Arena Football: Duluth, MN

While I was up in Duluth this past weekend, I was looking at AMSOIL Arena (home of the University of Minnesota – Duluth’s men’s and women’s hockey teams) and realized it would make a great venue for an Arena Football team. I have always enjoyed designing hypothetical football teams in my head, on paper, and on Madden (back when they let you be creative instead of choosing from a set list of options). There’s not really a whole lot else to say, so here is what an AFL team in Duluth would look like if I was asked to design it:

Venue: AMSOIL Arena – Duluth, MN

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From what I’ve read and heard, if you want to establish a professional sports team (or really any type of business) you have to capitalize on the rich history of the area. For Minnesota, that would be the lakes – after all, this is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. For Duluth specifically, it’s Lake Superior and the city’s history as a harbor town. With the AMSOIL Arena location, it is right down by the shore of the lake and you can see the iconic lift-bridge in the background. AMSOIL Arena is a good selection for the home of this yet-to-be-named Minnesota AFL team because the facilities already are built and in a prime location with accessible parking.

Team Name: The Duluth Light

Could go with the obvious Northern Minnesota team name of ‘Lumberjacks’, but Duluth and Superior (WI) already shared an indoor football team with that name and they played the 1998 and 1999 season in the Indoor Football League with a combined record of 3-23. So they weren’t quite as bad as the Cleveland Browns of 2016 and 2017, but that’s not really something to be proud of. So rather than try to rebuild that failed legacy, I decided it was time to start a new one. The ‘Lakers’ were briefly in contention for the name, as a not-so-subtle jab at the Los Angeles Lakers who didn’t think to change their name when they left the land of lakes. As was the ‘Miners’ due to Northern Minnesota’s rich iron range, but that would be sure to draw protesters if a team was promoting an industry that receives so much criticism. Due to the legend of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox named Babe, I thought about using that but the ‘Bunyans’ doesn’t sound like a good team name and the ‘Babes’ sounds like it belongs in the LFL not the AFL. Ultimately, I decided to base the team’s name on the plethora of lighthouses in the area used to safely guide ships to harbor. To simply name them the ‘Lighthouses’ would be too clunky. So I opted to go with a much more vague name that can still have an easily explainable origin and be spun in many different ways for promotional purposes.

Team Colors: Gunmetal Gray, White, and Navy Blue

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The team name references the light from the lighthouses, so the colors could have gone with a white and red or another lighthouse color scheme – but I decided I wanted to focus more on the dark and stormy waters for the team’s colors.

Team Logo:

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First of all, I’m just going to acknowledge the fact that I drew these logos (and the jerseys in the next section) with colored pencils, no sharpener, and limited artistic ability and time – so bear with me. The first logo would be the primary logo. It features the navy blue ‘D’ for Duluth and has a silver lightburst/compass behind it with the state of Minnesota as the centerpiece. The lightburst element of the logo represents the light from the lighthouses and the compass element of it represents the process of guiding a ship through Lake Superior using both compasses and lighthouses. The second logo would be a secondary and endzone logo. It features the team name with the ‘I’ acting as a lighthouse shining bright. The tops of the letters that appear to be inside the beam of light are gray to differentiate from the golden-yellow beam of light and the lower half of the letters that are the team’s navy blue.

Team Uniforms:

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These two uniforms are the colored versions of the Light uniforms. The left uniform is a gray base (helmet, jersey, and pants) that features a white and blue stripe on both shoulders and the pants, a navy blue color, navy numbers, and ‘DULUTH’ written across the chest in navy. The helmet features a block navy blue ‘D’ that is the same on all the variations, this gray helmet has a navy blue facemask and a white/navy stripe down the top of the helmet. The uniform on the right has a navy blue jersey with two-toned silver/gray stripes on the shoulders and torso with white numbering and gray pants. This helmet is a silver/white two-tone helmet featuring the block ‘D’ and the Michigan/Delaware stripes on top.

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These two uniforms are the two white versions of the uniform. The uniform on the left pays tribute to Minnesota’s deeply rooted hockey culture/history by utilizing the navy blue hockey-style captain’s patch (for captains only, of course) and a simple white/navy color scheme with the white jersey and navy shoulder stripes, collar, and numbering with navy pants. The helmet is a gray helmet with the Michigan/Delaware stripes and the block ‘D’ all in navy blue with a gray facemask. The uniform on the right is a whiteout uniform and is my favorite of the four I designed. The white jersey and pants feature a connected silver stripe that is accented with navy blue on the shoulders of the jersey. The jersey has the team name written across the chest in silver and the numbering is silver with a navy blue accent to make it pop out on the white jersey. The helmet is really what completes this look, it is a pure white helmet with a navy blue facemask and the block ‘D’ featuring the lightburst/compass in silver.

Head Coach: P.J. Fleck

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Who better to lead a team based on rich nautical history than the man who created the motto “Row the Boat”? Fleck would bring the energy needed to be exciting and competitive in the Arena Football world. Fleck and family wouldn’t even have to leave the state since he already is the head coach of the University of Minnesota Gophers football team. Fleck also has the professional playing experience to be able to relate to the level and type of players an Arena team is made up of – Fleck made it onto the San Francisco 49ers roster as an undersized receiver who outworked everybody.

Roster:

QB1: Johnny Manziel

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Is there really any better choice for a QB of an AFL team? Money Manziel can create just as much hype and excitement as Coach Fleck. As for Manziel’s partying problem; it seems like he’s genuinely maturing this time, if anyone can motivate someone to shape up it’s PJ Fleck, and it’s the AFL so it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line is, Johnny Football got his nicknames for a reason, he can make magic happen on the field – and that’s what I want my QB1 to do in the arena.

QB2: Darron Thomas

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Darron Thomas is a guy who most people have likely forgotten about by now. He was a phenomenal dual-threat quarterback for the Oregon Ducks and helped lead them to a Rose Bowl victory and a BCS National Championship Game (narrowly losing to Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers). Since then, Thomas has bounced between the Canadian Football League and various leagues in the US. Thomas was fun to watch at Oregon, and he will make for a solid backup to Manziel – since both are dual-threats.

RB1: Eddie Lacy

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Lacy had a good but brief time with the Green Bay Packers, but then his weight became a concern. Lacy is currently a free agent and will have a hard time finding a roster spot since the NFL prefers smaller and faster running backs over bruisers like Lacy. If Lacy were born 10-20 years earlier, he would have been one of the best in the league because of his size and powerful running style – but he’s stuck in an era where his kind is extinct. While the AFL typically favors smaller players with high stamina, we have seen Jared Lorenzen (the hefty lefty) succeed in an indoor football league as a quarterback despite having worse weight concerns than Lacy. Lacy would be the bulldozer in the offense.

RB2: LaMichael James

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Since it’s already been determined that Lacy will be the bulldozer, it makes sense for the second RB to be a shifty and speedy running back. James played with the backup QB, Darron Thomas, in college and was a huge part of Oregon’s success in the early 2010’s. James earned numerous honors and records before he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. James was rarely used and wasn’t properly utilized. James did play in a Super Bowl, in very limited action. He then tried to catch on with the Miami Dolphins but that never worked out. Even though it’s been a few years, I think James would be an excellent signing for the Duluth Light.

WR1: Dez Bryant

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The AFL would benefit so much from Dez Bryant coming to the league. He would sell out AMSOIL Arena and any other venue the Light play in. His skill is unbelievable, but so is his ego – which is perfect for the arena. Bryant is still a free agent, so anything is possible. One thing is for sure though, if Dez came to Duluth, there’d be lots of X’s being thrown in the air.

WR2: Jeremy Maclin

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Maclin is another talented receiver who has yet to sign with a team. Maclin doesn’t have the same issues as Dez, he just isn’t as good and is aging. Maclin has the ability to turn quick passes into big plays, which is perfect for the arena.

WR3: Dwayne Harris

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Technically, signing Harris gives the Duluth Light another former NFL Pro-Bowler. Granted, Harris made it as a returner, but those return skills can be utilized on kick returns and short passes in the arena. Harris would be electric coming out of the slot spot for the Light and could very well lead the team in yards.

WR4: Eric Decker

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Decker has fallen off the NFL radar fast, despite being with the Titans last year. Decker has aged real quick and will be lucky to get one more chance in the NFL. Decker is a Minnesota-native who went to the University of Minnesota, so this would be a fun homecoming for Decker and the Light.

OL: Luke Joeckel

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Joeckel was originally the second overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft when the Jaguars selected him. After Jacksonville wrote him off as a bust, he ended up with the Seattle Seahawks and didn’t clear the bust label. While he looks like a bust in the NFL and is still a free agent, he was still once considered good enough to be the second best player in a draft class – so maybe he could succeed in a complete life reset where he joins a new team in a new state in a completely different league, aka welcome to the Duluth Light.

OL: Greg Robinson

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Very similar story to Luke Joeckel. Former 2nd overall pick. Labelled a bust. Still a player with great size and potentially untapped skill. Duluth could have two big name linemen turn their career around and draw NFL attention to the roster.

OL: Jahri Evans

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Unlike Joeckel and Robinson, Evans is not battling a bust label. However, Evans is battling with time as he is coming towards the end of his career. Evans would be a good mentor for Joeckel and Robinson, while still giving Duluth a couple years as a solid player.

DL: Karter Schult

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Schult is a beast of a pass-rusher. He was the top FCS defender during his last year at Northern Iowa. He had some pre-season success with the Cleveland Browns. He also stood out at this year’s Spring League. Schult would be a great player to have in Duluth.

Update: Karter Schult signed with the Carolina Panthers on 5/14.

DL: Courtney Upshaw

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Upshaw is a talented pass-rusher who is currently a free agent. He already won a Super Bowl ring when he was with the Baltimore Ravens (against LaMichael James and the 49ers) and forced a fumble in that game (it was James who fumbled), he also made it back to the Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons and sacked Tom Brady despite ultimately missing out on his second ring.

DL: Johnny Jolly

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With the other two defensive linemen being more athletic pass-rushers, I decided it was time to bring back a big defensive lineman who can eat up space. Jolly played a few years with the Packers before getting into legal trouble, but did come back to the NFL a few years later and played one more year with the Packers. Jolly is still only 35 years old, so it’s not unreasonable for him to still play a year or two for Duluth.

OLB: Aldon Smith

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Yes, legal issues would be a huge concern with signing Smith. But what about the upside? Smith was one of the best when it came to putting pressure on a quarterback and taking the QB down. He’s still relatively young too. With Smith, Schult, and Upshaw on the team, offenses will struggle to find their rhythm going against Duluth.

MLB1: Korey Toomer

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Toomer is on his 6th team since he was drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Toomer has been okay-at-best throughout his career, but is coming off one of his best years yet, with the Los Angeles Chargers – and now he is with the San Francisco 49ers. Toomer has not really emerged yet, so I have him at MLB1 because I’m hoping he can peak late in Duluth.

MLB2: Navarro Bowman

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Bowman has been a 4-time all-pro during his 8-year career (he’s only played 7 years, due to an injury). Both Bowman and Toomer are 29 years old. The only reason I have Bowman behind Toomer is because it would appear that Bowman has already peaked, but maybe Bowman’s aging decline will still be better than Toomer’s peak. Regardless, both middle linebackers should be solid – or at least one or the other should be.

OLB: Shea McClellin

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McClellin, like Aldon Smith, is a pass-rusher. Because this team is so loaded at pass-rusher, I went with three corners to account for the passing game. McClellin was a first round pick out of Boise State as a defensive lineman. However, he was eventually converted into an outside linebacker/pass-rusher which is where I have him playing despite this leaving pass coverage as a major vulnerability in the linebacker corp. The goal is that the top-notch pass-rush will allow the defensive secondary to handle any passes.

CB: Delvin Breaux

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Breaux knows how this works. He spent his time in the Gridiron Developmental Football League, Arena Football League, and Canadian Football League before getting a contract with the New Orleans Saints. Breaux recorded 3 interceptions in his three seasons with the Saints.

CB: Bashaud Breeland

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Due to a failed physical with the Panthers, Breeland is still on the market. In his four seasons with Washington, Breeland has recorded 8 interceptions and forced 7 fumbles. Breeland may not be part of the top tier of cornerbacks in the NFL, but the receivers in the Arena Football League are not exactly the best in the world (for the most part).

CB: Deiondre’ Hall

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Hall is a promising young corner who has played part of one season and been on the IR the second season of his career. Entering the third year of his career, Hall’s future looks bright with the Chicago Bears. But the chance to bring him to Duluth could take him from being a good NFL player to being a legendary AFL player.

FS: Tre Boston

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Over the past four years, Boston has recorded 187 tackles and 8 interceptions. Five of those eight interceptions came last season when he started 15 games for the Chargers. Boston has been decent, but not excellent. Boston will for sure be on an NFL roster for 2018, but he could become a star in the Arena.

SS: Kenny Vaccaro

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In the past five years, Vaccaro has recorded the same number of interceptions (8) as Tre Boston did in the past four. However, Vaccaro has also recorded 4 forced fumbles and 7.5 sacks. Vaccaro’s hard-hitting style would fit well on the smaller field of the Arena.

K: Blair Walsh

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Just like Eric Decker, Walsh presents a fun Minnesota-homecoming. While Decker brings back fun memories of his time as a Golden Gopher, Walsh will get his chance at redemption for a single missed field goal in a clutch situation followed by a shaken season of mediocrity. As a rookie, Walsh was 10/10 on attempts of 50+ yards, was 3 points shy of the NFL rookie record for points in a season, tied the NFL rookie record for field goals, beat Green Bay in week 17 on a field goal to make the playoffs, and was named to the Pro Bowl – all as a rookie. The following year, he broke the NFL record for consecutive makes of 50+ yards with his 12th in a row versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. In 2015, his third year, Walsh had back-to-back weeks where he kicked a game-winner (vs. the Bears in week 8 and vs. the Rams in OT in week 9), went 5/5 on field goals twice, and led the league in field goals. The only bad part about 2015 came when Seattle came to Minnesota and he missed an “easy” game-winner in the playoffs. While missing a clutch kick like that always puts the blame on the kicker, what Minnesota fans like to forget so easily is that they lost that game 10-9 and Walsh was the only player to score for the Vikings – so should he really get all the blame for not being able to completely put a team on his back? Regardless, Walsh’s next few years were mediocre. However, this does not negate the fact that he; has a career percentage of 82.4% on field goals, has an even one dozen Vikings records, has an even half dozen NFL records, and was the only rookie named to the 2012 NFL All-Pro team. Love him or hate him, Blair Walsh is one of the better kickers the league has seen recently – the stats don’t lie. I would be glad to have him as my kicker in Duluth.

 

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2019 Mock Draft: Philadelphia Eagles

Coming into the 2018 season as the defending champions, FanSpeak (the free mock draft tool I use) projects the Eagles will repeat. I personally don’t believe that will happen, but I can’t change the draft order on the mock tool. The Eagles will almost certainly be a strong team and return to the playoffs, but the NFC has too many good teams (Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, LA Rams, and Minnesota Vikings) for them to return to the Super Bowl this year. Unless the Eagles make a major trade or have players go down with major injuries, they shouldn’t have a whole lot of needs going into the 2019 Draft aside from the offensive line.

Round 1 Pick 32: Deebo Samuel, WR (S. Carolina)

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Samuel would join fellow South Carolina-alum Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor (from the “other” USC – Southern California) to give Carson Wentz an explosive group of wide receivers to throw to. The Eagles receivers should be just fine this year with the additions of Mike Wallace and Markus Wheaton, but they don’t offer a long-term option for the Eagles – whereas Samuel can become Wentz’s top receiver for a long time.

Round 2 Pick 14: Trey Adams, OT (Washington)

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As I mentioned earlier, offensive line is the only real need for the Eagles. So why take a receiver in the first round instead of a tackle to replace the aging Jason Peters? Because receivers like Deebo aren’t always available that late in the first round and because they have this pick in the mid-second round. Trey Adams would have the opportunity to learn underneath Lane Johnson and Jason Peters, two of the best tackles in the game, for a year or so before being put in the starting lineup.

Round 2 Pick 32: Ross Pierschbacher, OG (Alabama)

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The Eagles already grabbed an offensive tackle earlier in this second round, but they also need some help at guard. Despite being selected later, Pierschbacher could actually be starting sooner than Trey Adams simply because they are weaker on their interior than they are at tackle.

Round 3 Pick 32: David Moa, EDGE (Boise St.)

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Moa, a 6′ 3″ pass rusher, could provide an immediate impact for the Eagles as a situational pass-rusher. The top rushers the Eagles currently have are Michael Bennett, Chris Long, and Brandon Graham – all of those guys are already 30 or older. The Eagles also have youngster Derek Barnett and rookie Josh Sweat from Florida State to rush the quarterback. Drafting Moa would greatly lessen the impending loss of Bennett/Long/Graham and help the Eagles build up a much younger group of pass-rushers.

Round 4 Pick 32: Grant Newsome, OT (Michigan)

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As mentioned earlier, elite tackle Jason Peters is nearing the end of his career. Even though I have the Eagles selecting Washington’s Trey Adams, the Eagles need to add another tackle still. Newsome would be given the opportunity to learn under Peters/Lane Johnson and compete with Adams to be Peters’ replacement.

Round 4 Pick 38: L.J. Scott, RB (Michigan St.)

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Being a student at the University of Minnesota and an avid football fan, I had the unfortunate privilege of standing in the rain for two hours before the game even started (due to a lightning delay) and then rain throughout the whole game in which L.J. ran for the most yards a Michigan State RB has run for since Le’Veon Bell. On top of those 194 yards, Scott put up a pair of TDs in what was a blowout until Minnesota switched quarterbacks and Demry Croft nearly led a comeback for the Gophers. Scott has yet to break 1,000 rushing yards in a season, but he does have 2,591 rushing yards and 25 TDs on the ground in his career to go along with 308 receiving yards and a pair of receiving TDs. Aside from Jay Ajayi, the Eagles don’t really have a guy to consistently run well. Scott would give them an option on the ground, especially if Ajayi continues to face injury struggles.

Round 5 Pick 32: Rodney Smith, RB (Minnesota)

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Unlike Scott, Smith likely won’t be drafted with a feature-back role in mind. Smith reminds me a lot of Indiana’s Tevin Coleman who is now with the Atlanta Falcons. Smith would be drafted as a multi-use running back to be the replacement for Darren Sproles. Somewhat surprisingly, Sproles is back for the 2018 season. In his prime, Sproles was dangerous as a returner, speedy runner, and a receiver out of the backfield. That description of Sproles is also very fitting for Rodney Smith, which is why he makes perfect sense for the Eagles right here.

Round 6 Pick 32: Sam Beal, CB (W. Michigan)

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Despite having only two career interceptions, the 6′ 1″ corner is reported to potentially be the next great Western Michigan player to make it into the NFL. If that is the case, he might not be available this low in the draft. But he was available, so I picked him up for the Eagles because you can never have too many corners – even if you have to stash them on the practice squad for a year.

Round 6 Pick 34: Jordan Jones, LB (Kentucky)

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The Eagles have some good linebackers already, but they need more. Jordan Jones would give the Eagles some depth, as well as a potential future starter. The Eagles are relatively young at linebacker, so Jones would have to work hard to earn a spot on the roster – but he would certainly have a good chance.

Round 7 Pick 21: Elkanah Dillon, TE (Oregon)

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After playing for the University of Southern Florida, Dillon recently announced he would be going to the University of Oregon for 2018 as a graduate transfer. With his 6′ 5″ and 255 pound body, he has the size to succeed at the next level. Oregon coach Willie Taggart was Dillon’s head coach at USF in 2015 when Dillon set the school’s single-game receiving yard record for the tight end spot. Perhaps Taggart can help Dillon convert his potential and size into a marketable product for NFL teams. The Eagles already have Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, so Dillon would only be a depth player as well as a potential red zone target in three tight end sets.

 

2019 Mock Draft: New England Patriots

A lot will change between now and the actual draft in next April. But there is one thing that won’t change; the fact the Tom Brady (despite seeking advice on stretching from MLB-legend Ichiro) has a very limited time remaining in his career and the Patriots no longer have an heir-apparent after shipping Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco. This is why I picked the Patriots for my next single-team early mock draft, the Patriots will be in the market for a QB early. As usual, I used the FanSpeak.com mock draft tool because it is still the best free tool I’ve found.

Round 1 Pick 30: Jarrett Stidham, QB (Auburn)

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As I alluded to earlier, Brady won’t last forever. Stidham originally committed to Texas Tech, but recommitted to Baylor before his freshman year. During his freshman year, he started three games for the Bears in replacement for the injured Seth Russell. Following his freshman year, he left due to the sexual assault scandal at Baylor that resulted in huge turnover in the coaching staff – Stidham took this opportunity to go to a community college before eventually transferring to Auburn for the 2017 season. During the 2017, Stidham led the Tigers to victories over eventual-CFP champs Alabama and their CFP finals opponent Georgia. After missing out on the College Football Playoffs, Stidham and the Tigers faced and lost to the 2017 Undefeated National Champions – the Knights of Central Florida. Stidham was named an All-SEC player and received the SEC newcomer of the year award. The Patriots would be wise to consider Stidham as one of their top options at QB, and he was the best available at this spot so I took him.

Round 2 Pick 4: Anfernee Jennings, LB (Alabama)

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The Patriots need to add some excitement to their linebacking corp. Jennings could pair with fellow Alabama-alum Dont’a Hightower to make for a better linebacker group. The Patriots did pick up a pair of rookie linebackers in Christian Sam (Arizona St.) and Ja’Whaun Bentley (Purdue), but Jennings would easily replace them if they selected him him.

Round 2 Pick 30: Noah Fant, TE (Iowa)

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Remember when the Patriots had two legitimate threats at tight end? The Patriots have utilized the dual tight end formation to near perfection ever since they selected Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the second and fourth rounds (respectively) of the 2010 NFL Draft. However, the second tight end has not been anywhere near as good since Hernandez was released due to legal allegations. Noah Fant is a big tight end, standing 6′ 5″ and weighing 241 pounds. Last year, Fant led tight ends in the nation with 16.5 yards per catch and 11 touchdowns (an Iowa tight end record). Fant would give the Patriots a legitimate #2 tight end who could also take over as the #1 tight end if Gronkowski continues to struggle to stay healthy.

Round 3 Pick 19: Stanley Morgan Jr., WR (Nebraska)

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Who is the #1 receiver for the Patriots this coming year? With Edelman back, it’ll likely be him – but I personally believe he is a better fit in the slot receiver position. Maybe Chris Hogan? The Patriots really have more slot receivers and special teams players listed as wide receivers on their roster than players with the size and skill to be a #1 or #2 receiver.

Round 3 Pick 36: Derrick Kelly II, OT (Florida St.)

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The Patriots selected Isaiah Wynn, a guard from Georgia, in the 2018 NFL Draft and it would be smart for them to keep adding youth to a line that needs to keep giving Brady time to throw. Kelly wouldn’t likely start right away, but he would be given a chance to earn a starting spot. At 6′ 5″, Kelly has the size to succeed in the NFL and as a red-shirt senior he has had plenty of time to gain experience at the collegiate level.

Round 3 Pick 39: Delvon Randall, S (Temple)

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In 2017, Randall was selected as a First-Team All-AAC Player. Temple awards single digit numbers to only the 9 toughest players on their team, and in 2017 they gave Randall #2 instead of the #23 he had been wearing previously. Randall led the Temple Owls in interceptions and was second in tackles for the 2017 season. By the time the 2019 NFL Draft rolls around, half the Patriots secondary will be 30 years old or older. Randall would add some youth and excitement to a Patriots roster that needs some of that.

Round 4 Pick 30: Dontavius Russell, DL (Auburn)

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Russell is a run-stuffer with a stout frame (6′ 3″ and 320 pounds). The Patriots have some good players at the defensive tackle spot who can stop the run, especially with the addition of Danny Shelton from the Browns. However, it is always a good idea to have some depth at defensive tackle so that the Patriots can keep rotating in fresh interior linemen.

Round 5 Pick 30: Brett Rypien, QB (Boise St.)

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Yes, I already had the Patriots select Jarrett Stidham to be their QB of the future with their first round pick. However, this is the Patriots 8th selection in the draft and they don’t really have any needs left to fill – so why not take a shot at a second QB in case Stidham doesn’t work (much like the Washington Redskins did when they selected Kirk Cousins despite having already taken Robert Griffin III in the first round)? Rypien had a pretty good career leading one of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference. Rypien finished his collegiate career with a 2-1 record in bowl games and 30-10 overall; he also threw for nearly 10,000 yards with a 60:22 TD/INT ratio. Quarterback also runs in Rypien’s family, as his uncle Mark Rypien won a pair of Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins and was MVP in his second Super Bowl and Brett’s cousin Angela Rypien (Mark’s daughter) played quarterback in the LFL.

Round 6 Pick 35: Tae Hayes, CB (Appalachian St.)

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Hayes was an All-Sun Belt Conference selection in 2017 and tied a school record with three interceptions in a game. The Patriots, like any team, could use some young depth at the corner position. The Patriots also love their small school players, so Hayes would be a sensible selection for them with this compensatory selection.

Round 7 Pick 30: Austin Seibert, K (Oklahoma)

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Kickers seem to go one of two routes; they either have a long career with one team or they play for 5 teams in a 3 year career. Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski has certainly been one of the ones with a long career. However, we recently saw Sebastian Janikowski’s Raiders career end as he signed with the Seahawks this past off-season, and at 13 years in the NFL it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Gostkowski to be moving on (to another team or to the end of his career) soon. Seibert would be a good selection by the Patriots to stash on their practice squad for a year or so until they need a replacement for Gostkowski.

Round 7 Pick 32: Darian Roseboro, EDGE (N. Carolina St.)

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This would be the Patriots 11th selection in the draft, so at this point they are looking best player available. Edge-rusher is a position where it’s never a bad idea to stockpile players you can rotate in, and that would be Roseboro’s best shot to see the field.

Round 7 Pick 35: Tristan Payton, WR (C. Florida)

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With Tre’Quan Smith and Jordan Akins leaving UCF via the draft, the Knights will need players to step up and catch passes from quarterback McKenzie Milton. Payne is a multi-use player who has done a little bit of everything, including throwing a 72-yard touchdown pass. This late in the draft it’s impossible to predict who will be taken even weeks before the draft, much less almost a year beforehand. The facts are that; receiver depth is good, Payne has a chance to break out big this year, and that whoever that Patriots take here will likely end up on the practice squad.

2019 Mock Draft: Jacksonville Jaguars

Yes, I’m aware that a lot will change between now and April 25th of 2019… But that’s what makes this fun. Again, the mock draft tool I used is FanSpeak.com because it is the best free mock draft site I have found. FanSpeak projects the Jaguars will be picking 28th, which I think is very likely seeing as that means another deep post-season run for this talented team.

Round 1 Pick 28: Andrew Wingard, S (Wyoming)

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This is my third team mock draft for 2019 and the University of Wyoming has players being selected in all three of them. This is with good reason too, not just because I started playing football while living in Wyoming and watching the Cowboys play on Saturdays. This past year, all eyes were on Josh Allen, this year those eyes should be focused on the defense that led the nation in takeaways. Many scouts rank Wingard as one of the top safeties in the draft and as a first or second round talent. The Jaguars already have lock-down corners, but an elite safety to pair with fellow Wyoming-grad Tashaun Gipson (who I got to watch in-person against Colorado St. years ago) would boost Jacksonville’s no-fly zone on defense. Jacksonville already snagged Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison in the 2018 draft and Barry Church has been solid – but Church is getting older and Wingard is better than Harrison.

Round 2 Pick 28: Will Grier, QB (W. Virginia)

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It’s no secret that fans are disgruntled with the hot-and-cold quarterbacking from Blake Bortles. Many fans were somewhat surprised when the Jaguars only moves at QB were to acquire former Browns-backup Cody Kessler and draft Nebraska QB Tanner Lee – none of which are currently capable of even competing with Bortles in training camp. Drafting Grier in the second round would either light a fire under Bortles butt or give Jacksonville their guy to replace Bortles. Either result would be a huge improvement to a roster that made it to the AFC Championship (and was robbed of a Super Bowl appearance by the refs) with the unreliable quarterbacking.

Round 3 Pick 28: T.J. Edwards, LB (Wisconsin)

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With the retirement of Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville made an attempt to add to their linebacking corp in the 2018 draft, but I don’t think they found anyone who will last long. Edwards would give them a solid linebacker who could step in and make an impact almost instantly. He might have his struggles adjusting to the NFL as a rookie, but that’s not uncommon.

Round 4 Pick 28: Deandre Baker, CB (Georgia)

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With the quarterback and linebacker spots having already been addressed in this draft, there really aren’t any holes left that need filled on this Jaguars roster. Selecting Baker here is purely a depth move. He’s a solid corner, but he just won’t break the starting lineup in Jacksonville unless a couple guys go down.

Round 5 Pick 28: Rodney Smith, RB (Minnesota)

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Going into the 2017 college season, I read an ESPN article stating that the Gophers had the top RB-duo in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation. Since I currently attend the University of Minnesota, I attended all but two home games and watched all but one of their games all season. What I saw was not just a top RB-duo, I witnessed one of the most complete rushing attacks I’ve seen. The previously mentioned duo of Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks was dynamic, but the Gophers also had bruising back Kobe McCrary who recently was invited to the Minnesota Vikings rookie mini-camp as well as dual-threat QB Demry Croft (who has since transferred to Tennessee St.). That rushing attack accounted for over 400 yards versus Nebraska in 2017. With Croft and McCrary gone, the focus of the Gophers rushing game was supposed to be on that same duo of Smith and Brooks that was rated top in the conference going into the year; but Smith will have to do it without Brooks this year as he suffered a leg injury during spring football workouts. Smith is an electric back who can return kicks and make big plays out of the backfield with his speed and agility. The Jaguars already have powerful running back Leonard Fournette who will remain the feature back for several years, but Smith could step in and be a Tevin Coleman-esque running back.

Round 6 Pick 28: Brandon Knight, OT (Indiana)

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Like Deandre Baker, Knight would likely be used as a depth player. Unlike Baker, Knight would actually have a chance to break into the starting lineup. The Jaguars have a bunch of solid linemen, but a rookie who impresses could find himself in a position where he gets to start. Knight would not have an easy road to starting for the reigning AFC South champs, but he would have a chance.

Round 7 Pick 14: Tariq Cole, OT (Rutgers)

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According to Pro Football Focus, Tariq is the top offensive tackle in the Big Ten – they have him ranked at a 96.9 in pass blocking efficiency (Brandon Knight who I have going 6th round received a 96.8). Everything I said about Brandon Knight holds true for Tariq Cole; he would be drafted for depth but would have a fair shot at becoming a starter.

2019 Mock Draft: Green Bay Packers

Yes, I’m aware that a lot will change between now and April 25th of 2019… But that’s what makes this fun. Again, the mock draft tool I used is FanSpeak.com because it is the best free mock draft site I have found. FanSpeak projects the Packers will be picking 20th, so that’s where I picked for them at – even though my personal prediction/preference would be the Packers picking in the 30’s (specifically 32nd).

Round 1 Pick 20: David Sills V, WR (W. Virginia)

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Yes, this is the guy who was offered and verbally accepted a scholarship to play quarterback for the University of Southern California when he was 13 years old and Lane Kiffin was their head coach. A lot changes in those years between middle school and college. I’m sure, at the time, Sills never thought he’d be playing receiver – especially not as one of the top receivers in the nation. Anyways, there have been entire articles and videos made on that – so this section is just to talk about him as the elite WR named David Sills V. The Packers cut ties with receiver Jordy Nelson prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, but did not really make a huge effort to replace him via the draft or free agency. They did select three receivers in J’Mon Moore (Missouri), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (USF), and Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame) – so maybe one or two of those guys will emerge as a contributor, but the Packers need a star to pair with Davante Adams. And that star is David Sills V.

Round 1 Pick 26 (from that great deal with the Saints): Bryce Love, RB (Stanford)

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This pick is a case of the Packers using the BPA (Best Player Available) approach. Green Bay already has a young backfield of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Ty Montgomery – but selecting an elite back is always better than running with a committee. With Randall Cobb on the decline, perhaps this would allow Green Bay to move Montgomery back to the slot spot and have Davante Adams and David Sills V as their main receivers. Love would give something the Packers haven’t really had since Ahman Green, a feature back who can have success for years.

Round 2 Pick 20: Youhanna Ghaifan, DT (Wyoming)

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Yup, get ready to hear a lot about the Wyoming Cowboys defense this coming year. While everyone paid attention to Josh Allen last year (and rightfully so), the Cowboys somewhat quietly led the nation in takeaways. The Cowboys will likely end up with a pair of defensive linemen being selected within the first three rounds of the 2019 draft (Ghaifan and edge rusher Carl Granderson). Heading into the 2019 draft, Mike Daniels will be 30 and in the final year of his contract, so it makes sense for the Packers to start looking for another interior lineman to pair with Kenny Clark.

Round 3 Pick 20: Dru Samia, OG (Oklahoma)

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Samia’s character will be under heavy scrutiny thanks to him being ejected for throwing a punch against West Virginia, but his ability should outweigh the potential risk. Green Bay is always in need of more offensive linemen, so this would be an ideal place for Samia to go and get playing time as a rookie. Samia would come in and be competing/learning with Lane Taylor and 2018-selection Cole Madison (Washington St.) at the guard spot.

Round 4 Pick 20: Jonathan Ledbetter, EDGE (Georgia)

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With Nick Perry being inconsistent, Clay Matthews getting old, and new addition Muhammed Wilkerson also aging; the Packers need to add some youth to their pass-rush. Third-year defensive end Dean Lowry from Northwestern shone in moments this past year, and rookie James Looney from California is still an unknown – but adding another pass rusher is never a bad thing to do.

Round 5 Pick 20: Zedrick Woods, S (Mississippi)

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To say the Packers improved their secondary going into 2018 is an understatement. The Packers traded down in the first round and still managed to snag two of the top-5 prospects at the corner position and brought back veteran corner Tramon Williams. Woods would add depth to a secondary that is rapidly improving – much to the pleasure of all Packers fans. Especially since Kirk Cousins is now in the division and most Packers fans remember him putting 375 yards and 3 TDs against us in 2016.

Round 6 Pick 20: Jake Browning, QB (Washington)

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Once considered a top-prospect at the quarterback position, Browning’s stock has fallen drastically since he had shoulder surgery in January of 2017. Browning has stated that he is “on a mission” during his upcoming senior year. Perhaps Browning will surpass expectations and prove himself worthy of the first-round grade he had when he was expected to forgo his senior year and be part of the 2018 NFL Draft Class. However, if he just proves his shoulder can still hold up to contact and throwing, he will deserve a shot at the NFL. And what better team for a quarterback who needs some time to develop/redevelop than the Green Bay Packers? Aaron Rodgers won’t last forever, but he’s still got some more good years left in him (he is easily the favorite for the Comeback Player of the Year award this coming season). Sitting under Rodgers for two or three years would be the perfect situation for Browning and the Packers.

Round 7 Pick 20: Elkanah Dillon, TE (S. Florida)

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I like Jimmy Graham as a short-term answer to the Packers need to find their first elite TE since Jermichael Finley’s career was ended prematurely. However, Graham is not getting any younger and it’s never a bad idea to keep taking chances on tight ends because you can never have too many good ones (just look at how New England has done with their dual-TE sets).

 

2019 Mock Draft: Cleveland Browns

Yes, I’m aware that a lot will change between now and April 25th of 2019… But that’s what makes this fun. Again, the mock draft tool I used is FanSpeak.com because it is the best free mock draft site I have found. FanSpeak projects the Browns will be picking 10th, so that’s where I picked for them at.

Round 1 Pick 10: Bryce Love, RB (Stanford)

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If the Browns truly do pick #10, there’s a chance Love won’t even be available for their taking. Love is coming off a year where he was a Heisman-finalist and will likely be in a position to win it this coming year. The Browns passed on Saquon Barkley this past year and instead opted to select Georgia running back Nick Chubb to man the backfield with Duke Johnson Jr. and free agent acquisition Carlos Hyde. With Hyde signed on for three years, it’s possible they let Duke walk at the end of the year when his contract is up. Carlos Hyde has always been good but not great. And Nick Chubb was arguably not even the best running back at Georgia (granted, Sony Michel was a first-round selection by the Patriots), but he could develop into the Browns new feature back. However, if none of those three emerge as an elite back, Love could very well be the guy they take to become that guy.

Round 2 Pick 10: Lavert Hill, CB (Michigan)

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Oh boy, here we go with the Browns taking an athletic defensive back out of Michigan. Actually, this time it could go better than Jabrill Peppers. Peppers was a multi-purpose weapon coming out of Michigan and could really have been drafted as a linebacker, corner, safety, or linebacker  – so a little confusion as to what his role should have been. With Lavert, he is a corner. And that’s what the Browns need.

Round 3 Pick 10: Kaleb McGary, OT (Washington)

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Gotta protect Baker Mayfield. The Browns will have a huge void to fill in for at least a couple years now that legendary left tackle Joe Thomas has hung up his cleats. The process of building a line without Thomas will involve drafting and signing lots of guys to put together an offensive line that is great as a whole and has good depth. McGary may start out as depth, but he could transition to a starter if needed.

Round 3 Pick 30: Jordan Fuller, S (Ohio St.)

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The Browns have made some good moves at corner, especially with drafting Denzel Ward in this past draft. What the Browns need to do to complete their secondary is pick up a safety to help fill in for when Tashaun Gipson left for Jacksonville a couple years ago. Fuller will likely be seen very often by Browns scouts and fans as he is from in-state Ohio State.

Round 4 Pick 10: Carl Granderson, EDGE (Wyoming)

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Any guesses which team led the nation in takeaways? It wasn’t the school with the turnover chain or one of the many with a knockoff version of the chain – it was the University of Wyoming. Remember that Iowa game you kept hearing about while scouts evaluated Josh Allen this past year? Yeah, Wyoming’s defense was phenomenal against Iowa. Granderson was a big part of that as he recorded 9 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, a sack, and a forced fumble. Last year, Granderson racked up 9.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and a pair of interceptions.

Round 5 Pick 10: Kendall Joseph, LB (Clemson)

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As a third-team All-ACC selection last year, Joseph can only get better going into his senior year at Clemson. I fully expect Kendall Joseph’s draft stock to rise prior to next April, and he likely will be gone before the fifth round. But for this mock, he was available, so the Browns get a steal here and potentially have their new middle linebacker for the next decade (dang, 2030 is only about a decade away!).

Round 6 Pick 10: Gerald Willis III, DL (Miami)

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After taking off the 2017 season for “personal reasons,” Willis is back in Miami for 2018 and is impressing through the spring. Willis started his collegiate career at the University of Florida before being dismissed from their football program for violating team policies. So obviously there will be many questions about his character, but I believe Willis is talented enough to be drafted still. This seems like a good spot for the Browns to add some offensive line depth and allow for Willis to slowly transition into the pros and mature a little bit before he is eventually starting on Sundays in a few years.

Round 7 Pick 10: Khairi Clark, DL (Florida)

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Well, this is awkward (?). After taking Willis in the 6th round, the Browns select a guy likely benefited from Willis’s dismissal from the Florida football team. Khairi Clark would also be a part of the depth on the Browns defensive line.

Round 7 Pick 28: Tevis Bartlett, LB (Washington)

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I really wanted to go with an athletic tight end here to complement David Njoku in the Browns offense, but when I saw Tevis Bartlett still available I had to take him. During my time playing high school sports in Wyoming, I witnessed Bartlett’s athleticism and strength multiple times. Thankfully, Cheyenne East (his high school) and Thermopolis (my high school) are not in the same class – so we never played each other in football, but I still heard and read about his amazing career as a two-way player for the Thunderbirds. I did, however, get to witness some of his wrestling matches when we were at the same tournaments. Again, I never had to face him because I was multiple weight classes below him – which was good for me because the guy won four consecutive state titles at the highest level in Wyoming. Bartlett really could have gone to a division one school as a linebacker, quarterback, or wrestler but he decided to play linebacker for the Huskies. I’m sure NFL teams will look at his athleticism and that will push him further up their draft boards.

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Day 2

#33 – Cleveland Browns: Derrius Guice, RB (LSU)

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In my previous mock draft (for the first round), I had the Detroit Lions selecting Guice but I guess Arkansas center Frank Ragnow was seen as a higher priority to them. In Detroit’s defense, they do already have three decent-to-good running backs. I was shocked Guice fell out of the first round, and even more surprised that San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny was selected before him – but Penny deserved that first round selection too. I don’t see Guice falling any further though, as Cleveland already passed on Saquon Barkley. Barkley may be getting more of the hype, but Cleveland might just have got their quarterback of the future, a lock-down corner, and still get an elite running back to fall into their lap at the #33 spot in the draft. Huge things are in store for the Browns.

#34 – New York Giants: Harold Landry (Boston College)

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After snagging Saquon Barkley in the first round, the Giants could go with Mason Rudolph or Luke Falk here to be Eli Manning’s understudy and eventual-replacement. However, they also need to fill in the void left when they shipped Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay. So the selection of Harold Landry here makes sense to keep putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

#35 – Cleveland Browns: Christian Kirk, WR (Texas A&M)

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There’s some offensive line talent that should be available when Cleveland makes their selection at the bottom of the second round – so taking a first-round talent receiver should be the move here. With the selection of Kirk, Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield should have no excuses when it comes to their receivers. The Browns already had Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, David Njoku, and traded for Jarvis Landry then gave him a big contract. Throw Christian Kirk into that receiving corp and you might be looking at a top-5 positional group in the NFL. Yes, that’s correct, Cleveland could be top-5 in something other than the draft for once.

#36 – Indianapolis Colts: Courtland Sutton, WR (SMU)

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After letting Donte Moncreif walk to division-rival Jacksonville, the Colts are likely in the market for another receiver to help Andrew Luck return to the field. They already added Quinton Nelson to protect Luck, so adding Sutton seems like the next logical step.

#37 – Indianapolis Colts: Maurice Hurst, DL (Michigan)

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When you are in a division with one of best young running backs in the league (Leonard Fournette) and a team that refers to their offense as an “exotic smash-mouth running game” you need to be able to stop the run. So adding a big run-stuffer like Hurst would greatly help out the Indianapolis defense.

#38 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Carlton Davis, CB (Auburn)

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Tampa already added Vita Vea to a defensive line that now features Vea, Gerald McCoy, and Jason Pierre-Paul. So the next move to improve a defense constantly facing Cam Newton, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan would be to select a corner. They could go with Iowa’s Josh Jackson here, but Carlton Davis just feels like a better fit here – plus Iowa defensive backs tend to fall for no reason.

#39 – Chicago Bears: Isaiah Oliver, CB (Colorado)

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Basically the same arguments here as I gave for the Buccaneers selecting Carlton Davis. The Bears face Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Matthew Stafford a combined 6 times each year and Oliver feels like a better fit than Josh Jackson (plus the part about Iowa defensive backs falling).

#40 – Denver Broncos: Will Hernandez, OL (UTEP)

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Since the Broncos passed on a quarterback in the first round and took pass-rusher Bradley Chubb, it looks like a team finally has some faith in Case Keenum! Best way to set Keenum up for success is to protect him. And that’s exactly what the do with this selection of the big offensive lineman from UTEP who many though would be gone in the first round.

#41 – Oakland Raiders: Donte Jackson, CB (LSU)

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I don’t have an Al Davis pun for this mock draft selection (look at my previous first round mock if you’re curious). The Raiders love speed. Donte Jackson has speed (he ran a 4.32 40). The Raiders also need defensive backs. Seems to me like this is a match made in heaven (or the Black Hole).

#42 – Miami Dolphins: Da’Shawn Hand, DL (Alabama)

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It’s almost like Nick Saban never left Miami (sorry Phinatics, I know Saban jokes aren’t funny). In the first round, Miami snagged Minkah Fitzpatrick who should go a long ways to helping the eventual shut-down of Tom Brady. With this second round pick, I think it’s time to address the departure of Ndamukong Suh.

#43 – New England Patriots: Mason Rudolph, QB (Oklahoma St.)

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If you Google the average life expectancy of a goat, you would find they live from 15-18 years. Tom Brady was picked in the 2000 NFL Draft, I’ll let you do the math. But if you don’t want to do the math, just know that Brady’s retirement is coming sooner than the Patriots can currently manage. After shipping away both of their potential heirs last season, the Patriots should strongly consider taking the best quarterback left in the draft – Mason Rudolph. It works perfectly for Rudolph too, because he gets to learn from the GOAT for a few years before having to start.

#44 – Washington Redskins: Connor Williams, OL (Texas)

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There’s not a whole lot to say. Williams is the best overall player left and the Redskins need offensive line help.

#45 – Green Bay Packers: James Daniels, OL (Iowa)

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Green Bay had to play backup defensive tackle Letroy Guion on the offensive line in their NFC Championship loss to the Falcons two years ago. They nearly had to play defensive lineman on the offensive line at the end of this past season too. Offensive line depth is a huge concern for the Packers, so selecting Iowa’s center Daniels makes a lot of sense and can go a ways to returning the Packers to the playoffs and maybe get Aaron Rodgers his second ring.

#46 – Cincinnati Bengals: Malik Jefferson, LB (Texas)

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After boosting their offensive line by trading for Cordy Glenn and then drafting Billy Price, the Bengals should start looking to the defensive side of the ball. A corner would also be a possibility here, but I think they will go with the athletic linebacker from Texas instead.

#47 – Arizona Cardinals: Tyrell Crosby, OL (Oregon)

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I could also see the Cardinals ending Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson’s slide here, but I can’t give Arizona two Josh Jacksons (the guy on the Phoenix Suns). Surely God loves people named Josh Jackson enough that he wouldn’t send both of them to play for mediocre-at-best teams in the desert. So instead I have them selecting Crosby to help protect Sam Bradford’s knee/Josh Rosen.

#48 – Los Angeles Chargers: Nathan Shepherd, DL (Fort Hays St.)

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After surprisingly having Derwin James fall into their lap at the 17th pick in the first round, the Chargers have their secondary locked in. Selecting a future replacement for Phillip Rivers would also make sense, but at this point I don’t think that’s happening in this draft unless they reach for Luke Falk here. The Chargers could also use another linebacker here, but Shepherd is too big of an option to pass on.

#49 – Indianapolis Colts: Josey Jewell, LB (Iowa)

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According to NFL.com’s list of needs for the Colts, Jewell would fill the last of their major needs. They already took Quinton Nelson in the first round to fill the OL need (but more linemen wouldn’t be a bad idea), and I have them selecting Courtland Sutton and Maurice Hurst to fill their needs at those respective positions. Jewell is an underrated linebacker who can lead the Colts defense in tackles for several years.

#50 – Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Chark, WR (LSU)

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After adding Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round, the Cowboys need to make up for the loss of Dez Bryant. It was tempting to send South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert to Dallas just because of the names, but they need a receiver more than they need a tight end. So Chark is the selection here.

#51 – Detroit Lions: Dallas Goedert, TE (S. Dakota St.)

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The Lions will have a tough decision here between Goedert, Penn State’s Mike Gesicki, and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews. But I think they go with Goedert who has more untapped potential due to his playing at the FCS level of college football. Whoever they go with, Detroit is blessed that 3 of the top 4 tight end prospects are available at this spot in the draft.

#52 – Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Gesicki, TE (Penn St.)

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Well, I’m sticking with the same selection for the Eagles as I made in my first round mock draft yesterday. They didn’t make a first round selection because the Ravens wanted to ensure Lamar Jackson would wear purple and then traded up with the Eagles. Now, wait a minute, I’m pretty sure this is not the first time we’ve seen a team wearing purple trade back into the last pick of the first round to select a mobile quarterback from Louisville with questions about durability – sounds a whole lot like Teddy Bridgewater getting picked by Minnesota. Anyways, the Eagles win that deal by still getting the same tight end I thought they’d originally select.

#53 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Nick Chubb, RB (Georgia)

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Having already added Vita Vea in the first round and me projecting their selection of Carlton Davis in the second round, the Buccaneers should start to focus on offense. Due to Doug Martin’s departure, they should look at a running back. This one was a toss-up between Chubb and USC’s Ronald Jones, but I think Chubb’s running style will be a little better fit in Tampa.

#54 – Kansas City Chiefs: Sam Hubbard, DE (Ohio St.)

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The Chiefs need at least one player at each position group on defense and they need offensive linemen; and this is their first pick in the draft. There’s so many ways they could go, I just think the disruptive pass-rusher from Ohio State is a good way to start their draft off.

#55 – Carolina Panthers: Orlando Brown Jr. , OT (Oklahoma)

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After selecting Maryland receiver D.J. Moore (who Steve Smith said is finally the replacement for him) in the first round, Carolina needs to protect Cam Newton. This addition of a massive offensive tackle with a father who played the same position, prior to passing away recently, would be a huge boost to the Panthers offense.

#56 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronnie Harrison, S (Alabama)

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After selecting Nick Chubb with the 53rd pick, the Buccaneers go back to strengthening their defense. Harrison joins Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves, and Brent Grimes in a defensive secondary that is seemingly still rebuilding after they lost Ronde Barber in 2012.

#57 – Tennessee Titans: Arden Key, EDGE (LSU)

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In the first round, the Titans selected Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans (just like I said they would). With this pick, the Titans pick up an explosive pass-rusher to boost their defense even more.

#58 – Atlanta Falcons: Harrison Phillips, DL (Stanford)

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The Falcons selection of Calvin Ridley in the first round was one I had hoped the Packers would make and it was one that likely has put fear into the heart of every NFC South coordinator who now realizes they must defend Ridley and Julio Jones. With this second round selection, the Falcons address the need to fill the giant gap left by Dontari Poe’s departure.

#59 – San Francisco 49ers: Josh Jackson, CB (Iowa)

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It’s time to put an end to the slide. Jackson is an athletic corner with big play ability. The guy makes ridiculous catches that most receivers can’t even make. Nobody would have been too shocked if they had taken him with the 9th overall pick, so I’m assuming the 49ers would be thrilled with this selection.

#60 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronald Jones, RB (USC)

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With Le’Veon Bell’s sticky contract situation, the Steelers select Ronald Jones here. Jones would hopefully be a change of pace back and backup to Bell, but he would be capable of taking over the backfield if Pittsburgh needs to move on from Bell. Perhaps Jones having a quick emergence would even allow the Steelers to ship Bell to a team prior to the trade deadline rather than him just walking at the end of the season.

#61 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Deon Cain, WR (Clemson)

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This past year, Jacksonville discovered they couldn’t quite make it to the Super Bowl with mostly their run game leading the way. Yet, for some reason they let Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson walk. They’ve already signed some receivers, but drafting Cain could help too.

#62 – Minnesota Vikings: Brian O’Neill, OT (Pittsburgh)

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Minnesota went out and spent big money on Kirk Cousins this off-season. Now they need to protect their investment. Drafting cornerback Mike Hughes from UCF in the first round was a good move, but now they need to get a lineman like O’Neill.

#63 – New England Patriots: James Washington, WR (Oklahoma St.)

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This makes sense for a number of reasons. 1) The Patriots need a receiver after losing Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks this off-season. 2) Bill Belichik likes to keep things together that go together – like when he brought in twins Jacob and Cody Hollister or twins Jason and Devin McCourty (both pairs of twins are currently on the team) – and I already have the Patriots selecting James Washington’s college quarterback Mason Rudolph in the second round of this draft. 3) He’s one of the best receivers still available.

#64 – Cleveland Browns: Austin Corbett, OL (Nevada)

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Like I mentioned at the beginning of this round, the Browns could afford to go with Derrius Guice and Christian Kirk because there would be talented linemen left in the draft later on. Well, this is later on and this is who they get – a big and talented lineman from Nevada. Cleveland is currently looking at at least a .500 season with the additions of Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, Guice, Kirk, and Corbett – as well as all their off-season acquisitions like Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde, and Tyrod Taylor.

Round 3:

#65 – Baltimore Ravens: Tre’Quan Smith, WR (UCF)

#66 – New York Giants: Martinas Rankin, OL (Mississippi St.)

#67 – Indianapolis Colts: Josh Sweat, EDGE (Florida St.)

#68 – Houston Texans: Justin Reid, S (Stanford)

#69 – New York Giants: Luke Falk, QB (Washington St.)

#70 – San Francisco 49ers: Mark Andrews, TE (Oklahoma)

#71 – Denver Broncos: Anthony Miller, WR (Memphis)

#72 – New York Jets: Dante Pettis, WR (Washington)

#73 – Miami Dolphins: Christian Sam, LB (Arizona St.)

#74 – San Francisco 49ers: Michael Gallup, WR (Colorado St.)

#75 – Oakland Raiders: Joseph Noteboom, OT (Texas Christian)

#76 – Seattle Seahawks: Jessie Bates, S (Wake Forest)

#77 – Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Lauletta, QB (Richmond)

#78 – Kansas City Chiefs: Braden Smith, OG (Auburn)

#79 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR (Notre Dame)

#80 – Houston Texans: Ian Thomas, TE (Indiana)

#81 – Dallas Cowboys: Deadrin Senat, DL (S. Florida)

#82 – Detroit Lions: Kemoko Turay, EDGE (Rutgers)

#83 – Baltimore Ravens: Shaquem Griffin, LB (UCF)

#84 – Los Angeles Chargers: Mike White, QB (W. Kentucky)

#85 – Carolina Panthers: Terrell Edmunds, S (Virginia Tech)

#86 – Kansas City Chiefs: Anthony Averett, CB (Alabama)

#87 – Los Angeles Rams: Fred Warner, LB (BYU)

#88 – Carolina Panthers: Kerryon Johnson, RB (Auburn)

#89 – Tennessee Titans: Steven Richardson, DL (Minnesota)

#90 – Atlanta Falcons: Jaylen Samuels, TE (N. Carolina St.)

#91 – New Orleans Saints: Chris Herndon, TE (Miami)

#92 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Kyzir White, S (W. Virginia)

#93 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Rasheem Green, DE (USC)

#94 – Minnesota Vikings: Rashaan Gaulden, S (Tennessee)

#95 – New England Patriots: Lorenzo Carter, EDGE (Georgia)

#96 – Buffalo Bills: Cole Madison, OG (Washington St.)

#97 – Arizona Cardinals: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT (W. Michigan)

#98 – Houston Texans: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE (Oklahoma)

#99 – Denver Broncos: Tremon Smith, CB (C. Arkansas)

#100 – Cincinnati Bengals: Daurice Fountain, WR (N. Iowa)

 

2018 NFL Mock Draft (First Round): No Trades Version

The main rule for this mock draft is that no trades are allowed. Other than that, if you’re reading this you probably know how a mock draft works. If you don’t know, it’s pretty simple and you’ll get the idea. Without further ado… with the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select…

Josh Allen, QB (Wyoming)

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Knock him for his completion percentage if you want. But before you say he isn’t worthy of this pick, I want you to think as long as you’d like about how many NFL-prospects he has had to throw to. I’ll give you a hint, Josh Allen has as many noses as he has had good receivers – and he only has one nose. That was tight end Jacob Hollister who was signed by the Patriots as a backup this past season. A 6′ 5″ quarterback with an arm like Allen is a rarity, and the Browns likely won’t be disappointed with this selection.

#2 New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB (S. California)

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Of course, the Giants won’t be too upset that the most NFL-ready quarterback falls to them at #2. Darnold has the privilege of being able to sit and learn for a little while before he will be asked to step in for an aging and rapidly-declining Eli Manning. It’s much easier to shine when the fans are chanting for you to replace an old guy who has gone from a good field-manager to a sub-mediocre quarterback – aka when the expectations are low.

#3 New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB (UCLA)

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The Jets likely were sitting here hoping that the Giants would trust in Eli and take someone else like a running back or a defensive lineman, but instead the Jets wind up with Rosen instead of Darnold. Rosen is a solid “consolation prize” though, and will likely take over the reigns of the Jets offense by the half-way point of the season (aka when New York gets bored with the ever-reliable never-elite Josh McCown).

#4 Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DL (N. Carolina St.)

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Oh my. Thanks to the QB-frenzy, the Browns STILL get the guy many think they should take at #1. With Myles Garrett and Chubb rushing the passer (not to mention the plethora of young talent Cleveland has), the Browns should win not one, not two, not three, not four, but at least five games in 2018.

#5 Denver Broncos: Saquon Barkley, RB (Penn St.)

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Forget Baker. If Saquon falls this far because of the QB-frenzy and the Browns trusting in their current backfield of Duke Johnson and new-signing Carlos Hyde, the Broncos must pick Barkley. They recently released running back CJ Anderson, so clearly they are looking to improve at the spot. Plus, why take Baker Mayfield when you already have one of the most under-rated quarterbacks in the game in Case Keenum AND they still have Paxton Lynch being groomed for the starting job.

#6 Indianapolis Colts: Tremaine Edmunds, LB (Virginia Tech)

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Nothing shocking here. Colts need to revamp their defense and Edmunds can help.

#7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quinton Nelson, OL (Notre Dame)

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While the Buccaneers could keep defensive back Derwin James in Florida, I feel like protecting Jameis Winston will be a higher priority. Nelson can help solidify their offensive line for years to come.

#8 Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith, LB (Georgia)

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As a Packers fan, this selection would go a long way to me finally fearing the Bears defense again. They still would need more pieces, but Smith could add an electric presence to a defense that needs to do something. I could also see them taking an offensive lineman here to help protect Mitch Trubisky, but I feel this draft is much deeper on the O-line side than it is at linebacker – so they can snag a guy in the second round.

#9 San Francisco 49ers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB (Alabama)

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How do you help an undefeated quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) stay undefeated? Give him a defense to shut opposing offenses down. San Francisco already added defensive back Richard Sherman from division-rival Seattle, so adding another member to the secondary might be their next step to help Sherman be a part of a new “Legion of Boom.”

#10 Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, S (Florida St.)

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Just (Der)win baby! Okay, Al Davis puns aside, James would be an excellent fit with fellow defensive back Karl Joseph. The pair would help the Raiders establish a formidable pass defense for the foreseeable future.

#11 Miami Dolphins: Baker Mayfield, QB (Oklahoma)

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Personally, I still believe in Ryan Tannehill (if he can stay healthy). However, I know that the Miami fan-base is pretty split evenly between those who want to keep rolling with Tannehill and those who want him replaced. One of the names that I keep hearing is Baker Mayfield. Mayfield would benefit from having Tannehill there to guide him, but I doubt Mayfield would sit on the bench for long – most of the educating would happen when Mayfield walks off the field to chat with the coaches and Tannehill at the end of drives.

#12 Buffalo Bills: Lamar Jackson, QB (Louisville)

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The Bills are slightly panicked here as they have now watched the top 4 quarterbacks come off the board within the first 11 picks. They likely know that if they don’t take Jackson, the Cardinals will at #15 (or perhaps the Redskins would at #13). Therefore, Buffalo nabs Jackson and he likely starts from day one. His dual-threat ability allows the Bills to stick with the same playbook they used for Tyrod Taylor.

#13 Washington Redskins: Denzel Ward, CB (Ohio St.)

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With this pick, Washington takes one of the top DB prospects in the draft. Ward can step right in as a starter from the first day and keep that spot for years.

#14 Green Bay Packers: Calvin Ridley, WR (Alabama)

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This one might seem a little odd for most people, as most mocks project the Packers selecting a corner at this spot. However, I think the Packers have the picks to trade up in the second round or back into the bottom of the first round to select a guy like Mike Hughes from UCF who might slip because of some alleged issues. Selecting Ridley here would fill the huge gap left when Jordy Nelson was let go. Pairing Ridley with Davante Adams, Jimmy Graham, an aging Randall Cobb, and all the Packers youngsters who emerge at receiver would make Aaron Rodgers even deadlier.

#15 Arizona Cardinals: Will Hernandez, OL (UTEP)

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Well, looks like there’s no QBs left for AZ. There is Mason Rudolph from Oklahoma State, but #15 is a little high to take him. So the Cardinals instead settle for protecting the flimsy knee of Sam Bradford. Hernandez is a big boy, and he will likely be pushing around defenders for years in a Cardinals jersey (assuming they select him).

 

#16 Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, OL (Notre Dame)

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With this pick, they pair McGlinchey with fellow-former Notre Dame lineman Ronnie Stanley on an offensive line that needs some work. While I said at pick #15 that this part of the draft feels too high for Mason Rudolph, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Ravens selecting him to replace Joe Flacco. However, I think they would be better off selecting McGlinchey here and then snagging Rudolph or Washington State quarterback Luke Falk in the second round (possibly third).

#17 Los Angeles Chargers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB (Boise St.)

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There’s a small part of me that thinks Vander Esch might be the real-life version of Blue Mountain State’s fictitious linebacker Thad Castle – which is both good and bad. But I won’t dwell on that since my only reasoning is he looks like a stereotypical jacked white guy playing linebacker and would refer to everyone as a “bro.” While I have no confirmation if Leighton calls the other Boise State guys bros, I do know that his school’s colors bear an uncanny resemblance to those of BMS. Other than the loose Thad Castle similarities, he is an all-around solid linebacker who can help out the Chargers defense.

#18 Seattle Seahawks: Da’Ron Payne, DL (Alabama)

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With Sheldon Richardson gone (to Minnesota) after a brief stint with the team and Michael Bennett leaving for the reigning Super Bowl champs in Philly, Seattle needs help on the defensive line. Payne would be a huge addition to the defense and comes in at a much needed spot to stop Todd Gurley and David Johnson (and Jerick McKinnon?) twice a year apiece.

#19 Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DL (Washington)

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Big D just got a little bigger with the addition of Vita Vea. The Cowboys could potentially go with a receiver here to replace the departed Dez Bryant. However, Vea is too big of a talent and player to pass on – especially with the talent available in the second round at receiver (preferably Tre’Quan Smith from UCF).

#20 Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB (LSU)

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Yes, Detroit already has LeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah (as well as Theo Riddick) – but none of those guys can last as the #1 guy in the Lion’s backfield. Blount is a goal line hammer who is getting older and Abdullah/Riddick never really took off as an elite back. Guice would allow Detroit to ship away Abdullah or Riddick to a team willing to trade for a receiving back.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals: Maurice Hurst, DL (Michigan)

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Cincinnati gets themselves an outstanding defensive lineman who can get to Ben Roethlisberger and whoever the Browns and Ravens throw on the field. Hurst has good explosiveness and can also aid in the run-stuffing game.

#22 Buffalo Bills: D.J. Moore, WR (Maryland)

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At this point, Lamar Jackson has only been the Bills QB of the future for about half an hour or so – and they are already getting him some fun weapons! D.J. Moore can really help make Jackson’s transition to the NFL much smoother by providing him with a reliable receiver he can count on to make some big plays.

#23 New England Patriots: Christian Kirk, WR (Texas A&M)

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A shorter wide receiver labelled as a “slot machine.” Nope, never heard of the Patriots loving a player like that. Wait, my bad, I’m forgetting about Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola. So yeah, it just makes sense that this is a good fit for Christian Kirk – plus I’ve never heard of a receiver getting worse while playing with Tom Brady (except for Chad Ocho Cinco).

#24 Carolina Panthers: Harold Landry, EDGE (Boston College)

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Well, the Panthers have to do something to get back to their 15-1 days. They’re not bad on offense, and they can use a second round pick to snag a receiver or lineman. So naturally the answer is add a pass-rusher. You can never have too many pass-rushers when you’re facing Drew Brees and Matt Ryan a combined four times a year.

#25 Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, LB (Alabama)

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For some reason this just feels like a good fit. The Titans get an electrifying linebacker and Rashaan gets to wear the Titans sexy new uniforms. I think both parties involved in this deal will be happy.

#26 Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DL (Florida)

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The Falcons have an amazing offense, and their defense is also extraordinary. So what do you get for a team that seems to have it all (minus a ring)? I think you take the best defensive player available, and that would be Florida’s Taven Bryan. Bryan can help them put pressure on Drew Brees and Cam Newton.

#27 New Orleans Saints: Hayden Hurst, TE (S. Carolina)

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It’s been a couple years since Jimmy Graham was helping Brees light up the scoreboard, and before that they had Jeremy Shockey. Drew Brees knows how to use an athletic tight end, and that is exactly what Hurst is. This pairing would make the Saints offense even more scary.

#28 Pittsburgh Steelers: Sony Michel, RB (Georgia)

 

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Part of me wanted to have them select Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison here, but as I was writing about Harrison I realized that Michel would be a better pick here. With the uncertainty surrounding Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation, it makes sense for the Steelers to select a running back here. Especially a running back of Michel’s caliber.

#29 Jacksonville Jaguars: Deon Cain, WR (Clemson)

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Not sure what Jacksonville was doing when they let the Allen “brothers” go, since Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson were their best receivers. I do like the signings they have made at receiver, but they need a better receiver to help replace that duo. So it only makes sense that they would go after a talented receiver like Cain at this spot.

#30 Minnesota Vikings: Josh Jackson, CB (Iowa)

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Last year, we saw teams undervalue Iowa defensive back Desmond King – and he made the most of his season with the LA Chargers and there are many teams (aka my Packers) that likely wish they had selected him. Josh Jackson may have a similar story, but I don’t see him falling out of the first round. Jackson will just have to pack up his bags and drive north on I-35 to get to his new team.

#31 New England Patriots: Isaiah Oliver, CB (Colorado)

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With New England’s earlier pick, I had them going offense. This time I think they go defense with a cornerback. While UCF’s Mike Hughes is, in my opinion, more talented, New England might stay away from him this high because there are questions about his character. Oliver seems like a pretty safe pick who can make some big plays for Belichik.

#32 Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Gesicki, TE (Penn State)

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And for the reigning Super Bowl champs… another big tight end to help Carson Wentz stretch the field and help the Eagles soar.

Spring League Roster Breakdown: North Squad

QB: Mitchell Leidner (University of Minnesota)

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As a transfer student at the University of Minnesota, I never had the privilege (?) of watching Leidner on the field in maroon and gold (although I did watch many games on television). Although, I did see him in his single game of NFL action – a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins in which he went 14/19 with 129 yards (that’s completing 73.7% of his passes for those who care about that but don’t want to do the math) and a passer rating of 91.8. Those stats aren’t that bad, and he looked mobile and was able to buy time in the pocket. However, that was all that happened in his NFL career thus far. If Leidner can demonstrate similar accuracy and mobility, he could have a solid career in the Canadian Football League (CFL) or the Arena Football League (AFL). At best, I see Leidner being a career backup in the NFL – but his inconsistency he demonstrated in his collegiate days might prevent an NFL team from being willing to keep him around long enough to prove himself as a backup. I like the way Leidner plays, but he needs to show he can do it every day for him to become a starter at any professional level.

The North Squad also has Princeton-graduate Quinn Epperly at the quarterback position. Epperly already signed a contract with the British Colombia Lions in the CFL in September of 2017. Perhaps Leidner should spend some time with Epperly, as accuracy is something Epperly exceeds at. He has the FCS completion-streak record from a game against Cornell in which he completed all 29 of his passing attempts. Epperly finished his collegiate career with a 62% completion rate (much better than Leidner’s career percentage of 56.4%). Both quarterbacks also demonstrated the ability to run in college – 1,343 yards and 38 touchdowns for Epperly and 1,495 yards with 33 touchdowns for Leidner.

RB: David Cobb (University of Minnesota)

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Now here’s a Gopher who has seen some regular-season action in the NFL. Cobb ran for 146 yards and a touchdown during seven games in the 2015 season with the Tennessee Titans. During his collegiate career, Cobb racked up 3,235 yards from the line of scrimmage with 20 touchdowns – which ultimately lead to the Titans taking him in the 5th round of the NFL Draft. At this point, Cobb’s best shot is probably the CFL or to make his way onto a preseason NFL roster and then shine and earn a depth spot on an NFL team. Perhaps Cobb can eventually make it as a third-down back in the NFL, but he needs to focus on getting into a preseason game before that’s an option.

The North Squad also has former-Villanova running back Kevin Monangai who put up 1,000 yard seasons for Villanova in 2012 and 2014. Monangai has spent minimal time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings on their practice squads. Fellow North Squad running back John DiStefano is likely on his last chance to prove he can be an Arena or Canadian league backup. DiStefano played for Division-III Montclair State University and ran for 1,774 yards in his career (1,257 of those came in his final year) with 18 touchdowns (12 in his final year). The other running back on the roster is former Penn State player Brandon Johnson, who didn’t even really play much running back in college – he was primarily a special teams player who got 4 carries (total, for his whole collegiate career) his senior season for 23 yards and a long of 14.

DL: Karter Schult (Northern Iowa)

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The defensive end out of Northern Iowa was a part of the 2017 Cleveland Browns team that went undefeated in the preseason. During Schult’s senior season at Northern Iowa, he led all of Division I with 17 sacks – he also won both conference and FCS defensive player of the year. During his brief time on the active roster, Schult racked up 11 tackles through four preseason games and then put up 1.5 sacks in the preseason finale versus the Chicago Bears.

In my opinion, Schult is just in need of a little more practice to get caught up with the speed of NFL football and he could have a solid career. He won’t be setting any more sack records, but he could put together a decent 5-year stretch as a pass rusher if he can land with a team in need of his services.

 

 

NFL Mock Draft 2018: AFC East

Since the NFL season is over, and the draft order has been set, now feels like a good time to start transitioning into the early stages of mock drafting. Keep in mind, this is post-Senior Bowl, but we still haven’t seen combine numbers or pro day numbers yet – so this is still too early for these picks to be incredibly accurate. However, there is plenty of information out there to start making educated mock drafts based on prospects in-game performances as well as the needs of the NFL teams. In order to come up with a somewhat accurate mock draft, I am using fanspeak.com’s free mock draft tool with the most up-to-date draft boards. I am drafting for each team individually in separate mock draft’s and fanspeak’s AI system drafts for the other 31 teams – so there might be some repeat picks. Last time, I covered the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and the NFC East, this time I will focus on their AFC-counterpart which is also home to the team they beat – the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

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Round 1 Pick 21: Roquan Smith, LB (Georgia)

Round 1 Pick 22: Ronnie Harrison, S (Alabama)

Round 2 Pick 21: Da’Shawn Hand, DL (Alabama)

Round 2 Pick 24: Ronald Jones II, RB (Southern California)

Round 3 Pick 32: Luke Falk, QB (Washington State)

Round 4 Pick 21: Allen Lazard, WR (Iowa State)

Round 5 Pick 21: Toby Weathersby, OT (Louisiana State)

Round 5 Pick 29: Bo Scarbrough, RB (Alabama)

ANALYSIS:

To the typical reader, it might seem somewhat surprising that I have Buffalo going defense with their first three picks. However, to the type of reader who has played against me in Madden, it’s not surprising that I didn’t go quarterback in the first round. I love Tyrod Taylor. I watched a couple of his Virginia Tech games on TV and would always start my Madden franchises around him – even when he was only a 63 overall. The guy can run and pass, and I like that in a QB. Plus, it also helps that Roquan Smith, Ronnie Harrison, and Da’Shawn Hand could provide a huge boost to a defense that faces Tom Brady twice a year. I was somewhat surprised that Ronald Jones II was available late in the second round, so I snagged him to help lighten Shady McCoy’s workload as he is getting older (same reason I picked up Bo Scarbrough with their second 5th rounder). Finally, in the third round, I picked up their quarterback of the future, who really could be a late first or second round pick, Luke Falk. With their fourth round pick, Lazard should help stretch out some defenses in the pass game and then their fifth round pick Weathersby is a potential starter on the offensive line.

Miami Dolphins

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Round 1 Pick 11: Derwin James, S (Florida State)

Round 2 Pick 10: Isaiah Wynn, OG (Georgia)

Round 3 Pick 9: Billy Price, C (Ohio State)

Round 4 Pick 11: Quinton Meeks, CB (Stanford)

Round 4 Pick 30: Troy Fumagalli, TE (Wisconsin)

Round 6 Pick 9: Lowell Loutlelei, DL (Utah)

Round 7 Pick 5: Skai Moore, LB (South Carolina)

Round 7 Pick 11: Javon Rolland-Jones, EDGE (Arkansas State)

ANALYSIS:

Selecting Derwin James in the first round helps Miami create a secondary to compete with Brady and the Pats, while fourth-rounder Quinton Meeks adds a little depth to the secondary. Second and third round picks, Isaiah Wynn and Billy Price, and some solidity to a line that NEEDS to protect Tannehill much better this coming season. Both Price and Wynn have a chance to come in and start from week one. Adding Fumagalli in the fourth round gives the Dolphins a younger tight end than Fasano to pair with former University of Minnesota quarterback converted to tight end MarQueis Gray. Loutlelei gives the Dolphins an opportunity to potentially move on from an expensive Ndamukong Suh. Skai Moore and Javon Rolland-Jones are quality depth players who can contribute when called upon. While many would argue that Miami should take a quarterback in the first round, I felt like Tannehill deserves to get help not replaced. With that mindset, I think this draft drastically improves the protection of Tannehill while utilizing the offensive weapons already in place in Miami. Should they find a trade partner to dump off Jarvis Landry’s contract, they will likely have an extra second or first round pick to spend on one of the receivers available in this draft.

New England Patriots

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Round 1 Pick 31: Maurice Hurst, DL (Michigan)

Round 2 Pick 11: Billy Price, C (Ohio State)

Round 2 Pick 31: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE (Oklahoma)

Round 3 Pick 31: Hayden Hurst, TE (South Carolina)

Round 4 Pick 34: Geron Christian, OT (Louisville)

Round 6 Pick 31: Timon Parris, OG (Stony Brook)

ANALYSIS:

One glaring need left unfulfilled by this draft is an heir apparent for Tom Brady’s spot, and I feel like Brady might pressure the Patriots to wait another year to draft his replacement – which is unfortunate because he would be a great guy for a young quarterback to learn from. Maurice Hurst represents the Patriots taking the best available, as do most of these picks. Price could likely step in and win the starting spot very quickly, while Okoronkwo could give the defense a young and explosive presence off the edge. Hayden Hurst (I don’t believe they are actually related, but Maurice did jokingly call Hayden his cousin on Twitter) provides the offense a two tight end attack unlike anything the Patriots have seen since Aaron Hernandez was paired with Rob Gronkowski. Geron Christian and Timon Parris would provide some depth on that offensive line. Since I’ve mostly heard about Stony Brook because of their lacrosse, I had to check if we’d have to hear even more about lacrosse when the Patriots play (ironically, Stony Brook’s mascot was a Patriot before they changed to the Sea Wolves) – no need to worry, the only other sport I can find info about Timon Parris participating in was shotput and discus.

New York Jets

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Round 1 Pick 6: Bradley Chubb, EDGE (North Carolina State)

Round 2 Pick 5: Josh Jackson, CB (Iowa)

Round 2 Pick 17: Mason Rudolph, QB (Oklahoma State)

Round 3 Pick 8: Nick Chubb, RB (Georgia)

Round 4 Pick 7: Deon Cain, WR (Clemson)

Round 5 Pick 20: Zachary Crabtree, OT (Oklahoma State)

Round 6 Pick 5: Tre Flowers, S (Oklahoma State)

Round 7 Pick 17: Jordan Akins, TE (Central Florida)

ANALYSIS:

Should the Jets take a quarterback with their first round pick? Probably. But I have a hunch they are going to make a strong move for Kirk Cousins, and if that’s the case then they are set for the foreseeable future. Now that Sheldon Richardson and Muhammed Wilkerson are both gone, the Jets need someone on the defensive line – and Bradley Chubb is that guy. Moving on to the second round, they help out their secondary with the addition of Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson and then they select a backup quarterback they can groom into potential trade-bait or as an insurance plan for Cousins. So far, pretty solid draft. Then, in the third, the Jets pick up their next starting running back in Nick Chubb. In the fourth round, they pick up a receiver who, given their current roster, could potentially be their number one receiver in 2018 – Deon Cain from Clemson. Their fifth round pick, Zachary Crabtree, adds some depth to a thin offensive line. Sixth rounder Tre Flowers can contribute to the secondary quickly, and Jordan Akins could be a solid #2 tight end.