Every Team’s Biggest Draft Steal of the 21st Century

Yesterday I listed each team’s biggest miss in the Draft. Today we’re going to be a little more positive. We’re going to take a look at the biggest steal for each team since 2000. Some ground rules for this. First off, the steal cannot come in the first two rounds, so Brett Favre and Drew Brees going in the second round will not qualify. The 2017 draft class will once again be excluded because even though guys like Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara shined as rookies despite being later picks, we don’t know if they were just flashes in the pan yet. Later rounders will also carry more weight when I consider this, so a steal in the 7th will be worth much more than a steal in the 3rd. Also, their candidacy as a steal applies only for the team that drafted them. So even if Favre were eligible as a steal, he was drafted by the Falcons and traded after his rookie year. I will also be including some players who were taken before the steal in question that were much less successful in their careers to hype up the steal.

Cleveland Browns-Ahtyba Rubin-DL-Iowa State (190th Overall in 2008)

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Not a flashy name by any means, but Rubin has quietly been one of the best interior defensive linemen for some time. He’s a space eater and made life for Browns linebackers much easier.

Players picked ahead of him: Glenn Dorsey-LSU, Sedrick Ellis-USC, Kentwan Balmer-North Carolina, Trevor Laws-Notre Dame, Andre Fluellen-Florida State, Marcus Harrison-Arkansas, Dre Moore-Maryland, DeMario Presley-North Carolina State, Jason Shirley-Fresno State, Carlton Powell-Virginia Tech

New York Giants-Justin Tuck-EDGE-Notre Dame (74th Overall in 2005)

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I still get nightmares over Justin Tuck’s performance in Super Bowl XLII. He absolutely battered the Patriots offensive line in that game and, quite frankly, I think Eli Manning won Super Bowl MVP for that game due to quarterback bias. Tuck was the biggest reason the Giants pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory and he parlayed that success into an excellent NFL career.

Players picked ahead of him: Erasmus James-Wisconsin, Matt Roth-Iowa, Dan Cody-Oklahoma

New York Jets-Demario Davis-LB-Arkansas State (77th Overall in 2012)

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During training camp of his rookie year, Davis was compared to Ray Lewis by his own head coach, Rex Ryan. Pretty high praise for a rookie third rounder out of tiny Arkansas State. Davis hasn’t quite been Ray Lewis, but he’s been one of the best linebackers in the game since he entered it in 2012.

Players picked ahead of him: Nobody ahead of him really sucked, 2012 was a REALLY good year for linebackers.

Houston Texans-Eric Winston-OT-Miami (FL) (66th Overall in 2006)

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This was almost Glover Quin, but I had to go with Winston for two reasons. Number 1, he’s been one of the best right tackles in the game seemingly from the get-go. Number 2, he’s so well-respected around the league that he’s the player’s representative in the Players Association. He’s one of the main guys that negotiates new deals with the NFL. Hard to argue with that.

Players picked ahead of him: Winston Justice-USC, Daryn Colledge-Boise State, Marcus McNeill-Auburn

Denver Broncos-Malik Jackson-DL-Tennessee (137th Overall in 2012)

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There were a lot of options for this spot, such as Brandon Marshall (the wide receiver) and Elvis Dumervil, but I’m going with Jackson just because he went much later than the other two. Jackson has been a dominant force on the interior defensive line for both the Broncos and the Jaguars.

Players picked ahead of him: Kendall Reyes-UConn, Jerel Worthy-Michigan State, Devon Still-Penn State, Mike Martin-Michigan, John Hughes-Cincinnati, Alameda Ta’amu-Washington

Indianapolis Colts-TY Hilton-WR-FIU (92nd Overall in 2012)

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This could’ve been Pierre Garcon or Antoine Bethea, but Hilton hit the ground running as a rookie and he’s been the Colts’ best offensive player and one of the top receivers in the league. In fact, I would argue that he’s the Colts’ best player, period.

Players picked ahead of him: Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma State, Jonathan Baldwin-Pittsburgh, AJ Jenkins-Illinois, Stephen Hill-Georgia Tech, Ryan Broyles-Oklahoma, DeVier Posey-Ohio State

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Kwon Alexander-LB-LSU (124th Overall in 2015)

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Alexander is one of the most underrated linebackers in the game and he’s formed a deadly 1-2 punch with Lavonte David in Tampa’s linebacking group.

Players picked ahead of him: Stephone Anthony-Clemson, Paul Dawson-TCU, Ramik Wilson-Georgia

Chicago Bears-Jordan Howard-RB-Indiana (150th Overall in 2016)

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This might be a little bit of a bias because we’re both IU guys, but Howard IS the Chicago Bears right now. The entire offense has revolved around him since he took over the starting job as a rookie, when he finished 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards.

Players picked ahead of him: Tyler Ervin-San Jose State, Kenneth Dixon-Louisiana Tech, Paul Perkins-UCLA

San Francisco 49ers-Frank Gore-RB-Miami (FL) (65th Overall in 2005)

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I really wanted to pick NaVorro Bowman or Delanie Walker, mainly because Gore is the earliest pick in this steals list (he was the first pick of the 3rd round). But Gore is the all-time leading rusher for one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. That’s going to win out. Plus, most of Walker’s success came with the Titans.

Players picked ahead of him: Ronnie Brown-Auburn, Cedric Benson-Texas, Cadillac Williams-Auburn, JJ Arrington-California, Eric Shelton-Louisville

Oakland Raiders-Jared Veldheer-OT-Hillsdale (69th Overall in 2010)

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Veldheer went to Hillsdale, a college I’ve never heard of, yet was still a third round pick. Not only that, but he’s been one of the best tackles in the game. There weren’t a ton of options for the Raiders, whose draft track record this millennium has been pretty poor. But Veldheer was definitely a steal.

Players picked ahead of him: Vlad Ducasse-UMass, Charles Brown-USC

Miami Dolphins-Lamar Miller-RB-Miami (FL) (97th Overall in 2012)

of the game at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

This was almost Jay Ajayi, however Ajayi got traded midway through last season to the Eagles after ineffectiveness and attitude, so Miller’s going to get the nod. He was able to turn his success with the Dolphins into a big contract with the Texans. This also could’ve been Olivier Vernon, but I thought Vernon’s best year came with the Giants this past season and he was kind of irrelevant for most of his Dolphins career.

Players picked ahead of him: Trent Richardson-Alabama, David Wilson-Virginia Tech, Isaiah Pead-Cincinnati, LaMichael James-Oregon

Buffalo Bills-Kyle Williams-DL-LSU (134th Overall in 2006)

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Williams has been one of the best defensive tackles and personalities in the game and it says a lot about a guy when he was a 5th round pick in 2006 and he’s still with the team that drafted him. Williams finally made it to the postseason for the first time in his career last season and watching it unfold was a joy.

Players picked ahead of him: Brodrick Bunkley-Florida State, John McCargo-North Carolina State, Claude Wroten-LSU, Dusty Dvoracek-Oklahoma, Gabe Watson-Michigan, Orien Harris-Miami (FL)

Washington Redskins-Kirk Cousins-QB-Michigan State (102nd Overall in 2012)

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Cousins never got the respect he deserved from the Redskins organization. He wasn’t even the first quarterback Washington took in that year’s draft (he went 100 picks after RG3) and they refused to give him the extension he wanted despite his being the best quarterback they’d had in some time. Cousins just got a huge deal with the Vikings, though so we’ll have to see how that goes.

Players picked ahead of him: Brandon Weeden-Oklahoma State, Brock Osweiler-Arizona State

Green Bay Packers-Mike Daniels-DL-Iowa (132nd Overall in 2012)

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Daniels has been the enforcer on the Packers defense and has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines for years.

Players picked ahead of him: See Malik Jackson (Daniels was the DL taken right before Jackson)

Arizona Cardinals-Tyrann Mathieu-S-LSU (69th Overall in 2013)

XXX at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.

This was ALMOST David Johnson, who might be my favorite runningback in the NFL. However Mathieu gets the nod because Johnson had one season of dominance before getting hurt last season while Mathieu had been doing it for 5 years. He just signed with the Texans, though. The Cardinals are going to miss him.

Players picked ahead of him: Matt Elam-Florida

Baltimore Ravens-Marshall Yanda-OG-Iowa (86th Overall in 2007)

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Yanda was drafted as a tackle but upon moving to guard, he flourished. Yanda is arguably the best guard in the NFL and has been for quite some time.

Players picked ahead of him: Arron Sears-Tennessee, Justin Blalock-Texas

Los Angeles Chargers-Keenan Allen-WR-California (76th Overall in 2013)

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This very easily could’ve been Darren Sproles, but I think Sproles’ best years came with the Saints. As for Allen, he’s been terrific when healthy for the Chargers. Last season he got to prove it and one could argue he’s the Chargers’ best player.

Players picked ahead of him: Cordarrelle Patterson-Tennessee, Justin Hunter-Tennessee, Aaron Dobson-Marshall

Seattle Seahawks-Richard Sherman-CB-Stanford (154th Overall in 2011)

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There are a LOT of candidates for this spot, such as Russell Wilson and Kam Chancellor, but Sherman’s getting the nod here. Sherman has been arguably the game’s best corner and he’s become the prototype for big-bodied corners in today’s game.

Players picked ahead of him: Ras-I Dowling-Virginia, Brandon Harris-Miami (FL), DeMarcus Van Dyke-Miami (FL), Johnny Patrick-Louisville, Curtis Marsh-Utah State, Chimdi Chekwa-Ohio State, Jalil Brown-Colorado, Roc Carmichael-Virginia Tech, Robert Sands-West Virginia, Brandon Burton-Southern Utah, Rod Issac-Middle Tennessee State

Dallas Cowboys-Jason Witten-TE-Tennessee (69th Overall in 2003)

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Another guy that went 69th overall. I swear I’m not doing this on purpose. But Witten is the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver despite being a tight end and he’s still going strong 15 years later. A first ballot Hall of Famer if ever there was one.

Players picked ahead of him: Bennie Joppru-Michigan, LJ Smith-Rutgers, Teyo Johnson-Stanford

Detroit Lions-Cliff Avril-EDGE-Purdue (92nd Overall in 2008)

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This one might be a bit of a stretch because Avril’s best years are probably as a Seahawk, but he was playing very well with the Lions even before getting picked up by Seattle. This easily could’ve been DeAndre Levy as well but Avril was more consistent than Levy was.

Players picked ahead of him: Vernon Gholston-Ohio State, Derrick Harvey-Florida, Lawrence Jackson-USC, Phillip Merling-Clemson, Quentin Groves-Auburn, Chris Ellis-Virginia Tech

Kansas City Chiefs-Jamaal Charles-RB-Texas (73rd Overall in 2008)

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Tyreek Hill was also considered here, but Charles wins out. Owner of the best career yards-per-carry of all time, Charles has been the most electrifying runningback in the game despite having been a third round pick.

Players picked ahead of him: Felix Jones-Arkansas, Kevin Smith-Central Florida

Cincinnati Bengals-Geno Atkins-DL-Georgia (120th Overall in 2010)

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Atkins has been one of the most dominant interior defenders since he came into the league despite being considered undersized coming out of college. Despite the fact he just turned 30, he’s shown no signs of slowing down.

Players picked ahead of him: Brian Price-UCLA, Torell Troup-Central Florida, Terrence Cody-Alabama, D’Anthony Smith-Louisiana Tech

Los Angeles Rams-Richie Incognito-OG-Oregon (81st Overall in 2005)

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Despite some apparent attitude concerns, Incognito has been one of the best guards in the league. He just retired a couple weeks ago. Incognito was a driving force on the offensive lines of the Rams, Dolphins, and Bills. This might’ve been a stretch because Incognito’s best years were probably in Buffalo, but there weren’t a ton of options to choose from for the Rams.

Players picked ahead of him: Marcus Johnson-Ole Miss

Carolina Panthers-Steve Smith-WR-Utah (74th Overall in 2001)

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Josh Norman and Charles Johnson were considered here, but Steve Smith was the face of the Panthers when he was there. Smith was able to show that his diminutive stature didn’t matter, as his leaping ability more than made up for it. He was also one of the game’s best trash talkers and he will surely be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he’s eligible.

Players picked ahead of him: David Terrell-Michigan, Koren Robinson-North Carolina State, Freddie Mitchell-UCLA, Quincy Morgan-Kansas State, Robert Ferguson-Texas A&M

Tennessee Titans-Jurrell Casey-DL-USC (77th Overall in 2011)

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People are just now starting to appreciate just how good Casey is and has been for the Titans. He’s one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and he wreaks tons of havoc in opposing backfields.

Players picked ahead of him: Phil Taylor-Baylor, Jarvis Jenkins-Clemson, Marvin Austin-North Carolina, Terrell McClain-South Florida

Atlanta Falcons-Devonta Freeman-RB-Florida State (103rd Overall in 2014)

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Freeman broke out in his second season with the Falcons and is one of the quickest backs in the game. He and fellow draft steal Tevin Coleman form arguably the deadliest runningback 1-2 punch in the NFL. Freeman’s getting the nod over Coleman because Freeman went a round later and typically gets more touches.

Players picked ahead of him: Bishop Sankey-Washington, Tre Mason-Auburn

New Orleans Saints-Marques Colston-WR-Hofstra (252nd Overall in 2006)

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Saints’ all-time leading receiver was drafted 4th-to-last out of a school that doesn’t even have football anymore. Had Colston played one more season, he likely would’ve joined the exclusive 10,000 yards club (he’s 241 yards away).

Players picked ahead of him: Too many to list. 28 receivers were picked before him, only about 3 or 4 of them ended up being really good.

Pittsburgh Steelers-Antonio Brown-WR-Central Michigan (195th Overall in 2010)

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What more can you say about Antonio Brown? Not a lot of people realize that the best wide receiver in the game today was drafted around the same spot as Tom Brady, just ten years later. 194 players went before a guy who makes extraordinary catches like it’s nothing.

Players picked ahead of him: Arrelious Benn-Illinois, Damian Williams-USC, Jordan Shipley-Texas, Armanti Edwards-Appalachian State, Taylor Price-Ohio, Mardy Gilyard-Cincinnati, Marcus Easley-UConn, Jacoby Ford-Clemson, David Reed-Utah, Kerry Meier-Kansas, Carlton Mitchell-South Florida, Dezmon Briscoe-Kansas

Jacksonville Jaguars-Telvin Smith-LB-Florida State (144th Overall in 2014)

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Smith has been one of the league’s very best for a while now even though he didn’t start getting the recognition he deserved until the Jaguars broke out in 2017. Smith is a sideline-to-sideline tackler and is amongst the most athletic linebackers in the game.

Players picked ahead of him: Carl Bradford-Arizona State, Khairi Fortt-California, Prince Shembo-Notre Dame

Minnesota Vikings-Everson Griffen-EDGE-USC (100th Overall in 2010)

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It took Griffen a couple of years to really get going, but now that he has he’s become the best pass rusher on arguably the league’s best defense. Stefon Diggs was also considered but I feel that Griffen is more valuable to the Vikings right now than Diggs is.

Players picked ahead of him: Alex Carrington-Arkansas State, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim-Washington

New England Patriots-Tom Brady-QB-Michigan (199th Overall in 2000)

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Biggest draft steal of all time. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by trying to defend this pick any further than that.

Players picked ahead of him: Giovanni Carmazzi-Hofstra, Chris Redman-Louisville, Tee Martin-Tennessee, Spurgon Wynn-Texas State

Philadelphia Eagles-Trent Cole-EDGE-Cincinnati (146th Overall in 2005)

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Cole was the premiere pass rusher for the Eagles for nearly a decade and for a while was the most dangerous player they had. Brian Westbrook was also considered here, but Cole’s lengthy run near the top of the pass-rushing charts gets him over the top.

Players picked ahead of him: everyone ahead of Justin Tuck as well as Vincent Burns-Kentucky, Chauncey Davis-Florida State, David McMillan-Kansas

I hope this blog was your friendly reminder that just because a guy was picked late doesn’t mean he doesn’t matter. Often times these are the guys that change franchises. So don’t sleep on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. You never know when your team picks a Tom Brady. Let me know what you think of these draft steals in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Draft Primer

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

Most NFL-Ready Quarterback: Josh Rosen-UCLA

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

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

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

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

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

Most Impressive Prospect: Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

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

Most Intriguing Prospect: DJ Chark-WR-LSU

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

And now, on to the Big Board.

50. Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

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49. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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48. James Daniels-C-Iowa

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47. Harrison Phillips-DL-Stanford

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46. Donte Jackson-CB-LSU

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45. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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44. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC

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43. Mike Gesicki-TE-Penn State

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42. Uchenna Nwosu-EDGE-USC

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41. Deshon Elliott-S-Texas

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40. Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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39. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

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38. Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

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

37. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State

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36. Will Hernandez-OG-UTEP

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35. Brian O’Neill-OT-Pittsburgh

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34. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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

33. Mike Hughes-CB-Central Florida

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32. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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31. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

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30. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

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

29. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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28. Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia

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27. Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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26. DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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25. Justin Reid-S-Stanford

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24. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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23. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama 

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22. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

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21. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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20. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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19. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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18. Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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16. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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

15. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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14. Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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13. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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12. Derwin James-S-Florida State

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11. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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10. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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9. Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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8. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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7. Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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6. Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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5. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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4. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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3. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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2. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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1. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

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

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

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

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

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

General Sports: April 5

-Patriots receiver Julian Edelman helped thwart a potential school shooting. A user commented on one of Edelman’s Instagram photos saying he was going to shoot up his school and to “check the news tomorrow.” Another user went to Edelman’s DM’s and notified him of this comment. Edelman found it and, thinking of what happened in Parkland, Florida, had his assistant notify police. They were able to identify the subject as a 14 year-old in Michigan who admitted to being the user that made the threat and he was apprehended. There is a crowd that wonders why Edelman didn’t just call the cops himself, but I’m not one of them simply because I don’t care who calls the cops in this situation, as long as they get called. You can’t take these threats lightly, whether the kid meant it or not.

-Von Miller may be in trouble for catching a hammerhead shark on a fishing trip. For evidence, look no further than his Instagram.

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PETA wants to make sure that Miller didn’t catch this shark illegally, which apparently he may have done so since it’s a hammerhead (Group 3, whatever that means) and catching one is punishable by $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Miller did say that he threw it back, though. I really don’t think anything is going to come of this but I just have to say holy shit, Von. That’s a 9 and a half foot hammerhead fucking shark! The tail fin is almost as big as he is! As if Miller weren’t badass enough being one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, now he’s out here in Miami catching hammerhead sharks. This was off the coast in Miami, which has me a little retroactively nervous because I was just there a few weeks ago for spring break and I went swimming in the ocean a couple times. Sharks are up there on my “most-feared animals” list with bears and alligators/crocodiles, though I did work on my fear of the latter, as you can see below.

Gator? I hardly knew her

A post shared by Jim Wyman (@jimwyman10) on

Who cares if it was just a baby or if it’s mouth was tied up? Just let me take it one step at a time, dammit!

-The Ravens signed Robert Griffin III to a 1 year deal to back up Joe Flacco. I’m happy to see RG3 signing with a new team. The former Heisman Trophy winner is one of the biggest what-if’s in recent memory and I’m a firm believer in the sentiment that Mike Shanahan ruined RG3’s career by rushing him back from that ACL tear he suffered in the playoffs against Seattle far too soon. There was no reason he should’ve torn that thing in the playoffs then returned for Week 1. But I digress, Griffin seems like a good dude and I hope he succeeds in whatever he does. It’s also curious that the Ravens seem to be taking an interest in running quarterbacks of late. They drafted Tyrod Taylor a few years ago, were going to sign Colin Kaepernick if their owner didn’t veto it, and now they sign Griffin. I’m not sure what exactly this points to, if anything, but it’s good to see RG3 with a job again after not being on a roster in 2017.

-The Rockies gave Charlie Blackmon a 6-year extension worth up to $116M which will take him through his age-38 season, all but assuring he spends his entire career in Colorado. Blackmon is one of the most underrated athletes in all of sports, let alone baseball, as last season he set a Major League record with 104 RBI’s out of the leadoff spot to go along with a .331 batting average, 37 home runs, and a 6.5 WAR. He would’ve had my vote for NL MVP if I had one. This season he’s continuing his excellent play as he was hitting .316 with 4 homers, 6 RBI, and a 1.462 OPS in 5 games entering Wednesday night’s tilt with the Padres. Blackmon’s been in the Majors since 2011 but he didn’t really break out until 2016 and since then he’s been the best leadoff hitter in the game so this extension is well-warranted for the late bloomer.

-Shohei Ohtani is quickly making everyone forget how bad his Spring Training went. After going 4-32 at the plate and allowing 9 runs in 2.2 innings, Ohtani has been excelling now that the games count. In his first start on the mound, he went 6 innings giving up 3 runs, however all came on a 3-run homer and he was lights out otherwise. He went 1-5 in his first game as DH on Opening Day, then in his first game in Anaheim he homers in his first at bat then got a couple more hits. He homered again in Wednesday’s tilt with the Indians off reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and as of this writing, he’s hitting .444. It’s still early, but Ohtani is looking like he’s worth the hype a few games into his career.

-Giancarlo Stanton struck out 5 times in his Yankee Stadium debut and received a chorus of boos for the showing. For a lot of guys, this would be crushing. But the thing about baseball is you play everyday so there’s always the chance to redeem yourself. Well…

I love how Michael Kay knew the ball was gone seemingly before it even touched his bat, that’s how hard Stanton crushed it. He’s going to strike out his fare share, but he’s also going to do that. You take the good with the bad with him.

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

Patriots Trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams

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Last season, the Patriots traded the 32nd overall pick to the New Orleans Saints for the speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks was being phased out of the Saints offense as the emergence of Michael Thomas proved that any wide receiver could succeed in that offense (which is pretty true) and that Cooks was expendable. The Patriots got a good season out of Cooks while the Saints used the 32nd pick acquired from the Patriots on Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Ramczyk was my top-rated tackle in that class and he did not disappoint, as he was very productive as the Saints’ starting right tackle. For the Patriots, Cooks had 65 catches for 1082 yards and 7 TD’s. Really good numbers considering how much the Patriots like to spread the targets around between what was a plethora of receivers even with the absence of Julian Edelman.

However the Patriots found themselves in a similar situation as to that of Chandler Jones a couple years ago. Jones had a year left on his contract when he was traded to the Cardinals for a 2nd round pick (which was used on Cyrus Jones, who has been a disaster in his first 2 seasons). The Patriots felt they wouldn’t be able to afford Chandler Jones so they felt like they ought to get something for him instead of letting him walk in free agency. This is the same situation with Cooks, as his contract expires after the 2018 season. The Patriots likely weren’t confident in their ability to re-sign him so they sent him to the Rams, who have a big need at receiver after the departure of Sammy Watkins in free agency. In exchange, the Patriots will receive the 23rd overall pick in the draft and a 6th rounder while also sending a 4th to the Rams with Cooks.

So what does this mean for both teams? Well for the Rams, it seems like they’re all in on the 2018 season. They made some big splashes this offseason, acquiring both Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib at corner, signing Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle, and now trading for receiver Cooks. The Rams now have a receiving corp of Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tavon Austin. Lots of speed at wideout. However they’re taking a risk investing in so many 1-year contracts. Cooks has 1 year left, Suh has 1 year left, Peters has 1 year left, and Todd Gurley may only have one year left if his club option isn’t exercised (which I can’t imagine the Rams not doing). So this all points to a big run at a Super Bowl in head coach Sean McVay’s second year as head coach. A Super Bowl win in 2018 would make McVay the youngest head coach ever to win the Super Bowl. However their draft prospects for this season take a hit, as barring a blockbuster trade they won’t have a first round pick for the second consecutive year and their first pick in 2018 isn’t until 87th overall, midway through the third round due to a trade made with the Bills for their second rounder.

As for the Patriots, a lot of people are saying this opens the door for them to make a run at ODell Beckham Jr. I’m going to put the breaks on that REAL quick. Beckham is a transcendent talent, sure, and the Patriots have 2 first rounders to offer the Giants, which is their minimal asking price. But Beckham doesn’t fit the Patriots culture. Now yes, the Pats have had success with “diva” receivers before…well, really they only had success with the one, Randy Moss. Beckham, like Cooks, also only has one year left on his contract and he wants to be the highest paid receiver of all time. There’s no chance the Patriots pay that so trading for Beckham doesn’t put them in any better situation than Cooks, only they’ll be out two first rounders.

So what do the Patriots do here? Well for starters, this puts them in a much better position to get a tackle to replace Nate Solder. Left tackle is the biggest hole on the Patriots roster right now, as La’Adrian Waddle is currently the guy. He couldn’t crack the Lions starting lineup, to think he can start for the Patriots is just laughable, no matter how good a line coach Dante Scarnecchia is. I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying UCLA’s Kolton Miller is most likely, as he compares favorable to the departed Solder and I’d have to say they’re not wrong. He is the 4th-rated tackle on my board, but he is the better fit for the Patriots amongst the three ahead of him (Texas’ Connor Williams, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, Pittsburgh’s Brian O’Neill). It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them go that route with the 23rd pick. It does create a little more intrigue with the 31st pick, though. Quite frankly, I don’t think the Patriots make the pick. The last time Belichick made two first round selections was 2012 when he took Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Now, both picks were home runs, but I don’t think this class is as strong as the 2012 one. I think they’re going to trade back a couple picks with a team that picks in the early 2nd round trying to get back into the first in order to build some draft capital.

So as a Patriots fan, I’m sad to see Cooks go. I enjoyed the threat he posed with his great speed and he was an exciting playmaker. But it was a necessary move to make for New England as they simply wouldn’t be able to afford him and now they have an extra first round pick for their troubles. Let me know what you think of the Cooks trade in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Tampa Bay Rays

Some positives from Justin Turner’s broken wrist, he won’t need surgery. It’s unknown when he will return but the term “weeks,” not “months” was used when talking about his return, which is a good sign. On a lesser front, Nationals star second baseman Daniel Murphy is expected to miss Opening Day as he’s still recovering from October knee surgery. Since joining the Nationals in 2016, Murphy has been on the best run of his career, including hitting .322 last season. Also, the Orioles signed Alex Cobb to their rotation, basically just leaving Greg Holland as the last remaining free agent of note. With that, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the Tampa Bay Rays.

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2017 Results:

Record: 80-82, 13 games behind Boston Red Sox, 5 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Carlos Gomez, 1B CJ Cron, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Dan Runzler, SS Christian Arroyo, CF Denard Span,

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Steven Souza Jr, LF Corey Dickerson, SP Alex Cobb, 1B Lucas Duda, 1B Logan Morrison, SP Jake Odorizzi,

Best Offensive Player: CF Kevin Kiermaier

Best Pitcher: Chris Archer

Depth Chart:

C-Wilson Ramos, Jesus Sucre

1B-CJ Cron

2B-Brad Miller, Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle

3B-Matt Duffy

SS-Adeiny Hechavarria, Christian Arroyo

LF-Mallex Smith

CF-Kevin Kiermaier, Denard Span (DH)

RF-Carlos Gomez

SP-Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, Nate Eovaldi

Bullpen-Alex Colome (CP), Dan Jennings, Matt Andriese, Sergio Romo, Daniel Hudson, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Dan Runzler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Kevin Cash (4th season with Rays)

Hitting Coach-Chad Mottola

Pitching Coach-Kyle Snyder

1st Base Coach-Ozzie Timmons

3rd Base Coach-Matt Quatraro

Bench Coach-Charlie Montoyo

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The Rays blew the everloving shit out of their lineup from last season. In 2017, the Rays as a team hit 228 home runs, 6th best in baseball. In the offseason, they lost each of their top 4 home runs hitters in Morrison, Souza, Dickerson, and the former face of their franchise Longoria. It’s going to be weird seeing a Rays team without Longoria manning the hot corner. It’ll be the first time since they dropped the “devil” out of their name before the 2008 season that he wasn’t the everyday third baseman. With all that subtraction, here’s how the Rays are slated to line up in 2018.

1. Carlos Gomez-RF

2. Kevin Kiermaier-CF

3. Brad Miller-2B

4. CJ Cron-1B

5. Wilson Ramos-C

6. Matt Duffy-3B

7. Mallex Smith-LF

8. Adeiny Hechavarria-SS

9. Denard Span-DH

Not great. There’s not a single bat in that lineup that puts fear in the heart of pitchers. Sure there’s some quality defense in that lineup, particularly in centerfield with Kevin Kiermaier, but at the plate there’s a lot to be desired. Kiermaier spent a lot of time on the DL last season but was still able to provide a lot of value to the Rays. He hit .276 last season with 15 home runs, 39 RBI, 16 stolen bags, and was worth 3.0 WAR. He’s better known for being arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the game and that’s where a lot of his value comes from but he’s also a pretty good hitter in his own right. I can’t toot his horn too much because he went to Purdue so I’m going to stop right there. Brad Miller has had a weird tenure in his two seasons with the Rays. His first season with the team saw him hitting 30 bombs after a previous career-high of 11. In 2017, he hit 9. Injuries played a big part in that but the dropoff is pretty enormous, especially when you consider how big a dip his rate stats took as well. In 2016, Miller hit .243 but also slugged a pretty good .482, resulting in a league average 2.0 WAR. That dropped significantly to a .201 average and .337 SLG, resulting in a -0.1 WAR, all of which are abysmal numbers. It’ll be interesting to see which Brad Miller we get this season, the one that was one of the biggest power-hitting middle infielders in the game? Or the one who can’t hit the broad side of what Jabba the Hut calls an ass?

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The pitching situation is going to be interesting in Tampa. I always find that they seem to develop good pitching every year and this season is no different, as there are a lot of talented young arms in the rotation. But that’s where the intrigue lies. The Rays are going to experiment with a 4-man rotation as opposed to the traditional 5, which you may have noticed when I listed the Rays’ depth chart. You gotta wonder how that’s going to affect their preparation. However the oldest guy between Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Nate Eovaldi is Archer at 29 (wait, shit, seriously? Guy looks like he’s 19) so it’s not like they’re dealing with some old dogs who refuse to change their routine. But it’ll be interesting to see how this works out because like I said, this is a talented bunch. Archer is one of those guys who is a much better pitcher than his stats might indicate. Last season Archer had a 4.07 ERA but a 4.6 WAR (All Star-level) and a 3.40 FIP with the 5th best K/9 rate at 11.15. Apparently he’s just been the victim of bad luck. Blake Snell has shown some flashes of being an ace-level pitcher but so far he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Faria had a 3.43 ERA last season and may quietly be one of the better pitchers in the American League. I remember hearing one anecdote that said if you were to start a pitching staff with no names, based on just the eye test alone, Nate Eovaldi would probably be the #1 choice. I can’t really argue with that, since the guy’s fastball consistently touches 98 and he’s got a pretty good curveball to boot but for whatever reason, he just seems to get hit. He hasn’t pitched since 2016 thanks to Tommy John surgery but he appears to be ready to go in 2018.

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The Rays bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. Alex Colome is the only real pitcher of note, being their closer, and he saved 47 games last season, the most in baseball by about 6 saves over Kenley Jansen, however his rate stats aren’t nearly as impressive as the Dodgers’ stopper. Colome had a 3.24 ERA and only struck out about 7 batters per 9. That’s by far the lowest number out of any closer in the top 10 in saves last season (next lowest is Fernando Rodney at 10.57). If he can’t bring that K/9 rate up, the Rays could be in trouble in the 9th inning. After him, Sergio Romo was quietly really good for Tampa last season, posting a 1.47 ERA in 25 appearances, which is really encouraging because he’s had a rough tenure since losing his closer’s job with the Giants so many years ago. Other than those guys, though, nobody in the Rays’ ‘pen is really worth talking about here.

Overall, I don’t think the Rays are going to be any good. They blew up their team in the offseason and I sincerely doubt they’re going to be any threat for a Wild Card spot, let alone the AL East. Yet they always find some way to play the role of pesky spoiler and I wouldn’t put it past them to be that team that costs another team a playoff berth. That just seems to be what the Rays do. But in all, I wouldn’t argue you too hard if you were to tell me the Rays are going to be the worst team in the American League in 2018.

Projected Record: 68-94, last in AL East

That’s going to do it for today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Texas Rangers, who may need to take a long look at whether or not to blow up the team and start a rebuild after toying with being a World Series threat the last couple years. Let me know what you think of the Rays’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Some NFL news to talk about before I get into the Tribe. The Lions are going to place the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah, which is a smart move as there aren’t a ton of pass rushers for Detroit to pursue and they’re already thin at the position as it is. It was also announced that the Vikings would not tag Case Keenum, which would suggest that they may be holding out hope that they can land Kirk Cousins. Jarvis Landry and DeMarcus Lawrence will be getting tagged if they aren’t signed by the Dolphins and Cowboys, respectively, so that’s two more names off the market. At some point after the deadline to franchise tag, I’ll post a Top 10 NFL free agents blog in addition to that day’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Also, in baseball news, Tim Lincecum will be signing with the Texas Rangers. It’ll be interesting to see if he even has anything left in the tank at this stage in his career. Let’s get into the Cleveland Indians.

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2017 Results:

Record: 102-60, Won AL Central by 17 games over Minnesota Twins, lost to New York Yankees in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Rajai Davis, 1B Mike Napoli, RP Matt Belisle, RP Adam Wilk, RP Evan Marshall

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RP Bryan Shaw, RP Joe Smith, RP Craig Breslow, OF Austin Jackson, RP Boone Logan

Best Offensive Player: SS Francisco Lindor

Best Pitcher: Corey Kluber

Depth Chart:

C-Roberto Perez, Yan Gomes

1B-Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion (DH), Mike Napoli

2B-Jason Kipnis, Michael Martinez

3B-Jose Ramirez, Giovanny Urshela

SS-Francisco Lindor

LF-Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis

CF-Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte

RF-Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer

SP-Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger

Bullpen-Cody Allen (CP), Andrew Miller, Matt Belisle, Adam Wilk, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Evan Marshall

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Terry Francona (6th season with Indians)

Hitting Coach-Ty Van Burkleo

Pitching Coach-Carl Willis

1st Base Coach-Sandy Alomar Jr

3rd Base Coach-Mike Sarbaugh

Bench Coach-Brad Mills

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I really thought for sure that last season was the Indians’ year. They won 102 games, including an American League (and debatably Major League) record 22 in a row. I say debatably for Major League record because the actual record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants included a tie due to darkness, since this was before any stadiums had any lights installed. But the Indians entered the postseason as arguably the hottest team in baseball and they even got out to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-5 ALDS against the Yankees. However, they blew that lead much like they blew their 3-1 World Series lead against the Cubs in 2016 and had to watch the Astros win their first ever World Series from their couches. But the Indians are in prime position to make another run this year as a loaded roster combined with a weak division (I believe the 3 worst teams in the American League all hail from the AL Central) should point to an easy path to another division crown. Let’s take a look at how the Indians could stack up.

1. Jason Kipnis-2B

2. Jose Ramirez-3B

3. Francisco Lindor-SS

4. Edwin Encarnacion-DH

5. Michael Brantley-LF

6. Yonder Alonso-1B

7. Lonnie Chisenhall-RF

8. Roberto Perez/Yan Gomes-C

9. Bradley Zimmer-CF

That’s a pretty dangerous lineup. While Kipnis had a down year in 2017, I fully expect him to return to form because when he’s on, he’s one of the best second basemen in the game. And I expect he’s going to get more opportunities to do so because following him in the lineup is some pretty dangerous company. Jose Ramirez was a beast last season as he hit .318 with 29 home runs, 83 RBI, slugged .583, and was worth 6.6 WAR en route to finishing third in AL MVP voting. After him is Francisco Lindor, whom many would argue is the best shortstop in all of baseball. Last season Lindor hit .273, clubbed 33 home runs, drove in 89 RBI and was worth 5.9 WAR while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Then there’s Edwin Encarnacion, who may be the biggest right-handed power threat in the game outside of New York. Encarnacion has slugged at least .500 in every season since his breakout 2012 campaign and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep up that trend. And if Michael Brantley can finally get healthy and return to form, look out. The only position that’s not really set here is centerfield but they’ve been testing out their young talent. Bradley Zimmer has the most potential between him and Tyler Naquin and it helps that he has blazing speed to go along with some pretty good pop. If he ends up breaking out this year, the Indians could be challenging the 2001 Mariners’ 116 wins.

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One could argue that the Indians’ pitching is just as good, if not better, than their hitting. They ranked #1 in all of Major League Baseball in team ERA and were the only pitching staff to collectively strike out 10 batters per 9 innings all season. They’re spearheaded by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who was once again dominant in 2017 as he pitched to a record of 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and struck out 11.71 batters per 9 innings. His sinker and breaking ball are two of the filthiest pitches in the Majors and will likely make him one of the favorites to win the Cy Young once again. Behind him is Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and while Salazar is injured and likely to miss the start of the season, there’s still Carrasco, a guy who would likely be the ace of most staffs. Last season, Carrasco went 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are two other guys who could be big contributors to this rotation. Bauer went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and struck out 10 batters per 9 innings but his skill is so much greater than that when he’s not slicing his finger open on drones. If he can realize his potential, there’s a 4-headed monster in Cleveland’s rotation.

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The Indians also have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Cody Allen has been one of the better closers in in the game for the last three years, as he has had at least 30 saves, struck out 11 batters per 9 innings, and a sub-3 ERA in all three seasons. However despite being the closer, he’s not even the best reliever in their ‘pen. That distinction belongs to the left-handed Andrew Miller. Manager Terry Francona and his staff have carved out a unique role for Miller in today’s game. Miller will often set up Allen for at least 2 innings at a time and is probably the only reliever in the game who typically pitches more than one inning in any given outing. It hasn’t hurt his numbers either. Last season he had a 1.44 ERA while striking out over 13 batters per 9 innings. Absolute dominance. They did lose a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw to the Colorado Rockies in the offseason, but there is still plenty of depth in the Indians bullpen that ought to make Francona comfortable with a lead late in games.

Overall I would say that the Indians are the favorites to win the American League, maybe even the World Series. It will likely be a dogfight in the American League this season as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros all look like dangerous threats to the Tribe’s title hopes. The Yankees added the biggest slugger in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, the Red Sox added a guy who rivals Stanton’s power in JD Martinez, and the Astros lost nothing from a team that won the 2017 World Series. In fact, they added another ace to their already stellar rotation in Gerrit Cole. It’s going to be a tough road to the top for the Indians but they are more than well-equipped to try and win their first World Series since 1948.

Projected Record: 99-63, Win AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Colorado Rockies, who look to build on their breakthrough 2017 season, which was a surprise to everyone except me (as you may have known, I had the Rockies as my darkhorse team last season in a paper I wrote for a column-writing class). Let me know what you think of the Indians’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Arizona Diamondbacks

I’m not going to delve in too deep to the sanctions that came out for Louisville basketball. If you want to learn what exactly was going on, here’s a blog I wrote a while back about the scandal in question and here’s what I think about the subject of vacating wins. So let’s get into the next edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and take a look at the Arizona Diamondbacks. One thing I wanted to mention, too. After I had this blog initially finished, the Diamondbacks struck a 3-team trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. The Diamondbacks will be sending second baseman Brandon Drury to the Yankees, the Rays will be sending outfielder Steven Souza Jr to the Diamondbacks, and prospects will be sent to the Rays from the Yankees and DBacks and one to the Diamondbacks from the Yankees. So I had to do some last minute edits to this so forgive me if it might read a little choppy.

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2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, 2nd in NL West, 11 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, Owner of Top Wild Card Spot, defeated the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game, Lost to the Dodgers in the NLDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Jarrod Dyson, C Alex Avila, RP Fernando Salas, RP Brad Boxberger

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF JD Martinez, CP Fernando Rodney, C Chris Iannetta, RP JJ Hoover

Best Position Player: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

Best Pitcher: Zack Greinke

Depth Chart

C-Alex Avila, Jeff Mathis, Chris Herrmann

1B-Paul Goldschmidt

2B-Daniel Descalso

3B-Jake Lamb

SS-Ketel Marte, Chris Owings

LF-David Peralta

CF-AJ Pollock, Jarrod Dyson

RF-Steven Souza Jr, Yasmany Tomas

SP-Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, Zach Godley, Shelby Miller

Bullpen-Archie Bradley (CP?), Brad Boxberger (CP?), Randall Delgado, TJ McFarland, Yoshihisa Hirano, Andrew Chafin, Braden Shipley

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Torey Lovullo (2nd Season with Diamondbacks, 2017 NL Manager of the Year)

Hitting Coach-Dave Magadan

Pitching Coach-Mike Butcher

1st Base Coach-Dave McKay

3rd Base Coach-Tony Perezchica

Bench Coach-Jerry Naron

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The Arizona Diamondbacks had a breakthrough season under first-year manager Torey Lovullo. They completely flipped their record from 2016-17, as they went 69-93 in ’16 and 93-69 in ’17 en route to their first playoff appearance since 2011. One thing that is expected of you in Arizona is that you’re going to hit, as Chase Field kind of flies under the radar a bit as far as hitter-friendly ballparks go mainly because they share a division with the Coors Field-inhabiting Colorado Rockies. But I think Chase Field is the second-most hitter-friendly park in the Majors. Let’s take a look at the lineup that will benefit from this stadium.

1. AJ Pollock-CF

2. Ketel Marte-SS

3. Paul Goldschmidt-1B

4. Jake Lamb-3B

5. David Peralta-LF

6. Steven Souza Jr-RF

7. Daniel Descalso-2B

8. Alex Avila-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

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That’s a pretty well-rounded lineup as it is and when you combine the added boost Chase Field brings, expect the Diamondbacks to finish near the top of the leaderboard in runs scored in 2018. Last year the Diamondbacks finished 8th in the Majors in runs scored and actually scored 42 more total runs than the team that won the vision by 11 games over them in the Los Angeles Dodgers so a repeat performance or even an improvement isn’t out of the question. However they did suffer a big loss a couple of days ago, as JD Martinez signed a 5-year deal with the Boston Red Sox. Martinez hadn’t been in Arizona very long, as they acquired him at the Trade Deadline from the Detroit Tigers, but his tenure in Phoenix was nothing short of incredible. After his trade from Detroit, Martinez hit .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBI in just 62 games, becoming the perfect complement to arguably the best first baseman in baseball in Paul Goldschmidt. However with Martinez’s departure, there is a bit of a dip in production at the cleanup spot. I’m expecting Jake Lamb to be the one to fill that void and while he’s a good power hitter (he hit 30 home runs and drove in 105 RBI last season) he’s not Martinez. In fact, Lamb only hit .248 last season. But there is one thing to get excited about with him: he appears to have gotten better each season. Not only has Lamb’s home run totals gone up in each of his 4 Major League seasons, but so has his walk rate, suggesting that he’s seeing the plate a lot better and maturing as a hitter. Plus he’s only 27 years old, which should have the Diamondbacks excited for his future prospects. AJ Pollock is another guy the Diamondbacks hope can get back on track as well at the top of their lineup. He was downright amazing in 2015 but a Spring Training shoulder injury in 2016 robbed him of that season and he looked like he was still recovering in 2017. If Pollock can return to his 2015 form where he hit .315 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, 39 stolen bases, and a 6.5 WAR, then the Diamondbacks’ run totals should go through the roof. Also, as I mentioned at the opening, the Diamondbacks struck a trade to acquire Steven Souza Jr from the Rays while sending Brandon Drury to the Yankees. This leaves an interesting situation for the Diamondbacks with how they’re going to set their lineup because as it stands right now, Daniel Descalso is their starting second baseman and that’s not a good thing. Not a knock against Descalso, he’s a good utility player, but that’s where his true value lies, in being able to give rest to any player in the lineup due to his competence at a wide variety of positions. But it does fill the hole a bit more nicely in right field left by Martinez. Souza was hitting near the top of the Rays’ lineup for the last few years as he hit 30 home runs last season. Yasmany Tomas might be considered at second base but he’s never played there in the Major Leagues. Plus he’s 6’2 250 pounds and not exactly nimble, which makes him very out of place at second base. Granted, he can’t do much worse at second than he does at any of his other positions, such as third base and the corner outfield spots, as he is an atrocious defender. So I’m curious to see if the Diamondbacks decide to pull any more moves to try and find themselves a more established second baseman.

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Perhaps the most critical factor to the Diamondbacks’ 2017 success, though, was their pitching. The team got a return to form from ace Zack Greinke as well as breakout seasons out of Robbie Ray and Zack Godley. After a disastrous first season in the desert in 2016, Greinke returned to his ace form in 2017, going 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts. Ray was also excellent as he was able to drop his ERA from 2016-17 by 2 whole runs, going from 4.90 in ’16 to 2.89 in ’17. That’s basically going from not really deserving of a roster spot to ace level in one season, but it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. Had I had a blog last season, I would’ve listed Ray as a potential breakout candidate for 2017 mainly because his 4.90 ERA may have been misleading. Ray’s FIP, which takes into account the defense behind the pitcher and gives what the pitcher’s ERA would’ve been with a neutral defense, was 3.76 in 2016, over a run lower than what his actual ERA was, meaning that a lot of the problems he had that year weren’t really his own but were a result of poor defense behind him. And just for the record, this doesn’t have anything to do with the Diamondbacks, but the pitcher who had the worst ERA despite a good FIP in 2017 was Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija, so keep an eye on him this season for the Robbie Ray effect. Godley was also a nice surprise for the Diamondbacks as he went 8-9 with a 3.37 ERA despite having an ERA of well over 6 the year prior. So if those three guys can keep up the improvements they made in 2017, the Diamondbacks will be in great shape.

The Diamondbacks bullpen also had one major breakout star in particular in Archie Bradley. Bradley had been one of their top starting pitching prospects but just didn’t seem to pan out in that role. After moving to the bullpen, however, Bradley seemed to find his groove like a lot of other failed starters tend to do of late (including Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, and Zach Britton to name a few). His fastball was touching triple digits and he was setting things up perfectly for closer Fernando Rodney, as he had an ERA of just 1.73 in 66 appearances last season. Rodney signed with the Twins in the offseason so that leaves the closer’s role wide open. The competition for the job is likely going to be Bradley against former Rays closer Brad Boxberger, who was newly signed in the offseason. Boxberger has an All Star appearance as a closer and is a legitimately good 9th inning option for the Diamondbacks but I think Bradley’s going to win out here, though even if he doesn’t I’m sure the DBacks will be perfectly happy with knowing the 8th inning is on lockdown for them.

Overall, I think the Diamondbacks should be really excited about their prospects for the 2018 season despite losing out on the JD Martinez sweepstakes. There’s a lot of talented hitters in their lineup and they boast a pitching staff that made huge strides last season. Whether they’re able to keep that up is another story, but it’s hard not to be excited if you’re NL Manager of the Year Torey Lovullo. Quite frankly I think the Diamondbacks would win any other division in the National League, however they’re stuck behind a Dodgers team that lost virtually nothing from the team that won 104 games last year and was one win away from a World Series title. They’re likely going to have to play for the Wild Card once again this season but I am confident in their ability to repeat as Wild Card winners.

Projected Finish: 91-71, First NL Wild Card Team

That’s going to do it for Day 2 of the 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Join me tomorrow where I will be previewing the Atlanta Braves, who may not have much of a chance for competing in 2018 but have a lot to look forward within the next few years due to the plethora of young talent they boast. Let me know what you think of the Diamondbacks’ chances in 2018 in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Wide Receivers of the 2018 NFL Draft

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

Simmie Cobbs Jr-Indiana

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

Strengths: Size, Jump Ball Ability, Body Control

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

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

Weaknesses: Speed, Non-Complex Route Scheme, Health

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

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

Pro Comparison:

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

Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

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

Strengths: Athleticism, RAC Ability, Versatility

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

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Weaknesses: Size, Inconsistent Route Running

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

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

Pro Comparison: 

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

Anthony Miller-Memphis

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

Strengths: Athleticism, Explosiveness, RAC Ability

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

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

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

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

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

Pro Comparison:

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

DJ Moore-Maryland

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

Strengths: Route Running, Strong Hands, RAC Ability

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

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

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

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

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

Pro Comparison: 

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

Calvin Ridley-Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro Comparison:

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

Courtland Sutton-SMU

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

Positives: Size, Acceleration, Blocking

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

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Weaknesses: Level of Competition, Penalties, Inconsistent Route Running

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

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

Pro Comparison:

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

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