Cleat Geeks

Top 5 Packers Off Season Needs

Now that the Super Bowl is in the rear view mirror and the combine, free agency and the NFL draft are all rapidly approaching, I figured now was a good time for me to give you my top 5 off season needs for the Green Bay Packers who finished the 2017 with a 7-9 record. They looked like a far cry from a playoff team at the end of the season

#5 A speedy receiver/kick/punt returner. On the surface this may seem ridiculous because Davante Adams signed a contract extension at the end of the regular season. That is true. But the Packers offense uses many formations of 3 and four wide recovers. The future is far less clear for the likes of Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson who both have one year remaining on their contracts. Nelson is 32 and looks to have lost a step of speed in the later stages of the 2017 season. While I think there is at least  a decent possibility that Adams, Nelson and Cobb all are on the roster next season it never hurts to prepare for the future of 2019 and beyond. The Packers receivers are one of the slower ones in the league presently. Also a speed injection on the offense could go a long way toward addressing a special teams issue at both kick and punt returner as well. Trevor Davis was the holder of both of those roles in 2017 but cost the team field position on many occasions with poor decisions while causing some special teams penalties and made little in the lines of a positive contribution. The offense and special teams both need a speed injection that has the ability to blaze past coverage.

Image result for randall cobb and jordy nelson

#4 Added options and experience in the secondary. The secondary at both corner and safety needs to get both deeper and better. Injuries are a regular to those positions it seems and poor tackling and general play at those areas seems to come along with as well. The defense must start pulling their fair share of weight for the Packers to get back to the playoffs and ultimately back to a championship level. In order for that to happen the secondary has several areas and individuals that all need to be better in the 2018 season.

#3 Address back-up quarterback situation. Obviously the number one quarterback chair in Green Bay is accounted for in Aaron Rodgers (who may sign a significant contract extension before the first kickoff of 2018). Truth be told their must be a plan at back-up QB because as the Packers painfully saw up close and personal last season Rodgers and by extension their season were one hit away from a passing game train wreck. The Packers also saw up close that Brett Hundley is not a viable answer either. The Packers need a back-up QB they can at least swim with in 2018 if Rodgers were to again go down. Look for the Packers to bring in both veteran and draft competition to either push Hundley to either get better in the back-up role or push him out the door.

Image result for brett hundley packers

#2 Reconstruct tight end position. Last off season I believe I used this very space to applaud the Packers for their free agent signing of Martellus Bennett. I thought he was going to make a difference. I thought he was going to answer a lot of questions for the Packers offense. Yes, I missed the boat on that in a huge way. Bennett for all intensive purposes appeared to have quit on the Packers once Rodgers collar bone snapped. The tight end position is asked to do a lot in the Packers offense from blocking to catching to pass protecting. None of that happened with Bennett on any regularly or the tight end position in total largely last season. Look for the Packers to overhaul the tight end position both in the draft and free agency in order to restore the offense to its most productive level.

Image result for clay matthews packers

#1 Find Multiple Pass Rushers. Partly due to injuries, the Packers did not generate anywhere near enough opposing quarterback pressure last season. Clay Matthews led the defense with 8.5 sacks. Nick Perry recorded 7 sacks. No one else on the defense recorded more then 5 sacks individually. The Packers defense in total recorded 37 sacks. That is in the bottom half of the league in sack totals. The Packers must find one and preferably two difference making pass rushers over the season. The secondary had its issues without question but those issues were exploited by opposing quarterbacks having forever to find open receivers. They have a new defensive coordinator but he must be given something to work with. Starting with a much stronger pass rush followed by a secondary that can hold coverage.

There is a full off season of work ahead in title town in order to restore the Packers to title contention by kickoff in September.

2018 NFL Drafting Needs; AFC North

Nothing beats a bit of draft speculation straight after one of the best Superbowls of all time, right? I’ll be going through the draft needs of every NFL franchise, moving on now to the AFC North (how to solve a problem like Cleveland?). I’ll give my view on the top 3 positions of need, and who that player could be, and crucially, why.

Pittsburgh Steelers – S, LB, RB

Making all the headlines this off-season will be the contract situation with a certain Le’Veon Bell. At the time of writing, the Steelers have restructured the contracts of David Castro (G) and Stephon Tuitt (DE), freeing up $13.25m in cap space. Much work is left to do, and a decision to be made on whether to go for a long-term deal (which is not wise in my opinion), slap the franchise tag on him again (which comes with it’s own risks of a holdout/retirement as declared at the close of the 2017 by Bell himself), or let him test the market. Depth/improvements are required at safety and a plan needs to be put into place following the horrific injury to Ryan Shazier.

Potential picks:

28 – Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

This guy is an athlete. He’s gifted with a great combination of size and speed, and has the ability to read a quarterback’s eyes and get himself into a playmaking position quickly. He’s very aggressive and this translates well when used in safety blitz plays. He does have the tendency at times to go in too hard with the shoulder, which creates the risk of a missed tackle but the Steelers have a very talented set of defensive coaches who will help him with his arm-wrapping technique, whilst unleashing the power he has shown in college in the right situations. A potential Pro Bowler.

2017 stats – 14 games; 74 combined tackles (4.5 for loss); 4 passes deflected; 3 interceptions; 2.5 sacks

60 – Terrell Edmunds, LB/S, Virginia Tech

Slightly bold call here; living under his brother, Tremaine’s shadow at Virginia Tech and playing mostly in the safety position, I’m calling for Pittsburgh to draft Terrell Edmunds here and use him as a linebacker. He is a good size to play safety in the NFL and I’m sure he would have a role to play there, but using him in both spots would give greater flexibility to a Steelers defence who are in need of it as teams such as the Patriots play on it, and other teams such as Jacksonville, are able to put huge points against them.

2017 stats – 10 games; 59 combined tackles (2.5 for loss); 4 passes deflected; 2 interceptions; 1.5 sacks

92 – Mark Walton, RB, Miami

I really like Mark Walton. I see him as a guy with the rushing capability of Devonta Freeman and the catching ability of James White. He is the perfect backup for Le’Veon Bell and a great insurance policy should he leave, hold out or retire (he isn’t going to retire). He’s short but powerful, happy to be patient and has the skill required to make tacklers miss. He also has great hands and can take a hit. In fact, he hasn’t fumbled in his last 274 carries, which is a fantastic record to have coming into an NFL draft. He does have a tendency to wait in the backfield a little longer than needed rather than just following the block plan, looking for a clear entry point. It’s unsure if his season-ending ankle injury has healed sufficiently to impress at the Scouting Combine, but if it has, his draft stock will certainly increase.

2017 stats – 4 games; 428 yards on 56 attempts (7.64 YPC); 3 TDs

91 yards on 7 receptions

Baltimore Ravens – WR, OT, RB

The hope will be that the Baltimore offensive line gets back to full health for the 2018 season. Assuming that is the case, it’s the skill positions which will be the focus of the draft. I do feel that additional depth at tackle would be wise and a focus on resigning the likes of Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Mike Wallace and Brent Urban prior to the draft will be a priority. If they can’t sign Ben Watson up to a new deal expect a tight end to be drafted later on also.

Potential picks:

16 – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Arguably the number one receiver in this year’s class, Calvin Ridley has absolutely dominated cornerbacks throughout his college career using his next-level ability to create separation. He is comfortable using the entire field of play and can be incredibly dangerous after the catch. He may need to work on his strength in order to have a similar impact in the NFL as the level of defence he’ll have to face will be that much stronger. He has had a tendency to drop the ball when under pressure from a would-be tackler.

2017 stats – 14 games; 967 yards on 63 receptions; 5 TDs (1 receiving 2 point conversion)

2 rushes for 17 yards

52 – Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T

Consistent four year starter, who seems to be building strength year on year, Brandon Parker is 6’7” and 314lbs of mass, with good ability against rush rushers. He was a first-team all-conference starter in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He could probably use some coaching at NFL level to make the most of his arm length, and to work on his body control. There would be concern that a better pass rusher could get by him fairly easily, but as a ‘project’ he would be a perfectly reasonable pick.

83 – Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa

A very highly rated athletic talent, Akrum Wadley reminds me a little of Dion Lewis. His feet are quick and he has the ability to make space for himself using jukes and spin moves which can confuse defenders, even causing them to hit the turf. He also has excellent pass-catching ability which could suit the Ravens well. Coaches will have to work on his pass blocking, and I don’t have him down as an every-down back, but there is definitely a role for him in Baltimore.

2017 stats – 13 games; 1,109 yards on 252 attempts (4.40 YPC); 10 TDs

323 yards on 28 receptions; 3 TDs

Cincinnati Bengals – OT, G, LB

Let me get this straight – I don’t think the Bengals have made the right move in keeping Marvin Lewis on as Head Coach. There is undoubted potential in the Cincinnati roster, being underutilised by a poor offensive scheme which is causing underperformance on both an individual and team level. AJ Green, Joe Mixon and Andy Dalton were all left with ‘below-expected’ stat lines in 2017 so it remains to be seen what will happen in 2018. The key will be protecting the quarterback. Losing two key members of your offensive line and not replacing them adequately is never going to work. This must be fixed in the draft and Russell Bodine should be resigned in advance of that.

Potential picks:

12 – Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

6’8” and 360lbs. That’s a huge frame from which to build a talented offensive lineman. Orlando Brown will make blocks with his frame alone and will be an intimidating prospect for the most hardened of NFL defenders. Not the most athletically gifted, Brown makes up for it in mass and arm length but will need some coaching to ensure he isn’t caught holding. I think he’d be better in pass protection than he would be against the run game, certainly in his first year or so in the NFL but he is very coachable and would be a vast improvement.

46 – Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

Quick for a player of his size, Isaiah Wynn is a player with experience as tackle and guard, but for the purposes of this piece, having already drafted Orlando Brown at tackle, I’ll assume Wynn comes in at guard. He perseveres on all plays and looks to finish on top on every snap. He has excellent awareness of what’s going on around him and reacts accordingly. Particularly good against the linebacker. He’ll have to display that he can cope with the additional power he’ll come up against in the NFL but his raw skill and versatility will be highly attractive. He is stronger than many of the centers available in this year’s draft class so you could even see him line up there on occasion.

77 – Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State

Once viewed by many as a 2nd round prospect, I’m not convinced Jerome Baker has done quite enough in 2017 to live up to that hype and so he could drop to round 3, where the Bengals will happily take a chance on him based on the potential he’s shown in pass coverage over the course of his college career. At present he relies too much on speed and athleticism, often running around blocks rather than taking them on and going through them. Against average offensive lines, and in college, you may get away with that but in the NFL, this can be very costly. In the Bengals’ defence however, he could fit in well as a weak side linebacker.

2017 stats – 13 games; 72 combined tackles (8 for loss); 3 passes deflected; 2 fumble returns (1 for TD); 3.5 sacks

Cleveland Browns – QB, RB, CB

This is by far the most fun part of this entire series. Picks 1, 4 and 35. The Cleveland Browns. After a 0-16 season which followed a 1-15 season, it is crucial that they get it right this time. I do, in fact, like a lot of what they have done. Whether Hue Jackson is the right man to lead the team will only become clear with another season but Todd Haley as OC is a very good addition, as was John Dorsey as GM. With a deep quarterback class in 2018, the expectation will be that they finally get their man under center. After that, grabbing an every-down running back would be useful to compliment their new quarterback, an elite talent at receiver in reformed Josh Gordon, and a blossoming prospect in David Njoku at tight end. The potential is there, let’s see if they can actually unleash it.

Potential picks:

1 – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Elusive, aggressive, extremely quick and talented in all aspects of what you require in a running back; Saquon Barkley is something special. You don’t really need me to write up an article on him but I’ll try and make something interesting happen over the next few sentences. He’s a very capable pass catcher, and his combination of vision and agility makes him extremely exciting to watch, even in practice. He’ll only improve with NFL coaching but there isn’t a lot to work on. A true every-down back capable of being the face of the franchise wherever he ends up. This would allow Duke Johnson the chance to line up as slot receiver more often as well, where I think he performs at his highest level.

2017 stats – 13 games; 1,271 yards rushing on 217 attempts (5.86 YPC); 18 TDs

632 yards on 54 receptions; 3 TDs

2 passes for 36 yards; 1 TD

15 kickoff returns for 426 yards and 1 TD

4 – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Many love him, some hate him but you cannot deny the talent and the potential that Baker Mayfield possesses. He’s tough, competitive and plays with a huge chip on his shoulder. Knows his own limitations and if the coaching staff are competent enough to build the offence around him and not try and fit him into an unfamiliar scheme, they may well have the answer they were looking for. Light on his feet, good ability to throw safeties off their coverage and set his receiver up for the big play, and vastly underrated accuracy in the throw. He’s also very mobile and has the calmness to improvise under pressure if required. Cleveland boast a strong offensive line however so this can only benefit him. Highly efficient in the red-zone, Mayfield will have to show that he can control his perceived arrogance and work on his ability to read the whole field before the world will be quite convinced he’s capable of being a franchise quarterback.

2017 stats – 14 games; 4,627 yards passing; 43 TDs; 6 INTs

311 yards rushing for 5 TDs

1 reception for a 2 yard TD.

35 – Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida

Not the tallest a 5’11” but a tough competitor, Mike Hughes has only played two years of college football and one of those was as a starter. This will be of concern. His catching ability rivals a receiver, such is his timing and anticipation. He’s quick and so should have too much trouble keeping up with most NFL receivers. Due to the lack of playing experience, coverage will need coaching in the first couple of years and there is a strong argument that says he should have stayed in college for another year. Also needs to work on his tackling. He is an elite talent in special teams as a returner however which boosts his cause especially whilst his cornerback play is moulded and refined to suit an NFL system,

2017 stats – 14 games; 49 combined tackles (0.5 for loss); 11 passes deflected; 4 interceptions (1 for TD); 1 forced fumble; 1 blocked punt.

14 punt returns for 233 yards and a TD; 20 kickoff returns for 635 yards and 2 TDs

 

 

 

 

*2017 stats from www.cfbstats.com

Buffalo Bills Have Multiple Options To Take In The 2018 NFL Draft

When rebuilding a franchise, many chances and opportunities must be taken to ensure that the team is properly building for the future. After making it to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, the Buffalo Bills are now looking to expand on their recent success and advance further in the playoffs. Although the Bills got to the playoffs due to the late blunder from the Baltimore Ravens, General Manager Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott are now taking that newfound success and expanding on their consistency of wins and advancement in the playoffs.

One of the next biggest opportunities for the Bills is having two consecutive 1st round picks in this upcoming 2018 NFL Draft. The Buffalo Bills own the 21st and the 22nd picks in the 2018 NFL Draft with the 22nd pick coming from the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s Draft where Kansas City traded up for Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes II. The Bills also have two 2nd round picks in this 2018 Draft by owning their 53rd pick and the 56th pick they acquired from the Los Angeles Rams. That trade involved the trading of a 6th round pick in this year’s draft and WR Sammy Watkins in return for the 56th pick and CB E.J. Gaines. Although there are many options the Bills could take including trading for a needed position, the smart thing to do is draft with as many high Draft picks as possible with young talent.

 

Outside of RB LeSean McCoy, the Buffalo Bill have many problems on offense

This past season, the Bills were not statically superior when it came to other playoff contending teams. Buffalo was ranked 6th in the league in rushing yards per game (126.1 yards), thanks once again to their speedy and elusive Running Back in LeSean McCoy. This past season, McCoy rushed for 1,138 yards and 55 1st downs, and 6 touchdowns on 287 rushes. McCoy was a powerhouse behind a talented Offensive Line. One of the biggest problems for the Bills to deal with this offseason is finding a suitable replacement for Center Eric Wood. The former Bills Center had to retire prematurely from the NFL due to a neck injury that is close to his spinal cord. Not only do the Bills need a Center in the Offensive Line but they need a Tackle, specifically at the Right side of the line. The Bills were tied for tied 7th most in the NFL with allowed sacks (47) as well as 29th in total yards per game (302.6) and 22nd in points per game (18.9).

Image result for tyrod taylor bills

Above all the problems on offense continues to the instability at the Quarterback position. Despite some inconsistencies with QB Tyrod Taylor, the Bills and Taylor signed a 2-year extension worth $30.5 million after agreeing to a pay cut starting last season. Taylor is the most expensive player on the Bills roster and he is on the last year of his contract. This past season, the Buffalo Bills were ranked 31st in the league (next to last) in passing yards per game (176.6). This past season, Taylor threw for 2,799 yards on 263 completion (out of 420 attempts) for 14 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. His total passing yards accounted for is the 25th highest in the league, he also averages 187 yards per game, which is the 30th highest of the 32 qualified Quarterbacks. The Bills have remained patient with the terms of finding a long-term franchise Quarterback but this new success might force them to look for an efficient long-term leader of the offense in this 2018 NFL Draft.

The problem in the passing game doesn’t just revolve around the Quarterback position. Buffalo has two solid Tight Ends in Charles Clay (leads team in reception yards with 558 yards) and Nick O’Leary. RB LeSean McCoy was also solid as a Receiver with a team-leading 59 receptions and 448 yards (2nd on team). 3 of the top 4 leading Receivers for the Buffalo Bills are not Wide Receivers. Only WR Deonte Thompson is ranked 3rd on the team in receiving yards with 430 yards on 27 receptions and 1 touchdown. The Bills will need to have more impact in the passing game with more reliable Wide Receivers especially with Thompson now an unrestricted free agent. Last season, rookie WR Zay Jones reportedly played most the season with a torn labrum. Jones accounted for only 316 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 receptions while targeted 74 times. The offseason will give more time for Kelvin Benjamin to fit in more with the team after he was traded in the middle of the season from the Carolina Panthers. One of the four picks within the first 2 rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft might be very useful on a Wide Receiver especially if a new starting Quarterback is under Center.

 

Buffalo has areas to address on defense to build more efficiency

Two of the four biggest team areas to address is on defense where the Buffalo Bills showed flashes of efficiency but still needs potency. The Bills were ranked 18th in the league in points allowed per game (22.4) and 29th in rushing yards allowed per game (124.6). The pass defense played very well despite some of the inefficiencies of the rush defense, particularly at the line of scrimmage. The Bills had 3 Defensive Backs that finished in Pro Football Focus’ top 101 players including rookie CB Tre’Davious White, who had multiple votes as 2017-2018 NFL Defensive rookie of the year. One of the ultimate problems was the lack of consistent penetration in the backfield and pass rush. The Bills were tied for 29th in the league in total sacks accounted for (27 sacks). DE/OLB Shaq Lawson and DE Jerry Hughes were the team’s leaders in sacks with 4 sacks. Most of the impact came from the exterior of the defense in Ends and Outside Linebackers but not a lot came from the interior of the Defensive Line. A reliable Defensive Tackle who can disrupt run plays, both at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield, and pressure/sack the opposing Quarterback would be needed on defense. While Kyle Williams is still creating productivity, he will be 35 in June and is an unrestricted free agent. Williams earned 8.3 million on last year alone, which might make resign an aging Defensive Lineman with an expensive contract a problem.

Image result for preston brown bills

In a 4-3 defensive front, teams need great playmaking Linebackers to make tackles in open spaces especially if they send an Outside Backer on a blitz. ILB Preston Brown led the NFL in total tackles 144 and also accounted for 83 solo tackles. The Bills do not only have much depth at the Linebacker position but they also do not have much productive talent to help elevate the defense. An early pick on an all-around Linebacker would be great for the Bills defense. This is 2018 NFL Draft is the best opportunity to do so with multiple players that can tackle in open, pressure the opposing Quarterback, and be an asset in defending the pass. Another talented Cornerback is needed at some point in the Draft. With the Bills having 4 picks in the first 2 rounds that might be an area to address especially a player or key position under the Bills’ radar just got off the board.

 

2018 NFL Draft prospects for the Buffalo Bills to keep on an eye on

The Buffalo Bills have 9 total picks in the 2018 NFL Draft with two in the 1st round, two in the 2nd round, and two in the 5th round. Teams might entice the Bills to trade a high pick (1st to 4th round) for a veteran player. While a free agent Quarterback like Kirk Cousins or Nick Foles might seem like a great opportunity, there is limited availability of acquiring them. Likely Cousins will go to a team like the Denver Broncos to get an expensive contract and help the Broncos become immediate Super Bowl caliber team. The Buffalo Bills have a more likely chance to excel in selecting a young, talented player with a high Draft pick than take the opportunity in free agency.

This NFL Draft class is loaded with talent at many positions but the biggest area to address will be the Quarterback position. This might be a problem for the Bills to address as there are many teams in this Draft looking to acquire a franchise Quarterback. There are 8 teams in the Draft before the Bills can make a selection that might have an interest in selecting a Quarterback in the 1st round. Five of the eight have serious questions at Quarterback including the Cleveland Browns (who have the 1st & 4th pick in the Draft), New York Giants, Denver Broncos, New York Jets, and the Arizona Cardinals. This is without the impact of free agency starting on March 12th for teams to inquire about unrestricted free agents.

Quarterbacks

There is certainly an opportunity for the Bills to select a Quarterback in the 1st round with the 21st or 22nd pick in the Draft. Likely Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner in Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) will be off the board. While Josh Allen (Wyoming) has been getting a high amount of attention, there might be NFL teams really cautious of his accuracy especially in the middle of the field on crossing routes. If Allen is still on the board, then Buffalo should not hesitate to select him with the high level of talent and potential he has. One of the biggest differences between the Bills and the Wyoming Cowboys is that the Bills have more trusted and talented Receivers.

If this year is another Quarterback heavy Draft then dual-threat playmaker in the 2016 Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson (Louisville) might be the best available franchise Quarterback for Buffalo. While the Bills have been cautious of dual-threat playmaker Tyrod Taylor has their Quarterback, Jackson is an outstanding passing, especially in the pocket. Lamar is also one of the most athletic players in this 2018 NFL Draft. Last season, Jackson was quietly one of the best passers in the nation by passing for 3,660 yards and 27 touchdowns. Lamar Jackson would also be great in new Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll’s new offensive system, who is used to the RPO’s (run-pass-option) like he did with the Alabama Crimson Tide last season. Jackson could likely find himself as a 1st round selection with a great NFL Scouting Combine or might still be a Bill in the 2nd round with the 53rd or 56th pick if he doesn’t excel in the combine and his Pro Day.

 

Defensive Tackle

34-year old DT Kyle Williams is likely playing for another team this offseason. Even if he isn’t, the Bills will need more depth and talent at the position regardless. There is a diverse set of Defensive Tackles in this NFL Draft especially with the Bills having the 4-3 defense. One of the best options for the Bills to take in the 1st round is DT Maurice Hurst (Michigan) at the 3-technique. In his senior season at Michigan, Hurst accounted for 59 total tackles, 27 solo tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. The previous season he accounted for 11.5 tackles for loss. Not only is Hurst consistent at the line of scrimmage but he is also explosive enough to create chaos in the backfield often. If Hurst is selected before Buffalo’s turn then a player like NT Da’Ron Payne (Alabama) could be suitable at the 1-technique as he was one of the best run stoppers in College Football’s top-ranked rush defense. A day 2 (round 2 or 3) Defensive Tackle like Harrison Phillips (Stanford) would be a great addition to the Bills they couldn’t get Payne or Hurst in the 1st round.

Image result for maurice hurst - dt michigan

Linebacker

This is the position that requires the most depth but for the right opportunity, Buffalo couldn’t refuse to select an all-around playmaker that might slip in the Draft. Georgia ILB Roquan Smith might be too high on the Bills’ radar but there are still plenty of options for Buffalo to draft a Linebacker who play consistently while in zone coverage as well as create pressure. At 6’5, 250 lbs, Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) is a freak of nature who is one of the most consistent tacklers and can also make the tackles for loss needed. Last season, Edmunds accounted for 108 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. Rashaan Evans (Alabama) is another Linebacker who might be on the Bills’ radar as is he not only faster and more aggressive but he can play multiple positions. Last season with the Crimson Tide, Evans accounted for 74 total tackles, 35 solo tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks. There is a chance that Evans could fall in the Draft due to some injury concerns but is ultimately a tough prospect. If the Bills take a gamble, they could wait to see if Edmunds or Evans falls to the 2nd round but their potential is too great to pass up.Image result for billy price ohio state

 

Center

The retirement of Eric Wood due to injury is a major concern for the Buffalo Bills offensive line which has allowed 47 sacks on an elusive Quarterback like Tyrod Taylor. Not only will they need to find a replacement in Wood but they only need a player who can efficiently run block and pass protect. If the Bills were to use one of their 1st round picks on a Center, a dynamic and efficient blocker like 2017 All-American Billy Price (Ohio State) would a great addition to the Bills’ offense. This Draft is loaded with talent at the Center position, however, so if the Bills miss out on Price then Frank Ragnow (Arkansas) would be a great 2nd round selection with one of Buffalo’s 2nd round picks.

 

Wide Receiver

The Bills might want to find a reliable Wide Receiver either in round 2 or 3 of the Draft, especially if they draft a new Quarterback. 2017 All-American WR Anthony Miller (Memphis) is a Receiver that is often overlooked due to other high-profile Receivers in this Draft. Miller accounted for 1,462 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns on 96 receptions this past season at Memphis. The season before, he accounted for 1,434 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on 95 receptions. The Bills would get a steal if Anthony Miller would still be available in the 2nd round. Otherwise, a player like Michael Gallup (Colorado State) would be a Receiver to take most of the bulk like he did at Colorado State.

 

 

Tomahawks and Touchdowns-Draft Prospects at Wide Receiver

The Chiefs have some weak spots on the roster that need to be improved in the NFL draft. One position that could be improved is wide receiver. The Chiefs have good players in Chris Conley and Tyreek Hill but will need to add more talent to the position. There are a few prospects that could fit well into the Chiefs west coast system.

Image result for auden tate fsu

Auden Tate from Florida State is an early round draft pick that could be available when the Chiefs have their first pick late in the second round. Tate is a big receiver that will be a threat in the red zone. He had 548 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The Chiefs do not have a red zone receiver and Tate could be a solution.

Image result for javon wims georgia

Javon Wims from Georgia is projected as a middle round pick that could be a potential target for the Chiefs. Wims has improved throughout his collegiate career. In 2017 he had 720 yards and seven touchdowns. Wims played well in the College Football Playoff semifinal game against Oklahoma. He recorded 77 yards and one touchdown. If Wims continues to develop he could be a reliable receiver in the NFL.

Image result for jake wieneke sdsu

Jake Wieneke from South Dakota State is another middle round pick that could be a good fit with the Chiefs. Wieneke is 6’4 but has skills of a possession receiver. Last season Wieneke had 965 yards and 16 touchdowns. Most of Wieneke opponents were from the FCS level, which could inflate his stats. Wieneke is a potential sleeper pick that could be valuable for the Chiefs.

Image result for richie james mtsu

Richie James from Middle Tennessee State is a late round pick that the Chiefs could target. James is an undersized receiver that could fit well into Andy Reid’s west coast offense. Last season he missed a lot of the season due to a broken collarbone. In 2015 and 2016 he had over 1,300 yards each season. James is a risky pick that could play well in the correct system.

 

There are a lot of options for the Chiefs at wide receiver in the 2018 NFL Draft. There are some talented prospects that could fit well in the Chiefs west coast system. The Chiefs will need to draft a player to add depth to the position group. Wide receiver is one of the Chiefs weak spots that will likely be addressed in the upcoming draft.

The IDP Geek Huddle: Kansas City

Before we start with this article I’d like to mention that originally I had no intentions of writing about the Kansas City situation so soon. But with some rumored reports servicing I believe now may be as good as time as any to “take” on the situation.

For those of you that may have followed me last season and kept up on my IDP notes on the happenings in the NFL each week, you’ll find this a familiar subject. But one with a lot more detail on how things could play out in Kansas City with their inside linebackers for 2018. I was going to follow this situation up into the free agency period and see exactly if what I had been repeatedly stating was going to play out. To my surprise, I’ve recently seen indications that the ideas on my “takes” as I see them have hit mainstream already. So to help us out early on here in the off-season I’ll lay out what I know and try to help decide how to proceed.

Image result for derrick johnson chiefs

There have been multiple reports lately stating that Kansas City Chiefs are likely to move on from inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and his $8 million cap soon. Again, anyone who followed my IDP notes won’t find this shocking as I stated the same thing to the point I actually got tired of talking about it. Well, now that it’s finally hitting mainstream there are a couple of in-house linebackers I need to fully cover again and why we need to track the progress of the situation. I’ll try to approach this like it’s all brand new to me. Forgive me if I stray from that course. It’s been a long six months of monitoring things.

 

First Transaction:

In late July last summer Kansas City’s GM made a head-scratching move by trading their pro-bowl special teams player and backup linebacker D.J. Alexander for Kevin Pierre-Louis from Seattle. It seemed to be an off the wall move by the Chiefs as Pierre-Louis didn’t actually hold any significant value as more than a depth player in Seattle. The trade was made and forgotten as camp started with little to no fanfare about the transaction.

Image result for Kevin Pierre-Louis kansas city

Second Transaction:

Around a month later in late August, it was announced that the Chiefs made a trade with Buffalo for 2016 draft star linebacker Reggie Ragland. The new Buffalo coaching staff had plans to change to a 4-3 defense and didn’t see Ragland having the range to cover the field in that defensive scheme. So the Chiefs swooped in and obtained the former 2016 second round pick for a mere fourth-round pick in 2019. And that isn’t a typo, it was a fourth in 2019.

 

Little did we know that in the end that both transactions would be very telling trades on the intentions of the team about the direction they’d want to head in for 2018. General Manager Brett Veach had only been in his new office since the beginning of last July and was willing to acquire these two linebackers that if we add the value up with both transactions seem meaningless then. It has now become the assumption he did these with a purpose in mind.

Changing Of The Guard

The Chiefs started the season with veteran Derrick Johnson manning the middle of the defense as we all expected. But it didn’t take long for Johnson to show his age and it was apparent that he wasn’t up to the task to be the run stopping and the coverage guy he had once been. Johnson has been a beast for a long time but has endured injuries in recent years that just simply took its toll on his aging body. So as the weeks wore on they started inserting Ragland and Pierre-Louis to supplement DJ’s inadequacies more and more. With Ragland gaining the most momentum as the “run stopper” and DJ and Pierre-Louis supporting the coverage duties. None of this did anything for fantasy owners on a level that meant much. But overall on the field, it helped the Chiefs defense. As we talk about this we need to keep in mind that Ragland and Pierre-Louis only joined the team last summer and it does take some time for young players to acclimate themselves to a team’s defensive scheme. Also just how exactly do they take a long time veteran like DJ that has the respect of everyone involved and reduce his role?

Image result for reggie ragland chiefs

As aggravating it was to watch unfold week in and week out from an IDP point of view while praying they just pull the trigger, the Chiefs handled this perfectly. They managed to get Ragland on the field allowing him to gain some confidence back after his lost rookie season due to injury and the demotion in Buffalo. While also playing to Pierre-Louis’s strength of coverage skills and open field tackling to familiarize himself with the speed of the game. Something he was lacking coming out of Seattle due to their linebacker depth. And at the least allowing DJ some breathing time during the contests while not stripping him of his pride. The Chiefs pulled it off with no hard feelings and managed to make a playoff run in the process. DJ even managed to finish out on top in the wildcard game they lost by being a human highlight reel.

But now it’s time for general manager Veach has to prepare for the future with a roster in “cap hell” with a few “aged” players that are no longer starting caliber players. Changes have to be made, and the Ragland and Pierre-Louis trades mean more to the Chiefs now than it ever did then. Let’s take a look at what “cap hell” looks like, we’ll add a direct link below to a cap tracking site below in case a deeper look is warranted.

By count, these are the nine defensive players in the top fifteen of Kansas City’s total cap at the moment. These are key players on the defense as well, and a defense that’s old. They allowed the fifth most yards allowed per game and it can be said it is the reason they didn’t have a better year in 2017. Granted they made the playoffs, but it wasn’t because the defense was dominating. They clearly are in transition on the offensive side of the ball and used some of the radar transactions last year to start the process on the defensive side. This is also not listing 28-year-old DT Bennie Logan who is straight out a 2018 UFA who made a total of $8,000,000 in 2017. A player they may or may not need to decide on. Altogether we could see the Chiefs release or move on from up to or about six aging or ineffective players from the defensive side of the ball if Veach truly wants to bring on the youth movement.

The Case for Ragland and Pierre-Louise by the numbers

When we have a look at the overall snap counts in the regular season of the Chiefs inside linebackers the final percentages are not as telling as looking at the game by game.

The final year-end tallies:
Derrick Johnson: 76.75%
Reggie Ragland: 29.25%
Kevin Pierre-Louis: 22.80%
Ramik Wilson: 11.35%

Game by Game:

From week nine on is where it really looks interesting. It’s at the point that DJ isn’t receiving what we should consider an every-down linebackers amount of snap counts. An every-down linebacker should be receiving no less than 80% on average. Another notable fact would be that in game sixteen that the Chiefs choose to sit all three players preparing for their playoff run. This is normally not only a move that a team can make knowing that the game is meaningless in whether they make the playoffs, but we can assume it’s a thing that teams do with players they value.

Now we will look at how the snap count went in the wildcard game that the Chiefs lost. In the end, DJ and Ragland dominated with 71% of the snaps apiece, while Pierre-Louis ended with 30%. I’m sure many of us who watched this contest saw DJ play like he was still in his prime the second half at the expense of Pierre-Louis. But I’d like to point out an observation here about that. To start the game it was DJ and Ragland that received the start, but Pierre-Louis actually received 90% of his 30% share of the snaps over DJ in the first half. Pierre-Louis was actually having a very solid game at that point. But as the second half started they again trotted out DJ over Pierre-Louis who simply did what all great veterans do in that situation and stepped up and started playing like a man possessed. In turn, it left Pierre-Louis on the bench. I’ve done the research and nowhere can I locate anything about Pierre-Louis messing up or suffering an injury that warranted him not to continue to receive the snaps percentage he had going in the first half. One can assume it simply came down to not taking your veteran linebacker off the field in a game that meant so much while he is playing at the level that DJ was playing at the time. All hail DJ for his effort in that game. At his age and knowing that he had been supplemented for the last part of the season by youth, he went all out to try and get his team to the next round of the playoffs. And yes DJ did now he was being fazed out, he commented at the time about the fact the team came first in the media.

Now for a quick look at what each linebacker did with their share of the snaps in the regular season.

Let me say one thing before we go on. I’ve done this formula for playmaking abilities on a lot of players. And I never dreamed that Pierre-Louis and Ragland would score a P.A.P.S like this. I had to triple check my math. Those are both comparable to LB1 scores. And not just comparable, but higher end. DJ actually falls into a low-end LB2. Any of you out there who owned DJ for IDP during the regular season felt that fact this past season, I’m sure. I’ll note here that when doing my formula for playmaking ability it doesn’t include the special teams snaps now like when I first started it. The reason does I let that affect the final score or not. In the end, I decided it was splitting hairs and not in favor of the actual outcome. So let it be known that Ragland and DJ didn’t play special teams and that Pierre-Louis played an additional 249 on special teams. Odds are to have his speed on the field showing flexibility. But either way, just how often does a special team player make a tackle. I’ll tell you the percentage is way lower on average than one would think. And if Pierre-Louis did make a few of his tackles on special teams then it also shows the ability to make plays regardless. We have to consider the results as accurate enough to make the call.

The Assumption

So after it is all laid out with the “cap hell” the general manager is facing with older players and the stats are crunched we have to make a “take” on what can possibly play out in 2018. Let’s assume that DJ is released along with a few other notable names on the defensive side of the ball for cap relief. Not only will they need to replace DJ in the middle of the defense, but they will likely need to focus on replacing the other “named” key players. Where does GM Veach focus his attention? We should consider that it won’t be on the linebackers based on the 2017 season transactions and the end results of how things have played out. Not to mention the rest of the team’s needs across the board. The team is sitting solidly at running back or is it with the news breaking that Kareem Hunt was recently accused of shoving a woman during a party. Or the fact that the new starting quarterback Pat Mahomes actually only has two viable receiving threats in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.

It should be safe to say that Reggie Ragland will be counted on to be the run stopping linebacker and receiving a full workload in 2018. While most mainstream “takes” actually are naming him the replacement for DJ if or when DJ is released. I disagree. Pierre-Louis was actually the player relieving DJ on the field as the cover linebacker, not Ragland. Ragland’s role pretty well remained the same as the season went on. The main combinations didn’t have DJ and Pierre-Louis on the field much at all if any. It was Ragland and one of DJ or Pierre-Louis. We have to consider that Veach broke in his starting linebackers for 2018 while planning ahead. And as free agency looms why would he release players to reduce cap this season to only sign a high profile free agent linebacker and tank the cap again. We have to think the same with the rookie draft. He may draft a linebacker, but does he draft one of the higher rounds locking the rookie into a starting linebacker role? Especially with what he may need to replace elsewhere in the lineup or add to upgrade.

While Ragland is clearly going to be a starter there is one thing that happened that Pierre- Louis has put himself in a questionable situation as a Chief. He was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, THC and drug paraphernalia, driving without a valid license and failure to display a valid license plate or current registration after being pulled over at a traffic stop by Kansas Highway Patrol.

This wasn’t too smart on his part and normally would have me suggesting that we might avoid him. But it is his first infraction, and knowing this and the fact of what the Chiefs gave up to obtain him I believe they do go ahead and resign him. His timing couldn’t have been at a worse time for him on a personal level. But for the team, it really depends on what general manager Veach and coach Andy Reed thought of his production and his presence in the locker room. Is he really a bad apple or a young man who made a mistake. I have been relentless in keeping up with the situation before and after his arrest. The reports and assumptions were positive before this mishap and still remain on the positive side afterward. Of course, this is not with any direct statement from the Chief’s front office. But if you were them and sent your pro-bowl special teams player with a couple years left on his contract in exchange for Pierre-Louis knowing what the future plans in mind are, would you not take advantage of the young man’s mistake and simple sign him for less money and a possible prove it deal?

For our fantasy IDP purposes, all that’s happened is that it’ll clearly go to be cheaper to acquire Pierre-Louis and his “upside” over Ragland. The first sign to act on this if you haven’t will be soon as the Chiefs decide what to do in “cap hell”

I wouldn’t normally do this. But I’m confident that the value of obtaining Pierre-Louis over what it would cost to get Ragland and receiving about the same fantasy production in 2018, that I’d like to reinforce the idea with a few recent articles from the mainstream media. All are after his arrest.

  1. Derick Johnson’s contract voids on Mar. 14th
  2. The Veach-ization of Chiefs
  3. KPL must be resigned

Anyone out there that has followed as I covered the situation unfolding last season knows I had the same takeaway before these articles. I’ll gamble my reputation by adding them versus what I’ve stated all along if it gets the point across and helps anyone who will take action when the timing is right. If he gets a couple games suspension I’m personally willing to wait it out.

As always thanks for reading and be sure to follow up with me on twitter @HBogart27 for anything IDP.

Cap Link here

 

Resources:
NFL.com
Pro-football-reference.com
spotrac.com

2018 NFL Drafting Needs; AFC East

Nothing beats a bit of draft speculation straight after one of the best Superbowls of all time, right? I’ll be going through the draft needs of every NFL franchise, starting today with the AFC East (heck, may as well start by second-guessing Bill Belichick!). I’ll give my view on the top 3 positions of need, and who that player could be, and crucially, why.

New England Patriots – CB, DE, OLB

Something’s going on at Patriot Place. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t look pretty. Several stories have come out with varying credibility regarding Coach Belichick’s decision to give cornerback Malcolm Butler a whopping ZERO defensive snaps in Superbowl LII. The only consistent message in these stories is this: Butler’s days as a Patriot are numbered. Improvements must also be made at defensive end and at linebacker. The return of Dont’a Hightower and Shea McClellin will certainly be welcome, as well as 2017 3rd round rookie Derek Rivers but with James Harrison, Marquis Flowers and Geneo Grissom all out of contract depth will remain an issue. Many will comment that QB should be on this list, but I think the Patriots go deeper in the draft for a young quarterback. Brady wasn’t exactly first off the board, after all!

Potential picks:

31 – Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

You couldn’t ask for a more prototypical cornerback. Size, speed, and arm length in abundance. He’s still raw, and will have to work on his game but if the Patriots can get him at 31 in the draft, their new DC should be very pleased. Oh, he can also return punts so that’s the versatility box ticked as well.

2017 stats – 10 games; 26 combined tackles; 13 passes deflected; 2 interceptions

43 – Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

It could take some good fortune for locally-based Landry to still be on the board at this point, given that many have a 1st round projection on him, but let’s say Arden Key doesn’t drop down the ranking due to his off-field issues for a second. Described by one NFC team pro personnel director as the next Vic Beasley, high praise indeed, Harold Landry is a little smaller than your average rusher but he is extremely quick and athletic. A ready-made pass rusher, the sky is the limit for Landry is he works on his technique throughout his NFL career.

2017 stats – 9 games; 38 combined tackles (8.5 for loss); 5 sacks

63 – Dorance Armstrong Jr., DE/OLB, Kansas

Highly skilled and despite playing on a poor Kansas team, and therefore shining less than perhaps his talent should allow him to, Armstrong is another versatile and athletic edge defender who could play in several positions on a Belichick defence. As a sophomore in 2016 he was a First-Team All-Big XII selection, and was touted at that point as highly as Harold Landry.

2017 stats – 12 games; 63 combined tackles (9 for loss); 1.5 sacks

Buffalo Bills – QB, DT, LB

Despite some heavy criticism early in 2017 for what seemed like bizarre at best, terrible at worst trade decisions, Sean McDermott quietly went about his business, acquiring picks and shaping his team in his own mould. They narrowly lost to the Jaguars in their first postseason game since 1999 and will come into the 2018 draft feeling confident that they are only a few pieces away from another postseason berth. The Nathan Peterman experiment is something they’d be keen to forget and I don’t believe it will be repeated. They also have several starters out of contract, including Kyle Williams, Preston Brown and EJ Gaines so some decisions will need to be made prior to the draft.

Potential picks:

21 – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Lamar Jackson is an elite playmaker and the quarterback I am most excited about in this year’s class, especially from a Fantasy Football perspective. I also believe he is the perfect fit for Buffalo and their play-action and run/pass option heavy offence. He’ll need to work on his decision-making as he is prone to turnovers, particularly in 2017. If he can do that, he’ll be an extremely productive NFL quarterback comparable to Michael Vick, or more recently, Deshaun Watson.

2017 stats – 13 games; 3660 passing yards; 27 TDs; 10 interceptions; 146.6 rating

1601 rushing yards; 18 TDs

22 – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

Hugely athletic; Taven Bryan has the profile of a DT/DE hybrid. His speed allows him to beat his blocker and attack the quarterback. Physically speaking he’s All-Pro caliber and absolutely a starter in the NFL, however he still needs time to learn the game and develop the mental side of the game before he can fully unleash his undeniable talent.

2017 stats – 11 games; 40 combined tackles (6 for loss); 4 sacks

53 – Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State

Another highly athletic prospect with an excellent mentality. Always motivated to improve himself, Leonard added around 50lbs in college which seems to have added that key amount of strength without jeopardizing his quickness, particular his very impressive straight-line speed. He’ll need to become a little more aggressive on an NFL field and work on his route efficiency in pursuit but with the right guidance could be an asset in a Bills jersey.

2017 stats – 10 games; 114 combined tackles (12 for loss); 8.5 sacks; 2 interceptions

Miami Dolphins – OG, LB, QB

I think it will likely take more than one year to put together a team capable of challenging for a playoff spot; but Adam Gase showed flashes of potential last year, including in a win over the New England Patriots. Ryan Tannehill has suffered successive nasty injuries, and I don’t see Jay Cutler being asked to return. Guard and linebacker requires additional talent also. Jarvis Landry is also coming to the end of his contract so an extension will surely boost their chances.

Potential picks:

11 – Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

This guy is an absolute beast – 6’5” and 329lbs of beast in fact. But don’t let the numbers fool you, this is no fat boy. It’s unlikely he’ll be beaten on power alone. Blocks opposing rushers regularly and creates great space for runners. There is no reason why he can’t become one of the best guards in the game. There is a tendancy to take his eyes off his target which he’ll need to work on but under an NFL coaching scheme this shouldn’t take long. Kenyan Drake could feast with Quenton Nelson looking after him.

2017 team stats – 13 games; 3501 rushing yards; 35 TDs (6.25 yards per carry)

42 – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Coming off the back of an injury which ended his 2016 season early, Leighton Vander Esch has catapulted himself into the forefront of many draft conversations. Crucially, he is a three-down linebacker who has great instincts both inside and outside, and is confident in his ability to make plays in any situation. He’s definitely not the finished article, as on many occasions in 2017 he found himself lacking in deeper coverage, allowing receivers to pass him but if utilized the right way, would be a potential game-changer week in, week out.

2017 stats – 14 games; 141 combined tackles (8.5 for loss); 4 passes deflected; 4 sacks; 3 interceptions

73 – Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond

You’ll learn that I’m not afraid to make a bold call! Many would have Miami drafting a quarterback in the 1st round, and they may be right, but I’m going to make the case for leaving it a little while. Kyle Lauletta is a natural leader who was MVP in the 2017 Senior Bowl, impressing many scouts along the way. Comes across to me as a good game-manager, albeit not someone who can take a game by the scruff of the neck with multiple deep shots. He’s very good at deceiving opposing linebackers with his body language on slant and curl routes. Arm strength is a major concern, as he could become prone to throwing interceptions at the NFL level but his performance at the Combine will allow scouts to make a decision on that.

2017 stats – 11 games; 3737 passing yards; 28 TDs; 12 interceptions; 153.2 rating

90 rushing yards; 4 Tds

New York Jets – QB, RB, OT

Another team that is way off contention, but showing some promise on defense following very good rookie years from Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye at Safety. Resigning Demario Davis will be a priority given his high level of production in 2017, and there will be a decision to be made about Josh McCown who confounded any critics with consistently good quarterback play before his season-ending injury. Assuming he’s good to go, I’d like to see him back as starter for one more year with a rookie under his wing.

Potential picks:

6 – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Almost enigmatic, Josh Allen is possibly one of the most frustrating and polarising members of this year’s quarterback class. Gifted with fantastic arm strength and the ability to make plays that no other quarterback in the college game could play, he is also guilty of regularly missing the mark, through either inaccuracy or simply poor decision-making. This is why I’d like to see Josh McCown back for 2018. Allen could learn a lot from him around the mental side of the game. The ultimate boom-or-bust player this year, but one I think Gang Green could take a chance on.

2017 stats – 11 games; 1812 passing yards; 16 TDs; 6 interceptions; 127.8 rating

204 rushing yards; 5 TDs

37 – Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Prior to a horrendous knee injury in 2015, Nick Chubb was something special. An elite talent. Sadly the special spark doesn’t appear to have returned, although he could be a solid, albeit unspectacular starter in the NFL. I don’t see him as a three-down back, but the Jets have Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire who are capable of playing in relief roles, or on third-down plays. Chubb offers a solid floor and potentially, a very high ceiling if he can return to his pre-injury form.

2017 stats – 15 games; 1345 yards rushing on 223 attempts (6.03 YPC); 15 Tds

30 yards on 4 receptions

49 – Connor Williams, OT, Texas

If you draft a running back with a horrible injury history, then you draft Connor Williams next. A natural leader, with exceptional run blocking skills, I fully expect him to return to his 2016 form a be a very good starting tackle in the NFL. 2017 wasn’t his best year as he seems to lose a bit of the spark he has the previous year but with NFL-level coaching I think this comes back.

*2017 stats from www.cfbstats.com

The IDP Geek Huddle: 2018 Defensive Linemen Investments 0.1

To continue the first part of our series on investments in 2018 we’ll cover a few defensive linemen who are likely to take the next step this year. In which a minimal investment could very well pay dividends on the tail end of a trade or later on in redrafts. If you happen to have read the linebacker and safety articles I recently published you’ll probably notice the introduction here with the DLs will be a bit different. It’s pretty simple as to why it’ll be a different way to look at these investments. These DLs might be on the radar, but they are not truly worth much of an investment by themselves. Actually, they may just be on the waiver wire in dynasty leagues.

This particular group we are about to cover are more often than not players we want to keep an eye on until OTAs and reports come around. They may be worth a late round pick later in the summer. It’ll be around the time OTA’s roll around that camp reports will tell us if we should go ahead and pull the trigger. The trick to remember about the DLs in most standard leagues is that there are always some you can plug and play via match-ups. And unless we are talking a top 12 DL, where at that point those guys have there own value to deal with, most are not worth investing into at this time of the off-season. If you don’t have a top 20 at the least the DLs almost become “a dime a dozen”.

Here is a thought for when we do need to fill out our lineups. We should consider fielding a defensive tackle each week that might only average 5 pts per contest, but they give it to us nearly every single week. There are plenty of defensive ends with weeks that get us hardly anything, but then hit a few weeks out of the season with games they score big. The question is when they didn’t score did they cost us overall. In other words, it’s the difference between a steady shortstop hitting doubles all the time or that guy in right field trying to hit a home run every pitch. Consistency matters at the Defensive Linemen position and not receiving a steady stream of fantasy points on average is merely not using the position at all. And these players should be looked at right now as possible DL2/3 with “upside.”

Image result for davon godchaux dolphins

Miami’s fifth-rounder DT Davon Godchaux was arguably the most productive rookie this past season for the Dolphins. Well, let’s just say he is in the conversation. For a player to handle the workload they gave him and he did so much more than just being a “solid” contributor showed well for Godchaux. The buzz back last spring was that the Dolphins got lucky when he was still there in the 5th round. And all signs now say that assumption held true. In a rotational role where he did receive some spot starts, he recorded some notable numbers.

From week seven and on he had a nice average. He played on average 50% of the defensive snaps at an even 500 count. For a fifth rounder, this is as solid as it gets on what we could ever have expected from a fifth rounder. Godchaux had a small stretch of games mid-season that he really showed up and actually was their most productive DL for fantasy purposes. Looking at the reports for those contest he earned what he got and the team was really impressed.

The only reason he didn’t continue showing up as strong after that mid-season point was the fact that Andra Branch started stepping up and had a productive second half of the season. Godchaux ended the season with 40 total tackles and this was only eight combined tackles behind Mr. Suh. The difference was Mr. Suh was on the field for 877 defensive snaps versus Godchaux 500. This leaves me wondering what last years rookie would have done with another 200 snaps. We can’t go the full 377 difference in snaps between the two because Mr. Suh is simply a beast. Those are ironman numbers for a DT these days at a season average of 84%. If Godchaux makes any noise this off-season when OTA’s and such are in full swing he’ll need to be considered a player that could break out in 2018.

I made a call on Atlanta’s DT Grady Jarrett this time last season and the situation is nearly the same here. The comparison to me is uncanny. If you find yourself looking for a player with plenty of “upside” and don’t want to invest a whole lot, but before his value could go up, Godchaux should be considered for the top of that list.

*Note: Tackles for loss also a part of the playmaking count.

 

The Carolina Panthers drafted DT Vernon Butler out of Louisiana Tech in the 1st round in 2016 and the reports are out of Panthers camp that it’ll be tough to think that the Panthers resign stud DT Star Lotulelei. The team just resigned DT Kawann Short to a pricey long-term deal last year, leaving Lotulelei expendable at the price he’ll demand on the open market.

We don’t have a large number of statistics to go over with Butler as he really hasn’t played a lot with the starting defense. He has also had a bit of an injury history compounding that situation. But he has shined in some areas that put him on the radar just to see how it plays out. If Butler can get healthy he is in a great situation to step up next season as a full-time type DL. The playmaking ability he has shown from time to time could translate nicely if he does receive more opportunities with the starting unit. With Carolina dealing with a few older players they need to decide on in free agency Butler should find himself getting the chance to show he is worth the first round pick they invested in him. Butler actually isn’t your prototype DT either, he has a thinner stature relying on speed and quickness to get the job done. This could also give him another option in the lineup. Carolina ran with longtime veteran DE Julius Peppers who was very serviceable in 2018. But at Peppers age, one has to think that he is about to slow down or that the Panthers may want to simply get younger rather than continue to rely on the likes of Julius Peppers and Peppers respectfully. Butler needs to be on the radar for a investment if he enters camp this coming summer as an uncontested starter. The opportunity will be there for Butler as well as for IDP owners that are looking for a DL2/3 type in standard-sized leagues.

Image result for alex okafor saints

New Orleans has a decision to make with Alex Okafor who showed well as a converted OLB to a DE who should attract some attention on the open market. He actually had a very interesting stretch this past season where he was firmly on the fantasy radar.

If Okafor, who is still only 27 years old, can finally put it together after transitioning to DE he holds a lot of promise. He is definitely a player to pay attention to depending where he lands this offseason. He was a big part of the turnaround of the Saints defensive unit in the front seven as any of them. And after he was hurt there was a noticeable drop off on the unit overall. He was showing like a solid DL2 while adding some real playmaking traits. Looking over his career numbers this was the best season he has put together. At the least, we have to figure that maybe he gets a “prove it” deal either in New Orleans or elsewhere. Okafor worked with Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins and together they shored up a defensive line unit that had struggled in prior seasons. And at times they were downright dominant in terms of being able to make plays.

*Note: Tackles for loss also apart of the playmaking count.

 

This isn’t my typical approach to writing about players that we should keep on our IDP radars. As I mentioned above DLs are “dime a dozen” unless they are truly in the top tier. We never should target them more than in a really late round or as a player to balance value in a trade. But when the situation arises these guys could potentially breakout in 2018 and worth the small investment.

 

Thanks for reading and be sure to hit me up with any questions you may have on twitter @HBogart27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome To Green Bay

A Look At Coach Pettine’s History In The NFL, Why the Packers hired him, and What he can bring to restore the Green and Gold to a shot at going to the Play-offs and Beyond.

Last month, the Green Bay Packers fired long time Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers. This move was not surprising, as Green Bay’s Defense has been struggling in recent years and has always been the weakest link of the team. The fan-base has been divided on this issue though, and this move created the debate weather Capers was to blame or not. But now that Capers is gone, let’s take a look at his replacement.

Moving Up In The Ranks:

Coach Pettine got his start in the NFL when he was hired by the Baltimore Ravens as a coaches assistant in 2001. In 2005, Rex Ryan became the Ravens DC and promoted Pettine up to Outside Linebackers Coach. The defense the next year was top-notch and Ryan won Assistant Coach of the year honors. Pettine’s contributions were heavily credited with the defenses success that year. The following year, the team struggled, finishing with a 5-11 record, and despite the defense playing well, the whole staff was dismissed.

Off To New York:

Image result for rex ryan mike pettine ravens

In 2009 Ryan and Pettine were hired by the Jets as Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator respectively. In that first year, Pettine coached the number 1 overall defense and all his defenses ranked in the top 10 while he was in New York. His contract expired after 2012 and the Jets did not re-sign him.

Image result for mike pettine browns

After one year in Buffalo as DC, the Browns hired Pettine to be their Head Coach. In 2014, they got off to a 7-4 start but lost their last 5 games and missed the playoffs. The following year, the Browns had a 3-13 season and Pettine was let go.

Restoring The Packers D:

Despite his struggles in Cleveland, his skills as a DC are undeniable, and the Packers are hoping he can revive their defense that has only finished in the top 10 once in the last five seasons. The talent is there for them to become elite and now they have a dynamic coach to lead them.  In recent seasons, the Packers have come up short in the Playoffs and the defense was usually the weakest link.

Returning To Greatness:

When Green Bay won Super Bowl 45, they had an amazing defense, but they have never re-created the success. With the return of a healthy Aaron Rodgers next season, the Packers are hoping to make a Super Bowl run, but they are counting on an improved defense as well with the hire of a proven defensive mind in Pettine.

We’ll see if they get it.

 

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this article, please consider giving it a like and sharing it on Twitter, and following us @GeeksportJosh and @cleatgeeks

 

Value From The Slot

 

As the fires are slowly going out in downtown Philadelphia, it’s time for me to look ahead to 2018. Thankfully, I’m a Dynasty player at heart and as you all know, there is no off-season. However, even for the redraft leagues I’m involved in, the hard work starts now. I was in three redraft leagues last year; with varying results (thanks Amari and most of Tennessee), but where I noticed I had the most success was in my work league.

 

Why? I had inadvertently gained excellent value in the latter rounds at WR. I can’t claim this to be completely deliberate, but it was a consequence of my initial tactic, go RB early and often. Whilst I’m not claiming to be starting the “Zero WR” revolution, there are certainly viable ways to win your league by getting ‘value’ picks in the later rounds of your draft with the less desirable names.

 

Let me throw out some 2017 stats:

Image result for aj green

Player A – 66 targets, 44 catches, 615 yards, 3 TD

 

Player B – 76 targets, 38 catches, 516 yards, 5 TD

 

These are stats for weeks 8-16. Player B is AJ Green, who was ejected early in week 9. Player B, is Jamison Crowder, who was out hurt in week 9.

Image result for jamison crowder redskins

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should all go out and avoid AJ Green. But, if you can pick up a Melvin Gordon at a similar spot to AJ Green, and then pick up Crowder where you’d possibly be looking at a Wayne Gallman…you can see where the better overall value is (sorry, Gallman truthers!).

 

Slot receivers are underpaid in relation to their touchline-hugging counterparts, and they are also under-appreciated a lot of the time in Fantasy Football.

 

Here are 5 of the slot receivers I’ll be looking to target in the mid to late rounds of my redraft leagues in 2018, with a small reason why:

 

  • Jamison Crowder (WAS) – I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits Alex Smith will bring to Crowder in 2018. As you see above, he was extremely effective down the stretch in 2017 and unless Washington make significant improvement to their offensive line, you could well see Alex Smith doing what he does best; a quick slant-route pass to the slot.

Image result for larry fitzgerald

  • Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) – assuming he returns, and there’s no reason to think he won’t at this stage, Fitzgerald is a guy I still want to be targeting. Some are doubting his impact for 2018 with a new Quarterback and Head Coach. I relish it. Somebody is going to have to step up and carry the offence. David Johnson can’t do it all on his own. Larry Fitzgerald is going to get targets. Lots of targets. He won’t fall too far, but he’ll be great value in the 5th round of your draft.

 

  • Sterling Shepard (NYG) – But OBJ will be back! Let’s hope so, the NFL is a much better place with OBJ in it. Shepard carried a lot of responsibility this year in his absence, and in a Giants side that looked frankly terrible for most, if not all of the 2017 season. Enter Pat Shurmur. I don’t know how much you saw of Adam Thielen this year, but he was good. Very good. Stefon Diggs was also very good. There is no reason to believe that the Shepard can’t be the Adam Thielen of 2018. I’m not expecting the same numbers, not unless the Giants seriously work on that offensive line. But use the return of Beckham to your advantage and pick up his third-year colleague later in the draft.

Image result for julian edelman

  • Julian Edelman (NEP) – A player in his thirties coming off a nasty knee injury? Not the ideal phrase to use in a sales pitch. But Tom Brady is going to be reeling from losing a Superbowl in which he threw a record 505 yards for 3 touchdowns and zero picks. Edelman had to sit and watch it happen. They have a combined age of 642. The window is closing for both of these greats and I fully expect fireworks. I’m going bold here, I think Edelman gets 100 catches (his record is 105 in 2013), 1200 yards (1106 is his record, from 2016) and 6 touchdowns. In PPR that is a tasty 256 points. For reference, that would sit him between Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones this year. He could still be available in the 10th round – unless you have a Pats fan in your league, in which case, pull the trigger in the 7th or 8th if he’s still there.

 

  • Trent Taylor (SF) – My favourite ‘buy-low’ target in dynasty leagues; jump on board the San Fran hype train! I actually see a lot of similarities between Taylor and Edelman. Maybe it’s the fact Garoppolo is throwing to him? Who knows. What I do know is that Taylor will likely go undrafted in a lot of leagues, which is criminal. The 49ers could go nuts in free agency, spending big money in the process, but I can’t look beyond Trent in the slot. He’s small. He’s quick. Slight red flag appears with a relatively high number of dropped passes (4, or 8.5% if you’re a stats guy, per PFF) in his rookie year…but no need to be alarmed – in college this figure was just above 3% and I expect good things from him in 2018 as he takes his first year of NFL experience onto the field.

Image result for trent taylor 49ers

So, you now know why I love slot receivers. I have similar feeling towards certain pass-catching running backs (maybe my next article!?) – you just get great value from them.

 

That’s my view from across the pond.

 

QB Payday Is Coming!

 

Money, Money, Everywhere:

As the new league year approaches, many massive deals have already been struck.  Two big names are already set to sign their big contracts: Alex Smith and the Redskins have agreed to a 4-year, $94-million contract.  You can read more about that here.  On Thursday, Adam Scefter reported on Twitter that the 49ers and QB Jimmy Garoppolo have agreed on a 5-year $137.5 million deal.  Yeah.

What This Means For The Future:

Image result for drew brees kirk cousins

Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees are surly watching these events unfold as they are both free agents in 2018. Brees, who is turning 39 this year and still playing at a high level, probably won’t get any long-term deal from a team, but he will be looking at profitable short-term deals. Cousins on the other hand is hoping to be the franchise quarterback for a team and will likely seek Garoppolo-level cash.

And Then We Have The Baaaad Man himself:

Image result for aaron rodgers

Aaron Rodgers will be an unrestricted free-agent after the 2019 season, but both him and the Packers would like to have a deal done before that deadline. Rodgers’ talent and importance to the success of that team already gives him massive leverage for a huge money deal. But now with Garoppolo and Smith already paid, and Cousins likely getting a big deal, this almost guaranties that Rodgers, who is arguably the most talented quarterback in the game today, will have a mammoth deal struck before long.

The Foundation Has Been Laid:

Image result for andrew luckImage result for derek carrImage result for matthew stafford

Over the last two years, QBs Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, and Matthew Stafford have each gained record-breaking contracts.  This has become a fairly common trend in the NFL with Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Ben Rothlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers all being the highest paid player in the league at one point.

This trend does not  seem to be going away any time soon as teams find themselves having to pay more and more to retain star talent.  In the future it may not be uncommon for an NFL player to make $200 million.

This off-season will be a fun one to watch.  The checkbooks will be busy this year.

 

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this article, please consider giving it a liking and sharing it on Twitter, and following us @GeeksportJosh and @cleatgeeks

GET YOUR  ON!

If you like this site or just simply want to school your friends because you got the information first.  

Join us on the field! Click on any of the links below.