NFL Draft: Day 3

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It’s done! It’s over! For 256 kids, their dreams came true. For hundreds of others, disappointment. But now they’ve all got to get to work because the hard part’s just beginning. Here are some thoughts from Day 3 of the Draft.

-The great story just gets better. Shaquem Griffin was drafted by the Seahawks 141st overall. You probably already know his story, he had to get his hand amputated after a birth defect. The pain in that hand was so bad that he tried to take a knife and cut off his deformed fingers in the middle of the night when he was just 4 years old. His mother was able to stop him before he could do it but it was at that moment she called the hospital to get it fully amputated. He had a twin Shaquill who would turn down scholarship offers because his brother wasn’t offered as well. Eventually UCF offered both and they both went and played well. Then Shaquill got drafted by the Seahawks in last year’s draft. Now his brother Shaquem joins him in Seattle. I was so impressed when I watched Shaquem’s tape that I went and put him on my Big Board even though I knew he’d be a Day 3 pick. That’s how good I felt he was. Just a tremendous story that my words can’t really do justice. I’ll be rooting for the kid at the next level.

-The Patriots had an interesting Day 3. They traded out of the 4th round twice to the point where I got so frustrated I said “make a fucking pick” out loud. They eventually did make a pick, and I was dismayed they took a Purdue linebacker in Ja’whaun Bentely. Nothing against Bentley, he’s a big dude who I think could be really valuable against the run. He just had the misfortune of being a Boilermaker. Some other notable players the Patriots took are Arizona State linebacker Christian Sam, who was reportedly very popular among a group of teams for the later rounds, Miami (FL) wide receiver Braxton Berrios (a 5’8 white guy who is a good route runner, shocker), and LSU quarterback Danny Etling (he won’t be Brady’s heir, this is more them drafting the heir’s backup). Etling is a former Purdue quarterback who transferred to LSU and he struggled mightily. I’m actually a little surprised he was drafted at all, but that’s what the Patriots do, take the guys that other people don’t value nearly as much. Etling is probably going to be a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback given Bill Belichick’s track record.

-Mr. Irrelevant was SMU wide receiver Trey Quinn by the Washington Redskins. Quinn’s also a baseball guy, as he threw a no hitter in the Little League World Series. Quinn was a teammate of new Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton’s and actually had better stats than Sutton, as he caught 114 balls for 1236 yards and 13 touchdowns. I actually thought he was a 5th round talent. Probably the best Mr. Irrelevant since Wake Forest kicker Ryan Succop, who is still kicking in the NFL.

-I’m going to be that guy. I hate the Eagles’ selection of Jordan Mailata 233rd overall. But Jim, you ask, why do you give a shit about the 233rd overall pick? Because Mailata never played a down of football in his life. He’s an Australian rugby player. When do those ever work out? My point is there are so many guys who have played football their whole lives for this moment then some rugby player gets to get picked in the Draft while they have to beg teams to put them on their roster. I just hate that. Yes Mailata is a monster of a human being but Simmie Cobbs of Indiana made the 4th overall pick Denzel Ward look like a Pee Wee player and he didn’t get selected. Plus, how do you tell players who were taken after him “you were valued less as a football player than a guy who has never played football before.” I could go on but I won’t.

-Former Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is reportedly obsessed with Tom Brady. He follows the TB12 method to a T, he gets upset when the Patriots lose (he got particularly harassed by teammates after the Super Bowl LII loss), and he basically worships Brady like a god. Guess where Falk got drafted. No he was not taken by the Patriots, he was taken by the Titans. However, Falk was drafted 199th overall, just like Brady was. Nothing else to say about that I just thought that was hilarious.

-The biggest steal of the draft has to be the Raiders taking former Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst 140th overall. Hurst was a first round talent and I had him as my #1 interior defensive lineman until he was diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine. He has since been cleared by doctors but teams still took him off their boards. If Hurst is able to prove he is healthy, this pick is going to be a steal and a half.

-I talked about how I really liked Texas safety Deshon Elliott even though other teams might not have liked him so much. Well he was selected in the sixth round, 190th overall by the Ravens. He was the last player on my Big Board to be selected but I kind of figured that would happen. I still think he’s going to be a damn good player, though.

-A reminder to the players who weren’t drafted today, here’s a list of guys who were also undrafted:

Kurt Warner

Wes Welker

Chris Harris Jr

Drew Pearson

Brian Waters

Jason Peters

Priest Holmes

James Harrison

Rod Smith

Joe Jacoby

Antonio Gates

Tony Romo

John Randle

Emmitt Thomas

Willie Brown

Warren Moon

Dick “Night Train” Lane

I could go on but I think you get the picture. Just because you weren’t drafted doesn’t mean it’s over. In fact, a lot of guys who were drafted will never play an NFL game. Just keep your head up and use this as motivation to prove everybody wrong. That’s going to do it for today’s blog. I’ll have a full Draft recap tomorrow. Let me know what you thought of Day 3 of the Draft in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Draft: Day 2

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I’m not going to go pick-by-pick with this. That would be absolutely insane. It’s more going to be in the format of General Sports but it’s all going to pertain to what happened with Day 2 of the NFL Draft. So let’s get to it.

-Before the Draft even started, we got news that Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is retiring and will be joining the broadcast booth. The timing seems a bit unfortunate for the Cowboys as they likely had to dramatically change their draft plans now that tight end has become a need. However there was some insult to injury with what happened. The division-rival Eagles traded up in front of them and took South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert and former Eagles kicker David Akers, who announced the pick, had a little fun with the Dallas crowd.

So not only do the Cowboys not get their tight end (who happens to be named “Dallas”) but they get the pick stolen right out from under them by their division rivals and then get put in a body bag by a retired kicker. Rough night. The Cowboys ended up taking Texas tackle Connor Williams, who was my top-rated tackle in this class. Some people think he could play guard and there’s an opening at left guard on this offensive line.

-Speaking of pick announcements, this was pretty awesome.

I’m not crying, I’ve just got something in my eye. You’re crying. Pussy. *sniff* Pancho Billa got to announce the pick of Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, who appears to be the heir to Kyle Williams and quite frankly, I was shocked he was still there. I had him pegged as an early second rounder and he nearly lasted all the way to the 4th.

-The Patriots traded the 95th pick in the Draft for 49ers tackle Trent Brown, an absolute mammoth of a human being at 6’8 360, though his weight was an issue with the 49ers last season as he showed up to camp over 400 pounds. He played really well, though grading out as the 9th best tackle according to Pro Football Focus. This allows the Patriots to push the 23rd overall pick Isaiah Wynn to guard where he’s better suited. Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are the incumbents but Thuney struggled last season and the selection of Wynn in the first round might suggest that the Patriots are losing confidence in him. As a result of this trade, though, the Patriots only had 1 pick on Day 2 after a bunch of other trades and they ended up with Florida cornerback Duke Dawson. I like him, I think he’s really good in coverage, particularly as a press guy. But he sucks against the run. I watched some film on him against LSU and LSU kept running end-arounds right at him all game and they kept working. However he did a pretty good job in covering DJ Chark and shut down Christian Kirk, both of whom I had as top-5 receivers in this class. He’s probably going to be a nickel or dime corner for the Patriots on passing downs as a rookie.

-The Steelers may have drafted their future franchise quarterback in Mason Rudolph with the 76th overall pick. The Oklahoma State product is pretty raw and his offensive scheme from college translates pretty poorly to the NFL. But he has a lot of arm talent and a big frame that is pretty similar to current Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has made it clear his days in the league are numbered, as he almost retired this season. It appears that the Steelers had been targeting Rudolph all along because they also selected his top target in James Washington. The two were a dynamic 1-2 punch with Oklahoma State and the Steelers hope they can translate that chemistry to the next level.

-Former LSU runningback Derrius Guice fell pretty hard in the Draft. In my mock, I projected that the Buccaneers would trade back into the first round with the Patriots to take him. Well that didn’t happen, the Pats took Georgia runningback Sony Michel, then the Buccaneers stayed put in the second round and took USC runningback Ronald Jones II. Apparently, as Mike Mayock reported while Guice was in his slide, there’s an investigation going on with Guice that could potentially be “embarrassing” for the team that drafts him. As to what that exactly is, we’re unsure, but the Redskins took a chance on him at 59 so perhaps they feel comfortable that he’s going to be cleared.

-Speaking of falling in the Draft, every year we see guys take a tumble simply because that’s the way the board falls. There’s no real reason behind it, whether it be character concerns, injury problems, or just something showing up on tape. But every year, there’s a guy who falls out of nowhere. This year, that player was Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison. He doesn’t have any character concerns, no injury red flags, and he’s okay in coverage but we already knew that and we know he’s better against the run. I really like this guy and he’s an enforcer-type safety who can deliver some nasty hits. He was my 30th overall player on my Big Board and he ended up going 93rd to the Jaguars. As if that defense needed another playmaker. As of right now, this is the steal of the Draft in my opinion.

-Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown had possibly the worst NFL Combine ever, yet he didn’t fall too far, as the Ravens selected him in the third round, 83rd overall. The analysts noted when he was selected that Brown’s 40 time of 5.65 was the exact same time as his father’s, who passed away in 2011. Another interesting thing to note is that Brown’s father, Orlando Sr, also played for the Ravens and wore #77. That number is currently available on the Ravens roster. Could be something cool to look at.

So with 3 rounds done and the rest of the Draft on Saturday, here’s the remaining players from my Big Board that are still available, ordered by ranking along with possible reason why they fell.

39. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan (diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine that has clearly scared teams away because he’s too good to still be available)

41. Deshon Elliott-S-Texas (I liked him a lot more than other people anyway so I’m not surprised he’s still available. Mark my words he’s going to be a steal)

50. Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida (Has one hand, otherwise he’s basically the perfect linebacker prospect)

And that’s it. I expect all three guys to be taken pretty early in the 4th round on Saturday. Let me know what you thought of Day 2 of the NFL Draft in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Draft Primer

So I’m taking a brief break from my hiatus. This will be the one blog I post before one of my papers is done, though. My Hulk Hogan paper is most of the way done and the due date got pushed back a couple days so I feel comfortable briefly getting back to the blog for today. I won’t be regularly posting again until I’m done with both papers, however. I’ve got an interview for my other paper set up for Wednesday, though. He’s a guy who gives great insight so hopefully his interview will write a large chunk of my paper for me. So anyways, with the blog, the original plan with this week’s Draft thing was going to be just a Big Board, however I thought about it and I think I want to do a little bit more. Basically superlative stuff that will lead into the Big Board. I think that would be a little more interesting than just ranking 50 prospects with no explanations. So let’s get to the Superlatives. The one superlative I won’t do is “best prospect” because that would spoil my Big Board rankings.

Most NFL-Ready Quarterback: Josh Rosen-UCLA

Rosen is the one quarterback I’d be comfortable with starting Day 1. He does everything well on the field. The complaints about him are mainly questions about his love of football, but I doubt that it’s as profound as people are making it out to be. He’s just a guy who has lots of interests, football being one of them. He’s about as good a quarterback prospect as I’ve seen since Jameis Winston and Rosen doesn’t have the off-field baggage the former Florida State Heisman winner had.

Prospect I Just Don’t Understand the Hype For: Vita Vea-DL-Washington

Vita Vea is huge (6’5 340 pounds) and a really good athlete for his size. But every time I watch footage of him to try and understand why scouts love his game so much, I leave just as confused as before. Yeah he clogs space, but his get-off is so slow that any quality NFL offensive lineman is going to get the edge on him. He also kind of just plays patty-cake with offensive linemen when he does eventually get off the ball. Granted, he is my #2 interior defensive lineman, but that’s mainly because I do see potential with him. If he can work on his reaction to the snap, then I think he could be a beast and be impossible to run on.

Prospect I Like More Than Other People Do: Deshon Elliott-S-Texas

Elliott’s a guy that a lot of people have going in the third or fourth round of this year’s draft. I think he’s a high second-rounder, maybe even late-one if my defense needs a centerfielder-type safety. His instincts are really impressive to me and he always seems to be around the football, as he takes good routes to the ball-carrier. My one issue with him is that he looks like he lacks confidence as a tackler. He’ll make the tackle, but he seems hesitant to shoot the gap and deliver the hit. But he is as good a ball-hawk as there is in the nation. Just watch the USC game. He seemed to have Sam Darnold’s number all night. And one thing to note about guys that I like more than others. In the past, that honor has been held by the likes of Keenan Allen, Justin Houston, and Alex Collins. Just saying.

Most Impressive Prospect: Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

It kills me that I haven’t gotten a real chance to blog about this dude yet because he really is an inspirational story. He had to get his hand amputated when he was young due to a birth defect and for a lot of people, that would be the end of their usefulness. But Griffin instead became one of the top linebackers in the country and absolutely blew up the NFL Scouting Combine. He needed to use a prosthetic hand so that he could do the bench press, but he then went on to do 20 reps at 225 pounds. I have 2 perfectly functioning hands and the best I’ve done on the bench press is 5 reps at 165 pounds. Oh and there’s the whole thing about how he ran the fastest 40-yard dash ever recorded by a linebacker at 4.38. I watched his Auburn tape after this and he pretty much took over that game. He’s so quick that he can make offensive linemen look really stupid when he’s rushing the passer. He’d probably be a top-5 pick if he had two hands based on the tape I’ve seen and his Combine performance. But the guy has 4 career interceptions for God’s sake. I really do think he could be the steal of the Draft.

Most Intriguing Prospect: DJ Chark-WR-LSU

I had heard nothing about this guy until the Combine. Then he measured at 6’4 and ran the fastest 40-yard dash at 4.34. Those are Calvin Johnson-like measurables. However his production at LSU was limited. He did have over 800 yards as a senior but poor quarterback play I think hindered his ability to reach his potential. He could be one of those lesser-known guys that really blows up once he hits the NFL.

And now, on to the Big Board.

50. Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

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49. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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48. James Daniels-C-Iowa

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47. Harrison Phillips-DL-Stanford

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46. Donte Jackson-CB-LSU

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45. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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44. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC

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43. Mike Gesicki-TE-Penn State

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42. Uchenna Nwosu-EDGE-USC

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41. Deshon Elliott-S-Texas

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40. Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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39. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

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38. Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

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

37. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State

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36. Will Hernandez-OG-UTEP

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35. Brian O’Neill-OT-Pittsburgh

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34. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

at Neyland Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

33. Mike Hughes-CB-Central Florida

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32. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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31. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

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30. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

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

29. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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28. Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia

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27. Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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26. DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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25. Justin Reid-S-Stanford

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24. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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23. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama 

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22. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

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21. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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20. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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19. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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18. Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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16. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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

15. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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14. Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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13. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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12. Derwin James-S-Florida State

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11. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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10. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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9. Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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8. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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7. Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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6. Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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5. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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4. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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3. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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2. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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1. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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So that’s it for today’s blog. Again, I won’t be posting consistently until my papers are done. But I will guarantee that I will have my mock draft ready for next Thursday’s event. Let me know what you think of the primer in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

With the 2018 NFL Draft just a couple weeks away, I thought I’d do things a little different. The week of the Draft (more specifically, April 26) I will have my final Mock Draft published. The week before, I’ll have my final Big Board. This week, as you can see because you’re reading it, we’ve got my positional rankings. These rankings are based on my personal feelings about each prospect. I haven’t gotten to watch film on all of them so there are a bunch that will be there based on reports I’ve read and other rankings I’ve seen. These rankings also won’t be reflective about where I think they’ll go in the Draft, as team fits and needs will play a factor in that. However, they will somewhat reflect my Big Board. So without further ado, let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

Those are my positional rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Pittsburgh Pirates

Since I know you’re all clamoring for it, here’s my bracket. Congratulations to Villanova on their second national championship in 3 years, third overall. I did make it safely into Fort Lauderdale, encountered a lot of problems, but everything is good. The wifi in my hotel is AWFUL, so there may be a chance that I have to miss a day on the blog. Fingers crossed I don’t have to. But anyway, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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2017 Results:

Record: 75-87, 17 games behind Chicago Cubs, 12 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: LF Corey Dickerson, OF Daniel Nava, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, LF Michael Saunders, RP Kyle Crick

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Andrew McCutchen, SP Gerrit Cole, 1B John Jaso, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Dan Runzler, C Chris Stewart

Best Offensive Player: CF Starling Marte

Best Pitcher: Ivan Nova

Depth Chart:

C-Francisco Cervelli, Elias Diaz

1B-Josh Bell

2B-Josh Harrison, Sean Rodriguez

3B-David Freese, Colin Moran

SS-Jordy Mercer

LF-Corey Dickerson, Adam Frazier

CF-Starling Marte

RF-Gregory Polanco, Bryce Brentz

SP-Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow

Bullpen-Felipe Rivero (CP), George Kontos, Kyle Crick, Michael Feliz, AJ Schugel, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Clint Hurdle (8th season with Pirates)

Hitting Coach-Jeff Branson

Pitching Coach-Ray Searage

1st Base Coach-Kimera Bartee

3rd Base Coach-Joey Cora

Bench Coach-Tom Prince

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The Pirates are all in on their rebuild. They traded their two most prolific players in Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole to try and build for the future. They didn’t take the next step after their breakthrough starting in 2013 and now they’re trending back towards mediocrity. It’s a smart move to get out in front of these rebuilds, especially if they didn’t have any real chance at competing in the first place. Here’s a look at the potential lineup for the Pirates.

1. Corey Dickerson-LF

2. Josh Harrison-2B

3. Starling Marte-CF

4. Josh Bell-1B

5. Gregory Polanco-RF

6. Francisco Cervelli-C

7. David Freese/Colin Moran-3B

8. Jordy Mercer-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s a lot of underperforming talent in this lineup. It starts with Starling Marte, who is a freak athlete but got busted for PED’s last season and missed 80 games. In his limited time last season, he hit .275 with 7 home runs and 31 RBI with 21 stolen bags and a 1.2 WAR. He’s one of the fastest players in the game and a talented hitter but he’s one of those guys that I think could be so much better but for whatever reason just hasn’t taken that next step. Josh Harrison is a guy I enjoy watching play. There’s just something about him that gets me excited to watch him go. Last season he hit .272 with 16 home runs and 66 RBI while being able to play pretty much every position imaginable. Josh Bell was a breakout stud for them last season, hitting .255 with 26 home runs and 90 RBI, providing a big power bat in the middle of their lineup. But after those guys there isn’t a whole lot. Gregory Polanco was a guy I heard several people compare to Barry Bonds when he debuted and he has been far from being that dangerous threat. He had a pretty solid 2016 but his 2017 left a lot to be desired. He hit .251 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI while playing a pretty good right field but also being one of the worst baserunners in baseball. There is some talent in their minor league system such as Austin Meadows, who could be seeing some playing time before this season gets out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates selling some of their talented assets at the Trade Deadline for a team trying to make a late push for the postseason.

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After trading Gerrit Cole, there isn’t much to go off of in this Pirates rotation in 2018. Slated to start opening day for the Bucs is Ivan Nova, who has been just okay since joining Pittsburgh after a disappointing tenure with the Yankees. Last year he went 11-14 with a 4.14 ERA while posting a measly 6 K/9. He isn’t a bad pitcher but being a team’s ace is nowhere near where his talent merits. Jameson Taillon is a talented guy and he showed a lot of ability last season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was able to return after successful surgery and was able to make 25 starts, going 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA but a 3.48 FIP, suggesting the Pirates’ defense wasn’t a big help for him. Taillon is a guy who could be the team ace by next season and I think he’s someone they can build this rotation around. Tyler Glasnow is another talented pitcher in the rotation but he’s been a nightmare at the Major League level. He carries a career 6.75 ERA in 22 appearances and 17 starts. I don’t expect this rotation to really do a whole lot, they did finish 13th in the Majors in team ERA last season but they lost their best pitcher in Gerrit Cole and didn’t acquire anybody that will ease that loss.

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There isn’t much talent in the Pirates bullpen with the exception of their closer Felipe Rivero. Rivero really burst onto the scene in 2017. He posted a 1.67 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings and recorded 21 saves. His fastball can touch 100 miles per hour and he’s got the breaking ball to throw off hitters’ timing like you wouldn’t believe. After him, though, there’s a pretty steep drop. George Kontos is a decent reliever with a pretty solid cutter but the rest of that ‘pen is filled with guys I’ve never heard of. Though looking at their numbers, AJ Schugel is a guy I should start paying attention to, as he posted an ERA of 1.97 in 32 appearances. But otherwise there isn’t a whole lot to really be paying attention to at the moment.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Pirates. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole team gets blown up at the trade deadline. After a few good players there’s a pretty steep drop in productivity that will really limit this team’s ceiling. Clint Hurdle, who is an excellent manager, will likely be on the way out as they get into a full rebuild process once they start to drop in the standings.

Projected Record: 76-86, 4th in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the San Diego Padres, whom I got to briefly work for at the Home Run Derby in 2016 and really got me invested in their culture (pretty much just worshiping Tony Gwynn). Let me know what you think of the Pirates’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Post Super Bowl 2018 NFL Mock Draft

It took me about 24 hours but I managed to get over the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss and overall I find that I’m more happy for the Eagles fans than I am sad about the Patriots. I mean, what other fan base celebrates their team winning a football game by eating horse shit? Go google it for yourself, I’m not linking it here. But as much as I’d love to blog about any sport other than football right now, there really isn’t anything going on that isn’t football-related to blog about. So I’m going to try and quell my sadness by doing a post-Super Bowl Mock Draft because I love doing those for some reason and it’s a good time to do it since the draft order is now set (with the exception of the 9th and 10th picks, which will require a coin toss but I don’t think they’re going to steal eachother’s picks so I don’t think that particular order matters too much). I did a mock draft earlier this year, which I’ll link here, which is now suddenly out of date because two players (Clemson defensive linemen Clellin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins) announced they’re returning to school. Clemson’s going to be loaded next year because they have basically everybody except Deon Cain returning. But without further ado, let’s get to the mock.

1. Cleveland Browns-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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This doesn’t reflect how I’d rank the quarterbacks, I think UCLA’s Josh Rosen is better than Darnold. However the main thing is that Darnold isn’t on record as saying he doesn’t want to be a Brown like Rosen is. Granted, there was that time when he had to deny saying he’d return to school if the Browns had the number 1 pick, but again, we don’t have definitive proof he said it. That being said, I’ve said in the past that Darnold should’ve returned to school. I’m retracting that statement after watching the Ohio State bowl game. Not because Darnold played particularly well, his numbers weren’t that great and USC could only score 7 points. But the talent around him is holding him back. Ohio State was able to abuse him by rushing three. While the Browns are far from the most talented team (them going 0-16 being one indicator), they have a pretty good offensive line which can go a long ways towards helping a quarterback’s development, just look at Dak Prescott. So I don’t think it’d be the worst idea in the world for the Browns to take a chance on Darnold. I mean, they can’t really do much worse, can they?

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

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The Giants’ biggest need is on the offensive line, however I wouldn’t take any of the offensive linemen in this class at this stage. They could also use corners and linebackers, but again, I’m iffy about taking one this high. That leaves runningback. Orleans Darkwa is currently the best runningback on the roster and that’s just not going to take the pressure off the passing game. Saquon Barkley may be the most complete runningback I’ve ever seen and imagine what guys like ODell Beckham can do when the defense also has to focus on the guy in the backfield and vice versa. I think Barkley could help transform the Giants’ offense into a juggernaut.

3. Indianapolis Colts-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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Like the Giants, I think Indy’s biggest need is on the offensive line, as they gave up the most sacks this season. However, the same thing applies to them as the Giants, as I think it’d be more useful to hit other needs here than reach for an offensive lineman. So I’m going to go with edge defender Bradley Chubb. Chubb terrorized ACC offensive lines all season to the tune of 10 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, which was his second consecutive season with 10 sacks and 20+ TFLs. I don’t think the Colts have ever had a good defense in the history of their franchise but adding a great edge rusher like Chubb can mask a lot of deficiencies.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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This is the second pick in the top 4 for the Browns after their trade with the Texans in last year’s draft. After getting their potential quarterback of the future, they can look to just take the best player available and for me that’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is a guy you can pretty much line up anywhere on your defense and despite how skinny he looks, he’s no slouch as a tackler to go along with his skills in coverage. I think he could be a valuable asset to a Browns defense that really underachieved last season.

5. Denver Broncos-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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This is assuming the Broncos don’t land Kirk Cousins. If they don’t, they’ll be thrilled to see Josh Rosen land in their laps like this. Quarterback has been what’s held the Broncos back from being relevant since Peyton Manning retired. Rosen is my favorite quarterback in the draft because on the field I don’t see anything wrong with his game. Scouts think he’s a dick, that’s really his only flaw but he seems to have the backing of his teammates so I’m totally fine with his attitude. However people also said similar things about Ryan Leaf and we all know how that turned out.

6. New York Jets-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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Like the Broncos, this is assuming the Jets don’t land Cousins. But Baker Mayfield could provide some excitement in this Jets offense that we haven’t seen since the early years of Rex Ryan’s tenure. There’s very little talent on the Jets offense right now so Mayfield might be better served to sit behind Josh McCown for a year to develop with what they have rather than get thrown into the fire right away, but based on what I saw at Oklahoma, Mayfield has the ability to elevate the play of his teammates.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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I saw the name of a defensive end from UTSA on some big boards and I thought to myself “what the Hell?” Their mascot is the Roadrunners for god’s sake. Naturally I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I turned on a couple games for him and holy shit. This kid is a freak. He absolutely abused every offensive lineman he went up against. Now granted, the talent he faced was atrocious, but he beat the shit out of them like you’d expect a top talent to do. He got off to a slow start at the Senior Bowl, but he finished strong which is encouraging for me. The Buccaneers NEED pass rushers in the worst way possible and getting a guy like Davenport would be huge for the growth of this defense.

8. Chicago Bears-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

I’m a huge fan of Calvin Ridley except he has one major flaw that I learned about after I scouted him: he’s 24 years old. That actually hurts a lot more than you might think because that puts him about 2-3 years behind the other players in this class. However I think his overall talent is going to win out over how long he’s actually able to play and I think the Bears will reap the benefits because this guy does pretty much everything well. Mitchell Trubisky showed some flashes as a rookie but he didn’t perform as well as he could have because he didn’t have anyone to throw to.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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A healthy Connor Williams probably lands in the top 5, maybe even to the Giants at #2. However some people have him falling out of the first round altogether in light of his knee injury during this past season. It’s possible he may not even play his rookie year, or at the very least be limited, which is why he may fall. But I think the long-term value will be worth it as the 49ers need some more help to protect Jimmy Garoppolo. Joe Staley isn’t getting any younger and the rest of the offensive line is pretty much garbage.

10. Oakland Raiders-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama

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Rashaan Evans has dealt with injuries in the past but I think he’s the most complete linebacker in this class. He’s not quite as good as his former teammate Reuben Foster, who was excellent as a rookie with the 49ers, but I think he compares more to CJ Mosley of the Ravens while Foster compared more to Dont’a Hightower of the Patriots. Both guys are the leaders of their defenses and I think Evans has that capability, which is something the Raiders need badly because their linebacking core is easily the weakest in the NFL.

11. Miami Dolphins-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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The Miami Dolphins really need a middle linebacker. Lawrence Timmons just hasn’t panned out after being signed away from the Steelers. There are a lot of solid pieces on the Dolphins defense but they need that one centerpiece that holds everything together. Enter Roquan Smith. While Smith is a bit undersized for a middle linebacker and I think he could stand to get stronger, there’s no denying his instincts and high football IQ. Plus when he does square players up, he can really lay the lumber. He’s just pushed off the ball a little too often for my tastes.

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

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The Bengals desperately need help all over their offensive line. Usually a left tackle would be ideal but the only tackle worth taking at this stage currently available is Mike McGlinchey and he profiles better as a right tackle. Either hit left tackle in free agency or give Cedric Ogbuehi another year to improve. But I think if you can get a stud elsewhere, then do it. Quenton Nelson is probably a top-5 talent, but the low value of guards causes him to drop here and the Bengals will reap the benefits for the next ten years if they make this pick. Nelson does everything well.

13. Washington Redskins-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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Denzel Ward is the cream of the crop for this solid cornerback class and I think he could potentially go as high as fifth overall depending on how his workouts go. But the Redskins suddenly have a need at corner either opposite Josh Norman or in the slot after they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the Alex Smith trade. I think Ward is talented and athletic enough to play both on the outside and in the slot so he can be plugged in wherever Jay Gruden wants him.

14. Green Bay Packers-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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Morgan Burnett is set to hit free agency this offseason and I don’t anticipate the Packers resigning him due to his age (29) and the fact that he’s been trending downward these last couple of years. The secondary for Green Bay is overall pretty weak and Derwin James can be a huge upgrade. He’s an enforcer against the run and does really well in coverage. Injuries are a concern, though, but as long as he checks out medically, I don’t see any reason for the Packers to pass on him.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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There’s a lot to be excited about with Josh Allen and there’s equally as much to be concerned about. He’s got all the physical tools you can ask for but his accuracy is inconsistent and he played against lesser competition. However based on the weapons that he’d have at his disposal, namely Larry Fitzgerald and a healthy David Johnson, I think Josh Allen may have a smoother transition than people think. It will just depend on how well he gels with first year head coach Steve Wilks.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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The Ravens need receivers. Mike Wallace is really only good for deep balls and Breshad Perriman hasn’t been on the field enough to be productive. Enter Christian Kirk, a guy who can really do it all. The Ravens have shown in the past that they can get creative with some of their offensive schemes with the likes of Danny Woodhead and they can use Kirk in a similar manner. He can also have an impact in the return game as well. I won’t go into too much depth with the receivers in general, as I already scouted the ones I like.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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The Chargers shored up the interior of their offensive line in last year’s draft by taking Forrest Lamp (who missed the entire year due to injury but was my #1 offensive lineman last year) and Dan Feeney (who became the starting left guard midway through the season and played well. I also sat next to him in my Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics class, no big deal). Now they need to shore up the tackles and they’re very fortunate that McGlinchey falls into their laps in this scenario. McGlinchey wasn’t great this past season but he’s still arguably the best tackle in an overall weak class. He profiles better on the right side, which works just fine for the Chargers as they were sending out Joseph Barksdale in that spot all year.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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In this scenario, the Seahawks are probably pissed that McGlinchey was taken right ahead of them. I don’t project trades in my mocks, otherwise I think Seattle will try and sneak ahead of the Chargers to try and snag the Notre Dame product. However I’m sure they’ll be more than happy with Derrius Guice, as right now their best runningback is Mike Davis, which hardly strikes fear in the hearts of opposing defenses. Seattle hasn’t had much of a run game since Marshawn Lynch left and Guice could be the guy to revive it.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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While Courtland Sutton does scare me in terms of his inconsistencies, he’s too talented to drop much lower than this. The Cowboys need more receivers as Dez Bryant’s injury issues have started to take their toll on his productivity while Terrance Williams is just okay. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are nice options in the slot but with Bryant not being healthy, they really miss that major threat that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. Sutton has that potential.

20. Detroit Lions-Tremaine Edmunds-EDGE/LB-Virginia Tech

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Edmunds is an interesting player because he played middle linebacker at Virginia Tech last year despite the fact that he’s about 6’5 250 pounds, which is the prototypical size for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He shows great athleticism which makes me think he could excel as an edge rusher in new head coach Matt Patricia’s defense. But I suspect Patricia will use Edmunds the same way he used Jamie Collins a few years ago, as a big and athletic linebacker that can play pretty much anywhere on the field.

21. Buffalo Bills-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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After trading Marcell Dareus at the trade deadline to the Jaguars and with Kyle Williams being 35 by the start of the 2018 season, the Bills will have a need at DT. Payne played very well on the biggest stages in the CFP and I think he could be a huge asset to this Bills defense as the team looks to improve on their first playoff run in the 21st century. Payne has the ability to take over games if he gets in a groove and that kind of game wrecker can free up their edge rushers like Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander to wreak even more havoc.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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Tyrod Taylor is going to be a free agent after the 2018 season and it’s been pretty apparent that the Bills won’t bring him back beyond that so one has to imagine they’ll look for a quarterback that they can develop and mold to be their franchise savior. Mason Rudolph has a lot of arm talent but there’s going to be a steep learning curve as he transitions from the air raid scheme at Oklahoma State into a more traditional NFL offense.

23. Los Angeles Rams-Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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Josh Jackson led the nation with 8 interceptions last season including 3 against Ohio State. He showcased excellent coverage skills and was a real playmaker for the Hawkeyes. The Rams may lose Trumaine Johnson in free agency and even if they do retain him, they’ll need someone to line up opposite him. Jackson can fill that role and make a potentially deadly defense even tougher.

24. Carolina Panthers-DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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I think this would be a bit of a reach, but I trust Moore a little more than I trust Carolina’s other real option, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown. After Devin Funchess there really isn’t much in the Carolina receiving core for Cam Newton to throw to and while that hasn’t stopped him before (he won an MVP and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance with Ted Ginn as his top receiver), it’d make life a whole lot easier with more help.

25. Tennessee Titans-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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Harold Landry has been slipping a bit due to concerns over his ankle and his inconsistency against the run. However the Titans probably won’t care as much about that last bit as others might because they already have plenty of run stuffers but they’re set to be in big trouble in the pass rushing department, as Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are approaching free agency. Landry is one of the fastest defensive ends I’ve seen and he can blow up plays like no other when he times the snap right.

26. Atlanta Falcons-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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Vita Vea is a crazy athlete for his size (340 pounds) and I suspect he’s going to blow up the NFL Scouting Combine in a couple weeks. We’re not sure what the Falcons are going to do in regards to Dontari Poe and after him there really isn’t any defensive tackle depth so if Vea is still available at this stage, then they ought to swoop right in and snatch him up. My only beef with Vea is that his get-off isn’t great, which could be a huge detriment if not improved upon.

27. New Orleans Saints-Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

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

This is a slight reach at this stage but the Saints need safety help and the next best safety on my board is Harrison. They may also look at a linebacker like Malik Jefferson, but I think a safety that is capable of playing in the box like Harrison could be more valuable, especially given his coverage skills. He’s more of a thumper, but he has better coverage skills than most linebackers and really it was coverage skills that ended the Saints’ season.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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We don’t know if Ryan Shazier will be able to play football again after his spinal injury, though good news is he’s regained feeling in his legs. The Steelers will need to find his replacement, though because even if he does return, it may not be for much longer given the severity of his injury. Jefferson isn’t anything special, however he does all the little things right and he makes the smart plays that you look for and won’t be the guy that goes for the big flashy play. He’s the type of guy the Steelers need right now.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars-Will Hernandez-OG-UTEP

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The Jaguars’ biggest need is at quarterback but I think they’re going to stick it out with Blake Bortles for one more year. My next highest-rated quarterback is Lamar Jackson and I think that’d be a huge reach for the Jaguars, especially considering Jackson may not fit their offensive system very well. Hernandez is a heck of a guard and can not only help keep Bortles upright and keep pressure off of him, but he could also create more holes for Leonard Fournette to improve on his 4.0 YPC.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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Defensive Tackle is a weak spot for the Vikings with Linval Joseph’s age and Sharrif Floyd’s injury history. Taven Bryan is a great physical specimen that’s pretty raw at this stage but with enough seasoning under Mike Zimmer’s tutelage he could become the next Cameron Heyward.

31. New England Patriots-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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If you saw what I saw in the Super Bowl, then you’ll agree that A. Malcolm Butler is not returning to the Patriots and B. They need corners to replace him. Luckily for New England, this is a solid class for corners and I think Isaiah Oliver is a guy that can step in and contribute from Day 1. He’s got good size (6’1 190 pounds) and he does really well locking down receivers. I really think he can be a quality starter in this league, which is really all the Patriots will be looking for.

32. Philadelphia Eagles-Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

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The Eagles’ secondary got absolutely destroyed by Patriots receivers and that was without Brandin Cooks for most of the game. Tom Brady threw for 505 yards and quite frankly, if Brandon Graham doesn’t poke that ball out, I don’t think they stop Brady driving down the field and winning the game. Like I mentioned with the Patriots’ pick, the Eagles are fortunate that this year is a good year for corners and they’re going to get one of the more athletic ones in Carlton Davis, who is about the size of Oliver but he’s also been clocked at running as fast as 4.33, which is insane and means he can keep up with anybody while not sacrificing on size. He may rise up this board once I get around to really scouting the corners.

That’s going to do it for my second mock draft, let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Super Bowl LII Preview

So it’s all come down to this. Super Bowl Sunday. The Eagles and Patriots took very different routes to get to this point. The Eagles were running roughshod over the league before losing their potential MVP quarterback in Carson Wentz to an ACL tear. He gets replaced by Nick Foles, who had been inconsistent up until the NFC Championship game, where he absolutely lit up the NFL’s #1 defense in the Vikings. Meanwhile the Patriots got off to a rough start and everybody wondered if this was the beginning of the end of their dynasty. Then they remembered they were the Patriots and proceeded to collect win after win en route to another AFC Championship game appearance, where they had to overcome a 10-point 4th quarter deficit to defeat the upstart Jaguars. So lets do what I always do with championship games and go position-by-position to see which team has the advantage.

Quarterback

Patriots: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Eagles: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Advantage: Patriots

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Was there really ever any doubt? Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time whether he has protective bandages over his throwing hand or not. While Nick Foles played extremely well in the NFC Championship game, he’s too inconsistent for me to really give him a chance here. And as much as I love Nate Sudfeld, him being the previous Indiana quarterback, he can’t hold a candle to Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was the 49ers starting quarterback to start the season and how many guys can say they have a winning record as a starter for the reborn Browns? Just Hoyer. So this was a pretty easy choice here.

Runningback

Patriots: Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Patriots

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While I do think that the Eagles runningbacks are better rushers, the Patriots runningbacks are far more dynamic and versatile. Ajayi and Blount are good running the football, but they have bricks for hands out of the backfield. They usually have Clement receiving the passes. Lewis, White, and Burkhead are all not only good rushers, but they’re good receiving out of the backfield as well, which is why they’re getting the nod over the Eagles backs.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Patriots: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Advantage: Patriots

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A healthy Julian Edelman would’ve made this an easy choice, but alas, we take what we get. This is probably one of the most balanced receiving groups the Patriots have had since the Moss-Welker days as they have a speedster who can take the top off (Cooks), possession receivers that can move the chains (Hogan and Amendola) and a huge red zone threat (Gronkowski). The Eagles have a similar group of guys (Agholor moving the chains, Smith the speedster, Jeffery the huge red zone threat), but I think the Patriots have utilized them most effectively this season.

Offensive Line

Patriots: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, La’Adrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming

Eagles: Hal Vatai, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson

Advantage: Eagles

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Finally, the Eagles are on the board here and it’s thanks in large part to probably the best right side of an offensive line I think I’ve ever seen. You can make an argument for all three of Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson being the best at their respective spots on the offensive line in the entire NFL. While the Patriots’ O-line is solid, they don’t have nearly enough talent to contend with the Eagles. And imagine if Jason Peters were healthy on the left side. Vatai is the weakest link on either of these offensive lines, but his teammates are so good they make up for his shortcomings.

Defensive Line

Patriots: Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Alan Branch, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Ricky Jean Francois, Eric Lee

Eagles: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Vinny Curry

Advantage: Eagles

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There’s just too much talent on this Eagles defensive front. In fact, I think Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, the starting DT’s, are going to be the most critical pieces if the Eagles hope to beat the Patriots. Brady does pretty well when there’s pressure coming from the tackles but he’s like a deer in the headlights when there’s pressure coming up the middle. Cox and Jernigan are one of the best DT duos in the NFL and they’re going to need to get lots of pressure to stifle Brady. For the Patriots, their defensive line is a patch-up job as they lost a lot of their guys to either free agency in the offseason or to injury and it’s resulted in them being possibly the weakest unit on this team.

Linebacker

Patriots: Kyle Van Noy, James Harrison, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, David Harris

Eagles: Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Dannell Ellerbe, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Advantage: Eagles

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This was probably the closest one to choose from and I debated calling this a tie. But I hate ties so I decided to go with the pure talent aspect and that’s where the Eagles won out. Both teams lost their star middle linebackers midway through the seasons (Dont’a Hightower for the Patriots, Jordan Hicks for the Eagles) and they’ve both been trying to get by with the pieces they have. While Van Noy is having a career year, the talent around him in Elandon Roberts and a 39 year-old James Harrison doesn’t quite stack up to what the Eagles have in Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham.

Secondary

Patriots: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Johnson Bademosi, Brandon King, Jordan Richards

Eagles: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Rodney McLeod

Advantage: Patriots

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It was a tale of two halves of the season for the Patriots’ secondary and no better was it personified than in the play of Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore looked lost in Matt Patricia’s system his first few weeks, as he would blow coverage after coverage while the Patriots would get lit up by quarterbacks that probably shouldn’t be doing so. He suffered a concussion midway through the year and after he returned, he’s been his old Pro Bowl-caliber self, locking down any receiver that he’s matched up on. Eric Rowe has also been a bright spot in this secondary as well and it’s interesting to note that the Patriots acquired him from the Eagles in a trade a couple years ago after a poor showing to start his career in Philly. For the Eagles, their secondary is considered their weak spot as their cornerbacks in particular have been very inconsistent this season.

Specialists

Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jake Elliott, Donnie Jones, Nelson Agholor, Rick Lovato, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Eagles

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I’d probably give this a tie to the kickers and punters, as both units for both teams have been very solid this season. The thing that puts the Eagles over the top is Kenjon Barner as their return man. While he isn’t Devin Hester by any means, Barner would definitely be an upgrade over Lewis and Amendola as returners.

Coaching

Patriots: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia

Eagles: Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz

Advantage: Patriots

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Got to go with the Patriots here for obvious reasons. While it can’t be overstated the job that Pederson and company have done with this Eagles team, it’s Bill Belichick for Christ’s sake. Plus, he’s got two head coaches serving as his coordinators in McDaniels and Patricia, who will be taking over the Colts and Lions respectively after this game ends.

Scoreboard: Patriots 5, Eagles 4

No need to even watch the game now, congratulations to the Patriots on their sixth Super Bowl victory. As a Pats fan, I pray I don’t regret that sentence. This will be my third championship prediction segment, first time around I picked the Dodgers to win the World Series (I was wrong) then I picked Alabama to win the CFP National Championship (I was right). So really there isn’t anything to suggest how this is going to go based on my picks. Let me know who you think is going to win the Super Bowl in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

CFP National Championship Preview

So it’s all come down to this, a bona fide SEC championship game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide to decide the best team in college football. Let’s see how all my picks did leading up to this moment.

Regular Season Record: 86-34

Conference Championship Record: 8-0

Army-Navy: 0-1

Bowl Record: 16-23

Yikes, I figured I wouldn’t be great for the bowl games, but I didn’t think I’d miss that many. I mean, I wrote a blog for two days to put up those numbers? Inexcusable. Goes to show you really can never guess what’s going to happen this time of year. Put all these games together and I went 110-58, which suggests theres a 65% chance I get this pick right, no big deal. For this I’m going to go position group by position group and compare each team. Let’s take a look at what both Georgia and Alabama bring to the table.

Quarterback:

Georgia: Jake Fromm

Alabama: Jalen Hurts

Advantage: Alabama

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This was difficult because it’s like comparing apples and oranges with these two quarterbacks. With Fromm, you get a traditional passer in the mold of Alex Smith, as he only threw 5 interceptions as opposed to 23 touchdowns while throwing for an acceptable 2383 yards. Hurts, on the other hand, is pretty much a pure running quarterback who will throw on occasion and most likely to Calvin Ridley. However the thing that puts Hurts over the top for me is his experience in this atmosphere. He was a true freshman when he nearly led Alabama to the National Championship against Clemson before Deshaun Watson’s heroics stole the day. He’s back with a year of maturing under his belt and I think he will be the better quarterback on the field in this game.

Runningback:

Georgia: Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift

Alabama: Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, Najee Harris

Advantage: Georgia

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At the beginning of the season, I would’ve called this a very difficult decision. But after the play of the Georgia backfield, which practically kept pace with Baker Mayfield all by itself, and the decline in play of Bo Scarbrough, this was an easy decision. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are a dominant 1-2 punch by themselves but throw in D’Andre Swift, who is also a capable pass catcher, and it’s just downright domination by the Georgia backfield.

Pass Catchers:

Georgia: Javon Wims, Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta (TE)

Alabama: Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III

Advantage: Georgia

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Yes, the best receiver on the field is by far Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, however he’s the only receiver that poses any sort of threat on the Crimson Tide offense. He recorded 935 receiving yards on 59 catches. Next best? Jerry Jeudy, who had 244 yards on just 13 catches (averaging 1 catch per game). That’s really bad and basically screams to the opposing defense who’s getting the ball when Hurts drops back to pass. Georgia’s stable of receivers isn’t great, but each guy is pretty solid and they spread the ball out pretty well. Wims, Godwin, and Hardman all had at least 20 catches and 300 yards receiving, with Wims leading the way in both categories at 44 catches for 704 yards.

Offensive Line:

Georgia: Isaiah Wynn, Kendall Baker, Lamont Gaillard, Ben Cleveland, Andrew Thomas

Alabama: Jonah Williams, Ross Pierschbacher, Bradley Bozeman, Lester Cotton, Matt Womack

Advantage: Alabama

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This is a hard decision mainly due to the success of both ground games. However I’m giving the edge to Alabama as they have more NFL-caliber talent and it’s pretty hard to block, typically, when the defense can pretty much just decide between a run or a pass to Calvin Ridley on every play. For Georgia, Isaiah Wynn is the only real NFL talent on that offensive line at the moment whereas Alabama’s entire offensive line could find themselves on NFL rosters in the near future.

Defensive Line:

Georgia: Trenton Thompson, John Atkins, Jonathan Ledbetter

Alabama: Da’Shawn Hand, Da’Ron Payne, Raekwon Davis

Advantage: Alabama

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Alabama wins a nail-biter and the deciding factor was probably recency bias for me, as Da’Ron Payne and Raekwon Jones in particular were absolutely DOMINANT against Clemson while Georgia’s defensive line had problems against Oklahoma’s offensive line. This group is extremely hard to run on and will be critical to Alabama’s success, which I’ll delve into a bit more as to why that is in the linebacker position group.

Linebacker:

Georgia: Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Reggie Carter

Alabama: Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings, Mack Wilson, Jamey Mosley

Advantage: Georgia

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Georgia gets a major advantage in this category for one main reason: health. With everyone healthy, this would likely end up being a draw, as these may be the two absolute best linebacking corps in the nation. However, Alabama has lost Shaun Dion Hamilton and Dylan Moses for the season due to injuries and will have to count on the less talented Mack Wilson and Jamey Mosley. Rashaan Evans might be the most important player in this game, as much of the onus is on him to stop the Georgia ground attack, though a lot of pressure could be taken off if the defensive line gets a good push. As for Georgia, their linebackers struggled in the first half against Oklahoma, Roquan Smith in particular, but they really stepped up big in the second half, imposing their will on a previously dominant Oklahoma offense. They looked like their old selves and if they can do what they typically did all year against Alabama, then the Crimson Tide will have a hard time running the ball.

Defensive Back:

Georgia: Malkom Parrish, DeAndre Baker, Tyrique McGhee, Dominick Sanders, JR Reed

Alabama: Anthony Averett, Levi Wallace, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison

Advantage: Alabama

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No knock against Georgia’s secondary, as those guys are a part of one of the better units in the country. But they don’t hold a candle to Alabama’s secondary. They have three guys who could potentially be first round picks in the NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick, Harrison, and Averett, and you’ll basically need a dominant receiver to beat these guys, which Georgia lacks. I think this group is going to have a big game in this one.

Specialists:

Georgia: Rodrigo Blankenship, Cameron Nizeliak, Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin

Alabama: Andy Pappanastos, JK Scott, Trevon Diggs, Xavien Marks

Advantage: Georgia

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The main deciding factor in this is Georgia’s kicker. First of all, just look at him in all his glory. The other reason is his name. Blankenship. There was an amazing TV show from the early 2000’s called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) where they showed footage of a Japanese game show but with English dubs and the dubs were hilarious. One of the commentators was named Kenny Blankenship in the dub and he would make lots of hilarious remarks, whether that be in regards to potentially critical injuries (“let’s hear the bones crack!”) or perverted analysis (using slow motion replay to look up a female competitor’s skirt). That show was so funny to me I just have to pick Georgia for this category thanks to Blankenship.

Head Coach:

Georgia: Kirby Smart

Alabama: Nick Saban

Advantage: Alabama

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

In my humblest of opinions, Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time. It’s harder to win now than it’s ever been and Saban’s Crimson Tide is consistently in the discussion for the nation’s best in every season. They’re the only team to make the playoff all 4 years of its existence and he will be coaching his third straight national championship game, 7th overall (he carries a 5-1 record in Natty’s, 4-1 as Alabama head coach). He has also never lost to a former assistant, which Georgia coach Kirby Smart is. Smart hasn’t been a head coach long enough to even be in the same discussion as Saban, but he’s on the right track if his first couple years are any indication.

Score: Alabama-5 Georgia-4

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Congratulations on your national championship, Alabama. Don’t worry about playing the game Monday Night, I’ve already made the decision. Let me know what you think of my championship game comparisons in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

2018 NFL Mock Draft #1

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

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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

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

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

3. Indianapolis Colts-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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

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

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

5. Denver Broncos-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Oakland Raiders-Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Washington Redskins-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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

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

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

15. Arizona Cardinals-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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

16. Baltimore Ravens-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

19. Dallas Cowboys-Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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

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

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

21. Buffalo Bills-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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

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

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

23. Tennessee Titans-Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

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

24. Carolina Panthers-Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma

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

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

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

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

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

27. Jacksonville Jaguars-Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

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

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

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

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

29. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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

30. Minnesota Vikings-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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

31. Philadelphia Eagles-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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

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

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

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

Why is Everybody So Mad At James Harrison?

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James Harrison is a highly decorated linebacker/edge rusher in this league. He was cut three times before finally sticking with the Steelers and rewarded their faith by winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and helping lead them to a Super Bowl victory over the Cardinals, including what is arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history where he weaved through a bunch of blocks as he took an interception 100 yards to the house to close out the first half. He’s a Steelers legend and deserves to be recognized as such. So when he was cut by the Steelers after last week having barely played this season due to decline in performance, nobody really reacted and it appeared that the 39 year-old may ride off into the sunset. Except he signed with the Patriots just days later. Then the skeletons in the closet started turning up. The responses weren’t very favorable towards the future Hall of Famer.

Here are a few quotes from some of Harrison’s former Steelers teammates regarding his departure and subsequent signing with the Patriots:

“He erased his own legacy”-Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers Center

“He chose to leave. He made certain decisions, and his actions got him to this circumstance”-Bud Dupree, Steelers Linebacker/Edge Rusher

“I guess (New England) was where he wanted to be”-Artie Burns, Steelers Cornerback

The story goes that Harrison was not happy with his diminished role with the Steelers. He apparently had been repeatedly asking for his release for weeks early in the season. Allegedly, he would start doing certain things to essentially try and force the Steelers to release him, such as skip team meetings (which Dupree went about at length), sleep in a recliner and snore loudly when he did attend meetings, and some teammates suspected he would even fake injuries. There was also talk about his refusal to take fellow outside backers Bud Dupree and TJ Watt under his wing in a mentor role. That’s not as big an issue for me, surprisingly enough. I get the sentiment that you pass on your knowledge to your teammates. But think about why Harrison was in this situation. He wants to play a big part for his team. If he were to teach Dupree and Watt what he knows, then they may be able to surpass him on the depth chart, which would hurt his chances to play. In the end, it ultimately didn’t matter because despite his lack of willingness to mentor these guys, they still wound up usurping a lot of playing time from him. Some people may see it as selfish, but I think that can be forgiven, since it’s this man’s livelihood. At least,¬†I¬†can forgive him for it, anyway.

If these reports are true, then this is pretty childish behavior by Harrison. I get being unhappy in your role, but to disrupt the locker room because you’re not happy about how much you’re playing is something my 10 year-old godson wouldn’t even do. This is a 39 year-old man whose workout regimen is the stuff of legend. Just look at some of these workouts.

He could probably floss his teeth with my spine. Yet he was allegedly acting like a spoiled brat in order to get released, which he was finally granted after the season was almost over. Now again, these claims and reports haven’t been 100% confirmed, as Harrison has been pretty mum over the whole situation. I’d like to get a chance to hear his side of the situation because he’s been getting thrown under the bus left and right over all this.

Well now Harrison is a member of the New England Patriots. So how does he fit in? Well a lot of people think that Bill Belichick wanted to bring him in to get some intel on the Steelers. Bud Dupree seems to think otherwise, as he is quoted as saying “I don’t know how many secrets about the playbook Harrison could give to the Patriots because I never saw him in meetings.” I have to agree with Dupree on this one, not necessarily because of the lack of attendance at meetings, which we still don’t know the whole gist of, but because I can’t imagine Belichick needing to bring in Harrison to beat the Steelers, something the Patriots already did a couple weeks ago (albeit under questionable circumstances). I think Harrison was brought on for two reasons: depth at the edge position and he’s a talented player that comes at a low risk. The Patriots really only have Trey Flowers, Eric Lee, and Deatrich Wise at the end position right now. Flowers is a good player but Lee was on the Bills practice squad earlier this year and Wise is a fourth round rookie who has admittedly shown a lot of promise. Harrison, while certainly past his prime, can be that added thump the Patriots defense may need. He also comes at a low risk, as the Patriots will only need to pay him about $59K for his services (one game check). If he doesn’t pan out, then you just don’t play him and you’re in the same situation you were in before you signed him, which has admittedly been pretty solid since a disastrous start to the year. Also, Harrison’s hatred for Roger Goodell will make him instantly beloved amongst the Patriots faithful, as he has gone on record as saying “If he were on fire, I wouldn’t piss on him to put him out.” He’ll fit in nicely.

So really, to answer the question of why people are so mad at Harrison right now doesn’t necessarily seem to be because he was released then signed against your top competition to go to the Super Bowl, but rather¬†how¬†he got himself in that situation. Again, we don’t truly know what happened behind closed doors and we haven’t heard Harrison’s side of the story yet, so I’m going to wait on judgment until after I hear a little bit more. But what we have now is a pretty bad look. That’s it for today’s blog, let me know what you think of the James Harrison situation in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.