Category Archives: Pigskin Paul

Who Caught My Eye Week 8

RYAN ANDERSON/ER/LB/ALABAMA #22 6’2/253 Much of what I have to say about ANDERSON as a prospect is similar to what I have said previously about TIM WILLIAMS his Alabama teammate. His two biggest attributes are ball pursuit and pass-rush pressure both of which he does with extreme speed and energy for a guy his size. I’m still not sure whether he has potential to stand up in a 3-4 scheme as an OLB, or will need to be a 4-3 scheme pass rush specialist. Either way I see him as a 3rd Rounder for next year’s Draft. He’s incredibly explosive at the snap of the ball. He was just too quick, and at times too strong, for an average A&M OL to handle. His stats for the game were 4 Tackles, 3TFL, 1 FF & 1 QBH. But he was a constant irritant who had to be accounted for on every snap. He has a thick, strong body which inflicts pain and damage when he gets to the ball. He’d be a feature defender on a team with less talent. In comparison to WILLIAMS, I think Anderson is actually a bit more productive in college, but does not have the athletic skills package that WILLIAMS brings to the field. Here’s hoping he shows up for the Senior Bowl in January, because I’d luv to see how a pro coaching staff would work with him.

LEONARD FOURNETTE/RB/LSU #7 6’1/235 JR Any time FOURNETTE is healthy (and he wasn’t even 100% vs. Ole Miss) he’s going to get a ton of yards and your attention. He’s a big bulldozing back, who also accelerates to speedster status once into a secondary. Ole Miss is one of the worst teams in D1 at stopping the run, and it made for a bad match-up for them against FOURNETTE. A solid LSU OL opened some major holes which FOURNETTE used to great advantage rushing only 16 times, while gaining 284 yards and scoring 3 TD. His TD runs measured 59, 76 & 78 yards. He can break tackles and has a nice stiff-arm. Now for the bad news… he is not the prototypical RB for today’s NFL, where maybe 6-8 teams are looking for a power running game practitioner. He can catch dump-off screen throws, but that’s about it as a receiver. He reminds me of HERSCHEL WALKER, in that he’s basically a straight line runner who must have interior holes to run through. He does not have the cutting ability of an ADRIAN PETERSON. I project he’ll go in Round 1, but most fans are going to be surprised when it’s not in the Top 10 Picks. But this was a great game effort on his part coming back from that early season ankle injury last weekend.

KEON HATCHER/WR/ARKANSAS #4 6’2/218 HATCHER missed most of the 2015 season and was a bit under the radar getting back on the field this year for the Razorbacks. He has steadily gotten back into his groove and is once again a key weapon for the team. His game is running good patterns and shielding defenders from the ball to make catches. Can get you some YAC, but is not a true deep threat. He shows better than average catching ability. Despite the team getting spanked by Auburn HATCHER did his part to keep the Arkansas offense moving, with 7 catches for 81 yards. I am projecting that he will generate interest from some NFL teams for Rounds 4/5 next April, and will have a solid chance to emerge as a No. 3/4 wideout, with a chance to really make his mark on Special Teams because of his size and athleticism. His Draft stock is rising right now with NFL Personnel people.

O.J. HOWARD/TE/ALABAMA #88 6’6/245 Seems like HOWARD has been at Alabama for about a decade, but it has only been 4 years. He’s been a contributor since his frosh season and has improved every season. He is a now a very solid blocker and makes a receiving target who is hard to miss at 6’6. He gets used sporadically as a receiving target in the ‘Bama offense, depending upon the opponent and type of game underway. He may go several weeks in a row with only 1-2 catches per, and then be a major target, like last week against A&M. He was looked to often last weekend and responded, as he usually does, with 8 catches for 70 yards and a TD. He’s a bit stiff so doesn’t gain a lot after the catch, but he shows reliable hands and looks to have a high FBI. Should make an excellent Red Zone performer as a pro, with solid blocking ability and a long frame, with a very large receiving radius. Probably the best all-around TE prospect for the 2017 Draft. He reminds me of BUBBA FRANKS, and could be a late First Rounder.

JALEEL JOHNSON/DT/IOWA #67 6’4/310 I had no intention of thumb-nailing JALEEL, when I grabbed my notebook for this showdown with Wisconsin. I respect JOHNSON, but had not regarded him as anything special going into this contest with UW. But by halftime it was clear he might be the best performer out on the field on this day. His forte’ is anchoring the middle of the Hawkeyes DL, whether in a 3-4 as the Nose, or 4-3 alignment. He shows very good strength and balance. He stays low and plays with very good leverage. But he also can beat his blocker and great penetration to the opponents side of the line of scrimmage. He shows exceptional strength, that compares with some DT I have watched that weigh 10-20 lbs. more than him. In an amazing display for an interior lineman he recorded sacks on 2 consecutive plays late in the 3rd Quarter against the Badgers. For the game he recorded 4 tackles, including those 2 sacks. But he did much more all day long helping to hold RB/CLEMENTS to under 3-yds per carry, except for one long run in the 4th Quarter. He looks like a Top 100 player to my eyes after watching him carefully in this game.

GUNNER KIEL/QB/CINCINNATI #11 6’4/215 The forgotten man. The JEFF GEORGE of his generation. Both statements might apply handily to this former 5-star Notre Dame recruit. He has bounced around and though he had a nice season in 2015 for Cincy, when not injured, he ended up in HC TUBERVILLE’s dog house this off-season. He was demoted to 3rd string and told to straighten up his attitude as a teammate and competitor. Word is he complied and when the two guys ahead of him went down Coach Tubs put him back out on the field a couple of weeks ago. Last week against East Carolina KEIL got the start and acquitted himself well in a Cincinnati victory. KEIL went 23/40- 58%- 348 yards- 4 YTD- 0 INT. That’s quite a solid performance, especially when you consider that the Bearcats Offense is challenged by a completely rebuilt WR corps this season, with their top 3 guys from 2015 in the NFL. The next question is whether or not KEIL keeps the starting job when others get healthy. Most folks will tell you that his arm is not his issue, it’s his head. With the urgency of need for NFL level QB I still have to believe some NFL team will have him on their roster next Summer, unless he implodes during the interview process next Spring. I’d like to see the Shrine Game send him an invite.

DESMOND KING/DB/IOWA #14 5’11/203 IOWA has had a very solid track record of sending DB to the NFL during the FERENTZ coaching regime. KING looked like one of their best ever in 2015 when he racked up 8 INT along with 13 PBU. He also posted 72 tackles. Many were surprised when he elected to return to school for a senior campaign. Another season doesn’t always add to a player’s value however. Especially relative to INT, which are often the residue just of luck as they are of hard work. Through half of this season his numbers are down to 1 INT and his draft stock is drifting, if not falling. He’s a good all around player who can do it all out on the grass, including serving as a very good Return Specialist. But I have a bad feeling from watching him again last week against Wisconsin, that his forty-time at Indy is going to have many teams talking about him as a S. Nothing wrong with that, but it won’t get him drafted and paid at the highest level. He had a nice game with a whopping 12 tackles, and a fumble recovery in the loss to the Badgers. But he was beaten on several occasions in coverage, including two by Badger TEs who out-quicked him for big plays. To be blunt I don’t think he’s a much better athlete than MICAH HYDE, another ex-Hawkeye playing in sub-packages for the Packers. I will label him a 2nd/3rd Rounder with his best NFL starting opportunity to be as a FS.

SAM ROGERS/FB/VIRGINIA TECH #45 5’10/228 ROGERS chances of actually being drafted next Spring are realistically not much better than 50/50. But he deserves to be thumb-nailed because of all the little things he can do for a team, and what a nice upgrade he could be for some team in the bottom quarter of their roster. TECH had a key game at home last week against Miami. The team needed to bounce back from an upset loss at Syracuse. They did so, and ROGERS was a big part of that victory. He looked exactly like the Swiss Army knife we’ve come to expect him to be. He was his usual strong presence on Special Teams, but a much bigger part of the Offense than he is most weeks. ROGERS caught two balls in this one and in the 2nd Quarter he took a short toss and zigged and zagged his way to a 52-yard gain getting the ball inside the Miami 10-yard line. In the 3rd Quarter he actually threw a pass for a 13-yard TD. He caught another pass later in the game and was his usual self, doing the ordinary things like blocking from scrimmage and covering punts on Special Teams. He looks like a solid addition to some NFL roster, and might get an invite to an All-Star game. We’ll get an idea how serious his Draft chances are when we see if he’s invited to the Combine.

SHAAN WASHINGTON/OLB/TEXAS A&M #33 6’3/235 I’ve watched A&M, and SEAN WASHINGTON, 3 times in the past month. And I cannot believe the guy isn’t more of a household name on Prospect watch lists. After all, it’s not like he came from nowhere, after notching 81 tackles in 2015 and has been seeing regular reps since his true freshman season in College Station. Through 7 games this season he leads the team in tackles with 56. He has nice size for an OLB spot in the pro game, and should grade out pretty nicely with his drill numbers at the Combine. He runs smoothly and covers a lot of ground. He timed some nice blitzes to pressure QB/HURTS a few times. He also shows good mobility in back-pedaling into position to defend the shallow middle of the field against the pass. I thought he as all over the field against ‘Bama, and sure enough he led the team with 11 tackles, including 1/2 TFL and 1 QBH. We won’t dwell on the fact that he committed a roughing the passer foul in the 3rd Quarter with hands to HURTS face. To add one more aspect to his value and versatility he also excels on Special Teams coverage units. He made an outstanding open field tackle on a punt return early in the 4th Quarter. In summation he does an awful lot of little things to help his team every game. If he’s not a Top 100 prospect he certainly should he highly sought after guy in Round 4, when the final day of the draft rolls around.

DAVIS WEBB/QB/CAL #7 6’5/225 WEBB sat the bench at Texas Tech once PAT MAHOMES got to campus. No shame in that though. After seemingly stating his intention to attend multiple schools as a graduate transfer, he ended up at CAL taking over for JARED GOFF in Sonny Dykes wide open attack offense. And he hasn’t missed a beat, putting up GOFF kind of numbers. Last week he guided CAL to a 52-49 victory over Oregon as they upped their record to 4-3 in what was labeled a big rebuilding year without GOFF, the first pick in the NFL Draft by the RAMS. Against the Ducks WEBB was 42/61- 69%- 325 yards- 5 TD- 0 INT. The tall, big handed WEBB has been quite the gunslinger for the Golden Bears all season. Yes, a lot of his throws could be classified as dink and dunk, but he has also shown nice touch on some long throws and seems to be reading the field quite effectively in choosing his targets. He’s also doing all this in light of the fact that when GOFF left town so did CAL’s 6 top receivers from last season. WEBB seems to be doing a fine job nurturing a whole mess of young, inexperienced receivers. He looks to be in control of the huddle (when they have one) and interacts quite a bit with his teammates on the sidelines. He seems to have been a very quick study in mastering DYKES’ offensive scheme. I have to think that he’s a legit pro prospect, albeit a few rounds later than GOFF. Hoping to see WEBB at a Star Game come January.

Pigskin

2016 College Football Rankings #3

1) ALABAMA 8-0 Still look like the best, head and shoulders above the rest.
2) MICHIGAN 7-0 Cruising toward showdown game with now imperfect Buckeyes.
3) WASHINGTON 7-0 The young Huskies look like the best of the Left Coast teams.
4) CLEMSON 7-0 Better be ready to be better on Offense or FSU could bite them.
5) LOUISVILLE 6-1 Can’t get sloppy waiting for Clemson to lose.
6) BAYLOR 6-0 The gantlet part of their schedule is looming after soft first half.
7) WEST VIRGINIA 6-0 Has looked like a solid, well rounded team… so far.
8) NEBRASKA 7-0 If they carry undefeated record out of Mad Town BIG 10 West is theirs.
9) BOISE STATE 7-0 The little school that could must stay on task.
10) OHIO STATE 6-1 THey need to find their Offense and win out, especially against Michigan.
11) TEXAS A&M 6-1 They must bounce back strong, because there’s no shame in losing to ‘BAMA.
12) UTAH 7-1 They look better than ever with JOE WILLIAMS/RB back but vs. Washington?!
13) FLORIDA STATE 5-2 Tough task… beat CLemson, or write off 2016 as a disappointment.
14) WISCONSIN 5-2 Have survived tough schedule, but that O must give them more vs. Nebraska.
15) W. MICHIGAN 8-0 A well balanced MAC team can still climb. Showdown with Toledo still looming.

That’s my Top 15 for now, with some very large showdowns looming this weekend: WASHINGTON @ UTAH, NEBRASKA @ WISCONSIN & CLEMSON @ FLORIDA STATE. Look at those games carefully. All the higher rated teams must win on the road.
I also bid adieu to HOUSTON & OLE MISS who both lost last weekend and no longer figure in the Top 10 hunt for this season. Better luck next year fellas.
One more big win this weekend for the following and their stick could jump up: FLORIDA 5-1.

Pigskin

WHO CAUGHT MY EYE Weeks 5 & 6

Now that Hurricane Matthew has ended his unwelcome visit to Florida I am getting back on track and giving you 2 weeks of thumbnails in one column. I have indicated in each instance what game performance I am referring to.

BEN BOULWARE/ILB/CLEMSON #10 5’11/235 Another example of a less than ideal athlete who is too hard core of a ‘baller to be ignored. Just look at the tape from Clemson’s big W over Louisville. If you don’t have time to watch let me tell you his stat line for that game. 18, yes 18, Tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU, Fumble recovery. I don’t care what size he is he can play for my team any day. He makes up for a lack of height and foot speed with a very high FBI and unbelievable energy level. He is also tough as nails and hurts people with his hard hits. Gotta be a great locker room influence as well. I’d draft him in Round 4 without hesitation.

EVAN ENGRAM/TE/H-B/OLE MISS #17 6’3/227 It’s still not clearly defined where his game will translate to as a pro, from a positional perspective. But it is clear that he is a smart, hard working player who is a good athlete. He’s not really fast enough to be a full-time WR, and not big enough to be an inline TE. But he can flat out catch, and gain extra yards. He’s a very good leaper and will win most high-point battles for catches. He has been CHAD KELLY’s go-to guy the past two seasons. Despite team losses he has come up big in the Rebels two biggest contests of the season so far. He had 9 catch games against both Florida State and Alabama. In today’s pass happy NFL there will be a spot for him in multiple roles on Offense. He may be athletic enough to really impress at the Combine and push his stock upward.

JORDAN EVANS/LB/OKLAHOMA #26 6’2/233 EVen though it wasn’t pretty at times the victory last week over Texas might just serve as a springboard to a more successful second half of the season for the 3-2 Sooners. One of their leaders on D is EVANS, who can do it all. He may play inside or outside in the pros depending upon base schemes/ But his biggest potential pro attribute is that he is effective at dropping into coverage. He is also active as a zone blitzer and spends a good deal of time on opponents’ side of the line of scrimmage. Against Texas EVANS was credited with 10 tackles, 1 1/2TFL & 1/2 sack. He appears to be a smart player with multiple skills. He was the team’s leading returning tackler with 83 in 2015. Given his athleticism he should make an interesting project for some NFL team next year, with immediate dividends yielded on Special Teams units. Looks mid-Round draftable to me.

JON HECK/OT/UNC #71 6’7/300 Notes from game action vs. VA Tech. Son of former NFLer ANDY HECK. JON is not quite the athlete his dad was, but has been a solid starter for Tar Heels since his frosh year. He has good size and excellent length, but looks like a RT to me, which is his college position. He is agile, but not terribly quick afoot. He shows fairly active hand and arm use in pass pro and shows good quickness off the snap. Can get to second level blocks quickly in run game. Let’s call him a good prospect, with lots of useful playing experience at high level of competition. IMO, he looks very similar to JOHN THEUS out of UGA last year, who did make the 49’ers roster this year. I’d plug him somewhere between Rounds 4 & 5.

JOHN JOHNSON/FS/BOSTON COLLEGE #9 6’0/200 THis guy looks to me to be almost the spitting image of JASON SIMMONS, who was drafted coming out of BC this past April. He plays the run and pass equally well, and never gives up on a play. He had 63 tackles and 3 INT in 2015 for the Eagles. He put up a valiant effort in a beat down by Clemson last week with 4 tackles and a fumble recovery. But the BC D kept them in the game into the 2nd half, when their hapless Offense sputtered, then completely shut down. I expect more of the same from BC on the second half of the season, so to some extent JOHNSON’s pro prospects may be decided at the Combine and All-STar games come January. A former CB, JOHNSON serves as the squad’s defensive signal caller from his S spot.

SAMAJE PERINE/RB/OKLAHOMA JR #32 5’10/235 PERINE was a revelation as a true freshman with over 1300 rushing yards. He topped the 1300-yard mark again as a soph. Behind a mediocre OL this season he has come on strong after a modest start. In the big win over Texas last Saturday he carried the Sooners on his broad shoulders with 214 yards on 35 carries, 6.1 ypc, and 2 very important TDs. The front seven of the Longhorns is a talented group to post those numbers against. He reminds me quite a bit of Jerome Bettis as a tough inside runner, who often dishes out more punishment than he takes. He runs through, and occasionally around defenders, showing good balance to pick up those yards after contact. He also shows good initial burst to and through creases in the Defense. Gets dinged up because of his style of running, but usually bounces back after a bit of rest and medical attention on the sidelines. Expect him to come out for the 2017 Draft, and be very attractive to an NFL team that likes a power running game. Looks like a Round 2 guy to me.

CAM ROBINSON/OT/ALABAMA JR #74 6’6/325 May just be the best overall OT in college football who is Draft eligible in 2017. He has monster size and decent mobility to go with it. He really does remind me of D.J. FLUKER, when he was at Alabama. He is a good pass protector, but will probably have some issues with the elite speed rushers in the NFL. Once he gets rolling secondary defenders look for a place to hide. Early in the Arkansas game he pulled all the way from LT to block on the right side of the formation. He got there before the RB although he was off-balance when he attempted to execute a block on the LB. Spent a little more time on the ground than I want from my elite LT. I jotted down a note at one point as he missed a second level block despite getting to his man. A play later though he shot off the snap of the ball and executed a devastating seal block on a LB. The talent is clearly there and he should start for a long time as a pro. If ‘Bama wins another national title expect him to start making big bucks as a pro by leaving school a year early. A sure thing 1st Rounder.

JORDAN STERNS/S/OKLAHOMA STATE #13 6’0/200 There seems to be a shortage of elite S prospects for most Drafts, and I think a big part of the reason or that is that so much is expected of today’s S. STRENS looks to have all the tools to excel as a pro. In 2015 he was credited with 108 tackles and 2 INT. He covers a lot of ground and has good ball skills, in addition to be a heavy hitting tackler. He was one of the big play stars against Texas 2 weeks ago. In the 3rd Quarter he had a red zone INT at the Cowboys 15 yard line to end a Longhorns drive. Later in the 3rd Q, he diagnosed the play and had a TFL to foil a Texas 2-point conversion attempt. He is a solid team leader, on and off the field. Looks to have a very high FBI. On my Big Board he’s a Top 100 senior prospect, who we should see in detail at the Senior Bowl.

CORDREA TANKERSLEY/CB/CLEMSON #25 6’1/200 I have mixed emotions about this player short term, but he has the ability to start in the NFL with extra coaching. In games against both Louisville and B.C. he could have been called for multiple PI and holding penalties because he’s grabby and not as subtle about it as he thinks he is. I expect him to have the same penalty issues early in his pro career as TRAE WAYNES, who seems to be improving in his technique this year. He has nice size and likes to throw himself around the field and be physical. He is willing in run support, and also plays Special Teams coverage units. He also has shown some ball skills and is able to locate the ball for INT on a regular basis. He had 5 Picks and 9 PBU in 2015. He surely should end up a Top 100 prospect for the 2017 Draft.

JAHAD THOMAS/RB/RS/TEMPLE #5 5’10/188 Certainly he’s a bit small to be your No. 1 RB option at the pro level, but he can do so many things that he should make a nice change of pace guy for today’s NFL. He is fast (though not a blazer) and strong for his size. He rushed for over 1200 yards and 17 TD last season, as well as catching 22 balls. To illustrate his versatility and productivity let’s go back to Temple’s battle with Memphis. He rushed for 37 yards and caught 6 balls for 121 yards. One of those catches as a 61 yard catch and run TD. He also had a 37 yard Punt Return in that contest. He has that explosive, jitter-bug running style with the ball in his hands. Lots of tacklers are left grasping at air when he gets in the open field. There will be no interest in him from teams who want their RB group to all be over 200 lbs., but plenty of teams will luv his versatility. We should see him in Mobile or St Pete come January.

NOEL THOMAS/WR/UCONN #5 6’1/200 Some players fly under the radar primarily because of the team they play for. NOEL may fit that scenario as UCONN struggles to achieve competitive respectability. This past weekend they had a solid upset win over Cincinnati. The Huskies have had a solid defense pretty much since their entry into D1 football. Bt scoring has often been a challenge. THOMAS has emerged as a legit prospect after a 54 catch season in 2015. This year he has actually led the nation in catches for a few weeks. He rang the bell again last weekend with 9 catches for 135 yards and 1 TD. His long gain was 62 yards. He’s not a burner, but has good size and reliable hands. He runs solid patterns and gets yards after the catch if the throw is placed properly. He is also not afraid to work the middle and will make catches in a crowd. He’s also considered a fiery competitor. I like what I see in him and though I doubt he cracks the Top 100 as a prospect he surely in draftable, likely in the middle rounds.

GREG WARD/QB/HOUSTON #1 5’11/185 Here we go again, with a superior athlete, who is a natural born leader, but has very questionable size for the NFL. WARD has a very high FBI and displays pretty good throwing accuracy. But I do NOT see him as the next RUSSELL WILSON in the NFL.He’s about 20 lbs. lighter than WILSON and doesn’t seem to have 10″+ hands. I’ve watched 5 Houston games this season and he has starred in each one. Against a tough UCONN D two weeks ago he was superlative in all aspects of play. He passed for 389 yards and 3 TD, on 32/38, 84% completion percentage. When he needed he tucked the ball and scooted 12 times or 65 yards and another TD. THat’s what he does just about every week. He was even playing in that contest with an injured throwing arm that required training staff attention between every Houston possession. He has WILSON speed and elusiveness to keep plays alive. He’s gonna be tough for teams to pass on. I’d say expect middle rounds as a multi-purpose athlete for some creative offensive team. IMO, he could star in the CFL as a QB. I’d advise you to watch a Cougars game soon and catch this guy in action. You’ll likely be impressed.

JAMAAL WILLIAMS/RB/BYU #21 6’2/220 Expectations were high when WILLIAMS signed on with BYU, but injuries and personal issues derailed his past two seasons. He’s back for a senior year and is displaying the running ability experts always felt he had. He has an excellent combination of size and speed, actually reminding me a bit of ARIAN FOSTER in those regards. He rang the bell in a high scoring shootout with MAC Conference power TOLEDO. In that game he carried the ball for 286 yards and 5 TD. He ran through, around and past defenders all game long. He combines good field vision with quick cut and explosion through defenses. Just to prove it was no fluke he came back last week against Michigan State with 30 carries for 163 yards and 2 TD. With injuries to guys like FOURNETTE & McCAFFREY the door is wide open for WILLIAMS to post big numbers for the balance of the season and boost his Draft stock.

TIM WILLIAMS/OLB/ALABAMA #56 6’4/237 I am a sucker for full sized, athletic athletes in football uniforms. Mark me down for a man-crush on WILLIAMs. He does not ring the bell with big stat numbers, in great part because of the talent level of his teammates. There are only so many tackles to go around folks. But watching him in action as ‘Bama rolled over a solid Arkansas team was pure delight. WILLIAMS was a highlight reel star in the contest. He owned a couple of possessions in the 2nd Quarter. First he parlayed a fumble into a scoop and score on his part from 25 yards out. He also showed speed, and a great inside spin move to sack QB/AUSTIN ALLEN in that quarter as well. He also added a QBH in that quarter. This guy is likely to blow up the Combine and hopefully will show his wares in Mobile as well. Looks like a First Rounder to me. He can do it all!

That’s a wrap for my post-hurricane coverage. I hope to get back into a normal schedule this weekend.

Pigskin

2016 College Football Rankings #2

Believe it or not, the majority of D1 schools, whoops FBS, are half way through their regular season schedule. So let’s take a look at my updated rankings. This is the version in which i pay homage to the teams that are still undefeated. They get the top rankings one last time regardless of their strength of schedule.

1) ALABAMA 6-0 Just what the SEC needed was for SABAN to find a star frosh to play QB.
2) OHIO STATE 5-0 All those talented young players now have experience as starters.
3) CLEMSON 6-0 QB/WATSON seems to be getting into a groove; too bad ACC.
4) MICHIGAN 6-0 This team is rolling, and finally had a road game, winning 78-0.
5) TEXAS A&M 6-0 The Aggies are rolling and TREVOR KNIGHT/QB is leading the way Mr. Stoops.
6) WASHINGTON 6-0 The Huskies are kicking ass and taking names with a young, athletic team.
7) BAYLOR 5-0 Not quite as strong as last year’s team, but are playing with attitude.
8) NEBRASKA 5-0 With only Ohio State/Wisconsin road games looming this looks like 10-Wins.
9) BOISE STATE 5-0 Quietly off to another fine start in the no-respect Mountain West.
10) WEST VIRGINIA 4-0 Best balanced team HOLGORSEN has had but schedule now gets tougher.
11) WESTERN MICHIGAN 6-0 Look to be headed for a big showdown with Toledo next month.

12) LOUISVILLE 4-1 The schedule looks like they can run table the rest of the way & climb.
13) HOUSTON 5-1 Not expecting another slip-up B4 showdown with Louisville next month.
14) TENNESSEE 5-1 Maybe they will tighten things up after their turnovers were insurmountable.
15) WISCONSIN 4-1 Key to their season now boils down to Ohio State this weekend in Madtown.

Honorable Mention: NAVY 4-1; VIRGINIA TECH 4-1; UTAH 5-1; ARIZONA STATE 5-1

That’s it for now folks. I’ll post an update in two weeks, and I expect some serious changes, but not the the top of the rankings.

Pigskin

WEEK 5 College Game Previews

We’ve now reached the sweet spot of the weekly college schedule with most teams playing conference opponents almost every week. The TV scheduling people have seemingly saved the best game for last this week as you will see below.

TENNESSEE @ GEORGIA by 3; Saturday; 3:30/ET; CBS
A big SEC showdown with the happy circumstance for a “must win” Bulldogs squad, who need to bounce back from their loss at Ole Miss last week. The VOLS are still undefeated after some tough early season games. Their Offense has shown signs of life, but their OL has made it a challenge for QB/DOBBS get a passing game in gear consistently. UGA RB NICK CHUBB is banged up again and how healthy he will really be to tote the rock in this contest is up in the air as game time approaches. I am projecting Frosh QB/JACOB EASON to break out in this contest, especially if CB/CAM SUTTON is MIA again for the VOLS secondary. So give me UGA at home with their young QB having a big game. Prospects to watch:

TENNESSEE                                                                    GEORGIA
#11 JOSHUA DOBBS/QB 6’3/207                                    #72 TONY CATALINA/OT 6’5/305
#1 JALEN HURD/RB 6’4/240 JR                                     #73 GREG PYKE/OT 6’6/313
#21 JALEN REEVES-MAYBIN/LB 6’0/225                    #27 NICK CHUBB/RB 5’10/225 JR
#23 CAM SUTTON/CB/RS 5’11/185                                  #42 TIM KIMBROUGH/LB 6’0/226
#24 TODD KELLY/S 5’11/208 JR                                      #20 QUINCY MAUGER/S 6’0/200

WISCONSIN @ MICHIGAN by 10 3:30/ET ABC
Showdown time, Big 10 style. After a convincing win over Michigan State last weekend the Badgers now get to travel into Ann Arbor. Not Good! The Wolverines are as hot as a smoking gun and I expect them to keep up the pounding that they have been inflicting on opponents so far this season. Their smallest margin of victory has been their 17 point W over Colorado. It should be noted that this is their 5th straight home game to open the season. They need to bank all the wins they can before they hit the road. UW is one of the biggest surprise undefeated teams in the nation. But all good things must end and that will be the name of the game for the highly competitive BADGERS. By the way the Wolverine have 3 senior receivers (2 WR/TE) who are all fighting for places in the Top 100 Draft Prospect lists. Then, of course, UM’s best prospect is redshirt sophomore OLB/S Jabrill Peppers, who is getting some legit top 5 consideration. Prospects to watch:

WISCONSIN                                                                          MICHIGAN
#47 VINCE BIEGEL/OLB 5’4/245                                          #88 JAKE BUTT/TE 6’6/250
#6 COREY CLEMENT/RB 5’11/215                                         #86 JEHU CHESSON/WR 6’3/200
#23 DAVE OGUNBOWALE/RB 5’11/217                                #82 AMARA DARBOH/WR 6’2/215
#8 SOJOURN SHELTON/CB 5’9/175                                      #26 JOURDAN LEWIS/CB 5’10/175
#42 T.J. WATT/OLB 6’4/257 JR                                                 #5 JABRILL PEPPERS/LB/RS 6’1/210
#15 ROBERT WHEELWRIGHT/WR 6’3/205                        #43 CHRIS WORMLEY/DE 6’5/303

OKLAHOMA by 3 @ TCU SAT 5PM/ET FOX
After a hugely disappointing 1-2 start to the season BOBBY STOOPS got exactly what he and his staff needed last week in the form of a BYE. I am of the opinion that things will have been adjusted and put in place so that his team is ready to start the season over and run the table. If they can defeat TCU on the road their schedule says they have a chance. TCU is 3-1, but that one L was in against their only meaningful opponent to date, Arkansas. KENNY HILL/QB has been cooking lately and now needs to step it up against another top notch opponent. There should be a high level of urgency from both teams in this contest, which can make for a tight exciting contest. Prospects to watch:

OKLAHOMA                                                                            TEXAS CHRISTIAN

#26 JORDAN EVANS/LB 6’2/233                                            #94 JOSH CARRAWAY/DE 6’4/250
#5 GENO LEWIS/WR 6’1/201                                                   #20 DEANTE’ GRAY/WR 5’10/175
#6 BAKER MAYFIELD/QB 6’1/212                                          #30 DENZEL JOHNSON/S 6’2/215
#13 AHMAD THOMAS/FS 6’1/210 #                                        #40 JAMES McFARLAND/DE 6’3/250
#11 DEDE WESTBROOK/WR 6’0/170

LOUISVILLE @ CLEMSON by 4 8PM/ET ABC
The showdown of the first month of the 2016 season could be this contest. Two undefeateds with aspirations for Final Four spots featuring a matchup of the two most exciting QB in college football. LAMAR JACKSON/QB for Louisville has actually out produced DeSHAUN WATSON to date, but that could change. JACKSON is a more explosive runner, but WATSON has developed into a better passer for the time being. The wild card in this game could turn out to be a big play CARDINALS defense, which by far has the most star power of the two rosters. The CLEMSON OL matching up against the Louisville front 7 could be the true key in this one. I’m giving it to the home team, but I sure wouldn’t be betting any money on this match-up. Prospects to watch:

LOUISVILLE                                                                              CLEMSON
#97 DEANGELO BROWN/DT 6’0/308                                      #10 BEN BOULWARE/ILB 5’11/240
#92 DeVONTE FIELDS/DE 6’4/245                                           #16 JODAN LEGGETT/TE 6’5/255
#25 JOHN HARVEY-CLEMONS/LB 6’5/230                           #25 CORDERA TENKERSLEY/CB 6’1/195
#55 KEITH KELSEY/LB 6’1/230                                                 #94 CARLOS WATKINS/DT 6’3/300
#17 JAMES QUICK/WR 6’1/191                                                     #4 DeSHAUN WATSON/QB 6’2/210 JR
#2 JAMARI STAPLES/WR 6’4/195                                               #7 MIKE WILLIAMS/WR 6’4/220 RS/JR

Enjoy your football weekend and make sure you have your eyes glued to that ACC showdown Saturday on ABC!

Pigskin

WHO CAUGHT MY EYE Week 4

KENDELL BECKWITH/ILB/LSU #52 6’3/247 Another tackling machine from the LSU program, but in this case he’s a full sized ILB. Second leading tackler on the 2015 team, 2nd to NFL draftee DEION JONES. He looks to be well on his way to leading the team in tackles this season. He was all over the field in the loss to Auburn, ending up with a dozen tackles. He plays sideline to sideline, but is especially adept at meeting runners at the line-of-scrimmage. Is a big hitter similar IMO to REGGIE RAGLAND, formerly Alabama. For his size, he has good range to cover the middle of the field on shallow throws. He should also rattle some bones at the pro level on Special Teams. Like JONES, I would expect him to be a possible 2nd Rounder.

BREON BORDERS/CB/DUKE #31 6’0/175 Unfortunately the first thing you notice about BORDERS is his slight build. But when you watch him in action he plays a solid full game, including tackling in run support as well as out in the open field. He has cover skills that fit a zone scheme quite well. In the big DUKE “upset” of Notre Dame he played his usual all-around game. He was in on 5 Tackles, forced a fumble (which he recovered) and had 3 pass break-ups. He might be a late round draft pick, but if not he will be a highly sought after URFA. And my guess is he will be a tough late cut for some team next Training Camp/Preseason.

BRYAN COX/DE/FLORIDA #94 6’3/269 He is indeed the son of former NFL star of the same name. He has a mean streak in him and is tough as nails. He left the game against Tennessee with a leg issue, but later returned to action. He’s not a strict speed edge-rusher, but has some serious pass rush skills. He had 3.5 sacks and 6 QBH last season, playing in a very deep DL rotation, and looks to be poised to improve on those numbers with additional playing time in 2016. Even though he is slightly short of ideal size to hold the edge he uses his strength and toughness to hold up against the run. He must be blocked at the snap or will find his way to the ball. A good all around DE for an NFL 4-3 scheme. Likely to be a rotational player. I like his toughness and effort, and of course his genes.

ZAY JONES/WR/EAST CAROLINA #7 6’1/197 Seems hard to believe that a guy who finished 2015 with 98 receptions could be under the radar, but JONES seems to be to many folks. He clearly has the speed to go deep. He is a very good target, with exceptional ball skills and good hands. He will catch dump off throws all day long and stretch the catch into first downs with his elusive run after the catch ability. Early in the VA TECH game he had a beautiful one-handed grab, battling a defender along the sideline. The play went for 34-yards but was called back by a holding penalty against the ECU OL. High FBI, which showed when he turned defender on a poor 3rd quarter throw, and prevented an INT. On the day he caught 10 balls, for 115 yards. ECU looks like a .500 team this year, which will cost JONES some exposure, but watch for him at the Senior Bowl and Combine.
His versatile game reminds me a lot of a bit bigger STARLING SHARPE when he was in college.

TODD KELLY/FS/TENNESSEE #24 5’11/208 I realize that KELLY is only a junior and I was not excited about him as a prospect until I watched the VOLS break their losing streak to Florida last weekend. He’s the best all-around S I have seen on the field for Tennessee since a guy named ERIC BERRY played there. He was all over the field against the Gators with 5 tackles, but seemed to be around the ball on almost every play. He also grabbed himself an INT, and of course he was the guy who covered a FLA onside kick to pretty much wrap up the game with 4:17 remaining. He is also known as a team leader out on the field of playas well as being a locker room leader and very high character guy. He is currently wearing #24 as his uniform number in tribute to a Tennessee HS player who was gunned down protecting several teem girls during gang violence. In his spare time he has attended several games to watch that player’s younger brother perform. This is a man before his time and if he comes out early at the end of this season I’d certainly be scouting him heavily.

GEORGE KITTLE/TE/IOWA #46 6’4/246 Full sized, multi-skill TE are not the vogue in college football these days. Many teams are more likely to insert an extra OL into their goal line offense than a solid TE. KITLE fits into that scenario as a prospect IMO. Other than lacking true downfield speed, he blocks well and has good hands. He also shows the ability to run through and over DB once he catches the ball. But the Hawkeyes just don’t feature their TE slot very often. He had 2 catches for 56 yards in the Hawkeyes squeaker 14-7 win over Rutgers. I think KITTLE has a chance to emerge as a solid player at the NFL level. Now that Iowa’s top wideout, MATT VANDEBERG, is out for the season they may be forced to go to KITTLE more often. If so watch for him to step it up and excel. I am looking forward to watching him ply his wares at the Senior Bowl in January.

JORDAN LEGGETT/TE/CLEMSON #16 6’5/255 The TE is not used as a target a lot in the Clemson Offense, but LEGGETT shows enough athleticism to make me think he may have a better career as a productive TE in the NFL than he has during his career in college. He runs well and has reliable hands. He’s a willing blocker and should get better. He seems to glide around the field as a receiver. We were told that he would targeted more in the game against GA TECH, but after a fast start the team went back to it’s WR group most of the time. LEGGETT finished the day with 4 catches, for 31 yards and a first quarter TD. He’s the team’s best TE since DWAYNE ALLEN, and to my eyes has the potential to be more of a receiving threat in the NFL.

GREG PYKE/OG/GEORGIA #73 6’6/315 PYKE has moved outside to OT this season, after settling in at OG last season. He’s holding his own out there but his limited mobility and choppy footwork are clearly best suited inside and that is how NFL Personnel people will judge him. He’s a strong guy and a hard worker. Playing in the UGA Offense means he’s used to both run and pass blocking and will likely not miss a beat going to an NFL team. Since he is not expected to win an NFL starting job right away his position versatility may make him a valuable multiple position back-up. In the loss to Ole Miss he left the game with a leg injury. Luckily for the Bulldogs he sucked it up and was back on the field holding his own in the second half. There are a good number of former GEORGIA OL in the NFL and I expect PYKE to rank as a solid mid-rounder for next April’s Draft.

SETH RUSSELL/QB/BAYLOR #17 6’3/220 RUSSELL is off to a solid start in leading the Bears to a 4-0 mark this September. He’s coming back off a chipped bone in his neck that caused him to lose most of the 2015 season. But he shows no ill effects from the injury so far this season. He’s a stout guy, built along the lines of MATTHEW STAFFORD. He doesn’t have STAFFORD’s cannon arm, but he can throw a decent deep ball. He reads the field well and has the mobility to extend plays outside the pocket. He can also take off and run the ball when receivers are covered or the pocket collapses behind a relatively inexperienced OL. Flying a bit under the radar this season Baylor has piled up some hefty point totals and a heady QB is a big part of that. After a lightning/game delay RUSSELL pretty much carved up a solid Oklahoma State defense. He passed for 387 yards, going 18/28, 64%, 3 TD and 1 INT. He also tucked the ball under his arm 10 times and rushed for 65 yards. He’s a very different player and athlete, but I think he’s every bit as much of a pro prospect as BRYCE PETTY was, who he replaced at QB for the Bears.

DAN SKIPPER/OT/ARKANSAS #70 6’10/319 I have watched Arkansas in 3 of their first 4 games. And even though really long, tall OT are not all the vogue at the pro level this former basketballer has good mobility and can run a bit. He’s handling things well at LT, but I could see him out at RT as a pro. He’s never going to be able to play at a low pad level, but for his height he does pretty well. He also uses his long arms well to ward off defenders. He keeps his feet under his pads in pass pro and moves more like a guy 6’6. SKIPPER brings a bonus skill to his game on Special Teams. He has developed a knack for using his length to block kicks. He is on the verge of setting an NCAA record with a handful of additional blocks in the remainder of this season. In essence, I have watched him play consistently well this year, and I think he is a valid mid-round prospect.

RYAN SWITZER/WR/RS/NORTH CAROLINA #3 5’10/185 This guy has been busting returns since he showed up on campus as a frosh. He started the game against PITT with a 54-yard Punt Return, which unfortunately was negated by penalty. But on this day his big contributions came as a receiver, a role in which he has improved his skills every season. He was the star of the late game drive that netted UNC a shootout victory. For the whole game he pulled in 16 catches, for 208 yards and a TD. He has the quickness to get open from the slot, but he also has the pure speed to take the top off of the secondary, which guys like EDELMAN & WELKER have never had. He’s about the same size now as he was coming into college, but most NFL teams have at least one smaller guy on their to balance out their receiving corps. Watch for SWITZER to wrap up a mid-round draft spot when he blazes his 40-time at the Combine next February.

Pigskin

PIGSKIN’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL TOP 15

Believe it or not, many college football teams are 1/3 of their way through the 2016 regular season already. Since most of the coming weeks games will land on October 1st it seems like time for me to post my first rankings of the 2016 season. Since we have a relatively small game sample size I am limiting this first list to 15 teams.

1) ALABAMA 4-0 Same old, same old.
2) OHIO STATE 3-0 Et tu URBAN?!
3) LOUISVILLE 4-0 PETRINO rises from his own ashes.
4) CLEMSON 4-0 Too good not to be here, but not playing top level yet.
5) MICHIGAN 4-0 The Fighting Harbaughs look for real to me.
6) TEXAS A&M 4-0 This ain’t their first 4-0 start under SUMLIN.
7) HOUSTON 4-0 TOM HERMAN could be the next “great one” & Big 12 better expand now.
8) TENNESSEE 4-0 Not in top gear yet, but they have survived a tough opening schedule.
9) STANFORD 3-0 Their overall style can be boring, but they are rock solid. Time will tell.
10) WISCONSIN 4-0 DITTO above!
11) WASHINGTON 4-0 The hot, sexy team with no senior-itis to worry about.
12) FLORIDA STATE 3-1 Ran into buzz saw in Louisville, but this young team will improve.
13) UTAH 4-0 Not convinced they have horses for long haul, but what a start.
14) NEBRASKA 4-0 DITTO above!
15) BAYLOR 4-0 Nice to see HC JIM GROBE finally lead a talent laden roster.

We’ll look at this list in a couple more weeks. Expect changes.

Pigskin

College Football Week 4

Saturday Sept 24 NOON ESPN
GEORGIA @ OLE MISS by 5
I truly believe that Ole Miss is the better overall team in this one, but I do have concerns about whether they can bounce back again from a loss to a Top 10 team with a superior effort. They may have too many injuries already to compete against top teams every week that their SEC schedule requires. Ole Miss will also be pitted against one of the top frosh QB in the country in JACOB EASON. But I do think QB/CHAD KELLY has the moxie to raise his team up again. The Rebels have to find some sort of running game to balance out their offense, while the D has got to contain the UGA running attack featuring CHUBB/MICHEL. I’ll take Ole Miss to bounce back again, but will not be shocked at all if the Bulldogs win on the road. Prospects to watch:

GEORGIA                                                                          MISSISSIPPI

#27 NICK CHUBB/RB 5’10/225 JR                                  #1 TONY BRIDGES/CB 6’0/185
#81 REGGIE DAVIS/WR 6’0/170                                   #10 CHAD KELLY/QB 6’2/215
#42 TIM KIMBROUGH/LB 6’0.226                               #12 TONY CONNER/S 6’0/215
#17 EVAN ENGRAM/TE 6’3/235                                    #20 QUINCY MAUGER/S 6’0/200
#93 D.J. JONES/DT 6’0/324                                            #73 GREG PYKE/OT 6’6/313

Saturday Sept 24 3:30 CBS
FLORIDA @ TENNESSEE by 3
I wanna pick Florida in this contest to make it 12 straight versus the Vols, but the Gators will using back-up QB/AUSTIN APPLEBY to steer an already mediocre Offense. However, the Gators’ D is tough as usual and TENNESSEE has looked downright anemic at times on offense. This could be a snoozer for those who like scoring; indeed, the best pro prospects on both side of the ball – CB Teez Tabor for the Gators and UT DE Derek Barnett, a couple of juniors with 1st round talent for 2017 – play defense. The VOLS, though, have enough talent to post some points, at least on paper. But they have looked like a team stuck in the mud so far this September. Logic says UT QB/JOSHUA DOBBS will lead the O out of their doldrums sometime soon. It had better be this weekend or they may get shut out by the Gators D. Prospects to watch:

FLORIDA                                                                          TENNESSEE

#34 ALEX ANZALONE/LB 6’3/244                                #11 JOSHUA DOBBS/QB 6’3/207
#94 BRYAN COX/DE 6’3/268                                            #1 JALEN HURD/RB 6’2/240 JR
#40 JARRAD DAVIS/LB 6’2/240                                    #21 JALEN REEVES-MAYBIN/LB 6’0/225
#91 JOEY IVIE/DT 6’3/295                                                #9  DEREK BARNETT/DE/6-3/260/JR
#20 MARCUS MAYE/S 6’0/207                                       #50 COREY VEREEN/DE 6’2/249
#31 TEEZ TABOR/CB/6-0/200/JR

Saturday Sept 24 8PM/ET ABC
STANFORD @ UCLA by 5
Okay, so its still September, but this game has all the earmarks of a preview of the conference championship game in December. This is especially a big chance for the Bruins to demonstrate that they are not just paper tigers in a “soft” PAC-12. STANFORD is by far the most physical team in the conference. And the Cardinal gets just enough Offense to win so far, led by all-purpose O weapon CHRIS McCAFFREY, who is a threat to break things open every time he touches the ball. Opposing defenses have been keying on McCAFFREY and his numbers so far are modest, at least by his lofty Heisman type standards, but most college football watchers feel a breakout performance is eminent. BRUINS QB/JOSH ROSEN is off to a mediocre start after his outstanding frosh season in 2015. But part of his issues can be traced to an almost completely overhauled group of skill position players to work with. He too, should get better as the season goes on. My thinking here is that when you combine home field advantage with better overall team speed UCLA may be able to outscore Stanford by game end. Prospects to watch:

STANFORD                                                                           UCLA
#67 JOHNNY CASPERS/OG 6’4/296                                   #3 RANDALL GOFORTH/S 5’10/190
#10 ZACH HOFFPAUIR/FS 6’0/197                                   #68 CONOR McDERMOTT/OT 6’9/310
#99 LUKE KAUMATULE/DE 6’7/295                                #10 FABIAN MOREAU/CB 6’0/200
#29 DALLAS LLOYD/SS 6’2/213                                         #32 NATE IESE/TE 6’3/250
#5 CHRIS McCAFFREY/RB/RS 6’0/202 JR                     #47 EDDIE VANDERDOES/DT 6’3/305 JR
#3 MICHAEL RECTOR/WR 6’1/185

Saturday Sept 24 Arlington, TX 9PM ESPN
ARKANSAS by 5 @ TEXAS A&M
I am of the belief that the Aggies may regret giving up a home game to play in Jerry’s World. In the meantime the Razorbacks look to be coming around overall as new QB/AUSTIN ALLEN gets more comfortable. Hogs’ head guy BRET BIELEMA may be the “mouth that roared” but he also knows fundamental football and how to coach it. The key matchup here is likely to be the Arkansas OL trying to protect ALLEN from the fearsome pass rush of DEs MYLES GARRETT and DAESHON HALL at the DE slots. Indeed, from a pure draft perspective, watching Garrett, arguably the top prospect overall for the 2017 draft, and Hall go against massive 6-10 Hogs’ RT DAN SKIPPER may be the best one-on-one watching of the weekend. Also keep an eye on A&M FS Justin Evans who is one of the hot draft commodities around these days. Indeed, lots of talent and teams that can both put up points in bunches should make for an exciting time under the Big Top.

ARKANSAS                                                                         TEXAS A&M
#51 BROOKS ELLIS/LB 6’2/248                                          #14 JUSTIN EVANS/FS 6’1/195
#4 KEON HATCHER/WR 6’2/218                                       #15 MYLES GARRETT/DE 6’5/262 JR
#80 DREW MORGAN/WR 6’0/195                                     #10 DAESHON HALL/DE 6’6/260
#70 DAN SKIPPER/OT 6’10/326                                         #65 AVERY GENNESY/OT 6’5/310
#83 JEREMY SPRINKLE/TE 6’6/255                                 #11 JOSH REYNOLDS/WR 6’4/190
#48 DIETRICH WISE/DE 6’5/280                                      #33 SHAAN WASHINGTON/LB 6’3/235

Enjoy the action folks and be sure to check the entire weekend’s slate of games. This is an upside weekend for quality game action.

Pigskin

Who Caught My Eye Week 3

Once again some rather surprising results came rolling in off the scoreboard wire this week in College Football. Notre Dame & Oklahoma can be crossed off your Top 10 list for this season. And when was the last time that all 3 service academies were undefeated thru Week 3? Now let’s get on to some player evaluation thumb-nails.

KAREEM ARE/OG/FLORIDA STATE #72 6’6/333 ARE played up to his pre-game hype even in a blow-out loss to Louisville. He is agile on his feet enough to handle himself in pass pro, and has good vision and awareness. On multiple occasions when the OT slid out to pick up a blitzer AYERS was alert and quick enough to slide over and pick up the DE who the LT let go. He also looked good pushing the line of scrimmage on run plays and getting to second level blocks with relative ease. ARE does NOT pop up out of his stance, keeping good pad level most of the time and looks like a natural knee bender. If he can’t win a starting slot right away in the NFL I’m thinking he might be able to serve as a multi-purpose backup all along the OL. Similar in that regard to former teammate CAM ERVING, now with the BROWNS.

ZACH BANNER/OT/SOUTHERN CAL #73 6’9/370 #73 Larger than life (almost) but more amazingly a true athlete. He played in the USC basketball program as a freshman. But he’s all football now, starting at RT, and carrying the Captain’s C on his jersey. My first notes refer to him as a giant, with good athleticism. He has super long arms, of course, and uses them well to re-direct defenders. He’s adequate in pass pro cause he can move his feet like he was only 6’6. He stays on his feet and is solid in getting seal blocks in the run game. He does not have the foot speed to dance with edge rushers, but as he showed against Stanford he keeps them to the outside and pushes them back, forcing them to go around and past his QB before getting a shot at him in the pocket. He’s the most mobile really big man since I saw FLUKER from Alabama. Would luv to see him in Mobile next January under pro coaching for a full week. MIght sneak into Round 3 in the 2017 Draft.

COREY DAVIS/WR/WESTERN MICHIGAN #84 6’3/205 DAVIS uses his length and speed, as well as marvelous catching ability to really stretch the field for the Chippewas offense. Against Illinois he was the deep threat to balance out their attack. On deep routes he locates the ball coming over the top very well and looks smooth bringing the ball into his extended hands in full stride. Against Illinois he caught 4 balls for 97 yards. He is also dangerous running out-routes and works the sidelines as his best friends. He’s not really skilled at routes over the middle, but the deep threat aspect of his game more than makes up for that. He has the potential to stretch the field for an NFL offense just like JORDY NELSON has done for AARON RODGERS in Green Bay. At the very least I see him in Round 2. DAVIS has home run potential and that has great value in a League filled with quick possession receivers.

CHAD KELLY/QB/OLE MISS #10 6’2/225 JUst like in their opener against FSU Ole Miss started strong against Alabama but could not hold up long term. But don’t blame the versatile, gritty KELLY who reminds me more than a bit of his uncle JIM KELLY. He has an above average arm and is tough as nails, never hesitating to take off on the run if the pocket collapses and/or his receivers are covered. He is reasonably accurate, but has a tendency to force some throws into traffic. He is very effective throwing the deep ball so that his receivers can either run under them or out-leap defenders on jump balls. He has some nice weapons to throw to, but his guys drop more than a few catchable throws. In the loss to Alabama KELLY WAS 26/41- 63.4%- 421 YARDS- 3 TD- 1 INT. He also scrambled and rushed his way to 48 yards net after sack losses. I might note I think he is often the victim of poor play calling by his co-OC’s, which obviously cuts into his productivity. I am not on the First Round bandwagon, but if he doesn’t implode under stress I could see him as a 2nd Round Draftee. Please show up for the Senior Bowl CHAD.

WES LUNT/QB/ILLINOIS #12 6’5/225 Seems like the NCAA is full of TX TECH and OKLA ST transfer QB, starting for other teams as seniors. This is LUNT’s second season at the helm for the Illini, but I believe he is on his 4th OC of his college career. So in essence much of what he learned last season is irrelevant to 2016. He’s a tall rangy guy with a decent arm and some nice touch on his throws. He’s not great at extending plays and not a running threat. He looked way too willing to resort to safe dump-off throws against WMU, but then again his OL is not top notch this season, and his receivers dropped more than a few decent throws downfield. His game stats ended up at; 29/42- 69%- 312 yards- 1 INT- 1 TD. My wrap-up comment of LUNT would be that he is not an exciting prospect, but he could be the NATE SUDFELD project of 2017 for some NFL team. Could be one of the QB prospect group at the Shrine Game next January.

TAYLOR MOTON/OL/WESTERN MICHIGAN #72 6’5/328 I started watching the WMU/Illinois game with the name of Illini DE/DAWUANE SMOOT written down on my scouting note pad. But by the second quarter it was clear that SMOOT was being handled almost every snap whether in the run game or passing attack. He overpowered SMOOT and pushed him away from the ball and his QB. This basically continued all game. His arms look long and he seems to pack a wallop with his initial hand punch. I wrote down MOTON’s number and his size numbers. It looks to me like he will likely have to switch inside to OG for the NFL game. He is reasonably mobile for his size but I am pretty sure NFL level speed-rushers would eat him up with their quickness and speed moves in pass-pro. Inside most of his shortcomings will be mitigated because of the smaller area he has to function in.

JAMES QUICK/WR/LOUISVILLE #17 6’1/180 He is not elite, nor is he a burner. But he has good hands and runs some nice routes. He uses the sidelines well as an ally against CB coverage and can get you Yards After Catch. He also shows better concentration on the ball than many of today’s wideouts. In the 2nd Quarter he made a marvelous catch on a ball deflected by the CB, which he cradled into his body well downfield. It was highlight type stuff. He may be the most consistently productive receiver in this wide open Cardinals offense. He finished the whipping of FSU with 7 catches for 122 yards. The way this team is functioning right now I expect he will keep up his current catch rate and come close to 100 receptions for the season. He might crack the Top 100 list for next year’s Draft, and should make a solid No. 3 wideout on an NFL depth chart.

STEVEN TAYLOR/LB/HOUSTON #41 6’1/225 There are plenty of tackling machines in college football and coming off 92 stops last season TAYLOR is the team leader of the Cougars D. But he shows much more to his game than just getting to the ball carrier. After battling back and forth against Cincinnati last Thursday TAYLOR helped break the game wide open. Early in the 4th Quarter he broke on a thrown ball and returned it 74 yards for a Pick-6. For the game he totaled 9 Tackles, 2 TFL & 2 Sacks. Even mentioning all of those specifics he means even more to his D than his stats. He is disruptive on delayed blitzes. His savvy and instincts are surely superior to those around them. I would also expect that he would be an immediate contributor on Special Teams for his pro team. He is clearly a player who forces us to look past his marginal height/weight numbers.In the pass-heavy NFL TAYLOR looks like a LB who could stay on the field for most passing downs. See you in Mobile Mr. Taylor.

MIKE TYSON/DB/CINCINNATI #5 6’2/206 TYSON was one of the main reasons I grabbed my notebook out last Thursday night to watch CINCY/HOUSTON. Seems like I missed his performance in Week 2 when he had 3 INT against Purdue. Now I’d be among the first to sat many INT are the residue of effort and good luck, perhaps in equal measure. But 3 at once from a guy who wasn’t on my watch list? I liked what I saw from TYSON. He’s a nice looking, long athlete who runs well. He also looks to have a high FBI based on his constantly being around the ball. He should be a nice addition on Special Teams units in the NFL and with much of weekly game time featuring 6 or more DB I can see him playing in some sub-packages. He had several PBU against Houston as well as a couple of nice open field tackles. He might be a late round Draft selection if he continues to display multiple skills for the rest of the season.

JORDAN WESTERKAMP/WR/NEBRASKA #1 6’0/200 I am often amazed at sports fans who decry athletes who transfer out of football programs as traitors and mercenaries. WESTERKAMP is an example of a kid who stayed put and has seen his playing time diminish even though his skills have not. He’s not an elite athlete, but like ALEX ERICKSON/WR/UW, who cracked the BENGALS roster this year, he is good at a lot of things and willing to do the dirty work. His play against Oregon exemplifies his type of player. Despite diminished snaps he hauled in 3 catches last Saturday, with 2 of them being TD grabs. Other receivers were struggling to get separation and failing to make tough catches, but still he stood watching way too much. He is a willing blocker and I am sure could be an enthusiastic and productive Special Teamer as a pro. After 65 catches last season it would seem he has earned more reps on the grass, but does not pout or sulk. I hope he somehow gets playing time back and is able to further display his potential value to a pro team.

Ta-Ta for now.

PIGSKIN

Prospect Watch Week 3 College Football

After a week to more or less catch our breath we are back to a loaded schedule of great college match-ups this weekend.

FLORIDA STATE by 4 @ LOUISVILLE; NOON/ET ABC
Much to my surprise this game is a bit under the radar. It had better not be for the Seminoles. I will say it out loud…. if FSU falls as far behind as they did in the first half of their opener with Ole Miss, Louisville will be much harder to come back against. This game starts with a classic dual between FSU freshman DEONDRE FRANCIS and Louisville sophomore LAMAR JACKSON, two of the best young QBs in the country. Indeed, the Cards’ Jackson, the early Heisman leader, looks every bit as good as Clemson’s highly touted junior DeSHAUN WATSON. There will be plenty more great prospects in this game, though, than just the young QBs including redshirt sophomore RB DALVIN COOK, junior  LT ROD JOHNSON, DE DEMARCUS WALKER and S NATE ANDREWS of the Seminoles and DE/OLB DEVONTE FIELDS, S JOSH HARVEY-CLEMON, and NT DEANGELO BROWN among others. And you can count on HC BOBBY PETRINO not taking his foot off the gas pedal no matter what the score. Both teams have talent laden, big play defenses and I expect the turnover/takeaway numbers to decide the outcome. Prospects to watch:

FLORIDA STATE                                                                     LOUISVILLE

#4 DALVIN COOK/RB 5’11/206 JR                                           #97 DEANGELO BROWN/DT 6’0/308
#29 NATE ANDREWS/S 6’/210                                                  #92 DeVONTE FIELDS/DE/ER 6’4/245
#72 KAREEM ARE/OG 6’6/330                                                  #25 JOSH HARVEY-CLEMONS/LB 6’5/230
#44 DeMARCUS WALKER/DE 6’3/275                                    #55 KEITH KELSEY/LB 6’1/235
#27 MARQUEZ WHITE/CB 6’0/181                                           #17 JAMES QUICK/WR 6’1/191
#3 BOBO WILSON/WR/RS 5’10/186                                           #2 JAMARI STAPLES/WR 6’4/195
#77 ROD JOHNSON/LT/6’6/310/JR

ALABAMA by 6 @ OLE MISS; 3:30/ET CBS
Sorry to say that the Ole Miss fold-up against FSU two weeks ago has me a bit skeptical of them as a top tier team, although I believe they can win 9 games and go bowling for dollars come season end. Veteran QB CHAD KELLY is a legit pro prospect, but he tends to cut it loose under pressure and creates turnovers, while TE/HB EVAN ENGRAM, a possible top 100 pick this year, is one of the best receiving prospects at the position in the country. Kelly and company, though, will have their hands full as the Alabama D, led by DE JONATHAN ALLEN, ILB REUBEN FOSTER, DE/OLB TIM WILLIAMS and redshirt sophomore CB MARLON HUMPHREY each of whom has first-round potential, is the wrong unit to play loose against.. The Tide’s best pro prospect though could be junior OT CAM ROBINSON, while TE O.J. HOWARD is arguably the best two-way prospect at the position. I fear the Alabama front seven will eat up the Ole Miss OL and unleash their seeming legion of pass rushers all night long. Too bad Ole Miss still does not have a running game to control the clock and make the blitzing dial it back a bit. But there are playmakers on both sides of the ball for Ole Miss and they are capable of big plays on both sides of the ball. It could/should be an exciting game overall. Prospects to watch:

ALABAMA                                                                        MISSISSIPPI
#93 JONATHAN ALLEN/DE 6’3/294                             #1 TONY BRIDGES/CB 6’0/185
#22 RYAN ANDERSON/ER 6’2/253                              #12 TONY CONNER/S 6’0/215
#88 O.J. HOWARD/TE 6’6/242                                      #17 EVAN ENGRAM/TE/HB 6’3/235
#4 EDDIE JACKSON/S 6’0/195                                      #93 D.J. JONES/DT 6’0/324
#74 CAM ROBINSON/OT 6’6/327 JR                            #10 CHAD KELLY/QB 6’2/215
#56 TIM WILLIAMS/OLB 6’4/237

MICHIGAN STATE @ NOTRE DAME by 3; 7:30ET NBC
Notre Dame appears to be off to another start of a season that will test their mettle and depth. Injuries and player suspensions are already mounting, but the Irish still have a solid talent base and will look to ride home field advantage, not to mention the talents of emerging junior QB DESHONE KIZER, who is starting to get some top 5-10 buzz, to a win over Spartie. Michigan State has a top 5-10 guy of their own in DT MALIK MCDOWELL, but overall the Spartans who seem to lack playmakers on the offensive side of the ball this season. If Notre Dame’s D can bring some serious heat on QB/TYLER O’CONNOR the Spartans may be hard pressed to score many points. Prospects to watch:

MICHIGAN STATE                                                         NOTRE DAME
#30 RILEY BULLOUGH/ILB 6’2/230                              #36 COLE LUKE/DB 5’11/195
#7 DEMETRIOUS COX/FS 6’1/200                                   #94 JARRON JONES/DT 6’3/315
#4 MALIK McDOWELL/DL 6’6/280 JR                          #68 MIKE McGLINCHEY/OT 6’7/315 JR
#82 ISIAH PRICE/TE 6’4/260                                           #90 ISAAC ROCHELL/DE 6’3/287
#12 R.J. SHELTON/WR 5’11/205                                      #14 DESHONE KIZER/QB/6’4/230/JR

SOUTHERN CAL @ STANFORD by 3; 8PM/ET ABC
It’s only September and here comes a game that could set the pace for the rest of the PAC-12 season. The Trojans can ill afford another loss to a Top 25 team, while STANFORD needs to win this home game against an arch rival. Both teams are breaking in new QBs with the graduation of USC’s CODY KESSLER and Kevin Hogan of STANFORD. For the record, junior Max Browne takes over at USC, while Stanford starts senior Ryan Burns. Both guys are 6-5 with decent arms, but neither is as good as their predecessor. Fortunately, both QBs get to work with one of the best skill players in the country. Browne, for example, throws to junior WR Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster, who entered the season as the consensus #1 wideout in this year’s draft class. At the same time, Stanford RB Christian McCaffery just may one of the very best all-purpose backs in college football history. Pro scouts will also be watching USC junior CB Adoree Jackson, who has also been known to dabble as a receiver and kick returner at times.  Prospects to watch:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA                                             STANFORD
#73 ZACH BANNER/OT 6’9/350                                          #57 JOHNNY CASPERS/OG 6’4/296
#22 JUSTIN DAVIS/RB 6’1/195                                            #99 LUKE KAUMATULE/6’7/295
#2 ADOREE’ JACKSON/CB/RS 5’11/185 JR                      #29 DALLAS LLOYD/SS 6’3/213
#48 TAYLOR McNAMARA/TE 6’5/245                                 #5 CHRIS McCAFFREY/RB/RS 6’0/202 JR
#9 JU-JU SMITH-SCHUSTER/WR 6’2/215 JR                   #3 MICHAEL RECTOR/WR/RS 6’1/185

OHIO STATE @ OKLAHOMA; 7:30 PM ET; FOX

Best game of the day, though, may be in Norman where #2 ranked Ohio State plays Oklahoma in a match-up of two traditional college football powers that just don’t play all that often. The game lost a little luster when Oklahoma lost its season-opener to upstart Houston, but its still the Buckeyes and Sooners with plenty on the line. That’s particularly true for Oklahoma that just can’t afford to lose a second non-conference game and still have a realistic hope of making the BCS playoff. Like a couple of other games this week, the Buckeyes-Sooners features a match-up between two of the better QBs in the country in juniors J.T. Barrett of Ohio State and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, both of whom are legit Heisman candidates, although neither is necessarily a prime-time draft prospect. However, both squads do have their share of top prospects like C/G Pat Elflein, junior ILB Raekwon McMillan, and DEs Tyquan Lewis, another junior, and sophomore Sam Hubbard. Meanwhile, the Sooners feature one of the best 1-2 RB combos in junior Samaje Perrine and soph Joe Mixon; ILB Jordan Evans, junior DE Charles Walker, junior CB Jordan Thomas and FS Ahmad Thomas. Should be fun! Prospects to watch:

OHIO STATE                                                                                 OKLAHOMA

#16 J.T. BARRETT/QB/6-2, 255/JR                                              #6 BAKER MAYFIELD/QB/6-1, 212/JR
#65 PAT ELFLEIN/C-G/6-2, 300                                                  #32 SAMAJE PERINE/RB/6-0, 235/JR
#6 SAM HUBBARD/DE/6-4, 265/RSO                                         #25 JOE MIXON/RB/6-0, 230/RSO
#59 TYQUAN LEWIS/DE/6-3, 260/JR                                         #97 CHARLES WALKER/DE/6-2, 300/JR
#5 RAEKWON MCMILLAN/ILB/6-1, 240/JR                             #26 JORDAN EVANS/ILB/6-1, 235
#95 CAMERON JOHNSTON/P/5-11, 195                                        #7 JORDAN THOMAS/CB/5-11, 190/JR
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                      #13 AHMAD THOMAS/FS/5-11, 200

Make you sure you have your recording device of choice all programmed for the weekend’s action. These are only the highlight games. There are a few other big match-ups that could spawn some upsets.

Pigskin

Who Caught My Eye Week 2

JONATHAN ALLEN/DE #93 6’3/294 ALABAMA The Crimson Tide looks like a serious contender for a national title once again after 2 convincing victories to open the year. And their Defense will be expected to carry the bulk of the load as usual as a new QB is broken in … again. Now here is the real surprise, despite losing two top DL to the 2016 Draft (REED/ROBINSON) their most productive front man may be back in ALLEN. ALLEN is more likely to be taken high in Round 1 this time around, because among other things he is a solid pass-rush threat. Against WKU & USC he put in his typical all-around game efforts. His stat sheet for 2 games reads 7 T, 3 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU, 3 QBH, 1 blocked FG. On a seriously talented overall defensive unit those numbers are most impressive. This guy can do it all, including setting the edge against the run. Expect him to be in consideration for a Top 10 Draft slot next April.

ALEX ANZALONE/LB #34 6’3/244 FLORIDA His college resume’ is not very long, due in large part to losing most of his 2015 season to injury. But talk to his teammates and coaches and the long haired (ala CLAY MATTHEWS) is a serious athlete and smart defensive leader for the Gators. The team lost a host of talented defenders to graduation last of-season so they were counting on a healthy ANZALONE to help lead their D. LB-mate JARRAD DAVIS gets the bigger stats and more attention, but his team understands his value. He can shoot gaps to pressure opposing Offenses on their side of the ball, is an effective edge blitzer and seems comfortable out in space providing pass coverage. He may not pile up huge stats this season, but if he stays healthy he is going to show well on game tape for NFL scouts. Smart, athletic defenders are all the rage for today’s NFL and he may fit the bill. His play against Kentucky gives me reason to believe that he is a man worth watching this season.

A.J. JEFFERSON/DE/LB #47 6’3/277 MISSISSIPPI STATE The kind of versatile multi-dimensional defender that the majority of NFL DC are looking for in the pass happy League. JEFFERSON can rush the passer, stop the run and drop into shallow coverage a bit. He has long arms and uses them very effectively to shed blockers and clear his way to the ball. He is also good at swiping at the ball as the QB cocks his arm to throw. He does play under control and carries out his assignments in their scheme. Was very disruptive against South Carolina spending a lot of the evening on their side of the line-of-scrimmage. He had a sack and 1.5 TFL early in the first quarter to set the tone for the Bulldogs D. From that point on the Gamecocks ran away from him or tried to double team block him. His versatility should play nicely on tape for NFL scouts.

BROOKS ELLIS/ILB #51 6’2/248 ARKANSAS ELLIS led the Razorbacks in tackles in 2015 with 102. But he’s more than just a tackling machine thumper, which you might have noticed if you watched carefully in the upset win over TCU. I counted 3 TFL for ELLIS, who really has a knack for finding the ball coming out of the opposing QB’s hand. His signature play in this contest was a first half Pick 6, where he jumped a route and took it to the house with a 47-yard return. But he also had his usual productive day with 13 total tackles, including 3 TFL. Mark him down as very athletic and versatile, and a solid candidate especially as an ILB in a 3-4 base scheme at the next level.

AMBA ETTA-TAWO/WR #7 6’2/204 SYRACUSE The football program at Syracuse is in a major rebuilding and reshaping mode under new HC DION BABERS. And even though the future is a few more recruiting classes away (at best) BABERS has not been bashful about accepting transfers to his football team. ETTA-TAWO was in a rebuilding Maryland program and decided it was time for a change of scenery. Looks like a great career move because AMBA is showing he is a legit college WR who may have NFL in his future. LOUISVILLE took it to the ‘Cuse, but ETTA-TAWO was not to be stopped. He used his size, strength and speed to haul in 7 balls for 104 yards, and 2 TD. His long catch of the night was good for 47 yards. He has shown good hands and nice route running. After 2 games he’s well on pace for over 100 catches on the season. Keep an eye on this guy this Fall.

JOSH HARVEY-CLEMONS/LB/SS 6’5/230 LOUISVILLE This is not likely to be a big stats year for this incredible athlete, as he basically transitions himself form a S to a versatile, cover LB. His size and athleticism should impress pro defensive coaches with his ability to cover the plethora of receivers running all over the field in today’s pass-happy NFL. He looked confused at times against Syracuse, but he was also around the football a lot for the evening. He may labor through the position transition this season, but when we get to post-season Star Games and the NFL Combine watch out for him to explode in the numbers game and be climbing up prospect charts rapidly.

FRED ROSS/WR #8 6’2/207 MISSISSIPPI STATE ROSS is not an elite player, but he is the backbone and steadiest receiver that State has right now. Despite not being a burner, or a jitter bug, he is a very effective Punt Returner. He had several PR of over 10-yards, and averaged 9.3 ypr against the Gamecocks. In the bounce back win over South Carolina ROSS caught 6 balls for 56 yards and a TD. ROSS is a steady player with reliable hands and lots of intangibles. He also threw one pass and completed it for a TD. The quiet team leader will most surely be drafted next April and should find himself a job as a team’s No. 3/4 WR option. And given his can-do attitude he’s sure to contribute on Special Teams in multiple roles.

COOPER RUSH/QB #10 6’3/227 CENTRAL MICHIGAN Last year a non-D1 QB by the name of CARSON WENTZ was the hot prospect for the NFL Draft. He turned out so well that the EAGLES traded away SAM BRADFORD and started WENTZ riding him to a W in Week 1. EVen though the refs screwed up the end of their game big time RUSH, led the Chippewas to a big upset Win over Okie State on the road. So why can’t RUSH emerge as the non-Power 5 darling for this season? The nice sized senior had a huge day passing 30/42- 361 yards- 4 TD. He’s a mobile guy, who though not a runner, can keep the play alive and roll the pocket as needed. The past two seasons he has demonstrated consistent accuracy completing 64% & 66% of his throws respectively. The team is poised to make a run for the MAC title which would also help boost RUSH’s stock. Watching RUSH stand up to a hostile crowd in Oklahoma, also impressed me. He has earned respect as a top 6 QB prospect for the 2017 Draft.

JEREMY SPRINKLE/TE #83 6’6/255 ARKANSAS A very impressive athlete, who can block and catch. He is a smooth runner with the ball in his hands and reminds me a bit of ANTONIO GATES as a receiver, but more like MARCEDES LEWIS overall. Either way that makes him a serious prospect for next year’s Draft. His size provides a very large target area for his QB. HUNTER HENRY was a 2nd Round NFL Pick last April, and SPRINKLE may not go that high, but he’s an even better inline TE prospect overall. I look for him to double his 27 catches from last season. It should also be noted that his size makes him a valuable red zone weapon. 6 of his 29 catches last season went for a TD. In the big upset of TCU SPRINKLE had his usual day with 3 catches for 58 yards and 1 TD, plus some serious inline blocking all game long. Not great, but he contributes like that on a weekly basis to serve as a cornerstone to their offense. It should also be remembered that HC Bielema spreads the ball around and likes to run a lot.

CARLOS WATKINS/DT #94 6’3/305 CLEMSON A likely candidate for Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft. He plays even bigger than his solid 300 Lb.+ frame. The real surprise is how agile and quick he is on his feet. He plays on the Nose for the Tigers, but looks like he would fit even better into a 4-3 base set scheme at the pro level. He has good range and does get penetration into opponents’ backfields. He’s anchoring a Clemson Defensive Line that lost 3 starters to the NFL in LAWSON, READER & DODD. As the senior leader he is being counted on to lead a talented, but young group of new starters all around him. And as the Offense struggles it is WATKINS and the D that has the Tigers sitting at 2-0. He is not the sure thing that LAWSON was last year as an elite edge pass-rusher, but he does provide pocket pressure right up the middle. Even mobile QB like he has faced the first two weeks of the season ave trouble eluding him in the pocket. He should have a shot to be a first rounder in the 2017 Draft.

UNDRAFTED Rookies Who Caught My Eye

Given the overall caliber of product out on the field I have watched way too many pre-season games this Summer. As teams prepare to publish their final roster cuts this weekend I wanted to get you my quick list of 20 Rookies who got my attention in August, all of them being undrafted. I am not projecting all of these guys will make their present team’s opening day rosters. But those that don’t are very likely to end up on a practice squad, or two, in the coming months. And I will predict that those who don’t make a roster now will show up in Training Camps next year listed as 1st Year Players, with a solid shot to make a roster for 2017.

DOMINIQUE ALEXANDER/ILB #54 BROWNS 6’0/235 OKLAHOMA

ROBBY ANDERSON/WR #83 JETS 6’3/190 TEMPLE

PEYTON BARBER/RB #43 BUCS 5’11/225 AUBURN

MIKE BERCOVICI/QB #6 CHARGERS 6’0/206 ARIZONA STATE

TREVONE BOYKIN/QB #5 SEA HAWKS 6’0/213 TCU

JOE CALLAHAN/QB #6 PACKERS 6’/216 WESLEY

ALEX ERICKSON/WR/PR #12 BENGALS 6’1/195 WISCONSIN

D.J. FOSTER/RB/WR/RS #27 PATRIOTS 6’0/195 ARIZONA STATE

C.J. HAM/RB #30 VIKINGS 6’1/238 AUGUSTANA

De’VANTE HARRIS/CB #49 SAINTS 5’11/190 TEXAS A&M

TRACY HOWARD/CB #41 BROWNS 5’10/180 MIAMI (F)

ROB KELLEY/RB #22 ‘SKINS 6’0/220 TULANE

CRE’VON LeBLANC/CB/RS #35 PATRIOTS 5’9/195 FLORIDA ATLANTIC

J.D. McKISSIC/WR/RS #85 FALCONS 5’11/193 ARKANSAS STATE

ROMEO OKWARA/DE #78 GIANTS 6’5/265 NOTRE DAME

TYVIS POWELL/S #40 SEA HAWKS 6’3/211 OHIO STATE

JALEN RICHARD/RB #46 RAIDERS 5’8/207 SOUTHERN MISS

CHESTER ROGERS/WR #3 COLTS 6’1/180 GRAMBLING

BRENNAN SCARLETT/OLB #57 TEXANS 6’4/264 STANFORD

NELSON SPRUCE/WR/RS #86 RAMS 6’1/205 COLORADO

Congrats on your work this Summer guys. I see an eventual NFL future for you all.

PIGSKIN PAUL

Rookie Watch Pre-Season 2016

JOE CALLAHAN/QB/PACKERS #6 The odds on CALLAHAN making the PACKERS 53-man roster appear pretty slim unless BRETT HUNDLEY is not recovered from his ankle injury by the season opener. But it is very hard to ignore his basic talent, arm strength and aptitude for playing QB at the NFL level. Against the 49’ers he completed 16 of 24 throws, for 167 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT. He also fits the team’s current Offensive scheme well because of his escapability and ability to extend plays with his legs ala AARON RODGERS.

COREY CORE/WR/BENGALS #16 CORE has generated lots of interest based on his size and perceived potential to grow beyond his college production since January. And as the Bengals attempted to replace SANU/JONES this summer it has been CORE who has stepped up for them. He’s a long strider, with above average speed. He has shown the ability to get open and stretch the secondary. It’s looking now like he may make the final cut and win a roster spot.

TYLER ERVIN/RB/RS/TEXANS #34 ERVIN has shown the TEXANS the versatility and production that they saw while watching game tape of him back at SJSU. As the team begins life without ARION FOSTER, and retools their RB group ERVIN offers versatility that their other candidates cannot equal. He’s an elusive runner who shows surprising ability to run inside the tackles for his size. He also shows good hands as a receiver, and can help special teams as a returner. In Week 3 ERVIN had 2 rushes for 13 yards; 1 receptions for 20 yards; popped a kick return for 58 yards. You gotta luv a guy who can bring explosive productivity to your team.

TYREEK HILL/WR/RS/CHIEFS #81 Another guy whose biggest added value may come as a return man. His speed takes your breath away at times. In week 3 he piled up 103 total yards with a 58 yard reception being the highlight play. He looks poised to take away the job held by De’Anthony Thomas the past few seasons. He’s a bit bigger and has greater straight line speed to my eyes.

CRE’VON LeBLANC/CB/FLORIDA ATLANTIC #35 This URFA has been the PATS leading tackler, and looked very solid in pass coverage this pre-season. Against the PANTHERS he was credited with 2 PBU and 2 tackles. He has also been effective on Special Teams coverage units and in a pinch also possesses return ability. More than a few folks were surprised that he was not drafted in April, but he looks like he can duplicate much of what CYRUS JONES their top pick this year can do.

ALEX LEWIS/OL/RAVENS. This long, lean athlete was a team leader at Nebraska and showed some of those same qualities at the Shrine Classic. He has played inside at OG, and at OT for the Ravens this pre-season, acquitting himself well at both positions. He may have starting ability in his future, but as a Rookie his versatility to back up 4 positions may allow him to be a very valuable back-up on game day.

JOE THUNEY/OG/PATRIOTS #64 Versatility and high FBI count for a lot in BILL BELICHICK’s world. THUNEY brings a lot of both in his play. He has been starting the entire pre-season at LG and I would be surprised if he doesn’t hold on to that starting spot come September. He also offers the team a back-up option at every OL slot, but OC, in a pinch. He’s athletic enough to play out at OT, but his arms are a bit short for an NFL level OT on a full-time basis.

DeANDRE WASHINGTON/RB/RAIDERS #33 This short guy was a perfect fit for the wide open attack at Texas Tech. But he also has desirable traits for an NFL Offense. At 5’8, it makes his 204 lbs. a bit more powerful than anticipated. He also has excellent hands as a receiver and slips out of the backfield on a regular basis to grab dump-off throws. He is also very quick and can change direction and cause defenders to grab for him out in space. He has good balance and burst to make big plays once out in the open field. He will make a nice compliment to a RAIDERS running corps that is loaded with bigger, power runners.

I have already thumb-nailed DREW KASER/P for the CHARGERS, but this could well be a banner year for drafted Punters overall. Based on their work in the pre-season it looks very likely that RILEY DIXON/BRONCOS and LACHLAN EDWARDS/JETS may also have earned Punting slots with their teams. Both have looked good in the pre-season with their strong legs providing both distance and hang-time. they have also shown the ability to angle punts and place the ball inside the 20-yard line with consistency. I’m not sure I have ever seen 3 drafted Rookies earn jobs their first season.

Week 4 of the pre-season doesn’t reveal a whole lot for prospects usually so this is my last snapshot section on the Rookies of Summer. Time to start looking seriously at the prospects for the 2017 Draft in Philadelphia.

Pre-Season Rookie Watch

WILL FULLER/WR/TEXANS #15 The Texans drafted FULLER to give them the deep threat they needed to compliment a solid corps of possession guys like DEANDRE HOPKINS. After his play last weekend there can be no doubt they got what they were looking for. FULLER had 4 catches for 73 yards and 1 TD. He also got past the secondary deep on several additional plays. His separation speed is undeniable and he showed better hands than he did at times during his collegiate career in South Bend. Even thought he failed to break a really long scoring play he showed some definite yards-after-catch ability with his speed and elusiveness. If QB/OSWEILER proves to be the real deal the average fan may not recognize the Texans Offense compared to last year’s edition.

DREW KASER/P/CHARGERS #8 We won’t quibble over a year or two, but let’s just say the CHARGERS had such confidence in KASER after drafting that they cut loose their Punter of a decade, MIKE SCIFRES, before Training Camp even began. And he has not disappointed to date. Last weekend KASER posted a 45.8 yard punting average which included 2 balls inside the opponent’s 20. He gets excellent height and hang time on his kicks. Hs first 3 Punts of the night carried 56, 52 & 56 yards in the air. And of significance at the pro level of play is his apparent efficiency as a holder for PK JOSH LAMBO, a former teammate at Texas A&M. I’m thinking the CHARGERS feel like they just found their Punter for the next decade in KASER.

PAXTON LYNCH/QB/BRONCOS #12 6’7/244 The BRONCOS organization wants to be careful not to rush their QB of the future into action too soon. But after 2 pre-season games his play is pushing the issue very hard, that he should be No.1 on their QB depth chart. While MARK SANCHEZ continues to show his propensity to turn the ball over by either INT or fumbles, as he has throughout his career, play on the field says LYNCH may have a slight edge over TREVOR SIEMIAN for the job. LYNCH was 15 of 26 last week for 113 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT. He continually kept plays alive with his athleticism and certainly looks very cool under pressure. Don’t be shocked to see LYNCH start in Game 3 to see how he commands the first team against starters from the opponent. The verbiage had indicated that HC KUBIAK would prefer to hold off the starting career of LYNCH at least til mid-season, but I will guarantee that GM ELWAY has no desire to write off this season while LYNCH learns from the sidelines.

BLAKE MARTINEZ/ILB/PACKERS #50 I don’t think I’d get an argument from too many football observers if I said MARTINEZ is clearly the most productive Rookie on the PACKERS roster so far. He’s starting inside and actually making the defensive calls on the field, as called in to him by DC DOM CAPERS. This could truly be a Rookie that CAPERS can trust right away. He turned in 4 tackles with his play against the Raiders, which included one tackle on coverage units. Several of his tackles were solid open field efforts. He trusts his eyes in finding the ball and reading the play, which allows him to get a jump on the offense. The PACKERS have been looking for quite a while for a man inside who could play both the run and drop into intermediate coverage. MARTINEZ looks like he could be that guy so far.

CARL NASSIB/DE/BROWNS #94 Count me in, among those who were somewhat skeptical of NASSIB being able to translate his late developing game in college to the pro level. But after two pre-season efforts I will say that given his extraordinary length (6’7′) and his hustling style of play he is going to wear some OL out as a pro. What e be most amazing about him is his ability to sink his hips drop a shoulder coming around the edge for such a tall guy. He just missed raking the ball out of the QB’s hand in the second game, and his only solo tackle of the night was a sack. He had a second sack in the 2nd quarter that was negated by a defensive penalty elsewhere. Right now I would consider him the largest energizer bunny I have ever seen.

JARRAN REED/DT/SEA HAWKS #99 Amazingly the SEA HAWKS are rebuilding their OL & DL units n the fly with a slew of Rookies and Free Agents. REED and several other Rookies are making them look good early this pre-season. One of their biggest losses was BRANDON MEBANE/DT, who had anchored the middle of the DL for almost a decade. A recent injury to starting DT JORDAN HILL has provided REED with extra playing time and he has taken advantage already. He looks exactly like the same wall of granite he did for the Crimson Tide the past two years. He is also showing some penetration and sideline to sideline pursuit. He’ll be in a DL rotation, but is clearly headed for big things and helping the fans in Seattle rest easy about their DL rotation.

RASHAD ROBINSON/CB/49’ERS #33 Some off-field issues at LSU and the fact that he only weighs about 180 lbs caused many teams to hesitate in drafting this excellent coverage-Corner. But the talent needy Niners grabbed him in Round 4, and he has looked excellent in his play through 2 pre-season games. In the upset win over the BRONCOS last weekend ROBINSON played a lot of the first half against many BRONCOS starters. He was credited with 4 tackles, and I counted 2 PBU by the long-armed athlete. He also laid a couple of big licks on receivers, especially given his slight frame. On a team expected to lose most weekends his current play could earn him a lot of playing time as a Rookie, based on his impressive early showing.

ISAAC SEUMALO/OG/EAGLES One of the biggest weaknesses on the 2015 EAGLES team was their OG play. They were not proficient in either run blocking or pass protection. So GM HOWIE ROSEMAN went to work fixing that problem. He signed VFA BRANDON BROOKS and drafted SEUMALO. Right now that is your starting OG tandem Eagles fans. And the upgrade looks huge! SEUMALO is athletic enough to have played inside & outside in college. He’s tough and strong, and a surprisingly good athlete. He looks fully recovered from foot/ankle two seasons ago and should be very hard to move out of that starting job anytime soon. He may be too valuable as a starter to move around as a multi-positional backup.

KEVIN SEYMOUR/CB/BILLS #45 The BILLS waited until Round 6 to grab this speedy athlete, who never quite seemed to reach his potential in college. But his 6’0/190 lb. frame has great appeal to the RYAN Brothers whose roster contains a number of smallish CB prospects. He has been inserted into the slot-corner position on a regular basis already this pre-season and acquitted himself quite well. And he has indeed been able to display some good deep cover skills and aggressive tackling already.

More next week.

Pigskin

WHO CAUGHT MY EYE NFL PRE-SEASON 2016

In another month most of my attention will be applied to NFL Prospects as they wind up their final collegiate season. But while we wait for the season to start, I thought I’d drop some observations based on Rookies in NFL pre-season games.

JAMES BRADBERRY/CB/PANTHERS #24 6’1/211 This is the young man that the Panthers are counting on to replace JOSH NORMAN. Sounds like a pretty big challenge, and it is. But based on his play as their starting right CB there is reason to believe that he has what it takes to step up and make the grade despite being from a small school program. He was thrown at a lot in the first quarter and even though he allowed some completions he more than held his own IMO. He was not lost in space and showed good open field tackling skills as well. He also showed some ability to react t the ball in the air and close ground on his man to contest the completion. If he can progress the remainder of the pre-season he may indeed hold down a starting job.

KENNY DIXON/RB/RAVENS #30 5’10/215 Lots of roster spots are available for the retooling RAVENS. One of the most crowded may be their RB slots if everyone returns from injury by early September. They have JUSTIN FORSETT, BUCK ALLEN, MIKE TALIAFERRO, & TERRANCE WEST all set to tote the rock. But none them better look in the rear view mirror, or they will see DIXON bearing down on them. DIXON showed his toughness and versatility while FORSETT & TALIAFERRO sat out rehabbing injuries. He displayed good balance, quick-cut ability and good burst to open spaces. He carried the rock 9 times for 44 yards, mostly between the tackles. He also found himself returning kicks (1/26 yds). He also has a reputation as a good receiver and a blocker. Watch him as the season progresses and injuries mount around the League.

ALEX ERICKSON/WR/PR/BENGALS #12 6’0/195 The URFA from Wisconsin took advantage of the limited opportunities he had to touch the football. Not too bad scoring 2 TD in his first game. He made a solid move and catch for a TD, and then brought the stadium to it’s feet with an impressive 80 yard punt return for the second TD. The punt return is the biggest key in his effort to earn a roster slot, since Special Teams will be the first place they will look to him for help. But he also will get a look as a slot receiver as the team rebuilds its receiving group around TJ GREEN.

B.J. GOODSON/ILB/GIANTS #93 6’1/240 IMO the LB group has been a area of average at best play for the G-Men over the past decade. GOODSON, who emerged as a senior at Clemson, leading he team in tackles, as at it again in the pre-season opener. He played most of the second half and was credited with 6 solo tackles and 1 assist on the night. He as very active and seemed to have no problem locating the ball. His hustling, hard hitting style should make him a cornerstone on Special Teams units, but he’ll be waiting for his chance from scrimmage.

JAKEEM GRANT/WR/RS/DOLPHINS #19 5’6/161 I delighted in watching GRANT on several occasions last fall as he ran all over the field for TEXAS TECH. But despite his world class quickness, I more or less blew him off based on his diminutive size. Seems DOLPHINS Owner Stephen Ross caught his act on TV last Fall as well and was impressed enough to mention GRANT to his scouts and coaches. So far so good with some explosive play-making in game 1. GRANT ouched the ball a lot for pre-season and did not let his owner down. He averaged 15 yards per on Punt Returns. He also brought back 2 Kick-offs for 52 yards. And most surprisingly to me, he got open to catch 4 balls for 68 yards. He brings a dimension to the team that was missing on their roster. Nw if they don’t over work him they may have a pleasant gem on their hands.

DEIONDRE HALL/CB/BEARS #32 6’2/199 I was convinced that HALL would make a mark with the rebuilding BEARS, but felt he would have to move to S to do so. He just doesn’t run fast enough to start in the NFL on the Corner. At least based on his play, as a starter at CB, I may have misjudged him. He was lost a bit in man-coverage, but between his long legs and long arms he made up ground and was able to break up several throws by the time they reached opposing receivers. He showed solid tacking ability and seemed very comfortable out on the grass. He did not look out of place at all in his starting assignment n Week 1.

DERRICK HENRY/RB/TITANS #2 6’3/247 Notice to all of last year’s RB still on the TITANS roster, ‘Don’t unpack all your bags in Nashville quite yet’. MURRAY & HENRY looked for all the world like dominant runners in the pre-season opener. After MURRAY did his thing n the 1st Quarter HENRY dominated the 2nd & 3rd. His stats of 74 yards on 10 carries and 1 TD don’t even tell the tale of how dominant he was finding holes, twisting and turning away from tackles and then dragging defenders with him for extra yards at the end of plays. He looked to me like a more violent & powerful EDDIE GEORGE rampaging around for the TITANS. But to put it bluntly, it was some pretty impressive work that he did against the CHARGERS.

JONES was the most popular name on my watch list last weekend. So here are 3 guys named JONES who caught my eye.

CARDALE JONES/QB/BILLS #7 6’5/250 It would seem likely that CARDALE is a 3-4 year project and his first effort should have given the BILLS Personnel people and coaches cause for optimism. He showed the arm we all knew he had and led the BILLS to a late TD, followed by a failed 2-point attempt to win the game with seconds left on the scoreboard. He finished his 2nd half stint going 11/21 – 162 yards – 1 TD. He also scrambled for 34 yards on 4 running attempts. Being objective I would also claim that several balls of his were flat-out dropped by his receivers. I was particularly impressed with his pocket presence in a hurry-up final drive. If OC GREG ROMAN is still around in a few years CARDALE might be a natural fit for hi run first, throw deep kind of offensive game plans.

CHRIS JONES/DL/CHIEFS #95 6’6/308 The CHIEFS look to have found a wonderfully athletic and bright player to their defensive front in JONES. He surely looks the part with his height and muscled looking physique. And he really moved around to cover a lot of the field in his first pro action. He certainly didn’t dominate, with 2 tackles, but his recognition of where plays were going and reaction to pursue should have been very encouraging to the CHIEFS’ coaches.Other than directly on the Nose he looked as though he could easily move around in their various fronts.

DEION JONES/LB/FALCONS #45 6’0/222 JONES looked exactly like he did in college, running from sideline to sideline in ball pursuit. He was credited with 5 tackles for the game and looked very comfortable in coverage drops as well. I would be shocked if he is not a starter by October at the latest. And it might also be said that fellow Rookie DeVONDRE CAMPBELL might have shown enough instinct and athleticism to be partnering with him out on the grass this year.

DAK PRESCOTT/QB/COWBOYS #4 6’2/226 The COWBOYS lost a game as well as their projected back-up in QB/KELLEN MOORE, to injury, but the good news is that PRESCOTT may be a lot closer to being NFL ready than many thought. PRESCOTT looked totally comfortable running the offense and was only 2 drops from back-up TE/SWAIM, away from never having one of his passes hit the ground. He finished his work for the night going 1/12 for 139 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT. He showed the athleticism and footwork as expected, but it was his calm demeanor under Center that really stood out. The search for an immediate vet back-up for ROMO just got put on the back burner for at least another week.

MAX TUERK/OC/CHARGERS #58 6’5/298 While 1st Rounder JOEY BOSA continues to hold out over contract language, the team got great news in the person of TUERK. MAX suffered a serious knee injury last October and was unable to participate in off season events like the Senior Bowl and Combine. But he played the entire first half of this game and I did not see anyone penetrating right up the middle and collapsing the pocket while he was in there. The CHARGERS OL is in dire need of a major rebuild and an immediate starting job for TUERK would be a big boost in the situation. He will be a guy to watch as the pre-season progresses.

More next week.

Pigskin Paul

2016 NFL TEAM POWER RANKINGS

We have reached the Top echelon of NFL teams with the Elite Eight. But before we start the detail let me say that in many cases I don’t see a huge difference between these eight and those below them at 9-16. A couple of injuries to the wrong players could really shake up this list.

8) PACKERS So let’s get down to basics here. Do you really think that the 10-6 PACKERS were lacking only JORDY NELSON in their Offense to plunge them all the way to 23rd overall in Total Offense? I surely don’t buy that. We could throw in a grossly out of shape EDDIE LACY/RB and an incredible rash of injuries along the OL. But a great deal of the issue is more likely the lack of young offensive players showing improvement and professional growth. When you build your roster almost exclusively through the Draft it is essential that some of those draftees step up, sooner rather than later. The Defense, which ranked 15th overall, actually carried this team in many of their victories. The 2016 Draft looks like it may have provided some significant upgrades for the roster, but until they prove it on the field they are nothing but young guys with potential. If the injury bug has moved out of the PACKERS locker room then they may be able to assert themselves as a Super Bowl contender. Look or another 10-Win season, but the VIKINGS now look like the cream of the NFC North.

7) BENGALS This is another talented team that has been to the Play-Offs for 5 straight seasons. But some people are projecting a serious drop-off for the Bengals this season. The loss of OC HUE JACKSON to Cleveland is worrisome, and most of the WR support group for A.J. GREEN has moved on. ANDY DALTON should be back from his thumb injury, but he’s going to need a lot of pre-season reps to get used to working with his new WR group. TE/TYLER EIFERT is already out with injury and unlikely to be ready for the season opener. The team is excited by Rookie WR/TYLER BOYD, who reminds many of another former PITT PANTHER in LARRY FITZGERALD. He better be because he needs to be their No. 2 WR NOW! The BENGALS ranked 11th in the NFL in Total Defense, and are retooling their secondary. Oh yeah, CB/WILLIAM JACKSON, their Round 1 Pick is already lost for the season with injury. I disagree with those who are projecting this team to fall to a .500 record, or worse, but I don’t think this is the year they mount a deep run in the Play-Offs.

6) CHIEFS The work done by GM JOHN DORSEY (another Packers protege) and HC ANDY RIED continues to impress in Kansas City. AFter sifting through a top heavy, salary cap unfriendly team just a few years ago and suffering through a 2-14 season in 2012 the team has won 11, 9 & 11 games the past three seasons. The Chiefs bounced back from some key injuries last year, Jamaal Charles in particular, to roll into the Play-Offs on a 10-game winning streak. ALEX SMITH/QB ain’t no AARON RODGERS, and seldom throws the deep ball, but as a field general he gets the job done. He has thrived working hand-in-hand with ANDY REID. A 7th ranked Defense carried the team, and coordinating their takeaways with a lack of turnovers by SMITH and his Offense the team ranked 2nd in the League in Turnover Differential with a +14. The D ranked 2nd in the NFL with 22 INT, including a league leading 8 from Rookie CB/MARCUS PETERS, who still has room to improve. No one is quite sure when sack master JUSTIN HOUSTON will return from ACL surgery, but don’t think guys like TAMBA HALI, JAYE HOWARD, DEE FORD & others won’t make life difficult for opposing QBs. This physical, fundamentally sound team will be lurking to move up if say Denver really isn’t the same without MANNING/OSWEILER in the AFC West.

5) PANTHERS CAM NEWTON should be even better this season than last, but there appear to be some other areas of the roster that may take a step backward this year. The biggest boost for NEWTON would be the return to health and Rookie form by WR/KELVIN BENJAMIN, who reminds me JULIO JONES, just not as fast downfield. CAMERON ARTIS-PAYNE/RB needs to take it up a notch and take some carries off the back of JONATHAN STEWART, who is entering his ninth NFL campaign. Their 6th ranked Defense may have trouble repeating their work of 2015 given some major losses in their secondary, but the front 7 appears deep and solid. JOSH NORMAN will clearly be missed, as well as ROMAN HERPER & CHARLES TILLMAN. But DC SEAN McDERMOTT and HC RON RIVERA, will likely fill in the blanks. Overall this team is sound and solid, but probably not quite as good as their 15-1 record might have indicated last season. If they are bitten hard by the injury bug they may not have the quality depth to survive and thrive. They are still the class of the NFC South, but an 11-5 season mark might be more realistic, with a run that that doesn’t quite get them back to the Super Bowl.

4) VIKINGS Things continue on the uptick in Minnesota, which will open it’s palatial new stadium this season. And if TEDDY BRIDGEWATER can progress again as an NFL starting QB the rest of the pieces just might be good enough to make a deeper Play-Off run this time around. A nice Draft group, supplemented by some solid VFA signings have the roster looking deeper than ever for the coming season. A big factor will be what kind of impact WR/LAQUON TREADWELL/R can make for the Offense. He’s not a speedster, but is athletic, shows good hands and is dangerous after the catch. He also shows up with a reputation as a hard worker, good teammate and positive locker room influence. He and 2nd year man STEFON DIGGS could emerge as the top WR pairing in the NFC North. OC NORV TURNER will continue to run first and pass second, which works nicely when ADRIAN PETERSON is your top RB. JERICK McKINNON is a nice change of pace guy when AP needs some rest. The Defense ranked 13th overall and can get after the passer with some solid athletes in their Front 7. MIKE ZIMMER still has the touch working with his Defensive coaches to max the output from his talent base. If the VIKES can make their offense more versatile downfield, and establish a home field advantage in their new stadium they will be a tough out next January.

3) PATRIOTS It sure does not help that the League, and Goodell in particular, have decided to trump up their phony charges against the PATRIOTS and sidelined TOM BRADY for September. Look for BELICHICK and his staff to work through the adversity and pull off at least a .500 record in the first month of the season. Barring another year of constant injury issues this team has plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball. CHANDLER JONES will be missed but perhaps not as much as many think. VFA additions like CHRIS LONG, TERRENCE KNIGHTON, FRANK KEARSE & RAMON HUMBER may not be perennial Pro Bowlers, but as a group they should upgrade the overall defensive depth. The weakest aspect of the PATS is still likely to be their running attack, which ranked 30th in the NFL last season. But if DEON LEWIS comes back healthy, steady VFA DONALD BROWN may give them a boost. MARTELLUS BENNETT/TE and CHRIS HOGAN/WR are expected to boost the receiving corps significantly. And based on the additions along the OL things should get better within that group, barring another injury plagued season. By the end of October I would expect tis team to be rolling along and perhaps peak in the Play-Offs.

2) CARDINALS The CARDS continue to roll along under the leadership of HC BRUCE ARIANS and GM STEVE KEIM. They have a nice mix of solid vets and talented young players. They had the top ranked Total Offense in the League last season, while their Defense was ranked 5th overall. That is the kind of balance that allows a team to win week after week. CARSON PALMER is thriving under ARIANS’ system and play calling. Now they just have to protect him better in the pocket. New names like EVAN MATHIS/G, EVAN BOEHM/C/R & COLE TONER/R will battle to provide that upgrade in the trenches. FITZGERALD, JOHN BROWN & MICHAEL FLOYD all managed to catch more than 50 balls last season, and speedster JJ Nelson could carve out a bigger niche for himself with his explosiveness. Their Defense flourishes by letting players do what they do best. The return of a healthy TYRANN MATHIEU is key for that Defense, which lost it’s top sack man in DWIGHT FREENEY. The thought is that most of that slack will be picked up by the addition of CHANDLER JONES, who racked up 12.5 sacks in New England last season. It will also be interesting to see how the team utilizes Rookie ROBERT NKEMDICHE along their DL. Double digit Wins should be expected again.

1) SEA HAWKS While much of the football world has bemoaned the loss of MARSHAWN LYNCH to retirement they have failed to notice the positive additions to the Seattle roster in general. The team finished 3rd in the League in rushing last season, mush of it behind Rookie RB THOMAS RAWLS. But the running back group now includes wayward son CHRISTINE MICHAEL, back for another go-round, and two draftees in C.J. PROSISE & ALEX COLLINS. As long as a revised OL group works out, and it usually does under OL Coach TOM CABLE, it looks as though the running game should be just fine. The bigger news may be that QB/RUSSELL WILSON carried this team in December with the best passing of his young career. If they need to chances are that the passing attack can bear more of the weight to carry the offense. I would also expect that TE/JIMMY GRAHAM (if healthy) will be more productive in his second season within the Sea Hawks offense in 2016. BRANDON MEBANE & BRUCE IRVIN will be missing on the defensive side, but once again reinforcements have come to town. BRANDON BROWNER is not likely to start in the secondary but his locker room presence and flexibility to fit into their scheme is invaluable. At a biscuit shy of 350 lbs. VFA SEALVER SILIGA/DT is just the kind of plugger they need to spell RUBIN on the nose, and Rookie JARRAN REED would have been a first rounder before the league went pass crazy. The team is solid, with better depth than ever, IMO. Their overall roster quality, combined with star power make them tops in the NFL for me.

PIGSKIN PAUL

2016 NFL POWER RANKINGS Part 3

Let’s get rolling with the upper half team rankings. We are now in the territory where the rest of these teams have reason to consider themselves as serious Play-Off contenders.

16 SAINTS For a couple of seasons I have felt this team is on the edge of a cliff ready to fall to the depths of NFL frustration. But somehow DREW BREEES & SEAN PAYTON hold it all together and the team is respectable, if not a legit Play-Off contender. In 2015 they finally faced the sad reality of their 3rd 7-9 record in 4 seasons. Given the great season by the PANTHERS it clearly pointed out that the SAINTS were a second tier team at best. And I am not sure how this group rises to, or above .500, this year. They ad a solid Draft, but had only 5 Picks. You can’t build a team with only 5 draftees a year even if they all excel. The team also had to juggle the off-season roster again to meet Salary Cap restrictions and to trim off some ‘wrong-side-of-30’ players like MARQUES COLSTON & JAHRI EVANS. ON the positive side DENNIS ALLEN is now the DC and is on the same page with the Head Coach on what they want to do on that side of the ball. He’d better be because the team ranked 31st in the League last year in both run and pass defense. As they have often done under the guidance of GM MICKEY LOOMIS, the team also looks to have added more talent from the undrafted Rookie ranks than most of the League teams. They also brought in a small, but talented group of VFA spearheaded by TE/COLBY FLEENER who fills a big need for BREES, and is 8 years younger than the man he replaces in BEN WATSON. The real key is whether or not a reshuffled OL Coach DAN ROUSHAR can be the guru that AARON KOMER used to be in molding a group that could protect BREES.

15 GIANTS Quietly, out of respect for the deposed TOM COUGHLIN, GIANTS upper management is hoping that a new voice leading the locker room will inspire this team to bigger and better things than the 3 straight losing seasons they have struggled through.The team went of a VFA spending spree ($200,000+) this of-season and brought in multiple bodies on the defensive side of the ball. Somewhere between 4-6 new starters may emerge on Defense this Summer. The team is trying to reshuffle their secondary for seemingly the 3rd time since their last Super Bowl. Two Rookies (ELI APPLE/DARIAN THOMPSON) and VFA JANORIS JENKINS will all get legit shots at jobs, also allowing last year’s top Rookie LANDON COLLINS to move back to SS where he belongs. That would be a big positive given the D ranked dead last (32nd) in pass defense in 2015. The team must also find ways to pressure opposing QB better in 2016, after recording only 23 sacks last year to rank 30th in that category. ELI MANNING seems to be thriving under new HC, former OC, BEN McADOO the past 3 seasons. The team is excited about ODELL BECKHAM, VICTOR CRUZ & STERLING SHEPARD/R being available for targets, not to mention RB/SHANE VEREEN, who caught 59 balls last season from ELI. But my biggest concern is the right side of the G-Men OL with JOHN JERRY/G & MARSHALL NEWHOUSE/T as projected starters. The GIANTS lost 8 games by 6 or fewer points. If they can reverse their fortunes and win 50% of those close ones they might go 10-6 and that should win the NFC East, IMO.

14 BILLS REX RYAN would be smiling to himself if he read my Power Rankings and found his BILLS team ranked above both the GIANTS and JETS teams. Nothing makes folks in Western New York feel better than ranking ahead of the two Big Apple teams. Expect ROB & REX to pump up a BILLS Defense that seriously disappointed with an overall ranking of 19th in a 32 team League in 2015. The only real negative is the loss, indefinitely, of 1st Round Pick SHAQ LAWSON after shoulder surgery. The Offense needs LeSEAN McCOY back healthy and Rookie JONATHAN WILLIAMS to step up right away as the team tries to repeat as the NFL’s leading rushing attack. Doing so really takes the heat off of TYROD TAYLOR at QB to carry the team. TYROD was the team’s second leading rusher in 2015 with 568 yards. He can’t carry the ball 100 times again and expect to still be standing behind Center when December rolls around. By the way, the BILS ranked 28th in the League in passing offense in 2015. The BILLS augmented their roster with a good Draft and some solid, role playing VFA signings. REX, reminds me of the “mouth that roared”, and that brings added pressure to deliver on the field. He’s already told us he thinks the BILLS won the off-season. Now they’d better go out and win the real season. The schedule favors them, especially playing a BRADY-less PATS team in game 4. They also play 3 of that last 4 games in usually cold & windy Buffalo come December.

13 BRONCOS I’m not sure a defending Super Bowl team ever went into the season with so many key personnel losses. The biggest of which is clearly losing their top two QB, when BROCK OSWEILER took a bigger contract offer and moved to Houston. Their supporters point to the running attack as being the key to their offense. But I would point out that the BRONCOS ranked 17th last season in rushing offense. THey had better be right that R/DEVONTAE BOOKER, can step in right away and supplement the running of ANDERSON & HILLMAN. Right now the team is also assuming that MARK SANCHEZ will open the season as their starting QB. SANCHEZ leading an NFL team to a Super Bowl seems highly questionable to me. PAXTON LYNCH is the future, but his future is not likely to be in 2016. So why do I even have them ranked in the teens? In two words, WADE PHILLIPS. WADE may be the most creative overall defensive mind in the NFL right now. And he does still have enough weapons available to wreak havoc on opposing teams. Think I am exaggerating? The BRNCOS finished 1st overall in Total D; number 3 against the run and 1st against the pass. No team in the League (not even Seattle) has more secondary talent than the BRONCOS with guys like TALIB, HARRIS, ROBY, STEWART & WARD, IMO. THem stir in two Rookie S candidates in SIMMONS & PARKS. JOHN ELWAY has done a superior job as an NFL GM, and he looks to have restocked his roster nicely overall. But that QB situation makes me think they may be one-and-done when the Play-Offs roll around.

12 RAIDERS I can’t recall the last time I considered the RAIDERS good enough to be ranked above the defending Super Bowl champs. But GM REGGIE McKENZIE has done a superior job extracting this franchise from Salary Cap hell and then patiently rebuilding the core of the roster. The Draft has been a key part of his equation and the team looks to have had another solid Draft. They also brought in their best long-run group of VFA since McKENZIE arrived in town. Other than S/REGGIE NELSON, who led the League with 8 INT last season, their other key VFA additions are all under the age of 30 and likely to be around a while, still in their prime. No matter where they play him KHALIL MACK is clearly one of the top defenders and pass rushers in the NFL today. QB/DEREK CARR continues to improve each season and now has some serious weapons to show to. Last season MICHAEL CRABTREE/VFA (85 catches) and AMARI COOPER/R (72 catches). CLIVE WALFORD made nice progress over the course of the 2015 season. They have a nice stable of RB talent, but still need better OT play soon. Their 28th ranked rushing attack has got to improve. Good handed jitterbug R/DeANDRE WASHINGTON may add an elusive element to their running game. My faith in McKENZIE allows me to assume this team is still ascending. I look for the team to crack the .500 mark in 2016.

11 COLTS ANDREW LUCK returns after a season basically lost to injuries that limited him in last summer’s Training Camp and got worse over time. The big question is whether or not GM RYAN GRIGSON has brought in the right guys to fix some of the team’s problems. TE/COBY FLEENER & WR/ANDRE JOHNSON are gone and the receiving corps looks a bit depleted right now. The team drafted 4 OL, and the hope is that at least two of them can win starting jobs. RYAN KELLY/OC may be the best answer at OC since JEFF SATURDAY left town. LeRAVEN CLARK/OT may be the best overall athletic specimen in their OL group. CLARK is a specimen to put it mildly, but he faces a large learning curve after working in a run-and-shoot Offense in college. This team is going to be a lot younger than last year’s edition of the COLTS, but the expectation will be to regain the AFC South title again. The team ranked 26th overall in Total Defense, which really puts the pressure on LUCK and his offense. I sense that HC CHUCK PAGANO will have his finger prints all over the team’s D, now run by TED MONACHINO, reduce those 25.5 points per game allowed. That may indeed happen, but even so, they are likely to be a quick out once the Play-Offs start. LUCK is still the present and the future of this franchise and needs more talent around him. They need another good Draft and a more active VFA period to be considered a Super Bowl contender for my money.

10 COWBOYS In some ways I cannot imagine why I have this team ranked in the Top 10. Chances are their Defense will absolutely suck, leaving it up to their Offense to outscore every opponent. That may be in the realm of reality if TONY ROMO stays healthy, but that feels like a bit of a reach to be kind about it. The team should be poised to lead the League in rushing in 2016. Their OL is among the best in the League and their roster currently lists a RB group that is deep and talented. Vet DARREN McFADDEN rushed for slightly over 1,00-yards last year, and he may be third string behind EZEKIEL ELIOTT/RB & ALFRED MORRIS/VFA. Their receiving group is deep and talented. As you have heard constantly the past 6 months, a healthy TONY ROMO can drive this offensive group to an outstanding season. But on the D side of the ball things are a disaster, because of multiple drug suspensions and roster deletions that far outnumber additions. ROD MARINELLI, their DC, is highly regarded around the league, but Merlin the Magician he is not. As of today 3 potential defensive starters will be suspended when the regular season starts. The Cowboys were ranked 17th in total defense last season, and I fail to see where they have improved things on that side of the ball. I may be seriously overrating the team right now. This team is a couple of key injuries away from being a worse than last year’s Cowboys team.

9 STEELERS I read & listen to a lot of football pundits who have this team in the 2017 Super Bowl. I felt a bit queasy even sticking them inside my top 10. I can respect this organization without being mesmerized by their historical reputation. Once again LEVEON BELL is in trouble with the League for skipped drug tests and facing a 4-game suspension to start the season. That leaves 33-year old DEANGELO WILLIAMS to carry the load again, because the team failed to draft a RB to supplement their vets. The year long suspension of MARTAVIS BRYANT at WR and retirement of HEATH MILLER at TE also leave some pretty big shoes to fill when it comes to targets for BIG BEN. For seemingly the 10th year in a row the team is working to rebuild their secondary on the defensive side of the ball. The drafting of both ARTIE BURNS/CB & SEAN DAVIS/S, at the top of the Draft is a positive step, but is either one ready to step in and start for the mistake-hating HC MIKE TOMLIN? I’ll believe that when I see it. And barely 1 week into Camp 2nd year man SENQUEZ GOLSON, who they hoped to be their Nickel Corner, may be down for the year with a leg fracture. There DL is under repair especially at the Nose position. IMO, this team has way too many question marks to be in the Top 8.

2016 NFL Team Power Rankings 2

Time to finish off the bottom half of the league. Most of these teams see themselves on the rise, but may indeed just be spinning their wheels. Remember Training Camp is the time of year where NFL optimism reigns supreme. Sorry if I rain on your favorite team’s dreams.

24) EAGLES The post-Chip Kelly era gets underway with the team having purged a large number of the players that KELLY hand-picked prior to the 2015 season. Names like ALONSO, MAXWELL, MURRAY, SANCHEZ, et al. HOWIE ROSEMAN has been handed back control of the organization and he shook things up by trading a lot of Draft Picks to move up and select CARSON WENTZ as the team’s future franchise QB. How soon is the future for a small school player who spent most of his senior season out injured? What do they do with SAN BRADFORD, who was given a big contract extension to stick around back in January. History says the situation will sort itself else, when the brittle BRADFORD goes on IR around mid-season (hopefully) and the team can insert WENTZ into the starting job. The big insurance policy here is VFA CHASE DANIEL, who played under new HC DOUG PEDERSON with the Chiefs. The best news for this team and its fans is that it plays in the NFC Least which may be amongst the easiest in the League to jump from worst to first. But this team is likely to need another year to move up. Phily Fans need to hope they can recoup some of their traded Draft PIcks by trading BRADFORD at the end of this campaign.

23) TEXANS This time surprised a lot of people, including me, last season by capturing the AFC South with a 9-7 record. The biggest step forward for the team this off-season was the signing of BROCK OSWEILER/QB as a VFA from Denver. Now we shall see what HC/QB Whisperer BILL O’BRIEN can do with the big, young guy who most expected to be the MR. PEYTON successor, for JOHN ELWAY in Denver. Now the bad news comes with back surgery for JJ WATT, just before Camp opened. The genius of DC ROMEO CRENNEL will clearly be tested this season as long as WATT is missing from the starting line-up. The team had a solid Draft and upgraded itself at RB from a worn down ARIAN FOSTER with the much younger LAMAR MILLER from the Dolphins. They may slip back a bit this season, but if OSWEILER emerges as the starter they expect and WATT returns to the field 100%, they could actually position themselves for a solid move back up in 2017.

22) DOLPHINS ADAM GASE comes on board as the new head Coach and job one for him is getting QB/RYAN TANNEHILL to the next level as an NFL QB. We all knew the former WR would require extra developmental time as a pro QB, but this is year 5 and patience is running out in South Florida. A big help would be an OL that could stay healthy and reduce the 149 sacks the young QB had endured over the past 3 seasons. He has some solid receiving weapons, and the team is hoping ARIAN FOSTER/RB can stay healthy enough to lead their running game. The Defense is in rebuild mode, again, after losing two of their top pass-rushers (SHELBY/VERNON)in Free AGency. They also said goodbye to both their starting CB, by choice and will return only SS RESHAD JONES as a starter in the secondary. Despite the GM title on the door to CHRIS GRIER’s office it is quite clear that MIKE TANNENBAUM, hand picked by Owner STEPHEN ROSS, is calling the shots. ROSS expects a Play-Off spot from his team, but a simple .500 record would be good progress for this season.

21) BUCCANEERS The banners around Training Camp every year proclaim, ‘It’s a BUCS life.’I still haven’t quite figured out exactly what that means yet, but I do know that very few football people doubt that this team finally has it’s leader and star QB in JAMEIS WINSTON. He learned the hard way in 2015, but the signs are clear that he is the real deal mentally and physically. The LOVIE SMITH experiment is over, and last year’s OC DIRK KOETTER’s reward for helping WINSTON develop is to be the new Head Coach. The team was able to keep almost all over the players it wanted to from the 2015 roster (except for LOGAN MANKINS/OG retiree) and added some nice roster depth, including a good draft effort. Two of their top young receivers, in MIKE EVANS/WR & SEFERIAN-JENKINS/TE, dropped too many balls last season, but their future looks bright. Former FALCONS HC MIKE SMITH is also back as the DC and his creativity, combined with Rookies VERNON HARGREAVES/CB & NOAH SPENCE/ER to work with could have he D positioned to move forward a bit as well. This roster looks better than the one that came to Camp last year and this team looks to actually be on the rise. An 8-8 record would be the next logical step, and not out of the realm of possibility this season.

20) RAVENS A new era is underway for GM OZZIE NEWSOME and the RAVENS. They must finally rebuild this roster, and do so with younger, star quality players. Good back-ups are no longer the issue here. Names like RAY LEWIS, JONATHAN OGDEN, TODD HEAP, HALOTI NGATA and others are gone this decade and their replacements have not stepped up to adequately replace them. Injuries were a big deal last season with a league leading 20 players on the IR list by the end of the 2015 campaign. The two biggest names needed by HC JOHN HARBAUGH to be healthy again are QB/JOE FLACCO & DE/LB/TERRELL SUGGS. They are 31 & 33 respectively, and must come back strong to lead their units. WR/STEVE SMITH, at age 37 is also attempting a comeback, but how much can really be expected from him despite his elite competitive spirit? Rookies like OT/RONNIE STANLEY must step up right away and excel. A healthy roster in 2016 can improve on the team’s 5-11 record last season, but probably not to a Play-Off level. Expect VFA ERIC WEDDLE/S to help stabilize a horrible secondary situation. I also see Rookie TAVON YOUNG/CB stepping up to improve coverage on slot receivers right away. Mark them down for a mediocre season, when in fact a bad record might help them more long term, with a Top 10 Draft Pick. Having those high picks was how NEWSOME built his roster in the late 1990’s.

19) JAGUARS The time is now for HC GUS BRADLEY to motivate his JAGS past their 5-11 record of 2015. BLAKE BORTLES appears to be ready to emerge as a top notch, young franchise QB. He has excellent young receivers in ROBINSON & HURNS, and what should be a solid running game as supplied by T.J. YELDON & VFA/CHRIS IVORY. Their OL is a nice mix of young players and some solid VFA pick-ups. It is actually the Defense that needs to make the most progress for this team to move up in the victory column. The team was 24th in overall Defense in 2015, and BRADLEY as a former DC in Seattle has got to elevate the play by his D. The JAGS ranked 24th overall in team defense in 2015. They ranked 26th in INT with only 9 last season. They also ranked 20th with only 36 Sacks. These names need to step up right away and improve the impact play volume: DANTE FOWLER/DE, MALIK JACKSON/DL, /JALEN RAMSEY/DB, TASHAUN GIPSON/FS, R/MYLES JACK/LB. It clearly looks to my eyes like the talent is on board to have a winning team in place in JAX. BRADLEY has coached in the Senior Bowl for 3 straight years, and is an impressive, high energy presence. But if this team loses double digit games again and is invited back to Mobile, I doubt BRADLEY will be around to accept that invitation.

18) JETS TODD BOWLES, quietly led the JETS to a Play-Off spot to the surprise of many last season. But to stay up there as a legit contender again the team will need some big names to step it up a notch. Finally signing RYAN FITZPATRICK as Camp opened was a big deal. It caused me to jump this team up from 21 to 18. FITZ is not an elite QB, but he can do what OC CHAN GAILEY wants done, and has great chemistry with his wideouts MARSHALL & DECKER. The team was 10th in the league in rushing last season, due primarily to the exceptional work of CHRIS IVORY, who is no longer with the team. MATT FORTE was brought in as a VFA and is an exceptional all-around RB with lots of wear on the tire tread. Look for GAILEY to use a lot of dump-off throws to FROTE & BILAL POWELL in place of actual running plays. The JETS ranked 4th in the NFL in total defense. And they did that with a strong DL and very good secondary. They will have to sort out their LB group in 2016 to stay near the top on D. Expect BOWLES & DC KACY RODGERS to really push the learning curve with Rookie LB DARRON LEE & JORDAN JENKINS who possess NFL caliber athleticism.

17) REDSKINS KIRK COUSINS/QB emerged to be the leading force in a worst-to-first run for the ‘SKINS in their division. COUSINS is a smart young player, who clearly won over his teammates with his leadership last season. ‘You like that!” became the team mantra last season. He has excellent receivers to throw to and a solid running game to rely on. They may sorely miss the loss of VFA RB/ALFRED MORRIS, unless their final Draft Pick, KEITH MARSHALL, is fully healthy and can be the guy who was ranked above a teammate named GURLEY as a college freshman. It’s improvement from the Defense that is needed to prove they are a serious play-off threat again. The D ranked 28th overall and that has to improve. JOSH NORMAN/CB should be a big addition to their secondary, which should also be bolstered by Rookies SU’A CRAVENS/SS/LB & CB/KENDALL FULLER. With the question marks surrounding every team in the NFC East a repeat run for this team is not out of the question.

Most of he teams in this group could go in either direction this coming season.

Pigskin

2016 NFL Team Rankings

Training Camps are open and it is time to put the DRAFT into the rear view mirror (for now) and let you know how I rank the NFL teams as I peruse their current rosters. Rosters will change even before the first round of player cuts in mid-August, but those changes will be relatively minor in most cases. So let’s start with the lower end of the League.

32) BROWNS It would be nice for this team, and the league in general, if ROBERT GRIFFIN could revitalize his career and elevate the BROWNS QB position play. But I will believe it when I see it. The team had a high volume draft, and JOSH GORDON was just reinstated by ROGER GOODELL. But at the earliest GORDON gets back on the field in Week 5. The talent base is still marginal in quality and lacking in any kid of depth. JIMMY HASLAM, Owner, has to leave this organization alone and let all his relatively new managers settle in and set the course for the team in their image. Constant changes in the front office and with the coaching staff create a constant do-over atmosphere, and dictate excessive roster changes every year. For 2016 the plan should be to settle in and let the team run it’s course for 17 weeks. Then get ready to upgrade again with picks at the top of the 2017 DRAFT.

31) 49’ERS CHIP KELLY gets a second chance to head an NFL organization and this time he is doing it from the bottom up. A team that was a serious Super Bowl contender just a few short years ago under JIM HARBAUGH has basically been torn down and is being rebuilt in the image of GM TRENT BAALKE, who often butted heads with HARBAUGH. KELLY will not have the overall authority he did his last year in Phily, so Niners fans can only hope that the BAALKE/KELLY partnership is a harmonious one. There are more questions about this roster than we have time to detail here. Can KELLY & KAEPERNICK forge a relationship that will drive the Offense or is it just a matter of time before COLIN is out of the Bay Area? Will it matter much who the top QB is on a roster whose leading returning receiver is TORREY SMITH, who had 33 catches last season? It does not look like there will be very much to get excited about other than the amenities of LEVI STADIUM at home games this fall.

30) LIONS MATTHEW STAFFORD/QB will likely continue to be the good soldier and try to lead the LIONS to respectability, but the last thing he needed was for All-World WR CALVIN JOHNSON to retire. Megatron was still an elite WR last season and the team failed to draft a replacement for him, despite having 10 Picks in April. Then the team cut JOIQUE BELL/RB and will try to produce a running game featuring two 200 lb. RB in RIDDICK & ABDULLAH. Expect STAFFORD to exceed his 592 passing attempts in 2016. The best news here may be that the team might have drafted 3 guys who will be starters soon along the OL in DECKER, GLASGOW & DAHL. Their DB unit looks like a target opponents will revel in throwing at. I expect a dip from 7-9 to at least 10 losses in 2016. Even HC/JIM CALDWELL’s patience may be tested here.

29) TITANS This team has the best young talent of these bottom feeders, but unless the addition of DeMARCO MURRAY & DERRICK HENRY really boosts the running game behind a restructured OL too much pressure will be placed on MARCUS MARIOTA, which will delay his development. This is the year the team will try to shake out their receiving corps, which has a lot of well known names, who by and large have failed to step up and become elite pro receivers. TE/DELANIE WALKER led the team with 94 catches in 2015, with no one else even topping 40 catches. DICK LaBEAU is now the DC for the TITANS and with all due respect to his knowledge and resume’ I have to wonder if he’s still up to the task well into his 70’s. It looks as though they helped themselves in the Draft, but are likely still another year away from breaking out of the AFC South cellar. They could double their Win total from last year (3) and still have 10 losses.

28) RAMS JEFF FISHER/HC clearly has more faith in his roster personnel than many observers do. I look at this team’s recent moves and perceive that job one is developing California boy JARED GOFF into their franchise QB so he’s ready to lead the team to play-off contention when their new stadium opens in 2018. How else do you explain the salary slashing of JAMES LAURINAITIS/LB, CHRIS LONG/DE, NICK FAIRLEY/DT & JANORIS JENKINS/CB from their Defense. Then look at their Draft of 2 TE & 2 WR, ostensibly to help GOFF, and 1 measly pick for the Defense in Round 6. The good news is that “old-time” RAMS fans may be excited by memories of ERCI DICKERSON/HOF/RB, as they watch TOOD GURLEY run behind a young and talented OL. Other than that I’d expect a 10-Loss season for the RAMS on their return to Southern Cal.

27) BEARS Despite the strong/steady hand of JOHN FOX at the helm DA BEARS look like another team that is reshaping it’s roster, almost from scratch. More vets (BENNETT/TE, FORTE/RB, BUSHROD/OT, ROLLE/S, McCLELLAN/LB) have been dispatched and replaced by younger, hopefully emerging players. FORTE was their leading rusher & third ranked receiver last season. They are still trying to adjust their roster personnel to some of the new systems implemented last season, like DC VIC FANGIO and his 3-4 base scheme. JAY CUTLER actually had a very productive 2015 season, but may be hard pressed to duplicate it without MARTELLUS BENNETT/TE & FORTE. It also looks questionable as to whether the roster really contains 5 OL starting caliber pro players right now. And CUTLER is not a highly mobile QB if his protection breaks down. The defensive personnel are getting younger, and hopefully better, but the rebuild is hardest on that side of the ball.

26) CHARGERS A rash of injuries last season, especially along the OL, revealed some real warts on the CHARGERS roster. In today’s NFL it can be hard to fix a lot in a short period of time. That is why I still see this team in the bottom quarter of the League. The biggest offensive questions revolve around their RB group, where MELVIN GORDON returns off a disappointing rookie campaign, topped off by a knee injury. Was DEREK WATT drafted to block for his former BADGERS teammate in a traditional backfield as opposed to the shotgun, or is that asking too much from QB PHILLIP RIVERS? Stay tuned. Will the addition of quick TRAVIS BENJAMIN/WR add a significant quickness aspect to their passing attack? I think the biggest additions to bring a smile to the franchise QB’s face will be at the TE position where the support group for ANTONIO GATES should be much improved with Rookie HUNTER HENRY & VFA JEFF CUMBERLAND. JOEY BOSA/R (when he finally signs) and VFA BRANDON MEBANE/DT should help upgrade the DL group as well. Keeping the injury bug out of their locker room this season, might be their biggest move toward improvement. They are likely to really miss S/ERIC WEDDLE and his energy in the secondary. But it’s still hard to see this team moving past a 10-Loss season. If they do end up looking like a pretender this season, it could seriously hamper their efforts to remain in San DIego by getting support for a new stadium.

25) FALCONS Looks to me like FALCONS fans may have to revel in looking forward to 2017 when their new stadium opens and they can chomp down on $2 hot dogs and other menu items at the most affordable concession prices in the NFL. I do not expect tis team to sniff even their 2015 .500 record of last season. I hear excited talk about the addition of SANU from the Bengals, but Mohamed caught 33 balls in Cincinnati last year, while the departed RODDY WHITE pulled down 43 catches. That’s NOT a net gain to me. The OL is being shuffled again this summer, which is looking like an annual exercise, that has shown few results. QB MATT RYAN is still taking way too many hits for a non-mobile QB. The team is counting on Rookies to boost the D, and that may happen (S/NEAL & LB/JONES), but when their top Rookie from 2015 VIC BEASLEY, led the team with 4 Sacks they likely needed to add much more. The next familiar face to leave Atlanta may be GM THOMAS DIMITROFF who has failed to bring in enough talent to keep this team above the break even mark in recent seasons. Their last trip to the Play-Offs was in 2012. I don’t see it in the cards for 2016.

This weekend I’ll take a look at the next 8 teams in my pre-season rankings.

Pigskin

RAMS 2016 Draft Review

The City of Angels, and other creatures great and small, has their football team back. And in two seasons they will have a money making stadium development to play in. In the interim the organization has two seasons in the Colosseum to warm up and improve the product. Step one was the 2016 Draft and that was all about getting a franchise QB to groom. So they got out their credit card and mortgaged the future to draft the guy who will be the West Coast face of the franchise.

Round 1 JARED GOFF/QB/CALIFORNIA 6’4/215 4.79/40 9″H/32 3/4″A
In evaluating GOFF one of the first considerations has to be how much burden was placed squarely on his shoulders at CAL. He had a few nice weapons to throw to but little else around him for his 3 years at CAL. Some of his numbers were mind blowing if studied carefully. How about 43 TD and only 13 INT in 2015. And he also completed his throws at a 64.5% pace last season. During Draft prep workouts GOFF hummed a fastball (football wise) 58 mph, which is upper echelon work. The biggest obstacle to overcome in grooming GOFF is the reality that he never took snaps from Center in college. There will be growing pains, but it seems clear that he’s in the elite class and likely to be at the peak of his game by that 2018 season, when the new stadium opens. Honestly, the biggest question here is not whether GOFF was worthy of going No. 1, but whether the team can assemble a winning cast to go around him, especially in light of less Draft ammunition than they should have in the next few seasons. I expect GOFF to start come September, with a healthy dose of handing off to TODD GURLEY being his primary security blanket. Do not discount the significance of his being a California born and bred player to enhance his value to his franchise.
Pick # 1 GBN Rank: 8 Ourlads Rank: 7 PP Rank: 7

Round 4 TYLER HIGBEE/TE/W KENTUCKY 6’6/249 4.80/40 10 1/4″H/33 1/4″A
This pick is a bit questionable given that HIGBEE has had some off-field issues, including one just before the Draft. But he certainly presents the team with a better all-around TE option than they have on their roster, after letting JARED COOK leave as a VFA. Big hands and long arms make HIGBEE a very large target to throw to, with a huge catch radius. He needs to work on his blocking, but his rep on his college team was that hard work was not a shortcoming for him. He’s not a speedster, but he gets open and was a top notch red zone threat in college play.
Pick # 110 GBN Rank: 210 Ourlads Rank: 245 PP Rank: 163

Round 4 PHAROH COOPER/WR/RS/SOUTH CAROLINA 5’11/203 4.61/40 9 1/8″/32 1/4″A
Cooper got seriously knocked down in prospect rankings because of his rather slow 40-time. But when you watch game tape of him he is a multi-purpose weapon who you find ways to get the ball to. He has a solid build, much like a RB, and sees the field very well. Quickness, and amazing change of direction ability highlight his game. He spent 84% of his snaps last season in the slot, but I would guess the RAMS will move him around to confuse defensive coverages. He’s a solid all-around player and an intense blocker downfield for his mates. His prospect ranking fall due to lack of straight line speed was an error in judgement by some teams who could use what he will bring to his team. Very good value pick by the RAMS. All three of us had him ranked well into our Top 100, as you can see below.
Pick # 117 GBN Rank: 83 Ourlads Rank: 71 PP Rank: 62

Round 6 TEMARRICK HEMINGWAY/TE/SC STATE 6’5/244 4.71/40 10″H/34″A
This long, fairly lean player is a prototype of the downfield receiving TE prospect for today’s NFL. He really caught the eye of many scouts at the NFLPA Game. He has work to do as a blocker, and my guess is he’ll weight 255 lbs.+ by the 2017 season, when he will be counted on for heavy duty lifting in their receiving corps. He’ll have to work hard just to make the roster this year, but I believe the future is bright for this hands-catching TE.
Pick # 177 GBN Rank: 250 Ourlads Rank: 300+ NR PP Rank: 198

Round 6 JOSH FORREST/ILB/KENTUCKY 6’3/249 4.78/40 9 1/2″H/33 1/2″A
He began his college playing career as a S/WR, but made a very smooth transition to an ILB spot for the Wildcats. He got better and more productive each and every season at Kentucky. As a senior he racked up 93 tackles ranging sideline to sideline. He also has shown he still remembers some of his lessons from his S days. In 2015 he dropped into coverage with enough alacrity to record 2 INT and 5 PBU. His nice size and long arms make him a force to be reckoned with as opposing QB try to read the secondary. He shows very good range and pursuit ability. With the cutting of JAMES LAURINAITIS from their LB group FORREST will be given every chance to compete for the starting MLB spot right away.
Pick # 190 GBN Report: 183 Ourlads Rank: 190 PP Rank: 262

Round 6 MIKE THOMAS/WR/SOUTHERN MISS 6’1/193 4.54/40 9 5/8″H/31 3/8″A
Other than someone in their draft room confusing this Mike Thomas with the guy from Ohio State and figuring the rest of the teams goofed up, I don’t really get this selection. THOMAS showed flashes as a senior with some leaping, stretching receptions, but despite nice sized hands statisticians say he dropped an incredible 11.3% of the throws that came his way. That’s a somewhat subjective stat, but his number is double what the average receiver drops. At the best, he ends up on their practice squad for developmental work in 2016, IMO. To be blunt about it, the last thing you want on your team with a young developmental QB in place is a guy who drops a lot of balls. A nice stout DL would have been a nicer pick here IMO.
Pick # 206 GBN Rank: 346+ NR Ourlads Rank: 299 PP Rank: 300+ NR

This Draft is all about GOFF and him becoming a 10+year franchise QB by the time their new house opens in 2 years. But even so, I believe they could have come up with a more useful overall draft class, for a less than Play-Off level roster. Let’s just hope that this really does lay the foundation for a competitive franchise as the RAMS return home. However, this still looks like a .500-at best team for 2016. Let’s hope for their sake that they don’t use up TODD GURLEY by the time they play in their real home stadium.

Pigskin

RAVENS 2016 Draft Review

RAVENS GM OZIE NEWSOME established himself as a guru of the Draft process back at the turn of the century when he parlayed some extra top picks into players like JONATHAN OGDEN/OT, RAY LEWIS/LB, ED REED/S, TODD HEAP/TE and more. But this decade the team has been picking late due to success and the aforementioned players have all retired. NEWSOME has not looked like such a genius lately with only 6 starters coming from the past 5 Drafts. It’s time for OZZIE to start mining gems again.

Round 1 RONNIE STANLEY/OT/NOTRE DAME 6’6/312 5.18/40 10 5/8″H/35 5/8″A
It would be quite a burden to label STANLEY the next OGDEN, but he is certainly the closest they have come to him in quite some time. STANLEY has the size and athleticism to dominate at his position even in the NFL. But someone on the Ravens coaching staff has got to turn on the mean side of STANLEY that we’ve not seen yet. Besides his size his biggest attribute right now may be a jolting hand punch, which can wear defenders down as the game progresses. He’s also a smart young man, who should catch on to the nuances of life at LT in the NFL. He excels in pass pro, but a meaner streak could really boost his run blocking. Pencil him in as an automatic starter and future Pro Bowler.
Pick # 6 GBN Rank: 9 Ourlads Rank: 5 PP Rank: 12

Round 2 KAMALEI CORREA/OLB/BOISE STATE 6’3/243 4.71/40 9 3/8″H/31 5/8″A
This versatile athlete is being counted on to replace TERRELL SUGGS, ASAP. He has played multiple roles in college and excelled in all of them. He shows good pass rush ability off the edge and finds the ball very well in traffic. He is also better than average in shallow drops into pass coverage. He looks to have the versatility to handle the multiple roles that the team assigned to SUGGS over the last decade. His willingness to handle a plethora of responsibilities in college is impressive to many NFL Personnel people. Watch for him to move into their first team defense as the 2016 season progresses.
Pick # 42 GBN Rank: 35 Ourlads Rank: 153 PP Rank: 63

Round 3 BRONSON KAUFUSI/DE/BYU 6’7/285 4.84/40 9 3/4″H/34 1/2″A
Long would be the most appropriate word to use in describing KAUFUSI’s physique and his style of play. This guy covers a lot of the field when he jumps and extends his arms to attempt to block throws and obscure the field of vision for opposing QBs. He recorded 19.5 TFL in 2015, which included 10.5 sacks. That is just what the RAVENS want out of him as a pro. He’s a smart, enthusiastic and articulate young man as I discovered during Senior Bowl Media Night. He’s not quite as athletic, but when he spreads his wings, his field coverage reminds me of JULIUS PEPPERS. He’s another potential starter and immediate replacement for CHRIS CANTY.
Pick # 70 GBN Rank: 68 Ourlads Rank: 45 PP Rank: 66

Round 4 TAVON YOUNG/CB/TEMPLE 5’9/183 4.40/40 9 1/8″A/30 5/8″A
Based purely on talent and ability to impact a game YOUNG could be a solid Top 100 selection. But his 5’9″ height cannot be ignored. So he’s a solid pick here in Round 4, and I fully expect him to be a “starting” slot Corner as a Rookie. He will also contribute right away on Special Teams coverage units. He has a nice combination of speed and quickness. He’s also a tough little guy, who will not back off when covering bigger slot receivers, even of TE size. He should also become a real fan favorite with his aggressive style of play and feistiness.
Pick # 104 GBN Rank: NR 346+ Ourlads Rank: 182 PP Rank: 194

Round 4 CHRIS MOORE/WR/CINCINNATI 6’1/206 4.49/40 9 3/8″H/33 3/8″A
There was a buzz about this guy heading into the Draft season, but for me it died quickly with an average performance at the Senior Bowl, followed by some pretty mediocre stuff at the Combine. He seems to play a bit faster than his Combine 40-time but is not the speedster he was being advertised as. He can create yardage after the catch though, as evidenced by his average of 21.8 yards per catch in 2015. He is a reliable “hands-catcher” and a good downfield blocker for his teammates. With a bit of further development under NFL coaching he might eventually become a good 3rd receiver option, which the RAVENS haven’t really had recently.
PICK # 107 GBN Rank: 292 Ourlads Rank: 115 PP Rank: 234

Round 4 ALEX LEWIS/OT/NEBRASKA 6’6/312 5.24/40 10″H/34″A
I came to refer to LEWIS as ‘stretch’ after Shrine Week. He wisely spent most of his practice warm up time stretching out his long frame on the sidelines. No one on the field was more diligent with his stretching exercises. He was also impressive with his team building efforts. At the final practice of the week he gathered all of his fellow OL mates for a group picture. My guess is that having a father who played in the NFL taught him some good practice and locker room habits. He’s very long, but perhaps a bit too lean right now. I’m not sure his frame will allow him to “bulk” up much. His feet may also be a bit slow for pass-pro outside at OT. His best shot to start may come inside at OG, but his greatest attribute overall may be an ability to back-up just about every position along the OL. Coaches luv that on game day with limited rosters.
Pick # 130 GBN Rank: 229 Ourlads Rank: 75 PP Rank: 99

Round 4 WILLIE HENRY/DT/MICHIGAN 6’3/303 4.99/40 10 7/8″H/33 3/8″A
A good player, who thrived under his new HC JIM HARBAUGH in 2015. He has good strength and decent size. Strong hands allow him to move blockers around, and he has some decent inside pass-rush moves as well. He runs well for his size, and might be able to bulk up to 310 or so. That sub-5.00/40 time got some attention at the Combine. He is a willing runner in pursuit who collects some tackles in the trash clean-up. I would anticipate him working his way into a DL rotation even if he never really starts.
Pick # 132 GBN Rank: 106 Ourlads Rank: 139 PP Rank: 112

Round 4 KENNETH DIXON/RB/LA TECH 5’10/215 4.58/40 9 1/2″H/31 3/8″A
DIXON reminds me quite a bit of former RAVENS RB RAY RICE, who served them well until off-field issues tripped him up. He’s like an End Zone magnet, dueling with KEENAN ROBERTS for the college career TD mark last season. He’s a tough, between-the-tackles slasher and an excellent receiver. He is also a tenacious blocker in pass pro. He has a lot of wear on the tires, but is likely to share time with a couple of other guys, which may prolong his pro usefulness. He does not have HR speed, but his burst is good and he seldom goes down on first contact.
Pick # 134 GBN Rank: 73 Ourlads Rank: 105 PP Rank: 40

Round 5 MATT JUDON/DE/OLB/GRAND VALLEY STATE 6’3/275 4.73/40 9 1/2″H/33 7/8″A
Here’s the small school player who has numbers that make you wonder why he played at that level. He posted 34 career sacks and was an impact player who dominated when healthy. He has a history of being dinged up regularly, which is worrisome heading to the violence at the NFL level of play. He was supposed to be at the Shrine venue, but was hurt at his performance camp. He’s the kind of guy who looks like a stereotype player/athlete in shorts. I doubt he has the speed or quickness in reverse to play much standing up. But his edge-rush ability will make it hard for them to cut in today’s pass happy League.
Pick # 146 GBN Rank: 137 Ourlads Rank: 148 PP Rank: 110

Round 6 KEENAN REYNOLDS/WR/RS/NAVY 5’10/191 4.56/40 8 3/8″H/29 3/8″A
Mr. All-American in more ways than one. A great team leader and a quick twitch, explosive athlete. I can’t help but see him in the Julian Edelman mold. He should end up in the slot and be a real pain for LB/SS types to stay with in coverage, because of quickness and instant acceleration. Expect him to spend a lot of time catching the ball from jugs machines in Training Camp. They will have to find spots on their roster to keep him, because I know of multiple teams that will snatch him off waivers if they try to sneak him onto their Practice Squad. He should also be a natural as a Punt Returner.
Pick # 182 GBN Rank: 341 Ourlads Rank: 305 PP Rank: 259

Round 6 MAURICE CANADY/CB/VIRGINIA 6’1/193 4.52/40 9 1/8″H/31 5/8″A
CANADY has some solid traits but his quickness and speed are not pro level. He will have to star on Special Teams units to earn time on an NFL roster. He’s a combative Corner who might survive in NFL zone coverage, but not man-to-man. He had his moments at the Senior Bowl but was also burned on occasion. If he shows a bit more nastiness to his game it will help him capture a bottom of the roster spot, because the RAVENS still have a fairly motley crew of DB on their depth chart. They might welcome a fresh face, making league minimum.
PIck # 209 GBN Rank: 194 Ourlads Rank: 144 PP Rank: 238

Lots of roster help here, but other than STANLEY I’m not sure who will emerge as full-time starters, which is what OZZIE needs to find… now! The overall tale of the tape will be how much gold he was able to find in Round 4, with his 5 Picks therein. YOUNG may be the next biggest contributor as a Rookie, in the slot, which is almost a full-time position these days. I like this Draft effort from a volume standpoint, but it looks to me like many of the draftees will be role players, not starters.

TEXANS 2016 Draft Review

The TEXANS surprised a lot folks last season with a winning record and an AFC South Division title. But they still felt compelled to make some major roster changes during the Veteran Free Agency period. Getting some receiving help for their big acquisition BROCK OSWEILER/QB, was a solid goal here. With only 6 Picks to work with they had to choose wisely with every pick.

Round 1 WILL FULLER/WR/NOTRE DAME 6’0/172 4.36/40 8 1/4″H/30 3/4″A
The team already has some nice young receiving talent, but not a big time Home Run threat to stretch the Defense with his speed. Enter FULLER, who showcased his blazing speed at the Combine that you see above. Expect him to spend a lot of time in the slot where they hope he can avoid jamming. He dropped way too many balls in college, which in part may be due to some pretty small hands. They will obviously work to improve that situation, as well as his effectiveness as a blocker downfield. No. 1 wideout HOPKINS should appreciate the attention FULLER will draw away from him, and new QB OSWEILER has the arm strength to take advantage with deep throws.
Pick # 21 GBN Rank: 28 Ourlads Rank: 33 PP Rank: 34

Round 2 NICK MARTIN/OC/G/NOTRE DAME 6’4/296 5.23/40 9 3/4″H/32 1/2″A
Not the talent that big brother ZACH is but he’s a good technician with a high FBI. He also gives all-out effort and can play multiple spots if he doesn’t win a starting job. He displayed his talent well during Senior Bowl week. I might have waited another round, but the TEXANS were not in a position to take a chance on losing him by waiting. He has decent length and overall size, but looks even bigger on the field of play. I think he has a strong chance to win the starting OC job this season, given the departure of BEN JONES. it might not be an exciting selection, but this is a sound pick for the team.
Pick # 50 GBN Rank: 82 Ourlads Rank: 68 PP Rank: 75

Rond 3 BRAXTON MILLER/WR/OHIO STATE 6’1/205 4.46/40 8 1/8″H/31 3/4″A
This converted QB is an excellent athlete with tons of potential. During the 2015 season, while converting full-time to the WR slot, he was credited with 0 drops during games. His streak broke early on in the Senior Bowl game, but his ability and potential are enticing. He will be given a chance to win a significant role, with replacing the expensive, and oft injured CECEL SHORTS as the No. 3/4 WR on the roster a real possibility next year, if not this. His biggest area of work will be to further refine his route running. The heat will be on Receivers Coach SEAN RYAN to develop this guy as quickly as possible.
Pick # 85 GBN Rank: 71 Ourlads Rank: 41 PP Rank: 47

Round 4 TYLER ERVIN/RB/RS/SAN JOSE STATE 5’10/192 4.40/40 9 1/8″H/29 3/4″A
On a pretty mediocre football team ERVIN ranked 2nd in the country in All-Purpose yards in 2015. He has good speed and also is a surprisingly effective runner between the tackles. He has good hands and is a weapon in the passing game. He could also see return duties. With VFA LAMAR MILLER being the team’s new No. 1 back, ERVIN would fit in nicely as the third down utility back. He has a history of being nicked up in college, likely because of his relatively small size, but once the coaches determine his touch count he looks like a nice alternative weapon.
Pick # 119 GBN Rank: NR 346+ Ourlads Rank: 262 PP Rank: 121

Round 5 K.J DILLON/SS/WEST VIRGINIA 6’0/210 4.51/40 9 5/8″H/31 5/8″A
He played a hybrid DB/LB position in college, but looks to be a slam dunk as a SS as a pro. He has the speed and size to handle a deep role. He’s a tough hitter and has a nose for the ball. He had to cover a lot of ground in the secondary once KARL JOSEPH went down as FS for the Mountaineers. Safety has been in a constant state of flux for this team since it’s inception. DILLON might finally provide some long-term quality at the SS slot.
Pick # 159 GBN Rank: 212 Ourlads Rank: 135 PP Rank: 101

Rond 5 D.J. READER/DT/CLEMSON 6’3/340 5.15/40 9″H/32 5/8″A
This big body really came on as a senior with his ability to plug up the middle of the line of scrimmage, and provide some power push to collapse the pocket right into the QB’s face. He is an immovable force in the middle against the run. Best of all he should be a willing student working with VINCE WILFORK, who is probably at the end of his career. This could be the end of the line for the 34-year old WILFORK, and READER could be the clone to replace the man-in-the-middle for the team. Note his decent 40-time for a man his size.
Pick # 166 GBN Rank: 140 Ourlads Rank: 300+ NR PP Rank: 151

I really like this Draft for the TEXANS. Too bad they didn’t have more picks because I think they were on a roll with their selections. For my money every pick they made fell within my top 151 ranked prospects. I am also impressed that they got good talent at positions where the new players have a chance to contribute soon, and improve the team. Add these draftees to their VFA acquisitions, and I see a team that could be the running for their division title again, even though a guy named LUCK returns to the COLTS. Good job GM SMITH, HC O’BRIEN and everyone else involved in he Draft process.

FALCONS 2016 Draft Review

Poor Drafts can really hurt a team over the long run. In the past 5 Drafts the FALCONS have only added added 6 starters from their 36 selections. They entered the 2016 Draft with only 6 Picks (8 is average), and made a few strange selections in the process of using those picks. GM THOMAS DIMITROFF could be testing the patience of Owner ARTHUR BLANK, who has an expensive new stadium to start filling, at higher ticket prices real soon. Here’s what they did in this year’s DRAFT.

Round 1 KEANU NEAL/SS/FLORIDA 6’1/211 4.63/40 10 5/8″H/32 3/4″A
NEAL was a fast rising prospect the final month of the Draft evaluation process. HC DAN QUINN was instrumental in recruiting NEAL to Florida back in the day. He projects to in-the-box roles, but is also at least average in his coverage ability. His speed indicates that he may not be the guy you assign to deep coverage very often. The team drafted 2 LB with better 40-times than him. I just hope they tried hard to trade this pick and move back a bit. On the bright side, he should represent a better SS option than anyone else currently on their roster. Will need to clean up his tackling a bit. Right now he goes for the big hit a bit too often. Clearly a reach this early.
Pick # 17 GBN Rank: 45 Ourlads Rank: 152 PP Rank: 41

Round 2 DEION JONES/LB/LSU 6’1/222 4.59/40 9 1/4″H/32 3/8″A
A very productive player in college, who may fit the mold of today’s passing game NFL LB very nicely. He pursued his way to 100 tackles in 2015, but also demonstrated his ability to play in coverage with 1 INT & 3PBU. Consider him a potential 4-down player, which includes Special Teams if they choose to risk him there. If they can protect him blockers he’ll be just as effective as a pro. Note his 40-time speed listed above. EVen though I had him ranked lower than this, I like the pick.
Pick # 52 GBN Rank: 84 Ourlads Rank: 79 PP Rank: 73

Round 3 AUSTIN HOOPER/TE/STANFORD 6’4/248 4.71/40 10 5/8″H/33 3/4″A
You have to luv his big hands and long arms. But he leaves a bit to be desired as an in-line blocker and his speed, or lack thereof, is a bit frightening. I would compare him to another ex-Cardinal ZACH ERTZ/EAGLES, in his overall potential. This team has struggled mightily to replace TONY GONZALEZ at the TE slot. That’s to be expected when replacing a future Hall of Famer, so let’s hope the pressure doesn’t crush HOOPER, who has a good bit of work to do if he is to be a favorite target of MATT RYAN, and soon. Hitting on this pick is a big deal for the FALCONS’ effective use of a TE in their offense. RYAN would surely appreciate a quick development by HOOPER.
Pick # 81 GBN Rank: 75 Ourlads Rank: 95 PP Rank: 68

Round 4 DEVONDRE CAMPBELL/OLB/MINNESOTA 6’4/232 4.56/40 9 5/8″H/33 5/8″A
Make no mistake about it this young man is an excellent athlete, with elite size. He is so long that he looks skinny. But he racked up 92 tackles as a senior for the Gophers. He also recorded 1 INT & 3 PBU. Looked solid at the Shrine venue, but overall did not stand out with play making. This is a pick based on athleticism and potential. His arms and wingspan are almost what one expects from an elite OT. He may be rather quiet as a Rookie, but could emerge in a year or two as a starter if he responds to coaching.
Pick # 115 GBN Rank: 107 Ourlads Rank: 189 PP Rank: 248

Round 6 WES SCHWEITZER/OG/SAN JOSE STATE 6’5/301
I did indeed watch SJSU a couple of times last fall and they were a very mediocre team. SCHWEITZER was their best OL, but didn’t appear to be anything special to me. His college position coach was KEITH CARTER, who is the FALCONS Assistant OL COach right now. Assuming JOHNSON vouched for his ability, and was a large voice in this pick, the kid had best step up or JOHNSON may be banned from the Draft Room at the very least. I don’t see doing much more than hanging around the League for a couple of years as a back-up, at best.
Pick # 195 GBN Rank: 346+ NR Ourlads Rank: 300+ NR PP Rank: 300+ NR

Round 7 DEVIN FULLER/WR/RS/UCLA 6’0/195 4.41.40 9 1/8″H/30 3/8″A
FULLER got somewhat lost in a glut of receivers on the UCLA roster during his college career. With RODDY WHITE gone the team can also use more quality depth, and FULLER might be of help. Note his very good 40-time above. It is also important that he handled Punt & Kick Return chores effectively in college. With DEVIN HESTER getting up in years and rehabbing injuries this off-season this pick makes even more sense for them. With that in mind I have no issue with his selection in Round 7. He may be a nice, multi-piece option at the bottom of their roster right away.
Pick # 238 GBN Rank: 346+ NR Ourlads Rank: 300+ NR PP Rank: 300+ NR

Clearly some members of this coaching staff went out on a limb to get “their guy”. Nice to give people input but when you listen too long and draft guys way before the rest of the football world ranks them you are usually headed for trouble. I sure hope that NEAL works out because my gut tells me they could have traded back into the early 2nd Round, picked up some extra picks and still gotten him. I guess that’s a bit of second guessing, but… This group of players has got to step up and contribute right away for the FALCONS to fight for a Wild-Card Play-Off spot in 2016.

Pigskin

SEA HAWKS 2016 Draft Review

This team was built around the shrewd drafting of GM JOHN SCHNEIDER who worked under TED THOMPSON in Green Bay. The shrewdest move of all was rolling the dice on QB/RUSSELL WILSON when most of the League felt he was too short to play QB in the NFL. But the team has lost more than its share of players to VFA in recent years. They needed a top quality effort in 2016 to replenish their depth and provide more talent for the overall roster. With 10 Picks they had a solid chance to do so.

Round 1 GERMAIN IFEDI/OT/TEXAS A&M 6’6/335 5.30/40 10 3/4″H/36″A
The next in a long line of recent OL prospects produced by the Aggies. He played OT in college, but it looks like he will get his first shot inside for Seattle. He has rough spots to be smoothed out by OL Coach TOM CABLE, who is considered one of the best in the NFL coaching ranks. His hand and arm length cry out of an OT, but his footwork is better suited for an inside slot. I expect him to contribute as a Rookie for CABLE, and eventually start. Look for him to initially emerge at OG, but likely move out to RT with time.
Pick # 31 GBN Rank: 40 Ourlads Rank: 98 PP Rank: 44

Round 2 JARRAN REED/DT/ALABAMA 6’3/311 5.15/40 10 1/2″H/33 3/8″A
They traded up to get REED, and he is projected to immediately plug into their DT rotation. It’s not often that a team can lose a VFA like Brandon Mebane and replace him with a better player, but here it is IMO. He’s a first round talent. Is an immovable object much of the time and has surprisingly good penetration ability. He can stuff double-team blockers on a regular basis.
Pick # 49 GBN Rank: 15 Ourlads Rank: 17 PP Rank: 17

Round 3 C.J. PROSISE/RB/NOTRE DAME 6’1/220 4.44/40 8 1/2″H/32 1/8″A
A converted WR who was a star in the Notre Dame running attack last season. He can pound up the middle, get to the corner and is a well above average receiver out of the backfield. His only issue may be that he could not stay out on the field every week. His hard running style seemed to bang him up as much as it did opponents. His best may be yet to come as pro coaching helps him develop more RB skills and habits. Good start to filling the hole left by the retirement of MARSHAWN LYNCH.
Pick # 90 GBN Rank: 80 Ourlads Rank: 101 PP Rank: 88

Round 3 NICK VANNETT/TE/OHIO STATE 6’5/265 4.85/40 10″H/34 1/4″A
Was caught in a very deep position group and in an offense which calls for blocking more importantly than receiving ability. Had to wait his turn, but had a solid senior season. Showed very well at the Senior Bowl, as a blocker, and also as a receiver who can find holes in a secondary and make the catch when thrown to. He’s an old fashioned TE who can block and catch. Will be very valuable in the red zone. Should become a favorite for QB WILSON.
Pick # 94 GBN Rank: 95 Ourlads Rank: 58 PP Rank: 83

Round 3 REES ODHIAMBO/OT/BOISE STATE 6’4/301 5.25/40 9 5/8″H/33 1/4″A
High ceiling potential player who must prove he can stay healthy and play every week for an entire season. He should be like a lump of clay for CABLE to mold. He too may end up as a better interior player than outside at OT. Beating the injury bug may be his biggest obstacle in sticking on an NFL roster long term.
Pick # 97 GBN Rank: 136 Ourlads Rank: 250 PP Rank: 152

Round 5 QUINTON JEFFERSON/DL/MARYLAND 6’4/291 5.25/40 9 5/8″H/33 1/4″A
Not a flashy player at all, but he is steady and mature both on and off the field. A powerful player at the snap of the ball. His high effort and energy will appeal to CARROLL and his coaching staff. I would not label him as a potential starter, but he can hold his own in a rotation and may be able to fill in all along the DL, except for on the Nose. A good player who got caught up in being on a pretty poor team at the end of his career.
Pick # 147 GBN Rank: 185 Ourlads Rank: 304 PP Rank: 300+ NR

Round 5 ALEX COLLINS/RB/ARKANSAS 5’10/217 4.59/40 9 1/4″H/30 1/4″A
A very solid power runner for the Razorbacks. Can run over people and through tackles. Recorded 3 straight seasons of over 1000-yards gained in BIELEMA’s RB rotation scheme. he shows very good balance with good field vision. Has some burst despite a lack of straight line speed. Should make a very good rotational RB teaming with RAWLS and others. Good vale for the 5th Round IMO.
Pick # 171 GBN Rank: 120 Ourlads Rank: 90 PP Rak: 61

Round 6 JOEY HUNT/OC/TCU 6’3/295
Pick # 215 GBN Rank: Ourlads Rank: PP Rank: 300+ NR
My guess would be that TOM CABLE saw something he really liked in this dependable, if unspectacular college OL. He appears to be a good fit for their zone blocking scheme and must present some intangibles that make Cable feel he can mold him into a pro OC. THey are still working to replace MAX UNGER and long term he may be part of the solution.
Pick # 215 GBN Rank: 346 Ourlads Rank: 300+ NR PP Rank: 300+ NR

Round 7 KENNY LAWLER/WR/CAL 6’3/203 4.62/40 10 1/2″H/33 3/8″A
Developed into a top target as his CAL career progressed. Had he timed better in the 40 he might have cracked the Top 100. Very good athlete, who wins jump balls and uses the sideline well. He can do it all except for blowing by DB. Could be a late rounder who develops into a No. 3 or 4 WR on this team in a year or so.
Pick # 243 GBN Rank: 130 Ourlads Rank: 125 PP Rank: 162

Round 7 ZAC BROOKS/RB/CLEMSON 6’0/199 4.45/40
Showed very well at the Clemson Pro Day, despite a college career that found him on the bench most of the time. He is raw right now, averaging only 13 snaps per game last season. Expect him to spend a couple years on Practice Squads while being given the chance to show he can tote the rock. He will also have to put his speed to good use on Special Teams from Day 1 of Training Camp to stick around.
Pick # 247 GBN Rank: Ourlads Rank: 300+ NR PP Rank:

IMO, this looks like their best draft in a while. Having a First Round Pick for the first time since 2012 got them off to a good start. There are some long range projections in this group, but there are also some very productive college players who should be able to stick at the pro level. The most important aspect of this Draft for them may be providing OL CABLE with 3 talented players to work with and coach up. 2 out of 3 may be capable of impacting the blocking situation immediately.

CHARGERS 2016 Draft Review

This is a huge season for the Chargers as they effort to have a Play-Off team again, and to use that success to convince the San Diego area to pony-up for a new stadium before the NFL allows/forces the team to provide L.A. with its second NFL franchise to share a stadium with the RAMS. Here’s a look at how they did in the 2016 Draft.

Round 1 JOEY BOSA/DE/ER/OHIO STATE 6’5/269 4.86/40 10 1/4″H/33 3/8″A
I scratched my head a bit at this selection. Not because BOSA was not a Top 10 prospect, but because I don’t see the CHARGERS 3-4 scheme as an ideal fit for him. He’s too long and lean to be a full-time 5-Technique, and seems to lack the speed and agility to stand up and handle serious coverage duties. What he can do is rush the passer and shoot gaps into the backfield. So let’s say that DC PAGANO will find multiple ways to move him around and get the most out of his talents. I’ll be curious to see what he weighs in September. He should represent a serious talent upgrade for the roster no matter what.
Pick # 3 GBN Rank: 6 Ourlads Rank: 2 PP Rank: 5

Round 2 HUNTER HENRY/TE/ARKANSAS 6’5/250 4.71/40 9 1/4″H/32 3/4″A
It was not a banner year for highly rated TE prospects, but HENRY caught me eye multiple times last season. I think he has very high upside and should be the near future replacement for ANTONIO GATES. He showed toughness while at Arkansas and is a better blocker than he is given credit for by most. He has excellent hands and can run after the catch. Officially, HENRY had zero drops in the 2015 season. He has a long way to go, but i see enough in his play to say he could be a TONY GONZALEZ type TE.
PICK # 35 GBN Rank: 47 Ourlads Rank: 51 PP Rank: 36

Round 3 MAX TUERK/OC/SOUTHERN CAL 6’5/298 5.10/40 10 3/4″H/32 1/2″A
The thing clouding the ranking of TUERK is a 2015 season which ended early with a torn ACL in his right knee. We haven’t seen him run or jump in anger since October. They need him ready to play with pads on ASAP. He is a seasoned vet with a high FBI. The kind of guy coaches luv in the meeting rooms and out on the grass. They drafted him in the Top 100 to be a starter, and the sooner the better. The other question is whether he can put on 10-15 lbs. to be better able to handle the NFL sized NG.
Pick # 66 GBN Rank: 126 Ourlads Rank: 160 PP Rank: 180

Round 4 JOSHUA PERRY/LB/OHIO STATE 6’4/254 4.62/40 10 1/4″H/33 7/8″A
Great value pick for Draft Saturday. He was a very productive player for the Buckeyes. He recorded 105 tackles in 2015, which is a lot of stops on a D as athletic and talented as the Buckeyes were. He is likely to be able to play either inside or outside and stay out on the field for 4 downs. He should also be a nice addition to Special Teams coverage units in his spare time. As you can see by the player rankings below, all 3 of us felt he was a 2nd Round talent. Good value, with seemingly little risk.
Pick # 102 GBN Rank: 51 Ourlads Rank: 56 PP Rank: 52

Round 5 JATAVIS BROWN/LB/AKRON 5’11/221 4.75/40 9″H/31 1/8″A
His main value initially will be as the leader of their Special Teams. He is an absolute maniac in kick/punt coverage. Probably worth a 5th Round Pick just on that basis of his play. But he looked to be making progress as an all-around LB in his final year in school. He should do well in coverage as a LB once he gets the nuances of their coverage schemes down. The kind of player you’d better not bet against making the roster.
Pick # 175 GBN Rank: 177 Ourlads Rank: 300+ NR PP Rank: 157

Round 6 DREW KAISER/P/TEXAS A&M 6’2/212 5.00/40 9″H/31″A
The best all-around Punter in college football last year, IMO. He has a booming leg, can directional punt & gets solid hang time. The CHARGERS are so convinced that he has what it takes to Punt at the NFL level that they sent MIKE SCIFRES, their decade plus punter, packing after signing KASER. Look for him to hang around the League for a decade or more. He was at SHRINE Week and impressed me every single day.
Pick # 179 GBN Rank: 283 Ourlads Rank: 266 PP Rank: 153

Round 6 DEREK WATT/FB/WISCONSIN 6’2/234 4.77/40 9 5/8″H/31 5/8″A
WATT was Mr. Swiss Army Knife during Shrine Game week. He even was ready to be the back-up LS for his team. His best skill is purely and simply as a blocker. Former teammate MELVIN GORDON should be jumping with joy to have his old lead blocker on his side again. WATT showed excellent hands at the Shrine practices and could have a role developed for him in San Diego with that skill in mind. And of course he will be a regular on Special Teams units.
Pick # 198 GBN Rank: 282 Ourlads Rank: 215 PP Rank: 212

Round 7 DONAVON CLARK/OG/MICHIGAN STATE 6’4/315 5.17/40 10 1/4″H/32 5/8″A
Nothing fancy to see here folks. Just a big, ole strong interior OL. He started 15 games at OT spots for the Spartans and that could serve him well as a versatile game day backup as a Rookie. He’s fairly quick on his feet and can pull. The CHARGERS have traditionally favored the power running game, and that fits CLARK’s skill set. Do not be surprised if he doesn’t emerge on the field n the second half of the 2016 season.
Pick # 224 GBN Rank: 346+ NR Ourlads Rank: 219 PP Rank: 300+ NR

This is a very solid looking Draft group for the CHARGERS. They covered lots of need areas, with players who could all find roles to fill, and soon. I would not be surprised to see all 8 of these draftees on the roster in September and out on the field as the season progresses. Nice job here.

Pigskin