NFL Draft: Day 2

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

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

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

-Speaking of pick announcements, this was pretty awesome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super Bowl LII Preview

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

Quarterback

Patriots: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Eagles: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Advantage: Patriots

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

Runningback

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

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

Advantage: Patriots

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

Wide Receiver/Tight End

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

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

Advantage: Patriots

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

Offensive Line

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

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

Advantage: Eagles

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

Defensive Line

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

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

Advantage: Eagles

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

Linebacker

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

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

Advantage: Eagles

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

Secondary

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

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

Advantage: Patriots

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

Specialists

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

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

Advantage: Eagles

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

Coaching

Patriots: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia

Eagles: Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz

Advantage: Patriots

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

Scoreboard: Patriots 5, Eagles 4

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