By: Lucas Kochevar
The AFC North is debatably the best division in all of football, even with the Bengals. The Steelers managed to win the division last year, but were bounced from the playoffs by the Browns. Pittsburgh jumped out of the gate and went 11-0, but the wheels fell off. Lets see if Big Ben can run it back one more time before his clock expires. After the Steelers, the Browns would go on to play the Chiefs hard, but ultimately lost it. Cleveland's resurgence was a big storyline last year under first year HC Kevin Stefanski. The biggest question will be whether or not they can build upon their success or will they return to the old Browns? The Ravens advanced past the Titans in the Wild Card round, but bowed out after losing a tough one in Buffalo. This year is a crucial one for former MVP Lamar Jackson. If the Ravens want to take the next step, Lamar has to take that next step as a passer. The Bengals went on to have a losing season for the fifth season in a row. Joe Burrow looks to bounce back after an ugly ACL injury. This division could be a bloodbath as they fight for that spot as the division winner.
Notable Players: WR Ja'Marr Chase, OT Jackson Carman, DE Joseph Ossai, DE Cameron Sample, DT Tyler Shelvin
The Bengals went into last year with the number one overall pick, Joe Burrow, and there were plenty of encouraging signs from the young QB. That was until he tore his ACL after getting folded into. Luckily, he underwent successful surgery and has been showing solid mobility in minicamp. The big question for Cincy was whether or not they would add a lineman or a receiver for Burrow to work with. Personally, I thought they would be best served to go for the trenches and get one of the generational pass protectors in Sewell or Slater. It doesn't matter who is catching the ball if you can't protect the QB. The team decided to do the opposite of my thinking and went with LSU standout WR Ja'Marr Chase. Even though I disagree, I still love Chase and I thought he was the best WR on the board from an all-around standpoint. Chase adds to a dangerous trio of WRs with Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. I am super curious to see what HC Zac Taylor can cook up with these weapons. He seems to be on the hot seat, so he better figure it out quickly. Carman is a big, physical lineman that has the tools, but is raw from a skill standpoint. Hopefully, he provides the much needed protection for Burrow. Ossai and Sample are big, but surprisingly athletic for coming off the edge. Ossai is the more gifted out of the two players, but they can both make an impact down the road. Shelvin simply provides more depth for the trenches. Cincinnati shouldn't be a contender for this upcoming year, but they should work to get their young players on the field for experience.
Notable Players: WR Rashod Bateman, DE Odafe Oweh, OG Ben Cleveland, WR Tylan Wallace, CB Shaun Wade
Baltimore has an incredible draft history full of steals and great value picks. I think they did another sneaky great job at adding talent while addressing certain needs they have. They managed to have two first round picks after trading Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs. With their first original pick, they drafted Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman. He's a receiver that has a great catch radius and goes to the opposite side of Marquise Brown. Another weapon for Lamar to work with. Odafe Oweh is an edge that could have been drafted earlier, but the Ravens find themselves taking him at the end of the first round. The Ravens defensive line is getting older so Oweh comes in as a fresh young guy that can learn in a great position. Ben Cleveland is an absolute unit and can be a game-changer in the run game as a crazy athletic lineman. Tylan Wallace is another receiver and was a stud throughout the draft process. Wallace finds himself in a great situation and can provide upside when he gets the shot. I think his best spot would be in the slot. Two years ago, Shaun Wade was an integral part of Ohio State's defense, but due to a down year, he fell way down the draft boards. Wade could return to form and become one of the best steals, but for now, he's likely a special teams guy. The Ravens have a big year ahead of them and I could see them rising to the occasion.
Notable Players: RB Najee Harris, TE Pat Freiermuth, OG Kendrick Green, OT Dan Moore Jr., LB Buddy Johnson
The Steelers flamed out in the Wild Card round as they couldn't build any sort of momentum after starting 11-0. In the most Pittsburgh way possible, they selected a hard nose RB and TE. I will, gladly, go on record when saying that I strongly dislike these first two picks. It's not because of the players themselves, but I felt the Steelers were in great position to take really solid linemen. They addressed those positions, but it's risky to bet on middle rounds to find starters. Anyways, Harris was an Alabama standout and was super versatile in his role with Bama. He fills a hole left by James Conner. Harris is likely better today, even as a rookie. Harris was the best RB in this class and should be a foundation piece for the Steelers success on offense this year. Freiermuth is a pure tight end. He can catch just as good as he can block. He likely won't be a big contributor in his first year, but he can be a solid starter for a long time in the league. Green and Moore are athletic freaks for their size. They hope to take over some starting spots for players leaving. The offensive line will be huge for the Steelers successes and offense. These two could be the key to unlocking their potential. Buddy Johnson plays with power and could fill the void where Bud Dupree was. Big Ben has about one or two more runs left in his body so the Steeles have a small window to win before they have to commit to finding a long-term option. This team is fascinating and I want to see if they can bounce back after being fraudulent last year.
Notable Players: CB Greg Newsome II, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, WR Anthony Schwartz, OT James Hudson III
The Browns killed this draft. The Cleveland hype train is going to be leaving the station soon and I might be on it. Baker Mayfield will be the key to the Browns if they want to elevate to Super Bowl contenders. However, the defense will be the overall unit that needs to improve from last year. With a squad that includes Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, they should be better than what they were. They decided to load up on that side of the ball with this draft. Greg Newsome is one of the more physical CBs in the draft and he adds on to a solid secondary group. Owusu-Koamoah fell down the boards and it was really confusing on draft night. Sadly, it was found out that he has some heart condition that got flagged. I sincerely hope that this isn't an issue moving forward. He's one of the better playmakers on defense when he's at full strength. JOK could be a versatile chess piece for the Browns. Anthony Schwartz is the one pick that is slightly confusing because the Browns WR room is very busy, but he has track speed. He could be the fastest player on that offense now. Hudson is a mammoth of a man and provides depth. He could slide into a starting role someday. The Browns ascension will be a major storyline this year. They have a long road ahead of them that includes Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
By: Lucas Kochevar
I am super excited to finally share the news of my new podcast on here: The Backfield Boys. This new project involves me and a couple of buddies talking football from NFL to college. We've recorded a couple of episodes already so if you would like to go listen, I'll post the links below. I want to thank my co-hosts, Brendan Willoughby-Ray and Jackson Kelly, for being great guys and I look forward to keep working with them. I took the week off to just relax and get my mind right so, I am back to continue the draft review series as I look back on each team and their situations. Once again, any support to the podcast would be greatly appreciated! Make sure to tell your friends to tell their friends, and so on. Here's to a great summer!
By: Lucas Kochevar
The AFC West was a division that was dominated by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs for the third straight year, but with some additions to the Broncos and Chargers, the division might be slightly more competitive. The Chiefs still run the division with their superstar quarterback and a totally revamped offensive line. The Chargers found their franchise QB in Justin Herbert and hired defensive guru Brandon Staley to be the HC. If that defense can stay healthy with Derwin James and Joey Bosa, I project the Chargers as a surprise team. The Broncos are a team to look out for in regards to Aaron Rodgers, but in the meantime, newly hired GM George Paton made the most of his first draft. The Raiders are gonna be a wild card team. Things will break right for them some games, but then they'll look like the worst team in the league. The Wild West will be a good battle between some underrated teams.
Kansas City Chiefs
Notable Players: LB Nick Bolton, OL Creed Humphrey, DE Joshua Kaindoh, OG Trey Smith
The Chiefs surrendered their first round pick to the Ravens when they acquired rising star OT Orlando Brown Jr. The Chiefs went ahead and snatched up LB Nick Bolton from Mizzou. Bolton was an SEC standout and a smart player. I had a first round grade on Bolton for the last first round, but he managed to fall into a perfect situation with Kansas City. Bolton plays with great fundamentals with tackling and is surprisingly good in zone coverage. The Chiefs sole purpose this off-season was to make the offensive line great. They built it in free agency, trades, and now the draft. They took Creed Humphrey from Oklahoma as a center and guard combo. Creed plays with an edge to him and is great at run blocking. His arm length could hold him back, but he should be in the Chiefs future plans on the line. Kaindoh is a raw edge rusher with upside. OG Trey Smith was the number one recruit for a lineman a couple years ago. Health issues dropped him severely, but if he can turn that around then he might be one of the biggest steals in the draft. With limited picks, Brett Veach and co. made solid work out of what they had.
Notable Picks: CB Patrick Surtain II, RB Javonte Williams, LB Baron Browning, S Caden Sterns, S Jamar Johnson, WR Seth Williams
Denver is in a tricky spot as a franchise. Since the John Elway days, Denver has made a name for themselves as a marquee franchise. Since HOFer Peyton Manning's retirement in 2016, they have been looking for a QB to lead them. Many thought that Drew Lock was the answer, until he had a rough year last year. Teddy Bridgewater was brought in from a trade with Carolina and Denver has been listed as a potential Aaron Rodgers suitor. People thought that Denver might go QB in this draft, but they took a left turn and went with the best player available strategy for their draft. First year GM George Paton spent his first ever pick on Patrick Surtain II, who I believe was the best all around CB in this draft. RB Javonte Williams was the second round pick and he runs like a bull in a china shop. Browning is a gifted athlete that should provide an impact on special teams while he gains more experience at LB. Picking two safeties here is interesting considering the fact that they made FS Justin Simmons one of the highest paid safeties in the league. Regardless, they got great value in both players and one of them should pan out. Lastly, Seth Williams is a speedster and deep threat from Auburn. I don't know if Denver increased their overall roster, but I love the players they drafted.
Los Angeles Chargers
Notable Picks: OT Rashawn Slater, CB Asante Samuel Jr., WR Josh Palmer, TE Tre McKitty, DE Chris Rumph II,
The Chargers are my big sleeper team with second year QB Justin Herbert. Herbert was a star last year and showed the league that he has all the talent in the world to compete with the best of them. They drafted Rashawn Slater to protect Herbert and he should be a foundation piece for that offensive line for years to come. Slater was projected as the best OT in this draft over Sewell from many analysts. Ultimately, he fell to 13 and finds himself in an ideal scenario. He earned his high draft status when he handled star DE Chase Young, the year before. He adds strong pass blocking technique, but could work on his footwork. Asante Samuel Jr. comes from a football family as his dad was a prominent CB a couple years ago. He has a nose for the football and plays a lot like his dad. After moving on from Casey Heyward, Samuel Jr. should get a shot at starting CB. Palmer was brought in as another weapon on the outside. McKitty was an excellent blocker for UGA last season. Tell me if you've read this before, they took a raw defensive end that could work his way into being a solid player in Chris Rumph II. This defensive line class was simply not good, therefore, a lot of guys like Rumph can project to be rotation pieces, but they won't be starting day one. The Chargers were another team that I circled when I saw their draft class. I think they filled needs and helped out Justin Herbert along the way. I'm curious to see if first year HC Brandon Staley will be the answer to take LA to the next level.
Las Vegas Raiders
Notable Players: OT Alex Leatherwood, S Tre'von Moehrig, DE Malcom Koonce, S Tyree Gilespie
The Raiders had a funky draft. I don't like it, but I don't absolutely despise it like many draft analysts. I think Alex Leatherwood was a big reach, but that doesn't mean he can't turn out to be a good player. Moehrig fell down the draft board and there has to be a reason, but the Raiders went with him anyway. Leatherwood played OG in college for Alabama, but has the size to play tackle. Leatherwood is a good player and I'm sure he is a really nice guy, but he screams bust. Coming from a big name program, switching positions, and expectations of a first rounder all are reasons for concern. Frankly, he wasn't even that impressive on tape. I would be weary of this guy. Moerhig could fill the hole in the back end of the secondary as he was considered one of the better safeties in the draft. Koonce is a large and physical defensive end. Gilespie shows promise, but will likely be a special teams player. GM Mike Mayock has been at the helm for a couple years now and has very little to show for it. If the Raiders don't perform, I don't think they will, Vegas could be ditching the TV analyst-turned-GM real quick. HC John Gruden is getting paid for six more years, so don't expect him to go anytime soon. I am curious to see what the Raiders do with Derek Carr. The friction has been there for a couple years now and with Marcus Mariota breathing down his neck, look out for a possible QB change in Sin City.
By: Lucas Kochevar
The AFC East is an intriguing division. The Bills resurgence is something to follow as they won the division last year. The Dolphins came in second and just missed out on the Wild Card as Tua Tagovailoa developed. The Patriots took a dramatic step back and missed the playoffs entirely. Lastly, the Jets were the Jets. The good news for the fans is that the division got better as a whole. The Bills retained their impact players, while New England spent a ton of money to improve. The Dolphins and Jets look to keep building a culture of winning. Lets take a look at each of their draft classes.
New York Jets
Notable Picks: QB Zach Wilson, OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, WR Elijah Moore, RB Michael Carter, and S/LB Jamien Sherwood
The New York Jets selected BYU QB Zach Wilson with the 2nd overall pick. The QB flew up the draft boards during the season and became the number two pick after his impressive pro day. Wilson has the type of arm that could be special and has raw talent everywhere else. His recklessness could compromise him as he works through his first year in the league, but if the coaching is stable, he has a good shot at succeeding. Next, they traded up a couple of spots to select USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker. This guy is my favorite guard with a shot at being drafted in the top 20. He provides some good movement and adds a tough body along the O-Line. Elijah Moore out of Ole Miss was an ace pick in the second round. He was a guy teetering on the edge of the first round, so anytime you can grab talent like that in the second round its a home run pick. Moore provides a unique skillset opposite of Denzel Mims, who is much more physical. The Jets run game was an absolute mess last year so the addition of Carter and Tevin Coleman from free agency should help improve that. The Jets goal was obvious. Draft the QB and load the offense up with talent. The only concern I have is the lack of defensive players they drafted. New HC Robert Saleh is a defensive coach, so it seems weird that they didn't even chose one guy on that side until the 5th round. This season should be a developmental year for many of these young guys as they build chemistry.
Notable Picks: WR Jaylen Waddle, DE Jaelan Phillips, S Jevon Holland, OT Liam Eichenberg, TE Hunter Long
The Miami Dolphins had two first round picks from the Laremy Tunsil trade and with their first pick at sixth overall they selected Alabama standout WR Jaylen Waddle. He was a jet on the field and flew by everyone when he played. Last year he was limited due to an ankle injury, but there are plenty examples out there of him burning his man. He should provide an explosive element to an offense that needed a second gear. Tua and Waddle reunite from their days at Alabama. Their next pick was Miami (FL) DE Jaelan Phillips, who possesses many valuable traits that a DE needs. He was my favorite edge rusher in this draft and should develop into a nice player under Brian Flores. Their second round pick went back to the defensive side of the ball with Oregon S Jevon Holland. The safety class wasn't that crazy, but Holland was one of the hot names for the draft in his position group. He isn't a big thumping safety, but could be a good safety for playing the ball. Once again, a developmental player that could be a long-term solution for Brain Flores. In my opinion, the best pick they had was Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame. Notre Dame is worthy of having the distinction as a school that produces great linemen. Eichenberg was a strong and physical tackle in college and it won't change at the next level as he should translate. They succeeded in the business of adding a couple more players to help out Tua, while adding to the defense.
New England Patriots
Notable Picks: QB Mac Jones, DT Christian Barmore, DE Ronnie Perkins, RB Rhamondre Stevenson
New England spent a ton of money and Bill Belichick sent a message to the conference and the division. They are back to trying to compete for championships in the post-Tom Brady era. They re-signed Cam Newton to a one-year deal. He was okay at the start of last year, but he was never a long-term solution. The Patriots found that solution in this draft at pick 15 with Mac Jones. The Alabama QB will look to sit back and learn OC Josh McDaniels' system. Jones may or may not play this year, but he does have a great situation to walk into with a Hall of Fame HC. Jones has a solid arm and great anticipation on throws. With some seasoning in training camp and preseason, Jones could be ready to play this year once Cam Newton fizzles out. Barmore was the best DT in this weak class, but fell down the board due to concerns with his character. Taking a second round flyer on him is smart here. Perkins is a good fit in the New England scheme, but isn't as big as he should be for the position. Stevenson comes in as a goal line back and fits the New England mold for a big, power back. The Patriots have players returning on both sides of the ball and they should be improved from an experience standpoint. With their additions and better QB play, the Patriots could win the division or fight for a wild card spot.
Notable Picks: DE Gregory Rousseau, DE Carlos Basham Jr., OT Spencer Brown, WR Marquez Stevenson
The Bills are coming off an AFC title game appearance and they didn't have many holes to fill. The offense was an unstoppable force last season and they return a lot of their core players and offensive coordinator. This gave them some leeway to select some projects on defense. They decided to invest heavily into the trenches with their first two picks and put pressure on the QB. Before last season, Rousseau was touted as the best edge, but concerns to his lack in technique pushed him nearly out of the first round. He has a massive frame and is an athletic monster. Where Rousseau is big and athletic for his size, Carlos Basham Jr. is a large, powerful edge rusher. Basham Jr. and Rousseau are both good players that could play their way into the edge rotation after some time in the league. Spencer Brown is a mammoth of a man at tackle. Stevenson is a speedster WR and will likely be a special teams player. Buffalo didn't have to do much here in the draft, but their next order of business should be extending Josh Allen. He will get a massive deal and the expectations will be high for this squad. With a tougher division, the Bills won't be able to skate by on defense and rely heavily on the offense. Sean McDermott and co. will look to keep building on the success they have already had.
By: Lucas Kochevar
The draft is officially over and its time to evaluate the moves that were made. In these blogs, I will take a look at the moves that were made during the draft going by each division. I won't be doing grade because it really is unfair to these kids that haven't played a snap in the league. Instead, this is aimed more for the teams and how they drafted. In this article, I will be reviewing the AFC South with the Jaguars, Colts, Titans, and Texans. Lets go
Notable Picks: QB Trevor Lawrence, RB Travis Etienne, CB Tyson Campbell, OT Walker Little, S Andre Cisco
The Jaguars held the number one overall choice along with six other picks in the first four rounds. Since their surprising 2017 run to the AFC title game, the Jags have been tearing down the roster to try and rebuild an actual contender. New HC Urban Meyer and GM Trent Baalke had their first, and most important, draft as they took some day one starters to try and build a culture. Unsurprisingly, they selected QB Trevor Lawrence. This was in the works for months and they made it official when drafting the future of the franchise. He is a home run prospect and should have no trouble finding his footing in the NFL. Tyson Campbell adds to a young Jags secondary and should get some playing time if he can learn to consistently play the ball. Little and Cisco both suffered season ending injuries. They are both likely projects that could plug-in next year with a high ceiling. By far, the most interesting pick was Clemson RB Travis Etienne. They selected him with their second first round pick that they got in the Jalen Ramsey trade. Choosing a RB in the first round is controversial, but the Jags did it while also having a solid young RB from last year. James Robinson was an undrafted gem last year as he eclipsed 1,000 yards so selecting Etienne doesn't make a ton of sense and seems like a reach. with so many needs on the roster.
Notable Picks: DE Kwity Paye, DE Dayo Odeyingbo, QB Sam Ehlinger, S Shawn Davis
The Colts have had an immaculate time drafting under current GM Chris Ballard. They enter another year with a new QB in Carson Wentz, but a lot of the team remains intact with some players exiting like OT Anthony Castonzo and LB Anthony Walker. This was an overall draft class that feels very safe, but they didn't get better to compete immediately. I understand that it's hard to really find a strong impact player at pick 21, but still Kwity Paye is gonna take some time to develop into a strong edge rusher. Paye was one of the top three DEs in this draft so where I doubt he'll make an immediate impact, I think he can develop into an important piece on that defense. Their second round pick Odeyingbo tore his Achilles tendon at the senior bowl so this will essentially be a redshirt season. Ehlinger was taken in the sixth round and has a Tebow-esque quality to him. The most interesting pick that I think they found value with was S Shawn Davis from Florida. With Malik Hooker leaving, Davis provides some upside and could be a hidden gem for that secondary if he can work his way into the lineup. My biggest issue is that they didn't take an O-Lineman until the very end of the draft. Unless they are banking on signing one of the free agent OTs, it will be intriguing to see how they fill that hole on the line.
Notable Picks: CB Caleb Farley, OT Dillon Radunz, LB Monty Rice, CB Elijah Molden, DE Rashad Weaver
There are some parts of this Titans draft that I REALLY like and there are some parts where I am scratching my head. The Titans totally missed on Georgia OT Isaiah Wilson last year as he was a headcase. This is where OT Dillon Radunz fits into the puzzle. This kid was my favorite under-the-radar player that could fall to a team at the end of the first round. I think he needs reps to really develop into a strong starting OT in the league, but he has all the tools to be a ten plus year player. I love the value of him in the second round. Rice needs to get better in coverage to guard the NFL speed, but he is a solid interior LB. The University of Washington hasn't gotten the credit as a NFL producing school, yet have produced multiple players at the next level. Molden is a very sneaky value pick in the third round and should help the Titans secondary as they lost multiple pieces. Weaver is dealing with some court issues, so it's hard to say if his character will drag him down. Caleb Farley is the biggest wildcard in this draft. There was talk that he was the best CB in this draft before his medicals revealed some big concerns. He originally suffered a knee injury that held him out of college and then he had back concerns that came out during this draft process. If, and its a big if, Farley is healthy then this is a strong pick for the Titans to bolster the CB position. Only time will tell if the AFC South champ will be able to repeat as the division winners.
Notable Picks: QB Davis Mills, WR Nico Collins, TE Brevin Jordan
I said that I wasn't gonna give out grades on the draft, but the Texans get the biggest F out of any team. The Texans are a complete and total mess. This draft was just more evidence of that. The whole Deshaun Watson saga has been a complete mess. I won't address any of the allegations against him because that's not fair to either side. The whole situation has been poorly handled from the jump. The Texans didn't have a pick in the first two rounds of this draft due trading for multiple players like Laremy Tunsil. Houston has holes everywhere on the roster. They could have taken anyone with their first pick of the draft in the third round. They decided to take a big project QB with Davis Mills, who only started 11 games and has a knee injury in his past. I liked Mills coming into the draft as QB6 and thought he might be pretty good if he could sit behind one of these vets and learn a system. I HATE that he has to come into a dumpster fire like the Texans. If this pick tells you anything its that Deshaun Watson will not be wearing a Texans uniform this upcoming season. Next, they traded up, with their very limited resources, to select Nico Collins, who is a big physical receiver. The only pick that I was a fan of was TE Brevin Jordan. Normally, there is a TE prospect who gets taken late and has a chance to be a big sleeper like George Kittle and Travis Kelce were. I won't say Jordan can be those guys, but he is a really nice athlete and can stretch the field as a vertical threat. I have zero clue what the Texans are doing and I do not trust this team at all moving forward.
By: Lucas Kochevar
The NFL Draft starts on Thursday and I am ready to drop my first and only mock draft on this site. I won't be dropping any real analysis on these guys because the draft can go many different directions. These are all just gut reactions and what I think could happen based on all the info that we have been hearing for the past couple of weeks. Here we go
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. New York Jets - Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
3. San Francisco 49ers (via Miami via Houston) - Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
4. Atlanta Falcons - Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
5. Cincinati Bengals - Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
6. Miami Dolphins (via Philadelphia) - DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
7. Washington Football Team (via Detroit) - Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
8. Carolina Panthers - Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
9. Denver Broncos - Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
10. Dallas Cowboys - Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
11. New York Giants - Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
12. Philadelphia Eagles - Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
13. Los Angeles Chargers - Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
14. Minnesota Vikings - Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami (FL)
15. New England Patriots - Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
16. Arizona Cardinals - Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
17. Las Vegas Raiders - Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
18. Miami Dolphins - Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
19. Detroit Lions (via Washington) - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
20. Chicago Bears - Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
21. Indianapolis Colts - Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
22. Tennessee Titans - Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
23. New York Jets - Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma St.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars - Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
26. Cleveland Browns - Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
27. Baltimore Ravens - Terrence Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
28. New Orleans Saints - Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
29. Green Bay Packers - Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
30. Buffalo Bills - Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
31. Baltimore Ravens (via Kansas City) - Dillon Radunz, OT, NDSU
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia
By: Lucas Kochevar
Ten days until the NFL Draft and I am back here for a catch-up article to look back and reflect on the news stories from around the NFL. Here's a quick news dump here on a Monday afternoon.
Sam Darnold Traded to Carolina
The Jets and Panthers struck a deal to send the former third overall pick to Carolina in exchange for a sixth rounder this year, a second rounder next year, and a fourth rounder next year. The mutual separation between the Jets and Sam Darnold seemed inevitable for the past couple of weeks, especially as BYU QB Zach Wilson solidified his status as QB2 in this draft. There were reservations about Wilson from the Jets side until his pro day. They finally made their decision about the QB position and sent Darnold on his way South. The Jets are a whole rebuild away and have a brand new HC. They have a ton of draft capital and cap space. They have a ways to go, but GM Joe Douglas looks to be on the right path with the Jets.
The Panthers, on the other hand, are in a weird spot. They seemingly want to win now, but have the roster of a .500 team, if not worse. The owner has been very loud and proud about wanting to find the franchise's marquee QB, despite paying Teddy Bridgewater a three-year deal last offseason. Sam Darnold is a fine QB and could find his footing with the Panthers and up-and-coming OC Joe Brady, but this doesn't make a ton of sense for a team that could easily trade up in this years draft or sit where they are and take one of these top QBs. There's an argument that the Jets are more to blame for Darnold's lack of growth, but in the end, he was still the QB making horrid decisions on the field. This play seems like a unnecessary risk and if it fails, then you essentially wasted a year of everyone's time. If he shows improvement, then you have to make a big choice on his contract for an extension. As seen with the Eagles, you do not want to pay a QB if you are not 1000% sold on him. If I were the Panthers GM, I would still look to add a top QB, but that seems very unlikely at this point. Look for the Panthers to either draft one of the top OTs or possibly trade back themselves.
The Falcons and the 4th Pick
The Atlanta Falcons hold the fourth overall pick and they have the most intriguing status of any team near the top of the draft. The Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers seem locked into a QB. The 49ers pick is still sort of a mystery, but it's going to be a QB no matter what, the question is, which one? Back to Atlanta, GM Terry Fontenot and HC Arthur Smith have been very deliberate in attending and sending their guys to each and every pro day from the top QBs. They have done their homework on Florida standout Kyle Pitts and have been reported as 'being open to moving out of the 4th pick' per Adam Schefter. They are playing out every possible scenario, as they should. Smith seems to be happy with the idea of working with Ryan, meanwhile, Fontenot seems to be looking ahead to the future for QB. These both make sense as Smith is the coach and his job is to win now, where Fontenot is likely to build for the future. I have played this scenario daily in my head for the past month or two since Smith and Fontenot were hired. There are three plays the Falcons can do here. Draft the QB of the future to sit behind Ryan, draft the best player available, or trade out and accumulate assets for the future.
I love Trey Lance and he would be my favorite QB for the Falcons and the scheme they run. Lance comes from NDSU and ran a ton of play-action, which is an Arthur Smith staple. He still has work ahead of him with his form and anticipation. Sitting behind Ryan can do wonders for him. Justin Fields is about the same when it comes to what he needs to work on. He didn't run the same offense so he could benefit from sitting for that reason. Kyle Pitts is a freak at TE. He's one of the special players in this draft. Smith used multiple TE sets the most out of any team in the league last season. Adding Pitts to a receiving core of Julio, Ridley, Gage, and Hurst could make for an explosive passing attack. Lance and Pitts are my two favorite players in this draft that Atlanta could draft, however, I understand that the best and most beneficial move for the Falcons would be to trade down. Atlanta could trade down to 9th or 15th and take the best defensive player. Patrick Surtain II would be an ideal pick at 9 as he is the best CB in this draft with his physicality and instincts. The Falcons have a massive franchise changing decision to make on April 29th.
By: Lucas Kochevar
Back at it after a short break with the top five ranking of this class of receivers. This class is another deep one, similar to last year. You can find the many different types of WRs throughout this draft. In my eyes, this position is similar to how the RBs were ranked. There are three big guns and then you can make your arguments for the guys in 4th and 5th. The way I see this playing out is those top three guys drafted in the top 12 and then the later teens to late twenties will have WR4 and WR5 get drafted. With all this being said, lets rank these guys
1. Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
The number one WR on the board is Ja'Marr Chase. The LSU Tigers have a good reputation for delivering WR talent to the NFL and Chase is the most recent case study for that. Chase sat out the 2020 season to prepare for the NFL draft and for that reason people forgot about him with Devonta Smith having an all-time WR season. Chase was the shining star in the legendary 2019 LSU offense with Joe Burrow. You can pick out a number of games and watch Chase showcase all his talents. He has a terrific catch radius and can adjust to many passes that aren't specifically on target. Chase has strong route running skills and can excel with double moves and getting the defender to bite. Chase isn't the fastest in the class, but he can burst once he has the ball. He is just a man of many talents and has the best all-around game in the draft. He also just turned 21 this March so he will be fairly young compared to an older guy like Smith. It seems like the Bengals will draft him at 5 to reunite him with Joe Burrow. The WR corps of him, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd in the slot should scare a ton of defenses. Especially, if Joe Burrow gets time in the pocket.
2. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
There are two big WRs coming out of Alabama and they possess two different skillsets. Waddle is the speedster out of the two and he takes the top off of defenses. The 5'10 WR suffered a broken ankle in the 2020 season, but still managed to play in the 2020 CFP title game. He never totaled over 1,000 yards in college, but you have to factor in he was never the primary receiver. Jaylen Waddle has decent footwork with his route running and strong hands to haul in catches in coverage. Waddle can outrun virtually anyone if he breaks the containment. As many people say with evasive receivers, get him into space and let him work. Speed is the only reason I have him ranked over Smith. This scenario is eerily close to last year between Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy was always the better receiver and provided a much better all-around game, but Ruggs speed separated him and got him drafted before Jeudy. Same situation here with slightly worse receivers. Waddle should be a threat to any defense as he can take the top off.
3. Devonta Smith, Alabama
The Heisman trophy winner for the 2020 season had one of the best college seasons ever for a receiver. Smith was a four year player at Alabama and exploded this last season. He made spectacular play after spectacular play and blew away SEC defensive backs. Smith broke a number of records in the SEC and proved that he could be an X-factor. There is a huge difference between being a college star and an NFL star. Smith's best traits are his superb route running and hands. He has one of the widest route trees in the college game and the hands are excellent as I stated. The concerns with Smith start and end with his frame. He sits at 6'1 and around 170lbs. Smith is a much smaller frame than most typical NFL WRs. Smith should still be a top 15 pick for a team that needs a playmaker. I think he can slide to the Eagles and fit in very well there with a team that needs rebuilding.
4. Kadarius Toney, Florida
WR4 on my board is Kadarius Toney from Florida. This guy was the lighting to Kyle Pitts' thunder. Toney was an electric player as he turns on the burners. Toney lined up in the slot for a majority of his snaps and this is where he also projects in the NFL. Toney is smaller but has more mass than Smith. He had a very limited role with this Gators in his three years before and then exploded onto the scene. He had 10 TDs and was a big play threat on every play he was in. Toney could play a big role in elevating an offensive unit. Toney reminds me of a higher class Taylor Gabriel and could be a valuable weapon with a strong offensive mind. He holds a slight edge over WR5 on my board.
5. Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
Marshall Jr. was the premier wide receiver for the LSU this past year with Chase sitting out. He didn't play in all their games last year but played in majority of their games and produced touchdowns. He is the biggest receiver out of the bunch and offers the best potential out of the bunch for a big, physical, redzone target. Continuing my theme of 2016 Falcons WR comparisons, Marshall Jr. plays a lot like Mohamed Sanu would in the slot. He excels there similar to how Juju Smith-Schuster is in the slot. He is a master of none as he can do everything you need in a receiver, except he isn't very good at run blocking. That is the biggest area that he needs to work on and if he wants to get consistent snaps, this is the biggest task he has to work on. Other than that, he projects to be a solid starter.
Other Notable WRs: Purdue star Rondale Moore is an explosive athlete with sharp cuts in his route running, but his size and injury concerns could limit him at the next level. Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore motioned around the field a ton for Lane Kiffin and co. He makes tough catches in traffic at a smaller size and is one of the stronger route runners in the class. Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman suffered from a limited season with the Big 10, but he makes wow plays on film with a large catch radius.
By: Lucas Kochevar
This post will consistently be updated with notable free agent news. The NFL's legal tampering period started as teams can officially start negotiations towards contracts for this years free agents. Slight analysis, mostly news.
The Big Nasties Get Paid
The offensive line seemed to be a big priority as free agency negotiations started to get leaked. The morning started with Kevin Zeitler getting a decent 3yrs./$22 million deal with the Ravens to fill one of their guard spots. The Chargers prioritzed protecting star rookie QB Justin Herbert by signing one of the league's best centers, Corey Linsley. Linsley was a key cog in the Packers offense and signed for a whooping 5yrs./$62 million deal as the leagues highest paid center. The biggest surprise from the guard market happened with Joe Thuney got signed to the Kansas City Chiefs for 5yrs./$80 million. Yes, those Kansas City Chiefs. After releasing both starting OTs and restructuring some deals, the Chiefs added cap space to sign the best lineman on the market. These were the big dominoes to fall so far with lineman being a priority to teams early in the process. Smaller signings occurred and many tier 2 and tier 3 guys are still out there for the choosing.
The Wide Receiver Market Moves Slowly
There are a number of good WRs out on the market as FAs. The biggest domino fell yesterday as former Lions WR Kenny Golladay signed a 4yr./$72 million deal with the New York Giants. Golladay looks to help out young QB Daniel Jones as he tries to take the next step in his development. The Giants have a strong core of weapons now to surround the third year QB. Versatile weapon Curtis Samuel to a 3yr./$35 million deal with the Washington Football Team. Washington adds Samuel as a weapon opposite of WR1 Terry McLaurin. This was one of the more interesting WRs to move this offseason as he proved to be a valuable player inside the red zone for the Panthers last year. The last big move was Juju Smith-Schuster signing back with the Steelers for a 1yr./$8 million deal. Juju had several offers that were for one year, but he finds himself returning to the Steelers on a prove-it deal. WR is a very deep position in this draft class and the thinking around the league is, "Why would I spend so much money on these decent receivers, when I can draft one for cheap and develop them," so many guys are still out there that are quality receivers.
By: Lucas Kochevar
Last week, I covered the QB class and how they ranked from one to five. This week, we move on to running backs and look over the top five guys from my perspective. The group has three guys that rise above the rest, then it's a free-for-all. There is a ton of talent that can be found on day two and three, if your team needs it. There are players that can catch out of the backfield like a receiver and you have the bulldozers guys that run hard like fullbacks. As stated on the last article, pro days can change a ton with these guys as 40-yard dashes will be recorded, among other drills. These rankings will very likely stay the same through the process. Lets get started.
1. Najee Harris, Alabama
The football factory that is Alabama has another RB coming out as the best RB on the board. Is he the fastest? No, but he can do anything else you need. He powers through defenders and shrugs off SEC linebackers like its peewee football. He is a superb athlete that has shown off the hurdles, similar to the cover photo for this article. Harris turns on a second gear when he hits the second level and can breakaway. He has versatility out of the backfield and has strong hands. There are certain plays that standout with his catches, notably I remember a catch he had in the 2019 shootout against that legendary LSU team. For reference, the catch was perfectly placed by current Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa. He goes up for it like a receiver over linebacker Patrick Queen, who was a standout LB for the Ravens last season. He was making plays like this in his junior year. Off the field, he is highly regarded and should be a dynamite fit for any team searching for a franchise RB. In an era that rarely sees running backs in the first round, Harris has first round potential.
2. Javonte Williams, North Carolina
This may come as a surprise to some as many people have Clemson RB Travis Etienne as the RB2, but over the past couple months I have fallen in love with Javonte Williams' game. He plays the RB position with an edge and explosiveness that makes him very attractive as a draft target in the second round. He is a smaller back similar to Clyde Edwards-Helaire last season. Williams enjoys to take on tacklers, even though he doesn't have that large frame that Harris has. Linebackers won't be able to arm tackle Williams as he will gladly run through the contact. Yards after contact is the stat that should be applied to him when talking about his impact. He also has the speed that will separate him from defenders. Williams is a happy medium between Harris and Etienne. One trait that Williams has that I absolutely love is the patience when running inside zone. He does the stop and go game as good as any back in the country and bursts through the hole. Patience when finding the hole is something that separated Le'Veon Bell when he was the best in the NFL with the Steelers. He is the RB I would LOVE Arthur Smith to draft, if Harris is off the board. Excited to see him in the pro game.
3. Travis Etienne, Clemson
Travis Etienne is a really good two-way running back and rounds out my top three backs in this draft. The top three really separate themselves from the rest of these guys in this draft, although you can find gems. Anyway, on to Etienne. An argument can be made that Etienne is the fastest RB in this draft and it shows on tape. His acceleration stands out to me. I talked about Harris hitting a second gear, meanwhile, Etienne can hit a third gear. Similar to the other two, he can catch well out of the backfield and I would say he is the best receiving RB out of the three. He has a career high in catches last year, despite playing the less games than the 2019 season. He has the burst as if he was shot out of cannon and can be a really nice complementary piece in an offense that utilizes him properly. He would be good in an offense similar to how the Eagles employed Miles Sanders in his breakout year. A balanced attack with Etienne is the best way to use all his talents. As many analysts would say, get him out in space and he will make plays for your team.
4. Michael Carter, North Carolina
It is rare to see a college RB duo run for 1,000+ yards, especially in the era of spread football and throwing it 50 times a game. The Tar Heels managed to do this with Williams and Carter and they both provided interesting takes om running the football. Carter isn't the biggest back, similar to Williams, but he runs with more power. He can't cut as well as Williams can, but still does a good job at changing directions. He is more of a power back than elusive and he does a good job at power his legs on contact. He runs strong through defenders. He is consistently around 20-25 catches in his past three years at UNC, so he has a chance to grow there. He could be a productive back at the next level and I think the best fit for him would be similar to the running back by committee system he had at UNC. Overall, he is a good back, but will likely need to rely more on his scheme to propel him at the next level.
5. Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
This fifth slot is really a wild card. There are a number of guys you can plug in here, Kenneth Gainwell, Jemar Jefferson, and Trey Sermon are some of the names you might hear from draft analysts. However, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that I would take Stevenson out of Oklahoma. I watch this guy on film and feel like I'm watching the bowling ball that was LaGarrette Blount. He is bigger and could be a really interesting back in goal line packages. He won't wow you with his moves and speed, but the strength he has can win him a job. Like many of the names after the top three, he would thrive in a running back by committee system. If you put him in a spot opposite of a speedster, that would be a fun backfield to watch. This kid compared to Blount, seriously, might be one of the best comparisons I can make about any prospect. There is a run that he has against Florida in their bowl game near the end and he powers his way through the right side of the field and slides through multiple Gator defenders. A number of good running backs can be taken, but this guy specializes in contact and that is where he can make his money.
Next up: WR Class of 2021 and it's another strong one.