. Let me know what you think of the White Sox’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Wide Receivers of the 2018 NFL Draft

I’ve already scouted the quarterbacks and runningbacks of this year’s class and I will be following the same format: six guys that I like a lot, listed in alphabetical order. This year’s wide receiver group lacks any elite prospect but has a lot of solid ones that I think could be solid contributors for teams, maybe potential pro bowlers down the line. It’s nowhere near the talent of the 2014 class, but I think it’s a slight upgrade over last year’s class based on depth. So let’s take a look at some receivers I like.

Simmie Cobbs Jr-Indiana

841382382

I might be a little biased on this one because I actually had a racial studies class with Cobbs during the fall semester that he was torching opposing defenses. Therefore I may have him a little higher than some others, but there is a lot to like about the kid.

Strengths: Size, Jump Ball Ability, Body Control

Cobbs is a big, strong receiver at 6’4 220 pounds. When he takes over games, he REALLY takes them over. Just watch the Ohio State game. I did say in the past that I wasn’t impressed by Ohio State corner Denzel Ward because of how well Cobbs did. Well I owe Ward a HUGE apology, he only got beat by Cobbs once and that was on a jump ball in the endzone. It was Kendall Sheffield he was abusing. Plus Cobbs’ leaping ability and body control allow him to win seemingly every jump ball he’s involved in.

57d5d5d993f2d56ad65fc9c3280f54ab

Those long arms and large frame give him an unfair advantage when he’s able to get just a little bit of space. Basically all you have to do as a quarterback is throw it up and Cobbs is basically a lock to come down with it, especially since there’s a very small number of cornerbacks that can physically match up to him.

Weaknesses: Speed, Non-Complex Route Scheme, Health

Cobbs is not fast at all. I wouldn’t be shocked if he runs somewhere in the 4.6-4.7 range in the 40 yard dash at the Combine. You just watch him on film and he kind of just lumbers around. So basically if you do have a corner that matches Cobbs’ size, he’s pretty much going to be screwed because he won’t beat you with speed. The tallest active corners are 6’3 (unless you count 6’4 free agent Brandon Browner) so there are guys in the NFL who can more than handle him. Indiana also didn’t run a very complex route tree offensively so Cobbs really didn’t have to do much more than run flies and drags, not a whole lot of cuts involved, which is going to be vastly different once he reaches the NFL. However I think a lot of these problems stem from one thing: the ankle injury he suffered on his first play of the 2016 season. He was injured on a screen pass when his teammate fell onto his ankle while he was blocking and it cost him his entire season. I wonder if that ankle injury had anything to do with his lack of speed and cutting ability, which could explain the lack of variety in his routes.

Draft Thoughts: Cobbs is very raw and he’s got a lot of work to do to realize his full potential. But what he did against Ohio State was something to be very excited about and is just a glimpse of what he’s capable of. He’s going to be a project and at worst I think he’s going to be a dangerous red zone threat. I’d probably take him somewhere in the third round.

Pro Comparison:

884973722

Devin Funchess. Both are 6’4 and Funchess is about 5 pounds heavier. Both have size as their biggest advantage and they like to use it. It’s taken Funchess a couple years but he’s starting to look like the type of guy we thought he would be coming out of Michigan and the Panthers seem to be comfortable with him as their #1 after trading Kelvin Benjamin.

Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

899578962

Christian Kirk was an absolute stud at Texas A&M as he had 71 catches for 919 yards and 10 TDs. Throughout the season, he didn’t really have any games that particularly wowed me statistically up until the Belk Bowl, where he absolutely torched an under-rated Wake Forest defense with 13 catches for 189 yards and 3 TD’s.

Strengths: Athleticism, RAC Ability, Versatility

Kirk is a guy that really did it all for the Aggies. He could line up outside the numbers, in the slot, even in the backfield taking handoffs. He’s just that good an athlete. He runs a 4.46 40 yard dash but he looks faster than that, especially when he makes guys miss. He’s excellent with the ball in his hands and weaves through traffic very efficiently, which also helps him in the return game. Which brings me to my point about his versatility. The guy was all over the field and that included returning kicks and punts, as he had 6 return TD’s during his 3 years at Texas A&M.

giphy

Weaknesses: Size, Inconsistent Route Running

Kirk isn’t a big receiver. He stands at 5’11 200 pounds so he’s not going to win too many jump balls. The only receiver I know of roughly that size who was good at jump balls anyway was Steve Smith Sr and that’s because his leaping ability was so great that he made up for the fact that he’s 5’9. My main issue with Kirk is that his route running is a little inconsistent. On some routes, like comebacks and hitches, he does a great job of planting his foot and coming back. But on fly routes or drags, I never see him put on any move to try and shake a receiver, he just kind of runs the route, relying on him being faster than the DB covering him. That’s fine and all but pretty much every DB in the NFL runs a 4.4 nowadays so Kirk will need to be able to shake these guys off if he wants to get open. I think he’s totally capable of doing it because I’ve seen what he can do with the ball in his hands, but first he’s got to get the ball.

Draft Thoughts: Christian Kirk is one of the most talented athletes in this class and I think he has a really bright future in the NFL. He has an Antonio Brown-like skillset, he just needs to get a little more consistency in how he runs his routes, which is of the utmost importance to me when I’m evaluating a receiver. I think I’d take him late in the first round.

Pro Comparison: 

905704164

I should clarify this. He’s a POOR MAN’s Antonio Brown. He does a lot of things Brown does, but to get to Brown’s level as the best receiver in the NFL, Kirk is going to have to work a little more on his technique.

Anthony Miller-Memphis

879105168

Anthony Miller may not be as highly renowned as some of the other guys on this list, but he may be one of the most electrifying players in college football. He had 96 catches (5th in the nation) for 1462 yards (3rd) and 18 touchdowns (1st). He’s a pretty intriguing receiver to me, mainly because of what type of competition he faced. Miller is VERY similar to Christian Kirk in terms of skillset and play style, the main difference being Kirk was going up against SEC defenses every week, Miller was going up against Conference USA. HUGE difference in competition.

Strengths: Athleticism, Explosiveness, RAC Ability

Anthony Miller is perhaps the quickest receiver in this class. He does a great job weaving through traffic and finding the extra yards and a large chunk of his yards are RAC yards, as Memphis often threw screen passes to Miller to best utilize his strengths. He’s definitely at his best with the ball in his hands and looks like an ideal fit in a West Coast offense. He’s been clocked as fast as a 4.43 in the 40 which is about what you’re looking for in a receiver. He looks faster on tape. Just look at the way he’s able to accelerate in this game against UCLA.

Memphis-diving-catch

That’s really what I care about, explosiveness over actual speed, which is something that Miller definitely has.

Weaknesses: Size, Competition, Can be Careless with the Football

Miller is only 5’10 190 pounds so he’s not exactly intimidating and his overall speed isn’t fast enough to where his size doesn’t mean as much. I also think he may have a rough transition to the NFL mainly because the only quality corner he went up against was UCF’s Mike Hughes. He was held to only 3 catches for 37 yards in that game. He did bounce back VERY nicely the next game against UConn with 15 catches for 224 yards and 4 TD’s, but UConn also doesn’t really have any corners and ranked dead last in all of college football in passing yards allowed per game. And for a guy who is given a lot of opportunities to get RAC yardage, he sure is careless handling the football. Far too many times I saw him kind of flailing around the ball rather than carrying it high and tight and it did cost him on a few occasions.

Draft Thoughts: I think Miller has the potential to be a very solid slot receiver in this league. I’m not sure that his transition will be very smooth but I think in the right offense he could really thrive. I’d probably spend a middle round pick on him. If he’s there in the 4th, I’m jumping at that opportunity to take him but I think overall I’d value him as a third rounder, MAYBE a second rounder depending on how he does at the Combine.

Pro Comparison:

878151730

Jamison Crowder. Neither guy is very big but they both thrive as slot receivers. Crowder has been pretty solid these last couple of years and seems to be improving year after year in his role.

DJ Moore-Maryland

890466962

DJ Moore picked up a lot of steam as the season went along despite playing for a very mediocre Maryland Terrapins squad. He basically carried this entire Maryland team throughout the season and despite his quarterback being Max Bortenschlager for most of the season, he was able to put up some high quality numbers with 80 catches for 1033 yards and 8 TDs.

Strengths: Route Running, Strong Hands, RAC Ability

Route running is probably the most important asset you can have as a receiver. You see guys who aren’t super athletic like pretty much any Patriots receiver, but they always get open because they’re great route runners. Moore has that ability as he’s able to stop on a dime. He excels on hitches and comeback routes as oftentimes the corner is still drifting backward by the time he’s catching the ball when he plants his foot.

DetailedLightheartedBassethound-size_restricted

He also has pretty strong hands and does a good job in traffic. For a guy as thick as he is, he also does pretty well on screen passes, as Maryland threw a lot of tunnel screens his way. Like Miller, he’s also got great RAC ability.

Weaknesses: Speed, Jump Ball Ability, Lets Ball Catch Him at Times

For a guy who is 5’11 215 pounds, Moore doesn’t run that fast. He runs a 4.56 40, which is about average for a receiver. If you’re going to be under 6 feet at receiver, your life is going to be a lot easier if you’re running in the 4.4’s. It’s also because of this lack of height that Moore struggles in jump ball situations. Most corners in the NFL can match up with him size-wise so unlike Cobbs, Moore doesn’t have that advantage. There are also times where Moore kind of lets the ball catch him. What I mean by that is that he’ll occasionally try and catch the ball with his body rather than his hands like he’s afraid of jamming a finger. That’s going to lead to a lot of drops if he doesn’t get that taken care of.

Draft Thoughts: I think there’s a lot to like with Moore. He’s a very good route runner and that can mask a lot of deficiencies. I’ve heard some people that have him as a first rounder but I don’t agree with that. I think he’s overall too raw and he still has some things to work on before he gets in that conversation. A strong showing at the Combine can go a looooong way towards helping that, though.

Pro Comparison: 

893944738

Randall Cobb. Cobb’s about a tenth of a second faster than Moore, but both are on the shorter side and are excellent route runners. Lately Cobb has had a hard time getting the ball but he still poses a great threat to opposing defenses.

Calvin Ridley-Alabama

842018034

Calvin Ridley is essentially the consensus #1 overall receiver in this year’s Draft class and there’s a lot of good reasons for it. Despite the fact that he was Alabama’s #1 receiver and basically their only threat at that position, he still managed to get 967 yards on 63 catches with 5 TD’s. Ridley’s numbers were actually hurt by the fact that Alabama has basically been exclusively a running team these last couple of years, as the only time he topped 1000 yards was his freshman year when Jake Coker was the quarterback, but even then he led a national championship-winning team in that category.

Strengths: Route Running, Speed, Catch in Traffic, Improvisation

As far as route runners go, there’s not much better than Ridley. His cuts are so sharp every time and he has great acuity for finding the holes in zone coverage. Often times he’ll find the soft spot in the zone and kinda sit on it where Jalen Hurts could find him.

block

He’s also very fast, as he ran a 4.35 40 during Alabama spring practices. He’s also not afraid to get dirty and make the catches in traffic. I’ve also seen a few plays where it appears that Ridley was covered, but he found a way to get open by breaking off the route and he developed such good chemistry with Hurts that it didn’t disrupt the flow of the offense.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Not as big a focal point as maybe he should’ve been

Being a good blocker isn’t really a requirement for wide receivers, it’s just a bonus if you’re able to do it well. Ridley is not. He tries though, which is all you can ask for, but defenders are able to shed him pretty easily. I also found it interesting that he wasn’t utilized more often in the Crimson Tide offense, especially considering the success he had as a freshman. Alabama’s offense of late has a tendency to make talented receivers disappear, a la OJ Howard, who struggled as a rookie with the Buccaneers. If Ridley is this good, why isn’t he utilized more? It honestly boggles the mind and I’m wondering if it’s just the offensive scheme or if there’s something about Ridley that we don’t know because based on the footage I watched, his numbers should be significantly better.

Draft Thoughts: I would take Ridley sometime between picks 10 and 15. He might sneak into the top 10 depending on how workouts go and if a team needs a receiver badly enough (hello Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers). But there’s really very little wrong with his game here and I think he’s probably the safest receiver in the Draft.

Pro Comparison:

900125156

Amari Cooper. This one might seem a bit of a cop out because both guys were Alabama receivers, but the similarities are hard to ignore. They’re both 6’1, Cooper’s about 10 pounds heavier, and they were both very complete receivers coming out of college. Let’s just hope that Ridley doesn’t develop the drops problem that befell Cooper this season.

Courtland Sutton-SMU

896335618

Last but not least is Courtland Sutton. Sutton is about as gifted a receiver as I’ve seen in a long time, as he’s got the size (6’4, 216 pounds) and speed (4.51 40) combination that gets offensive coordinators salivating. In 2017 he finished with 68 catches (couldn’t get one more, could you?) for 1085 yards and 12 TD’s despite the fact there was another stud receiver lining up alongside him in Trey Quinn.

Positives: Size, Acceleration, Blocking

Sutton is huge. He’s 6’4 and almost 220 pounds and he plays even bigger than that. He’s a very physical receiver who can also run past you if you’re not careful, as he accelerates very well once he turns on the jets. He’s also an excellent blocker and he strikes me as a guy who actually takes pride in it, as pretty much anytime I saw him locked up on a corner, that corner was going nowhere. Teams would be wise to run their sweeps to Sutton’s side of the field.

giphy (1)

Weaknesses: Level of Competition, Penalties, Inconsistent Route Running

If there’s one thing that scares me about Sutton, it’s how he performed against good defenses vs bad defenses and these kinds of numbers just scream “bust” at me. His 100 yard games came against North Texas, UConn, Houston, Tulsa, Navy, and Tulane, none of which are considered top level defenses. In fact, only Navy ranked amongst the top half of college football in pass yards per game allowed, and they barely made that group at 62nd (130 teams in the FBS). Then when he did play better defenses, he got shut down. The game that particularly worries me is the TCU game. He had 1 catch for no yards. I watched footage from that game and despite the competition, his routes weren’t that great. Granted, quarterback Ben Hicks did not have a good game, but still, he’s got to be better. Also, I watched 3 games of Courtland Sutton. He got flagged for offensive pass interference in all three games. You’ll see some receivers go years without committing OPI, but sure enough, I picked three random games and he committed OPI in all of them. It’s not like they were nitpicky either, they were pretty blatant pushoffs. He didn’t even get the catch on any of them either.

Draft Thoughts: Sutton scares me. He’s got all the talent in the world but there are times where he looks completely lost. That being said this guy probably has the highest ceiling out of all the receivers in this class based on his physical traits and overall production. However he also has the lowest floor based on how he got that production. He’s got top-10 talent but if I’m going to be comfortable with taking him in the first round like a lot of people are saying, then I have to be wowed on him in his workouts.

Pro Comparison:

909255820

Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery was a big receiver coming out of South Carolina who had a ton of talent but slid to the second round and didn’t do much as a rookie before breaking out in his second season. Both guys are extremely talented but it took some seasoning before Jeffery became the receiver he is today, which is what I think Sutton needs.

That’s going to do it for this one, let me know what you think of this wide receiver class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.