Tag Archives: Buffalo Bills

2017 NFL Rookie Most Likely to…

The 2017 NFL Draft Class was full of star power and several of those members will light up the League real soon. Photo Credit: ESPN.com

The dawn of the 2017 NFL Season has arrived and a new crop of college stars are preparing to make their mark in pro football.

Teams put a premium on defense this past draft. 131 defensive players were selected to 118 offensive. 34 of those players were cornerbacks, the most of any single position, 5 in the first round. If you combine the 3 Safeties, defensive back was the most selected unit in the draft. In all 67 defensive backs were picked in 2017.

I’ve done this exercise the two previous seasons and I’ve hit on some already, some are close to happening, and I’ve missed VERY BADLY on one. My apologies to my fellow Ohio State Alum Joey Bosa.

As with any draft in every sport, the situation you’re drafted to is more important than when you’re selected. It’s fun and difficult to predict how these guys will affect their team’s success or failures. So, here’s how I see several of this year’s crop of rookies careers panning out.

Most likely to lead the NFL in passing yards…. Patrick Mahomes (10th overall pick/Kansas City Chiefs). Andy Reid and his staff moved up to select the Texas Tech QB. Everyone knows the Red Raiders offense is a hyper passing scheme that tends to lead to video game numbers that doesn’t necessarily transition to the NFL. But, Mahomes should be different because he’s no “check down Charlie” like current Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. Mahomes has the arm strength to push the ball down the field and Reid, a west coast offense guy, who’s called plays for Donovan McNabb when the Philadelphia Eagles went to four NFC title games and a Super Bowl, Brett Favre when he won three consecutive NFL MVPs and Michael Vick when he revived his career after a stint in prison. Mahomes has a real QB whisperer in his ear.

Most likely to lead the league in rushing yards…. Leonard Fournette (4th overall pick/Jacksonville Jaguars). He will play with a quarterback, in Blake Bortles, that has led the league in turnovers with 63 since entering the League in 2014. Bortles struggled to hold on to the starting job in the preseason, with Coach Marrone going as far to say he preferred to not have Blake pass the ball.

The Jags coaching staff already believes in smash mouth defense and a ball control offense.  In 2016 the Jags running game averaged 4.2 yards per carry, which was 17th in the NFL, and 101.9 yards per game that was 22nd. Fournette alone will improve those numbers. He’ll have to if Bortles can’t shake the yips.

Most likely to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs… Taywon Taylor (3rd round, 72nd pick/Titans). The ball is like a magnet to his hands. During his senior season with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers he broke and set the school’s single season record for receptions and yards with 98 catches for 1,730 yards to go along with 17 TDs. He finished his career with a school record 253 catches for 4,234 yards and 41 TDs.

The Titans have a strong running game with DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and Marcus Marriota running the read-option. What they need is a threat in the passing game and Taylor will provide just that.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks… T.J. Watt (30th overall pick/Pittsburgh Steelers). First reason, it is in his blood lines. He’s a Watt. Second, he plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 3-4 scheme that is only successful when it’s LBs blitz the QB. He got his first sack on Pittsburgh’s first defensive trip on the field in their first preseason game, he followed that up with another sack on the first play of their second defensive drive. At Wisconsin he collected 11.5 sacks in the 27 games he played. It’s what he does. Third, he’ll have the likes of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt occupying offensive linemen to allow him to get free, plus with Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams and Bud Dupree playing alongside him, offenses won’t be scheming to stop Watt. Initially.

Most likely to lead the NFL in turnovers… Deshone Kizer (2nd round, Pick 52nd/Cleveland Browns). This organization has been snake bitten at the quarterback position since they returned to the League in 1999. Nearly 30 have started a game for the Browns in the last 18 seasons.

Cleveland is in the midst of a fire sale and don’t have much around Kizer at the skills positions. Their leading receiver from 2016, Terrelle Pryor, is in Washington and their second leading receiver, tight end Gary Barnidge, is still on the free agent market. The current leading receiver from 2016 is running back Duke Johnson Junior who had 52 catches for 514 yards.

Coach Hue Jackson has made the decision to start Kizer week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Therefore his growing pains are going to start early and he may very well have to shoulder the entire offense load. That’s not a good thing. Cleveland’s coaching staff and management is willing to suffer through his development, while investing in his future. He may fulfill this prediction of mine in season number one.

He will have to rely on guys who may not be on the roster next season as the team goes through a rebuilding period. It’s safe to say the turnovers will pile up, even it they aren’t entirely his fault.

Most likely to lead the League in interceptions (takeaways)…. Tre’Davious White (27th overall pick/Buffalo Bills). He hails from DBU better known as LSU, the same school that brought the NFL Patrick Petersen, Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne to name a few. The Bills still have a strong front seven that will put pressure on opposing QBs causing them to force some passes where they shouldn’t. Plus he plays in the AFC East where outside of Tom Brady, the quarterback play is VERY shoddy.

Most likely to be Offensive Rookie of the Year…. Christian McCaffrey (8th overall pick/Carolina Panthers). The Carolina Panthers will be attempting to lessen the workload on Cam Newton after his off-season shoulder surgery. Thus, they drafted McCaffrey in the first round to make use of his versatility. The Stanford alum is an all-purpose back that can contribute in the running, passing and return game. He’s going to get the most opportunities of any offensive player in this draft class.

Most likely to be Defensive Player of the Year…

Linebackers and defensive ends have dominated this award. Basically, pass rushers. The guy I really like is San Francisco 49ers LB Reuben Foster out of Alabama (31st overall pick/San Francisco 49ers). He never should have fallen this far, but, character issues hurt him.

The Niners used their two first round picks on defense (DT Solomon Thomas 3rd overall pick). While everyone is expecting new Head Coach Kyle Shanahan to rev up the offense, the San Fran D has drastically declined since the days competing with Seattle for the NFC West crown under Jim Harbaugh. Foster will rack up the tackles on a team that was the 32nd ranked defense last season. If he has the numbers and as a unit they continue to climb to a top ten team, many voters will point to him as the catalyst.

Most likely to be steal of the draft… Jake Butt (5th round, 145th pick/Denver Broncos) a nasty knee injury in Michigan’s bowl game is the reason he fell this far. Coming into the 2016 College football season, he was a projected first round pick. It was between him and Alabama’s O.J. Howard, who was selected in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as to which was the better all-around tight end.

Denver has young QBs who will need a safety blanket in the middle of the field. He will be that. Plus, he will draw lots of one-on-one coverage with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders stretching defenses out deep down field.

Most likely to be a perennial All-Pro…. Ryan Ramczyk (32nd overall pick/New Orleans Saints)He comes from Wisconsin where they churn out as many All-Pro offensive linemen as the state does butter. Not really, but you get it. Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns, Travis Frederick of the Dallas Cowboys and Kraig Urbik of the Miami Dolphins to name a few.

Ramczyk will be charged with keeping Drew Brees up right so he can continue to pass for 5,000+ yards a season. One of the easiest ways to make an All-Pro team is to block for a QB that puts up historic numbers or a RB that is a top five rusher

Most likely to be NFL MVP…. Only six non-QBs have won the award in the last twenty seasons. The six players were running backs and one of them (Barry Sanders, 1997) shared it with Brett Favre. Therefore it’s not going out on a limb for me to predict a QB from the 2017 class will one day etch their name on the trophy.

With that being said, I’m going with DeShaun Watson (12th overall pick/Houston Texans). He’s a better version of Dak Prescott. No disrespect to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback and reigning Offensive Player of the Year. But, Watson has the same intangibles to lead a team and a better skill set. He’s shown it on the biggest stage in back-to-back National Championship games against a vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide team. His college coach Dabo Sweeney said he has some “Michael Jordan in him.” It’s hard to disagree after what we’ve already seen. The Texans are tailor-made for him to step in and lead them to glory.

Most likely to be Super Bowl MVP… Once again I’m going with DeShaun Watson. He has the number one ranked defense. The only thing that has been missing from the Houston Texans over the last three seasons has been a competent QB. Watson is more than competent and very capable of leading a team as he showed in college at Clemson. He’s a big gamer and his abilities will be even more amplified by a coach that’s already work with arguably the greatest QB of All-Time, Tom Brady.

 

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Best Fits For Colin Kaepernick

That is if he isn’t REALLY being blackballed by NFL owners and executives.

Colin Kaepernick still has something left in the tank, but where will he get to display it next is the question. Photo Credit: NFL

Colin Kaepernick deserves a chance to play in the NFL. I won’t go over the list of quarterbacks who can’t compare to him that have already been signed this offseason. That angle has been beaten to death. Rather I’d like to look at the team’s that should be in demand of his skill set.

Let me also set this up by acknowledging that Kaepernick is in starting QB purgatory. He’s like an award winning lead actor who’s had several Box Office flops and now studios only inquire about his interest in a supporting role until he can get that “it” back that sold out theaters. It’s like that episode of “Entourage” when Vincent Chase had to settle for the supporting role in the “Smokejumpers” film after his fallout with Alan the head of Warner Brothers over the “Aquaman” sequel and “Medellin.” Like Vince’s agent Ari Gold told him “you’re in movie star jail.” That’s Kaepernick’s situation now.

Even though the last few seasons with the San Francisco 49ers wasn’t Colin’s fault, you can blame Owner Jed York and General manager Trent Baalke for that, Colin has to accept the fact that he’s not a starting QB right now. I put emphasis on right now. That’s not to say he still can’t be, it’s just that no team is going to invest in him being their starter at this point.

As far as his play, Colin is the definition of a dual threat quarterback. He’s not the historic prototype like Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck. So he can’t fit into any system and thrive. Think of the trouble Michael Vick had finding a team in his latter years. Kaepernick needs to be in a system where the incumbent starter does many of the same things he does best and the offense resembles the read option that helped him when he led the Niners to the Super Bowl and the NFC title game the season after.

The goal for him should be to get on a team that will help him best show that his skills haven’t eroded, just the situation around him in “The Bay” did, and possibly gain a starting offer for 2018.

With that being said, these are the teams I think he’ll be a great fit for as a backup. All of these teams have entrenched starters who play similar to the way Colin played in his best days. None of these teams would have to change their offensive schemes to fit Colin if he were called upon. That’s the “football reason” many are using to avoid signing him.

Seattle Seahawks. Can you name the Seahawks backup QB? Didn’t think so. It’s Trevone Boykin who has some off-the-field issues he has to deal with this offseason. You wouldn’t know that because Russell Wilson hasn’t missed much time since he took over in the great northwest. However, their offense suits the superior athleticism and improvisation both Wilson and Kaepernick thrive on. Wilson also struggled with some lower leg injuries last season that he played through when he probably shouldn’t have if they had a capable backup on the roster.

Plus, that locker room and head coach Pete Carroll is tailor made to handle the “distractions” that will come with signing Kaep. Plus many of the guys in that locker room agree with his anthem protest, which he says he won’t continue this season.

Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton takes a beating, which is why he just had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Derek Anderson is currently his backup. He’s a totally different QB than Cam, thus the Panthers would have to drastically alter their gameplan  if he’s needed to take snaps. Anderson is more suited to be Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger’s backup. Kaep would allow Carolina to keep their same physical run first style in any absence of Newton.

Tennessee Titans. Marcus Mariotta is coming off a late season broken leg that could slow him down to start the 2017 season. His understudy is Matt Cassell. Those two couldn’t be any different. The Titans are also a run first offense with read option concepts. They rely heavily on their running backs DeMarco Murray and 2-year back Derrick Henry.

Buffalo Bills. If Tyrod Taylor really is their franchise QB, it makes more sense to have Kaepernick behind him than Cardale Jones, who I love, but is more like Roethlisberger or Carson Palmer. The Bills also have a strong running game led by LeSean Mccoy. Notice a theme here?

Miami Dolphins. Despite his size (6’4″ 216) Ryan Tannehill, a former wide receiver at Texas A&M, plays a more mobile game than pocket passer. Miami’s a more heavy rushing offense with Jay Ajayi in their backfield, with many read option concepts. Their backup is Matt Moore, who is more of a pocket passer. Moore is a career backup, which is why he’s in Miami, but as he showed when Tannehill was injured late last season, he can’t duplicate the success of the starter that helped get the Dolphins into the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Dallas Cowboys. With Tony Romo retired that leaves a significant void behind Dak Prescott. Right now the backup is Kellen Moore. You sure you want him to be the 2nd option? Remember how he fared in 2015 when Romo was injured for most of the season? You may say “the Cowboys wanted to move on from Romo because they don’t need Dak looking over his shoulder.” Like I said previously, at this point Kaepernick is a backup. Romo had shown when he is healthy that he’s a starter. That’s why there was a distraction, because everyone assumed Dallas would be better than they were with Dak if Romo was in the lineup. No one would be making those assumptions with Kaepernick. But Cowboy fans would feel much safer with him on the roster in case Dak were injured or suffered from a “Sophomore Slump.” Plus they have 2016 NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott, keeping with my run first theme.

All these teams I’ve looked at are heavy rushing offenses. That’s what the 49ers were in their best days with Kaepernick under center with the franchise’s all-time leading rushing Frank Gore in the backfield. Also with their style of play, they put the starter in harms way often. Signing Kaepernick would be the best insurance policy out there. After a season excelling as a backup it’s likely he’d get one of those deals Mike Glennon jut got.

Now that there is one less quarterback option on the market for teams in need, Kaepernick’s name should be coming up more. Hopefully his unemployment will end very soon, if not then we know what it is.

Throwback Steelers Football…

And at the right time too. 

Le’Veon Bell rushed for a Steelers single game record 236 yards in the 27-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

 

I said it last week and I’ll say it again now, Le’Veon Bell is the most lethal offensive weapon in the NFL. That includes all offensive positions, not just running back. 

Bell ran for a Steelers single game franchise record 236 yards with 3 touchdowns versus the Buffalo Bills Sunday in the 27-20 victory. He also had 62 yards receiving on 4 catches.

As the Steelers need every win to keep pace for the AFC North title, to possibly be the division’s only playoff participant, the formula for winning is simple. Get the ball to number 26. 
During Pittsburgh’s four game win streak, Bell has rushed for 236, 118, 120 and 146 yards. In a league where everyone is throwing the pig all over the field, Pittsburgh has decided to go throwback.

These type of performances are why fans have been disappointed he hasn’t played a full season in his career due to two suspensions and two major injuries.

Who knows what kind of offensive explosion would’ve happened if Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t thrown three interceptions on the day, one in the red zone on their first drive, and another on the fourth drive that set Buffalo up inside the red zone for their first touchdown of the game down 14-0.

The only unit that stopped the Steelers offense, was themselves. Or Roethlisberger if we want to point fingers.

But back to Bell, his 298 total yards from scrimmage were more than the 275 yards Keith Butler’s unit allowed to the Bills offense.

Speaking of defense, I’m loving what I’m watching lately. At the beginning of this season I never thought I’d say that. Hell, a month ago I wouldn’t have said it. 

Stephon Tuitt sacks Tyrod Taylor, one of the five the Steelers D registered on the day. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

 
They’re blitzing more, which is resulting in more sacks. Sunday they got to Tyrod Taylor 5 times, 3 in the first quarter. They’re creating turnovers, even though William Gay’s pick 6 in the first quarter was called back due to a holding penalty,  Artie Burns picked off Taylor later in the game to kill a Bills drive. And, they’re stopping the run better. The Bills had 67 yards for an average of 3.7 yards per carry in the game. A quarter of the way into the second stanza, Pittsburgh held them to -1 total yard. 

Most importantly, the rookies in the secondary, Artie Burns and Sean Davis, along with Ross Cockrell aren’t allowing teams top receivers to light them up like in years past.

This is the type of Steelers football I grew up with, and expect. This is what won Super Bowls XL and XLIII, even though the offense gets the highlights on NFL Films, aside from the James Harrison pick 6. This type of defensive effort is what’s going to be needed if they’re going to make the playoffs and win a NFL record seventh Lombardi in February.

This team is clicking on all the right cylinders at the right time.

Next up, the Cincinnati Bengals in the Queen City. Kickoff is set for 1 pm.

OTHER NOTES

  • Mike Tomlin won his 100th game as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Bell went over the 1,000 rushing mark for the 2nd time in his career.
  • Even though Ben Roethlisberger had a terrible day, he moved past Vinny Testaverde into 10th place on the NFL’s Career Passing yards leaders list (46,249).

2016 NFL Rookies Superlatives

How will the rookies of 2016 fare? We take a guess?

How will the rookies of 2016 fare? We take a guess?

The 2016 NFL draft class had little star power coming into the annual spring meeting, compared to years past. Although, as a group, the story was the Ohio State Buckeye draftees (5 first round picks, 12 overall).

But, even without the star prospects (2017 Leonard Fournette), there should be a few players that help teams take the next step. 36 linebackers were chosen, that was the most of any position. By comparison, there were only 15 quarterbacks selected. It appears teams are making more of an effort to get after the passer. Who can blame them after the way the Denver Broncos proved in the playoffs that defense still wins championships in this offensive slanted league.

But back to the rookie class of 2016. When you have 253 players selected and close to a hundred more signed as free agents, it’s not an exact science to project who will be the standouts and flame outs years from now. But hey, that’s what makes this fun.

So here’s how I think this year’s class will fare at some point in their career.

Most likely to lead the league in passing yards: Cardale Jones, Buffalo Bills. Cardale Jones rose to the National spotlight when he led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the first ever College Football Playoff Championship in 2014, after starting quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with a season ending injury. Many thought he should’ve entered the draft after that 3-game run, but he went back to school to finish his degree and improve his game. It didn’t work out on the field as he struggled, and lost his starting job after eight games. But, I always said Jones’ skill set is built more for the pro game than the fast break, gimmicky, spread offenses in college. His cannon of an arm and 6’5″ 250 pound frame is the pro-type NFL scouts look for at the QB position. I compare him to two-time Super Bowl winning QB Ben Roethlisberger when he entered the 2004 draft out of Miami of Ohio. Jones will start his career on the bench behind Tyrod Taylor, but the keys to the car in Buffalo will eventually be his. With offensive weapons like Sammy Watkins, tight end Charles Clay and running back LeSean McCoy, Jones will have the weapons to put up big numbers.

Most likely to lead the league in rushing: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys. The 4th pick in the draft could very likely accomplish this feat in his rookie season. “Zeke” will be running behind arguably the best offensive line in the League, and with Tony Romo out for the foreseeable future, he will be featured more now that they’ll be breaking in fellow rookie and 4th round pick Dak Prescott at quarterback.

Most likely to lead the league in catches/receiving yards: Sterling Shepard, New York Giants. The 2nd round pick, gets to play with Eli Manning who likes to throw it around the field, and across from Odell Beckham Junior who is going to draw more double teams and bracketed coverage, giving Shepard more opportunities. The Oklahoma Sooner product has been compared to Tyler Lockett, but the best comparison may be to his Giants teammate, the often injured Victor Cruz, who’s spot he’s likely to take.

Most likely to lead the league in total touchdowns (non-QB): Ezekiel Elliott is a dual threat as a runner and receiver, a three down back. It won’t be a surprise to see him flirt with having 15+ rushing touchdowns, and 5+ receiving touchdowns a season for the Cowboys.

Most likely to lead the league in interceptions: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars. Gus Bradley is building a defense similar to the one he coached in Seattle. The pass rushers they have are going to put all kinds of pressure on opposing QBs. So what does that mean? More wounded ducks for a multi talented DB like Ramsey to get his hands on. The 6’1″ 209 pound cornerback reminds me of the late Sean Taylor with his ball hawking ability and speed to fly from sideline to sideline.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks: Leonard Floyd, Chicago Bears. The 6’6″ outside linebacker out of the University of Georgia is a flat out athletic FREAK. His size and speed (4.6 40-yd dash) with a 35 inch vertical leap, has the athleticism that is reminiscent of Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. To begin his career, the Bears coaches will make it simple for him by just sending him flying off the edges to get the quarterback. Floyd could very well be the next great Bears defender following in the footsteps of Brian Urlacher, Mike Singletary, And Dick Butkus.

Most likely to lead the league in turnovers: Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets. The Jets selected Hackenberg out of Penn State with the 51st pick in the second round, but re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick for one-year, so they won’t be counting on the rookie anytime soon. However Hackenberg is definitely in their future plans. I was never a fan of his, during his time in Happy Valley. In three seasons he threw 30 interceptions to 48 touchdowns, while completing only 56% of his pass attempts. Draft gurus like ESPN’s Mel Kiper at one point projected him to be the number QB selected when he entered the draft. That obviously wasn’t the case, because the book is out on him. And, it doesn’t read well. He was also accused of throwing his coaches and Nittany Lion teammates under the bus during the pre-draft process.

Most likely to be a bust, and fade into obscurity: Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers. I hope I’m wrong on this one as a fellow Ohio State alum. But, being a holdout in the fashion he was, it doesn’t bold well for him. He missed all of training camp and the preseason. The only saving grace is that other Charger rookie holdouts–16 to be exact–like LaDanian Tomlinson, Junior Seau, Philip Rivers and Shawne Merriman worked out okay. Plus, Bosa isn’t playing QB or another complicated position like outside linebacker or in the defensive secondary, so you would think the Chargers coaching staff would just turn him lose and say “Go get the ball carrier” or “just get the quarterback”, making his transition simple.

Most likely to be a Hall of Famer: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys. Look, I’ve bought into the preseason hype. I did in preseason game number one. Check the tweets below and the time stamp.

    

Actually, I was a fan of his when he was at Mississippi State. Prescott probably won’t lead the NFL in passing yards or touchdown passes in a season, but he has all the pieces around him to win games, and that is what matters most. He’s fallen into the perfect situation, a la Russell Wilson in Seattle. The Cowboys have lucked up and found their new millennium triplets in Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and now Dak. Plus, this offensive line has the potential to be as dominate as the “Great Wall of Dallas” that led Emmitt Smith to the most rushing yards in NFL history. If Dak can channel his inner Troy Aikman–and Jerry Jones can avoid messing it up by forcing the chronically injured Tony Romo back into the lineup–these Cowboys can have a measure of success they haven’t had since the early-mid 1990’s. That would help Prescott’s case to get a gold jacket and bust in Canton one day.