Tag Archives: Rookies

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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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.

2015 NFL Rookies Most Likely To’s…

The careers of the class of 2015 is now on the clock. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

The 2015 NFL draft class has taken their photos with the commissioner and received their hats and jerseys. Now it is time for them to begin working towards making a significant contribution to their new team. And, it’s the fans and media types turn to critique or criticize each selection as well as prognosticate their careers. The key for these guys to have a successful career depends on the team they’re drafted to, as much as their own talent and work ethic. Every year some prospects fall well below their projected draft spot into a better situation. See Dan Marino, Randy Moss, Warren Sapp, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady to name a few. Predicting the future of a professional athlete is harder than trying to read HTML text. So of course, I took my shot. Here are my 2015 NFL Draft Class’ most likely to’s. (Note: this is not what I think they’ll do in their rookie season, but at some point in their careers.)

Most likely to pass for 4,000 yards ~ Jameis Winston (QB) Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston has all the tools of a prototypical NFL quarterback; 6’4″, big arm, above average mobility and played in a pro style system. In Tampa Bay he will have two beast at wide receiver to throw to in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, who are both 6’5″ like Kelvin Benjamin, his go to target at Florida State the season they won the National Championship.

Most likely to lead the NFL in rushing ~ Todd Gurley (RB) St. Louis Rams. He is an Adrian Peterson clone. At 6’0″ 222 pounds he has Olympic speed having been a track star at the University of Georgia in addition to running for the second most yards in Bulldogs history. He will run over you, then away from you. Head Coach Jeff Fisher is all about tough physical defense complimenting a power running game. He did it for nearly a decade in Houston and Tennessee with former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George. That’s the recipe to win In the NFC West.

Most likely to lead the league in receptions/receiving yards ~ Nelson Agholor (WR) Philadelphia Eagles. Chip Kelly’s crew has lost their leading receiver each of the last two seasons (Desean Jackson 2013, Jeremy Macklin 2014). Drafting Agholor with their first round pick was a dire need and a perfect fit. At 6’0″ 198 pounds, the former USC Trojan is built similarly to Macklin and will need to be featured and targeted often in this offense if it has any hopes of making it back to the playoffs. Kelly is familiar with Agholor from recruiting him out of high school, to coaching against him in the PAC-12. Jackson and Macklin weren’t Kelly’s guys, Agholor is and he will get the opportunities to flourish.

Most likely to lead the league in touchdowns ~ Marcus Mariota (QB) Tennessee Titans. Mariota is a dual threat QB and in order for him to be successful in the NFL, he’s going to have to do it with his legs as much as with his arm. I can see Mariota being what RG III showed flashes of in his first season in D.C. For the Titans to be successful, Mariota will have to consistently post 10+ touchdowns on the ground, along with 20-25 in the air.

Most likely to lead the league in interceptions ~ Marcus Peters (CB) Kansas City Chiefs. Draft gurus said he’s the best corner in the draft, but issues with the coaching staff at the University of Washington that caused him to be kicked off the team in his final season are why he was selected number 18 instead of the first defensive back to come off the board. Peters allowed just 38.1 percent of the passes against him to be completed and had 24 passes defended and 8 interceptions in two seasons with the Huskies.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks ~ Bud Dupree (OLB) Pittsburgh Steelers. Dupree has in many draft experts eyes top 10 potential. He is a versatile linebacker who can play many roles in the 3-4 scheme the Black and Gold will run even without longtime Defensive Coordinator Dick Lebeau. Dupree won’t have the pressure of being “the guy” playing alongside the ageless James Harrison, Pro Bowler Lawrence Timmons and the potential of Ryan Shazier (last year’s top pick) and Jarvis Jones. Chris Burke of SI.com says “As a stand-up rusher, has tremendous first-step quickness and closes to the pocket in a hurry. Bends the edge in space quickly enough for blockers to struggle in adjustment.” That’s a Blitzburgh linebacker.

Most likely to lead the league in tackles ~ Eric Kendricks (LB) Minnesota Vikings. Kendricks was a tackling machine in his collegiate career at UCLA (481). The 2014 Butkus and Lott IMPACT award winner can play on all three downs and will have the advantage of playing next to his former college teammate, Anthony Barr. In Minnesota he should be kept clean to get to the ball carrier by DT Shariff Floyd and NT Linval Joseph.

Most likely to lead the league in tackles for loss ~ Leonard Williams (DT) New York Jets. Williams was not only called the safest pick in the draft, but possibly the best player in this class. He is a late bloomer to the game and is still learning just what he can do. He’s a three down player and is well conditioned from playing against uptempo offenses in the Pac-12. With the Jets he’ll benefit from playing for a great defensive minded coach in Todd Bowles and next to Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Gang Green has potentially the best D-Line in football and this kid will be getting single coverage to wreck backfields. Matter of fact, the Jets are the leading candidates to have the league’s best overall defense with the additions of Revis and Cromartie in the secondary. They’ll need it, because there offense may be near the worse unless Geno Smith drastically improves.

Most likely to lead the league in turnovers ~ Jameis Winston (QB) Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Baring injury he will start day one. Rookie QBs thrown in the fire historically struggle with the turnover bug. The knock on him during the draft process has been his decision-making on and off the field. On the field, he forced a lot of passes into tight windows, relying on his arm strength—similar to Bears QB Jay Cutler who some have compared him to—and we all know the windows are tighter in the NFL. In his second season at FSU, Winston threw 18 interceptions. He also is loose with the ball in the pocket as he tries to maneuver around similar to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger–who I think is his best case scenario. I’m not saying Winston will be a bust or anything, but when you’re the number one pick it is trial by fire. Ask Andrew Luck, Michael Vick, Peyton and Eli Manning and other quarterbacks who were drafted number one overall. Turnovers are part of the growing pains.

Most likely to be Rookie of The Year ~ Melvin Gordon (RB) San Diego Chargers. Gordon will have the benefit of playing with Pro Bowlers in quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates and wide receiver Kennan Allen as well as Malcolm Floyd. That means he won’t see many eight man fronts loading up to stop him like his draft counter part Todd Gurley will face with St. Louis. Gordon will be the game one starter replacing Ryan Matthews who’s now with the Philadelphia Eagles. He will also play a huge role in the Chargers passing game, as he showed at Wisconsin he can be an every down back like his draft comparison Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs. I still think Gurley is the better back and will have the better career, but the fit for Gordon in San Diego sets him up to have a better start.

Most likely to be a perennial Pro Bowler/All-Pro ~ Andrus Peat (OL) New Orleans Saints. This is a cop-out pick for me. Top rated offensive lineman typically transition very well to the next level. See Jake Long, Joe Thomas, Maurkice Pouncey and the list goes on. The 6’7″ 313 pounder has a much easier road because of his pedigree being the son of a former pro and playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees.

Most likely to fade into obscurity ~ Randy Gregory (OLB) Dallas Cowboys. The NFL is in an era of steering clear of guys with off the field issues. Gregory not only failed a drug test at the combine he knew was coming, but missed interviews or showed up to a few ninety minutes late during the draft process. If he can stay on the field the Cowboys may have something, but Dallas hasn’t been known as an organization that does a good job of keeping troubled guys out of trouble.

Most likely to be the steal of the draft ~ Brett Hundley (QB) Green Bay Packers. The 6’3″ former UCLA Bruin was drafted 147th when the Packers traded up from 166th to select him. He won’t be expected to play for a while, because he will sit behind arguably the best in the game in Aaron Rodgers. But he’s in the best position because obviously GM Ted Thompson coveted him to make such a jump to select him. He’s been compared to journeyman quarterback Jason Campbell, but unlike Campbell, Hundley will most likely have the benefit of learning one system from one coordinator. The best thing for Hundley is he will not only learn from Coach McCarthy, who has experience working with elite quarterbacks, but Rodgers experience on the field and patiently waiting his turn behind another future Hall of Famer.

Late rounder most likely to be a Pro Bowler ~ Michael Bennett (DT) Jacksonville Jaguars. Bennett was selected a lot later than expected (NFL.com projected him in the second round). But, it may have been best for him. He’ll play for Gus Bradley, who has been very successful in the NFL, most notably as an assistant in Seattle and Tampa Bay where he was apart of Monty Kiffin’s staff. From his draft profile via NFL.com; Great burst off snap, coming in low and looking to disrupt. Is always first with his hands. Good arm length for a player his height. Violent, active hands are his calling card. Uses powerful hands to snatch and pull guards off their spot. That’s what you want in a defensive tackle.