Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

With just hours until the 2016 NFL draft it seems like the perfect time to put out my first and final mock draft. To keep things simple there will be no trades in this mock, and I will explain my reasoning for each pick. I’ll be honest, I get a little tired of seeing the same names to the same places mock after mock, so expect plenty of surprises. Like a pick? Hate a pick? Let me know in the comments. Without further ado, let’s get the Los Angeles Rams on the clock.


With the first pick, Los Angeles Rams select: Jared Goff, QB, California

It took a lot to move up, but I like this move for the Rams. Goff doesn’t have the measurables nor the athleticism of Carson Wentz, but I think he can be a special player at the next level. Watching Goff’s tape his ability to read the defense really stands out. He has the ability to move through progressions mentally while nimbly avoiding would be tacklers in a collapsing pocket. Goff excels at threading the needle on short and intermediate passes and while he’s face some criticism for his deep ball he does a good job of keeping the ball away from defenders; either his guy is coming down with it or no one will. Given the talent the Rams have on defense and at running back this ability to minimize turnovers is crucial.


With the second pick, Philadelphia Eagles select: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The Eagles are collecting quarterbacks this offseason and Wentz looks like he’ll make a fine addition. With both Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel on the roster Wentz will have plenty of time to get up to NFL speed, and more importantly continue working out the kinks in his game. As far as measurables and work ethic Wentz checks all the boxes, he’s a big, super athletic film junkie, but his on field performance leaves something to be desired. The North Dakota State product still has major strides to make with his footwork and decision making. He still looks a little to eager to run when things breakdown, and has a nasty habit of trying to force balls into double coverage. The tools and the desire are there making Wentz an ideal project for new coach Doug Pederson as Philadelphia looks to rebound from a lackluster 2015.


With the third pick San Diego Chargers select: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

The Chargers re-signed right tackle Joe Barksdale as well as back-up swing tackle Chris Hairston, which has me thinking they pass on the top tackle prospects and go right for my favorite player in the draft, Jalen Ramsey. I don’t love the idea of Ramsey as a ‘replacement’ for Eric Weddle as they are two different people, I’d also expect Ramsey to transition to cornerback at some point as pairing him with Jason Verrett could create a devastating combo on the outside.

I also love Deforest Buckner at this spot, he’d bring a much needed pass rushing presence and fit perfectly into the Chargers scheme, but this is a deep year for defensive lineman and Ramsey is too good to pass up.


With the fourth pick Dallas Cowboys select: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

If the Cowboys want to sell jerseys Ezekiel Elliott makes more sense. But I think it would be a mistake to pass on Lynch, if the team sees him as a future franchise quarterback. Even before the Rams and Eagles made their respective trades the word around Dallas was that the Cowboys believed Lynch had the highest ceiling of the top 3 quarterbacks, and they’re not alone in that thought. Lynch is an impressive athlete, who can sling it all over the field. He looks like Brock Osweiler with Colin Kaepernick’s running ability. Lynch needs time to develop, and he’ll have it in Dallas. Give him two years under Romo and when the cap number becomes untenable and the Romo era ends Lynch can take over without the team skipping a beat. And if you really want another running back to add some excitement, why not add Georgia’s Keith Marshall in the mid rounds?


With the fifth pick Jacksonville Jaguars select: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

I wouldn’t rule out one of the top tackle prospects, but between Luke Joeckel and Kelvin Beachum they likely hope their franchise left tackle is already on the roster and can use this pick to continue their ambitious overhaul of the defense. Floyd may not be as highly rated as Joey Bosa or Shaq Lawson, but he has been climbing draft boards and could bring much needed speed to the pass rush. I envision Floyd as a longer Bruce Irvin, starting out as a role player before growing into a three down pass rushing linebacker hybrid. At 6’6 and 245 pounds he’s rail thin, but that’s why teams employ dieticians and strength coaches. If Gus Bradley believes he can get Floyd to reach hi impressive upside this is a great pick…if not I like Vernon Hargreaves as a sneaky pick. He’s a baller who can slot in at nickel to start and bump outside if Prince Amukamara can’t stay healthy or struggles to live up to his one year contract.


With the sixth pick Baltimore Ravens select: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State 

Would the Ravens really pass on Laremy Tunsil, let alone Ronnie Stanley, Joey Bosa and Myles Jack? Probably not, but it’s hard to ignore the fit. Baltimore is at it’s best with workhorse running back who plays all three downs, and right now I don’t think they have that. Justin Forsett is coming off an injury and has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, Buck Allen showed promise, but can he carry the load? Talliafero has struggled to see the field and the team was desperate enough at the position to bring in Trent Richardson. Elliott is an immediate upgrade at a position the team has struggled to fill since Ray Rice was kicked out of the league. Elliott is a talented pass catcher, and willing pass protector with good burst and vision. Eugene Monroe can hold down the Left Tackle spot as long as he stays healthy and help can be found at guard and on defense in the later rounds.


With the seventh pick San Francisco 49ers select Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame:

After hiring Chip Kelly as their head coach the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to draft a highly athletic tackle to play on the right side and serve as an insurance policy for their pro bowl veteran left tackle, I expect the 49ers to do the same. Laremy Tunsil is the higher rated prospect, but Stanley has experience at right tackle from his days playing opposite Zack Martin and is considered the better run blocker. Anthony Davis has said he plans to apply for reinstatement, but he hasn’t yet and there’s no accounting for what sort of shape he’ll be in when he does arrive. Stanley is ready to step in and reinvigorate an offensive line that has hemorrhaged talent the past couple seasons.


With the eighth pick Cleveland Browns select: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss:

The Browns have vowed to go best player available, though honestly if Tunsil drops this far the Titans will be chomping at the bit to trade up and snag him. But in this scenario Cleveland keeps the pick and locks down the right tackle spot vacated by Mitchell Schwartz. There might be a learning curve as Tunsil has never played on the right side before, but he’s exceptionally athletic and excels in pass protection. Top end protection will be especially crucial for a Browns team looking resurrect Robert Griffin III’s career. If Tunsil does end up off the board I would love to see them take Joey Bosa. If neither fall as they did here, another trade back could be the best course of action.


With the ninth pick Tampa Bay Buccaneers select: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Tampa Bay is surprised to see Bosa still on the board, but they will gladly take the Ohio State product. There’s been a lot of speculation that Vernon Hargreaves could be the pick, and he might, but the defensive line, specifically the defensive end spot seems like the biggest area of concern. Shaq Lawson should get some consideration, but in the end Bosa’s talents are too much to pass up. While Bosa is a better run stopper than pass rusher he’ll command attention away from stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and take some of the pressure of a secondary that was forced to try and pick up the slack for a poor pass rush in 2015.


With the tenth pick New York Giants select: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

Similar to the Ravens drafting Elliott this is less about what the team might do and more about what the team truly needs. After an offseason spending spree that saw the Giants fortify their offensive line and secondary with the likes of Jared Odrick and Janoris Jenkins, the cupboard remains uncomfortably bare across the board at linebacker. Ragland has been pushed down most mock draft because he struggles in pass coverage, but his ability to chase down running backs sideline to sideline and what he can bring as a leader to a defense that’s brought in a lot of new faces, far outweighs whether or not he can match up with TE’s in the pass game.


With the eleventh pick, Chicago Bears select, DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Buckner’s talent says he should be a top 10 pick, but due to some scheme issues and more pressing issues with the top teams he falls to 11 where the Bears will be all too eager to take him off the board. Buckner is a perfect fit as a five technique in Vic Fangio’s defense. At 6’7, 291 pounds Buckner is a force to be reckoned with and will have an instant impact for a Bears defense still seeking playmakers.


With the twelfth pick, New Orlean Saints select, Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Given how deep this draft class is along the defensive line it might be wise for the Saints to take advantage of a weak receiver class by grabbing one of it’s top prospects. Brandon Coleman was never able command a high snap count, and with Marques Colston retired and Coby Fleener seeming to be a poor replacement for Jimmy Graham (or even Ben Watson) the Saints need another big bodied pass catcher to help Drew Brees. Doctson is still a little thin, but he’s more explosive, and a little taller than Laquon Treadwell. Doctson has hands like steel traps and excels at high pointing the ball making him a terror in the red zone, and a perfect compliment to Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead.


With the thirteenth pick, Miami Dolphins select, Myles Jack, LB/DB, UCLA

With reports that Jack’s knee injury may be worse than initially reported it’s tough to say where he’ll land or how far he might fall. The injury is said to be similar to the one suffered by Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, so perhaps the Miami medical staff will have some added insight or better understanding of what a worst case scenario could be. Jack would certainly bring some excitement to a defense that promises to be more exciting under new coordinator Vance Joseph. Whether Jack would line up as a linebacker or in the secondary will be for the Dolphins to decide, but his name has the splash that Mike Tannenbaum seems drawn to, and a versatile skill set that should please fans and coaches alike.


With the fourteenth pick, Oakland Raiders select, Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

After some solid drafting, and making good use of their ample cap space the past couple years, the Raiders are in position to take the best player available at number 14. In this case, that’s Florida cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves has the ball skills to go much higher, but his measurables (5’10, 4.50 in the 40 yard dash) could see him drop in as the league that favor taller defensive backs. The Raiders went out and signed Sean Smith, and have DJ Hayden and David Amerson on the roster, but Hargreaves is a bonafide playmaker with sticky coverage skills who should have little trouble snagging a starting spot and solidifying the back end of a defense no one will want to see in 2016.


With the fifteen pick, Tennessee Titans select, Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

While Conklin was a left tackle at Michigan State he’s expected to make his living on the right side in the NFL. In this case he makes the perfect bookend to compliment Taylor Lewan, who will get to stay on the left side if Tennessee is unable move up for Laremy Tunsil. Conklin is a big bodied hard noser blocker who will excel in the run game, which should be music to the ears of both DeMarco Murray and Marcus Mariota. As an added bonus, if in the future the Titans do want to shuffle Lewan to the right tackle spot, or Conklin struggles on the outside, his mean streak and running blocking prowess should allow him to excel inside as a guard.


With the sixteenth pick, Detroit Lions select, Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

The latest buzz on Rankins is that he won’t make it out of the top 10, though most recent projections see him going to the Saints at pick 12. The Louisville product has plenty of appeal as a scheme versatile, interior pass rusher who can create havoc in the backfield. The Lions keep him from falling out of the top half of the draft and put some fear back into the hearts of the rival NFC North quarterbacks. Rankins can have an Aaron Donald-like impact for the Lions if he’s available when they go on the clock.



The first game of week 2 is already in the books, and most of week 1’s heroes have already seen a sharp increase in their fantasy ownership. But, there is still plenty of talent available for fantasy owners looking to bolster their rosters headed into the NFL’s second week. Below I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order other than being sorted by position) of players who are still available and have considerable upside for this week and/or the rest of the season. The parentheticals ()() beside each player’s name will give their ownership percentage in and ESPN fantasy leagues respectively.

To be included on this list a player must be owned in less than 30% of leagues, though there are sometimes exceptions. If these names go a little too deep for your league or you’re wondering about some of the more popular pick-ups from this week you can check out my previous post, Five players that should be owned in all leagues. All right, enough intro, let’s get to some names:

Karlos Williams, RB, Bills (3.0% on NFL)(17.5% on ESPN) The Bills new coaching staff loves Williams, don’t believe me? They cut fan favorite Fred Jackson before the season to give Williams a better chance at getting on the field early. Follow a season opener that saw Williams log just 6 carries (which he took for 55 yards and a TD) they released Bryce Brown, who had been competing with Williams for the primary backup job. LeSean McCoy continues to be hampered by a hamstring injury and Williams physical running style fits what Greg Roman and Rex Ryan want to do on offense. If you’re counting on McCoy this season, Williams is a definite must own as he will be the guy in a run heavy offense if McCoy misses time, and if he can continues to run well, could become a well balanced dose of thunder to McCoy’s lightning.

Lance Dunbar, RB, Cowboys (2.9% on NFL)(13.7% on ESPN) With Dez Bryant sidelined for the foreseeable future with a broken foot, Dunbar’s Dallas teammate, Terrance Williams, has gotten a lot of the love from fantasy owners. But Williams he won’t be the only one who sees an increase in targets with Bryant on the sidelines. Dunbar caught 8 passes for 70 yards in the opener, clearly establishing himself as the passing down back. The Cowboys next 4 opponents are the Eagles, Falcons, Saints and Patriots, so passing downs may not be as hard to come by for big D as they were last year.

Brandon Coleman, WR, Saints (4.1% on NFL)(35.4% on ESPN) Coleman followed up an impressive preseason with a solid week 1 showing. Saints fans have been excited about the Rutgers product since he was signed following the 2014 NFL draft, and the fact that the Saints traded wide receiver Kenny Stills and cut Nick Toon (both of whom were expected to play big roles in the offense following the Jimmy Graham trade) should tell you how the coaching staff feels about Coleman. No one’s going to confuse him for Calvin Johnson, but at 6’6, 220 lbs. he’s a mismatch for defenses, especially in the red zone and will have value even if he continues to only play in three wide receiver sets. (His ownership on ESPN has spiked out of my usual range, but is still available in nearly all leagues, so I figured he’s worth talking about.)

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks (8.3% on NFL)(22.4% on ESPN) Lockett is must own if you’re in a league that counts return yardage. For the rest, he’s still a worthwhile target whose role will likely only expand in the Seahawks offense as he gets more game time under his belt. Lockett is a special sort of playmaker and looking at the impact he’s had so far I can’t help but think: this is the guy the Seahawks thought they were getting when they traded a first and a third round pick for Percy Harvin, this is the guy they thought they were getting when they drafted Paul Richardson in the second round of the 2014, this is the explosive playmaker they’ve been waiting for. Maybe I’m wrong, and he’s just a return specialist who never sees more than a handful of targets in the pass game, but the upside is tremendous and if you’ve got the roster spot, Lockett could be worth stashing for the next few weeks to find out.

Marlon Brown, WR, Ravens (0.1% on NFL)(0.6% on ESPN) It’s easy to make a case against Brown, he’s flashed potential, but never been consistent, the Ravens will likely be run first due to their limited weapons in the passing game, but at some point Baltimore will need someone to step up as a starter alongside Steve Smith Sr. and I think Brown is their best bet. He’s 6’4 with good speed, quickness and solid hands. As it stands he’s just not seeing many targets, but that should change with Kamar Aiken failing to impress in week 1. I like Brown’s chance to catch a TD this weekend if you’re looking for a dart throw player, but i’m more interested in what he could become as the season goes on.

Tedd Ginn Jr., WR, Panthers (0.4% on NFL)(1.8% on ESPN) There’s something encouraging about the fact that Ginn was targeted seven times in week 1…though it is equally discouraging that he caught only two of them for 54 yards…then again that’s a per catch average of 27 yards. I guess what I’m getting at is I really like the opportunity for Ginn, who remains a starter for Panthers, especially in this week 2 match-up with the Texans. It’s a big risk/big reward play to be sure, but if you’re desperate you could do a lot worse.

Jared Cook, TE, Rams (3.4% on NFL)(8.7% on ESPN) Nick Foles likes throwing to his tight end (remember Zach Ertz?) and Cook is one of the best pass catchers on the Rams. Despite their best efforts, the Redskins are still weak when it comes to pass protection in the middle of the field. In his last trip to FedEx Field, Cook caught 4 passes for 61 yards with 2 touchdowns. The Redskins proved stout against the run in week 1, so expect the Rams to be throwing, with plenty of targets going Cook’s way.

One to Watch: 

Ryan Grant, WR, Redskins (0.0% on NFL)(0.1% on ESPN) Okay this is a deep pull, with plenty of caveats, but keep an eye on second year receiver Ryan Grant. With DeSean Jackson missing the next few weeks Grant stands a chance at more playing time, and an outside chance at garnering a start. Andre Roberts is better known in Washington for his drops than his receptions and the team sees rookie Jamison Crowder as strictly a slot receiver for the time being. Grant has also shown chemistry with starting QB Kirk Cousins in the preseason. With Jackson out and TE Jordan Reed questionable, Grant is the ‘Skins next best shot at a reliable set of hands behind Pierre Garcon…it’s just a matter of whether or not the team will see it that way.


This is a waiver wire pick-up column of sorts. Seeing as many fantasy football leagues have already processed their waiver claims for week 2, and nearly all others will have by the time this is published I’m putting these 5 names that exceed my threshold of >30% ownership to qualify for my weekly pick-ups column but are still out there in some leagues. These are guys who’s week 1 success should carry through the rest of the season and as such deserve to be owned in all leagues regardless of size. The numbers I’ve posted are accurate as of Wednesday night, but will likely have changed once Thursdays waivers post. I’ll do my best to update in the morning.

Percy Harvin, WR, Bills (33.6% on NFL)(57.5% on ESPN) – Coming into the season the lack of buzz around Percy Harvin confused me. This is the same guy who was a mid-season MVP candidate a few years ago with Christian Ponder throwing him the ball. He’s the guy who rejuvenated the Jets, Geno Smith led, offense the second half of last season. He followed Rex Ryan to Buffalo. Oh, and he made his young QB look good with a diving touchdown grab. He won’t always score and the numbers won’t always pop off the screen, but defenses will continue to key in on Sammy Watkins ensuring that Harvin maintains fantasy value as a risk/reward flex play.

Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys (39.7% on NFL)(66.1% on ESPN) With Dez Bryant out for what could be 6 to 8 weeks, Williams takes over as number 1 on the Cowboys wide receiver depth chart. Williams likely won’t see as many targets as Dez would, and certainly should not be expected to put up top 5 fantasy numbers, but he should see enough targets to make him a solid starter. Williams is a talented young player who disappeared into the shadow of Dez Bryant and the power running game last season, so expect him to capitalize on his time in the spotlight, starting in week 2 against the Eagles (though after getting torched by Julio Jones, Byron Maxwell has plenty to prove as well.)

Stevie Johnson, WR, Chargers (13.1% on NFL)(43.2% on ESPN) The difference in ownership on the two sites is a bit staggering, but likely mostly related to bench size. In any case Johnson was targeted 6 times, caught all 6 passes and scored a TD, and that was in a game that saw Keenan Allen catch an absurd 15 passes. Like with Harvin there’s sure to be some games that disappoint, but Johnson is a big bodied target with reliable hands who can move around the formation. He should continue to be a favorite for QB Philip Rivers at least until Antonio Gates suspension ends and even beyond, though a reevaluation may be necessary following week 4. 

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals (47.0% on NFL)(70.5% on ESPN) In 2013 it was Marvin Jones, last year it was Mohamed Sanu, and at least through week 1 of the 2015 season it appears that Eifert will claim the role of Andy Dalton’s preferred #2 pass catcher. Actually, Eifert topped even the newly resigned AJ Green, leading the team with 9 receptions on 12 targets for 104 yards and 2 TDs. While it’s possible we’ve already seen Eifert’s best fantasy output of the season he should continue to be a reliable target in the middle of the field and finally have the breakout season analysts predicted for him last year, before his season was wiped out by injury.

Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots (11.5% on NFL)(31.7% on ESPN) A bit borderline for the ‘must own in all leagues’ category, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Lewis. He benefitted big time from the absence of LeGarrette Blount in week 1, but given his versatility and Bill Belichick’s penchant for messing with fantasy owners who think they’ve figured out the backfield, I’d expect Lewis to see his share of snaps going forward. Of course I’d be remiss not to mention that Lewis did have a red zone fumble and repercussions may still be to follow.


Aaand We’re Back!

Posted: July 9, 2014 in NFL, Sports

After a brief hiatus that saw me take my talents to NFL Spin Zone over on the Fansided network I have returned home to Bubblegum Backwash. New content is coming, starting with some Fantasy Football Waiver pick-ups as well as analysis on this still young season.

If you feel so inclined you can check out my archive from NFL Spin Zone here.

Stay tuned for more and thanks for checking out the site.

I started this post on Friday, hence the title. I thought about changing it, but I have plans to do a fuller breakdown of rounds 2-7 (hopefully early next week) so I’m keeping it until I think of something better.

1. Texans selected OLB/DE Jadaveon Clowney
I would have been shocked if it was anyone else, Clowney has a support system already in place in Houston, the owner loves him and he’s got a great coaching staff to bring out his best. Playing alongside J.J. Watt means the double teams that restricted Clowney’s effectiveness as a junior should all but disappear. Word is that Crennel sees Clowney fitting into the hybrid DE/OLB role that Patriots great Willie McGinest once played in Crennel’s New England days.

2. Rams selected OT Greg Robinson
I really thought Khalil Mack had a shot here, but there’s no arguing with the pick. Robinson is an ideal fit in St. Louis where he’ll likely start out at Right Tackle or Guard with the intention of sliding back over to the Left Tackle spot he played at Auburn as early as 2015 if Jake Long fails to regain his form after suffering a torn ACL late last season. (Long is under contract through 2015, but the Rams can cut Long for minimal financial loss after the 2014 season if they need to.)

3. Jaguars selected QB Blake Bortles
I did not expect the Jags to pass on Khalil Mack or Sammy Watkins, and they passed on both. I didn’t think taking any QB this high was wise, but by the end of the process I was convinced Bortles would go top 5 (had him going to Browns at 4) and if the Jags were sold on getting a top QB, I think Bortles was the best choice. He’s pretty much a local having played at UCF, so he’ll help sell tickets and he’s really the only QB in this draft who checks all the boxes (namely: size, mobility, arm talent.) I’ll like this pick a lot more if the Jags can land a top WR in the second and a quality pass rusher in the third (or vice versa.) Could they have moved down and still gotten Bortles? Probably, but they would have to move past 2 if not 3 teams with a need at the position and that is a very risky place to be.

4. Buffalo Bills trade w/Cleveland Browns to select WR Sammy Watkins
Love the player, like the fit, but my gut reaction was that the Bills gave up too much (9th pick this year, plus 1st and 4th rounders next year.) I actually like the deal much better now that the Bills have traded Stevie Johnson to the 49ers for a conditional 4th round pick next year that could become a 3rd rounder. Granted, coming from the 49ers it will be a pick late in the round, but it showed me that the Bills had a plan in place to deal with what had suddenly become a crowded WR spot. The Watkins trade was about getting younger and giving EJ Manuel a true #1 and go to WR to pair with a strong supporting cast of Mike Williams, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and TJ Graham.

5. Oakland Raiders selected OLB Khalil Mack
Mack fell to the Raiders and they did not hesitate. It’s being assumed that Mack will play the ‘Von Miller’ role in Dennis Allen’s defense and I’d say he’s well suited to it. I really like the direction the Raiders are moving in this offseason and I’m especially excited to see what this revamped defense can do, with Mack as it’s centerpiece.

6. Atlanta Falcons select OT Jake Matthews
Nice pick by the Falcons, you sort of knew they would be going tackle with Mack and Clowney off the board, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that they got an exceptionally talented player at a position of dire need. Like Robinson, Matthews will probably start his career on the right side, though Sam Baker has been inconsistent at best on the left side new line coach Mike Tice might be willing to give him one more shot while Matthews builds up his strength and gets acclimated to the NFL.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select WR Mike Evans
I had really started to sell myself on the Manziel to Tampa hype, but that was always conditioned on Mike Evans being off the board by the 7th pick. Tampa needed a receiver and they got a great one. Evans isn’t a polished route runner yet, but he’s a big bodied WR who knows how to box out defenders and make the catch in coverage. Vincent Jackson should provide a good role model for Evans while also taking pressure off the veteran. It also means Josh McCown and Mike Glennon won’t have to worry much about overthrowing their top targets.

8. Cleveland Browns trade w/Minnesota Vikings to select CB Justin Gilbert
Shades of the 2011 draft when Minnesota scared the Browns into trading up from number 4 to number 3 to select Trent Richardson, but that aside I love this pick. When the ‘Lions looking to trade up for Sammy Watkins’ rumors were at their peak I actually thought the Browns might try to trade down to #10 to take Gilbert (whom I and many other people speculated would otherwise be taken at the 10 spot by Detroit.) Instead it was the Bills who made the trade, but the result is the same the Browns filled a trouble spot on their roster opposite Joe Haden, and added a dynamic punt returner. The Browns defense is another unit I look forward to seeing in action this season.

9. Minnesota Vikings select DE/OLB Anthony Barr
If you read my re-mock just before the draft, you already know I love this pick. Barr is still unpolished, but he is such an explosive athlete who will be a great fit in Mike Zimmer’s offense, and will hopefully take some of the sting out of losing Jared Allen to the division rival Bears this offseason.

10. Detroit Lions select TE Eric Ebron
I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite buy the Lions interest in Ebron, but I was also willing to place my faith in Joseph Fauria as the pass catching TE in Detroit. It’s a pick that makes the Lions scary, giving Matt Stafford another weapon and creating match-up problems for teams outside of Calvin Johnson. He’ll probably get split out wide a lot and he’s a dangerous target to have over the middle. It’s not the pick I would have made, but I won’t knock it, he’s a good fit and Jim Caldwell likes to throw to the TE.

11. Tennessee Titans selected OT Taylor Lewan
I never really bought that Tennessee would go CB in the first round, but it seemed like the offensive line had been addressed last year and in a deep class they might look for a swing tackle later in the draft. But, once again it’s hard to argue with the pick, Lewan was arguably the best player on the board and current left tackle Michael Roos is 31, and on the right side Michael Oher does not necessarily inspire confidence. Lewan’s talent should dictate that he wind up starting, whether it’s through the clearing of a roster spot or winning a position battle. This move likely gives the Titans one of the strongest O-lines in the league.

12. New York Giants selected WR Odell Beckham
This was probably the biggest surprise of the night for me. I like the fit and I love Beckham’s skill set, but the Giants are just not a team that drafts position players this high, so to see Beckham go to the Giants at #12 in a deep class of WR was a little bit of a shock. But like I said, it’s a good fit, Beckham can play inside as well as outside and he can stretch the field as well as anybody. Hakeem Nicks left big shoes to fill, but I think Beckham will prove he’s up to the task.

13. St. Louis Rams selected DT Aaron Donald
With the offensive line addressed the Rams go for the top player on their board, the tenacious 3 technique out of Pitt, Aaron Donald. Donald’s stock blew up from late round flier to best DT in the class and I’m still not sure I trust it. Donald is undersized with short arms, but it’s hard to argue with the production, and starting on a front 4 that includes Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers will make it easy to forget about the 6’0 tackle shredder (that is of course until he’s ripping the opposing QB to the dirt.) In short, I’m not sold on him as a dominant individual, but he’s a great fit in St. Louis.

14. Chicago Bears selected CB Kyle Fuller
Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are both back, but their on the wrong side of 30 and it’s unlikely Tillman plays past the 2014 season. Enter Fuller a rangy 6’0 corner with 4.5 speed who’s not afraid to come up and make tackles in run support. He’s likely to start inside at the nickel spot in 2014 while learning the NFL game from Jennings and Tillman before likely taking over for the latter in 2015. There were some other needs on defense, but with 5 pass rushers already off the board and only one corner gone the Bears get a guy they know will fit their scheme.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers selected OLB Ryan Shazier
Dennard was the popular pick here with Shazier pegged more for the later round, but in the past two seasons the team has lost franchise legends James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley at the OLB spot and those shoes can’t be filled by just anybody. Shazier is a little small, but he’s an exceptional athlete who plays fast and is extremely competitive. The Steelers are hoping he gives last year’s first round pick, Jarvis Jones, a running mate for the next ten years. Cornerback is deep enough that it can be more easily addressed in the later rounds, and adding a speed rusher like Shazier will make things much easier on whoever they decide to play in the secondary.

16. Dallas Cowboys selected OT Zack Martin
Jerry Jones wanted Manziel, and honestly I don’t blame him if you gave me the ages and scouting reports with the names and fan response redacted, but Romo is Romo and Manziel is Manziel and Zack Martin is the 16th overall pick. Tony Romo has to love this, Cowboys go offensive lineman in the first for the second year in a row, and as much as Travis Frederick was panned for being a reach he played very well in his rookie season. Martin was another quick climber who the Dolphins were really hoping would fall to them. He’s a polished blocker who dominated at the Senior Bowl, has the flexibility to play multiple positions on the line and should slide immediately into the starting line up as a RT or Guard.

In the 2012 NFL draft the Cleveland Browns selected running back Trent Richardson from the University of Alabama with the 3rd overall pick in that year’s draft. The only two players taken ahead of him were QB’s Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. On it’s surface it seems like just another draft day gaffe for Browns (who are actually off to a really solid first 3 rounds this year) but the fact is Richardson was the consensus top running back in that year’s draft with rumors that if Cleveland didn’t take him the Buccaneers or someone else would. The Browns even swapped their original #4 pick with the Vikings pick at #3 to keep another team from jumping ahead of them for the right to land the man being touted as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. By the end of the 1st round that year 3 running backs had been taken (David Wilson to the Giants, and Doug Martin to the Buccaneers.)

For those of you not familiar with the story, Richardson had trouble staying healthy his rookie year and revealed at the end of the season that even when he was on the field he was playing through pain. Which really only made his 950 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns more impressive. But the next year the honeymoon was over, Cleveland had hired a new staff of coaches who weren’t thrilled with what Richardson brought to the table and he was dealt to the Indianapolis Colts, for a 1st round pick in this year’s (2014) draft. At the time, the Colts seemed to have made out like bandits, getting such a young and talented player at a position of sudden need with Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw injured. But Richardson’s struggles continued last season in Indianapolis, blame fell on a lack of time to adjust properly to the new scheme and the Colts remain confident Richardson can be a steady contributor to their offense, but the takeaway is that no one has any idea how well a RB will transition to the NFL and their careers are considered as good as done by the time they’re 30.

Now, I’m not looking to put all the blame on Richardson. David Wilson and Doug Martin also had very promising rookie season’s with Martin finishing as one of the leagues top rushers before injury wiped away an unimpressive start to his 2013 season. David Wilson combined injuries with ball security issues to find himself on the Giants bench for most of 2013. And even still, I’m not looking to place the blame squarely on these 3 young men, but if Trent Richardson ran for 1500 yards and 10 TDs in 2013 with another 250 receiving yards and 2 TD catches I would be willing to bet there would have been a RB taken in round 1 this year.

You might be saying to yourself, well, look at Eddie Lacy he had a great year for Packers, if my theory holds true, shouldn’t that have boosted the draft stock of a guy like Bishop Sankley? (Who had to wait almost as long for his name to be mentioned in this article as he did to hear his name called at the NFL draft) And the answer is, sort of. This year, NFL teams were all in a staring contest at the running back position. There was no clear cut number, so no one wanted to be the first to blink and take a guy in the 2nd only to watch a guy you had rated just as highly go 2 rounds later to a division rival who also added two more, presumably, better players at other positions. This is why once Sankley came off the board at number 54, two of the next three picks were Running backs (Jeremy Hill at 55 to Cincinnati and Carlos Hyde at 57 to the 49ers.) It’s not so much that running backs are being devalued as it is no one in the NFL has any idea how to value them. A good running back can change your franchise. As good as their defense is and as much of a story as Russell Wilson is the Seahawks don’t make it to the Superbowl without Marshawn Lynch. The 49ers would not have made the playoffs the last 3 years if not for the efforts of Frank Gore. Teams understand the importance of a good running game, they just haven’t quite figured out how to get one.

For now at least, the 2nd round seems to be where the value is, and it makes sense. No matter what their injury history was in college the running back position in the NFl is physically demanding enough that every player at the position carries a higher than average injury risk, and that hurts their value. Most teams employ some form of running back by committee or another so the fact that this is a player that won’t see the field on every offensive snap even when full healthy also hurts their value matched up against other positions. And of course, it’s no coincidence the last few years draft classes have been heavy on offensive lineman as teams are finally realizing that everything starts with the big men up front. All the talent in the world won’t make you an effective runner if there’s a linebacker meeting you in the backfield as soon as you touch the ball. So, as the value of offensive lineman and defensive lineman rises the value of running backs fall necessarily to balance it out. We’re actually seeing something similar at the QB position, but there’s still enough of them being taken in the first round to stave off the rumors that their value is also dropping.

We are less than a week away from the draft and it seems like we’re no closer to a consensus on where any of the top players in this year’s class will land. So, I guess that means my guess is as good as any, right?

1. Houston Texans select DE/OLB Jadaveon Clowney
He’s got a ready made support system in Houston and is widely regarded as the premiere talent in this class. The work ethic concerns seem to be a product of frustration with the consistent double and triple teams he saw and I don’t expect it to carry over into the pros. I’m still giving Greg Robinson a shot as a draft day surprise, but the fact is Clowney makes the Texans defense scary good and puts them right back in the playoff mix (yes, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB.)

2. St. Louis Rams select OLB Khalil Mack
Credit to the guys at for this one, where their sources believe the Rams are leaning towards Mack as the best player available if they can’t deal the pick (which would be their first choice here at #2.) Mack played in a 3-4 scheme at Buffalo, but he has the size, speed and cover skills to survive in a 4-3. Like Clowney, his addition makes the Rams defense scary good. I’d hate to be the Tackle lined up against Robert Quinn with Mack peeking over his shoulder.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars select WR Sammy Watkins
The Jags get saved from a tough call here with Mack off the board. Cecil Shorts is solid and Mike Browns showed some flashes, there is a desperate need for a true #1 receiver. Watkins is only 6’1 but he plays big. He can give the Jags all the promise of Justin Blackmon without the suspensions. As a bonus he’s a sexy pick that can excite the fan base without the risk of jumping at a QB early.

4. Cleveland Browns select QB Blake Bortles
The Browns GM has said that taking a QB at #4 isn’t ideal, and well, it isn’t, but Sammy Watkins is off the board and Bortles actually seems like a solid fit. I see Bortles as Matt Schaub 2.0 for Kyle Shanahan, he’s got the size and the arm, but he’s also got mobility. Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews could be in play here to play RT opposite franchise stalwart Joe Thomas, but locking up Bortles early frees up that #26 pick to be used on the best available player at RT, CB or WR, all fairly deep positions of need for the Browns expected to still have top talent available at that #26 spot.

5. Oakland Raiders select WR Mike Evans
Another credit to the guys at Walter Football. I still really like Anthony Barr, especially with all the veterans Oakland brought in, but there’s pressure to hit with an immediate impact player at #5 and Evans is the best combination of talent and need. The signings of Penn and Howard take pressure off the tackle spots, especially in a deep class when you’re still waiting to see what Melenik Watson can do. Evans is a big-bodied Red Zone threat who can make plays down the field opposite James Jones and give Matt Schaub an Andre Johnson-type receiver to work with and make life infinitely easier for Matt McGloin or whichever rookie they end up drafting.

6. Atlanta Falcons select OT Greg Robinson
The Falcons need help on the line and they’re thrilled to get Robinson here at #6. The thought is that Robinson will line up on the right side for his rookie season, but if Sam Baker continues to struggle on the left Robinson could be plugged in as Matt Ryan’s blind side protector. Either way he improves the line as a unit and brings a forceful run blocking presence to a team that had trouble gaining yards on the ground last season.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select QB Johnny Manziel
I just can’t get this idea out of my head. It’s a perfect fit for both team and player. With veteran QB Josh McCown acting as a mentor and offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford as his teacher Manziel could be great. I feel bad for Mike Glennon, but with the Texans and Vikings both looking for pocket passers with prototypical size and arm strength and a draft class that lacks in that area the Buccaneers should have no trouble getting at least a 2nd round pick this year or/and next year which is still a nice return on a 3rd string QB that doesn’t fit your system.

8. Minnesota Vikings select OLB/DE Anthony Barr
Barr has already been approached about possibly playing DE by the Cowboys and said he’s all for it. Barr is unpolished, having only played on the defensive side for a year, but new Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer knows how to work with raw talent and there seems to be little question about Barr’s work ethic. He may struggle early, but I’d expect him to be a truly disruptive force by the end of his rookie season.

9. Buffalo Bills select OT Jake Matthews
The Bills probably never thought Matthews would be available this late in the draft, but here he is, and while Eric Ebron and Haha Clinton-Dix are tempting, Matthews is the most talented prospect still on the board. Matthews would likely slide in at RT, and give the Bills two powerful bookends, equally adept at protecting EJ Manuel, and creating holes for CJ Spiller.

10. Detroit Lions select WR Odell Beckham
Beckham’s stock has been steadily rising for months and I think this is where he lands. The Lions heavy interest in Sammy Watkins early in the draft process says that they’re starting to prepare for life without Calvin Johnson. Beckham is an ideal pick as he can easily play inside while he gets up to pace in the NFL and give the Lions another speedy big play weapon that can create plays in space. Beckham’s versatility and work habits also make him ideal for a Jim Caldwell run offense.