Did the Patriots win Super Bowl 51? Or did the Falcons lose it? More importantly, how did the Falcons lose it? Before this game, the largest Super Bowl comeback was 10 points, the Patriots were down by 25 at one point. Before this game, teams were 93-0 heading into the fourth quarter with a 19 point lead or higher, now they are 93-1. It just doesn’t make sense. The Falcons absolutely dominated the first half of the football game, in fact, they dominated the first 45 minutes of it. But as we all know, football games aren’t won in the first three quarters, they are won in the fourth.
By no means is this a knock to the Patriots, they played with resilient effort, and refused to give up when the whole world had counted them out. They made the plays, they won the game, and that is how it goes. But it is impossible to look at multiple moments down the stretch of the game and not see that the Falcons blew an easy win.
We all know the story of the first half. The Falcons dominated, Brady looked confused and frustrated. Let’s fast forward to the start of the collapse. Six and a half minutes into the 3rd quarter, the Falcons scored yet again to make their lead 28-3. At this score, the Patriots were going to need three touchdowns, a two point conversion (eventually needing two of them due to a missed extra point from Stephen Gostowski), and a field goal just to tie the game.
The biggest flaw in the team’s 2nd half was their coaching and poor clock management. Following a drive where the Patriots seemed to dig themselves into a hole after taking up six minutes, the Falcons seemed to continue running a hurry up offense. The team played as though they were the ones trying to mount a historical comeback, constantly hurrying to the line and leaving 15-20 seconds on the playclock.
The team played like offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense only had one gear. In a big situation, he was unable to slow down. In a game where running back Devonta Freeman was absolutely dominant, they seemed to abandon him when the situation to use him couldn’t have been more clear. The team continued to throw early and often, running the ball just five times following their final touchdown of the game, which came half way into the third quarter and put the team up by four possessions.
While they abandoned the run game, the team not only missed out on opportunities to kill some clock, but managed to go three and out and lose a fumble on their next two drives, leading to 11 more Patriot points, which put the Patriots one score and a two point conversion from tying up the game.
The team got the ball back with 5:56 to go in the game. In a clock killing situation, Kyle Shanahan’s ego continued to take over, and the Falcons continued to throw the ball and leave precious seconds on the clock when it was not necessary. Luckily for them, they had Julio Jones.
With 4:47, the Falcons took a chance down the field on 2nd and 8, which ended with one of the greatest Super Bowl catches of all time by Julio Jones, and a first down in field goal range. With just under five minutes left, the game seemed to be over.
All Shanahan had to do was call three run plays, and the game should have been a lock. Following the three runs, even if they did not pick up the first down, the team could have kicked a chip shot field goal, and the Patriots would have either burned all of their timeouts, or only have three minutes left to comeback from an 11 point game, either of which would have been nearly impossible.
As we all know, this isn’t what happened. The Falcons ran on first down, but then Shanahan dialed up a pass on 2nd, which resulted in a sack, pushing the Falcons to the borderline of kicker Matt Bryant’s range. The next play, they dialed up yet another pass, and got caught holding, assuring that they would be out of field goal range, and facing them with a 3rd and 33. On third down, the team threw yet again, in a play which went incomplete, stopping the clock for the Patriots once again.
With the Patriots eventually tying the game up, and winning it in overtime, one must wonder what Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan were thinking. They were playing the game as if it was over after the first half, even though there was another yet to be played. Their unwillingness to abandon the hurry up pass-happy offense likely left upwards of at least three minutes or so on the clock in incomplete passes and leftover time on the playclock.
The Patriots time of possession seemed to take a major toll on the defense as well. While early in the game the team’s defense was absolutely dominant, little by little, Tom Brady wore them out. By the time the Patriots had over 30 minutes of possession time, the Falcons’ defense was too worn down to be able to keep up with Brady and the rest of the Patriots’ offense.
While the coaching was poor, not all of the collapse can be blamed on it. Devonta Freeman misssed his blocking assignment leading to Matt Ryan’s key fumble, the team gave up not one, but two key two point conversions, missed out on multiple potential interceptions (including two on Julian Edleman’s circus catch), and overall they took too many penalties in big moments of the game. However, while many will look back at this game as Tom Brady’s greatest feat, the Falcons will look back at it as the time their coaching doubted Tom Brady.
The San Jose Sharks were cruising through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. After convincing series victories against the Kings, Predators, and Blues, both Sharks fans and players were full of confidence and morale en route to their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance. Then came the Penguins. After three dominating series from San Jose, I still don’t have the answer as to how the Penguins were so much better than the Sharks in this series. I attended the final game of the series, and while watching the Penguins and their fans celebrate was heartbreaking, it was never more clear after that game that the Sharks had simply ran out of gas, leaving them vulnerable to the deeper, faster, Penguins team.
Through the first three games of the series, the Sharks still seemed to have what it took to hang with the Penguins. Game one was quite even based off of dominance, but the Penguins barely edged the Sharks on the scoreboard with a late goal to put them up in the series. In a crazy game two, full of posts being hit left and right by both teams, including three from Sharks winger Tomas Hertl alone, the Penguins seemed to dominate. The Sharks kept it close enough to be in position to tie it late, but ultimately lost in overtime, putting them down 2-0. After losing two close and physically tolling games, morale among Sharks nation had been crushed, and the Sharks began to wear down. To make matters worse, the Sharks most productive skater through the first two games of the series, Tomas Hertl, went down with a mysterious lower body injury, which ultimately kept him out of the remainder of the series. Despite the loss of Hertl, the Sharks finally got one back on the Penguins in game three, with Joel Ward tying the game at 2 in the third, setting up a Joonas Donskoi overtime goal to set the series to 2-1. However, things only went downhill from there.
Following the game three victory, the Sharks were far outmatched and officially skating on E, as they hoped to simply steal games from the Penguins and find a way to win the series. In game four, once the Sharks went down their fans could tell the lead seemed insurmountable. The Penguins were flying to the puck, always one step ahead of the Sharks, and able to sniff out anything and everything that the Sharks were planning. By the end of the game, the Sharks were down 3-1 in the series, and the Sharks along with their fans could see where this series was heading. In game five the Sharks seemed to have shown life, scoring two goals early in the first, only to have the Penguins quickly answer back and tie it up. Later in the period the Sharks took the lead at 3-2 on a beautiful feed from Logan Couture to Melker Karlsson, but from there it was all Penguins. Again, the Penguins made it look easy, skating circles around the Sharks. Throughout the entirety of the second and third periods, the Penguins put a constant attack on the Sharks, and it seemed that the Sharks had no answer for it. Despite the barrage of opportunities for Pittsburg, the Sharks were able to steal the game on the back of goaltender Martin Jones, as he put together possibly the greatest goaltending performance I have ever seen to put the Sharks on a flight back to San Jose, with hopes of a comeback still in tact. However, game six was right around the corner, and the result wouldn’t be pretty for San Jose.
In game six, the Sharks played what I believe may have been one of the worst Stanley Cup performances in history. Before the game, “The Tank” was as loud as I had ever heard it, the stands filled with cheering fans, and the spirit at an all time high. However, the Sharks weren’t able to feed off of their fans spirits. The Sharks were consistently late to the puck, giving up avoidable turnovers, and losing solid opportunities because the puck was bouncing off of their sticks and out of reach. They simply seemed unfocused and out of energy. The Penguins were able to capitalize early, scoring a power play goal on a weak tripping call to Danius Zubrus, taking a lot of energy right out of the Sharks fans. The first period ended with the Sharks putting only four shots on goal. In the second, the Sharks finally showed some life. Goaltender Martin Jones was once again putting on a show, and they had about five minutes of complete dominance to start the second period, capped off by a goal from Logan Couture. With that, the Sharks had life, with the crowd pumped up it seemed the Sharks had all of the momentum, and were set to put up a battle for the rest of the game. However, all that ended just minutes later, as Kris Letang would put the Penguins back on top on a shot that I am still unsure how it found its way to the back of the net. The goal was set up by lazy skating from the Sharks, as they had multiple chances to clear the zone but couldn’t. Specifically, defenseman Roman Polak had a clear path to the puck and a few steps on the nearest Penguin, but skated at half speed, leading to a Penguin skating in and keeping the offensive push alive, which ultimately led to the series clinching goal. And although the Sharks had multiple great chances, including a shanked shot on a wide open net for Joe Pavelski, one of the leagues top goal scorers, the Sharks came up empty in the rest of the second period. The third period was another ugly one for the Sharks, as they only put two shots on goal, in a period where they were fighting for their season, and should have been putting everything they had into it. Even the crowd couldn’t shift momentum, as after a successful penalty kill and seven minutes left on the clock the crowd let out the loudest cheers they could muster, hoping to wake up the team and give them motivation to keep pushing towards the cup. In the end, the Penguins scored an empty netter with about one minute to go, sealing the game, and ending the Sharks first Stanley Cup appearance in a way that left their fans disappointed.
Ultimately, the Sharks just weren’t the same team that they had been through the first three rounds of the playoffs. Players such as Joe Pavelski, Joe Thortnon, and Brent Burns who were prominent in the Sharks Western Conference dominance, seemed to disappear, and important roll players such as Danius Zubrus, Brendan Dillon, and Roman Polak put on terrible performances. In the end, Martin Jones and Logan Couture were the only Sharks who seemed to hold up their high level of play from the first three rounds. Overall, the Penguins were the better team and deserved to win this series. They had their entire lineup giving their all throughout the whole series, with everybody holding up their end of the bargain. However, at the end of the day I feel there was no team, or fan base, that would have appreciated a Stanley Cup victory more than San Jose. After all the years of disappointment from high caliber Sharks playoff teams, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau would have finally gotten their long awaited and well deserved cup, the Sharks would have finally shed off their reputation as playoff chokers, and one of the best fan bases in sports would have been able to celebrate with their team. If their is a silver lining in all of this, however, the Sharks made it further than they have ever been, and players such as Martin Jones, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Brent Burns finally got the recognition they deserve as elite players in the NHL. The fan base is still ultimately proud of what their team was able to accomplish, as shown with the multiple rounds of “Lets go Sharks” chants let on from the still full crowd, as the Penguins were celebrating their Stanley Cup victory. While we may have come up short, and have a very uncertain path back to the cup with an aging roster, there has never been a better time to be a Sharks fan.
When it comes to the draft, it seems for some teams, every domino falls perfectly, but for others, nothing seems to go their way. Every year there are winners and losers of the draft, so let’s list the 3 biggest winners and losers from the 2016 NFL Draft.
Winners: Jared Goff and Carson Wentz
No, they are not winners just because of the fact that they were the first two players off the draft board. No, the Rams and Eagles aren’t the winners because they picked players who they believe are franchise quarterbacks, as that happens with the top picks in almost every draft. However, Jared Goff and Carsen Wentz are winners, because of the situations they are being thrown into. For most quarterbacks taken at or near the top of the draft, they are thrown onto teams that were near the bottom of the league, with major rebuilding to do. Just look at Marcus Mariota and the Titans. Last year, the Titans took Mariota with the number two overall selection, yet their team was such a mess they still wound up with the number one overall pick in the draft. But because of the fact that the Rams and Eagles traded up to get the number 1 and 2 picks, they are stepping on to teams that aren’t as much of a disaster. Goff is going to a team that has been good quarterback play away from being playoff contenders for the last three seasons, and will have the best young running back in the league to take pressure and attention off of him, along with a solid defense to give him support. Wentz will be on a team that is one year removed from the playoffs, and doesn’t need to rush him into starting. With Sam Bradford on the roster, Wentz will be able to sit for a year and learn the speed of the NFL level, then step onto the field with a solid roster in year two.
Loser: Laremy Tunsil
Frankly, Tunsil became a loser of this draft once the Titans dealt the number one overall pick to Los Angeles. After months of being the favorite to go first overall, Tunsil had to accept the fact that that was no longer a possibility. However, it originally wasn’t going to be too bad, as he was still projected at worst to fall to the sixth overall selection. But minutes before the draft, a hacker got hold of Tunsil’s social media, and posted a video that was allegedly Tunsil taking a hit on a bong. This frightened teams away, as they didn’t want to possibly be dealing with an immature player who would bring off the field headaches, causing Tunsil to fall all the way to the Dolphins at the 13th pick. Even the Titans, the team originally projected to take him first overall, decided they didn’t want to deal with him, passing on him to select fellow offensive tackle Jack Conklin instead.
Winner: Joey Bosa
Throughout the entire draft process, scouts and analysts raved about how great Joey Bosa was, and how he was arguably the best player in this years draft class. However, many of those analysts also agreed that there was no great landing spot for Bosa at the top of the draft, and felt he may have fallen because of it, much like Leonard Williams in last years draft. But to the surprise of everyone, the San Diego Chargers stepped up and selected him third overall. While most felt the pick would be either DB Jalen Ramsey due to his overall talent and relative need, or fellow DE DeForest Buckner due to being a better fit in the Chargers scheme, they took Bosa because they felt he was the best player on the board, and saved him from a possible free fall.
Loser: Myles Jack
Myles Jack was a top five talent in this years NFL draft, but injury concerns kept him from going in that area. Many teams felt that Jack would require micro-fracture surgery on his knee, which is a very tough injury to recover from. This caused Jack to fall. It became a trend towards the middle of the first round for Jack to be in the discussion for every pick, as everyone was amazed at how far he has fallen. Jack fell so far, that he ended up all the way out of round one entirely. Jack did eventually go to the Jaguars near the top of the second round, which is ironic as they were projected by many to be interested in taking him with the 5th overall pick.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
What an offseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In free agency, they added RB Chris Ivory to pair with TJ Yeldon, as well as DT Malik Jackson and S Tashaun Gipson to strengthen their defense. Now they had, in my opinion, the best draft of any team in the NFL. Everything fell perfectly for the Jaguars. First, the Cowboys passed on DB Jalen Ramsey to take RB Ezekiel Elliot. Most believed that Ramsey wouldn’t be in play for the Jaguars, but with the Cowboys passing, it allowed them to take the best defensive back prospect since Patrick Peterson, and arguably the best prospect in this draft at the 5th overall pick. The Jaguars then were able to nab LB Myles Jack in the second round, a top 5 talent who fell due to injury concerns, but we already discussed that. Any time you land two top five prospects, and arguably two of the three best defensive prospects in the draft, it is a definite win.
Losers: Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones
Yes, it probably would have been easier to just say that the Dallas Cowboys lost, but that is making it too easy. Instead, I believe that they both suffered individual losses, but at different levels of the draft. First, Garrett lost when he was likely overpowered by Jerry Jones with the 4th pick, selecting RB Ezekiel Elliot over DB Jalen Ramsey. There is no doubt in my mind that Jason Garrett wanted to select Jalen Ramsey to fix his secondary, but Jerry Jones didn’t care and took the running back, because fans love offense. That’s not to say Elliot isn’t a good player, but he just wasn’t as much of a need as Ramsey, and is not on the same level as him in terms of talent. Jones then lost when he was not able to pull off trades to land QB Paxton Lynch at the end of round one, or QB Connor Cook at the beginning of round four. Jones was actively looking for the eventual successor to Tony Romo, and had two high value opportunities when Lynch fell to the end of round one, and when Cook took a surprising fall all the way to round four. Jones was so upset, in fact, that he reportedly lost sleep over the fact that the Broncos outbid his Cowboys to take Paxton Lynch.
It’s that time of year again, the NFL Draft is tomorrow and that means my 2nd annual NFL Mock is today. I again will be giving you guys a two round mock, with trades in round one, here we go.
1. Los Angeles Rams- Jared Goff, QB California
Trade: Rams send picks 15, 43, 45, 76 and 2017 1st and 3rd round selections to Titans in exchange for picks 1, 113, 177
With the first overall pick the Los Angeles Rams select, Jared Goff. While I feel Carson Wentz is the better prospect, and the better fit for LA, all signs are pointing to the Cal QB going first overall. Nonetheless, Goff is a remarkable talent, and LA can’t go wrong with either QB. Goff made some unbelievable plays in Cal’s RPO style offense, and showed off his pocket presence, ability to make great throws under pressure, and his overall amazing arm talent. My biggest concerns with Goff are that he tends to under throw players on his deep ball, and might have trouble learning an NFL playbook and adjusting to taking the ball under center, after being in a quite simple shotgun spread offense at Cal. Though he has flaws, Goff should have a successful rookie season with star halfback Todd Gurley behind him to relieve him of having to carry the offense on his own.
2. Philadelphia Eagles- Carson Wentz, QB North Dakota State
Trade: Eagles send picks 8, 77, 100, 2017 1st round selection, and 2018 2nd round selection to Browns in exchange for pick 2 and 2017 4th round selection
There isn’t much thought in this one for the Eagles, they will take whichever quarterback that the Rams do not take, which is likely to be Carson Wentz. The Eagles plan to sit Wentz in year one to learn behind QB Sam Bradford, which could get complicated since Bradford has requested to be traded in light of the Eagles moving up to pick number two. Wentz has the higher upside of the top two quarterbacks, with big size, large hands, and great athleticism, Wentz has all the physical tools to be a star. Wentz’s pluses are his very good arm talent, his knowledge of NFL schemes due to the offense he ran at North Dakota State, and his overall intelligence, as he is said to have never gotten a B in his life. His major minus, which arguably is the reason he will not be the number one overall pick, is that he played at an FCS school, facing competition that is not up to par with the competition in the FBS. Had he gone to a team in the FBS, it is very possible Wentz would have been the first overall selection.
3. San Diego Chargers- Laremy Tunsil, OT Mississippi
This is where the mock draft truly starts, as anyone could have predicted that the QBs would go 1-2. Tunsil probably had the worst luck of any player leading up to the draft. After the Rams-Titans and Eagles-Browns trades, Tunsil went from being the favorite to go number one overall, to third overall at best. Either way, Tunsil is an amazing prospect. The Chargers are desperate for some consistency on their offensive line, which is constantly plagued with injury, and at 3rd overall Tunsil will be a steal. He was an outstanding pass protector at Ole Miss, and has the athleticism and size to be an elite offensive tackle at the next level.
4. Dallas Cowboys- Jalen Ramsey, DB Florida State
Jalen Ramsey is regarded by most as the best defensive player in the draft. His combination of cover skills and ability to help stop the run make him a unique talent. His versatility also makes him unique, as Ramsey projects as a potential pro bowl player at both cornerback and safety. His passion for the game makes him unlikely to bust, as he clearly wants to be the best, and is very vocal about it. The Cowboys will get a great player here, and shore up a hole in their secondary.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars- Myles Jack, LB UCLA
The Jaguars would prefer to go with Ramsey here, but he will not be available so Jack will do. Jack is the best pure linebacker in the class, but injury concerns could cause him to fall a bit in this deep draft. If the Jags to pick him up here, he will be the perfect eventual successor to Paul Posluszny in the middle of the Jaguars defense.
6. Baltimore Ravens- Ronnie Stanley, OT Notre Dame
With this being a deep class of offensive tackles, Ronnie Stanley meets value and need here for the Baltimore Ravens. Stanley is a very good offensive tackle, and like Tunsil is better at pass protection than run blocking, and is very agile. Stanley projects to step in right away for the Ravens, plugging in as their starting left tackle after three years of being the starting left tackle for Notre Dame.
7. Chicago Bears- Joey Bosa, DE Ohio State
Trade: Bears send picks 11 and 41 to the 49ers in exchange for pick 7
Like defensive lineman Leonard Williams last year, Joey Bosa is arguably the best player in the draft, but does not have a good fit among the teams holding the top six selections. Last year I projected the Bears would move up to take Williams, that didn’t happen, so now I believe they will make the move this year and grab the best player available in Bosa.
8. Cleveland Browns- DeForest Buckner, DE Oregon
1. Eagles send LB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell, and pick 13 to Dolphins in exchange for pick 8
2. Browns send pick 2 and 2017 4th round selection to Eagles in exchange for picks 8, 77, 100, 2017 1st round selection, and 2018 2nd round selection
The Browns decided that they were more than a QB away from being a playoff football team, so they made the wise move of trading down and gaining premium picks in the future. Last year the Browns decided to take DT Danny Shelton, now they will take DE DeForest Buckner to create a young, scary combination on their defensive line.
9. Tampa Bay Buccanears- Vernon Hargreaves III, CB Flordia
The Buccanears signed Alterraun Verner a couple years ago hoping he would be their star corner, he hasn’t been. The Bucs could use a top corner, and Hargreaves has the potential to become one. Very good in man coverage, Hargreaves is the best in this class at shadowing a wide receivers movements. On the downside, he is undersized and doesn’t have elite speed, which could make it difficult for him to keep up with NFL wide receivers.
10. New York Giants- Ezekiel Elliot, RB Ohio State
Last year Todd Gurley was the first running back off the board at number 10, this year the same thing happens with Ezekiel Elliot coming off the board. Elliot doesn’t have the same upside as Gurley, but is not coming off an ACL tear like Gurley was, which keeps his value this high. However, Elliot has great balance, and a good combination of power and speed to break off big runs. He is also the best pass blocker of any running back in the draft in quite a while, and will serve as a very valuable pass protector for Eli Manning and the Giants.
11. Tennessee Titans- Jack Conklin, OT Michigan State
1. Bears send picks 11 and 47 to 49ers in exchange for pick 7
2. 49ers send pick 11 to Titans in exchange for picks 15 and 76
The Titans need to keep Marcus Mariota upright, and the 49ers have a lot of holes to fill, so this trade makes sense for both sides. The Titans have the ammo to move up after their big trade with the Rams, and likely will, as they would love to get a tackle to help protect Mariota. After giving up the most sacks in the league last season, getting one of the top three offensive tackles needs to be the Titans number one priority. While Conklin is considered to be better at run blocking, he can develop into one of the Titans best pass blockers as well.
12. New Orleans Saints- Leonard Floyd, OLB Georgia
The Saints are desperate for defensive help. Last year they allowed the second most yards per game, and the most points per game in the NFL. One factor of their defense that was lacking was the pass rush. The Saints were tied for sixth worst in the NFL in terms of sacking the quarterback, and Floyd is an immediate solution to their problem. Floyd will be a perfect player in the Saints 3-4 defense, as he is an above average pass rusher, but still has the ability to drop back into coverage and hold his own, which he will be asked to do a lot.
13. Miami Dolphins- Darron Lee, OLB Ohio State
Trade: Dolphins send pick 8 to the Eagles in exchange for pick 13, LB Kiko Alonso, and CB Byron Maxwell
The Dolphins made a very good trade with the Eagles, picking up LB Kiko Alonso who still young has loads of potential, although coming off an ACL tear, along with CB Byron Maxwell, and only had to move back five spots to do it. Now the Dolphins decide that they want to find someone to play alongside Alonso, selecting the speedy linebacker Darron Lee. Lee is the fastest linebacker in the draft, running a 4.47, which makes him a perfect fit in todays NFL where teams are always looking for speedy linebackers to help in pass coverage. Lee fits in well with the Dolphins, and should have immediate success playing behind their ferocious defensive line.
The Raiders had a very busy offseason, headlined by the signings of CB Sean Smith, S Reggie Nelson, OLB Bruce Irvin, and OG Kelechi Osemele. One thing they didn’t add however, is a defensive tackle. They added DT Dan Williams last season, but he is getting up there in age, and Rankins is the defensive tackle in this draft. Rankins will get valuable experience learning under Williams his first year, and will eventually turn into a solid run stuffer in the middle of the Raiders line.
15. San Francisco 49ers- Paxton Lynch, QB Memphis
1. Rams send picks 15, 43, 45, 76, 2017 1st and 3rd round selections to Titans in exchange for picks 1, 113, and 177
2. Titans send picks 15 and 76 to 49ers in exchange for pick 11
The 49ers have a lot of needs, but most of all they need a quarterback. Kaepernick wants out, Gabbert is not the long term answer, and after the Rams and Eagles traded up to spots 1 and 2, it was clear they were not going to get one of the top two quarterbacks in this draft. Instead, the 49ers decide to trade back twice, picking up extra selections to aid their needs, and still addressing their biggest need in the first round. Paxton Lynch was originally slotted by many to go 15th, except it was to the Rams. After they traded up, his draft position was in question, but he winds up right back where he started at 15. Lynch has loads of potential, having one of the strongest arms the NFL has seen in a long time. However, he is going to need time to develop, as he is very raw, and will need time to learn a much more complicated offense than the one read spread offense he ran at Memphis. This situation is perfect for Lynch, as the 49ers can use Blaine Gabbert as their bridge quarter back next season, and prepare Paxton Lynch to be their starter for the 2017 season.
16. Detroit Lions- Reggie Ragland, LB Alabama
Reggie Ragland is the best natural inside linebacker in this class. While guys like Myles Jack and Darron Lee have the potential to move inside, Ragland already has the experience of commanding a defense, as he was the MLB for Alabama, last years BCS Bowl national champions. The Lions recently recently released Stephen Tulloch, leaving a hole in the middle of their defense that can immediately be filled by Ragland.
17. Atlanta Falcons- Shaq Lawson, DE Clemson
The Falcons were the worst pass rushing team in the league last season, being the only team to not meet the 20 mark, with a league low 19 sacks. Needless to say, they need help. Last year they drafted DE Vic Beasly, and they need to go right back to the DE market to further support their pass rush. Lawson has good power, and will provide immediate help to the Falcons pass rush, along with potential to be a solid run defender as well.
18. Indianapolis Colts- Ryan Kelly, C Alabama
The Colts have been on record of having one of the worst offensive lines in the league over the last few years. Ryan Kelly is the best interior lineman in this class, and can help both Indianapolis’ running and passing games. Kelly has received comparisons to the Atlanta Falcons’ center Alex Mack, and if he lives up to that hype he will be a steal at this spot.
19. Buffalo Bills- Kevin Dodd, DE Clemson
The Bills decided this offseason that it was best to part ways with DE Mario Williams and his hefty contract. Their replacement for him is Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd. Dodd is a very good pass rusher, putting up 12.5 sacks in his final season at Clemson. He should translate well to the NFL, especially with most of the attention from opposing teams on the Bills two beasts in the middle Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams.
20. Pittsburg Steelers- Taylor Decker, OT Ohio State
Trade: Steelers send picks 25 and 89 to Jets in exchange for pick 20
The Steelers are in need of an offensive tackle, and get a steal this late in the draft. Decker is a very good prospect that has gone under the radar due to the top end talent at his position in this draft. Decker is a very good run blocker, and while he doesn’t have elite athleticism should be an above average tackle in this league, providing good holes for Le’Veon Bell and holding up his side protecting Ben Rothlisberger.
21. Washington Redskins- Jarran Reed, DT Alabama
Had the Redskins not signed CB Josh Norman last week, I likely would have slotted a cornerback to them in this slot. However, now that they have signed him, a defensive tackle would be a welcomed addition to their roster. The Redskins line isn’t great, and has nobody truly capable of gaining the offenses attention. He is a very good run stopper, and should add a much needed boost to a sub par Redskins defense.
22. Houston Texans- Will Fuller, WR Notre Dame
DeAndre Hopkins had a breakout campaign last season, and was arguably the best receiver in the NFL, winning almost every one on one match up and providing much needed consistency in a Texans pass attack that rotated through many different quarterbacks. After finally finding Hopkins a QB, signing Brock Osweiler to a luxurious contract, it is time to find him a partner as well, and Fuller is the guy. While Fuller may not be the best receiver on the board, he fits what the Texans need as a true speed threat. Fuller ran a 4.3 forty yard dash at the combine, and provides a different threat than Hopkins, who is not the fastest player but is a great possession receiver. Fuller is 6’2, giving him a good combination of size and speed, along with the ability to stretch the defense and open things up in the middle.
While he may not be the first off the board, Treadwell is the best receiver in this class. The Vikings struck gold last season drafting Stefon Diggs late, as he provided a quality target for Bridgewater. However, outside of Diggs, the Vikings don’t have a receiver to lean on. Treadwell will never be the fastest player on the field, but he is great at high pointing the ball and will win most contested battles, providing a great red zone threat for Bridgewater.
24. Cincinnati Bengals- Josh Doctson, WR Texas Christian University
The Bengals lost both Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones this offseason, and now need a receiving threat to line up along side AJ Green and Tyler Eifert. Doctson is very good at creating separation, as well as having the ability to play the ball in the air. In the Bengals offense, the number two receiver has often been a very important piece, as defenses try to lock up Green, Eifert, and the two headed monster of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard at halfback. Adding Dawson will give the Bengals a better number two than Jones or Sanu ever were, and make a scary offense even scarier.
25. New York Jets- William Jackson III, CB Houston
Trade: Jets send pick 20 to Steelers in exchange for picks 25 and 89
The Jets released Antonio Cromarti and now could use a corner opposite of Darrelle Revis. In a CB class that doesn’t have great high end talent, the Jets decided it was best to move back and see who falls to them. Jackson is a physical freak, with very good height for a cornerback at 6’1, and a very impressive forty time of 4.37. With his athleticism comes a combination of above average ball skills and cover ability, which gives him the potential to be one of the best corners in the league one day.
26. Seattle Seahawks- Cody Whitehair, OG Kansas State
The Seahawks have been neglecting their offensive line a lot over the last few years, but have gotten away with it thanks to Russell Wilson’s elite ability to evade pressure. However, they won’t be able to get away with it forever. After trading C Max Unger, and letting OG James Carpenter and OT Russell Okung walk in free agency over the last two years, they are getting very thin at offensive line. Whitehair is the best guard in this class, and will immediately be one of the best offensive linemen on the Seahawks.
27. Green Bay Packers- Chris Jones, DT Mississippi State
Outside of Mike Daniels, there are no proven players on the Packers defensive line. In Chris Jones, they can get a defensive tackle that will plug in and be solid against the run, which is much needed after being in the bottom half of the league giving up 119.1 rushing yards per game last season. He doesn’t have the best pass rushing skills, but on a defense with Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, that will not be necessary.
28. Kansas City Chiefs- Noah Spence, DE/OLB Ohio State
Tamba Hali resigned this offseason after being released, but he isn’t getting any younger. To go along with that, Justin Houston is fighting a knee injury that has put his 2016 season in jeopardy. With these circumstances, the Chiefs would be wise to draft Noah Spence to rotate in and out with Hali and Houston. Spence is a very good pass rusher and would likely be drafted higher if not for his off the field issues which caused him to be dismissed from Ohio State.
29. Arizona Cardinals- Robert Nkemdiche, DT Mississippi
The Cardinals have a very good defense, but lack a true man in the middle that can dominate. Nkemdiche is a steal at this spot, if he can put aside his off the field issues. Nkemdiche is considered a top 10 talent by many of the NFL’s top analysts, but his major off field issues have caused him to drop far down the board. He is very quick and is good against both the run and pass, and if he proves everybody wrong about his off field issues, he will be the steal of the draft.
30. Carolina Panthers- Eli Apple, CB Ohio State
It is well known that the Panthers rescinded their franchise tag on Josh Norman last week, and now the Panthers must look for a cornerback to replace him. Apple possesses good size at 6’1, and runs an impressive 4.4 forty yard dash, giving him room for error as he can catch up to a receiver who got by him, or use his size to get up and break up a pass. Apple is a good cover man, and should succeed on a very good Carolina defense.
31. Denver Broncos- Connor Cook, QB Michigan State
The Broncos are in one of the weirder situations of reigning Super Bowl champions. With Peyton Manning retired, and his expected successor Brock Osweiler bolting to Houston for a large sum of money, the Broncos find themselves without a quarterback. They traded for Mark Sanchez, who is not the answer, and have been in talks with the 49ers about Colin Kaepernick, but it doesn’t seem like anything is going to get done. Connor Cook was a winner at Michigan State, going 34-5 over his three years as the starter. He has the arm strength and mobility to succeed, but his leadership has come into question, as he wasn’t voted a captain for his senior season. This would be an ideal situation for Cook, as Mark Sanchez could be the bridge quarterback for him for a half to full season, then when the Broncos feel he is ready, he can step in and succeed with the help of Denver’s league best defense.
32. Cleveland Browns- Corey Coleman, WR Baylor
33. Tennessee Titans- Karl Joseph, S West Virginia
34. Dallas Cowboys- Derrick Henry, RB Alabama
35. San Diego Chargers- Vernon Butler, DT Louisiana Tech
36. Baltimore Ravens- Vonn Bell, S Ohio State
37. San Francisco 49ers- Germain Ifedi, OT Texas A&M
38. Jacksonville Jaguars- Artie Burns, CB Miami
39. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jonathan Bullard, DE Florida
40. New York Giants- Kamalei Correa, LB Boise State
41. San Francisco 49ers (via Chicago)- Michael Thomas, WR Ohio State
42. Miami Dolphins- Jason Spriggs, OT Indiana
43. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles and Philadelphia)- A’Shawn Robinson, DT Alabama
44. Oakland Raiders- Hunter Henry, TE Arkansas
45. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles)- Mackensie Alexander, CB Clemson
46. Detroit Lions- Tyler Boyd, WR Pittsburg
47. New Orleans Saints- Jihad Ward, DE Illinois
48. Indianapolis Colts- Kenny Clark, DT UCLA
49. Buffalo Bills- Deion Jones, OLB LSU
50. Atlanta Falcons- Joshua Garnett, OG Stanford
51. New York Jets- Christian Hackenberg, QB Pennsylvania State
52. Houston Texans- Nick Martin, OG/C Notre Dame
53. Washington Redskins- Chris Moore, WR Cincinnati
54. Minnesota Vikings- Christian Westerman, OG Arizona State
55. Cincinnati Bengals- Andrew Billings, DT Baylor
56. Seattle Seahawks- Austin Johnson, DT Pennsylvania State
57. Green Bay Packers- Nick Vannett, TE Ohio State
58. Pittsburg Steelers- Cyrus Jones, CB Alabama
59. Kansas City Chiefs- Braxton Miller, WR Ohio State
60. New England Patriots- Alex Lewis, OT Nebraska
61. New England Patriots (via Arizona)- Austin Hooper, TE Stanford
The Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles made the second blockbuster trade of the draft, as the Eagles traded up to the number two overall pick, and in exchange gave the Browns their first round picks this year and next year, a second round pick in 2018, and two other 2016 selections. At a glance, the Browns 100% won this trade, as they got a big haul from the Eagles and only move down six spots to pick number eight. With two first round picks next year, the Browns find themselves in a great situation to rebuild their team. However, it is not a situation that has been uncommon to them. The Browns have had multiple first round picks in three of the last four NFL drafts, and as we all know, it hasn’t turned out so well for the Browns.
After trading the selection Julio Jones was later taken with to the Atlanta Falcons in 2011, the Browns were set to speed up their rebuilding process in 2012 with their two first round selections. However, that didn’t work out so well. The first of these two picks was Alabama running back Trent Richardson, whom the Browns drafted 3rd overall, and even traded up one selection with the Minnesota Vikings to secure the rights to draft him. At the time, Trent Richardson was thought of as the best running back to come out of the draft since Adrian Peterson, so it is no surprise the Browns coveted the tailback. In his rookie season Richardson showed great promise, running for 950 yards while scoring 11 touchdowns. However, he had a very alarming yards per carry, only averaging 3.6 yards on each handoff he took. In 2013 things took a turn for the worse with Richardson as after two games in Cleveland, he was traded to Indianapolis for a first round pick. Richardson had two poor seasons in 2013 and 2014 for the Colts, and hasn’t touched the ball on a regular season snap ever since. While the Browns got back some value on this poor pick, they still ultimately traded the player they gave up their 2012 4th overall pick (and 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks) to the Colts for a 2014 26th overall pick (later traded up to pick 22). As for what they could have done had they not taken Richardson? They could have taken Ryan Tannehill at the 4th selection and gotten a solid NFL quarterback, or traded back and selected Luke Kuechly, who has developed into the best middle linebacker in the NFL. The next pick in the 2012 draft for the Browns was the 28-year-old QB out of Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden. Weeden was a disaster from the start for Cleveland, going 5-15 as the starter, with only 5,116 yards, a sub par 23-26 TD to interception ratio, and an awful completion percentage of 55.9% in his 23 games as a Brown. His rookie season was his lone season where he held down the starting job for most of the year, as in 2013 he started only five games and was benched in favor of Jason Campbell. The Browns missed out on some good NFL players when they took Weeden, as HB Doug Martin, LB Dont’a Hightower, and S Harrison Smith were all taken shortly after the Browns selected Weeden.
In 2013 the Browns only had one selection, but it was still a top 10 selection, as they sat at number six overall. At that pick, they decided to select LSU OLB Barkevious Mingo. Mingo had a solid start to his NFL career in his rookie season, putting up five sacks and 29 tackles as a rotational player. After his impressive start, the Browns felt he was ready for a bigger role and gave him 11 starts, but he regressed greatly in 2014, recording only two sacks and 26 tackles. In 2015 the team stripped him of his starting job and gave him a very small role on the team, as he posted zero sacks and just 13 tackles, however he did record his first career interception. Heading into 2016, Mingo is unlikely to return to his spot as a starter, and is even more unlikely to have his 5th year option exercised, leaving his future with the Browns after this season up in the air. Had the Browns decided Mingo wasn’t the player for them, the Browns could have drafted dynamic playmaker Tavon Austin, or defensive linemen Star Lotulelei or Sheldon Richardson in his place, which would have provided them with better production out of their first round selection.
After trading Trent Richardson the Browns were stocked with two first round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. With their first selection, the Browns decided to trade down to number nine overall, letting the Bills move up to select WR Sammy Watkins and picking up their 2015 first round selection. They then decided that they wanted to trade up one selection, and ultimately selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert to start opposite Joe Haden. However, the trend continues as once again, this has not worked out so well. In 2014 he was solid as a rotational player, posting 8 pass deflections and one interception. However, in 2015 he was limited to just nine games and 51 snaps due to injury, putting up zero interceptions and just one pass deflection. He is not a total loss yet, but he really needs to step up in 2016 for the Browns to feel comfortable with their pick. Should he ultimately wind up a bust, Cleveland will be kicking themselves knowing that they passed on great players such as WRs Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham Jr., OLBs Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr, and DT Aaron Donald. With their second pick, the Browns moved up to pick none other than Texas A&M QB Johnny “Football” Manziel. Manziel was a disaster for Cleveland as soon as he stepped onto the field. He started his career on the bench developing under Brian Hoyer, but eventually got two starts in his rookie season which did not go so well, as he went 18-35 with just 175 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions in his two games, losing each. In 2015 he was not as bad on the field, putting up 1,500 yards, a 7-5 TD to
interception ratio, and a 57.8% completion percentage. However, off the field was where Manziel showed his true colors. Often critiqued for being immature, Manziel proved his critics right in 2015 and 2016, as he partied too much and was arrested on multiple occasions, including charges of assault and driving under the influence. Manziel’s off the field issues ran him straight out of Cleveland, as he was released this offseason, and remains unsigned to this day. After everything they had gone through, the Browns probably wish that they had taken QB Teddy Bridgewater instead of Manziel.
Finally, there is the 2015 draft in which Cleveland had two first round picks thanks to their trade with Buffalo in the 2014 NFL draft. With their two picks, the Browns selected Washington DT Danny Shelton, and Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving. It is still too early to judge on whether they either will be good players as they have only played one season, but Shelton was solid on the inside his rookie season posting 37 total tackles and starting 15 of their 16 games. On the other end, Erving only started four games which is too small of a sample size to make a judgement on to this point.
To sum up, the Browns need to end what seems like a long running NFL orientation film in which they show viewers exactly what not to do. It is vital for them to capitalize on their first round picks this year and next, and finally show the league that they might actually know what they are doing. If they use a combination of trading down and taking the best player available, they can maximize the talent they take in as with all the holes on their roster, they can’t draft based off need. They are off to a good start so far this year after trading down, but given their history, thats far from a guarantee that the trade will net them good NFL players.
If you didn’t feel the NFL world shaking yesterday, the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams caused an earthquake after making one of the biggest trades in NFL history, sending the Rams all the way from the 15th pick in the draft to the 1st overall selection. Now, it is time to break down the pros and cons of the trade from both sides perspectives, and who came out on top.
Titans Receive: picks 15, 43, 45, and 76 of the 2016 NFL Draft, Rams 2017 1st round pick and 2017 conditional 3rd round pick (if Rams are awarded 3rd round compensatory pick next year, Titans get that pick, if not, Rams give their base 3rd round selection)
Rams Receive: picks 1, 113, and 177 of the 2016 NFL Draft
We will start with the Titans because frankly, their side is the easiest to support.
They got a lot. A lot. When I say a lot, I mean they got more than I ever thought they could. The day before the trade I saw a theory extremely similar to this trade involving these two teams, and thought the author was crazy for thinking they could get for this pick.
The Titans now control not only the 2016 draft, but the 2017 as well. With six selections in the first 76 picks this year and two 1st rounders next year, the Titans are set up to rebuild their roster with a plethora of young talent that can get them back on the radar quick, after going through two extremely poor seasons in 2014 and 2015.
They didn’t need a quarterback. This is a rather big one. After drafting Oregon’s Marcus Mariota with the 2nd overall pick last year, the Titans weren’t in a spot where they needed to draft a quarterback first overall, and that gave them the flexibility to be able to pull off a trade of this magnitude.
Really, this should only be listed as con, because this trade was so well executed by Titans’ rookie GM Jon Robinson, there is only one downside. Having dropped down to the 15th overall selection in the draft, the Titans are now out of range for the drafts blue chip prospects, specifically Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil, who was suppose to be the Titans insurance policy to keep QB Marcus Mariota upright. However, it’s not all bad as with all the selections they acquired, they can move back into the top 10 if one of the prospects they like falls.
Titans Trade Grade: A+
Now we move onto the more controversial side of this trade, the Rams point of view.
After three years of inconsistent, and frankly pathetic quarterback play, the LA Rams are now in position to fix that, and are poised to possibly get a franchise quarterback in North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, or California’s Jared Goff; unless of course they really did just like Florida State’s DB Jalen Ramsey that much. Whichever of the two quarterbacks they do decide is their guy, the Rams will be in their best position to win now since Sam Bradford tore his ACL, the first time that is.
After being on the other side of a similar deal in 2012 in what is now known as the “RG3 trade,” the Rams felt they had built up enough young talent to be able to sacrafice high value picks over the next two seasons in order to get their franchise QB.
Whichever QB the Rams do take, they will be walking on to a very QB friendly situation. The Rams are a team that likes to win through the trenches, meaning leaning on a great running back and solid defense. That’s exactly what they have in 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley, and a very solid defense led by all-pros Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. Being able to step into a situation like that will be very beneficial for Wentz or Goff, as not all of the pressure will be on them to win games, and a lot of the defenses attention will be on Todd Gurley.
Finally, this move helps free up cap space that would have been allotted to the draft slots they gave up, and can attempt to extend their own players with the money they saved. The Rams finally had to face the problem this year of developing too much young talent. After developing them all, you also have to face the tough task of paying them all, and the Rams learned that the hard way this offseason after losing CB Janoris Jenkins to the New York Giants, and FS Rodney McLeod to the Philadelphia Eagles. Now the Rams can focus their money on extending their own talent such as Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree, Michael Brockers, and Trumaine Johnson, all of whom are scheduled to be free agents within the next two seasons.
The most obvious con is they gave up a lot. Quarterback wasn’t the only roster hole for the Rams. They still don’t have a true number one wideout on the roster, no clear starting free safety, and could have used depth at tight end, defensive tackle, cornerback, and offensive line. Those problems could have been aided through the picks they gave up, but now they don’t have an immediate answer to help their problems in the prime rounds of the draft this year, and don’t have a first round pick to get an elite prospect next year.
They could end up being the Redskins of the RG3 trade. It’s well documented that the Redskins gave up a lot to get in position to draft RG3, and it is also well documented that he didn’t work out and that trade stunted their growth greatly. Neither Carson Wentz nor Jared Goff are a sure thing, in fact most analysts believe that neither are ready to start week one of their rookie year, and many believe that they are weak prospects compared to other draft classes, such as last years when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went 1-2 to the Buccanears and the Titans. This trade is a huge risk for the Rams, and if it doesn’t work out the loss of everything they gave up will be very noticeable on the field.
This could all just be a desperation move from HC Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead. After no improvement over the four years of their tenure with the Rams, Fisher and Snead are on the hot seat and will be gone after this season if the team doesn’t succeed. It is very possible that they didn’t think either of these two QBs were worth a trade this big, but went all in on an attempt to save their jobs because they didn’t believe the answer was on their roster, and if it failed, that 2017 1st rounder means nothing to them as they would have already cleared out their desks, but if it succeeded then nobody would care that they traded it for their franchise QB.
Rams Trade Grade: A
Overall, this trade is a win for both sides. The Titans now have the pieces for a quick rebuild, and the Rams have a chance to have their first franchise QB since Kurt Warner. In terms of who won the trade, I gave the Titans the higher grade, as they win the immediate trade with virtually no risk involved on their side. But should the Rams risk pay off and Wentz or Goff become an all pro caliber quarterback, the Rams will ultimately be the winner of this trade, as a franchise quarterback is priceless in today’s era.
During the majority of the Jeff Fisher era, the Rams have been thought of as a serviceable QB away from being a legitimate playoff contender. After the quick turnaround from 2-14 to 7-8-1 in Jeff Fisher’s first season as coach, expectations have been high for the Rams, but it seems every year since then they have been a QB short of taking the next step. QB play has haunted the Rams ever since Sam Bradford went down with a torn ACL week 7 of the 2013 season, a season which seemed like it was going to be his breakout year, as he posted 14 TDs and just 4 interceptions in his shortened season. Since then, you could say that the Rams have tried out their fair share of QBs, including Kellen Clemons, Shaun Hill, Austin Davis, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum, all of which were/have been nothing more than mediocre in their stints with the Rams. To make matters worse, the Rams turned down a first round pick from Cleveland in exchange for Bradford, and instead opted to trade him and a 5th rounder to the Eagles in exchange for Nick Foles, and 2nd and 4th round draft picks. Nick Foles was expected to be the guy that could be a serviceable QB and take the Rams to the playoffs. The Rams made it known that he was their guy from the start by signing him to a two year extension before ever playing snap for the team, a move that is now highly criticized in the NFL world. Now the Rams are once again in the position of having to find a someone to be the first QB of the Los Angeles Rams since the 1990s. With Kirk Cousins receiving the franchise tag in Washington, and Sam Bradford signing a 2 year $36 million deal to stay with the Eagles, what other moves could help shore up the Rams biggest weakness?
Option 1: Do Nothing, Acquire More Offensive Talent
The first option is pretty simple, and that is to do nothing at all. Jeff Fisher has not been shy in saying that Case Keenum is LA’s guy moving into 2016. While Keenum was arguably the best QB of the five post-Bradford era starters, that isn’t saying much. To his credit, he played a couple of nice games (specifically his perfect passer rated game in week 15 against Tampa Bay) and went 3-2 as the starter in 2015, and arguably came a concussion and a blocked field goal away from going 5-0 as the starter. Many think if the Rams invest their first round pick on a true number one wide receiver, such as Laquon Treadwell, and spend their remaining cap space, roughly $44 million after tagging CB Trumaine Johnson, on retaining their key defensive free agents, Keenum will have decent enough passing weapons to go along with a ferocious defense and running game to help bring the Rams to the post season.
Option 2: Trade for Jimmy Garoppolo
Could the Rams go right back to the trade market to find their QB solution just one year after the Bradford-Foles blockbuster? I don’t see why not. It is unknown as of now if Garoppolo will be made available via trade, but after signing Tom Brady to a two year extension, it seems as though Garoppolo will need to relocate if he wants to start any time soon. Garoppolo was a 2nd round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, and shot up draft boards late in the draft process to where people thought he could possibly squeeze into the first round, despite coming from small school Eastern Illinois. Many players who come into the NFL from small schools would serve well with a year or two to develop and learn the complexity and speed of the NFL. Garoppolo being drafted by the Patriots was possibly the best thing that could have happened for him. He now has had two years to adjust his game to the speed of the NFL, and has been mentored by arguably the greatest QB of all time, Tom Brady, and arguably the greatest coach of all time, Bill Belichick. Garoppolo getting time to learn under an all time great QB could reap the same rewards Aaron Rodgers saw from sitting under Brett Favre to start his career, and help him potentially become a top 10 NFL QB. If the Patriots are willing to deal Garoppolo, the Rams could make a run at him and offer 2nd or 3rd round picks in hopes of landing the potential star.
Option 3: Trade Up and Draft Jared Goff or Carson Wentz
The vibe in the league right now is that either North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or California’s Jared Goff will be drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the number two overall pick. However, unless the Cowboys decide they want to draft a QB to groom for life after Tony Romo, one of the two should at least last until the San Francisco 49ers are on the clock at the number seven overall pick. Unless someone trades up. The Rams are a strong possibility to trade up, as they have the need and the ammo to make the move and secure their QB of the future. Of the two, Goff is more polished, but Wentz has the higher upside. If the Rams can find a deal similar to the deal they made with Buffalo in 2013 to move up and secure offensive weapon Tavon Austin, they should pounce on it.
Option 4: Stay Put, Draft Paxton Lynch in 1st or Connor Cook in 2nd… and Sign Peyton Manning
Crazy right? The Rams not only draft their QB of the future, but they also sign their QB of the now. Memphis’ Paxton Lynch and Michigan State’s Connor Cook are both great talents, but realistically, neither will be ready to play come the start of the 2016 season, that is where Peyton comes into play. While Manning is a shell of his old self, he still would be an upgrade over what LA has now, and would be a big headline for their first season back in LA. Similar to how Brady has groomed Garoppolo, Manning could arguably be an even better mentor to Lynch or Cook. Manning has always been known for his ability to read defenses at the line of scrimmage, and make the proper audibles to counter what he is seeing. For him to be able to teach either of those young QBs mental aspects of the game, such as the ability to read the defense as well as he has for nearly 20 years, as well as give them tips to help their physical game, then this could be a match made in heaven. Manning can help Lynch get up to speed of the complexity of NFL playbooks after playing in a primarily simple one read spread offense at Memphis, or he could help Cook learn how to be the leader of a team, after he wasn’t voted a team captain for his final season at Michigan State. Should Manning not retire, there is already heavy speculation that he will wind up in LA, but getting both Manning and a highly talented QB in the draft could become the most genius move of the offseason, by any team.
Option 5: Sign a Free Agent
The final option is simply finding a QB on the free agent market. With both Cousins and Bradford off the market, however, it is slim pickings. The top two remaining QBs are the Denver Broncos’ Brock Osweiler and the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick, and while either of them would be good signings, neither are expected to leave their current team, nor are guarantees to put up another good season. After those two, the only other intriguing option is Robert Griffen III. In 2012, the Redskins traded three firsts and a second to acquire the number two overall pick and draft RG3. Now, in an ironic turn of events, RG3 could wind up with the team who essentially traded him four years ago, in a low risk high reward signing with the Rams, and a chance for him to prove he still has what it takes to play in the NFL.