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.

My 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Ballot

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be announced during the NFL Honors Show on Saturday night, so I thought it’d be the perfect time to talk about who I would vote for if I had one, which I don’t. A quick thing to note about the rules of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there’s a minimum of 4 inductees and a max of 7 per year so I’m going to follow those rules.

Ray Lewis-LB-Baltimore Ravens

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Resume: 13x Pro Bowler, 7x All Pro, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XXXV MVP

Ignoring the murder investigation for which he was never found guilty of, Ray Lewis was one of the greatest middle linebackers of all time. He was knocked for his height and lack of speed coming out of college at Miami (FL) and he made evaluators pay for it by smacking every offensive player he could find in the mouth. He was the stalwart in the middle of the Ravens defense for 17 seasons and was not only the face of the Ravens, but he may have been the face of defense in the NFL. For those too young to remember peak Ray Lewis, he basically was to defense in the early 2000’s what JJ Watt is to defense now. He was that good and he was good well into his late 30’s. He was the definition of what it means to be a bad dude in the NFL.

Terrell Owens-WR-San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals

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Resume: 6x Pro Bowler, 5x All Pro, 1078 catches, 15934 yards, 153 TD’s

How T.O. didn’t get in on either of his first two tries is beyond me. In my opinion, after Jerry Rice, he’s the greatest wide receiver of all time. Sure he was also the biggest diva who ever played the position and basically gave wide receivers the diva reputation all by himself (he got some help from Chad Johnson/Ochocinco), but his talent was undeniable. He was bigger, faster, and stronger than every DB he went against and he put up the numbers to show for it. He’s second all-time in receiving yards (though Larry Fitzgerald is right on his tail), he’s eighth in catches, and third in receiving touchdowns. Owens may have been a locker room cancer, but as far as ability and performance goes, there was nobody better.

Randy Moss-WR-Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers

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Resume: 6x Pro Bowler, 4x All Pro, 1998 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 982 catches, 15292 receiving yards, 156 TD’s, NFL record 23 receiving TD’s in 2007

After T.O., I think I would put Randy Moss as the third greatest receiver to ever play the game. He set the NFL on fire in 1998 as he formed arguably the greatest receiving duo of all time with Hall of Famer Cris Carter as the two of them helped revive Randall Cunningham’s career and nearly led the Vikings to Super Bowl XXXIII if not for a missed Gary Anderson field goal. He continued to torment opposing secondaries until his trade to the Raiders, where abysmal quarterback play nearly derailed his career. However, a trade to the Patriots and an alliance with Tom Brady resurrected Moss’ career as he set an NFL record with 23 touchdown catches and helped the Patriots to an undefeated regular season in 2007. Moss was a diva, not quite on par with T.O., but he was also one of the most dominant receivers the game has ever seen.

Brian Dawkins-S-Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos

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Resume: 9x Pro Bowler, 4x All Pro, 37 interceptions, 26 sacks

Look up “enforcer” in the dictionary and you’ll get a picture of Brian Dawkins. He’s the gold standard for safeties that will not only get his team absolutely fired up before a game, but then back up that fire by blasting his opponents in the mouth. Dawkins was about as well-rounded a safety as there ever was as not only was he the last guy runningbacks wanted to see coming their way, but he was also a nightmare for quarterbacks as he had excellent coverage skills to boot. If an aspiring safety is smart, he will model his game after Brian Dawkins.

Edgerrin James-RB-Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks

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Resume: 4x Pro Bowler, 1x All Pro, 1999 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 3028 carries, 12246 yards, 80 TD’s

When the Colts drafted Edgerrin James 4th overall in 1999 instead of Ricky Williams, people went ballistic. A lot of them had never even heard of James and blasted Bill Polian for taking him over the Heisman-winning Williams, whom Mike Ditka traded his entire draft class to acquire for the Saints. James shut the naysayers up REALLY quick, as he rushed for over 1500 yards as a rookie and over 1700 for an encore performance. While Williams went on to have a solid career, albeit a controversial one, it appears that the Colts had made the right selection, as having James to lean on was critical towards Peyton Manning developing into the second greatest quarterback of all time.

Isaac Bruce-WR-St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers

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Resume: 4x Pro Bowler, Super Bowl XXXIV Champion, 1024 catches, 15208 yards, 91 TD’s

Isaac Bruce may be the most under-appreciated receiver in NFL history. Here’s a guy who finished his career second all time in receiving yards and is a member of the 1000 catch club. Bruce was arguably the best receiver on the Greatest Show on Turf Rams teams from 1999-2001 and I think one of the main reasons he didn’t get the respect he deserved was because of the emergence of the younger Torry Holt. Bruce also was never in the media too often which may be why guys like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss got a lot more publicity than him even though their numbers were comparable. Bruce has already been left out a couple of times already and it’s high time he got the recognition he deserved and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

John Lynch-S-Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos

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Resume: 9x Pro Bowler, 2x All Pro, Super Bowl XXXVII champion

My final Hall of Famer, John Lynch is currently the GM of the 49ers but before that he was one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game. He anchored the great Buccaneers defenses of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and was a crucial part of their run to a Super Bowl championship in 2002. Like Dawkins, Lynch was a complete safety, who could not only lay the lumber, but was a guy whose zone was often avoided by quarterbacks. And he even became a decent broadcaster in his own right. Lynch really did it all as a safety in the NFL.

I’d be doing an injustice if I didn’t mention that there was one more player that I wanted to include on my unofficial ballot, but I had hit my 7-man maximum so he just missed the cut. Brian Urlacher is also very deserving of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Often rivaling Ray Lewis as to who was the best linebacker of the 2000’s, Urlacher was not only a great physical presence, but he was smart, too, as he was in charge of the playcalling with the defense as far as audibles were concerned. That’s going to do it for my Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot, let me know who you’d choose for enshrinement in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Divisional Round Picks: Day 1

The Wild Card Round was rough for my picks segments, as the only game I hit on was Jaguars-Bills (one of the worst playoff games I’ve ever had the privilege to miss most of due to being on a plane). But now the winners of those games face the teams that had a week to prepare for them but history has shown that it’s not always a guarantee the team with the extra week will win. So with that, let’s get to the picks.

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) vs Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The Falcons dispatched an inexperienced Rams team in Los Angeles in their 26-13 victory. The Rams special teams unit made botch after botch, most of them revolving around Pharoh Cooper and the Falcons managed to take advantage. They take on an Eagles team that is actually quite similar statistically. The Eagles averaged exactly one more yard per game than the Falcons did offensively and defensively both teams sport top 10 defenses. The Eagles were the talk of the NFL for most of the year, getting out to a 10-1 start and finishing the year as the 1 seed in a stacked NFC at 13-3. Quarterback Carson Wentz was having an MVP-caliber year and may be the favorite had he not torn his ACL in the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Rams in Week 14. Nick Foles has been the Eagles quarterback since then and he hasn’t been particularly great, just good enough to get the job done. The Eagles were 2-1 in his starts, the one loss being when he didn’t play a whole lot in Week 17 against the Cowboys and was sat to rest in favor of former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who actually finished with the highest completion percentage amongst quarterbacks playing their first game at 83% (minimum 20 attempts). Foles’ line as starter was 47-87 for 439 yards with 5 TD’s and 2 INT’s in 3 starts, which isn’t awful overall, but it’s a far cry from what Carson Wentz was doing. The Eagles’ rushing attack was also quietly very good, as the stable of LeGarrette Blount, midseason acquisition Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood combined to be the 3rd best rushing attack in the NFL. They also got a potentially career-saving year out of Nelson Agholor at receiver and a breakout season from tight end Zach Ertz. Defensively, the Eagles thrived under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who may be in line for his second head coaching gig when all is said and done. They were 4th overall in scoring and total yards and were best in the NFL at stopping the run. However I think they’re going to run into some problems against the Falcons. They’re going to have to ask Nick Foles to keep up with the reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan and I just don’t think he’ll be able to do that. It’s not 2013 where that isn’t so ridiculous a thought (seriously, go back and look at Foles’ stats when he was the Eagles’ starter in 2013. He was fantastic). But despite how good the Eagles have been defensively overall, stopping the pass has been more of a weak point for them, as they’re only average at that (17th against the pass). Their corners will have a hard time stopping the trio of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel. Plus, the Falcons were a top-10 defense this season and have guys that can fly around the field and cause problems for the Philly offense. I’m actually going to pick the Falcons to advance to the NFC championship game for the second consecutive year. However had Carson Wentz been healthy, I think this might be a different story.

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Projected Score: Falcons 27 Eagles 20

Tennessee Titans (9-7) vs New England Patriots (13-3)

What a game between the Titans and Chiefs. I expected the Chiefs to win in a bloodbath, which it looked like they were well on their way to doing. However Travis Kelce suffering a concussion late in the first half plus a lack of touches for Kareem Hunt really hurt the Chiefs as the game went along and allowed the Titans to creep back into the game. It was 21-3 at halftime in favor of the Chiefs, then Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass to himself and momentum seemed to swing in the exact opposite direction. The Titans were able to pull out a 22-21 victory over the Chiefs and will take on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The Patriots had a year that seemed akin to their 2014 run with a blend of 2015 in it. They got off to a slow 2-2 start to the point where everyone was questioning if this was the year the Patriots would finally fall off. But then the Patriots remembered they’re the Patriots and finished the year going 11-1 and seemingly fixing every problem they had in the first four games. Except there’s one little blemish for New England that makes there some resemblance to the 2015 team: injuries. It started with Julian Edelman tearing his ACL in a preseason game against the Lions and it hasn’t let up since. The list of Patriots on IR include Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, Marcus Cannon, Derek Rivers, Malcolm Mitchell, Vincent Valentine, Shea McClellin, Cyrus Jones, Nate Ebner, and Martellus Bennett. That’s a lot of key contributors. But the Patriots have had guys step up in big ways. Kyle Van Noy was able to adequately fill the void left by Hightower’s injury. The combination of La’Adrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming have adequately filled in for Cannon. The Patriots have continued to follow their “next man up” mantra and it has helped them finish near the top in the NFL in many major categories. They’re the #2 scoring offense, #1 in total yards, #2 in passing, #10 in rushing, and #5 in scoring defense despite being #29 in yards allowed. That’s the definition of a bend-but-don’t-break defense right there. One of the breakout stars for the Patriots has been Dion Lewis, who has reinvented himself from just a scat back that was used as a change of pace to an all-around back that isn’t afraid to run through defenders from time to time. In fact, Lewis led the NFL in rushing in the second half of the season to finish with 896 yards rushing on just 180 carries (5 yards per carry). I’m predicting in this game that Lewis will again be a big factor in a Patriots victory over the Titans to advance to their 7th straight AFC Championship game against either the Steelers or the Jaguars.

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

Projected Score: Patriots 30 Titans 17

That’s going to do it for my picks for day one of the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Let me know what you think about this slate of games 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: 

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

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.

 

 

Coaching Hot Seats in the NFL

First off, my apologies for no blog yesterday, I couldn’t think of anything to write about. But I’ve got a few ideas in my brain now so it shouldn’t be an issue. I’m also somehow more busier when I’m home than I am when I’m at school so sometimes life gets in the way for me.

Now that that’s out of the way, Black Monday is coming up in the NFL and Week 17 will be a huge deciding factor for a lot of organizations about the future of their head coach. Of course, there are some coaches who will never ever have to worry about their job security (Bill Belichick) but others aren’t so fortunate. Whether that’s because of the situation they’re in or a lack of success, football can be a cruel game, especially when it comes to the coaches. I don’t remember who said this, but the perfect quote is “you’re hired to get fired” about an NFL coach’s career. It’s mainly just the all-time greats who have total job security and even then that’s not always the case. So with that, let’s take a look at the coaches on the hot seat.

Hue Jackson-Cleveland Browns

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2017 Record: 0-15

Record with current team: 1-30

Jesus that record. Hue Jackson’s not a bad coach but you wouldn’t know it based on what his record says. He was 8-8 in his one year as the head coach of the Raiders but was randomly fired by Al Davis, despite the fact that record was the best they had since losing Super Bowl XXXVII. He was also beloved by his players while he was runningbacks coach with the Bengals. So I think he will find a job somewhere if the Browns do fire him, most likely as a coordinator or position coach. Front office people have said that Jackson will return in 2018, but I think that was also said with the confidence that the Browns wouldn’t go 0-16. But they’re 1 game away and they face a Steelers team that one could make an argument is the best in the NFL. So I think if the Browns go 0-16, Jackson will be given his pink slip. But I actually do believe that if the Browns win that game, then he will save his job. Just a gut feeling because that is a very untalented Browns team, particularly on offense, and it’s unfair to place the totality of the blame on him.

Seat Temperature: Pretty Damn Hot

Chuck Pagano-Indianapolis Colts

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2017 Record: 3-12

Record with current team: 52-43

The Colts have taken an absolute nosedive since getting blown out in the 2014-15 AFC Championship game against the Patriots (and no, I’m not going to mention what that game is most known for). Pagano was looking like one of the top coaches in the league but the lack of talent on the roster was rearing its ugly head. I think what happened was it was Bill Polian’s guys that Pagano was succeeding with and once they started getting older (Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Reggie Wayne) or retiring, the Ryan Grigson guys started rearing their ugly heads. Thankfully for Colts fans, Grigson was canned and I thought they had a pretty good draft in 2017, as Malik Hooker was playing really well until his injury and Quincy Wilson has really emerged in the last couple weeks. The next step is to get a new head coach to take the next step. I can’t imagine Pagano returning, no matter what happens in Week 17.

Seat Temperature: Volcanic

Marvin Lewis-Cincinnati Bengals

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2017 Record: 6-9

Record with current team: 124-112-3

I’m not sure how Marvin Lewis made it this long. If he couldn’t get fired after that AFC Wild Card debacle against the Steelers a couple years ago, then his job was eternally safe. But it appears that he won’t be returning as head coach of the Bengals. He’s been one of the best coaches the franchise has ever had but his lack of playoff success (he’s never won a playoff game) is really what looms large as well as the downward spiral the Bengals have been on the last couple years. I’m sure somebody else will hire him to become their next head coach, though. He’s had too much success in Cincinnati to be relegated to position coach. Somebody else will sign him, whether it be for 2018 or sometime after, if he decides to take a break from coaching.

Seat Temperature: Scorching

Bill O’Brien-Houston Texans

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2017 Record: 4-11

Record with current team: 31-32

I hate talking about him being on the hot seat because I actually played on a football team with his nephew my freshman year of high school. But Bill O’Brien might be on the hot seat after a disastrous season in Houston. Quite frankly, I think he’s going to be fine. The Texans showed a ton of promise when Deshaun Watson started taking off. But the story of the Texans’ season has been injuries. Watson, JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, CJ Fiedorowicz, and Brian Cushing all either missed substantial time or were put on IR at some point. I think Bill O’Brien will be back next year just simply because everything that went wrong was kind of out of his control.

Seat Temperature: Pretty Comfortable

Mike Mularkey-Tennessee Titans

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2017 Record: 8-7

Record with current team: 19-21

This might be a little surprising because the Titans are in the thick of a playoff race, however I think Mularkey might be in trouble if they don’t make the postseason simply because of how much the team has regressed based on the eye test, particularly Marcus Mariota. Mariota struggled mightily in 2017 and this was supposed to be the year where the former #2 pick took the next step. Somehow the Titans control their own destiny to make the playoffs despite all their issues but it’s not encouraging for the future. This kind of luck isn’t sustainable. I think if the Titans lose to the Jaguars on Sunday and miss the playoffs, then Mularkey will get canned. If they win and get in, though, then I think he will be fine.

Seat Temperature: Pretty Warm

Jay Gruden-Washington Redskins

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2017 Record: 7-8

Record with current team: 28-34-1

The Redskins didn’t really get much better in 2017 and a lot of that can be due in part to all the turnover on offense from last season, as basically their entire receiving corps left in free agency. A lot of people think Gruden might get the axe just because the Redskins have been kind of stagnant the last couple years. This to me is probably the trickiest one to pinpoint because I feel like I’d want to keep him if I’m Dan Snyder but I’d also understand if they wanted to fire him just because they’ve been running in place the last couple years. A part of me does feel like he might be on his way out, though. Just a gut feeling. I personally think I would keep him for next year, but again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they went another direction. If he does, I do think he will eventually get another head coaching gig.

Seat Temperature: Room Temperature

John Fox-Chicago Bears

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2017 record: 5-10

Record with current team: 14-33

Fox is a good coach, as evidenced by his tenures in Carolina and Denver. But it was just a bad situation with Chicago. He probably kind of figured he’d be rebuilding, but the Bears just don’t really have anything exciting going for them as offensively they’ve been really stagnant with the exception of Jordan Howard. There’s no passing game and that’s really what ends up being the deciding factor. I think the Bears and Fox will mutually part ways, I don’t think this will be an outright firing, I get a sense that Fox would want a fresh start as well. This isn’t based on anything I heard this is just another vibe I’ve got.

Seat Temperature: Mutually Hot

Dirk Koetter-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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2017 Record: 4-11

Record with current team: 13-18

It’s only been two years for Koetter, but the Bucs took a HUGE step backward in 2017. They showed about as much promise as any team headed into this season especially after watching Hard Knocks. There was just this spring in everyone’s step that had you really excited for these guys. But then their kicking game started killing games for them and I think that really put a damper on this team’s confidence. I’ve heard a lot of people saying they want Koetter gone, but I don’t think that’s fair. I would give him another year to kind of righten the ship. But they need to do something because it’s basically the same situation as with Tennessee, where Jameis Winston, who was primed for a breakout year, took a huge step backward. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get fired for that reason but I also think there’s potential with him.

Seat Temperature: Reasonably Warm

Vance Joseph-Denver Broncos

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2017 Record: 5-10

Record with current team: 5-10

Vance Joseph did not have the time of his life this year. The Broncos really struggled, especially on the offensive side of the ball and a lot of that is due to poor quarterback play. I don’t think Joseph will get fired because the defense kept the status quo for the most part this year. But to give him a chance, they NEED to draft a quarterback with their high pick. They have to land either Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. Perhaps if the Browns are comfortable with Deshone Kizer then maybe they could pull off a blockbuster, which I think would be worth it to get the quarterback of the future.

Seat Temperature: Cold

Ron Rivera-Carolina Panthers

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2017 Record: 11-4

Record with current team: 64-46

This is kind of a weird one. The Panthers are having a great year but the whole Jerry Richardson situation may put Rivera’s job security in question. Normally, Rivera would have nothing to worry about, but anytime there’s new ownership, which could include P Diddy, Steph Curry, and Colin Kaepernick, change is inevitable. I think they will retain Rivera just because of the success he’s had in Carolina, but I feel like he may be on the hot seat in the near future.

Seat Temperature: Moderately Temperate. 

And obviously the Giants will need to find a new guy, as they’ve already fired Ben McAdoo. Kind of a no-brainer there. So those are my thoughts on potential coaching changes. After Black Monday I’ll discuss the inverse of this, who I think could get hired, which will be a much more positive blog. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.