Draft Recap: Philadelphia Eagles

By Ari McCoy ’17

The City of Brotherly Love has not been feeling much love lately. The team has slowly been falling, from division winner to a below .500 team to a rebuilding franchise. After a bottoming out year, Philly is trying to return to the spotlight. After hiring Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator last offseason, the team is continuing to supplement the defense.

 

Round Name Position College
1 Derek Barnett DE Tennessee
2 Sidney Jones CB Washington
3 Rasul Douglas CB West Virginia
4 Mack Hollins WR North Carolina
4 Donnel Pumphrey RB San Diego State
5 Shelton Gibson WR West Virginia
5 Nathan Sherry S/LB Nebraska
6 Elijah Qualis DT Washington

 

Barnett and and Jones could both be day one starters (as soon as Jones gets healthy). Barnett was the most polished defensive lineman in the draft and had the stats to back it up, as the Vols all-time sack leader. Jones was considered a top 15 talent who fell after tearing his achilles at his pro day. Jones can start on the outside and has both ideal size and speed to go along with strong man coverage skills.

While they wait for Jones to recover, Rasul Douglas could play a huge role for Philly as a large corner who thrives in man coverage. At 6’2” and 209 lbs, the WVU corner could see a ton of snaps for the size deprived group of DBs.

Hollins is an intriguing size/speed guy, at 6’4” with a 40 yard dash at 4.53 seconds. He’ll contribute on special teams while remaining a depth player and deep ball threat.

Pumphrey has a wide open shot for a starting job, as expected starter Ryan Mathews is to be released upon passing his physical. The SDSU running back was the top FBS rusher in history, amassing over 6,000 career yards from scrimmage. While he’s only 180 lbs, Pumphrey has carried the ball over 300 times in each of the past two seasons, proving his durability.

Gibson is a true burner, averaging over 23 yards per catch over his past three seasons at WVU. While he isn’t a lock to make the roster, he’ll have a shot if he can prove to be useful on special teams.

While he was a college safety, Jim Schwartz appears to be converting Sherry to a linebacker. At only 218 lbs, he’ll need to bulk up if he makes the team. He’ll start out as a special teams player, but may be able to make a difference in sub packages as he develops.

Qualis has a good chance to make the team, unusual for a sixth rounder. An athletic, powerful defensive tackle, he may be able to join the rotation featuring Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan and Beau Allen in Schwartz’s rotating defense.

The Eagles are fighting to get out of the NFC East basement. With a rebuilding but not too far off team like they have, Philly went for the correct approach, acquiring high upside players who can also contribute in the short term. If these players can develop as projected, the Eagles will be a playoff contender sooner than expected.

Grade: B+

NFL Draft Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers

By Ari McCoy ’17

The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for making smart, calculated decisions when acquiring new players, whether through the draft or free agency. They don’t make large splash moves, but rather draft and develop their own. Nothing changed this year, but the Steelers’ class is more lauded than usual, with bigger names falling to them in the draft.

 

Round Name Position College
1 TJ Watt OLB Wisconsin
2 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR USC
3 Cameron Sutton CB Tennessee
3 James Conner RB Pittsburgh
4 Joshua Dobbs QB Tennessee
5 Brian Allen CB Utah
6 Colin Holba LS Louisville
7 Keion Adams DE Western Michigan

 

Watt, the brother of Texans superstar DE JJ Watt, was a fearsome pass rusher in a conference full of future NFL lineman. He’ll be the third stringer for at least his rookie year, behind James Harrison and Bud Dupree, until he can potentially take over for Harrison. Smith-Schuster, an athletic receiver who can play inside and out, will have time to learn behind Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers. He could contribute early on, especially if injuries take a toll on the receiver group.

Cameron Sutton can come in day one and play as their nickelback, maybe even playing outside in a pinch. He’ll also bring added value in the return game. Conner was a powerful, punishing runner at Pitt, and after surviving cancer during his college career he became a local hero. He’ll play tandem to Le’veon Bell while providing depth and a change of tone.

Josh Dobbs combines the athleticism and arm strength of a top tier signal caller with the brain of a rocket scientist. For now, he’ll be the heir apparent for Big Ben under center. Allen was essentially a late round flier, with ungodly athleticism to go with a 6’3” frame.

Holba will compete for the ever valuable position of long snapper, where one or two young guys get drafted every year. A former basketball player, Adams definitely has the athleticism to make the team, but at 6’2” and only 245 lbs, it’ll be a struggle to avoid the practice squad and beat out the five players ahead of him.

This was a great draft class for Pittsburgh. They picked up players who can help in the short term, like Schuster, Sutton and Conner, while also finding players like Watt, Dobbs and Allen who will contribute down the road. It’s tough for rookies to make an impact on veteran teams, but the Steelers found guys who can contribute at a high level early on.

Grade: A-

 

NFL Draft Recap: The New England Patriots

By Ari McCoy ’17

Every NFL Draft is full of surprises, with trades and shocking risers and fallers. This year, however, we saw Bill Belichick redefine unconventional draft strategies when he decided to trade away the majority of his picks for veterans. As a perennial championship contender, Belichick decided to go for players who will mean immediate production rather than long term development. And with a 40 year old quarterback, he knows that their window may only remain open for the next few years. But looking at the picks the Pats did make, they can contribute both now and in the future.

 

Round Player Name College Position
3 Derek Rivers Youngstown State OLB/DE
3 Antonio Garcia Troy OT
4 Deatrich Wise Jr Arkansas DE
6 Connor McDermott UCLA OT

 

Rivers was a fast riser who impressed at both the Senior Bowl and Combine with his athleticism and ability after dominating small school competition. Garcia looks to be a potential replacement for Nate Solder on the left side; he has great feet and a nasty streak, but needs to add strength. Wise can play all over the defensive line due to his combination of power, length, and athleticism. The Patriots value versatility and Wise will be a huge asset in the coming years. McDermott is a developmental prospect with imposing measurables, as an athletic tackle at 6’8” with incredibly long arms and a well known work ethic. Here is their draft with the inclusion of the players acquired by trade via draft picks.

 

Round Player Name College/Team Position
1 Brandin Cooks New Orleans Saints WR
2 Kony Ealy Carolina Panthers DE
3 Derek Rivers Youngstown State OLD/DE
3 Antonio Garcia Troy OT
4 Dwayne Allen Indianapolis Colts TE
4 Deatrich Wise Jr Arkansas DE
5 Mike Gillislee Buffalo Bills RB
5 James O’Shaughnessy Kansas City Chiefs TE
6 Connor McDermott UCLA OT

 

After all of the trades, New England ended up with nine new players. Cooks and Ealy are both known assets; Cooks has caught 315 balls in three seasons and has world-class speed to pair with high level route running. Kony Ealy was thought of a potential breakout player before having a down season last year and is still young. When healthy, Allen is a great blocker and red zone threat who should thrive playing next to Rob Gronkowski. Gillislee averaged over five yards per carry last season with Buffalo as the two in their 1-2 punch and should be expected to have some great games as a grinder in the versatile Pats backfield. O’Shaughnessy is a depth guy who should contribute as a blocker and receiver.

While it was unconventional, the Patriots may have ended up with one of the best draft classes in football this year. It will depend on how the coming contracts for Cooks and Ealy end up, if they even resign, but no matter what, this group of new arrivals should only make positive contributions to the reigning Super Bowl Champions.

Grade: A

Fading Stars: Finding A Home For Our Former Superstars

By Ari McCoy ’17

Adrian Peterson: former MVP and 2015 NFL rushing yards leader. Jamaal Charles: the top rusher in Kansas City Chiefs history. LeGarrette Blount: last year’s rushing touchdowns leader and the top rusher for the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. All of these players share one thing in common: they are just over 30 and without a team.

Two years ago, Peterson and Charles were considered dominant backs who would be in high demand until their careers were finished. Even after previous injuries, both had bounced back for All-Pro level seasons. However, after two consecutive injury riddled seasons the past two years for both players, their markets have become barren. Peterson listed off potential teams of choice for the media, none of which have made an offer, while Charles sat by idly, waiting for teams to call his agent. With the main signing period passed, we are still waiting for our former MVP candidates to find homes.

Legarrette Blount has been a polarizing player since his college days, as a graduate of the highly publicized “Last Chance U” before finishing his collegiate career at Oregon and entering the draft. His incredible highlight plays have mixed with troubling off the field issues, including a marijuana scandal before the 2013 season that led to his release from the Steelers. But after multiple quality seasons with the New England Patriots since the incident, and no off the field issues, it is a surprise the Pro Bowler hasn’t received more, or any, interest.

There are a number of teams still needing a running back. Both the Patriots and New York Giants are still searching for a power back. Oakland only has two true backs on the roster, both entering their second year. Washington, Detroit and Green Bay all lack depth, power and experience, three traits the current market still has in spades.

 

Predictions:

Peterson heads to Green Bay and plays tandem to a younger player drafted in the middle rounds who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Two year deal worth $12 million with 7.5 guaranteed.

Charles waits it out until mid-July, where a team like the Giants or Redskins takes a chance with hope of a healthy season for a reduced workload Charles. One year deal $4 million, fully guaranteed if he makes the roster

Blount resigns with the Patriots soon before or after the draft to maintain a role similar to this past year in New England. One year $2.5 million with a $1 million potential maximum incentives bonus.

 

With those three off the table, that will most likely conclude the running back market unless Marshawn Lynch comes out of retirement, which appears unlikely at the moment. This year’s draft contains the best running back class in potentially the past decade. It will be interesting to see how the draft affects the veterans remaining on the market.

The Truth Behind the Combine

By Ben Pearl ’18

Football is the sport that never stops. The 16 game regular season is merely a small portion of what the National Football League (NFL) truly is. Between training camp, preseason, playoffs, and the draft, the season never ceases. The never-ending cycle of the league was heightened even more with the addition of the National Invitational Camp (NIC) in 1982. This camp, held in Tampa, gave NFL draft prospects an opportunity to showcase their talents. Three years after its creation, the NIC was officially renamed the NFL Scouting Combine, and continues to go by this title today.

 

In the combine’s 35 year existence, some of history’s greatest athletes have performed at the venue, as around 330 players are invited annually. However, experts constantly debate if a correlation exists between a player’s 40-time, bench press reps, and vertical jump and how well they will perform at the professional level. In fact, some of the greatest players in NFL history had less than impressive statistics at the combine. Most notable is Tom Brady, who ran a 5.28 40-yard dash and had a 24.5 inch vertical jump among other testings. While these statistics contributed to his sixth round selection in the draft, no one can explain how someone who, on paper, has no athleticism could also win five Super Bowls. Another current NFL superstar who had an underwhelming combine performance is Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. As a receiver, NFL teams were not impressed with his 4.57 40 time and his 6.98 three cone drill. Brown has overcome these measurables as he has posted three straight 1000 yard and 100 catch seasons. In addition to Brady and Brown, hundreds of other NFL players have proven that the combine does not show how well they can play.

 

In 2017, 17 running backs had faster 40 times than Le’veon Bell, 7 linebackers bench pressed more times than Von Miller, and 6 defensive backs recorded higher vertical leaps than Richard Sherman. However, these numbers will have no influence on whether these athletes become an all-pro or super bowl champion in five years. All that these testing times can do is give teams an idea of how athletic they are. In certain cases, a player’s combine can severely raise or lower their draft stock, but more often than not the combine is used to confirm what a team thinks about a prospect.

 

One of the biggest stories of this year’s combine was that John Ross, a wide receiver from the University of Washington, broke Chris Johnson’s eight-year 40-yard dash record with a time of 4.22 seconds. Four days after the combine concluded, CBS Sports released a post-combine mock draft in which Ross jumped nine spots solely based on his 40 time. According to NFL.com, 53 wide receivers have run the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds or faster since 2003. Only six of those 53 receivers have recorded at least one 1,000-yard receiving season. In that same span, 149 wide receivers have run a 40-yard dash slower than 4.60 seconds, and of those 149, eight have recorded a 1,000 yard receiving season.
After redshirting his junior year, Ross had a breakout season this past year with 1,150 receiving yards on 81 catches and 17 touchdowns. However, with the uncertainty of NFL success it is unclear whether Ross will be productive in his career. The main goal of the combine is for scouts to determine who has enough potential to be worth spending a draft pick, since each team usually has only around seven. Players must leave a lasting impression during their combine tests, as Ross did, if they want to be remembered on draft day.

Fantasy Football Midseason Review

By Ari McCoy ’17

This has been a tumultuous start to the fantasy football season. Early suspensions to top tier players including Tom Brady and Le’veon Bell, and injuries to Jamaal Charles and Tyler Eifert forced owners to search for replacements before even setting their opening week lineups. Injuries have hit a number of top players, leading to younger, less experienced players stepping up. With two rookie quarterbacks leading winning teams through six weeks in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, this season has kicked off with a number of abnormalities.

While players every year are expected to bust or struggle for parts of the season, this year we have seen some significant players drop off. Adrian Peterson began the season poorly, rushing for 31 yards in Week One before tearing his meniscus, leaving him out for the rest of the season. Deandre Hopkins, one of last year’s top fantasy receivers, has struggled to develop chemistry with new quarterback Brock Osweiler and is currently averaging only 8.9 points per game in standard scoring. Arizona wide receiver John Brown, considered among many analysts to be the best of the Arizona wide receivers for this year’s fantasy season, has averaged a mere five points per game as the Cardinals have been unable to find any rhythm offensively. When many top players are unable to perform, there are always other players who are forced to step up their games.

Because of the numerous top players struggling out of the gate, there have been some surprising breakouts. Marvin Jones, the second wide receiver on the Bengals depth chart last season, is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards at 529 yards over six games. Running back Tevin Coleman, a backup in Atlanta, is currently ranked eighth among running backs in standard scoring, one spot ahead of the Falcons’ starter, Devonta Freeman. Christine Michael, expected to be a backup to Thomas Rawls at running back in Seattle, is now sixth in points per game at the position. In a year with so many struggling stars, these players have been season savers for desperate owners.

Like in previous years, there has been volatility among top players. With less heralded players taking their places among the league’s best, it will be interesting to see who regains their form and who continues to fall in the second half of the season.

Second Half Fantasy Football Pickups

By Ari McCoy ’17

This has been a tumultuous start to the fantasy football season. Early suspensions to top tier players including Tom Brady and Le’veon Bell, and injuries to Jamaal Charles and Tyler Eifert forced owners to search for replacements before even setting their opening week lineups. Injuries have hit a number of top players, leading to younger, less experienced players stepping up. With two rookie quarterbacks leading winning teams through six weeks in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, this season has kicked off with a number of abnormalities.

While players every year are expected to bust or struggle for parts of the season, this year we have seen some significant players drop off. Adrian Peterson began the season poorly, rushing for 31 yards in Week One before tearing his meniscus, leaving him out for the rest of the season. Deandre Hopkins, one of last year’s top fantasy receivers, has struggled to develop chemistry with new quarterback Brock Osweiler and is currently averaging only 8.9 points per game in standard scoring. Arizona wide receiver John Brown, considered among many analysts to be the best of the Arizona wide receivers for this year’s fantasy season, has averaged a mere five points per game as the Cardinals have been unable to find any rhythm offensively. When many top players are unable to perform, there are always other players who are forced to step up their games.

Because of the numerous top players struggling out of the gate, there have been some surprising breakouts. Marvin Jones, the second wide receiver on the Bengals depth chart last season, is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards at 529 yards over six games. Running back Tevin Coleman, a backup in Atlanta, is currently ranked eighth among running backs in standard scoring, one spot ahead of the Falcons’ starter, Devonta Freeman. Christine Michael, expected to be a backup to Thomas Rawls at running back in Seattle, is now sixth in points per game at the position. In a year with so many struggling stars, these players have been season savers for desperate owners.

Like in previous years, there has been volatility among top players. With less heralded players taking their places among the league’s best, it will be interesting to see who regains their form and who continues to fall in the second half of the season.