NFL

The Seahawks' Broken Wing

The Seahawks' Broken Wing

It turned out to be nothing. But at CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon, for about 30 minutes, 69,000 people sat on their hands, hearts in their throats.

Russell Wilson was down. Then he was up. Then, he was a shell of himself.

As we were witness to, after yet another game-winning drive, Wilson -- barring any setbacks -- will be fine. His ankle, although precariously situated underneath the weight of Ndamukong Suh, made it through and will live to see another day.

But for the Seahawks and GM John Schneider, every move from this day forward must be in preparation for the worst. Because even with Wilson limited to one ankle, there was nowhere to turn. Not to Trevone Boykin, the lone QB on the roster besides Wilson, who, as an undrafted rookie could be a catastrophe. Not to a veteran backup, destined to hold a clipboard until times get rough.

It was a disturbing reality for a Seattle team, hell-bent on a Super Bowl return, that the fate of their entire offense rests on the health of one man.

Yes, they have their all-world defense. No, that won’t be enough.

The offense, which relies heavily on sleight of hand and Wilson’s ability to improvise, crumbled after his injury transformed him into a lavish statue. Thanks to inept coaching on the part of the Dolphins -- who, for whatever reason, did not blitz Wilson on every play -- the Seahawks were able to tread water long enough to survive.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson recorded a 95.7 passer rating when the Dolphins did not apply pressure.

To make matters worse Seattle’s offensive line, young and unproven entering the season, did absolutely nothing to assuage the fears that they won’t be able to protect Wilson, or open holes for Thomas Rawls and Christin Michael. Only left tackle Gary Gilliam managed to post a positive grade (79.8), and Bradley Sowell and J'Marcus Webb were simply atrocious; each surrendered two QB hurries and recorded 46.6 and 40.7 grades, respectively, according to PFF.

Add it up, and your entire season is riding on Wilson playing behind a maladroit line.

Schneider and Pete Carroll knew they were rolling the dice this season with the quarterback position. For the first time since he was named the starter in 2012, Wilson was devoid of a heady, veteran backup.  But more than having a player they could turn to in times of crisis – if Wilson were to miss extended time, for example – the Seahawks appear to be lacking a player they can turn to for any time.

When Wilson hopped off the turf and looked to the sideline, you could see in his face he needed out. The next play? A handoff. The one after that? A flat-footed throw, no zip. Without the ability to plant, or throw on the run, Wilson was missing the most important tool in his arsenal: the threat of the run. After the game, in a press conference lock-jawed with clichés, Wilson told those gathered that he doesn’t like to run, but he knows how it can be used to his advantage.

To wit:

According to ESPN, “Wilson attempted a career-high 43 passes Sunday. It was the first time in his career his team won when he attempted 40 or more passes in a game. Wilson averaged 6.0 yards per attempt Sunday, a lower figure than he had in any game last season. Part of the reason was that Wilson's average pass traveled 4.7 yards downfield, the third-shortest of his career.”

He attempted those passes out of necessity. And when he is forced to be a stabilizing pocket-passer, he struggles mightily.

The Monday of Week 1 is often referred to as “Over Reaction Monday,” and for good reason. Fan bases across the country, those happy and those sad, woke up today with the thought that their team is better than they originally envisioned. Or, they're worse. That’s up for water-cooler debate. But for Seahawks fans, one glaring truth lies before them:

Their team is good. Really good. But he could be gone in an instant, incapacitated on the field, without a soul behind him to help.

199th Pick – Who is this quarterback, Luke Falk?

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199th Pick – Who is this quarterback, Luke Falk?

Luke Falk was the 199th pick in the NFL draft, and in my eyes he’s an absolute steal for the Tennessee Titans. Should the Marcus Mariota project fail, he’d be a great replacement. I don’t expect Falk to take Mariota’s job over the offseason, but it’s not like anyone saw Russell Wilson coming.

Without further ado, here are the stats of three PAC-12 quarterbacks last season:

  A B C
Height – ft, in. 6’ 4” 6’ 4” 6’4”
Weight – lbs. 223 218 220
Passing Touchdowns 30 26 26
Interceptions 13 10 13
Completion Percentage 67% 62.6% 63.1%
Yards per attempt 6.7 8.3 8.6
QBR 137 147 148
Games Lost Due to Injury 7 7 0
Injury Concern Type Concussion

 

Wrist

Concussions

 

Shoulder

None

Per sports-reference.com

 

All three of these players were taken in the draft, and if you’re reading this as a college football fan you probably already know who’s who. As you can see, they’re comparable.

Quarterbacks B and C have been vaunted as the next Donovan McNabb or Trent Green. The other? I’ve read a comparison to Kirk Cousins, but besides that Player A has been compared to Mike Glennon and another website suggested for said player to gain some weight. Note how all of the players above weigh about the same. Another twenty pounds and all of a sudden we’re evaluating potential linebackers instead of quarterbacks. How ridiculous!

Player A is an all-time PAC-12 player. He’s the career leader in completions, passing yards, and ranked with the 16th highest passing efficiency rating in the conference. His name is Luke Falk, and he had an amazing career with the Washington State Cougars.

Player B is Josh Rosen, and Player C is Sam Darnold. The table gives an interesting take on the narratives behind these quarterbacks. Falk was derided for having played in an air raid system so terrible that it apparently produces more touchdowns than standard sets. While Rosen and Darnold threw for 18 and 15 passing touchdowns this past season in the red zone respectively, Luke Falk tossed 26. The WSU quarterback is proficient at finishing drives and is situationally adept in short field situations.

Falk’s yards per attempt is lower than Rosen’s or Darnold’s, but he’s been more accurate and is near invincible in the red zone. The problem with Falk’s low yards per attempt rate isn’t even that much of a big deal here. The running game was so bad at WSU, that they had to turn Luke Falk’s arm into the team’s running game. Plus, the NFL demands that quarterbacks are proficient at the dink and dunk game, which Falk had absolutely perfected. When Rosen and Darnold get into the league, their offensive coordinators will coach them to dump the ball against prolific defenses. So long yards per attempt!

Not to mention that Falk’s wins at the collegiate level are really impressive as well, perhaps more so than Darnold’s. Falk has won against USC, Stanford, and Oregon. Darnold has a couple of great wins over Washington and Penn State, but Josh Rosen hasn’t beat anybody. Heck even Jared Goff never beat anybody decent, as he went 0-9 against Stanford, UCLA, and USC.

I know that evaluating quarterbacks is a fifty-fifty flip of the quarter, but this shouldn’t be that hard right? How could a PAC-12 monster fall to pick 199?

Falk landed in a good spot. The Tennessee Titans bring a new coaching staff that is guided by Matt LaFleur on the offensive side of the ball. LaFleur had been quarterbacks coach for Matt Ryan in Atlanta before leading the Los Angeles Rams offense this past season. This could be a boon for Falk’s development for years to come.

2018 Oregon Sports News NFL Draft – First Round Reactions … And Overreactions

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2018 Oregon Sports News NFL Draft – First Round Reactions … And Overreactions

BY 

First Round Reactions… and Overreactions

Winner of the Night… Los Angeles Chargers

A lot of people had the Chargers targeting a quarterback to be the heir to the throne when Phillip Rivers hangs it up. They likely would have had to trade up to grab a quarterback that they wanted. They didn’t have to do that to get a complete game changer for their team.

Dane Brugler is the NFL Draft scout that I respect the most. He puts everything into his scouting and evaluations of NFL players. He had Derwin James as his #8 player on his board. The Chargers sat and took him with #17. The Chargers add a freak athlete at the safety position.

Loser of the Night… New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints were set to pick towards the end of the first round at pick #27. All of a sudden the Saints were on the clock after trading for the #14 pick in the draft. They gave the Packers the #27 pick, the #147 pick, and their 1st round pick in 2019. Two first round picks and a 5th round pick to move up 13 spots. This has to be for the quarterback of the future, right?

They used the pick to draft Marcus Davenport, the Edge rusher from University of Texas – San Antonio.

Davenport is a raw pass rusher who has never played a high level of competition. Davenport played basketball and ran track in high school. He still has a lot of development in front of him to become worthy of all of the assets the Saints gave up.

Davenport could be a stud… but when the Saints were set to pick at #27 the more established rusher, Harold Landry, was on the board!

Quarterbacks

Baker Mayfield going first was no surprise if you were paying any attention to ESPN’s Adam Schefter at all on Draft Day. Sam Darnold goes to New York… the Jets. Josh Allen lands in Buffalo, where a lot of people thought he would. Josh Rosen winds up in the desert with the Cardinals.

For the first time in Draft history, four quarterbacks go in the Top-10.

Lamar Jackson later went to the Baltimore Ravens as the 32nd pick in the first round to make up the five quarterbacks that everybody thought would go in the first.

My favorite quote of the night was by the #10 pick Rosen, who said “there were 9 mistakes ahead of me.”

Running Backs

Saquon Barkley went to the New York Giants with the #2 pick. After that there was a lot of silence on the running back front until the Seahawks took Rashaad Penny with the 27th pick.

Both picks are crazy to me.

Barkley is a great back but I have said all along that the Giants needed to draft their quarterback of the future. Instead they took a running back at #2.

Then the Seahawks drafted Penny later on. Penny is a good back, but should have had no place in the first round. Penny is a small back that is brutally bad in pass protection. The Seahawks offensive line is bad enough already. You have to have a running back that can pick up a block occasionally.

After those two, Sony Michel went to the New England Patriots, which is an absolutely great fit.

There is SO MUCH running back talent left for Day Two of the NFL Draft. Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, Kerryon Johnson, and Nick Chubb. All of whom I have rated as better running backs than who the Seahawks drafted in the first round.

Best Available Headed into Friday’s 2nd & 3rd Rounds

  1. Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
  2. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
  3. Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
  4. Justin Reid, S, Stanford
  5. James Daniels, OC, Iowa
  6. Ronald Jones, RB, USC
  7. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
  8. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
  9. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
  10. Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
  11. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
  12. Rasheem Green, DE, USC
  13. Connor Williams, OG, Texas
  14. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
  15. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

2018 NFL Draft – Three Bold Predictions for the First Round

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2018 NFL Draft – Three Bold Predictions for the First Round

BY GARRETT THORNTON 

Three Bold Predictions for the First Round

Bold: There will be an offensive lineman (other than Quenton Nelson) drafted in the Top-10

This draft class is missing a headliner at the offensive tackle position, arguably the 2nd most important position on the field. I have a feeling that won’t stop someone from reaching on one. My mock draft, posted yesterday on OSN, had Mike McGlinchey going to the Cardinals at 15. While that may be realistic, this column is about bold predictions.

If Nelson and McGlinchey both go in the Top-10, that is 40% of Notre Dame’s offensive line from last year. What makes these guys different? They are big-bodied offensive lineman that have experience playing in an NFL-style offense. The spread offense in college has made the transition incredibly difficult for the offensive lineman, that is why these two are going to be coveted on Thursday night.

Bolder: Only one wide receiver will be drafted in Round One

In my mock I have three receivers going in the first round, but I would not be shocked if there was only one picked.

There is no clear-cut favorite receiver in this draft. There’s no Julio Jones. There’s no Odell Beckham.

The top-10 of the receiver group doesn’t have a ton of separation between them. Calvin Ridley is a great route runner but has a slight frame. Courtland Sutton is a big body but has a limited route tree. D.J. Moore is gaining hype throughout the process but is still sub-6’.

Last year three receivers went in the top-10. Those receivers combined for 45 receptions over 24 games.

Teams will look to be patient and not overpay for a receiver in the first round and wait for a guy like Anthony Miller or Michael Gallup in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Boldest: The Top-5 picks will all be quarterbacks!

It has never happened. But there is a first for everything!

Browns and Jets are going to draft quarterbacks. Write that in Sharpie.

The Giants and Broncos should draft quarterbacks.

The #4 pick that the Browns own could be a spot that the Bills or Cardinals move up to jump the Broncos and draft a quarterback.

Here’s how it could look…

#1 – Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold

#2 – New York Giants – Josh Rosen

#3 – New York Jets – Baker Mayfield

#4 – Buffalo Bills (trade) – Josh Allen

#5 – Denver Broncos – Lamar Jackson

That would be absolutely crazy and set the stage for an insane first round. But it isn’t too far removed from reality…

Buckle up folks! It’s happening! NFL Draft 2018!!!

OSN NFL First Round Mock Draft

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NBCS Northwest

OSN NFL First Round Mock Draft

Contributors: Jarreau Brown, Miriam Ludlow, Bryant Knox, Tim Kearny, Sebastian Pycior, Garrett Thornton,  Lindsay Brandon, Brendan McMannis.

1 – Cleveland

Sam Darnold – QB – USC

The quarterback position has to be addressed with one of their two picks. Darnold is viewed by many as the best available at the position, but he’s not the most polished QB out of the bunch. Luckily, Tyrod Taylor allows him to sit and learn for a year and smooth over some of the turnover problems.  Hue Jackson has bought out the best in QB’s during previous stops in Oakland with Carson Palmer and Cincinnati with Andy Dalton. It’d be nice to see the trend continue with Darnold.

2 – New York Giants

Josh Rosen – QB – UCLA

The Giants smokescreen that they won’t take a quarterback is doing two things. It makes them look incredibly silly and it does nothing to increase the value of the pick that they own. The Giants have to take a quarterback. Eli Manning is 37 years old and father time is undefeated. If you’re going to pay Odell Beckham a Brinks truck load of money, might as well have your quarterback on a rookie deal.

3 – New York Jets from Indianapolis

Josh Allen – QB – Wyoming

The New York Jets traded up to this spot to ensure they land a franchise quarterback. Sam Darnold won’t be available, so the pick comes down to Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Although all three show tremendous upside, it’s Allen who wins out in this situation. As Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller wrote in March: “Allen is an impressive prospect with a 6’5″, 237-pound frame and the best arm many scouts (myself included) have ever seen, but he also completed just 56.2 percent of his passes over the last two seasons at Wyoming.” Allen isn’t a sure thing, but he may be the surest of any QB behind Darnold. This is an easy choice for the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS—especially if the Giants take Rosen at No. 2.

4 – Cleveland from Houston

Saqon Barkley – RB – Penn State

Barkley is the best prospect in the draft. He’s a three down do it all back that can help in the return game. The Brown lock in there two building blocks for the future on offense. Don’t overthink this Cleveland.

5 – Denver

Denzel Ward – CB – Ohio State

With Case Keenum now helming the offense of the Broncos (still waiting for Minnesota to explain this), the team will count on their new golden boy to deliver the goods to veteran receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius.   CJ Anderson can likely put up another 1000+ rushing yards this year.   The Broncos should be looking to solidify its defensive backs with the departure of Aqib Talib to the Rams.  Even though Chris Harris Jr. was arguably more productive than Talib last season on the other side, the Broncos could use another star CB, and Denzel Ward may very well be that man.  For now, fellow Buckeye Bradley Roby (who only started four games last season) has moved up the depth chart, but Ward’s incredible footwork and speed (not to mention the fact he’s been compared to Chris Harris, Jr.) could soon make him a starter giving quarterback opponents a hell of a time with his demonstrated ability to read slants and drives in front of the route and the fact that he only allowed 32 percent of completions over the last two years (source: NFL.com).

6 – Indianapolis from New York Jets

Quenton Nelson – OG – Notre Dame

This was a pretty easy pick right here. Bradley Chubb was a great option but the amount of times I have seen the words Hall of Famer and future All Pro when scouts talk about Nelson make him a plug and play guy with a low floor and a high ceiling. Pass rushers are a little risky and when you are a team with Andrew Luck and not much else else. You need people to keep him upright so he can make plays.

Nelson is a good run and pass blocker. He has a strong base and has shown the ability to overwhelm opponents physically. Combine that with surprisingly quick feet for a man his size, and you have yourself a lineman to anchor your line.

7 – Tampa Bay

Bradley Chubb – DE – NC State

Bradley Chubb does to opposing linemen what Thor’s Hammer does to lukewarm butter. He’s the ultimate no brainer in this draft but he’ll drop if the teams ahead of the Buccaneers go nuts for quarterbacks. Forget size, brutal physicality, or speed. Chubb is arguably the most intelligent, confident, and dangerous players in this draft, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are desperate for some serious juice up front. Could you imagine Chubb trying to steal one of Matt Ryan’s, Cam Newton’s, or Drew Brees’ towels just to taunt? Lordy.

8 – Chicago

Tremaine Edmunds – LB – Virginia Tech

The Bears probably have greater needs on the offensive and defensive lines, not to mention at wide receiver, but the talent upside is too high to ignore. Edmunds projects as a pro bowl linebacker and there was no comparable talent in terms of team needs.

9 – San Francisco

Derwin James – S – Florida State

The SF 49ers focus should continue to be on building a defense. By bringing Derwin James – Florida State Seminoles – as their pick, not only will they meet the needs and perhaps close the gap, but they will bring a physical presence on the field. At 6’3″, 215 pounds, James is the perfect defensive wall the SF 49ers need. But it doesn’t stop there. James is also a fast runner and while some may find him to be a duplicate to current talent within the team, is hard to make a true argument against him as you can’t never have enough defense and speed in football!

10 – Oakland

Josh Jackson – CB – Iowa

The Raiders seem to always display such promise at the beginning of each season, and then somehow, it ends just as bad as Mark Davis’ haircut.  Frankly, the team needs a lot of help on its defense. No offense to Darrius Hillary, but Jackson is built to start.  In reading his prospect grade, the scouts just think he’s the dreamiest.  My favorite is “lauded for positive attitude and strong work ethic,” but there is plenty to choose from.  In all seriousness, now that Carr has (hopefully) a productive Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper, and if Marshawn, well, shows up, then this team could be a playoff contender if it can just bridge the gap with last year’s defense.  Even though the word is Oakland’s been eyeing ILB Roquan Smith, he might go earlier in the draft.  Jackson is no consolation though; he could start producing turnovers immediately.

11 – Miami

Baker Mayfield – QB – Oklahoma

If I’m the Miami Dolphins, I’m putting pressure on Ryan Tannehill, like, yesterday. And here’s the thing about Baker Mayfield: He’s a gamble, and he’s sooo worth that gamble—especially if you already have someone in Tannehill who can step in and play a competent brand of football. Obviously, “a competent brand of football” isn’t what you strive for at the game’s most important position, but as far as Plan Bs go, that’s not bad. Mayfield may come in and be brilliant; he may “antics” himself out of the league, as we’ve seen from similarly polarizing players in recent years. Either way, the Dolphins should be willing to take this risk considering Tannehill has led them to the Mediocre Land many times…and not much further up to this point.

12 – Buffalo from Cincinnati

Lamar Jackson – QB – Louisville

The Buffalo Bulls are in great position in this draft to risk it all on a future quarterback/face of the franchise early and take a safer pick later on. That’s the luxury that comes with trading up, and then trading back into the bottom-third. With this pick, Buffalo takes a guy who is 100 percent, absolutely NOT a wide receiver. Let’s get rid of the thought immediately that Lamar Jackson is a wideout/slot threat. Please leave any racist preconceived notions aside about athletic, dual-threat college quarterbacks converting to wideout aside here. Jackson is a quarterback, and he’s going to be a quarterback for the Bills.

13 – Washington

Roquan Smith – LB – Georgia

When the draft rolls around in two weeks, Smith will likely be a top 10 pick. He has the rare combination of instinct and aggressiveness. Smith will anchor a defense in the NFL for a decade and will be a Pro Bowler. If the Redskins can snag a guy with that potential at #13, they could win the first round.

14 – Green Bay
Minkah Fitzpatrick – S – Alabama

This was a no brainer. The fact that Fitzpatrick fell to 14 was a huge surprise to me. Green Bay gets a much needed safety with great college coaching and outstanding upside.

 

15 – Arizona
Calvin Ridley – WR – Alabama

While the 49ers continue to build their defensive wall, the Arizona Cardinals are in desperate need of a wide receiver. Let’s just say it out-loud, Larry Fitzgerald is getting old! The Cardinals need to revive an aging depleted receiving core and the guy to fill the position is Calvin Ridley – Alabama – a great route runner with good hands and speed!

 

16 – Baltimore
Rashaan Evans – LB – Alabama

There aren’t many safer picks in the NFL draft since the Nick Saban era other than a linebacker from Alabama. Ozzie Newsome’s affinity for Alabama players as an alumnus is blatant, and Evans fills a need where the Ravens are considered having average talent. He offers the ability to plan multiple backer positions, but the biggest question mark his his ability to stay healthy.

 

17 – Los Angeles Chargers

Mike McGlinchey – OT – Notre Dame

Against all odds, the team that nobody from San Diego likes anymore that moved to a city that didn’t need (or want) just narrowly missed the playoffs at 9-7.  Even though a development quarterback is likely needed with Rivers’ eventual retirement, he threw for over 4,500 yards last season and still has to feed his 63 children, so he’s going nowhere for now.  The Chargers do need to beef up their interior defensive line, but they also need to be prepared to back up their veteran OTs, former Seahawk Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale.  That is where 6’7” [!!!] 312 lb. Mike McGlinchey comes in.  McGlinchey’s college football photo looks like he is the nicest possible man that could also eat you for breakfast.  He’s terrifyingly versatile (as a former tight end), and will only get stronger as he trains at the NFL level (one of his “weaknesses” is listed as “needs more mass on his frame” – I mean, c’mon).  [Source: NFL.com].  McGlinchey will likely be a great asset to any team that drafts him; the Chargers should take advantage of this opportunity.

18 – Seattle

Darrius Guice – RB – LSU

As far as the Seahawks, its no secret Seattle has been missing a powerful runner since the departure of Marshawn Lynch. With that said, there is no more explosive power runner than Darrius Guice. This will give the Seahawks a very needed top tier running back.

19 – Dallas

Will Hernandez – OG – UTEP

The Cowboys kind of sit in no-mans-land of the first round. They are going to miss out on the game-changing talent at the top of the first round and have to settle for a second tiered prospect. I would give the Cowboys more than an 80% chance of moving their first round pick, either up or down. They want to make a splash with the draft in their stadium. If they keep #19, Hernandez would slide in as their starting left guard Week One and help solidify that intimidating offensive line.

20 – Detroit

Taven Bryan – DL – Florida

Championships are won at the line. Just look at what happened to the Patriots in 2007. Just before the Super Bowl, they lose their starting center, pro bowler Dan Koppen and suddenly Michael Strahan is feasting. The lions could have a great line by adding Bryan.

21 – Cincinnati from Buffalo

Da’Ron Payne – DT – Alabama

The Bengals continue to add youth on their defensive line with Payne after taking two defensive ends in last year’s draft. Payne plays the run well and is a hell raiser in pass rush situation with his ability to push the middle of the pocket. He’ll be a great successor to Geno Atkins if they choose to let him walk as a free agent next year.

22 – Buffalo from Kansas City

Courtland Sutton – WR – SMU

Remember that thing we said earlier about the Bills being able to play it safe here? Well, we’re half taking that back. A stud wide receiver at No. 22 isn’t a sure thing, but getting Jackson as many weapons as possible is crucial. Kelvin Benjamin has the potential to re-break out this upcoming season, but getting him (and Jackson) some help in Courtland Sutton will be key for a team that was just 31st in total receptions last year, not to mention 31st in total receiving yards and 27th in receiving touchdowns.

23 – New England from Los Angeles Rams

Mike Hughes – CB – UCF

Out of all the storylines that popped up in this past Super Bowl, the Malcolm Butler saga was the one that came the most out of left field. (Well, that and Kevin Hart’s belligerent attempt at making it onstage with the Eagles as they accepted their hardware.) With Butler gone to the Tennessee Titans, there’s a gap to fill. They didn’t need him in the Super Bowl? Fine. The scoreboard might say otherwise, but okay. But now they have a gap that will go on for an entire season if they do nothing. Enter: Mike Hughes, a late-first-rounder who will probably win a Super Bowl MVP in the next three years because #Pats.

24 – Carolina

James Washington – WR – Oklahoma State

James Washington doesn’t have commanding height, but his skill-set will allow him to thrive in a receiving corps alongside Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen. Think of Washington as a Pierre Garçon cutout, or an eco friendly version of Anquan Boldin. The Biletnikoff Award winner is also a monster in the middle of the field, a benefit to the Air Coryell offense espoused by Norv Turner, the new Panthers’ offensive coordinator. The Panthers could go offensive line here, but Turner’s offense is quicker, predetermined, and usually desperate for skill players.

25 – Tennessee

Harold Landry – LB – Boston College

The top pass rushers were off the board at this point, but Harold Landry has the potential to be just as good as the guys taken before him. Landry has a terrific first step and beat a lot of opponents in college by just running around them. He won’t be able to do that in the NFL but he has such good physical skills that you can see his potential.

He only had five sacks last year while dealing with injuries; this was down from the 16.5 sacks he posted his junior year when he was considered a possible top five pick. I went with Landry over the more obvious need for a linebacker because I think there is good linebacker depth in this draft and pass rushers are a franchise cornerstone, so the Titans go Landry at 18.

26 – Atlanta

Vita Vea – DT – Washington

Vita Vea is done terrorizing the PAC-12 and is ready to give running backs fits in the NFL. He has a great first move, and it allows him to handle large offensive lineman and double teams. Vea’s also known for his endurance, as he keeps the pressure on opposing offenses consistently throughout the game. Dan Quinn’s 4-3 under defense depends on stout and hungry nose tackles, and Vea’s bullish nature will help set the Falcon’s edge rushers free.

27 – New Orleans

Mark Andrews – TE – Oklahoma

The Saints are a team on the verge of making a splash next year with sights on the Super Bowl, so look for them to pick up a ready-to-play skill player. Mark Andrews got a ton of reps in a high profile Oklahoma Sooner offense, and was particularly impressive on out routes, showing off his ability to juke, stiff-arm, and sometimes hurdle defenders in the open field. His run blocking skills are lacking, but that’s not important in the Saints’ highflying offense. Drew Brees will finally get his threat over the middle he’s been desperate for since Jimmy Graham left.

 

28 – Pittsburgh

Malik Jefferson – LB – Texas

Jefferson has the speed and versatility that’s perfect for the Steelers scheme. He comes in as a MLB so he could fill a need with Shazier presumably out for the year. Many evaluators question if he has the instinct to play MLB in the NFL, but that’s where his versatility gives him additional value here. He’s a great blitzer, which gives him a chance to earn time as an OLB pass rusher in their 3-4 scheme.

 

29 – Jacksonville

Isaiah Wynn – OL – Georgia

The Jacksonville Jaguars need help at tackle and even though Isaiah Wynn is being projected as a guard in the NFL, I think he has a chance to play tackle. He went up against SEC defenses at Georgia and won more battles than he lost. I think he can compete at tackle at the professional level, even with his shorter stature.

The Jags pick Wynn over the tackle prospects available because he has been one of the most consistent linemen eligible for the draft this year. Wynn describes himself as a “relentless finisher,” and he was a second team All-American at left tackle in 2017. He can make a big impact for a team that needs help on the o-line.

 

30 – Minnesota

Kolton Miller – OT – UCLA

Just as before, winning at the line of scrimmage. This time though, it’s to take care of the Vikings woeful running game. Kolton has the size to project as a top lineman, and has pretty good value at pick 30.

 

31 – New England
Sam Hubbard – DE – Ohio State

This is a more traditional Patriots pick. Sam Hubbard out of Ohio State is built to be in New England under Bill Belichick and Co. Odds are, NFL GMs will get ahead of this and snag him up before he ends up in the lap of the Pats IRL, but the 6’5-plus”, 270-pound edge rusher posted the best three-cone time of any player at his position at the combine, per Miller. This isn’t a sexy choice, but it’s an easy one.

 

32 – Philadelphia

Leighton Vander Esch – LB – Boise State

The Super Bowl champions sit at the #32 pick and hope that a first round talent falls to them. This is a valuable draft position, and likely one to be traded. The reason that teams covet this pick is because it is the last pick of the draft with the 5th year option attached to the contract. If the Eagles stay put, they would love a talent like Vander Esch to be available. Vander Esch is a great story, from 8-man football in high school to a first round draft pick.

The meaning of the Vince Lombardi Trophy

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The meaning of the Vince Lombardi Trophy

BY HERMAN DAVIS

Although most fans know that the trophy awarded to the winning team of the Super Bowl – or the National Championship Game – is called the Vince Lombardi Trophy, they often don’t know the full history behind it. Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been a number of teams that have tried to capture this title, but few like the 2014 Seattle Seahawks have found success.

That’s because the Vince Lombardi trophy is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the NFL, which means this award isn’t just a participation trophy players get for making it to the big game; it’s something they have to earn through dedication, hard work, and lots of training.

But before the award became known as the Vince Lombardi trophy, it was simply called the “World Championship Game Trophy,” and the game between the rival conferences was known as the AFL-NFL Championship game before adapting to the Super Bowl title. Not as exciting as its current name, right?

So when did the switch happen?

It occurred in 1970, when the league decided to change the name of the award from “World Championship Game Trophy” to the “Vince Lombardi Trophy” after his passing.

What many fans don’t know, however, is who Vince Lombardi is, and why he’s so important to the NFL. For starters, Vince Lombardi was a legendary head coach for the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins. He was born in 1913 and became the most successful head coach to ever coach the game of football. Lombardi was the leader of his team, and during his time coaching in Green Bay, he managed to capture five national championship titles within a nine-year span. In the preseason, Lombardi had a .840 winning percentage by winning 42 of his 50 games. But it was the postseason where he became known as a legend, with a winning percentage of .900 with a record of 9-1. The one loss being to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1960.

Why is Vince Lombardi still a relevant legend throughout the NFL?

Other than having his name on the Super Bowl trophy awarded each year to the winning team, Lombardi set the standard of what it meant to be a great head coach in the NFL. In other words, coaching wasn’t about just about winning, it was about building a team and teaching them how to play the sport of football. In fact, one of his many great lessons was teaching his players about the sweep – a play designed to have runners go towards the strong side of the field and keep the defensive players off balance.

Ultimately, winning is what brought fame to Lombardi, but perhaps the greatest thing Vince taught the NFL involved the three themes he used to set his standards as a coach. Themes that included:

  • Speaking during a time of war, conventionalism, and materialism – the sixties – could have easily brought unwanted attention to Lombardi and his team. That’s why he believed that in order to be a good role model and lead his players both on and off the field, they needed discipline, especially during a crucial time period like the sixties.
  • After going to West Point and being mentored by General Douglas MacArthur, Lombardi understood that leaders were born, not made. He believed leaders were justified through their hard work, and the same can be said about football players.
  • Characterization and Determination. A leader is made by their character and willpower, meaning that the two go together hand-in-hand in a virtuous cycle.

So whether you’re a Seattle Seahawks fan or a fan of another organization, you’re all connected in one way or another through Vince Lombardi – the greatest coach in NFL history. If questions arise whether or not he’s still relevant in our world today, the answer is: without a doubt. His character, along with his determined spirit, was key in his ability to teach and coach in the NFL.

Steelers: That wasn't a catch -- in football or baseball

Steelers: That wasn't a catch -- in football or baseball

There is a lot of angst over that ruling in the Pittsburgh-New England game Sunday -- the one that disallowed a touchdown catch by Jesse James of the Steelers.

And I may be the only person around who has no problem with the NFL rule that if you're going to the ground as you make a catch, you must hold onto the ball during your fall. Whether you're in the end zone or not. Most people think that when you're crossing the goal line with the ball in control, it should be a TD -- whether you're a receiver or a runner.

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I disagree. I think there must be a standard for deciding whether a pass is caught or not. Touchdown or not. Just catch the ball and don't worry about trying to reach the ball over the goal line. Just catch it.

I had no dog in the hunt Sunday, didn't care which team won. But I will say I'm predisposed to accepting the NFL rule because it's so similar to the rules of baseball about catching a fly ball. If you catch a fly and fall down, run into a wall or bang into another player, you must hold onto the ball:

A catch is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession. It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball.

'It's pretty much the same rule. You can catch a ball and have it securely in your glove, but if you run into a wall or are diving, you better hold onto the ball all the way through the process.This whole process is a product of instant replay, of course. Without it, you'd never be able to see the ball hit the ground.And when it comes to replay, you have to take the good with the bad. And live with it.I'

Predictions for the NFC West with only five weeks left

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© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Predictions for the NFC West with only five weeks left

By 

LA Rams 8-3

Remaining schedule: At Arizona, vs Philadelphia, at Seattle, at Tennessee, vs San Francisco

Projection: 12-4 record, NFC west champion, NFC #2

The Rams are guaranteed at least a .500 record, and could challenge for home field advantage if the Eagles give up a game or two down the stretch. What a turnaround this year has been for Sean McVay and Jared Goff, and we could be experiencing déjà vu from the 1999 season. The Jaguars were the Rams’ offensive equals that year (if there was such a thing), but this year it would have to be the Eagles, and we all get treated to a late season showdown before the playoffs with the hope that these two juggernauts face each other again in the conference championship. How great would it be to see the Rams or Eagles take on the Patriots or Steelers in the Super Bowl? You really couldn’t miss with any of those potential matchups. Games against the Eagles and Seahawks could be losses, but the Rams should coast to an 11 win season, and have the chance to do better than that if they can go 4-1 or better the rest of the way. Goff and RB Todd Gurley are looking like superstars, and while Robert Woods’ injury hurts, they can fill the gaps with Sammy Watkins the way they originally intended to use him.  What they really need is for their defense to play at a 2015 Denver Broncos level, and they would be virtually unstoppable. If their defense continues to give up big plays, they could be forced to win shootouts, which they are definitely capable of in the SoCal sunshine. If they have to travel to the east coast with a Super Bowl on the line, the potentially bad weather, running game, and strong defense could play to their favor as well. Against so many odds, they are in the drivers’ seat and just need to stay healthy and continue to play smart and they should have a great shot at their first deep playoff run since 2001.

Seattle Seahawks 7-4

Remaining schedule: vs Philadelphia, at Jacksonville, vs LA Rams, at Dallas, vs Arizona

Projection: 11-5, NFC #6

Looking at their remaining five games, Seattle has a real shot to make the playoffs, but they will need some help even if they go 4-1 over a potentially brutal finish. It’s equally possible they could go 3-2 or 2-3 and not have a shot at all. Other than shooting themselves in the foot, the one team that could ruin the Seahawks’ chances at a playoff berth just by matching their record is the same team that knocked them out last year – Atlanta. With identical records and a head to head win, Atlanta could do something no one has done while Russell Wilson has been under center in Seattle – keep them out of the postseason. Wilson has led the Seahawks to a division crown or wild card berth in each of his five seasons, but this year could be the outlier if things don’t go their way down the stretch.  Minus Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, a serviceable running game, and a banged up team pretty much across the board, it will be impressive to see them make the playoffs, but given the amount of times they have been bitten by the injury bug, I’m not sure how much damage they can do if they make it. They are good enough to knock around with the league’s elite, but they just haven’t been the same since 2014 and their track record going on the road in the postseason is ok but not strong (2-3). They almost need a losing season to reload in the draft with some high picks, but as it stands they may be doomed to NFL purgatory while their once proud running game and defense continues to age and fizzle to the point of being unrecognizable.

Arizona Cardinals 5-6

Remaining schedule: vs LA Rams, vs Tennessee, at Washington, vs NY Giants, at Seattle

Projection: 6-10

To be blunt, Arizona has been a in a slow-motion season-long nose-dive since they lost David Johnson in week one. They tried to survive without DJ, and thought their season was looking up after trading for Adrian Peterson. One week later, Carson Palmer broke his arm and they are now starting Blaine Gabbert after Drew Stanton hurt his knee. Ouch town – population YOU, bro. Their remaining slate appears to have one winnable game on it (Giants), but the rest are most likely going to help them get a better draft pick next year. It might be in the best interest of the team to let Palmer and Peterson retire after yet another lost season. It’s never a good time to jump start a rebuild, but aging veterans who can’t stay healthy are not a long-term solution and AP was going to be expendable next year with DJ coming back. They might as well see Palmer, AP, and Larry Fitzgerald ride off in to the sunset, while the front office pulls the trigger on the era of players TBD.

San Francisco 49ers 1-10

Remaining schedule: at Chicago, at Houston, vs Tennessee, vs Jacksonville, at LA Rams

Projection: 1-15, potential top draft pick

Even if the 49ers wanted to win one of their remaining games, I’m not sure it’s in their best interest or that they are capable of beating any of their opponents. Their lone win is against a 2-9 team (Giants) who this week unceremoniously benched their long time QB in favor of Geno Smith (not a mis-print), and their end of the season slate has just one winnable game (Bears). With one win they could still be vying for the top pick with the Browns with a potential franchise QB (Jimmy Garoppolo) already in their pocket, which means they can be just as creative with their draft as they were in 2017, whereas the Browns are desperate for a QB. The 49ers don’t need wholesale changes, but they do need to improve at receiver, offensive line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback, and safety before they can even think about a winning season. It would benefit the team and the franchise if they just played their inexperienced players the rest of the way, but no one likes to see obvious tanking, so we will most likely see their first string players out on the field until games get out of hand, and then a lot of guys you’ve never heard of handling mop-up duty. This being year three of the post-Harbaugh rebuild, and just year one of the new Lynch-Shanahan regime, we’re likely to see at least one more year of bad football before they turn the corner.

Enough of NFL kneeling -- around fallen players knocked cold by big hits

Enough of NFL kneeling -- around fallen players knocked cold by big hits

I tuned away from a National Football League game last night because I was tired of seeing football players kneeling.

No, NOT during the National Anthem.

I'm talking about the all-too-frequent kind of kneeling that should be causing alarm bells throughout football at all levels. It isn't that pregame stuff. It's the kneeling during games -- meaning players gathered in a circle around a fallen teammate who has just taken a vicious hit on the field and is motionless on the ground.

I'm disgusted by it. I've had enough of it. Somebody is going to get killed someday -- and I mean killed. Dead.

So while people will spend the day arguing over whether the hit by Chicago's Danny Trevathan on Green Bay's Davante Adams was intentional, let me suggest that the intent part of this issue shouldn't matter any longer.

If you stick a guy like that -- helmet to helmet at high speed -- you should be in your locker room two minutes later, booted out of the game. Suspended and fined, too. Take the intent out of it -- you just can't tolerate dangerous situations like that. The players are too big and too fast, leading to a new level of violence that's better left to video games.

Football has lost its way, distracted by a love for "hitting" rather than "tackling." Nobody really tackles these days. Not if they can crush someone with a collision along the lines of a train wreck. The old days of wrapping people up with arm tackles is long gone. It's all about the sound and fury of a big knock now and what's needed isn't just a rule change, but a culture change.

And for me, this is getting hard to watch. There is no reason for the pros, the colleges or the high schools to put up with ANY hits directly to the head -- premeditated or not. Hit people on the shoulder pads or lower -- or find yourself looking for another sport. And that goes for offensive players, too. Ball carriers leading with the crown of their helmet should be penalized, too, if they cause similar collisions.

End the hits to the head and neck before it's too late. Don't make a tragic death the reason for a culture change.

Overcoming stress from your NFL Fantasy picks

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© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Overcoming stress from your NFL Fantasy picks

By 

This is going to be a fantastic year. Right? You read countless articles. You bought different strategy guides to help you get the right pick, and you watched the NFL network for two hours each night before bed. What did all that get you in the end? A humiliating 1-4 record.

That being said, welcome to the world of NFL Fantasy football.

Maybe it’s not your fault (since all the experts said draft Jimmy Graham). Or maybe it is. After all, no one forced you to pick that player.

Regardless of how you got here, let’s face it – if you’ve only got one or two wins this season, it’s pretty much over for you.

Accepting defeat in any form is never an easy pill to swallow, but losing at fantasy football can put you on a whole different level. In some cases, you lose lots of money, get endlessly tormented by friends and/or co-workers for months, and, perhaps worst of all, dread turning on the TV every Sunday.

Understanding Stress

Sports participation – like the NFL Fantasy – can place a lot of psychological demands on anyone. From youth league to the professional level, athletes like Eddie Lacy are forced to cope with the stress that arises from competing head-on with others in activities that are not only important to the athletes, but to the fans as well.

Before discussing ways of reducing stress when it comes to football fantasy, we need to explore what it means to be stressed. Normally, the term is used in two different, but related ways. First, we use the term to refer to a situation in our lives that places some sort of physical or mental demand on us. Family conflict, work pressure, and sporting events (fantasy football included) are all examples of events to make us say “there’s a lot of stress in my life right now.”

The second way in which we use this term is to refer to our mental, emotional, and behavioral responses to these demanding situations. Tension, or depression are examples of such reactions, as well as upset stomachs and sleepless nights, two of eight signs that stress is affecting your health. This is the type of stress that can cause you to say, “I’m feeling a lot of stress right now.” Who would have thought fantasy football could be so time consuming and stressful?

Coping Mechanisms

Although drafting a solid team is a vital part of championship success, you simply cannot stop there. Remember: this isn’t a Daily Fantasy Sport; this league is a season-long commitment. Moving forward, there are three important moves to make once the season begins in order to improve your rankings and lower your stress level.

Monitoring athletes on the waiver wire and completing beneficial trades are, of course, the most notable ways to capitalize at the expense of your opponents. Lastly, arranging your starting lineup is very important but not as easy as it seems.

  • Waiver Wire

If one of your players sustains season-ending injury, drop him immediately in favor of a healthy player with some potential. Don’t be that person who refuses to drop their star player just because you like seeing their name on your roster.

  • Streaming Defense and Kickers

This is a common one in fantasy football. Depending on which defense and kicker you draft, it might be worth replacing them on a week-to-week basis. If you have a decent defense but there is another one on the waiver wire with a matchup against the worst offense in the league, it can be beneficial to make the switch. If you, however, draft the NFL’s projected number one defense, this strategy does not apply.

  • Trading

Assess your roster. At what positions are you lacking depth? Look at your strongest positions. Then look at your weakest positions. These are important things to keep in mind when moving forward with trade proposals. Be patient with your star players. Don’t try to trade one of your first two draft picks early in the season, especially when you are offering them a discount price. Normally, top players will return to form if they struggle through the first few games. Lastly, don’t be that person who proposes a bunch of unfair trades. You simply cannot get a superstar for nothing.

In the end, although fantasy football can be extremely tiresome and stressful, it’s meant to be a fun activity for family, friends, and co-workers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed from the heat others are giving you, step away from the competition. No activity that’s meant to be fun should be that traumatic.