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Jarvis Landry: Best Receiver No-one is Talking About

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(Photo from www.bleacherreport.com)

The 2014 NFL Draft may have been the deepest class we’ve ever seen at Wide Receiver. Teams all over the league recognized their need for outside threats and that is why 33 receivers in total were drafted in 2014. Twelve of those Wideouts were drafted within the first two rounds. One of the receivers that was taken in those rounds was Jarvis Landry, of LSU. The Dolphins seem to have gotten quite the player in Landry, let’s dive into the work.

Jarvis Landry had a good career in college at LSU that totaled 137 receptions, 1809 yards, and 15 touchdowns in 3 seasons. I was a big fan of Landry’s and believed he was a complete receiver who had a great set of hands and would come pro-ready from playing in Cam Cameron’s offense. With mostly positive thoughts about Landry, I believed he would be drafted in rounds 2-3, probably the former. Here’s what I had to say after scouting the Wide Receiver class and prior to the 2014 Draft:

5. Jarvis Landry, LSU

-Too much will be made out of Landry’s 40 time. He is an intermediate WR who wins with the best hands in the class and toughness. He is a great blocker, and is superb in and out of breaks. He’s terrific vs press coverage too. Very, very tough player.

Unfortunately for Landry the combine is not built for guys like him. He measured in at only 5’11 and ran quite a slow 40 yard dash. This undoubtedly played a role in his availability at the tail end of the second round for the Dolphins. Ultimately, Landry was selected with the 63rd pick in the NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.

 

Landry has been productive in his two years in the NFL. In his rookie season he totaled 84 receptions, 758 yards, and

(Photo from www.miamiherald.com)

5 touchdowns. His second season seen improvements that ended with 110 receptions, 1,157 yards, and 4 touchdowns. He also had 18 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. For the Dolphins, Landry has become quite the prolific player. Not only is he a great slot option for Ryan Tannehill to find, he’s responsible for 47 kick returns and 61 punt returns in his two years with the Dolphins, making him a true all around threat and a 4 down player. Landry managed a punt return touchdown last season as well. Upon completion of the season, Landry made the NFL’s Pro Bowl, and his 194 receptions are a record in the first two seasons of a career.

Here is an example of how Jarvis Landry can affect a game when he is not catching a pass. The end around was executed perfectly with a fake screen and resulted in a 25 yard touchdown run where Landry shows toughness and a will to reach the end-zone.

(Video from thedeependmiami.com)

I mean what else needs to be said about this video. When the 2014 Draft was on the horizon, after scouting all the receivers I claimed that Landry had the best hands in the class, and here Landry proves that his hands are second to none. The only player with hands as good as Landry’s are his former teammates and college roommate, Odell Beckham Jr.

(Video from thedeependmiami.com)

This is the final way that Landry proves his worth and impact on the NFL game. A punt return Landry uses his vision and burst to find the holes on the field and reach the end-zone on a prolific punt return.

(Video from thedeependmiami.com)

Once again, Landry proves that his vision, toughness, and will to reach the end-zone are elite. He makes just about the entire Texans team miss and follows his blockers to find the end-zone.

(Video from thedeependmiami.com)

The Dolphins have made a terrific investment in Jarvis Landry, and it’s really showing. He isn’t the prototypical #1 Wide Receiver, but his ability to create yards, move the chains, and have explosive plays from the slot are un-matched. Jarvis Landry is one of the NFL’s best weapons that not many people are talking about.

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Mario Williams Could Bounce Back with the Miami Dolphins

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(Photo by Local10.com)

After his miserable 5.0-sack campaign led to his expected departure after 2015, what is also expected is pessimism around new Miami Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams. Despite playing 13.3 percent more snaps than he did in 2014, per Pro Football Focus, he sacked the quarterback 1.1 percent and, worse, committed hurries 1.7 percent less.

Year  Hurries/Snap Hits/Snap     Sacks/Snap
2014 4.50% 0.70% 1.60%
2015 2.80% 0.60% 0.50%

Ironically, a coach that once employed the team’s former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan likely did no favors for the defense by having an alignment that did not fit the team’s pass rushers’ skill sets, including Williams. When examining his six years of schemes with the New York Jets, Ryan only had one edge rusher sack the quarterback ten times or more.

Many of Ryan’s schemes focus on exotic blitzes, various coverages, and the skill sets of elite cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Stephon Gilmore. But that should excuse not him as the Bills’ sack totals went from 57.0 in 2013 to 54.0 in 2014 to 21.0 in 2015.

Frankly, Pettine’s overall defensive performance in 2013 was nowhere near as special as Jim Schwartz’s in 2014. Pettine went with a 3-4 alignment while Schwartz went with a 4-3, but both, surprisingly, used the same terminology. They had attacking styles that caused 208 quarterback hurries in 2013 and 175 in 2014 while Ryan’s style caused just 161 in 2015.

It also did not help that Ryan likely influenced the relinquishments of helpful defensive players like Da’Norris Searcy and Brandon Spikes. However, he deserves the benefit of the doubt with a season-ending injury to safety Aaron Williams. Still, other players surrounding the departed Williams, including defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus, attracted attention at different times to create freedom for him to do what makes him exquisite, get after the quarterback.

Getting after the quarterback is what Schwartz’s 4-3 alignment can do as it employs a stance known as the Wide-9.

The Wide-9 is named after the nine-technique formation where a 4-3 defensive end can line up across an opposing player positioned as wide as the tight end’s area. By not having the defensive end so close to the much slower offensive tackle, the tackle can be exhausted to the defensive end’s advantage and, therefore, make the quarterback more vulnerable to pressure.

The Wide-9 alignment is likely coming to Miami as Schwartz protege Jim Washburn coaches the defensive line and wants to get the most of out of defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake (13.0 combined sacks in 2015). Although Wake is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, pressure from interior players like Suh, Earl Mitchell, and a possible second-year standout, Jordan Phillips, could leave more one-on-one matchups for Williams.

More than likely, Williams will not match his career high of 14.5 sacks in 2014, except he is undoubtedly better in a Wide-9 scheme. After all, Wide-9 defensive ends that played at least eleven games average 9.0 sacks per season since 2011.

Williams has had to overcome quite a bit as a once declared bust after a 4.5 sack rookie season. In ten seasons, he has amassed 96.0 sacks and achieved four Pro Bowl selections along with one First-Team All-Pro spot. Except, with statistics going down as his snaps went up, it might be time for him to be a situational or complementary pass rusher at this stage of his career. Being alongside the Dolphins defensive linemen can help Williams find success in that, and if it does, his two-year contract worth $17 million will be peanuts compared to Olivier Vernon’s $85 million for five years.

Note: Any criticism of Rex Ryan is not meant to disrespect him and his family in any way as they grieve over the death of his father, famed defensive visionary and head coach, Buddy Ryan. Our condolences go out to Rex and his family as they deal with this tragic loss.

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Viva Las Vegas

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What was once the pariah of the sports’ landscape is now being viewed as a potential mecca.  Las Vegas, long recognized as the purple leisure capital of the world, is no being touted as one of the best untapped resources for revenue growth in sports.

The Oakland Raiders’ very public desire to be the first NFL franchise in Las Vegas, Nevada opens an array of interesting possibilities.  But before any major steps can be taken, the Raiders will need a three-fourths majority vote in order to effectuate any such move.

The good news for the Raiders is that many of the owners have been publicly open-minded to the idea.  In a piece published on The Monday Morning Quarterback, contributor Jenny Vrentas received statements from multiple owners, all of which were shockingly optimistic about a franchise potentially being placed in Sin City.  In fact, it appears that for most owners the issue of franchise location has little to do with the potential gambling conflicts and much more to do with the sustainability of a franchise in a city that houses approximately 600,000 residents.

There are many fascinating issues surrounding this potential move.  The first of which is the aforementioned population of Las Vegas.  With the way stadiums are currently designed, any team in Las Vegas would have to show that they could consistently draw a seventh of the local population.  Undoubtedly, there would be a percentage of seats sold to tourists, but sports teams are not nearly the tourism draws that the owners would like us all to believe.  So for a league that blacks out games that are not sold out, the number one concern for the Raiders has to be their ability to demonstrate how they can consistently fill the stadium.

The second obvious issue is the virtually unlimited access to gambling.  Proponents of the move often dismiss this issue, often citing the ease of gambling access via the internet.  But I do not buy it.  No doubt that all of us can place bets in fantasy games or put a wager on a big game; but putting young millionaires in Sin City where they will undoubtedly be comped up and down the strip is a legitimate concern.  Not to acknowledge that likely scenario is to be willfully ignorant.

A third issue that no one is talking about is whether or not Las Vegas even wants an NFL franchise.  I was in Las Vegas shortly after they hosted the NBA All Star Game in 2007 and I can personally attest to the fact that the disaster that was that weekend left a sour taste in the collective mouths of Las Vegas residents.  Also, how would the casinos handle the games centering around a local franchise?  Right now Las Vegas does not allow gambling on local sporting event.  So for instance, you can not place a wager on any UNLV sporting event in any Las Vegas casino.

That would not be an option for an NFL franchise, especially if the team regularly competes in the playoffs and potentially a Super Bowl.  Can you imagine the millions of dollars lost to the Nevada economy if Las Vegas could not legally allow gambling on the most gambled on sporting event in the United States? That would be disastrous.

But all of those arguments aside, the NFL has one major benefit on their side:  the NHL.  The NHL has taken the plunge and is putting a franchise in Las Vegas.  This gives the NFL the luxury of time.  All the NFL owners have to do is sit back and watch.  Obviously the logistics and economic figures associate with an NFL event and an NHL event are completely different, but this is the best test run the NFL could hope for.

So with a little patience, the NFL gets one step closer from turning the Oakland Raiders into the Las Vegas Strippers (patent pending on that name…)


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What Does A Successful Coaching Job Look Like For Gus Bradley In 2016?

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Gus Bradley is entering his fourth season as the head man in Jacksonville, and it is a crucial season for him if he wants to stay at the helm. Significant progress must be shown by his team on the field this season.

Up to this point, limited talent on the roster has given Bradley some leniency, but those days are over. GM Dave Caldwell and staff have done a fantastic job bringing in talent through free agency and the draft. The Jaguars now have a roster filled with young, talented players. Any excuses to be made on Bradley’s behalf are quickly evaporating.

Jacksonville has been on many experts’ lists of teams on the rise, and expectations for the team are as high as they have been since 2008.  This team is expected to no longer be a doormat for the other teams in the league.

So given the amount of talent finally assembled on the roster, and the high expectations, what should be considered a successful season for Gus Bradley and the Jaguars?

While the Jaguars are expected to be a competitive team, I certainly don’t expect team owner Shad Khan and the front office having a ‘playoffs or bust’ goal. It still seems a season too early for that.

Having said that though, the win total has to increase in 2016. The Jaguars have won 12 games in Bradley’s three seasons, five being the most in one season. That lack of success is enough to get any coach fired, but the rebuilding of the team has given Bradley some leeway.

A big key this season will be getting off to a fast start. Jacksonville has won one game in September under Gus Bradley. ONE. They have to get off to a better start, and build some momentum early. Another sluggish start and it will start to feel like “Here we go again” for the team and fans alike.

Another key is the division the Jaguars play in. The AFC South is extremely winnable, and there is no reason the Jaguars shouldn’t be in contention for a division title in December.

In the end, I think an expectation of 8-8 or even 9-7 is not unfair to put on this team at this point. Enough talent is in place now, and if you want to be seen as a team on the rise and ready to compete, you gotta be able to handle the pressure that comes with it.

Dave Caldwell has said from the beginning that they have keyed in on years four and five on the rebuild of the team. This season is year four, and a .500 or better record is reachable with this team, and would be a great indicator that Gus Bradley can be the man to get the job done in Jacksonville.

On the flip side of that, while Caldwell and team owner Shad Khan have verbally expressed their trust and belief in Gus Bradley, anything less than 7 wins should be viewed as a major disappointment, and should signal the end for Bradley as head coach in Jacksonville.

The pressure is on for Gus Bradley in 2016. It’s sink or swim time in Jacksonville.

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Khalil Mack: The Dominant Uprising

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(Photo from www.sportsworldreport.com)

Prior to the 2014 NFL draft, I had Khalil Mack rated as my #1 prospect in the entire draft. I’m thankful for that KhalilMackTheGOATbecause he has done nothing but prove me right. In a great draft class some were skeptical of Mack because he played for Buffalo and did not play against the top competition often. Unfortunately for Mack, he can’t control where he plays, and I’m sure that factored into the decisions that ultimately landed him at the #5 spot, a dream come true for the Oakland Raiders.

Mack had four years of productive college seasons. Staying healthy and continuing to improve, Mack set records for his own school and NCAA records. Upon completion of his college career, Mack set Buffalo records for most tackles for loss (75), most sacks (28.5), and most forced fumbles (16). The tackles for loss and forced fumbles were actually NCAA records as well. Mack had excellent measurements and preformed admirably at the NFL combine cementing his status as one of the top prospects in the upcoming draft. Finally, as draft day came and went, Khalil Mack “slipped” to the Raiders and was selected with the #5 pick in the draft.

Khalil Mack was immediately thrusted into the starting line-up for the Raiders defense and spent majority of his rookie season lined up at outside linebacker. A very productive rookie year ended in Mack landing at #3 in the defensive rookie of the year voting and excellent stats that included 76 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Entering his second season Mack played more of a defensive end role ensuring he would have more opportunities to rush the passer, and boy did it ever work. Mack ended his second season in the NFL with 77 tackles, 15 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. That resulted in a pro bowl berth, as well as being named to the AP All-Pro first team. Not only that, Mack became the first player in history to be named to the All-Pro first team for two different positions in the same year. He also set the Oakland Raiders franchise record of 5 sacks in one game.

Let’s take a look at Khalil Mack against the Broncos. Mack lines up at right Defensive End and simply overpowers the left tackle with an extremely powerful bull rush also evading the Running Back on the chip block to sack the QB.

(Photo from www.silverandblackpride.com)

In the same game Khalil Mack shows that he’s not just a one trick pony. On this play he lines up at left Defensive End and simply uses his speed rush to evade the Right Tackle and once again, take the QB down for the sack.

(Photo from www.silverandblackpride.com)

On this play Mack is lined up at right Defensive End against Patriots Left Tackle Nate Solder where he abuses Solder with the patented Dwight Freeney spin move leaving the Tackle on the floor.

(Video from www.justblogbaby.com)

Here is the final play where Mack proves he isn’t just a pass rusher, but also a dominant run stopper. He blows Rob Gronkowski back with a push and disregards him to make the tackle on the Running Back in the backfield for a loss of yards.

(Video from www.justblogbaby.com)

Khalil Mack is well on his way to becoming one of the best defensive players of the decade. His game is as complete as they come and his career trajectory only seems to be pointing up. The Raiders made an excellent selection with Mack and they are reaping the rewards as Mack destroys opponents backfields.
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The Jump of a Lifetime: Allen Robinson

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(Photo from www.bigcatcountry.com)

Over the course of every NFL season, plenty of players in the league finally fulfill their potential and explode on the scene to surprise all of us. Sometimes they get the recognition they deserve, and sometimes they don’t. An example of this is Josh Norman who was lauded by everyone as the best corner in football last season, but I feel like wide receiver Allen Robinson is not garnering enough talk. This guy is special, and it showed all over those hash-marks last year. Let’s dive into the work.

Physically, Robinson comes in at 6’3 and 215 lbs. He is only 22 years old and has not even sniffed the surface of the

(Photo from www.alchetron.com)

player he can ultimately become. He was drafted right at the end of the 2nd round of the draft where the Jaguars decided to triple dip in the pot taking Marqise Lee as well and signing un-drafted free agent Allen Hurns.

Statistically he ranked pretty well all across the board. Receptions he was tied for 18th with 80 receptions on the year. Yards he came in at 6th in the league at a total of 1,400. His average yards per catch (only counting receivers with over 20 catches) he ranked 6th in the league with an absurd 17.5, showing he’s a true deep threat. Last but surely not least, he was tied for first in touchdowns in the league with 14. Robinson proved last year with all his statistics that he is an elite receiver that needs to be treated as such. From year 1 to year 2 his stats improved by 900 yards and 12 touchdowns. That’s what you call “reaching your potential”. NFL network has taken a notice and he was voted among fellow players as the 31st best football player in the NFL last year.

What makes Allen Robinson so lethal? His ability to win jump balls is second to none in the NFL. Outside of Robinson the only other receivers in his class are DeAndre Hopkins and Dez Bryant. Robinson has an uncanny ability to locate balls, track them, and high-point them, always securing the catch and getting his feet down in bounds. This is what his quarterback Blake Bortles had to say about Robinson last year at this time during OTA’s:

He’s been unbelievable,” quarterback Blake Bortles said Thursday, via Mark Long of the Associated Press. “He’s definitely a threat now in the red zone. … He’s physical. He can run and do everything out in the open field, so he’s been fun to throw to.”

….maybe we should have listened to Bortles.

Here’s an example of Robinson’s ability to locate the jump ball and secure the catch coming down in bounds for a big play. This type of play has clearly transitioned to the NFL’s game.

(Video from www.sportingnews.com)

For the corners trapped on Robinson island, I truly feel bad for you. They’ve got next to no chance at going up and competing for the ball against Robinson.

(Video from NFL.com)

Now, his jump ball ability is not the only part of his success. Robinson also has a great release that doesn’t allow corners to jam him up at the line losing fluidity with his quarterback on the play. Robinson is quick off the line, and typically larger and stronger than most corners. Here’s Robinson shaking a corner out of his boots on the line of scrimmage:

(Video from https://gfycat.com/MeagerZestyAmurratsnake)

Lastly, here is Robinson’s ability to separate and become a viable deep threat for Blake Bortles to find. His speed is average at best, which is a testament to how good his route running, hands, football IQ, and film study are.

(Video from http://makeagif.com/QFQ0_J)

Allen Robinson is a great story that every NFL player should strive to be. I watched him in college, what a player. I watched him at the combine, average at best. He’s not the fastest, tallest, or strongest guy. But at the end of the day, he will out-work you, and clearly understands what’s important between those white lines and what isn’t. A timed 40 yard dash? Not really. The ability to catch, run, block? Hell yeah. I’d take Allen Robinson on my team any-day and twice on Sunday’s. Also, get ready for a big payday. Mr. Robinson will be cashing in soon enough.

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How Low can Jimmy Graham Go?

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(Photo by USA Today)

Last week, I may have emulated a site that fans find growingly annoying and bankrupt these days (Deadspin) by taking shots at NFL.com’s fantasy “experts.” This time, I remain in Deadspin form by feeling your pain as you may have been wrongfully swayed by someone passing off pinto beans as magical ones, Michael Fabiano.

In 2015, it is possible that “Not so Fabs” tried to convince you that the run-first, pass seldom Seattle Seahawks would feed Graham so often that nothing, including his weight gain to help block alongside a dismantled offensive line, could hurt him.

It turns out that the pinto beans salesman was wrong again while I declared Graham a second-string fantasy tight end way before his eleven-game season of forty-eight passes for 605 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, his sixteen-game total would have been the equivalent of seventy receptions for 880 yards, nine fewer than the year before. Sadly, he would have caught very little of what you have been forced to focus on, touchdowns, as his total would have just increased by one.

Faith should have never been high in the six-year veteran as the past personnel failures of Seahawks general manager John Schneider should have given you warning signs early. They include high draft choices used on Christine Michael, Justin Britt, and James Carpenter and exchanged for Percy Harvin and Charlie Whitehurst, and, likely based on Schneider’s Super Bowl appearances, you likely declared him perfect and thus felt that nothing with Graham could go wrong.

Photo by USA Today
Photo by USA Today

Now, all of you seem to have learned your lesson as the embattled tight end’s average draft position has apparently dropped to no. 110 on Yahoo! Sports, no. 91 on ESPN.com, and no. 123 on CBSSports.com. But even if his draft position shows that he may not even be a starter, there is a good chance that you may have to drop him down the road.

Wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett might lead the team in targets as they did in the final five games of 2015. If they along with fellow receiver Jermaine Kearse improbably replicate their production during Graham’s absence, Graham could be the fourth leading player in all receiving categories. The three receivers averaged 14.2 catches on 19.2 targets during that stretch, and making up for Graham’s absence was reserve tight end Cooper Helfet.

If Graham is subjected to the average number of passes Helfet was thrown so that the receivers can shine, he could just catch forty-two of sixty-four passes for 523 yards and two touchdowns while Baldwin, Lockett, and Kearse catch for two hundred twenty-seven of three hundred seven passes for 3068 yards and 42 touchdowns.

Such numbers sound quite unrealistic, but the reality for Seattle’s offense is that Graham was never going to be the star in Seattle that he was in New Orleans. High tight end production only comes when he is the only target, or the quarterback likes to throw avidly. Sadly, for Graham, neither exist. Unless he is traded to a team that needs his services upon an injury it experiences, barring a miracle for his reemergence, he will no longer be the tight end that many felt he was destined to be.

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Rank and File

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No pretense; lets do it!!!

Here are the top 10 fantasy players by position:

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints

-Brees consistently throws for 4,500+ yards and 35+ touchdowns.  Last year he had a game where he threw 7 TDs.  And here is an added bonus:  last year he was working with a lot of new and young talent not acclimated to the offensive scheme.  With another year under their belts, Brees is poised to have a great year.

Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers

-The Steelers will likely have the best offense in the league this year.  Big Ben has an armada full of weapons at his disposal and the only things that can stop him from having a career year are his health and hanging onto the ball too long.  I expect Roethlisberger to lead the league in passing yardage and finish top 3 in TDs.

Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers

Newton is the ideal dual-threat quarterback.  He can pass and run, but he is smart about running in that he does not take too many direct hits and avoids injury.  He has also developed touch on his passes, especially in the red zone, which means he is more of a viable option to pass as well as run in goal line situations.  I also expect Jonathan Stewart to take step back, therefore putting more of an onus on Cam to be great.

Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

-Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league.  His ability to extend plays and his accuracy from the pocket and on the run is unparalleled.  Unfortunately for him, he has suffered from various injuries and the Packers organization has taken him for granted and has failed to surround him quality talent.  And do not kid yourself, the Packers do not have a lot of talent, they just compensate with a great quarterback.

Tom Brady* – New England Patriots

This ranking is based on the assumption that he is suspended for four games.  But even with that Brady will get a lot of yards, a lot of TDs and have very few turnovers.  I can’t stand the guy, but he is great.

Carsen Palmer – Arizona Cardinals

He finished top 3 in the MVP voting last year.  He has been great ever since he joined the Cardinals, but for some reason everyone keeps passing on him until the 12th round.  Palmer is the ultimate value pick.

Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks

Last year Wilson proved that he can carry the load.  With an injured and and mediocre supporting cast he had the best year of his career and had an 8-game stretch that rivals that of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.  Now in a contract year, with a more versatile running back (you know it’s true), and perhaps better chemistry with Jimmy Graham I expect Wilson to have a monster win.

Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals

Can not win in the playoffs, but he is the greatest quarterback in the Bengals’ history.  And despite his painful playoff performances, he is a consistently great quarterback in the regular season (plus he can usually be grabbed in the 8th round or later).

Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers

I dislike him, his eight kids, and that damn bolo tie.  I think he is a terrible quarterback who does nothing to make his team better.  All that being said, Rivers is a great fantasy quarterback.  He gets a ton of points due to the plethora of garbage time minutes he is throwing in.  And as much as I like Joey Bosa, Rivers is still going to get a lot of garbage time stats.  So he is worth drafting.

Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys

The only reason he is this low is because of his injury history.  No one gets a worse rap than Tony Romo.  He is one of the best quarterbacks in pretty much any measurable category:  QBR, passer rating, 4th quarter rating, TD/INT ratio, yards/pass attempt, yards/pass completion, etc., etc., etc. If you doubt it, then look it up.  But if you draft Romo, then draft a good backup, because his injury history is a definite concern.

Runningbacks

Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings

-He still has the power and the work ethic to continue his dominance.  Also, the Vikings are making bold strides in improving the offense around him.  While he is on the wrong side of  30, there are still no signs of Peterson slowing down.

Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams

-Gurley is basically a young version of Adrian Peterson.  He has size, speed, power, and the ability to break big plays.  Unfortunately, Gurley has virtually no help around him and will be dealing with a rookie quarterback, which means he will see a steady stream of 8 and 9 men box-fronts.

Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys

-I wrote about this before.  Elliott landed in the perfect place.  He will have a proven quarterback to lean on and will have a very good offensive line paving the way for him.  I think Elliott will finish the year top 5 in the MVP voting, so draft him early.

David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals

-Johnson broke out in a big way last year.  With the extreme efficiency of the passing offense Johnson is going to have a ton of room to make big plays.  He won’t get as many touches as an Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley, but due to the nature of the offense, Johnson will have plenty of big moments throughout the season.

LeVeon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

-Bell is as talented as any runningback in the league, but his use of pot and injury history have held him back.  But the real benefit of having Bell is that he will be the lead ball-handler on what will likely be the best offense in football.

Jamal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs

-Jamal Charles from year to year has the potential to be the best back in the league, but is constantly sidelined by injuries.  He has adapted well to Andy Reid’s offensive scheme and has become an elite duel threat runningback…if only he can stay healthy.

Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons

-Freeman burst onto the scene last year after the injury to rookie Tevin Coleman, but tapered off at the end of the year.  He may face a decrease in carries with Coleman being healthy, but he should still see plenty action and should get plenty of running lanes due to all the attention paid to Julio Jones.

Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

-Martin earned himself a new contract by finishing second in rushing yardage last season.  Winston is proving to be a very good quarterback which will keep teams from loading up in the box to stop Martin.

Latavius Murray – Oakland Raiders

-Murray is a poor man’s Matt Forte.  But with the maturation of the Raiders offense, Murray will be given more opportunities and responsibilities and could be pivotal in Oakland’s ability to make a playoff run.

Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

-Ingram is a power runner who is a valuable asset in goal line situations.  And while he has taken longer to develop than most had hoped, he is now at a point where he is a key contributor to an offense that should bounce back this season.

Wide Receivers

Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons

-This is a coin flip between Jones and Antonio Brown.  I have Jones taking the edge because he is more of a necessity to the Falcons than Brown is to the Steelers.  The Steelers have more weapons, but the Falcons are figuratively forced to go to Jones early, often, and consistently.

Antonio Browns – Pittsburgh Steelers

-Brown is a monster talent and as long as Roethlisberger stays upright, he is going to get plenty of looks and chances to make major plays.  Brown also has the ability break deep plays, catch tough balls in traffic, and to get open quickly on slants and curls.  There is nothing he can’t do.

A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals

-Green will be asked to do a lot more this year with the departure of several Bengals’ receivers.  This will be a detriment to the Bengals overall, but will be a statistical boon to Green individually.

O’Dell Beckem Jr. – New York Giants

-Beckem has quickly established himself as one of the best young receivers in the entire league.  Unfortunately, he is the lone weapon on a team that has been lacking explosive offensive talent.  And while I am personally a fan of Eli Manning, his consistency is not always there.

Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys

-He’s a psychopath, but he is ultra-talented.  And with Tony Romo coming back and the first round pick of Elliott will force defenses to stay honest and allow Dez the opportunity to see more man-on-man coverage.

DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans

-Hopkins has proven that he can be successful even without a consistent passing game.  The acquisition of Brock Osweiler should prove beneficial if for no other reason than they will have one starting quarterback this season rather than 4.

Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers

-If he can stay healthy, then Nelson will be a Pro Bowl receiver.  It is all dependent on his health.

Alshon Jeffery – Chicago Bears

-Jeffery is healthy and is the unquestioned man in Chicago.  Plus, with the franchise tag in place, he is playing for a very large free agent contract after the season.  Hopefully with an improved defense and a healthy offense Jeffery can put up numbers to match his potential.

Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars

-Blake Bortles took a major jump last year dramatically increasing his passing yards and touchdowns without increasing his turnover rate.  Robinson was the main beneficiary of that improvement and seems to be the go-to guy on an improving Jaguars team.

Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos

-Thomas would have been higher if he had a starting quarterback who deserved to be in the NFL.  But talent cannot be denied and Thomas will still get some good stats, but not what we are all accustomed to.

Tightends

Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots

-When all is said and done there is a distinct possibility that Gronkowski will go down as the best tightend in NFL history.  He has a ridiculous touchdown to games played ratio and is the biggest redzone threat in the NFL.

Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers

-Olsen is the number one target for one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.  Plus, the NFC South is very weak in pass defense.  He has the speed of a receiver with the size of a tightend which makes him one of the best mismatches in football.

Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins

-Reed emerged as a legitimate superstar who also happens to be Kirk Cousins favorite target.  Reed as speed and great hands which mean he will be Cousins’ security blanket and primary target in the red zone.  I expect a monster year from Reed.

Gary Barnidge – Cleveland Browns

-Barnidge came out of nowhere last year to become one of the very few bright spots for the hapless Browns.  The intention of Cleveland is to rehabilitate RGIII, so Barnidge’s production will be completely dependent on Griffin’s ability to regain his seemingly lost form.

Tyler Eiffert – Cincinnati Bengals

-Eiffert should see an increase in targets this season after the departure of the Bengals second and third receivers.  He is a big body and knows how to use it in open spaces to create a big target for Dalton.

Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans

-Walker is a good athlete, but his value lies in the fact that Tennessee has very few other weapons for Mariota to take advantage of.  Walker is the beneficiary of being the best receiver on a bad team.

Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers

-Gates is old, but he keeps chugging along and now that the Chargers’ backup, Ladarius Green, has relocated to Pittsburgh Gates will once again be the primary target.

Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs

-In the first half of the season, few tightends performed better than Kelce.  He can go deep or catch in traffic.  The Chiefs also like to split him out wide to create mismatches against cornerbacks.  He should have another very good year.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

-This guy is a freak athlete who has established himself as the go-to guy for Jameis Winston.  He was on track to have a monster season until injuries derailed his progress.  As Winston continues to mature, Seferian-Jenkins will thrive.

Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions

-Ebron will be the biggest beneficiary of the Calvin Johnson retirement.  Stafford likes his big targets because he just isn’t that accurate.  With an iffy running game and no real threat at receiver Ebron could be poised for a big year.

Defense/ST

Seattle Seahawks

-Seattle has consistently been the best defense over that past 4-5 years and there is no indication that will change this year.

Carolina Panthers

-The loss of Josh Norman was a huge blow, but the Panthers may still have the best front seven of any team in the league.  Norman or not, the Panther will still be among the best defenses in the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals

-The Cardinals defense benefits greatly from an offense that maintains possession of the ball.  It also a defense that is loaded with talent and only got better when they drafted Robert Nkemdiche late in the first round.  The rich get richer and with two games against the 49ers and two against the Rams this defense should rank in the top 5.

Houston Texans

-They have the best defensive player in the NFL and now they may have an offense that can carry its end of the bargain.  If the offense can stay on the field and minimize turnovers, then this defense will be clutch.

Cincinnati Bengals

-This is a solid defense that always puts forth a good effort and keeps the team in the game.  The big problem with the Bengals defense is that they will face the Steelers twice, which always proves to be a tough matchup.

Denver Broncos

-The Broncos would have been number one, but they lost a lot of talent and they now have an offense that likely won’t be able to hang onto the ball.  This defense is going to be under a lot of pressure so long as Mark Sanchez is under center.

Minnesota Vikings

-The Vikings lean heavily on the running game and seek to control the ball and run the clock as much as possible.  This works in favor of their defense by keeping them fresh and minimizing the amount of time they spend on the field.

New England Patriots

-Bele-cheat is the best coach in the league and he always has his defenses ready and playing well.  They may not be stacked with talent, but they rarely make mistakes and are good at taking advantage of the opportunities other teams provide.

New York Jets

-Much like the Broncos, this is a team loaded with talent on defense, but with their lackluster offense the defense will have a lot of pressure on it.

Los Angeles Rams

-The offense is finally starting to catch up to the defense for this team.  Also, they have Aaron Donald who may be the best defensive player not named J.J. Watt.

Kickers

Stephen Gostkowski – New England Patriots

Lets face it…every other kicker is the same…but not all Twitch streams or Mixer streams are the same.

Jaguars: Two Players Who Have Battled Injuries Looking Sharp Early, And Why That’s Great News For The Team

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Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee catches a pass during an NFL organized team activities football practice in Jacksonville, Fla., Tuesday, May 27, 2014. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Football season is drawing closer and closer as minicamps are in full swing in the NFL. Teams around the league are taking their first steps towards a run at being the last man standing to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February.

While it is still early, and any notable performances from players should be taken with a grain of salt, two particular players’ standout play in OTAs and minicamp for the Jaguars is huge news for the team.

Marqise Lee

The story on Marqise Lee’s early career has centered around injuries. The young receiver has battled them since he got to Jacksonville, and hasn’t been able to put together a full healthy season to this point. This string of injuries has left fans still wondering just how good Lee can be.

But Lee has gotten through OTAs and minicamp healthy for the first time, and the potential that led to the team drafting him early in the second round is finally showing.

What has popped out the most so far is his pure quickness. To finally see Lee 100 percent on the field and hitting that extra gear has been something to behold. His acceleration to the ball has been swift. He has been gliding across the field. Breaking in and out of cuts smoothly, making route running look effortless.

This early sign of improvement bodes well for the Jaguars, who will have Lee play in the slot alongside of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns on the outside. Robinson and Hurns have emerged as two of the best young receivers in the league, and if this ascension from Lee continues and he can stay healthy, yet another dimension is added to an already dangerous offense.

Dante Fowler, Jr.

Dante Fowler’s rookie season was lost early-on in 2015 after tearing his ACL during rookie minicamp, and left fans having to wait a full season to see what he could do at the professional level.

Fowler was eager to get back to work this offseason, and has shown no hesitations after coming back from such a tough injury.

Through OTAs and now in minicamp, Fowler is turning heads with his athleticism. He is a high motor guy who goes pedal to the metal at all times. He is flying off the ball, and leaving left tackles reeling, showing the explosiveness that led to the team taking him third overall in last year’s draft.

You can get a small glimpse of his burst in the video below from Wednesday’s minicamp session, where he is matched up with Luke Joeckel, another one of the team’s recent first round selections(video footage courtesy of jaguars.com):

This is great to see just considering the type of injury Fowler is returning from.

But it’s also a welcomed sight for Jacksonville because of the sheer need for an effective pass rush. Jacksonville hasn’t been able to put together a menacing defensive line since the days of Marcus Stroud and John Henderson.

Fowler aims to provide a spark, and give the Jaguars a pass rusher who can provide relentless pressure and disrupt opposing offenses.

It’s early, and he hasn’t taken a single snap in an actual game yet, but the signs are very promising for Dante Fowler. He has the talent, and the drive, to become an elite edge rusher.

 

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DiMoro’s Call: Devante Parker And Dion Jordan Will Breakout For Dolphins In 2016

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The Miami Dolphins are again selling optimism regarding the 2016 NFL season. With a solid draft, the addition of a better coach in Adam Gase, and the addition of stout talent such as Mario Williams, South Florida’s long-suffering NFL franchise believes that they are on the doorstep of a special season.

There is little argument regarding the impact that new head coach Adam Gase has been having on this team and that alone provides a bit of satisfaction. Gase seems to be embraced and well liked by his team, something that seemed nothing more than forced manufactured rhetoric during the Joe Philbin era.

Gase trash talking players, running drills with the team and bursting with personality that the players appear to be gravitating to were all things that seemed uncomfortable foreign to Philbin, and it seems to be translating on the field, at least during OTAs.

But Miami has plenty more to be exited about and it comes in the form of two former 1st round draft picks.

It’s been a mystery up to this point as to what exactly is ailing 2nd-year wide receiver Devante Parker. Parker’s absence from participating in full practice lately has been raising eyebrows despite Gase assuring the media that is had nothing to do with Parker’s prior ankle injury.

But what isn’t a mystery is the talent Parker brings to the table, which was on display in small doses during the 2015 regular season. Parker, in limited action due to injury, flashed big-game potential and seems to be a perfect compliment to Jarvis Landry.

While we can give Parker (and Gase) the benefit of the doubt, it still was a bit concerning to see Parker working on the sidelines instead of in practice. But Parker was cleared to practice and is expected to do so moving forward.

Parker, Landry and a noticeably improved Kenny Stills provide quarterback Ryan Tannehill an arsenal of diverse game-breaking receivers that should help the offense take a major step forward this year. Add in promising rookie wide receiver Leonte Carroo and Miami, on paper, looks to be vastly improved from last season.

With Parker penciled in as the team’s primary red-zone threat, the installation of Gase’s proven and respected offensive system, his production promises to skyrocket should he stay healthy.

Another former 1st round pick, who has been an enigma of sorts since he was drafted 3rd overall, is about to re-join the team after a lengthy suspension and a hiatus from football.

Dion Jordan, the athletically gifted and once extremely promising prospect out of Oregon, is ready to rejoin the Dolphins. The 26-year old, 3rd overall pick in the 2013 draft recently applied for reinstatement to the NFL and his agent is confident he will be reinstated and welcomed back to the Dolphins with open arms.

“I feel very strongly he will be reinstated without question,” Hendrickson said. “He’s done everything he has been asked to do. We feel very good where we’re at. We expect Dion to start training camp with the Dolphins. … They are excited to have him back. Every team wants top talent.”

If the Dolphins do indeed take Jordan back, which they should as they need depth on defense, it’s still a mystery as to how they will utilize him. The prior regime wanted Jordan playing as a defensive end but Jordan has always been better suited for linebacker due to his athleticism and cover skills.

With the Dolphins depth on the defensive line and their need for linebackers, Jordan could find his way competing for a starting spot as an outside linebacker.

Jordan has spoken out recently about his transformation and maturation as well as his renewed dedication to his craft which is at this point nothing more than “hype” and exciting talk. It’s on Jordan to prove it on the field and earn the franchise’s trust again.

Jordan is due just over $1.6 million in the form of a roster bonus on the 5th day of camp so the Dolphins will need to make a decision on him sooner rather than later, but it makes sense for Miami to give him one last shot.

Jordan’s talent has always been there and if he can play outside linebacker, which may not be an easy transition to make especially when expedited, he could be a very interesting piece in Vance Joseph’s defense.

A new coaching staff, organizational culture and a lease on his football life could be the formula for a breakout year for Jordan. And that breakout could just be in the form of showing the potential that many were excited about when he came out of the 2013 draft.

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