NFL draft

Miami Dolphins: Top Three Needs for 2015

This is a special time of year in the NFL. Some are fortunate enough to compete in the playoffs hoping all the hard work might pay off in a Super Bowl berth. Others find themselves at the other end of the spectrum searching for a new head coach to hopefully steer the ship away from the rocks. Every one else? Well now is a time for them to take stock. Take a look at what worked and what did not. It is time to make difficult decisions as they begin the journey through the 2015 offseason.

I started taking a look at what need the Miami Dolphins might need way back in November. While some things have changed since then the basic premise is the same.

I do not feel that the Dolphins are that far off the pace. Injuries and quality depth hurt Miami as much as anything on the field, just like any other team. To an extent the Dolphins could go BPA(Best Player Available) when the draft rolls around. I have however targeted three spots.

1. Linebacker:

The Dolphins have two good promising starting linebackers in Koa Misi and Jelanie Jenkins. The problem is they are also saddled with Philip Wheeler and Dannelle Ellerbee who have drastically underperformed. The good news is that Wheeler and Ellerbee will most likely not be here next season. The bad news…who takes their spot?

Second year players Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain could possibly fill that third linebacker spot still leaving us with the question of depth.

Two players I do like are Erik Kendricks (UCLA) in the early round and Mike Hull(Penn St) in the later rounds.

Kendricks is an active versatile player who could easily be penciled in at middle linebacker from day one. Hull is a gritty, lunch-pail kind of player. While his measurables may not be as shiny he will outwork everyone.

2. Offensive Line:

Last season the Dolphins addressed their offensive line problems signing free agent Branden Albert and drafting rookie Ja’Wuan James. That seemed to help dramatically. When Albert went down with an injury it was clear more work is needed.

With James and Albert manning the tackle positions and Mike Pouncey expected to resume his career at center now it is time to find depth and possibly a guard or two.

Brandon Scherff(Iowa) would be a tempting first round pick. He could possibly man one of the tackle spots but he may be even better inside at guard. Another option Erik Fisher(Oregon).

3. Secondary:

Notice I said secondary. Not safety, not cornerback. My feeling is either or both may be a need. Louis Delmas and Cortland Finnegan could both be back or neither leaving more questions than answers. The simple fact is we need someone solid across from Brent Grimes and we do not know if Jamar Taylor can do the job. On the other hand while Delmas was good before his injury he does have an injury history.

There are a number of talented young players on the roster to look at for help: Michael Thomas, Walt Aikens, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis. Even if everyone contributes we will still need some secondary help.

Two safeties I like are Cody Prewitt(Ole Miss) and Gerod Holliman(Louisville). Both have good size and ball skills. They could allow Reshad Jones greater freedom to freelance and be the playmaker we have seen in the past.

As far as corner Trae Waynes(Michigan St) is a no brainer. I also like Kevin Johnson(Wake Forest). Both have the size we are frankly missing at corner to go along with excellent coverage skills.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Draft season is not quite upon us. As it gets closer players do begin to separate themselves. Just a little taste of what we could be in store for.

 

Categories: AFC East, Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

The Return of College Football Saturday

Certain events herald in the different season for some of us. Regardless of the actual start date, the last day of school always told me that summer was here. In the same way the first college football Saturday let me know that fall was here.

These are my thoughts on the beginning of the College Football season.

My day started in Dublin with the Croke Park Classic between Penn State and UCF. There is nothing so special as getting to watch Football before I head into my day job. As far as the game itself by the fourth quarter we really had a game. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg looked good, he is one of the more promising young quarterbacks in the game today. On the UCF side on the other hand, they still need to find the replacement for Blake Bortles. Starter Pete DiNovo looked lost, in his first start he played timid as if he was afraid to make a mistake. Justin Holman performed much better giving the Knights a spark and nearly leading them to a comeback victory, just coming up a little short. Honestly I do not believe either player will be the long-term starter for UCF. Whether that player is on campus or not remains to be seen.

As I watched the games throughout this first weekend I could not help but think: College Football really could use a preseason. Not a full multi-game preseason, just one game. Let the players hit someone in a different uniform just a little before the games really count. As it is now we had some sloppy games along with horrible mismatches. Teams could schedule the cupcakes for the preseason game and actually strengthen the regular season schedules. Just a thought.

Now is the time when I piss off Florida State fans…

I do not know that Jameis Winston is that great a quarterback. It is not that he is a bad quarterback, he is very good. I simply think that he is, how do I put this. I think Winston is Chad Pennington. Good, solid, efficient. That is all. He has been blessed with an incredible supporting cast. Rashad Greene is a perfect example of this. Greene can turn a two-yard pass into a fifty yard touchdown with ease, as he did last night. When judging Winston consider is he making the plays or is it what he has to work with. While he has an embarrassment of riches right now when he moves onto the NFL things may be a little different.

I know it is ridiculously early but I have chosen my front-runner the Heisman race already. Todd Gurley of the Georgia Bulldogs ran for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns on only fifteen carries. Add to that his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and he had a very nice night. Yes it was one game, but it was one very impressive game. Gurley is not a flash in the pan either. He has shown this kind of ability before for Georgia. If he can remain healthy he may break the streak of no running backs going in the first round of the NFL draft.

It was a great first Saturday. Let us hope it is just the appetizer for a fantastic season of football for all of us.

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Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Linebackers

koa jordantripp

The linebacker position was an issue last season that needed addressing. I wrote about it leading up to the draft. It can be found here.

It was a frustrating situation. Dannell Ellerbee and Philip Wheeler were brought in to inject youth and speed to the linebacking corps. They were expected to improve an already solid front seven. They did not.

How bad were the results? During the second half of the Tampa Bay game I suggested that one of them should be cut. Not by the end of the season, not after the game. I wanted them cut right there on the field, take their playbook and make them walk home. If nothing else that would have sent a message.

Ok. Maybe that would have been a little extreme. However, improvement must happen this offseason. As a group we need to see better angles, quicker recognition and more consistent effort. Can last years starters step up their game or is it time for the next man to step up?

Koa Misi: Misi was one of the few bright spots for the Dolphins at the linebacker position last season. He was consistently solid playing the strongside outside linebacker position. This year the five-year veteran takes on a new challenge-middle linebacker. His athleticism and motor should serve him well in the middle. The question will be is this a solution or merely a Band-Aid to the linebacking woes.

Dannell Ellerbee: When he came over from the Baltimore Ravens Ellerbee was expected to excel at middle linebacker. After all he had filled in for future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis during the Ravens Super Bowl run. Seemed like a no brainer. Did not work out that way. Perhaps the change from a 3-4 to the 4-3 slowed his progress. This season Ellerbee is expected to lineup on the strongside, which it is felt is a more natural position for him.

Philip Wheeler: If anyone is on a short leash this season it is Philip Wheeler. Watching him last season I saw so many bad angles and even worse at times I saw a lack of effort getting to the ball carrier. While the other two starters have switched positions, I expect Wheeler to have competition for his starting job. He may be better in a pass rushing specialist role than as a full time starter.

Jelani Jenkins: The second year player out of the University of Florida took some time to adjust to the NFL. When he finally did he started taking some snaps away from Wheeler. If he continues to progress and more importantly impress he may have an outside shot at taking the starting job. While still a little raw I see tremendous upside to Jenkins.

Jason Trunsik: Trunsik has been the break in case of emergency linebacker for the last few seasons. He is a good, solid backup at all three positions. While good I feel he simply does not have the upside necessary. Sadly someone else taking his spot may be the surest sign of progress for the position overall.

Jordan Tripp: The fifth round pick out of Montana is intriguing. He has the skills to play at all three linebacker positions. During OTAs it seemed they were training him at all positions. Whether this is to take advantage of his versatility or to simply find where he fits best remains to be seen. From my own personal scouting I see him as a future middle linebacker. Until he finds his way into the starting lineup he should find a home on special teams, where he should excel.

What little I have seen and heard so far about the linebackers has been promising. I simply hope they can step up and put the memories of 2013 far in the past.

 

 

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Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Defensive Line

cam wake

 

The Miami Dolphins defensive line was a strength of this team last season and it continues to be one this year. Even with the departure of Paul Soliai and the 4-game suspension of last years first round pick Dion Jordan this unit should continue to impress.

It is not simply the talent on the field it is also the depth that promises consistent play no matter who is out there.

I will start with the Defensive Ends.

Cameron Wake: Wake is the star of this unit, maybe of the entire team. After joining the Dolphins in 2009 after a successful run in the CFL, Wake has shown that he is an elite defensive end. Providing 8.5 sacks as well as one of the plays off the year in his walk-off safety against the Cincinnati Bengals 2013 was another excellent season from him. The only question with Wake is how long can he perform at this level. He is 32 and he did miss some time last season to injury. Keeping an eye on his playing time might be a wise move by the Dolphins.

Olivier Vernon: This third year player out of the University of Miami had his coming out party last season. Posting 11.5 sacks opposite of Cameron Wake. At the beginning of last offseason he was not even expected to start, but he held off Dion Jordan to keep the job. Now it is time for Vernon to prove last season was not a fluke. After a full season starting I expect him to be more consistent and effective, elevating the performance of the entire line.

Dion Jordan: The Dolphins 2013 first round pick has an unique combination of size, speed and agility. How unique? Jason Taylor kind of unique. While he saw his playing time limited last season while recovering from injuries, he came into this season in great shape even adding some muscle to help against the run. Recently it was announced that he will serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFLs PED policy. While some make a big deal out of this, I believe everyone is entitled to a mistake. As long as Jordan learns from this and does not become an habitual offender there should be no problem. He will be back by the beginning of October adding another weapon to this defense.

Derrick Shelby: Shelby provides solid depth to this line. Still a young player with room to grow, he should be a regular part of the defensive end rotation this season.

Terrence Fede: The rookie draft pick from Marist contributed over 30 sacks during his college career. Still very raw, he has the kind of athleticism that teams covet at the defensive end position. Fede looked to be an easy choice for the practice squad this season, but with the Jordan suspension he may sneak onto the main roster at the beginning of the season.

The Defensive Tackle position will look a little different this year. Gone is space-eater Paul Soliai replaced by Earl Mitchell. It looks like defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is looking for versatility at the position.

Randy Starks: Starks signed a two-year $12 million dollar contract to return to the Dolphins this offseason. A two-time pro bowler he is effective working at defensive tackle and also at end. At thirty he is one of the older members of the defense but still can perform as a full-time starter.

Jared Odrick: Like Starks, Odrick has the versatility to play inside or outside. The former first round pick contributed 4.5 sacks last season bringing his career total to 15.5 for the Dolphins. Entering into a contract year, expectations should be high for Odrick this season. I expect to see him excel in his second season as a full-time defensive tackle.

Earl Mitchell: Coming over from the Houston Texans, Mitchell is expected to fill the run stopping role Soliai once manned. If nothing else he should be a solid member of the defensive tackle rotation.

A.J. Francis: Francis impressed in last years preseason. Unfortunately he did not make the final 53 man roster, being picked up by the New England Patriots and spending several weeks on their roster. By the end of the season he was back on Miami’s roster. With a season of experience he has a good chance of making the roster and providing depth in the defensive tackle rotation. He also has a chance to surprise and steal snaps from the starters this year.

Even with a suspension and the ongoing threat of injury that always exists I expect this line should continue to be a strength. It is very simple. Next man up. The depth and talent are there. Each and every man simply needs to step up when his number is called and I expect nothing less.

 

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Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Offensive Line

 

San Diego Chargers v Miami Dolphins

It is rare that a teams number one need heading into the offseason is as obvious as the Miami Dolphins was headed into this offseason. Giving up 58 sacks will do that. Having a scandal hijack your season will do that. Needing to replace 3/5ths of your offensive line will do that. There is a possibility that the only returning starter for these Miami Dolphins may be Mike Pouncey. And that is just fine.

New blood can help wash away the bad memories of last season. Not all the struggles were the lines fault. The running backs could have pass blocked better. Ryan Tannehill could have gotten the ball out quicker. Mike Sherman could have done a better job calling plays. At the end of the day you have to play the hand that is dealt you and do the job in front of you.

The offensive line is the position group most dependent on working as a team. I do not believe that you need superstars on the offensive line. Having good solid players who work together and communicate is much more important. At first blush heading into the 2014 season the offensive line is already much improved.

I expect the starting unit to be as follows: Branden Albert, Shelley Smith, Mike Pouncey, Dallas Thomas and first round pick Ja’Wuan James. Of the group the biggest surprise of the offseason is the performance of Thomas. While some (myself included) did not expect much from him he seems to have improved immensely since his rookie season.

For the reserves I expect to see: Sam Brenner, Nate Garner, Jason Fox along with rookies Billy Turner and Tyler Larsen. Before the draft I would have even been happy to have Fox as our starting right guard. Fox, Brenner and Garner should do well filling in for the starters if called upon. Turner and Larsen may surprise and develop into solid reserves or even possible starters down the line.

Compared with last season I feel much better about the line headed into training camp. What was once a trouble spot now seems to be a strength of the roster. Cannot wait for preseason.

 

 

Categories: Football, Free Agency, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins Training Camp, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Day of OTAs. 100 days to NFL season.

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Today is the first day of OTAs (organized team activities), the precursor to NFL training camps. Some are covering today as if it matters. It really does not. Teams simply kick the tires and try to knock off some of the rust. For fans it does give us some hope. If nothing else it is the light at the end of the tunnel. The NFL season is approaching.

The Miami Dolphins enter training camp with some predicting they will fail. One website ranked the Dolphins as the worst team in the NFL, on Twitter someone else predicted that they would own the number one pick in next years NFL Draft. When I see these type of things the first thing I think is:

Should we be drug testing those that write about sports?

Obviously I am joking. Everyone has a right to their own opinions. I simply wonder what they were looking at last season. While the season ended poorly with one-sided losses to division foes to miss the playoffs, last season was far from a train wreck. The fact that the team played so well in the face of the Incognito/Martin scandal is something to applaud. Many of the problems faced by this team last season came from that dysfunctional offensive line. A young quarterback simply cannot be expected to thrive when he is sacked over fifty times.

The Dolphins come into this season with a rebuilt offensive line. Will it be better than last years? We wont know until we are into the season. It does seem on the face of it to be an improved group. There is at least hope there and fewer distractions.

Other parts of the team have been subtly upgraded. Knowshon Moreno is the all around back they needed last year and Louis Delmas is a talented playmaking-safety. The new players are not shiny, but we do not need shiny we need good.

Maybe that is the disconnect. For some they need the shiny, the excitement. Me, I will take actual football players. Men that get the job done. All the shiny, big-name players win you are the press conferences. At some point they have to turn into players.

Sometimes a man has to get his hands dirty. Here is to the Dolphins getting down into the muck.

I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Can not wait for the season opener.

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Miami Dolphins 2014 Draft: Rounds 4-7

Last time I wrote about the first two days of the NFL Draft. (found here) This time around I tackle the final day, rounds four through seven. I love this day. These are the longshots, the surprises. Terrell Davis and Tom Brady were found here before leading their teams to the Super Bowl. Zach Thomas fell to the Miami Dolphins here, after being told he was to small and too slow, he responded by being one of the best middle linebackers of his generation. These players do not have a lack of talent, they have it in spades. They just need someone to hold open the door so they can smash their way through.

So lets look at who the Miami Dolphins picked on the last day:

3daydraft

Fourth Round (pick #125) Walt Aikens, WR, Liberty

With good speed and athleticism Aikens joins last years draft picks Will Davis and Jamar Taylor to compete at the cornerback position. If nothing else these three players bring youth to the Miami secondary. Aikens brings some much-needed length to the cornerback corps. In time he may compete for a starting position in the coming years.

Fifth Round (pick #155) Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia

This was the pick I was the most excited for. Looking at Lynch many are quick to point out that he is not a seam threat tight end in the mold of Jimmy Graham. They are correct Miami does not need a seam threat (they have Charles Clay), what they do need is a traditional in-line tight end. They need an effective blocker and an outlet for short and medium passes. That is exactly what Arthur Lynch gives them. With good hands and decent speed he should eat in the areas opened up by Mike Wallace and Charles Clay.

Fifth Round (pick #171) Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana

Jordan Tripp’s biggest drawback is the level of competition he faced at Montana. An aggressive linebacker with good instincts, he is versatile enough to play at any of the linebacking positions. Personally I prefer him inside. While not as smooth as other linebackers, his agility is good enough to allow him to compete at the NFL level.

Sixth Round (pick #190) Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina

A questionable pick based on the wide receiver depth on this team. Hazel has soft hands and good body control. I would prefer more height or speed. He may surprise in training camp. I honestly expect him to be a practice squad option.

Seventh Round (pick #234) Terrance Fede, DE, Marist

A small school talent, who excelled as a pass rusher. They say you can never have enough pass rushers, this may test that theory. Fede joins the talented group at defensive end. Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, Dion Jordan and Derrick Shelby are formidable in their own right, Fede beating one of them out seems unlikely. He may develop into a solid contributor, once upon a time Wake too was an afterthought.

The last day of the draft brought in some interesting competition and depth to the Dolphins roster. The biggest takeaway has to be the overabundance of small school players, with Arthur Lynch the only one from a traditional power. In the next few months we should see if Dennis Hickey knew something or if he was chasing after fool’s gold.

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Miami Dolphins 2014 Draft: Rounds 1-3

After month after month of scouting, debating and a multitude of other moves the 2014 NFL draft has come and gone. Watching the moves Dennis Hickey and the Miami Dolphins made this weekend I am decidedly underwhelmed. It is not that they made bad picks, overall they choose well, it is the hope for something more, something better. The simple fact is scouting is subjective, my board looks far different than Hickey’s did.

Here is my look at the first two days. Rounds One, Two and Three.

First Round (pick #19) Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee 1

Clearly the offensive line was the biggest need of the draft. But was James the best choice. He will easily step in as the new starting right tackle. He will be solid. My issue: taking him at 19. It has been suggested that the Dolphins could have traded down for more picks. While they insist that James was their guy and they were concerned about him not being there if they did trade down, would that have been that bad? I would have preferred going with Xavier Su’a-filo from UCLA at guard or failing that taking Nevada’s Joel Bitonio. That being said, James should do a fine job.

Second Round (pick #63) Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU2

With their second pick they took Jarvis Landry from LSU. He is a strong, physical receiver, great route runner with wonderful hands. He has been compared to Anquan Boldin and Hines Ward. If they were dead set on getting a receiver I would have rather gone with someone with speed or size, Landry has neither. At 6’0″ and 205 lbs he does not have size and his 4.6 40-time will not scare anyone. My only real problem with Landry is that we already have him, two of him. Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews. While I believe Landry may be better than either Gibson or Matthews the fact remains we used a draft pick on a player we already had rather than addressing a need. I would have rather gone after a playmaking free safety like Terrance Brooks (FSU).

Third Round (pick #67) Billy Turner,OT, NDSU3

I actually thought of Turner as a possibility here. He is a big, strong, athletic tackle who plays a bit of a nasty streak. My only concern is whether he can make the transition to guard at the pro level. It is a big jump in level of competition from FCS to the NFL, add to that the position change and Turner has a daunting task ahead of him. Marcus Martin from USC may have been the wiser pick here. He already has experience at guard and could slide right into the starting lineup.

The first two days supplied players who will contribute and will be productive members of the team. It may be a little short on excitement but overall Dennis Hickey did his job. With his first three picks as General Manager he delivered three good players filling a few holes along the way.

 

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Quarterback Quandry

qbs

Everyone loves the Quarterback.

While football is most definitely a team game, the quarterback position is very important for success. A great quarterback can cover a multitude of sins at other positions. So it is understandable that NFL teams and fans obsess about who they have behind center.

In this draft there are three quarterback that are universally at the top of teams draft boards: Blake Bortles (UCF), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Terry Bridgewater (Louisville). While some will insist that there are other quarterbacks that belong in the conversation (Derek Carr?) it really isn’t that close. So the question is: Who goes first?

Any team that takes one of these quarterbacks is going to get a very good player. This is not a case of one player is clearly better than another. I find myself liking each of these players in their own right. I simply like one more than the others.

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel, Johnny Football. I wrote about him during his Heisman run. I insisted that he had to win the Heisman, there was simply no other choice. He is exciting, competitive, cocky. Those are good things. He has a rare ability to create plays from nothing that reminds me of Doug Flutie. He is the wildcard in this scenario. Manziel’s biggest asset is his biggest flaw. He is incredible when things break down, but that is not something you can coach up. There is no way to refine what makes him great, too much coaching may actually take away from his gifts. Then there is the bigger problem. His worst game last season was easily against LSU. The Tigers held him to 16 of 41 passing for 224 yards with two interceptions and only one touchdown in the Aggies 34-10 loss. The problem: simple LSU kept him in the pocket forcing him to win only with his arm not his legs. Until he shows he can play from the pocket there will be a huge question mark on Manziel.

Terry Bridgewater

Many analysts insist that Bridgewater is falling down draft boards, I find that hard to believe. He is mature, confindent, a leader. Bridgewater has a very good arm, he throws with touch and accuracy. Watching him play I see a smooth, polished passer. He makes me think of Joe Montana, Chad Pennington, and unfortunately Ken Dorsey. It is his frame that reminds me of Dorsey. Dorsey was a phenomenal college QB, leading the U to a national championship while racking up an impressive 38-2 record as a starter. The NFL was a different story. His slight frame and lack of arm strength worried teams, he was drafted in the 7th round by the San Francisco 49ers and had an unremarkable career. That is the concern with Bridgewater. Among the three quarterbacks he has the highest floor, meaning under the worst circumstances he will be better than the other two. The question remains what is his ceiling?

Blake Bortles

I am biased. I have watched every game Bortles played for the University of Central Florida. Every single snap. I watched when he came of the bench like a modern day Don Strock in relief of starter Jeff Godfrey. I was there when he took over the starting job in the 2012 season and I was there when he came from behind to beat Bridgewater’s Louisville team with a touchdown pass to that same Jeff Godfrey. He is big, strong, smart, he is a grinder. Bridgewater has the higher floor but Bortles has the higher ceiling. He just keeps getting better. He got better from his first start to when he beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. He got better from there to the combine and UCF’s pro day. At that pro day he said he did good…just good. Many observers felt he looked great. All Blake Bortles had to say was that he still had work to do, things to improve. That’s the guy I want. Confident, a leader, humble. A grinder.

 

Categories: Blake Bortles, College Football, Football, Johnny Football, NFL, NFL combine, NFL draft, sports, Terry Bridgewater | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Mock Draft of 2014

2013 NFL Draft

This mock draft is coming to you very late. I planned on having it ready last week honestly, however the extra time kept making me second guess myself. These are my thoughts, what I would do. I know there are picks here that most everyone says are not going to happen. Well…I don’t care, this is my mock. I am sure they have written their own. That being said enjoy-

1. Houston Texans (2-14) Blake Bortles, QB, UCF  

Bortles has always been my pick for the Texans. Bill O’Brien knows him better than anyone else, O’Brien takes him. Suddenly the Texans have their quarterback for the next decade. He does everything you need your quarterback to do and he is …just getting warmed up.”

I know many people out there are convinced Clowney is the pick here (and he is the best talent in this draft) but he just does not fit the Texans defense. Never pick someone in the top ten to play a position they have not played before.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) (7-9) Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Someone needs to protect Sam Bradford. Yes, they brought Roger Saffold back-he is better off as a guard. Jake Long is coming back from yet another injury. Robinson will learn from one of the best and the Rams biggest weakness may quickly become a strength.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Clowney is an incredible physical specimen and the best player in this draft by a large margin. Coach Gus Bradley will be licking his chops if he falls to the Jaguars. Even with the questions about his work ethic Clowney will instantly upgrade the pass rush.

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12) Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

While they do have Josh Gordon, his past history has to be a concern. Why not take the best wide receiver in the draft to make the passing game that much more explosive for whoever ends up playing behind center. Watkins has the speed, hands and running ability that you need in a number one receiver.

5. Oakland Raiders (4-12) Terry Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

I know everyone has Bridgewater dropping but he fits Oakland so well. Smooth and polished he is the #2 QB on my board. Should easily slide into starting spot replacing Matt Schwab.

6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Matt Ryan simply has to stay upright for the Falcons to have any success. Matthews has the pedigree and the talent to be a top tackle for the next decade. Easiest pick of the draft.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Lovie Smith needs to build the Buccaneers defense in his image. Mack is the second best defensive player in the draft. He will combine with Lavonte David to create a fierce linebacking corps.

8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1) Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

New coach Mike Zimmer takes care of his new team’s biggest need right away. Just makes sense for the drafts most exciting player to play for the Vikings. After all it was Fran Tarkenton’s team and Manziel has often been compared to Tarkenton. With AP in the backfield it should give Manziel time to grow into his role without having to carry the offense.

9. Buffalo Bills (6-10) Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

There are a lot of ways the Bills could go here. Offensive line was a definite consideration. But I feel the Bills will get another weapon for their young quarterbacks.

10. Detroit Lions (7-9) Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

The Lions have had the best wide receiver in football the last few years. Problem is they have had no one on the other side of field. Evans would be a nice compliment to Megatron.

11. Tennessee Titans (7-9) Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The Titans lost Alteraun Verner in free agency the need is there. Dennard is a solid, physical cornerback who easily slides into the starting lineup.

12. NY Giants (7-9) Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

While the Giants drafted Justin Pugh last year the offensive line still needs to be rebuilt. Taylor Lewan’s gritty play fits the Giants personality and someone needs to protect Eli Manning’s backside if they want to avoid another disappointing season…

13. St. Louis Rams (7-9) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama

Clinton-Dix is a ballhawking safety who starred in Alabama’s suffocating defense. After taking care of the offensive line earlier the Rams work on their defense.

14. Chicago Bears (8-8) Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Donald got a lot of people’s attention at this year’s Senior Bowl. The only knock on him is his height. With an incredible motor he can be very disruptive against both the pass and the run. The Bears desperately need to upgrade their defense; this will be a good start.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

Troy Polamalu is not getting any younger. Pryor would instantly upgrade the aging Steelers defense. A hard hitter with great ball skills he should contribute quickly.

16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame

The Cowboys go just as far as Tony Romo takes them so maybe they should get some protection for him. Martin may be better as a guard but he has the flexibility to play all across the offensive line at a high level.

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

The Ravens fell to earth after winning the Super Bowl. The best middle linebacker in the draft may help shore up a defense that has lost a lot since winning the big one.

18. NY Jets (8-8) Marquise Lee, WR, USC

The Jets need someone to throw the ball to; Erik Decker cannot do it all. Lee started the season as the best WR in college football. With the Jets he gets the chance to prove that he was not all hype.

19. Miami Dolphins (8-8) Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA

Everyone expects Miami to take a tackle here, but I believe guard is a more pressing need. Putting Su’a-Filo next to Mike Pouncey would solidify the middle of the offensive line. You would have to go back to Bob Kuechenberg to find a guard of Su’a-Filo’s ability playing in Miami.

20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6) Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Carson Palmer is holding the quarterback position in Arizona for someone. I believe that someone is Carr. Solid arm and nice accuracy make him a nice fit, learning under a veteran like Palmer can only make things go smoother for Derek than they went for his brother David.

21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

While still learning the position Barr is a force as a pass rusher. He still needs to develop against the run. Pairing him with Clay Matthews should keep offensive coordinators up at night.

22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner should instantly slide into the spot vacated by DeSean Jackson. Polished with world class speed and excellent hands. Cooks can work inside or on the edge giving the Eagles yet another game breaking threat.

23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

The Chiefs need a receiving threat opposite Dwayne Bowe; Beckham Jr. easily fits the bill. Dangerous with or without the ball he gives Alex Smith another solid target while also helping in the return game.

24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Undersized, but competitive. Verrett supplies much need youth to the Bengals secondary.

25. San Diego Chargers (9-7) Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Shazier uses his explosive burst to disrupt the pocket. Smart with excellent instincts which put him in position to make plays.

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) (4-12) Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

The Browns find an excellent corner to line up across from Joe Haden. Has the ability to mirror receivers across the field and the speed to close quickly.

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5) Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

The Saints need some fresh blood in the secondary. Fuller is just the guy to finish the rebuilding job. Should learn quickly across from Champ Bailey.

28. Carolina Panthers (12-4) Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU

The Panthers wide receiver corps lost a lot this offseason. Benjamin gives Cam Newton a nice big target to throw to. His slow 40-time definitely hurt his stock.

29. New England Patriots (12-4) Ra’shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

With a rare burst for a player his size and exceptional strength Hageman should develop well behind Vince Wilfork.

30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4) Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

Good size/speed combination gives 49ers someone to develop behind Anquan Boldin. Very nice run after catch ability. Still a little raw.

31. Denver Broncos (13-3) Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

The Super Bowl showed the Broncos need to protect Manning better. Moses has great size and agility. If he continues to develop his technique he could be a steal.

32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3) Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

The Seahawks could go a lot of places with this pick. Ford used the Senior Bowl to slide into the first round solidifying an already impressive defense.

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