Monday, June 30, 2014

Predictions for 2014 NFL Season

A list of predictions based upon what I saw last year in the NFL, from rookie players both in the NCAA and pre draft hype, and what I've heard from mini camps.

1. Jordan Cameron will have a break out season and become the third man in the, "who's the best TE" discussion.
 With a much more stable Quarterback competition in Cleveland and an overall improved team, I think Jordan Cameron makes the leap to becoming an elite player instead of a potentially elite player. I would project somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100-1,200 yards and 8-10 TDs (which would equal his career totals to this point). The kid has all of the talent to be a great player, and the only reason he hasn't been is because of weak Quarterbacks; Both Manziel and Hoyer are good enough to let Cameron shine.

2. Khiry Robinson will take the Saints number one Running Back job away from Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram by the end of the season.
 After what Khiry did last season in limited touches, as well as what he did as a featured back against the Eagles and Seahawks in the playoffs, he deserves to have an expanded role in the offense. Add to his production that Bill Parcells is hailing the kid as the next Curtis Martin and Sean Payton has been raving about his improved pass protection ability and he will get his touches. At some point either Ingram or Pierre will get banged up and miss time or be limited, and I just don't see Khiry giving them their job back once he gets on the field. He's better physically than Pierre, better mentally than Ingram, and tougher and more determined than both of them.

3. The New York Jets will make the playoffs
 With both the best Quarterback group and best Running Back group they have had since Rex Ryan has been in the big apple, the Jets are in prime position to make a push for a wild card berth. I feel like the Jets will probably give Geno the nod as the opening day starter, and he will either prove he can win under pressure, or he will fold like a cheap tent and Michael Vick will take his job. If Vick takes his job then I think Tahj Boyd becomes the developmental Quarterback of the future. Outside of a very solid Quarterback position, the Jets have one of the deepest backfields in the NFL. The Jets have solid runners like Chris Ivory, Daryl Richardson, and Bilal Powell who can run it inside or outside the tackles consistently. The Jets also have a potential home runner hitter in the back field with Chris Johnson. Couple this with a much improved Wide Receiver group (adding Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford) and Sexy Rexy's dominant defense, and the Jets have a very good shot of making the playoffs this season.

4. Only one team from the NFC North will make the playoffs and it will be Detroit
 Packers and Bears fans you may leave now. Given how good the Lions offense has been before, it should be downright scary this season under Jim Caldwell. Adding Golden Tate opposite of Calvin Johnson along with Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew will give Stafford several targets to throw to if Megatron is double covered. Throw in a strong backfield with versatile speedsters like Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, and Theo Riddick as well as versatile veteran Montell Owens and then add in an under the radar addition with Jed Collins and you start to get a pretty good backfield. Singing Jed Collins away from the Saints was a huge move for this teams as Jed is one of the best blocking Fullbacks in the league and should be able to spring Bush and Bell for some long runs by laying key blocks at the second level.
 The Biggest addition however is the coaching changes. While Jim Swartz often let the inmates run the asylum, Caldwell will keep everyone in line and hopefully be able to cut down on the number of sloppy mistakes the Lions offense and defense made last year. New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has also stated the Lions will be more multiple on defense, with different looks and adjustments, a major shift from the 4-3 Wide 9 or die defense of previous seasons. This combined with an overall emphasis on discipline and not giving up big plays should give the Lions the kind of defensive unit needed to win games, and ultimately, the NFC North.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

AFC South Quarterbacks

 When I read that Bill O'Brien had named Ryan Fitzpatrick the starting quarterback for the Texans I couldn't help but have a smile on my face. Fitz has always been one of my favorite quarterbacks, one of those throwback gunslinger types. The only problem I ever saw with Fitz was his tendency to sometimes make bad decisions at inopportune moments, when he was in Buffalo. Fitz actually reminds of Tony Romo a lot. Both in his ability to make plays with his mobility and strong arm, but also to ultimately make the fatal mistakes that lose games. If Bill O'Brien is praising Fitz for his accuracy and naming him as the starter then he must believe in him, and I for one am willing to defer to the noted "QB" guru on this one. Hopefully O'Brien can do the same thing for Fitz that Jim Harbaugh did for Alex Smith, and turn him into a star QB.

 Moving on to the Jaguars we have a very interesting situation with a 3rd overall pick who is apparently not going to start. With Gus Bradley going out of his way to state that Chad Henne will be the starter at least at the beginning of the season, the Jags have a very old school dynamic going on. Think about it, when was the last time you heard about a high pick rookie QB having to come in and earn his job? I love the way Gus is handling this situation, much like every situation since coming to Jacksonville. In an ideal world Chad Henne will play well enough for the defense and Toby Gerhart to carry the team to a decent record (4-4 or 5-3) and then be able to turn the reins over to Blake Bortles and keep the ball rolling all the way into the playoffs.

 Jake Locker, that is all. At this point what else needs to be said? You probably either think the kid is the savior of the Titans or another draft dud. Locker has the same kind of opinions about him that Ryan Tannehill has in Miami. I tend to be in the second camp, I really don't see much with Locker, he seems like an athlete with a good arm but I haven't seen him really do anything spectacular. If he had a proven QB guru coaching him I think he could be great, but he seems really raw to me and I'm not sure if Tennessee is the right spot for him.

 Alright, so I'll admit it, I was wrong. When Luck and RGIII came into the draft I was the biggest RGIII supporter and was sure he'd be better than Luck. And while I have a lot of confidence in RGIII and the Redskins new coaching staff, I have a very bold (perhaps foolish) prediction for Andrew Luck. Next season, Andrew Luck will be the best QB in the NFL. I think he will be in the top three in yards and TDs, and be either first or second in QBR. Whether he wins MVP or not I don't know, but he will be recognized by the media as one of the top QBs in the game with similar reverence as Aaron Rodgers. Luck's ability as a passer and a leader is well known and right up there with the Brady, Manning, and Brees' of the league, but perhaps the thing that sets him apart is his athletic ability. Depsite being the "pro-style" QB in the draft, Luck had the same 40 time as Cam Newton and has shown the ability and willingness to run with the ball when necessary

(Case in point, his Tim Tebow/Brett Favre impersonation from the playoff game against KC)
All in all the AFC South has some interesting QBs, from the superstars to the super raw. It will be fun to see how Blake Bortles and Jake Locker turn out, and Fitz will be very fascinating to watch. But, at the end of the day the Colts clearly have the best QB in the division, and are the team to beat in the AFC South. The real question is which one of the other three teams have the best shot to make the playoffs as a wild card team.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

NFL Mock Draft 2014 Part 3 (Picks 22-32)

22: Philadelphia Eagles

Pick: Kelvin Benjamin/ WR/ Florida State

Analysis: The Eagles have a need at WR after releasing DeSean Jackson, however, the trade for Darren Sproles gives them a similar type of player allowing them to take a bigger possession receiver. Kelvin Benjamin gives them a large, almost TE sized receiver who will be a monster in the red zone, and make Philly that much more difficult to stop.

23. Kansas City Chiefs

Pick: Marquis Lee/ WR/ USC

Analysis: Lee gives Andy Reid a true number one receiver who can play opposite of Dwayne Bowe. With two solid receivers and an elite RB in the backfield the Chiefs will be the biggest thorn in the side of Denver next season.

24. Cincinnati Bengals

Pick: Bradley Robey/ CB/ Ohio State

Analysis: Robey is an intriguing physical specimen, who despite some injuries, has a high ceiling as an NFL CB. He can start out as a Nickel Corner and eventually should be able to ascend to a no.2 CB for the Bengals.

25. San Diego Chargers

Pick: Louis Nix/ NG/ Notre Dame

Analysis: Chargers add a true NG in the middle, who also has the upside of having been in charge of keeping Manti Te'o clean from being blocked at Notre Dame. The fit here is perfect, and improves the Chargers defense, especially against the run.

26. Cleveland Browns

Pick: Derek Carr/ QB/ Fresno State

Analysis: After missing out on Manziel the Browns take a QB who can come in and compete with Brian Hoyer for the starting job. Carr is a near perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan's offense, at least on paper. The only real weakness Carr has is on deep passes and his size. I look at Carr as a poor man's Andrew Luck or Drew Brees, especially with his gunslinger mentality.

27. New Orleans Saints

Pick: Keith McGull/ CB/ Utah

Analysis: The Saints have a penchant for having first round picks that are completely out of left field. After flirting with Brandon Browner and signing Jairus Byrd the Saints have all but announced they are trying to copy Seattle's blueprint for defense. McGull has raw first round talent but is unrefined. At 6'3'' he is a huge man with long arms and solid enough speed to play press man. Letting him cover the number 2 receiver while learning from Champ Bailey will allow him to develop fast.

28. Carolina Panthers

Pick: Brandin Cooks/ WR/ Oregon State

Analysis: Might as well call him Steve Smith without the crazy. Fast tenacious burner, gives Carolina someone to throw the ball to other than Greg Olsen.

29. New England Patriots

Pick: Austin Seferian-Jenkins/ TE/ Washington

Analysis: The Patriots need help on offense and they know it. Despite needs at WR the Pats should wait for the second round to address that need and take a TE who can complement (or replace) Rob Gronkowski. Hopefully this kid turns out better than Aaron Hernandez.

30. San Francisco 49ers

Pick: Timmy Jernigan/ DT/NG/ Florida State

Analysis: While I doubt they pick here (probably trading up for a Odell Beckham Jr. or some other speed receiver) Jernigan makes the most sense here as a talented lineman who could play either Nose or End for the 49ers, and is one of the most talented players available.

31. Denver Broncos

Pick: Joel Bitonio/ OT/OG / Nevada

Analysis: A versatile lineman who projects best as a LG. Plays with awareness and intensity and helps jumpstart Denver's run game.

32. Seattle Seahawks

Pick: Stanley Jean-Baptiste/ CB/ Nebraska

Analysis: Could be the love child of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. Has all of the size and raw ability the Seahawks looks for in a corner and could compete for the no.2 corner spot against Byron Maxwell immediately.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

NFL Mock Draft 2014 Part 2 (Picks 11-21)

11. Tennessee Titans

Pick: Darqueze Dennard/ CB/ Michigan State

Analysis: This Tennessee's biggest need outside of QB and RB. I'd look for them to go with Dennard or Kyle Fuller in this spot, all comes down to whether they go with the bigger risk in Dennard or the safer pick in Fuller. Look for them to go after Jimmy Garropollo or Tre Mason in the second round to address their other needs.

12. New York Giants

Pick: Aaron Donald/ DT/ Pittsburgh

Analysis: This Donald kid is the perfect fit for the Giants. He is like Warren Sapp reincarnated, and is one of the best pass rushing 3-Techniques I've ever seen.

13. St. Louis Rams

Pick: Ha Ha Clinton Dix/ FS/ Alabama

Analysis: Having solidified their offensive line by taking Greg Robinson at no.2 the Rams can now turn to the defense and improve their struggling secondary by taking this SEC FS. Dix should be able to pick of many passes next year in this defense from the sheer amount of hurried throws Robert Quinn and Chris Long will force.

14. Chicago Bears

Pick: Ryan Shazier/ OLB/ Ohio State

Analysis: Despite the Bears secondary woes, I think the Bears address their issue at linebacker here. With the two best Cornerbacks off the board already they take a very underrated athletic linebacker with huge potential.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pick: Kyle Fuller/ CB/ Virginia Tech

Analysis: Fuller just seems to be a perfect scheme fit for Pittsburgh. Could also be an OT or WR but they really need help in the secondary.

16. Dallas Cowboys

Pick: Anthony Barr/ DE/OLB / UCLA

Analysis: The Cowboys really like this kid, and Jerry will hope he is the next Demarcus Ware. Only time will tell if he can become a dominant DE as he is small and would be a better fit in a 34 or  Seattle and Jacksonville's "Leo" 43.

17. Baltimore Ravens

Pick: Calvin Pryor/ FS/ Louisville

Analysis: Baltimore needs help at safety, with this pick they can a really great pair of safeties with Pryor and Matt Elam. Pryor and Dix could be swapped depending on who the Rams take at 13.

18. New York Jets

Pick: Odell Beckham Jr./ WR/ LSU

Analysis: The Jets need a solid WR to play opposite of Eric Decker. Odell Beckham Jr. gives them a Desean Jackson type of receiver, who will help either Michael Vick or Geno Smith and should help the Jets continue to build in the right direction.

19. Miami Dolphins

Pick: Zack Martin/ OT/ Notre Dame

Analysis: Miami is in desperate need of an OT, Martin's ability as a run blocker makes him a natural RT. Also if he fails as a OT he has the potential to be moved to guard, making him a safer pick.

20. Arizona Cardinals

Pick: Cyrus Kouandjio/ OT/ Alabama

Analysis: An overhyped power RT prospect. His raw physical ability could make him a complete monster on the right side, but his lack of polish could eventually turn him into a bust. Gives Arizona one of the most solid lines in the NFL if he pans out. Look for them to go after a QB in the 2nd round.

21. Green Bay Packers

Pick: Stephon Tuitt/ DE/ Notre Dame

Analysis: I honestly think there is no way the Packers stay here, there is no top tier talent at there biggest positions of need. I'll guess Stephon Tuitt here as one of the best players available and the Packers need for help on the D-Line.