Divisional Round Picks: Day 2

How about Nick Foles getting the job done against the Falcons? He had a solid game throwing the ball, as he went 23-30 for 246 yards and didn’t turn the ball over once and the NFC Championship will be played in Philadelphia. The Patriots took care of business against the Titans and will be advancing to their 7th straight AFC Championship game. The Titans held their own early but once New England got going, there was nothing Tennessee could do to stop them. There were admittedly a few questionable calls that went against the Titans but overall it was a pretty resounding beatdown by New England. Let’s get to Sunday’s slate of games.

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

The Jaguars are coming off an ugly win over the Buffalo Bills, but a win is a win, especially this time of year. The defense played exceptionally well while the offense barely did enough to win. Interesting thing I noticed from that game, Jacksonville’s best three healthy receivers are Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, and Kelan Cole. Not one of them caught a pass in that game and were only targeted once apiece. But again, it was enough to get the job done. The Steelers had an odd year. There were times where they looked downright abysmal and others where they looked like the cream of the crop in the NFL and are a poor fake spike decision away from having home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But the game everybody is certainly going to circle on their schedule from this year is their home loss to this same Jaguars team. Back in week 5, the Jaguars annihilated the Steelers 30-9 at Heinz Field, which included intercepting Ben Roethlisberger 5 times. In fact, the defense was playing so well in that game that quarterback Blake Bortles threw his last pass of the game with about 8 minutes left in the third quarter. 23 minutes of game time without attempting a single pass and they were still able to win by 21. It also helped that Leonard Fournette was the definition of a bell cow in that game, as he ran for 181 yards on a whopping 28 carries, both career highs for the rookie out of LSU. He also put the nail in the coffin with a 90-yard touchdown run in which he basically went untouched the whole way. But I think things are going to go differently for the Steelers. After that loss, they seemed to figure their shit out and won 10 of their last 11 games, the one loss being to the Patriots on the aforementioned failed fake spike. Antonio Brown was in the MVP discussion for much of the year before injuring his leg in that loss. He missed each of the final two games of the season but he is expected to suit up for this one. But keep an eye on how well he’s able to make his cuts. Jacksonville boasts arguably the two best corners in the NFL right now in Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye and if Brown isn’t his usual elusive self, he’s going to have a hard time getting open. But if he’s fine and can do what he does best, then we’re going to have some really fun receiver/corner matchups to watch. I think the key to this game is going to be the Steelers’ offensive line. They don’t have to give Roethlisberger a load of time to throw the ball, just enough so that he’s unimpeded in his 3-step drops because you can bet pass rushers Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler are going to be coming for him with Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson bumrushing the middle. They’re also going to need to create the lanes Le’Veon Bell needs to rush through while also throwing linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack off his scent because those two fly through gaps like missiles. I think if the Steelers offensive line has a good day, the Steelers will exact revenge on the Jaguars. If not, I think it’s going to be a loooooong day for the Steelers offense and we may get a repeat of Week 5. But I think the Steelers will pull it off and return to the AFC championship game for the second straight year.

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Projected Score: Steelers 27 Jaguars 24

New Orleans Saints (11-5) vs Minnesota Vikings (13-3)

The Saints are coming off a thrilling victory over the Panthers that came down to the final play and will look to ride that momentum into Minnesota and the same building where Super Bowl LII will be held. The Saints were able to beat the Panthers despite Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara not having great games statistically. That’s why Drew Brees is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, though. Even when defenses force the Saints to become one-dimensional, they’re breathing a little easier than most other teams because they have #9 under center. These two teams squared off all the way back in Week 1, which seems like an eternity ago. In that game, Sam Bradford absolutely picked apart the Saints secondary, which has since done a 180 and gone from a weakness to a strength. Bradford’s season also did the same, as an injury suffered in practice forced Case Keenum into the starting role and he played so well that no matter how this season ends, head coach Mike Zimmer is going to have a real decision to make at quarterback in deciding between Keenum, Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater. Offensively, Minnesota was hovering just outside of the top 10 in pretty much every category. They had to deal with some injuries, as promising rookie Dalvin Cook tore his ACL back in Week 4 after getting off to a really impressive start to his career. LaTavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon were able to pick up the slack in the backfield but the biggest thing that propelled this offense was the emergence of receiver Adam Thielen. Thielen was fantastic in 2017, as he caught 91 passes for 1276 yards and 4 TD’s. He emerged as the biggest threat in a suddenly solid receiving group that features the likes of Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Minnesota’s defense was sensational this year, as they finished the season as the NFL’s #1 defense in both points and yards allowed. Everson Griffen is finally starting to get the respect he deserves as a pass rusher while Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith each continue their astronomical growth as players in the secondary. This is a difficult matchup to pick because I think both teams match up so well with one another. But I think the key thing here is going to be quarterback play and it’s really hard to bet against Drew Brees, no matter how well Case Keenum might be playing. I think the Saints are going to win this one and they’re going to hope it’s not the last time they win a game in Minnesota this season.

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Projected Score: Saints 28 Vikings 23

That’s it for my picks in the divisional round. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

The Runningbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft Class

A little while back I scouted the quarterbacks class and I’m going to do something similar for the runningbacks. This is me highlighting a few of my favorites where I talk about what I think they do well and what I think they need to work on as well as where I would take them in the Draft as well as what current or former NFL players I think their game most resembles. These can run a bit long so without further ado, let’s get into my backs. These are going to be in alphabetical order, so don’t think of these like rankings. I’ll have a whole blog for that in the future.

Saquon Barkley-Penn State

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I say these aren’t rankings, yet I put Barkley first. That’s just a coincidence, settle down. But yeah, Barkley is the best runningback in this Draft class and I’ve seen many people suggest that the Browns should take him #1 overall. Barkley’s good, really good, but I wouldn’t go that far. He was destroying college football for the first half of the year, then started fading down the stretch a bit. But there are a lot of things to love about the junior out of Penn State.

Strengths: Size, Explosiveness, Versatility

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Saquon Barkley is thick in the legs, which he should be when you’re 5’11 and 230 pounds like he is. He doesn’t really have the reputation of a bruiser, but he’s built like one and he can cut on a dime about as efficiently as LeSean McCoy. He’s also fast as Hell. One report has clocked him running as fast as a 4.33 40-yard dash. A guy at that size should not be anywhere near that fast. So here’s a 230-pound back who runs a 4.3 40 and is as elusive as they come. Oh and did I mention he’s a pretty good receiver and return man as well? Because he can do those things, too. Last year Barkley rushed for 1271 yards and had 632 yards receiving as well and even took a kick to the house against Indiana. So with all that, what weaknesses are there?

Weaknesses: Route Running, Hop Step

I mentioned that Barkley was a good receiver. However when he has to run actual routes out of the backfield, not just drifting towards the flat, he tends to get a little lax in his route running. This kind of surprised me because when he’s running with the football, his cuts are so sharp. But when he’s running routes, he tends to kind of bend on his turns instead of planting his foot and turning. Also, when he’s about to be handed the football, he does this little hop. This can be both beneficial and detrimental. On the one hand, it looks like that hop gives him an extra burst of speed. On the other, it’s costing him a split second that allows defenders to close in on him at the start of the handoff. But that’s really all I could come up with for weaknesses, I was really digging to be honest, Barkley’s great.

Draft Thoughts: I think Barkley is worthy of going in the top 5 picks. I’m not so sure I’d take him number 1 just because I think that spot should be reserved for the more crucial positions such as quarterback, left tackle, and edge rusher and in many offenses it doesn’t matter who is at runningback. But when you’re this freaky an athlete with so few flaws, it’s hard not to at least consider it, especially considering this year’s class as so many question marks and Barkley feels like one of the safest picks in the draft. He would be EXTREMELY beneficial to a team like the Giants, who do have other weapons on offense like ODell Beckham Jr and Evan Engram that could have their play elevated by there actually being a threat in the backfield.

Pro Comparison: 

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Ezekiel Elliott. He and Barkley both have similar frames and were damn near perfect draft prospects at the runningback position. I think a lot of the reason that Barkley kind of faded down the stretch was that opposing teams were gearing more resources towards stopping him, which allowed quarterback Trace McSorley to shine through.

Derrius Guice-LSU

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Derrius Guice burst on the scene last year when Leonard Fournette spent much of the season injured and really came into his own. 2017 was expected to be a huge year for Guice but he really didn’t explode the way I hoped. However, he was still the most important piece of the LSU offense and still managed to put together some solid numbers despite a decline in overall performance (his yards per carry dropped over 2 whole yards between 2016 and 17). However I still think he can be an excellent back in this league.

Strengths: Running Style, Speed, Receiving Ability

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When I looked up Guice’s measurables, I was SHOCKED to learn that he plays at just 212 pounds. He plays like he’s so much bigger than that. His running style is so aggressive, too. It’s almost as if he enjoys getting hit and punishes any defender who is brave enough to try and tackle him. He’s also a lot faster than you might expect. He’s just as fast as Barkley, as he was clocked at 4.32 seconds in his 40 yard dash during LSU minicamp. He’s also a decent receiver, as he had 18 catches for 124 yards on the season. Not nearly as good as Barkley but there was better quarterback play at Penn State than there was at LSU.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Running Style

Yes I included Guice’s running style as both a positive and a negative. This is because the manner in which he invites contact at his size is a recipe for injury. The defenders are a Hell of a lot bigger at the next level and if Guice is throwing his body around at them, that could lead to some IR trips if he’s not careful. He also kind of brings his aggressive running style into play when he’s blocking. Instead of absorbing defenders, he tends to go for the knockout block on seemingly every play. When he lands it, he de-cleats the defender. However if the defender puts on a slight move, Guice is lying facedown in the dirt and the rusher is disrupting the pass. He needs to play more disciplined when he’s back in protection.

Draft Thoughts: I wouldn’t mind taking Guice in the first round as long as I was comfortable in my stable of backs behind him. He has all the makings of a feature back but his running style can kind of scare me at times. While I love his aggression, he’s a lot more valuable to me on the field than in the training room.

Pro Comparison: 

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Tevin Coleman. Coleman is a guy who is kind of stuck behind DeVonta Freeman in Atlanta but I feel if he is given the reigns to be the man, he could be a really electrifying back in this league, like Guice. Both have great athleticism and can shine as a receiver when given an opportunity. However both have pretty violent running styles that could result in potential injury. Coleman played on a broken foot at Indiana.

Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

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Kerryon Johnson was an intriguing prospect for much of the year but very few scouts really entertained the thought of him being a potential first rounder until he took over the Iron Bowl in Auburn’s victory over eventual national champion Alabama. Johnson was all over the place and was a part of seemingly every impactful play in that game. Scouts started taking notice and as a result, Johnson’s stock has skyrocketed.

Strengths: Vision, Agility, Patience

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Johnson can hit some holes that I didn’t even know were there. His peripherals are a marvel to behold. He’s also pretty slippery and it’s almost like he’s covered in grease when guys try and tackle him because of the way he kind of slips through people. He also clearly models his running style after Le’Veon Bell because he’s definitely waiting for his blocks to develop before attacking.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Hitting the Hole, General Explosiveness

I wouldn’t say Johnson is a bad blocker, just an inconsistent one. There are some plays where he makes really nice blocks that bought quarterback Jarrett Stidham at least another second or two to throw. There are others where he’s an absolute turnstile. There really wasn’t any in-between. Also, I mentioned his patience as a strength, but at times it appears to be a weakness because I think he’s so caught up in trying to be patient and waiting for his blocks to set up that he forgets he’s got to blast through them. He kind of hits the hole like a dainty butterfly and he lacks that one-step explosion that a lot of teams like to see out of their backs.

Draft Thoughts: Quite frankly, I think Johnson is getting a bit overhyped. He seems like an instinctive player, sure, but he’s the same size as Derrius Guice but seems so much slower despite the generally leaner frame. It’s more his intangibles that I think are the real positive rather than what he really brings to the table physically because watching some film on him, I wasn’t particularly blown away by anything he did. I’d probably wait until the 4th round before I started thinking about taking him.

Pro Comparison: 

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Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon is versatile kind of like Johnson and both have experience running out of some sort of wildcat formation. However neither really blows anybody away with their overall athleticism and in the grand scheme of things, I think they’re just decent backs.

Ronald Jones II-USC

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Ronald Jones II was a guy I hadn’t heard a whole lot about coming into this season, but I watched the Texas-USC game and was blown away by what this kid can bring to the table. I was watching that game looking to see what Sam Darnold can do, I left the game thinking about how great a back Ronald Jones is.

Strengths: Athleticism, Receiving, Blocking, Ability in Space

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Ronald Jones is at his best when he’s in space. He’s shifty and a great athlete and sometimes his cuts are so brutal he leaves defenders on skates. He’s also a good receiver, though I don’t think USC utilized him enough in this fashion. His blocking is an odd type of good. I thought he was decent as a blocker in the backfield, but in formations where USC had him line up out wide then throw a screen to a receiver, I thought he was fantastic. Again, Jones is at his best when he’s got space around him.

Weaknesses: Running Between the Tackles, Power

Jones was very unimpressive to me when he had to run up the middle. It seemed like he isn’t totally looking for the holes when asked to run straight. When he is running stretch plays outside the tackles to the edge, his vision seems to be great, but it’s when he’s forced to run into traffic where he tends to struggle. He’s also not going to knock anyone over with his 200-pound frame, but that’s not really his game anyway so it’s not TOO much of an issue, I just have a preference towards power backs.

Draft Thoughts: Ronald Jones could be downright dynamite when put in an offense that allows him to play to his strengths. I don’t think he fits in with everybody, which I think will hurt his draft stock. However if the right team picks him, look out because when this guy gets the ball in space, good luck. I think a team like the Lions would be perfect for him, as they’ve shown with Theo Riddick that they’re willing to play to each individual’s strengths, which is where I think he could shine. I think he could be worth a late first round pick as long as you have a specific plan set for how you want to use him because he’s not going to plug into just any system.

Pro Comparison: 

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Alvin Kamara. Both guys excel in their own systems and are at their best when in space as well as being talented receivers. Jones is a little bigger than Kamara but they both play similar games.

Bryce Love-Stanford

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Out of all the guys on this list, Bryce Love was the big breakout star. After backing up Christian McCaffrey for the last couple of years, Love was phenomenal upon being thrust into the starting role after McCaffrey was drafted 8th by the Panthers in the 2017 Draft, rushing for over 2000 yards and finishing 2nd in the Heisman voting. A lot of scouts are curious as to how well he will transition to the NFL and are wondering if his breakout season was a fluke.

Strengths: Speed, Shiftiness

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I don’t know if anybody in this draft class changes direction better than Love. Maybe Barkley. But when Love plants that foot in the dirt and cuts the other way, good luck catching him. And he’s fast, too. He’s been clocked at a 4.35 40 but there have been times where he was looked even faster. Once he gets to the second level, you’re done. He’s hard to tackle in open space and you’re going to need some serious athletes if you’re going to keep him in check. In fact, the one game where he was kept in check was the game where he was coming off an ankle injury. And even then he ran for 69 yards (it was the one time all year where he was held under 100).

Weaknesses: Size, Receiving

Out of all the backs I’m scouting in this blog, Love is easily the smallest. He’s 5’10 196 pounds, so he’s not built to handle the bulk of the carries in an NFL offense. And for a guy as quick as he is, I’m surprised to see that he’s not very involved in the passing game. He only had 6 catches for 33 yards on the season, which really works against you when you’re a smaller back. A lot of coaches like using their scat backs as receivers out of the backfield and Love hasn’t shown that he’s capable of doing that.

Draft Thoughts: I like Love a lot, but he has his limitations. He may be the most athletic runningback in this class, rivaling even Barkley, but his lack of size and receiving ability is a big knock against his draft status. I think if he were to add 10 pounds of muscle and work on his routes, he could be a DANGEROUS player in this league. But as things stand right now I think we’re looking at a third rounder.

Pro Comparison: 

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Dion Lewis. Lewis was drafted in the 6th round by the Eagles a few years back and was used mainly on kick returns before bouncing around the league and finally finding a home in New England, where they were able to use his skillset in a way that allowed him to thrive. This year he added on some muscle and he’s become a complete back, which is a similar path I think Love could find himself going down if he works at it.

Sony Michel-Georgia

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Sony Michel was part of arguably the deadliest runningback duo of all time with Nick Chubb (who I thought about including in this blog, but his injury history scares me so much I wouldn’t touch him until round 5). Michel was particularly dominant during the playoff, as he nearly led Georgia to a national championship single handedly. He scored the walkoff touchdown against Oklahoma and was the only consistently good member of Georgia’s offense in their championship loss to Alabama.

Strengths: Size-Speed Combination, Explosiveness, Shiftiness, Vision

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I was surprised to see that Sony Michel is 215 pounds because he runs like a gazelle. Granted, he only runs a 4.45, but he plays a lot faster than that. He hits the hole so hard that if you don’t square him up, he’s going to blow right by you. And when he’s in the open field you stand no chance. He does a great job of reading blocks as well. There’s a lot of untapped ability with this kid and I think sharing a backfield with Chubb kind of held back what he can really do when given the reigns.

Weaknesses: Power, Blocking, Receiving, Running Style

I put receiving down as a weakness mainly because he was barely utilized as a receiver throughout most of the season. He was used a lot more as a receiver in the Rose Bowl, as he got 4 out of his 9 catches on the season in that game, and I think he did pretty well so I think there’s some untapped potential there. But as it stands, we just don’t know enough about his abilities as a receiver to justify listing it as a strength. Also, he’s not a power runner in any sense of the word. He’s not going to barrel over anybody and he might struggle against NFL-caliber pass rushers. He also runs very upright, which might hinder his speed some and can cause injury if hit a certain way.

Draft Thoughts: I think Sony Michel could creep into the first round depending on how his combine goes. If he can run a sub 4.4 40, then I think he’s automatically in the discussion. He’s very good in space and I think there is so much untapped potential with this kid that I think we could have something really special here.

Pro Comparison: 

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David Johnson. Johnson is a guy that had a lot of raw and untapped potential at Northern Iowa that was unlocked when the Cardinals were able to utilize what he does best and got him involved in the passing game. I think Michel could have similar success if given similar attention.

That’s a wrap on my scouting report on some of my favorite runningbacks in this year’s draft class. Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

 

 

Wild Card Round Picks: Day 2

Welp the Titans made me look pretty stupid. But that’s why I don’t gamble on sports, things like that happen. Though I think Travis Kelce getting knocked out with a concussion was a huge blow for the Chiefs, as I don’t think they scored a single point after he went to the locker room. That was, to me, the biggest factor in their blowing a 21-3 lead (just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it that 28-3 does). There was a brief shining moment as it appeared Marcus Peters had stripped Derrick Henry of the football and Derrick Johnson took it to the house, only to have it overturned by replay, which was the correct call as Henry was clearly down before the ball left his possession. As for Falcons-Rams, I may have gotten that pick wrong, but I feel that if the Rams’ special teams didn’t dig them into an early hole like it did, then they probably would’ve beaten the Falcons because as the game went along, that offense looked more and more comfortable until the Falcons regained their footing. Though I could have sworn I read somewhere that Julio Jones and Marcus Mariota were both going to be scratches from their games. Maybe I misread or read fake accounts. *UPDATE* I figured out what happened with that. PFT Commenter of Barstool Sports was quote tweeting injury reports for both players from past seasons and making them out to be for these games and I fell for the trap. It happens to the best of them. So with that, let’s get to the Sunday picks. Make sure you read all the way through, because I do have an announcement to make at the end of this blog.

Buffalo Bills (9-7) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

This will be the Bills first playoff appearance since 1999, which had been the longest such drought in the major four sports. It was kind of an odd season for them. They went 9-7 after starting out 5-2 and included a disastrous quarterback switch. For whatever reason, Tyrod Taylor was benched in favor of Nathan Peterman against the Chargers. Peterman promptly threw 5 first half interceptions (not all of them were his fault, but they’re still charged to him). He was benched in the second half for Taylor, who played reasonably well in what was basically the perfect moment for Taylor to establish himself as the unquestioned starter. Week 17 came along with their playoff hopes on the line and they got the job done by beating Miami. They just needed the Ravens to lose to the Bengals, since the Titans and Chargers had won their games, in order to make the playoffs. 4th and 12, Andy Dalton hits Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard TD and the Bills are going to the playoffs. It came at a price, though. In their victory over Miami, Buffalo lost star runningback LeSean McCoy due to an ankle injury, where he had to be carted off the field. Good news for Bills fans, though, McCoy said the injury wasn’t as bad as he thought and he’s hoping to suit up against Jacksonville. I’m not so sure if that’s going to help them a whole lot. McCoy is at his best when he’s able to make hard cuts and juke guys out. That’s hard to do on a bad ankle. I don’t think it’s going to go well for him in this one, especially against a Jaguars defense that’s as dominant as this one. Jacksonville has been a revelation this season. They recorded their first winning season in a decade and were the breakout team of the AFC en route to a 10-6 record despite inconsistent play from quarterback Blake Bortles. However Bortles looked pretty good to close out the season and I think it may have the higher-ups in Jacksonville rethinking their plans to move on from him. The only way I think Bortles has 100% job security is a Super Bowl victory, though. But the story of this Jaguars team has been the defense. I’ve raved about the impact signing Calais Campbell has been ad nauseam, but he really has been the difference. The Jaguars were just okay defensively prior to his arrival from Arizona with a lot of young players with potential. Campbell arrives, then suddenly they’re the #2 overall defense in the NFL behind only the Vikings. Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye (whose arrival I also think contributed heavily to the defense’s success) have been shutdown corners, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler have been absolute studs rushing the passer, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack have been holding down the second level, really no matter where you look on this Jacksonville defense, you’ve got guys that are kicking ass. It’s that fire on defense that I think is going to give the Jags the win in this game, though I think the Bills will be competitive throughout. Their defense is pretty underrated.

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Projected Score: Jaguars 20 Bills 17

Carolina Panthers (11-5) vs New Orleans Saints (11-5)

In my opinion, this is the game of the Wild Card Round. This will be the third time these two teams will square off this season, each of the prior two meetings being won by the Saints, which gave them the tie-breaker for the division crown. The Panthers defense has looked similar to the one that helped lead them to an appearance in Super Bowl L, as Kawann Short continues to dominate on the interior of the defensive line, which sucks because he’s a Boilermaker. The Boilermaker on the other sideline, Drew Brees, has also been damn good for the Saints, as his connection with Michael Thomas is reminiscent of when he was hitting Marques Colston on a consistent basis. But the biggest matchup I’m going to watch for is Saints runningbacks vs the Panthers front 7. The Saints offensive line has been very good this year despite injury troubles. Rookie tackle Ryan Ramczyk has been very good like I expected him to be (which unfortunately wasn’t published because this blog didn’t exist back then) and Andrus Peat has adjusted very well to a move to guard. Larry Warford has also been terrific and Max Unger has been his usual self. Their runningbacks Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have been the deadliest 1-2 punch in the game this season. To think, this group included Adrian Peterson for a few weeks before getting sent to the Cardinals. Imagine if that trio had been able to gel. Turns out it took Peterson leaving for this group to really come together. Ingram finished with 1124 yards rushing, fifth in the NFL, while Kamara had over 1500 yards of total offense. Both players’ play styles complement each other so well that defenses have a hard time keeping up. But the Panthers defensively have one of the best front 7s in football, as you’ve got guys like Short and Star Lotulelei clogging the interior, Mario Addison on the edge, and Shaq Thompson, the ageless Thomas Davis, and Luke Kuechly at linebacker. So if any team were to match up with well with the Saints, it would be the Panthers. However that hasn’t been the case this season, as the Saints beat the Panthers twice by scores of 34-13 in Week 3 and 31-23 in Week 13. So perhaps the Panthers are figuring things out, as that margin of defeat was cut significantly the second time around. I really want to pick the Saints for this game but I just have the weirdest gut feeling that the Panthers are going to pull this one out. I’m going with the Panthers, however my brain doesn’t feel good about it.

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Projected Score: Panthers 24 Saints 20

That’s it for the blog. As promised, I have an announcement to make. I’ll be adding a new writer to my staff. When that will be I’m not sure, we’re still working out how we want to do things. But I’m very excited to get another guy producing content, as writing 1000+-word articles a day while balancing school and work can get a bit rough. Let me know what you think of my picks or my new “hire” (I say that very loosely, as I still don’t have a revenue stream to pay anyone with) and hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

2017 NFL Awards

Happy New Year everybody! I apologize for no blog yesterday but I was downing IPA’s like they were Miller Lites and was in no position to begin my NFL postseason series blogs. I won’t be doing a playoff predictions segment as that would defeat the purpose of doing NFL picks, which I’ve decided to continue doing for the postseason, the first of which will be posted on Saturday instead of the usual Sunday. Haven’t decided yet if I’m going to do the entire Wild Card Round for the Saturday blog or if I’m going to do Saturday’s games on Saturday and Sunday’s games on Sunday. Stay tuned. But with the NFL regular season wrapped up, I’d like to start handing out some awards. Some of these will be real NFL awards, a few will be made up. But all of them mean something and each player will have to make room in their trophy case for what I’m handing out. So with that, on to the awards.

NFL MVP: Todd Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams

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I’m going to get an earful from my friends and family for not choosing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for this, but looking at the overall stats, I didn’t feel like there was any other option. Not only has Gurley been a major part of the Rams sudden turnaround, but his stats are insane. He’s second in the NFL in rushing with 1305 yards and led the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also was second amongst runningbacks with 788 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns. So that’s 2093 yards from scrimmage with 19 touchdowns. The one knock I have against Gurley’s candidacy is his fumbling, which he led NFL runningbacks with 5. However, the fact that he carried the ball 279 times could be an explanation. I’m not sure where Gurley ranks in terms of fumble rate, as I lack the willpower to do all the math for every player, but I don’t think he’d be at the top of that list. As for Tom Brady, I was all in on his MVP candidacy until his streak of 5 straight games with an interception late in the season. Plus, his numbers started trending downwards by the end. Gurley only got better.

Others receiving consideration: Tom Brady-QB-New England Patriots

*Disclaimer* I’m not putting down an Offensive Player of the Year because Gurley would also win that. The argument would be repetitive.

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

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I won’t go too much into this, as I had Campbell as my midseason DPOTY in my midseason awards blog. Basically check out my segment on Campbell and reapply it to here. He kept at his rate from midseason. He finished tied for second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks and that came despite his playing primarily on the interior of the defensive line, where by nature he would take on double teams. You just don’t see that from guys outside of JJ Watt. Plus, Campbell’s presence helped this Jaguars defense take a gigantic leap from last year, as they went from a decent unit to arguably the best in the league. Guys like Dante Fowler Jr finally broke out and Yannick Ngakoue quietly became one of the league’s top pass rushers.

Others receiving consideration: Aaron Donald-DT-Los Angeles Rams, Chandler Jones-EDGE-Arizona Cardinals

Coach of the Year: Sean McVay-Los Angeles Rams

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There were a few candidates for this spot, as there were a lot of breakout teams in 2017. But I’ve got to go with Rams rookie head coach Sean McVay for a couple reasons. Number 1 being the Rams had been totally stagnant for about a decade, never seeming to be able to rise above being 8-8 and coming off a disastrous first year in Los Angeles, as Jeff Fisher was fired midseason on the Amazon Prime series “All or Nothing.” They were the worst offense in the NFL in 2016 as well. Enter McVay. The Rams completely flipped and went from the worst scoring offense in 2016 (14.0 PPG) to the highest scoring offense in 2017 (29.9 PPG). Not bad from a guy who was younger than a large chunk of quarterbacks in the league (he was 31 when he was hired). But the biggest deciding factor for me for McVay being COTY is the development of Jared Goff. Goff was the #1 pick of the 2016 NFL Draft and he had a disastrous rookie year, as he went 0-7 as a starter and was already looking like a bust. Under McVay, however, Goff became one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league, going 11-5 as a starter, finishing 10th in the NFL in passing yards at 3804, 3rd in yards per attempt at 7.98, tied for 5th in passing touchdowns with 28, and only threw 7 interceptions, which was fewer than the totals of Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, and even Tom Brady. That’s the difference a good coach can make.

Others receiving consideration: Sean McDermott-Buffalo Bills, Doug Marrone-Jacksonville Jaguars, Doug Pederson-Philadelphia Eagles, Bill Belichick-New England Patriots

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara-RB-New Orleans Saints

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Kamara did it all for the Saints this year. He ran, he caught, and he returned kicks on occasion. He was third amongst rookies in rushing yards with 728 on only 120 carries for an average of 6.1 YPC, which led all NFL runningbacks. This came despite the fact that he was sharing a backfield with Mark Ingram, who was having a great season in his own right. Kamara also was a great pass catcher for the Saints, as he had 81 catches out of the backfield for 826 yards, trailing only Steelers standout Juju Smith-Schuster and Rams stud Cooper Kupp for rookie receiving yards. And he’s a runningback. He also took a kick to the house against the Buccaneers in Week 17 and averaged 31.5 yards per kick return (granted he only returned 11 kicks, but still, that’s a terrific rate). Alvin Kamara is my clear favorite for OROTY. Now if only he’d get rid of that damn septum ring. God I hate those things. I don’t know how people can think they look good.

Others receiving consideration: Kareem Hunt-RB-Kansas City Chiefs, Juju Smith-Schuster-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers, Leonard Fournette-RB-Jacksonville Jaguars

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

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The Saints have ROTYs on both sides of the ball, it seems. Lattimore ranked among the best cornerbacks in the NFL, leading what has actually been a really good class for rookie cornerbacks, as Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White and Dallas’ Jourdan Lewis also had strong seasons. Lattimore was consistently put on the opposing team’s best receiver and had 5 interceptions this season, including a streak of 3 games in a row with a pick towards the end of the season, including one he caught with his ass.

According to Pro Football Focus, Lattimore was graded as the 5th best corner in the NFL and graded amongst the game’s elites. He looks like he has a long, successful career ahead of him.

Others receiving consideration: Tre’Davious White-CB-Buffalo Bills, Carl Lawson-EDGE-Cincinnati Bengals

Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski-TE-New England Patriots

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2016 was a lost season for Gronk. He was always injured and missed out on the Patriots’ amazing run to their victory in Super Bowl LI. I even read articles that suggested that Gronk is now expendable for the Patriots and could be the next in their high-profile cuts. How did he respond? Only with 69 catches (which I swear he did on purpose) and led all NFL tight ends with 1084 yards (which was 10th in the entire league) to go along with 8 touchdowns. At 28 years old, Gronk continues to show the league why he is the absolute best.

Others receiving consideration: Keenan Allen-WR-Los Angeles Chargers

Breakout Player of the Year: Jared Goff-QB-Los Angeles Rams

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As I highlighted in my defense of Sean McVay being COTY, Goff was a borderline bust heading into his second NFL season. The Rams gave up a fortune to the Titans to pick him as they were looking to make a splash with their return to Los Angeles. Well that move was looking like a disaster as Goff was absolutely dreadful in 2016, going 0-7 as a starter, completing only 54% of his passes, while throwing only 5 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. But he did a complete 180 in 2017, where he was about as efficient as any quarterback in the NFL.

Others receiving consideration: Adam Thielen-WR-Minnesota Vikings, Marquise Goodwin-WR-San Francisco 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo-QB-San Francisco 49ers

Play of the Year: DeAndre Hopkins Touchdown Catch on Christmas Day vs Steelers

Others receiving consideration: Maurice Harris one-handed touchdown vs Vikings, Tarik Cohen punt return TD vs 49ers

My Favorite Player of 2017: Tarik Cohen-RB-Chicago Bears

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Tarik Cohen’s nickname “The Human Joystick” perfectly sums up the type of player he is. He’s only 5’6, but he’s nearly impossible to catch in the open field. Just look at this punt return against the 49ers, which nearly won for my play of the year.

He also likes to do things like this in his spare time.

This kid’s an electric factory.

Others receiving consideration: Carson Wentz-QB-Philadelphia Eagles, Tyreek Hill-WR-Kansas City Chiefs

That’s it for my NFL Awards segment. Check back in tomorrow when I rank each NFL player by position, followed by my Top 100 players. Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.