Thursday, September 18, 2014

2015 NFL MOCK DRAFT 9-18-14

The NFL and NCAA regular seasons are underway now , but we are already thinking about the 2015 draft .Regular season performances, post-season performances, the salary cap, fee agency, players leaving school early, players deciding to stay in school, injuries etc, can and will change the draft around. Team needs and players stock will rise and fall in the long months until the actual draft takes place. Predicting not only a draft but a draft order so far away is not easy , but our middle name is danger.  



1.NYG-MARCUS MARIOTA-QB-OREGON-Even if Eli returns to form this year it could still be a transition year because the Giants will still be rebuilding, it's much easier to re-stock a team without a big QB salary hindering your flexibility, he is a free agent after the 2015 season, and he is a possible trade chip to a contending team that lacks a QB . If it is they should see if they can figure out if Ryan Nassib is the long term answer at QB, but I doubt he would look much better on this team. If they don't want to go the QB route then the D-line would make a lot of sense.  .Strahan. Tuck, JPP.  Retired, a raider, not the same after back surgery. Even if JPP returns to form Mathias Kiwanuka looks like he already on the downside of his career too. Their interior pass rush is even worse. 


2.OAKLAND-LEONARD WILLIAMS-DT/DE-USC-My guess is GM Reggie McKenzie gets fired despite an excellent draft. They spent too much money and overpaid for too many way past their prime players. They probably should give Derek Carr at least 1 more year at QB to see if he's the guy , but new GM's and coaches are famous for wanting their own guy. Since we haven't seen the final outcome of Carr getting his chance yet we will just give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Williams is an elite DT/DE prospect. Tall. long arms, strong, quick. You name it he's got it. He can rush the passer well enough to be a 3 technique , or hold the point as 5 technique and still give you a pass rush if they should decide to run a 3-4. I would say he is one the most gifted overall players eligible for the 2015 draft. 



3.JACKSONVILLE-RANDY GREGORY-DE/OLB-NEBRASKA-While they drafted pretty well for the long term this year , their choices didn't exactly scream win now.  A project QB in the first round and a injured CB in the 4th makes this season ,less likely to end well.  With those 2 possibly red-shirting ,and the underwhelming Chad Henne manning the ship behind a bad O-line for at least half the season, this year looks like a lost cause already. Gregory is a long armed athlete who would have been a first rounder in 2014's deep draft based on talent alone. The extra year to improve his pass rush moves could make him an elite player.




4.WASHINGTON-VICTOR BEASLEY-OLB/DE-CLEMSON-If Brian Orapko can stay healthy all year the skins probably pay him , but I doubt he does. Beasley was a likely first round pick this year who returned to school. His best fit is a 3-4 OLB even if he puts on another 20 pounds this year as long as he can still get to the QB.  If RG3 returns to form this offense is dangerous, but I'll  believe in this defense only after I see them produce. Their secondary is the main question right now, but nothing makes a secondary better quickly than a good pass rush. The offensive line could also use boost. 



5.TAMPA BAY- CEDRICK OGBUEHI-OT-TEXAS A&M- Carl Nicks was the best guard in football when the bucs signed him. Now after a series of injuries and infections he is retired. The bucs tried to rebuild an aging overpaid, injury prone, underachieving O- line this off-season but it takes time. They even recently acquired future HOFer Logan Mankins to play guard for them.Left tackle Anthony Collins is more of a  is more of a finesse guy who lacks the dominant physicality of a OT that leads a power running game.  Cedrick is an elite athlete for an O-lineman in the Tyron Smith mold who looks more like a big TE than anything else. Barring injury I believe he will be the next in line of the Texas A&M offensive tackles to be taken in the top 10. With the injuries the bucs have already had a possible bright season is starting to look more like one where a top 5 pick is likely.




6.CHEIFS- KEVIN WHITE-WR-W.VIRGINIA-I doubt The Chiefs front office began last off season by saying " Hey, why don't we lose our 3 best O-Lineman in free agency and then just up and cut our 28 year old former pro bowl corner back after OTA's! ". That's what happened though. Flowers didn't have his best season, although he was playing hurt , but he finished strong. When they were seeking to trade him before the draft we knew something was up. Anyway I think there is more we don't know about this. It can't be just his height, although I guess saving 5 million off the cap helps plenty when you feel a guy no longer fits your scheme.  I feel that a tough schedule and all these changes mean a down season for the Chiefs and a possibly an even bigger change because of it. Dwayne Bowe the # 1 receiver on this team and his best skill is his blocking, White is a big strong handed physical receiver that  Alex Smith might be able to depend on in the clutch. 



7.ATLANTA-DANTE FOWLER-DE/OLB-FLORIDAAtlanta is in a rebuilding year and any hope of it being a quick turnaround probably ended when both Sean Weatherperson and Sam Baker went down for the year. Despite it being the second largest need on their team the Falcons waited until the 4th round to draft an edge rusher. Fowler has that kind of ability if he can harness it. A guy with his talent and motor is a safe bet to make a big jump in production this year. With just a little tweaking and improvement in technique he could blow up this season . Adding Jake Matthews and Jon Asamoah to their O-line is an improvement, despite the loss of Baker, but a replacement OT to replace him and his cap number is also a possibility.



8.CLEVELAND-AMARI COOPER-WR-ALA-Even if Josh Gordon comes back his actions have shown that smoking weed is more important to him than football. I actually would have picked them to win 9 games this year if Josh hadn't decided to fail ANOTHER drug test. Even after his most recent failed test he got pulled over in a car that had a passenger carrying weed and that reportedly smelled like weed.  Anything he gives the team would just be a bonus. Personally I think they should draft 2 receivers in the first 3 rounds just to be safe. Miles Austin is a hamstring pull away from the sideline and Andrew Hawkins is an undersized slot guy. Maybe they will play Justin Gilbert on offense this season. Cooper would also give Manziel another target that can rarely be covered one on one. Cooper isn't the biggest or fastest ,but he can separate, is great at timing his jumps, and usually comes down with it in jump ball situations. 



9.HOUSTON-JAMEIS WINSTON-QB-FSU-Tom Savage? meh. Ryan Fitzpatrick? Nope. Coach O'brien could decide to go with a known commodity by signing free agent Ryan Mallet, but unless he's great this season I doubt it . Mallet blossoming under O'briens tutelage is probably the Texans best chance of a long term answer of the 3 choices, but  I doubt they go down that road if a top QB prospect is available when they pick. . If they really wanted Mallet they could have traded a 3rd round choice on draft day for him. Waiting till right before the season to trade for him, and only investing a late round pick in Mallet makes me doubt O'briens love of him.  So far Fitz has been a disaster and Savage is a project that is far from ready. Despite a great draft this could be a turnover/rebuilding year.  If the Texans are going to waste the talents of Jadavian Clowney in coverage,  instead of rushing the passer , they deserve to learn the hard way and finish dead last again. On the bright side an elite talent like Winston, under the tutelage of a QB guru like O'brien ,could lead to awesome results. If Winston can stay out of trouble he can be a great pro QB. On the field I prefer him to Mariota right now because he keeps his eyes down field and makes great throws in the clutch , regardless of the rush bearing down on him. If he tightens up his delivery & mechanics , can stay off of TMZ, and then can convince teams he has grown up , he should go very high.




10.TENNESEE-BRETT HUNDLEY-QB-UCLA-Despite his obvious talent Zach Mettenburgers knee & back woes, and some off the field troubles made him free fall to the 6th round. With so little an investment in him a new top QB can easily come in to replace Jake Locker if he fails again.  Right now I think that's Hundley. He is a good athlete for the position, and his leadership skills are unquestioned. . Even if given the choice Ken Whisenhunt is more likely to take a safe off the field guy like Mariota/Hundley than a maybe better but troubled Jameis Winston if he was available when they picked.  This team has almost everything ,and are probably just a good QB away play should make them a contender quickly.


11.CAROLINA-BRANDON SCHERFF-OT-IOWA--Jordan Gross retiring seems to have caught the Panthers by surprise, and they didn't do much to remedy it in the draft. Their plan to move Byron Bell to the left side smacks of desperation to me. Their other option is converted former TE /DT Nate Chandler. He is a great athlete , but they are counting on him to make a Jason Peters-like jump up this year.  Maybe they are right and both are undiscovered studs , but that seems like 2 huge gambles to base the health of your franchise QB on,. Even a physical specimen like Newton can only take so many hits and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets hurt this season. He is already coming off a rebuilt ankle this off-season. He also recently suffered a fractured rib in the pre-season. O-line At least they made a concerted effort to get him a better(or at least  more reliable and supportive) receiving core, but at this point a healthy Steve Smith is still better than anyone they now have. Scherff is an angry mauler that could set the tone for a decade in the power, run first, ball control offense that the panthers run. He would also upgrade the pass blocking at one of the tackle positions. 




12.CLEVELAND-(buffalo)-LANDON COLLINS-S-ALA-Bringing in Veteran Donte Whitner to replace TJ Ward is just a band-aid, and a downgrade at safety.  Whitner is a fierce  hitter, but he misses too many tackles and doesn't provide enough in coverage to be a long term solution. Collins does all that  Whitner doesn't in coverage, is a good tackler, and he can deliver some big hits too.




13.RAMS-CONNOR COOK-QB-MICHIGAN ST- I was planning on picking the rams to make the playoffs this year but Sam Bradford got hurt ... AGAIN. Sorry Sam, I have stood up for you time after time, but maybe you really can't stay healthy. So now they NEED to draft a QB. Cook has the size and arm strength NFL teams crave. They should also dump the ultra, stone-age, predictable offense that OC Brian Schottenheimer likes to run. 




14.MINNESOTA-MARIO EDWARDS-DE-FLA.ST- If Teddy Bridgewater had begun the season as the starting QB , and Adrian Peterson hadn't been put on paid leave, the vikings had a chance to compete for a playoff spot. Now I expect them to struggle until one or both is in the starting lineup. Shariff Floyd, Linval Joseph, and Fred Evans are all good options on the inside , but none of them have the elite talent Edwards does. Edwards was the only player I saw give #2 overall pick Greg Robinson trouble in the run game this year. He is a physical specimen who's prodigious strength could make him very versatile, but he needs to be on the field for more snaps and show a larger variety of pass rush moves. He has the talent and frame to play inside or outside in a 4-3, or be a 5 technique in a odd front.




15.DALLAS-LEONARD FLOYD-DE/OLB-GA-Even if Demarcus Lawrence works out at one end spot the front four pass rush is the key to this defense, and Dallas seems to be counting on depth instead of proven high end talent to get to the QB this season. Aging/injured Anthony Spencer probably can't be counted on long term, and Henry Melton is also coming off a torn ACL. If he adds a few pounds Floyd can be that elite right end that leads the front 4 pressure and they could move Lawrence over to the strong-side long term. This team can go 5-11 or 11-5 depending on Romo's(back disc surgery!) health alone. Romo's over/under is 10 games to me ,and I'm betting the under right now. If Brandon Weeden's the replacement QB I expect a lot of losses.Losing Sean :Lee for the year doesn't help either. That means that the 3 best players on last years BAD defense are no longer on the field for Dallas. Even without Lee if Romo is healthy for 16 games and the defense is just average I think they win the division this year, but I just doubt his body can hold up for the whole season, and that their pass rush on the outside will get it done.



16.CHICAGO-CODY PREWITT-S-O.MISS- The Bears and the Cowboys both desperately needed safeties this year. Both teams had their pick of the litter and both teams passed. Other(some might might say smarter)  teams snatched up all 4 universally high rated safeties in the 1rst round. They did draft the versatile Kyle Fuller with their 1rst pick, and he is big, smart, and physical enough to play safety if necessary.  Although that's not Fullers best position and Peanut Tillman is 33 and coming off a serious injury. They also drafted Brock Vereen in round 4, but even if he works out that's just one safety spot filled. Prewitt led the SEC in picks last year and the bears secondary prides themselves on taking away the ball. He is also a big hitter. 




17.DETROIT-IFO EKPRE OLUMNU-CB-OREGON-The Lions have finally admitted the Chris Houston big money contract was a mistake and moved on another corner is needed.The lions keep drafting corners in the 2nd round and later. This time they make sure and get an elite talent by drafting one first. Ifo is a fierce guy with elite coverage skills who plays a lot bigger than he is. 




18.BALTIMORE-MELVIN GORDON-RB-WISCONSIN-With Ray Rice looking beat down on the field, and facing a indefinite suspension for beating down his wife,the Ravens need kelp at running back.  Bernard Pierce is probably the man at RB for the ravens this year. The bruising Pierce could get help from fellow big back rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro , but neither is the consistent big play threat that Gordon is, An explosive back that can take a full load of carries and force defenses to game-plan around him. Gordon can take it the house and is a surprisingly physical runner for his build.  His ridiculous yards per carry last season when everyone knew he was getting the ball shows just how good he is.He hasn't shown much as a receiver or in pass pro yet, but I imagine he could do some serious damage if he caught the ball in an open space. 




19.NYJ-TODD GURLEY-RB-GEORGIA-Remember when the ground and pound jets were making the AFC championship despite a crappy QB? A bruising running game was the key just as much as the defense. Gurley reminded me of Eric Dickerson pre-knee-injury. If he is %100 this year , regains that pre-injury burst, and returns completely to form, look out! Even last year he was a big straight ahead power back who can carry the load and contribute to the passing game. If this is his ceiling now post-injury he still reminds me of Steven Jackson and that's a very good thing. 




20.MIAMI-DENZEL PERRYMAN-ILB/OLB-MIA--Daniel Ellerbe did not play well in the middle last season, and he suffered a season ending injury in week one this year. A new QB for the defense will be a top priority and hometown boy Perryman is my pick to end the season as the best MLB in the draft.  Speaking of changing QB's, Ryan Tannehill can still be a franchise QB but I think it's possible he goes when Philbin gets fired and the new guy wants his own QB. The front office turnover this year ,combined with injuries to key players, lame duck coach, the Incognito scandal, and unpredictable ownership all give me a bad feeling for this season. So despite a strong overall draft and free agency period I am thinking the Dolphins go backwards this year.





21.ARIZONA-SHANE RAY-DE/OLB-MIZZ- The cards need an edge rusher that is fluid and quick enough to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB, and strong enough to hold the point as a DE when they go to nickle. Ray didn't get as much spotlight as the steady Kony Ealy/ or media creation Michael Sam last season. He did however make a lot of plays as an edge rusher. Now , he has a chance to shine in the spotlight. He is fast off the ball , closes really well , and his bets position in the pro's is probably as a rush backer. 



22.PITTSBURGH- JAELEN STRONG WR-AZ.ST- Since Plaxico Burress left after his rookie season Ben Roethlesberger has wanted another big wide receiver. Strong would give Big Ben  another big target who he can throw it up to, but also have the speed and running ability to make plays after the catch. Strong has a playing style similar to to AJ Green but plays with a little more physicality.



23.EAGLES-SHAWN OAKMAN-DE/DT-BAYLOR-Chip Kelly likes tall guys with long arms on defense. That describes the raw athletic Oakman to a tee. Think somewhere between Calais Campbell/Michael Johnson and you are on the the right track.He has the perfect frame for a NFL 5 technique and be a cornerstone of the rebuilt defense under Kelly. . 



24.BENGALS-SHAQ THOMPSON-OLB-WASHINGTON- The  Bengals have Vontaze Burfict at OLB, and while he is great there he could also be great in the middle, where they have kept trotting out under-performing Rey Malaluga despite his sub-par play.  In today's pass happy NFL anyone who can't cover is a liability. Thompson is a former safety who files to the ball and between him and Burfict they would be able to cover a lot of ground.


25.CHARGERS-TRAE WAYNES-CB-MICH.ST--After drafting Jason Verret in 2014, and signing Brandon Flowers the chargers now have a chance to have 2 good corners, but both are undersized.. Even if somebody else steps up here at least one more corner is needed in today's pass happy NFL, and he needs to be a bigger guy. Adding the tall and physical Waynes to Weddle, Verret, Flowers, and a improving Marcus Gilchrist can make what was once a weakness into a strength


26.GREEN BAY-ANDRUS PEAT-OT-STANFORD-A long term replacement for the perennially injured Brian Bulaga couldn't hurt, or an upgrade for the under powered David Bakhtiari. Since Chad Clifton started to go downhill teh Pck has lacked an OT that can play at high level and stay healthy. Derek Sherrod has been such a bust that I fear for Rodgers safety everything Sherrod plays. 



27.SAN FRANCISCO-MARCUS PETERS-CB-WASH ST-The 49ers are the leagues deepest team from top to  bottom but the one position they are really struggling at is corner back. I am sure they would rather move first round safety Jimmy Ward back to the position they drafted him to play. Peters could help fill that void. 




28.PATRIOTS-DEVIN FUNCHESS-WR/TE-MICHIGAN-The real offense the Patriots want to run is predicated on 2 tight end sets . Right now even if Gronk is completely healthy for the season he is called on to block a lot , because he is far better than any other blocking TE the pats have. They shocked us all and didn't draft any in 2013. Doubt that happens this time around. Funchess would give them a move TE to replace Aaron Hernandez and open up the offense. 




29.COLTS-LA'EL COLLINS-T/G-LSU-I have never thought Anthony Costanzo was meant to be a left tackle. After all the hits he took last year I bet Andrew Luck agrees,.The interior O-line is a bigger worry right now, but I wouldn't pay Costanzo left tackle money on a long term deal unless he improves a lot this season. Even if they decided to keep Costanzo ,they look like they need an upgrade inside, and La'el's best fit might be at guard. 



30.SEATTLE-MICHAEL BENNETT-DT-OHIO ST-The sea-hawks are showing a lot of the signs of a team that misses the playoffs a year after winning the Superbowl. . From Players leaving in free agency , cut because of the cap , others getting huge contracts, divorces, commercials, holdouts, a hard schedule in the toughest division in football where every other team got better, fame and it's trappings, etc.... but they still have a very talented roster with some great leaders, So while  I won't pick them to win it all , I definitely still see them as a contender. After  their confusing draft was added in to the mix, I wouldn't even pick  them to repeat as champs in the NFC west, except San Francisco's corners are suspect. and Aldon Smith & Navarro Bowman are likely to miss the first half of the season.  Without home-field advantage in the playoffs I think the Superbowl is out. .  In 3 years their 4th,5th and ,6th round draft picks may be stars in typical Seahawks fashion but they need depth now.  They over-drafted injury prone Justin Britt this year but did little else to help the O-line. Next year they are probably going to lose some key players. because you can't pay everybody and Russell Wilson is next at the pay window, A real QB contract should keep them from also paying Cliff Avril, KJ Wright and Byron Maxwell. At the very least they will lose 2 out of those 3. Since Avril cost the most he will probably be the most likely to go. Bennett has that elite first step that would fit right into this pass rush. 



31.SAINTS-HRONISS GRASU-C-OREGON- 35 year old center Jonathan Goodwin is on the decline, and keeping the pocket clean up the middle is they key to 6 foot Drew Brees being able to throw the ball well. Grasu is the best center in college football right now with the athleticism to become an elite player once he adds a little more strength. 




32.DENVER-SHILIQUE CALHOUN-DE-MICH. ST-Calhoun is a relentless player who probably fits best on the strong side. While Von Miller comes down to the line on obvious downs opposite DeMarcus Ware there isn't a regular DE across from Ware who helps much against the pass. 






Sunday, September 7, 2014

2015 NFL TEAM RECORD PREDICTIONS

AFC EAST

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 12-4 - DIVISION TITLE
NEW YORK JETS 8-8
MIAMI DOLPHINS 7-9
BUFFALO BILLS 6-10

AFC NORTH

CINCINNATI BENGALS 10-6- DIVISION TITLE
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 9-7-WILDCARD
BALTIMORE RAVENS 8-8
CLEVELAND BROWNS 6-10

AFC SOUTH

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 11-5 DIVISION TITLE
TENNESSEE TITANS 7-9
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS -6-10
HOUSTON TEXANS- 5-11

AFC WEST

DENVER BRONCOS-12-4 DIVISION TITLE -HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS-9-7-WILDCARD
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS-7-9
OAKLAND RAIDERS-3-13

NFC EAST

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES-10-6-DIVISION TITLE
DALLAS COWBOYS-7-9
WASHINGTON REDSKINS-6-10
NEW YORK GIANTS-5-11

NFC NORTH

GREEN BAY PACKERS-11-5-DIVISION TITLE
CHICAGO BEARS-8-8
MINNESOTA VIKINGS-8-8
DETROIT LIONS-8-8

NFC SOUTH

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS-12-4-DIVISION TITLE -HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS-8-8
ATLANTA FALCONS-7-9
CAROLINA PANTHERS-6-10

NFC WEST

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS-11-5-DIVISION TITLE
SAN FRANCISCO 49ER'S-10-6-WILDCARD
ARIZONA CARDINALS-9-7-WILDCARD
ST. LOUIS RAMS-7-9

Friday, September 5, 2014

2015 NFL MOCK DRAFT- 9/5/14

The NFL and NCAA regular seasons are both starting soon and we are already thinking about the 2015 draft .Regular season performances, post-season performances, the salary cap, fee agency, players leaving school early, players deciding to stay in school, injuries etc, can and will change the around. Team needs and players stock will rise and fall in the long months until the actual draft takes place. Predicting not only a draft but a draft order so far away is not easy .My guess right now is it's a Saint vs Broncos Superbowl . 



1.OAK-MARCUS MARIOTA-QB-OREGON-My guess is GM Reggie McKenzie gets fired despite an excellent draft. They spent too much money and overpaid for too many way past their prime players. They probably should give Derek Carr at least 1 more year at QB to see if he's the guy , but new GM's and coaches are famous for wanting their own guy. So I'm gonna say they trade Carr unless he lights it up late in the season, and take the best QB in the draft. Right now I think that's Mariota because of Winston's off the field problems. .He is an elite athlete for the position, but his spread/shotgun offense delays his pro skill set from developing quicker. He is currently  the safest of all the QB's and reminds everybody of Colin Kaeperneck.



2.HOUSTON-JAMEIS WINSTON-QB-FSU-Tom Savage? meh. Ryan Fitzpatrick? Nope.  Coach O'brien could decide to go with a known commodity by signing free agent Ryan Mallet, but unless he's great this season I doubt it . Mallet blossoming under O'briens tutelage is probably the Texans best chance of a long term answer of the 3 choices, but  I doubt they go down that road if a top QB prospect is available when they pick. . If they really wanted Mallet they could have traded a 3rd round choice on draft day for him. Waiting till right before the season to trade for him, and only investing a late round pick in Mallet makes me doubt O'briens love of him.  So far Fitz has been a disaster and Savage is a project that is far from ready. Despite a great draft this could be a turnover/rebuilding year.  If the Texans are going to waste the talents of Jadavian Clowney in coverage,  instead of rushing the passer , they deserve to learn the hard way and finish dead last again. On the bright side an elite talent like Winston, under the tutelage of a QB guru like O'brien ,could lead to awesome results. If Winston can stay out of trouble he can be a great pro QB. On the field I prefer him to Mariota right now because he keeps his eyes down field and makes great throws in the clutch , regardless of the rush bearing down on him. If he tightens up his delivery & mechanics , can stay off of TMZ, and then can convince teams he has grown up , he should go very high.. 




3.NYG-LEONARD WILLIAMS-DT/DE-USC--Unless Eli returns to form this could be a transition year. If it is they should see if they can figure out if Ryan Nassib is the long term answer at QB, but I doubt he would look much better on this team. So while  I wouldn't completely rule out the Giants moving on from Eli and drafting a QB, they have bigger needs on both lines..Strahan. Tuck, JPP.  Retired, a raider, not the same after back surgery. Even if JPP returns to form Mathias Kiwanuka looks like he already on the downside of his career too. Their interior pass rush is even worse. Williams is an elite DT/DE prospect.  Tall. long arms, strong, quick. You name it he's got it. He can rush the passer well enough to be a 3 technique , play as  4-3 base end, or hold the point as 5 technique and still give you a pass rush if they should decide to run a 3-4. I would say he is one the most gifted players overall eligible for the 2015 draft




4.JACKSONVILLE-RANDY GREGORY-DE/OLB-NEBRASKA-While they drafted pretty well for the long term this year , their choices didn't exactly scream win now.  A project QB in the first round and a injured CB in the 4th makes this season ,less likely to end well.  With those 2 possibly red-shirting ,and the underwhelming Chad Henne manning the ship for at least half the season, this year looks like a lost cause already. Gregory is a long armed athlete who would have been a first rounder in 2014's deep draft based on talent alone. The extra year to improve his pass rush moves could make him an elite player. 



5.CAROLINA-CEDRICK OGBUEHI-OT-TEXAS A&M-Jordan Gross retiring seems to have caught the Panthers by surprise, and they didn't do much to remedy it in the draft. Their plan to move Byron Bell to the left side smacks of desperation to me. Their other option is converted former TE /DT Nate Chandler. He is a great athlete , but they are counting on him to make a Jason Peters-like jump up this year.  Maybe they are right and both are undiscovered studs , but that seems like 2 huge gambles to base the health of your franchise QB on,. Even a physical specimen like Newton can only take so many hits and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets hurt. badly. He is already coming off a rebuilt ankle this off-season. He also recently suffered a fractured rib in the pre-season. O-line At least they made a concerted effort to get him a better(or at least  more reliable and supportive) receiving core, but at this point a healthy Steve Smith is still better than anyone they now have. . Cedrick is an elite athlete for an O-lineman in the Tyron Smith mold who looks more like a big TE than anything else. Barring injury I believe he will be the next in line of the Texas A&M offensive tackles to be taken in the top 10. 




6.ATLANTA-SHILIQUE CALHOUN-DE-MICH. STAtlanta is in a rebuilding year and any hope of it being a quick turnaround probably ended when both Sean Weatherperson and Sam Baker went down for the year. Despite it being the second largest need on their team the Falcons waited until the 4th round to draft an edge rusher.Calhoun is a pass rusher who I could see in contention for the #1 overall pick if he adds a little more muscle and expands/refines his techniques . Adding Jake Matthews and Jon Asamoah to their O-line is an improvement, despite the loss of Baker, but a replacement OT to replace him and his cap number is also a possibility.



7.CLEVELAND-(buffalo)-SAMMIE COATES-WR-AUB-Even if Josh Gordon comes back his actions have shown that smoking weed is more important to him than football. I actually would have picked them to win 9 games this year if Josh hadn't decided to fail ANOTHER drug test. Even after his most recent failed test he got pulled over in a car that had a passenger carrying weed and that reportedly smelled like weed.  Anything he gives the team would just be a bonus. Personally I think they should draft 2 receivers in the first 3 rounds just to be safe. Miles Austin is a hamstring pull away from the sideline and Andrew Hawkins is an undersized slot guy. Maybe they will play Justin Gilbert on offense this season. Coates is powerful speedster that has been underutilized in a run heavy offense so far. He reminds me of a smaller Demaryius Thomas.



8.WASHINGTON-VICTOR BEASLEY-OLB/DE-CLEMSON-If Brian Orapko can stay healthy all year the skins probably pay him , but I doubt he does. Beasley was a likely first round pick this year who returned to school. His best fit is a 3-4 OLB even if he puts on another 20 pounds this year as long as he can still get to the QB.  If RG3 returns to form this offense is dangerous, but I'll  believe in this defense only after I see them produce. Their secondary is the main question right now, but nothing makes a secondary better quickly than a good pass rush.



9.CLEVELAND-(buffalo)-LANDON COLLINS-S-ALA-Bringing in Veteran Donte Whitner to replace TJ Ward is just a band-aid, and still a downgrade at safety.  Whitner is a fierce  hitter, but he misses too many tackles and doesn't provide enough in coverage to be a long term solution. Collins does all that  Whitner doesn't and he can deliver some big hits too.


10.TENNESEE-BRETT HUNDLEY-QB-UCLA-Despite his obvious talent Zach Mettenburgers knee & back woes, and some off the field troubles made him free fall to the 6th round. With so little an investment in him a new top QB can easily come in to replace Jake Locker if he fails again.  Right now I think that's Hundley. .He is a good athlete for the position, and his leadership skills are unquestioned. . Even if given the choice Ken Whisenhunt is more likely to take a safe off the field guy like Mariota/Hundley than a maybe better but troubled Jameis Winston if he was available when they picked.  This team has almost everything ,and are probably just a good QB away play should make them a contender quickly.




11.TAMPA BAY- BRANDON SCHERFF-OT-IOWA- Carl Nicks was the best guard in football when the bucs signed him. Now after a series of injuries and infections he is retired. The bucs tried to rebuild an aging overpaid, injury prone, underachieving O- line this off-season but it takes time. They even recently acquired future HOFer Logan Mankins to play guard for them.Left tackle Anthony Collins is more of a  is more of a finesse guy who lacks the dominant physicality of a OT that leads a power running game. Scherff does. He is an angry mauler that could set the tone for a decade in the power, run first, ball control offense that Lovie Smith prefers. 



12.CHEIFS- PJ WILLIAMS-CB-FLA-ST-I doubt The Chiefs front office began last off season by saying " Hey, why don't we lose our 3 best O-Lineman in free agency and then just up and cut our 28 year old former pro bowl corner back after OTA's! ". That's what happened though. Flowers didn't have his best season, although he was playing hurt , but he finished strong. When they were seeking to trade him before the draft we knew something was up. Anyway I think there is more we don't know about this. It can't be just his height, although I guess saving 5 million off the cap helps plenty when you feel a guy no longer fits your scheme.  I feel that a tough schedule and all these changes mean a down season for the Chiefs and a possibly an even bigger change because of it. Since they seem to be making bigger corners a priority we will give them the 6 foot  Williams. 


13.DALLAS-MARIO EDWARDS-DE-FLA.ST-Even if Demarcus Lawrence works out at one end spot the front four pass rush is the key to this defense, and Dallas seems to be counting on depth instead of proven high end talent to get to the QB this season. Aging/injured Anthony Spencer probably can't be counted on long term, and Henry Melton is also coming off a torn ACL. Edwards was the only player I saw give #2 overall pick Greg Robinson trouble in the run game this year. He is a physical specimen who's prodigious strength could make him very versatile., but he needs to be on the field for more snaps and show a larger variety of pass rush moves. .He has the talent and frame to play inside or outside.This team can go 5-11 or 11-5 depending on Romo's(back disc surgery!) health alone.. Romo's over/under is 10 games to me ,and I'm betting the under right now. If Brandon Weeden's the replacement QB(thanks to Orton's no-show this off-season) I expect a lot of losses.Losing Sean :Lee for the year doesn't help either.That means that the 3 best players on last years BAD defense are no longer on the field for Dallas. Even without Lee if Romo is healthy for 16 games and the defense is just average I think they win the division this year, but I just doubt his body can hold up for the whole season, and trhat their pass rush on the outside will get it done.


14.RAMS-SEAN MANNION-QB-OREGON ST- I was planning on picking the rams to make the playoffs this year but Sam Bradford got hurt ... AGAIN. Sorry Sam, I have stood up for you time after time, but maybe you really can't stay healthy. So now they NEED to draft a QB. Mannion likes to throw down field so this would give them an excuse to dump the ultra, stone-age,  predictable offense that OC Brian Schottenheimer likes to run. 



15.MIAMI-RAMIK WILSON-ILB-GEORGIA-Daniel Ellerbe did not play well in the middle last season. If he doesn't improve dramatically this season I think a new QB for the defense will be a top priority and Ramik Wilson is my pick to end the season as the best MLB in the draft.  Speaking of changing QB's, Ryan Tannehill can still be a franchise QB but I think it's possible he goes when Philbin gets fired and the new guy wants his own QB. The front office turnover this year ,combined with injuries to key players, lame duck coach, the Incognito scandal, and unpredictable ownership all give me a bad feeling for this season. So despite a strong overall draft and free agency period I am thinking the Dolphins go backwards this year. 



16.DETROIT-IFO EKPRE OLUMNU-CB-OREGON-The Lions have finally admitted the Chris Houston big money contract was a mistake and moved on another corner is needed.The lions keep drafting corners in the 2nd round and later. This time they make sure and get an elite talent by drafting one first. Ifo is a fierce guy with elite coverage skills who plays a lot bigger than he is. 


 
17.BALTIMORE-MELVIN GORDON-RB-WISCONSIN-With Ray Rice looking beat down on the field, and facing a suspension for allegedly beating down his wife, Bernard Pierce is probably the man at RB for the ravens this year. The bruising Pierce could get help from fellow big back rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro , but neither is the consistent big play threat that Gordon is, An explosive back that can take a full load of carries and force defenses to game-plan around him. Gordon can take it the house and is a surprisingly physical runner for his build.  His ridiculous yards per carry last season when everyone knew he was getting the ball shows just how good he is.He hasn't shown much as a receiver or in pass pro yet, but I imagine he could do some serious damage if he caught the ball in an open space. 




18.MINNESOTA-MICHAEL BENNETT- If Teddy Bridgewater begins the season as the starting QB I expect the vikings to compete for a playoff spot. Shariff Floyd, Linval Joseph, and Fred Evans are all good options on the inside , but none of them have the elite first step of a Geno Atkins. Bennett does and I am sure new head coach Mike Zimmer misses Atkins from his Cincinnati days. Zimmer can use Bennett's penetrations skills to scheme and wreak havoc on an offense. 



19.CHICAGO-CODY PREWITT-S-O.MISS- The Bears and the Cowboys both desperately needed safeties this year. Both teams had their pick of the litter and both teams passed. Other(some might might say smarter)  teams snatched up all 4 universally high rated safeties in the 1rst round. They did draft the versatile Kyle Fuller with their 1rst pick, and he is big, smart, and physical enough to play safety if necessary.  Although that's not Fullers best position and Peanut Tillman is 33 and coming off a serious injury. They also drafted Brock Vereen in round 4, but even if he works out that's just one safety spot filled. Prewitt led the SEC in picks last year and the bears secondary prides themselves on taking away the ball.
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20.NYJ-TODD GURLEY-RB-GEORGIA-Remember when the ground and pound jets were making the AFC championship despite a crappy QB? A bruising running game was the key just as much as the defense. Gurley reminded me of Eric Dickerson pre-knee-injury. If he is %100 this year , regains that pre-injury burst, and returns completely to form, look out! Even last year he was a big straight ahead power back who can carry the load and contribute to the passing game. If this is his ceiling now post-injury he still reminds me of Steven Jackson and that's a very good thing. 



21.ARIZONA-DANTE FOWLER-DE/OLB-FLORIDA-The cards need an edge rusher that is fluid and quick enough to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB, and strong enough to hold the point as a DE when they go to nickle. . Fowler has that kind of ability if he can harness it. A guy with his talent and motor is a safe bet to make a big jump in production this year. With just a little tweaking and improvement in technique he could blow up this season



22.PITTSBURGH- JAELEN STRONG WR-AZ.ST- Since Plaxico Burress left after his rookie season Ben Roethlesberger has wanted another big wide receiver. Strong would give Big Ben  another big target who he can throw it up to, but also have the speed and running ability to make plays after the catch. .Strong has a playing style similar to to AJ Green but plays with a little more physicality.



23.EAGLES-SHAWN OAKMAN-DE/DT-BAYLOR-Chip Kelly likes tall guys with long arms on defense. That describes the raw athletic Oakman to a tee. Think somewhere between Calais Campbell/Michael Johnson and you are on the the right track.He has the perfect frame for a NFL 5 technique and be a cornerstone of the rebuilt defense under Kelly. . 



24.BENGALS-AMARI COOPER-WR-ALA- .The  Bengals need a wide receiver who can draw double teams away from AJ Green  and who has the ability to win jump balls on the outside .Cooper would also give Dalton another target that can rarely be covered one on one. 


25.CHARGERS-TRAE WAYNES-CB-MICH.ST--After drafting Jason Verret in 2014, and signing Brandon Flowers the chargers now have a chance to have 2 good corners, but both are undersized.. Even if somebody else steps up here at least one more corner is needed in today's pass happy NFL, and he needs to be a bigger guy. Adding the tall and physical Waynes to Weddle, Verret, Flowers, and a improving Marcus Gilchrist can make what was once a weakness into a strength



26.GREEN BAY-HRONISS GRASU-C-OREGON-JC Tretter's injury means a rookie is the likely starter at center out of the gate. Maybe Corey Linsley works out but he seems more like a smart interior line backup to me.Maybe Tretter comes back from injury and is fine, but I doubt it. .Grasu is an elite talent that moves like a tight end on the inside but has the frame to fill out more and add strength. A long term replacement for the perennially injured Brian Bulaga couldn't hurt either.. 



27.SAN FRANCISCO-SHANE RAY-DE/OLB-MIZZ--Aldon Smith is not someone I would want to count on long term after his litany of off the field problems has come to light. The 49ers are the leagues most talented roster top to bottom but  they have some major questions to start the season. Ray didn't get as much spotlight as the steady Kony Ealy/ or media creation Michael Sam last season . He did however make a lot of plays as an edge rusher  after he changed positions, regardless of accolades. He is a better prospect than Ealy if he reaches his ceiling. If Smith and Navarro Bowman return to form and somebody steps up their play at corner the niners could be jelling just in time for a playoff run, but as of right now Seattle is still in the driver seat in the NFC West.  




28.PATRIOTS-DEVIN FUNCHESS-WR/TE-MICHIGAN-The real offense the Patriots want to run is predicated on 2 tight end sets . Right now even if Gronk is completely healthy for the season he is called on to block a lot , because he is far better than any other blocking TE the pats have. They shocked us all and didn't draft any in 2013. Doubt that happens this time around. Funchess would give them a move TE to replace Aaron Hernandez and open up the offense. 




29.COLTS-ANDRUS PEAT-OT-STANFORD-I have never thought Anthony Costanzo was meant to be a left tackle. After all the hits he took last year I bet Andrew Luck agrees,.The interior O-line is a bigger worry right now, but I wouldn't pay Costanzo left tackle money on a long term deal unless he improves a lot this season. Peat is the most talented of all the vaunted Stanford lineman to come along since Jim Harbaugh installed his power version of the west coast offense. He can be Andrew Luck's  long term blindside protector.



30.SEATTLE-LEONARD FLOYD-DE/OLB-GA-The sea-hawks are showing a lot of the signs of a team that misses the playoffs a year after winning the Superbowl. . From Players leaving in free agency , cut because of the cap , others getting huge contracts, divorces, commercials, holdouts, a hard schedule in the toughest division in football where every other team got better, fame and it's trappings, etc.... but they still have a very talented roster with some great leaders, So while  I won't pick them to win it all , I definitely still see them as a contender. After  their confusing draft was added in to the mix, I wouldn't even pick  them to repeat as champs in the NFC west, except San Francisco's corners are suspect. and Aldon Smith & Navarro Bowman are likely to miss the first half of the season.  Without home-field advantage in the playoffs I think the Superbowl is out. .  In 3 years their 4th,5th and ,6th round draft picks may be stars in typical Seahawks fashion but they need depth now.  They over-drafted injury prone Justin Britt this year but did little else to help the O-line. Next year they are probably going to lose some key players. because you can't pay everybody and Russell Wilson is next at the pay window, A real QB contract should keep them from also paying Cliff Avril, KJ Wright and Byron Maxwell. At the very least they will lose 2 out of those 3. Since Avril cost the most he will probably be the most likely to go. Floyd is another quick undersized college edge rusher who needs to add some weight. His athleticism and versatility would give a defensive guru like Pete Carroll a lot of options. 



31.DENVER-DENZEL PERYMAN-LB-MIA-Lamin Barrow may play alright as an outside LB but I think he currently lacks the football IQ and instincts to succeed inside, Wilson has the talent and football IQ to QB their defense.He is a stout guy with a penchant for big plays but this season he needs to be more consistent down by down to make the jump into the 1rst round.



32.SAINTS-LA'EL COLLINS-T/G-LSU- The departure of often injured 1rst round bust Charles Brown after he finally stayed pretty healthy is a blessing in disguise. He didn't play that well anyway and he probably would have just gotten hurt if they paid him anyway.This gives ultra talented .small school stud Terron Armstead a shot to be the guy. to man Drew Bree's blindside. Collins is a very talented local boy who could backup both tackle and guard positions until a spot opens up. At this point in the draft best player available is a key phrase. He can play left tackle if Armstead can't do it,, fill in for the injured , or take over for one of the stud guards if one of their contracts becomes a burden.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 NFC TEAM PREDICTIONS & PREVIEWS


NFC EAST


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Good: Chip Kelly is a great innovator. His offense is already changing the game. Adding Jordan Matthews in the draft gives them a chance to have a real long term # receiver. The O-line was one of the leagues best last year. Its already littered with pro bowlers and 2 of these guy's are still young. Shady McCoy is already a game breaker. Adding Darren Sproles to Shady makes this offense doubly explosive. Kelly's health regimen nay be the wave if the future after his team had so few injuries last year, but we need a larger sample size to say its more than luck right now.The duel thrats of Brent celek and Zack Ertz at TE can make a big difference for this team.  Nick Foles was fantastic last year in a offense that he isn't really suited too. I expect the league will catch up to him some , but having a possible young franchise QB is always a plus. If he has another good year ,and ask for more money than Chip wants to pay don't be surprised if Chip trades him and goes after Marcus Mariota in the draft.
The Bad: I still don't like this secondary. There is no one there that looks like a playmaker. Marcus Smith was a huge reach as first round pick. Trent Cole will be 32 this year and he is still the best pass rusher this team has. Unless Kelly is a health genius its unlikely they are remain so healthy for the second year in a row.
Predictions: 10-6 : Division Title


DALLAS COWBOYS
The Good: The offensive line should be excellent  and the offense has a whole has a chance to be elite. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zach Martin are all potential  perennial pro bowlers. They have a great receiving core and a stud starting running back. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are the most reliable WR/TE duo in the game.Four things need to happen for this offense to reach its potential. Lance Dunbar needs to stay healthy and take some of the load off Murray. They have to be committed to running the ball. Three and four are about health. The O-line needs to stay healthy, and Tony Romo needs to stay healthy. Dan Bailey is the best kicker in the league from 45 yards in. 
The Bad: Jerry Jones is the worst GM and owner ( get a cover safety already !)in all of pro sports. His wish to be in the spotlight and take credit for the teams success are more important to him than winning. The defense was historically bad last season, the amount of injuries to the D-line was staggering,  and the 3 best players on it won't be in the lineup this season. Demarcus Ware was cut , even though he was willing to take a pay cut. Jason Hatcher got overpaid by division rival Washington, and Sedan Lee tore his ACL. Crazy as it sounds I expect them to be a little bit better this season. Rod Marinelli should run a more aggressive scheme than Kiffin for one. Secondly, they have far more depth on defense than they did last year, there were multiple games last year where they were staring guys they signed off the street that week on defense. Finally , Romo has had back-to-back seasons of back surgery and he missed most of the off season and fair amount of camp where they are adjusting their scheme and breaking in anew play caller. There 3 best pass rushers are hurt or coming off serious knee injuries where you don't even know if they will return to form. With DeMarcus Lawrence until at least the second half of the season, and Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer still not %100 for week one I just can't give them much of a chance.
Prediction: 7-9 : This team could go 7-9 if Romo is healthy all year and plays as good as he did last season, but I doubt he even plays 10 games.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS
The Good: The Redskins had salary cap to fill holes, a good draft, got rid of the Shanahan's, and will probably have a high # 1 pick next season. That's unlike the last 2 seasons. They also have a great receiving core and some running back talent as well. RG3 is healthy, and if he returns to form of his pre-injury rookie year he will be a great one. If they feed Alfred Morris the rock and then let RG3 work off play action to throw it to Garcon, Jackson, and Reed it should go well for them on offense.
The D-line and rush backers are very good, but Orapko needs to stay healthy for them to make the playoffs.
The Bad: Is RG3 the elite talent with the big smile we all loved at first, or is he the guy who seems kind of spoiled lately. I have never seen so many fans have their dreams come true, and then turn on the same player in so short a time. Griffin needs a good year and no bad press to regain Washington fans love. The secondary is scary as well. It's a mixture of past their prime guys who commit too many stupid penalties and unproven youngsters.
Prediction: 6-10: Griffin still doesn't look comfortable. A new O-line, blocking scheme, and offense make this look like a transition year to me.


NEW YORK GIANTS
The Good: The defense was actually pretty good last year , but now their leader ( Justin Tuck) is gone. JPP hasn't been the same since back surgery , but he needs to return to form this year. On offense the giants added some new young weapons in Odell Beckham and Andre Williams, and a possible center if the future in Weston Richburg . They also have Victor Cruz and 2103 #1 pick Justin Pugh played better in the second half.
The Bad: Eli was terrible last year and so was the O-line. While there is probably some correlation there I still don't expect Eli to be much better this year. Chris Snee was the best lineman the G-men have had in the last decade but he retired. Even if Geoff Schwartz and Weston Richburg are starters I expect this to be only an average line . His new offense should limit LEi mistakes, but he did not look at all comfortable in it in the pre-season. Eli is NOT Peyton. He won't spend 16 hours day practicing and watching film, That is what is needed to learn a new offense. I just feel like he isn't interested in being he best he can be. He's got his rings and his money already. I have a feeling the giants will move on from him after this season unless that drastically changes.
Prediction: 5-11 : It's a rebuilding year for the offense to me. I don't trust Eli to work hard enough to bring them up to par, and the defense will be hurt by spending to much time on the field.


NFC NORTH


The Good: Aaron Rodgers is an elite QB and he is healthy again. He has a ton of a talent a the skill positions too. Between Nelson, Cobb, Lacy, Boykins, and rookies Devante Adams and Richard Rogers this offense is loaded . If Julius Peepers and Clay Matthews stay healthy then the inability to double team both will pay huge dividends. The packer also have the only good secondary in the NFC north. Combining them with the pass rush improvement makes me think they will force a lot of turnovers. The pack has a good coach and front office so they are always  a talented roster as a whole.
The Bad: The one play the pack hasn't had much luck in the draft is the O-line. First round tackles Derek Sherrod & Bryan Bulaga have been a bust , although Bulaga has been good on those rare occasions when he is healthy. After losing Evan Deitrich-Smith in free agency the pack turned to JC Tretter at center, but he git hurt. Now 5th round rookie Corey Linsley is being counted on to start right away. He is a tough, smart guy, but that's asking a lot. TJ Lang is OK, while left guard Josh Sitton is as good as they come. 2013 fourth rounder David Bakhtiari played alright when forced into action last year, but he needs to add strength to become a quality starter, and it he didn't look any stringer in the pre-season this year. The middle linebackers are nothing special and they could use an upgrade at both positions. Nose tackle is also a weakness , but injured NT BJ Raji had an off year last season anyway. If I was the pack I would definitely try Datone Jones on the nose . He absolutely wrecked USC in college playing a Jay Ratliff type shaded nose.
Prediction:11-5: Division Title;  The Pack has the best QB and secondary in the division hands down. If the O-line can get and stay healthy Green Bay could be back in the Superbowl.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS-8-8
The Good: The Vikings made the bold and brilliant decision to trade up for and draft Teddy Bridgewater, after his unearned draft day fall . The fact that they were also the team to finally make Mike Zimmer defensive genius a head coach makes me think the front office is a long term asset as well . He in turn hired offensive genius Norv Turner and once Bridgewater finally takes over I expect this team to be fierce. They reloaded this off season with young talent, Not only is the draft with Bridgewater and Anthony Barr , but throughout the whole draft they took players that produced at the college level. They also signed and resigned some young veterans , and jettisoned some older high priced vets. Throw in weapons like Adrian Peterson, Cordarelle Patterson, and Kyle Rudolph and this team looks like they are set up to be Superbowl contenders pretty soon.
The Bad: Matt Cassell is a mart solid back up QB, and he should be a boon to Bridgewater as he grows up in the league. However, he shouldn't be a starter. I would have picked the Vikes to go to the playoffs if they had started Teddy from day 1, but they didn't. Peterson also has a huge contract for a RB , will be 30 next year,  and recently had a major knee injury. Even a freak of nature like Adrian can go downhill quick, and he knows it. That' s probably why he was trying to get sucker Jerry Jones to trade for him.  Jerry just might be flattered enough to probably overpay Peterson after he was no longer the player he has been.
Prediction: 8-8: Not starting Bridgewater out of the gate might cost them a few games and they could miss the playoffs because of it ,  Although long term they are set up to be a beast.


CHICAGO BEARS
The Good: Jay Cutler played his best ball last year and he has some big strong receivers to go get the ball. In fact his I will take the 1-2 punch of Marshall and Jeffrey over any teams top 2 wide receivers this season. The O-line was a big plus last year and there is no reason to believe they won't be even better this year. Matt Forte is a complete back that can be leaned on to close out a game when you have a lead. Bringing in Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Will Sutton, and Ego Ferguson all in the same year shows that the bears knew they had a problem on the D-Line , and wanted to make it a weakness into a strength
The Bad: The defense was crap last season, but they did have a fair amount if injuries that made it much worse. The once great Charles Tillman tore his ACL last year and is 33 this season, so I see why they drafted a corner high. While I was a big Kyle Fuller fan in the draft they need a safety. 4th rounder Brock Vereen may help, but even if he does they need another safety to go with him. I thought they might be moving Peanut or Fuller to safety but they said no. At linebacker future HOFer Lance Briggs is still a good player but time and injuries have taken their toll on him. They don't have another LB on the roster that should be starting this year. DJ Williams might be a stopgap, but moving Mcellin to LB makes no sense to me. Not to mention that I wouldn't want to depend on Jon Bostic or James Anderson after last year. Mark Trestman got the most out his QB's last year, but Josh McCown did outplay Cutler when he was on the field .
Prediction: 8-8 : The bears are very similar to Dallas. They have a talented QB who lacks much postseason success and who probably won't play a full season , a backup QB who was a former high draft pick who was given up on quickly,a good young O-line, they refuse to spend a lot of money or a high draft pick on safety, and a bad overall defense. The difference is the bears spent more money and draft picks to upgrade their D-line so I say they win one more game.


DETROIT LIONS
The Good: New offensive coordinator Joe Lombatdi should call a more balanced offense than Scott Linehan did, although last year he finally tried to call more runs. They have 3 well rounded backs every down backs to pull it off if the are healthy. Fantasy football stud Matthew Stafford has elite talent. He is still young, but his history of poor mechanics and bad decisions have kept him from being a stud in real football. He is still a plus though, even though these guys dropped balls like it was a religion last season. . Calvin Johnson is a singular talent whose skills can't be matched. The front seven on this defense is very good. Suh is an elite player , and Ziggy Ansah has the talent to be one as well. The addition of sure handed Golden Tate to play opposite Megatron is a smart decision. Throw in the drafting of Eric Ebron at TE and a healthy Ryan Broyles, and Stafford will be the envy of most QB's. The O-line is above average , with 3 young players (Larry Warford , Reilly Reiff , and Corey Hilliard) looking like long term fits. Veteran Rob Sims is solid and center Dominick Raiola had his best season last year.
The Bad: Matthew Stafford. Yep , he is on both lists . The hope in bringing in Lomabardi from New Orleans( he was the QB coach there) is that he can tighten up Matty's mechanics and improve his decision making. The old Stafford put up big numbers but he wasn't the kind of QB who will lead a team to a Super bowl. The secondary, especially the corners is a question mark. The do have a lot young high drafted corners, so all hope is not lost. Nick Fairley is a pro bowl caliber player of he wants to be , but all signs point to him not caring enough to maintain that level of play. He was demoted last year, came to camp out of shape, and the Lions didn't pick up his option.
Prediction: 8-8 : New coaches and scheme's take a while to adjust to. If Stafford's makes the jump up a notch and they stay healthy they are a playoff team, but his division is tough one and its more likely they beat each other up and only the division champ makes the playoffs.


NFC SOUTH


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 
The Good: Drew Brees and Sean Payton are as good as it gets as a QB, leaders, play caller, and head coach. Jimmy Graham is probably one of the 5 best offensive weapons in football. Adding Brandon Cooks to this offense should be illegal and the teams that passed on him to allow it to happen will rue the day they did so. He will be part Darren Sproles and part Steve Smith  for this team, and open up the field even more for this offense. Adding Jairus Byrd to a healthy Vaccaro at safety gives Rob Ryan all kind of options on defense. Guards Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans are still good enough to keep the pocket clean most of the time and the young tackles are on the way up.  Veteran center Jonathan Goodwin is still a plus. Junior Gallette and Cameron Jordan can both be long term elite defenders up front as well. The decision to basically play nickel as a base could be a league wide trend much sooner than you might think. Keenan Lewis added to Byrd, and Vaccaro gives them a potential trio of backend playmakers few can match.
The Bad: Much like Denver the middle linebackers are a question mark. Curtis Lofton is a negative in the pass game. He is a solid run defender between the tackles, but his range is limited . If Pierre Thomas could ever stay healthy he could be a pro bowler, but I doubt that happens. Darren Sproles was the biggest playmaker on the whole team, not just as a RB. He will be missed. Mark Ingram needs to finally be the guy they drafted or this will be his last year as a saint. A down lineman besides Cam Jordan needs to make a diference. It doesn't even have to be in the same phase of the game. If one could be good against the pass and one could be good against the run they could probably still make it work.
Predictions: 12-4 : Division Title: In the Superbowl: The NFC is so close to me. It's between Seattle, the 49ers , and the saints. I think this will be a down year for the saints division and they will end up with home field advantage becuase of it. That advantage makes them my pick to go to the Superbowl in the NFC.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS-8-8The Good: Lovie Smith is not only a proven winner as a coach, but players also like playing for him. I get the idea behund bringing on Josh McCown as your starting QB and trying to recreate the same circumstances that made him great last year. If your going to try to make McCown your franchise QB then giving him an even larger basketball team as a receiving core is a good idea. Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins are all giants as far as NFL recivers go. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are both elite players on defense. They have spent a lot of money and first round pick on the safety position . Hopefully Lovie can get Barron and Goldson to play like it. Hopefully Michael Johnson can give McCoy help.
The Bad: This O-line is a big question mark. Ahnthony Collins is an upgrade over Donald Penn at left tackle, and Demar Dotson took a big step up last year, even though he is far from a proven commodity. The  Logan Mankins trade was huge, although it would be better if they had traded for him earlier. Evan Dietrich Smith played very well last year, but Jeremy Zuttah was no sloch at center anyway. RG Garrett Gilkey lacks the strength to push people around inside, but he is still young. Alteraun Verner is an excellent fit in this defense, but all the rest of the corners are still question marks. Actually until Lovey gets an extra year to get players in here to fit his sytem this defense could struggle a bit.
Prediction: 7-9 : Unless this O-line comes through I can't see them as a playoff team this year, but I have a feeling they will not be a team you want to play late in the season.


ATLANTA FALCONS
The Good: Bringing in Jake Matthews and Jon Asamoah should really help this team in many ways. The passing , running , and games are obvious but the ability to control the clock will help the defense a ton too. Matt Ryan was lucky to survive last season behind that line, but he is still a top 10 QB  in this league. If healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White are one of the leagues better wide receiver duos, and Harry Douglas is a good #3.  Mike Nolan  is taking over a bad defense that lacks playmakers in the front seven, but since he will be running both odd and even fronts he should be able to get the most out of what he has. Steven Jackson is a future HOFer , but he finally looked like he was aging during an injury riddles 2013. If he is on the decline then 4th round pick ( one of the steals of the whole draft) should join with the underused Jacquizz Rogers to give the run game a boost. Young corners Desmod Trufants and Robert Alford played well last year. Added to solid safety William Moore they combine for the makings of a good secondary.
The Bad: Sean Weatherspoon was probably the best player on this defense and he is out for the year. The defense as a whole looks to be missing a pass rush , and you can only blitz so much. Unless a edge rusher steps up I expect the Falcons to playing a lot of high scoring games. Tony Gonzalez retired and Levine Toilolo is only a short are target. Teams had to game plan for Gonzalez and he opened up the field for the rest of the offense.
Prediction: 7-9 : This team lacks depth and impact players on defense, You can only outscore so many people. Unless they are relatively injury free I don't see them going to the playoffs this year.


CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Good: Cam Newton is the perfect physical specimen as a QB, but he is still a tad raw as a passer. One of the things that has hampered him from being even better is a lack of wide receivers. While Steve Smith will be missed his lack of tact probably didn't help Cam's growth. With a whole new group of receivers, especially #1 pick Kelvin Benjamin , at least he should have supportive guys in the pattern. Carolinas defense was great last year and the front seven still can be. Luke Kuechly and a healthy Thomas Davis give the Panthers one of the leagues better linebackers duos. The front four od Charles Jhonson , Greg Hardy, Kawann Short, and Star Lotulelei is the best in the league. Center Ryan Kalil and TE Greg Olsen are also returning veterans who play at a high level.
The Bad: Jettisoning most if your secondary after you finally broke out ot defense doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but the Panthers did it. However, that's not even the worst part of the team. Standout long time left tackle and guard Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton just up and retired on them. Their plan to move Byron Bell to the left side smacks of desperation to me. Their other option is converted former TE /DT Nate Chandler. He is a great athlete , but they are counting on him to make a Jason Peters-like jump up this year.  Maybe they are right and both will work out but I doubt it. Neither Fernando Velasco or Amini Silatolu has ever done enough in the NFL to make me think they will be quality starters this year. I would be surprised if Cam Newton plays all 16 games behind this line. Their stable if highly paid running backs seem to always be injured. Mike Tolbert is #3 on the depth chart and he is the most reliable runner they have besides Newton of course.
Prediction: 6-10: This team lost too much personnel and didn't replace what they lost with enough to have optimism. Unless they try to run a conservative ball control offense , avoid turnovers, and let the defense win games for them I see this being a season to forget.Even if they went that route too many things have to go right for them to be a likely playoff team.


NFC WEST


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The Good: The Superbowl champs have the best home field advantage in football, a coach who gets the most out of his players , and a lot of young excellent talent.  QB Russell Wilson, RB Marshawn Lynch, safety Earl Thomas, Brandon Mebane, Michael Bennett, and corner back Richard Sherman are all among the leagues best at their positions.  Max Unger, Kam Chancellor, Russel Okung, Steven Hauschka, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith, Cliff Avril , Percy Harvin, and KJ wright are just a notch below them. That is a LOT of really good players at key positions and most of them are pretty young. I may  not like some of their high draft picks but this coaching staffs ability o develop later draft picks is the best in the league.
The Bad: They were one of the deepest teams in the league last season , but the curse of victory means that everybody wants your players and the ones you keep want to get paid. Even if the ones you choose to pay in this salary cap era play up to their contract you have very short window with a great bunch of talent, So unless they keep hitting and developing draft picks the team will only get thinner in the future. The O-line is not a strength and I would recommend replacing all of them except the Unger and Okung. Rookie right tackle Justin Briitt has a chance to be a good starter but he was so injury prone in college that I think the second round was a reach.  The hawks also lost some key players to free agency and the cap.
Prediction : 11-5: Division Champion: Being the best team in the best division in football doesn't mean Superbowl. In fact they are very possibly hurt by all the tough games they will play in the regular season. without home field advantage I expect the Seahwaks miss the Superbowl this year.


SAN FRANCISCO 49ER'S
The Good: The deepest team in football has a loaded roster from top to bottom. Adding Stevie Johnson and Bruce Ellington to Crabtree, Boldin, and Davis make this receiving core something special. Frank Gore is a warrior at running back and adding Cralos Hyde give them another everydown  bruiser to grind out games. That's  bot even counting Marcus Lattimore who  could return later in the season. if he is anywhere close the same running back the niners will have the best stable of backs in the league. This O-line is perennially one of the leagues best and even with injuries  and holdouts that depth I was just talking about makes it likely they will just keep on being great. The defense has playmakers and pro bowlers on each level , Justin Smith and Patrick Willis, are still among the leagues best at their positions, and all that talent makes their special teams a force.
The Bad: Aldon Smith and Navarro Bowman are 2 of the leagues elite players, but both are going to miss at least the first half of the season. without those 2 players the defense is compromised. The loss to the pass rush and in pass coverage is significant. Throw in that all their corners are suspect and this defense is not the elite unit is has been in years past. QB Colin Kaeperneck is generally a  plus as a whole but his inability to read defenses, his propensity for staring downs receivers, and predilection for forcing balls is the reason Seattle beat them last year. It's also the reason I expect the hawks to win the division this year. Jim Harbaugh's war with the front office makes this very possibly his last season, That could very easily have a negative effect on the team if things don't go
as well as they should, and at the very least its a distraction.
Prediction: 10-6: Wildcard: This team has as good s chance as any to make the Superbowl. I think the games they lose while they wait for players to come back from suspension & injury, added to the questionable  corner-back situation makes me think they won't win the division. I have to go with home field advantage when its this close.


ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Good: Bruce Arians is a excellent coach and GM Steve Keim has had back-to-back excellent drafts. The receiving core of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd,and John Brown has looked really good in the pre-season. The signing of Jared Veldheer has to be an upgrade after years of really bad left tackle play. I don't know why Bobby Massie was demoted last year after finishing his rookie year strong, but he looked like he was back in form so far this pre-season. The  line as a whole should be improved, which should help Carson Palmer's happy feet and accuracy. Andre Ellington can be a focal point if this offense if he can stay healthy, but he has strong backups in Stepfan Taylor and Johnathan Dwyer. If they stay committed to the run game and throw deep off play action the way Arians wants to this offense can make a big jump. Calais Campbell, Patrick Petersen, and the honey badger are all difirence makers if healrthy on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bad: Losing both Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington is a big blow to this defense. Even if Larry Foote and Kevin Minter play to their potential they won't be as good the last years duo. They could possibly match them in the run game, but it won't even be close against the pass, and this is a passing league now. The injury to 2013 # 1 pick Jonaathan Cooper just keeps on giving. Cooper hasn't looked anyway near %100 so far in camp or the pre-season. They drafted a guard with the 6th pick and now he doesn't look like the same player! That is scary. They can hope he returns to form and is the player they drafted eventually, but they were counting on him to anchor the interior of their O-line for about a decade before he got hurt. Last but not least is Larry Fitzgerald contract situation  . He has been the face of this franchise for about a decade. Lacking the great QB who can regularly get him the ball since Kurt Warner retired has hurt his numbers. Fitz draws the double team and others get open, but the cards don't want to pay him like a # 1 receiver after this year. He has been payed a lot by them already , but trying to push Michael Floyd over him in hopes getting Fitz to stay for less is a stupid strategy, if that's what they are doing, and I think it is. If he is going to take less he should go play with an elite accurate QB who can fit the ball into him. He still has the best hands in the game. Fitz isn't the guy to publicly complain, but if they do this it will become a story , and it could blow up in the Arizona managements face.
Prediction:10-6 : Wildcard:  If they were in a weaker division they would be a lock playoff team if they didn't suffer any key injuries. In the toughest division in football I think they finish 3rd, but still squeak in with a wildcard.


ST. LOUIS RAMS
The Good: The addition of Aaron Donald gives the rams a chance to enter the conversation of best front four in the league along with  Carolina, Buffalo, Seattle ,and frisco. Being on the same side as Robert Quinn alone should help both players wreak havoc. The return of Jake Long and the addition of # 2 overall pick Greg Robinson should improve the O-line, but especially in the run game. the fact that Robinson isn't starting right now is straight up shocking to me. The defense as a whole could  be strong if the offense doesn't strand them on the field too much. Tavon Austin, Zac Stacy, and Tre mason are all potential big time play makers if the rams can find someone to get them the ball, Kenny Britt and Jared Cook can also light it up but they have to want it enough to make it happen. Kicker Greg Zuerlein has one of the best legs in the league as well. 
he Bradford got hurt again.Yep, and they didnt even draft a QB until the sixth round. I 'm not saynig they should have used one of their 2 first rounders on a QB, but maybe an AJ McCarron Or Zach Mettenburger in the 4th? Nope 6th round project , and Texas failure Garret Gilbert was their guy. Thats not the only time the rams didn't use the ton of draft picks they got in the RG3  haul well. Their is a lot of talent on this team. On pure talent they are top 8 in the NFL. They should be at least top 3 after all the high draft ;picks they have had in the lst 3 years. Throw in  the ultra, stone-age,  predictable offense that OC Brian Schottenheimer likes to run, and it's another wasyed season in St. Louis.
Prediction: 7-9:  They had a chance to be a playoff team in site of themselves, but the Sam Bradford injury probably means that even a .500 record is  out of reach. 







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