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College Football Week Six Preview

The weeks keep ticking by in the 2019 college football season, with another group of games that could have play-off ramifications further down the line. This weekend has some good under the radar games to pique interest also. Let’s look at the main talking points heading into week six.

1) Auburn – Florida Preview

The biggest matchup of the week is this Auburn – Florida game, with giant SEC implications. Both sides go into this one with plenty of confidence, and a 5-0 record. Auburn travels to Florida as favourites, having faced a much tougher schedule.

Bo Nix has been solid as a true freshman starter, but will face a tough task against a top 20 defense like Florida’s. For the Gators the game will depend a lot on backup Kyle Trask, making his third start, having played well against limited opposition. Both co-lead their SEC conference, with the winner closing in on a play-off berth.

2) Can Auburn do the Unthinkable in the SEC West?

The SEC West can legitimately claim to be the toughest conference in college football, but if Auburn can win against Florida could they claim the conference crown over Alabama? This has previously been an Alabama stronghold, but this year they face competition from Auburn and LSU.

Auburn have so far beat two top 25 teams on route to 5-0, and another win against tenth ranked Florida would boost them into play-off contention. They face a brutal schedule this season, with LSU, Georgia and Alabama to face. If they only lose to Georgia and beat the rest they will claim an unlikely SEC West title.

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Auburn has rolled over tough opponents this season, with another victory over Florida likely to bring them into play-off contention. Photo: Jason Caldwell/247Sports.

3) Iowa – Michigan Preview

Another massive conference matchup is this Big Ten game as Iowa travel to Michigan. The Wolverines are the traditional power in this game, but will go into it as underdogs after an underwhelming start to the season.

Iowa have started well at 4-0, co-leading the Big Ten West with Wisconsin. The Badgers brushed Michigan aside two weeks ago, and Iowa will feel confident heading into this game. Their defense ranks fifth in the nation, and Michigan have struggled on offense this season. Despite the home advantage Iowa should feel confident in this one.

4) Michigan Need Big Home Win

The result this weekend will have big implications for the rest of the Michigan season. They go into it 3-1 but have yet to convince in any of their wins. Their loss was in-conference to Wisconsin, putting them already a game behind Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten East.

Another conference loss to Iowa will likely take them out of the running for the title, and at two losses will make it almost impossible to secure a top ten ranking or featured bowl game. The Jim Harbaugh hot seat would only increase, so a lot rests on this game.

5) Michigan State – Ohio State Preview

Keeping things in the Big Ten East, this matchup of Michigan State and Ohio State will mean a lot going forward. Ohio State will feel confident after a 5-0 start and being at home, but 25th ranked Michigan State won’t roll over in this rivalry game.

This will be an interesting game, with the Ohio State offense, led by Quarterback Justin Fields, is currently eighth in the nation for total offense. Michigan State has the seventh ranked defense however. They key for Michigan State will be scoring points on an Ohio State defense that is second in the nation, allowing less than 225 yards per game.

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Justin Fields has excelled so far at Ohio State, and looks to be leading them into a potential national championship berth. Photo: Jay LaPrete/AP Photo.

6) Potential Banana Skin for Ohio State

As I mentioned above Ohio State will be favourites for this game, but don’t discount Michigan State. They currently co-lead the conference with Ohio State and Penn State, and are a ranked team worthy of respect.

Their defense is a top ten unit in the country, allowing just over 250 yards per game. Their edge rushers Kenny Willekes and Raequan Williams lead the team with 7.5 sacks between them in five games. Ohio State is also coming off a statement win against Nebraska, and with a rivalry game this weekend they may slip up at home.

7) Under the Radar Games to Watch

Some games that won’t receive massive hype but will provide plenty of intrigue include a likely lopsided affair as Utah State travel to fifth ranked LSU. This isn’t a matchup on paper, but I’ve included it as we’ll see potential NFL Draft top ten pick, Utah State QB Jordan Love take on a very good LSU defense, with comparisons with rising star Joe Burrow likely.

The Pac-12 provides some important games, with 4-1 California travelling to 13th ranked 3-1 Oregon. After that is 15th ranked Washington travelling to face a struggling 2-3 Stanford team.

8) ‘Fair Pay to Play ‘ Acts Building

The much talked about ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Act introduced by California made headlines as it was officially signed this week on The Shop, and other states are now taking a stance on this divisive issue. Florida state representative Kionne McGhee proposed a similar bill this week that if passed, would go into effect July 1st 2020.

This has been followed by news that former Ohio State receiver and current U.S House of Representatives politician Anthony Gonzalez is proposing federal legislation allowing college athletes to earn money through endorsement deals nationally. After much blustering from the NCAA, their patriarchy may be coming to an end.

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California governor Gavin Newsom signed his state’s ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Act live on The Shop with LeBron James this week. Photo: The Shop.

9) Coaches Already on the Hot Seat

The firing of Chris Ash at Rutgers last weekend was the first of the year, but many college coaches are feeling the pressure after poor starts to the season. USC head coach Clay Helton was almost fired last year, but is unlikely to survive this season. They have a 3-2 record and face a tough schedule, starting with ninth ranked Notre Dame this weekend.

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt will be another facing being fired, with a 1-3 start hard to come back from. Coming from Alabama he was supposed to resurrect this historic program, but they have fallen even further away under him.

10) Nick Saban Doesn’t Follow Rankings

The Alabama coach made headlines this week, saying that the rankings don’t matter until the end of the season. This is a classic Saban quote, straight from the Bill Belichick school of media quotes. It does show once again however the relentless nature both show in coaching.

Saban has already cemented himself as a legend of college football, but his relentless desire to improve is a big reason why Alabama has become the dominant force in college football for a decade now.

That wraps up my preview for week six of the season, if you have any thoughts on these points feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who read this blog I really appreciate it!

College Football Week Four Preview

This weekend of college football will provide plenty of answers for teams and fans, with a multitude of marquee games as we begin to see who is the real deal and who is faking it. Let’s take a look at the main talking points for this weekend’s slate of games.

1) Georgia – Notre Dame Preview

This top ten matchup is the biggest game of the weekend. Third ranked Georgia face seventh ranked Notre Dame in Athens. The last matchup was a close 20-19 win in 2017, and was Jake Fromm’s coming out party. Two years down the line and both sides have have eyes on the play-off.

Fromm, now a junior, is a top level quarterback at this level, and with support from the likes of running back D’Andre Swift has plenty of weapons. Notre Dame QB Ian Book has started the season hot, and his dual-threat ability makes him dangerous to this Georgia defense.

2) Battle of Jake Fromm and Ian Book

Quarterback is the most important position in the sport, so a big factor in deciding this game will be the play of the two signal callers. Fromm has the higher profile, having led Georgia to the national championship game as a freshman. He has since developed into a future first round NFL Draft pick.

Ian Book isn’t talked about as much by the media, but has quietly developed into a very good QB for the Fighting Irish. Like I mentioned above, the senior QB has started hot this season, with 553 yards and 6 TD’s to 0 INT’s in his opening three games.

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Jake Fromm was only a true freshman in his first start the last time Notre Dame played Georgia. Now they face off with play-off ambitions for both. Photo: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire.

3) Michigan – Wisconsin Preview

Another massive game this weekend is this Michigan and Wisconsin matchup. Both sides are ranked just outside the top ten at 11th and 13th respectively, with a win providing a big step into the top ten.

Both sides are 2-0, but Wisconsin has looked more convincing against limited competition. Having home field advantage only enhances their tag as slight favourites. Running back Jonathan Taylor is a stud who will give Michigan problems, with the return of their best lineman Jon Runyan likely to enhance Michigan’s offensive play.

4) Can Jim Harbaugh Get His Statement Win?

The pressure is mounting on head coach Jim Harbaugh after his side have started the season slowly. Allowing Middle Tennessee to score 21 at home and escaping Army in overtime doesn’t bode well going into a tough Wisconsin matchup. He has a good recent record against them, but this could be their best opportunity for revenge.

He hasn’t been helped by injuries to key players like left tackle Jon Runyan and receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, but they have enough talent to be a top ten side. Quarterback Shea Patterson has struggled, with the running game solid but not spectacular.

5) Auburn – Texas A&M Preview

The big games just keep coming this weekend, with a massive matchup for these historic programs. Eighth ranked Auburn travel to College Station to face the 17th ranked Aggies.  Auburn already have a statement win this year against Oregon, but this game could make or break Texas A&M’s season.

Led by true freshman Bo Nix, Auburn surprised some by beating Oregon opening weekend, however this is another massive test. Texas A&M have already lost to Clemson, with another defeat here will take them out of contention for major honours.

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Bo Nix led Auburn to a comeback win in his debut for the Tigers. As to be expected with a true freshman, he’s struggled slightly with the adaptation to top level college football. Photo: Ron Jenkins/AP Photo.

6) Will Bo Nix Show up Big Again?

Bo Nix responded to immense pressure with a clutch comeback win against a good Oregon side in his debut, with this another massive test. Starting a true freshman on the road in a tough environment in College Station is always tricky, with the stats giving little confidence either

Nix is 83rd in the nation for passing yards, and his leading receiver after three games is Eli Stove with 133 yards. The offense has leaned on running back JaTarvious Whitlow, as they try to help Nix as much as possible. Nix will need to step up if they want to win this game.

7) Other Games to Look Out For

Below these top level games there are plenty amongst the slate that will pique fans interest. Tenth ranked Utah open the weekend with a trip to California to face a wounded USC team. Utah have looked good so far but USC will look to rebound from their OT loss to BYU last weekend.

Speaking of them, BYU hosts 22nd ranked Washington. Both sides already have one loss and another this early in the year could really pull the pin on their seasons. 3-0 Oklahoma State travel to Texas to face the 12th ranked Longhorns. This could be a banana skin for Texas.

8) Names to Look Out For 

All three games have star players with NFL potential, starting with Utah RB Zack Moss. He isn’t known nationally, but has developed into a very good player with mid-round NFL potential. 373 yards in three games shows the good start he’s had.

For BYU and Washington it’s hard to look past Washington QB Jacob Eason. The Georgia transfer has plenty of hype and has so far delivered. Seven TD’s to one interception and is averaging just under 300 yards a game. Another QB to look out for is Texas Sam Ehlinger, who has impressed despite a tough loss to LSU. His stats are incredible and is cementing himself as an NFL prospect.

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Utah Running Back Zack Moss has quietly built into a very good back with tremendous NFL potential. He’s leading Utah to a top ten ranking. Photo: NCAA.

9) Wider Play-Off Implications for This Week

The weekend ahead will have wider reaching consequences for the College Football Play-Off. Starting with the Georgia and Notre Dame game, if the Fighting Irish win they could vault into the top four. Their toughest remaining matchup’s would be against Virginia and Michigan, two games they would go into as favourites.

If Auburn beat Texas A&M, that would be two wins against ranked sides and would surely push them to the cusp of the play-off. Whoever wins in the Michigan – Wisconsin game will likely jump into the top ten, and another Utah win will see them rise also.

10) Players to Watch

We’ve already mentioned some key players to focus on this weekend, but here are some of the pivotal players for the leading matchup’s. We’ve mentioned Jake Fromm, but the Georgia offense is led by RB D’Andre Swift, who is averaging a massive 9.4 yards for the season.

For Notre Dame this could be a Chase Claypool coming out party, the receiver leads the team with 190 yards in two games.Jonathan Taylor will be a focal point for Wisconsin, while Michigan running back Zach Charbonnet will be glad to have left tackle Jon Runyan back to help the freshman.

That wraps up this preview for what will be an exciting week of college football. If you have any comments on the talking points I’ve mentioned, let me know in the comments section or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who read this article I really appreciate it!

 

College Football Week Two Roundup

The college football season is now truly underway, with some brilliant matchup’s this past weekend that remind us all why we love the game. There were not any major upsets, but the games were entertaining from start to finish as the top ranked teams asserted their dominance. Let’s take a look at ten talking points from this past weekend.

1) LSU Win Big

LSU were the big winners of week two, knocking off a top ten Texas side in their house 45-38. The game of the weekend lived up to expectations, and now LSU fans are dreaming of the college football play-off.

QB Joe Burrow had a monster 471 yards and 4 TD’s, with receiver Justin Jefferson getting three of them along with 163 total yards. LSU have often struggled at the QB position, but now they have a stud in Burrow. They have NFL talent on both sides of the ball, and can legitimately think of the top four now.

2) Texas Have Plenty to Play for 

Texas will feel disappointed they could get a statement win at home, however they still have plenty to play for this season. It’s been a difficult decade for this storied program, but they now have a team with legitimate top ten hopes.

Boyhood fan Sam Ehlinger had a monster game 401 yards and 4 TD’s along with 60 rushing yards, leading the team. Texas were in this game until the very end against the best LSU side in years. They dropped to 12th in the AP Top 25 poll, but they can easily get back into the top ten.

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LSU QB Joe Burrow is the answer their fans have been waiting years for. He has led them to a play-off spot in a flying start to their season. Photo: AP/Michael Democker.

3) Clemson Overcome Texas A&M 

Clemson passed the test with a convincing 24-10 victory over a resurgent Texas A&M team. The final score doesn’t accurately reflect that Clemson flat out played better than Texas A&M throughout.

QB Trevor Lawrence rebounded from a patchy opening game with some beautiful throws, notably his TD. He added a rushing score also, and with how talented this Clemson team is he needs only to play sensibly and execute for them to have a good chance of victory. Texas A&M looked second best, but there’s no shame in that when you play Clemson.

4) Big Upsets in Week Two

Part of the fun of college football Saturday’s is checking out whose on upset alert, and there was some big results this past weekend. Maryland was the pick of the bunch, dismantling 22nd ranked Syracuse 63-20. This was a massive win that puts the program 22nd in the AP polls, the first time they’ve been ranked since 2013.

Other notable upsets were 23rd ranked Stanford getting rolled over by USC 45-20, an especially impressive result when considered USC lost it’s starting QB J.T Daniels for the season in week one. 25th ranked Nebraska also fell on a missed FG against Colorado 34-31.

5) Michigan Survive Close Call

The Michigan revival under Jim Harbaugh hasn’t quite gone to plan so far. His return to Ann Arbor was supposed to bring the glory years back but so far it hasn’t quite worked out. Only once have they finished in the top ten and they haven’t finished better than 10-3 under him.

So far this season they have looked less than convincing. They gave up 21 points in a 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee, and this past weekend needed double overtime to beat Army 24-21. Army played an incredible game in the Big House, however no disrespect to Army, but they shouldn’t be scaring Michigan this much in their stadium.

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Michigan players celebrate a double overtime scare against Army. They will need to improve before they face tougher competition. Photo: David Guralnick/Detroit News.

6) Heisman Week Two Report

After a scintillating week one, it was a quieter weekend for some of the key players in the early Heisman Trophy race. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts saw limited action in a 70-14 demolishing of South Dakota, going 14-18 for 259 yards and 3 TD’s, along with 47 rushing yards.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa was similarly dominant in their 62-10 win over New Mexico State, going 16-24 for 227 yards and 3 TD’s, with 33 rushing yards also. After falling behind in the opening week, Trevor Lawrence of Clemson reasserted himself in the Heisman race with his win over Texas A&M.

7) AP Top 25 Rankings

After a fairly predictable opening week, week two saw some movement in the AP Top 25 polls. The biggest move is LSU claiming the final play-off place in fourth, displacing Oklahoma and Ohio State after their statement win against Texas.

Michigan dropped from seventh to tenth after two uninspiring wins against Middle Tennessee and Army, vaulting Auburn and Florida to eighth and ninth respectively. Texas dropped from ninth to 12th, along with rivals Texas A&M who fell from 12th to 16th after losses last weekend. Washington fell from 14th to 23rd after a 20-19 upset loss against California.

8) True Freshman Impressing 

The 2019 season has already seen some true freshman QB’s assert themselves at their respective programs. Hank Bachmeier has impressed as Boise State upset Florida State on opening weekend, now they sit 22nd ranked and 2-0.

Sam Howell has done the same at North Carolina, leading them to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2014. He’s led the Tar Heels to comeback wins against South Carolina and Miami, showing up big in both games. Bo Nix has led eighth ranked Auburn to a massive in against Oregon, showing that the future is looking bright for these three programs.

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Boise State true freshman Hank Bachmeier was a highly rated recruit who has now led his team to a 2-0 start and top 25 ranking. Photo: Boise State Broncos.

9) Storied Programs Start Slow

Many of the teams in the early Top 25 rankings are not a surprise, however some other storied programs have started at the other end of the spectrum. Tennessee were the shock of week one as they lost to lowly Georgia State, but they lost again 29-26 against BYU. This is the first time they have started 0-2 since 1988 and head coach Jeremy Pruitt is definitely on the hot seat.

Miami lost a close game to Florida on opening weekend, but now compounded it with a 28-25 loss to North Carolina. They are now 0-2 for the first time since 1978, with new head coach Manny Diaz already struggling.

10) More Quarterback Injuries in Week Two

The opening two weeks have been rough for quarterbacks, with the likes of USC and Northwestern losing their starters on opening weekend. Week two unfortunately saw South Carolina QB Jake Bentley go down with a Lisfranc fracture on his left foot. This will require season ending surgery, and is a tough break for a player who was hoping to build his NFL Draft stock this season.

Kentucky QB Terry Wilson was the other big casualty, as he is now out for the season after tearing his patellar tendon in his knee in his teams win against Eastern Michigan. This is a tough break for a player who led the team to it’s first ten win season since 1978 last year.

This rounds up some of the main talking points from a busy week two of the college football season. If you have comments about this piece or the week two results feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to anyone who read this article I really appreciate it!

 

 

 

Can Football Learn From the NFL?

As England still comes to terms with a crushing 2018 World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia, many are reflecting on how well the team played throughout the tournament. A particular strong point for the young England side has been their prowess from set-pieces.

Kieran Trippier’s free-kick against Croatia set a World Cup record, with England scoring nine goals from set-pieces during the tournament. Russia 2018 in general has seen in a rise in set-piece goals, with a record 30% of total goals up to the quarter-finals coming from corners or free-kicks, bettering previous recent records of 23% from the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

With set-pieces becoming increasingly important to international tournament football, not much has been written about what influenced England’s set-piece excellence under Gareth Southgate. England’s attacking coach Allan Russell has been praised by Southgate and his players, whom they credit for their drastic improvement in set-pieces.

Russell has spent his entire adult life within the world of professional football, yet Southgate has looked further afield for his set-piece influences. The England manager has spent time in the U.S visiting NFL franchise the Seattle Seahawks, has visited the last two Superbowl’s and has had numerous discussions with NFL analysts and NBA coaches to find out how their players find space in tight areas.

It was frequently seen in England World Cup games, when the team was taking a corner beforehand the players would quickly huddle together, before going into a line formation. As a casual fan of both football and American football this sounds much more like an NFL play then a football set-piece.

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England players set-up for a corner against Colombia using a move known as “the love triangle”. Nine of England’s 12 World Cup goals came from set-pieces. Photo copyright: Getty Images. 

With England showing how vital set-pieces can be in major international tournaments, will world football begin to follow the England example and adopt the mindset of an NFL franchise when it comes to set-pieces.

In the simplest sense a set-piece in football can be largely similar to an NFL play, a chance to score from a dead ball.  The NFL is constantly using shifts and motions to buy players space in tight windows, something that could prove massively beneficial with set-pieces.

Teams could use cleverly designed set-pieces where players disguise and then go in motion to fool opposition defenses, much like an NFL offense does. Football has tended to view American sports with a certain level of ignorance, dismissing it as not relevant to football.

What Gareth Southgate and England have highlighted is that in a time where set-pieces are becoming increasingly important in major tournaments, there is a lot world football can learn from American sports in how to create space in tight areas of the pitch.

By Jordan Wilkins find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

Let me know your thoughts on this article in the comments section below. 

What’s Going Wrong For The Ravens?

Two weeks can be a long time. Especially in the NFL. Two weeks ago the Baltimore Ravens were riding high in the NFL, having started the season 2-0 in very convincing fashion. Yet as I write this on Monday October 2nd the Ravens season looks a lot less promising. Two successive emphatic defeats leave them at 2-2 and looking to get their season back on track.

Whilst the defense faltering has contributed to their recent poor two games, the Ravens offense hasn’t really got firing all season. Not one unit has stood out this season, from quarterback Joe Flacco, to the wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. The offensive line has also been hit with injuries already this season, as the Ravens hold the dubious honour of leading the NFL in injuries.

It’s hard to point to one single problem which explains the Ravens offensive woes. They have struggled since Gary Kubiak led Joe Flacco to his best statistical season in 2014. With current offensive co-ordinator Marty Mornhinweg in his second season since taking over from the fired Marc Trestman, Flacco has struggled so far this season. He ranks 32nd in the NFL with 601 passing yards through the first four games, and only 5.09 yards per passing attempt.

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Something Ravens fans are not used to seeing this season, an offensive touchdown. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.

 

His bare statistics are also not pretty. He has thrown for four touchdowns and six interceptions, whilst also setting a current NFL record with an interception in ten straight games stretching into this season.  Flacco himself admitted after the most recent loss to bitter rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers “I sucked.” He also admitted about the offense “We’re not creating a lot for ourselves right now. We’re just going the hard way.”

Whilst the quarterback is the leader of the offense, Joe Cool has not been helped from his wide receivers this season. The Ravens signed receiver Jeremy Maclin after he was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs in June, with the team heading into the season with arguably the best receiving unit since Flacco joined the Ravens in 2008.

Maclin was signed for big money on a two-year $11 million dollar deal, but so far through four games the 29 year-old has accumulated only 116 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Wallace was another big name receiver signed for big money in free agency, with his two-year $11.5 million dollar deal producing his first 1000 yard season 2011. So far he has 76 yards this season and one touchdown.

The teams next highest profile receiver is third year player Breshad Perriman. He was the teams first round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, but has so far not lived up to his draft position. He was unlucky to lose his entire rookie season to injury, however through last season and the season so far he has accumulated 510 yards and three touchdowns. The failure to meet expectations so far with Perriman is evidence of a wider recent issue with the Ravens.

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Mercedes Lewis scoring one of the Jaguars touchdowns as they obliterated the Ravens 44-7 in London. Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images.

 

Excluding the recent 2017 NFL Draft, from 2014 through 2016 they have drafted 12 offensive skill position players. Of these 12 only three(Crockett Gillmore,Breshad Perriman and Buck Allen have so far contributed over 500 yards, with just as many players already out of the league.

GM Ozzie Newsome and Assistant GM Eric DeCosta are very highly regarded within the league, especially for drafting players, but you have to begin to question their recent success in the last three draft classes. Of course this is only my opinion and I’m not saying they should be fired, it’s simply an observation of a recent trend which could prove problematic the longer it carries on.

No matter what offensive stat you look at, it doesn’t look pretty. The team are averaging 270 yards per game(30th in the NFL), 60 total points from four games (tied 30th)and 150 passing yards per game (32nd). It’s not just in the stats that a problem shows up. Any Ravens fan watching the games this season will have seen the offensive sputtering, with Flacco missing throws, receivers not on the same page as him and runners who are struggling to find running lanes.

By no means at all is this crisis point for the Ravens, but the recent two defeats have given cause for concern amongst fans. Of course we are only four weeks into the season, but the manner of the defeats highlight obvious offensive weaknesses which will need to be addressed if the team has any hope of returning to the playoff’s for the first time since 2014.

All stats sourced with thanks from Ravens.com and ESPN.com.

Have any thoughts on this article? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below. I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you want to reach me I’m on Twitter @JWjournalism.

 

2016 NFL Mock Draft Part 2

This is part two of my look at the fast approaching 2016 NFL Draft. Teams will be fairly confident of who they want and realistically will be able to select come Thursday evening. For part one of my mock draft looking at picks one to ten, please click this link NFL Mock Draft Part One .

This part of my mock draft is dedicated to the real meat of the draft, picks 11 through 20. There is lots of potential for trades with these picks as teams either move up or down to select the player they want. Without further ado, let’s look at my predictions for these middle first round picks.

11th Overall Pick: Chicago Bears – Shaq Lawson – Defensive End – Clemson

The Chicago Bears are in the unfortunate position of having a varied amount of team needs, but without a top ten pick to use as trade material. With the eleventh pick their top need seemingly is with their pass rush which ranked 22nd in sacks last season, this despite signing promising free agent Pernell McPhee last off-season.

With this in mind I think the Bears will select Clemson’s all-American defensive end Shaq Lawson. He led college football in tackles for loss and was top five in sacks last season. He is a very good player who could team well with McPhee to strengthen and inject some youth in Chicago’s pass rush. For every quarterback in the NFC North, they should be worried if the Bears make this pick.

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Shaq Lawson was a wrecking ball last season as Clemson reached the national championship game. Can his immense talents translate well in the NFL? Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

12th Overall Pick: New Orleans Saints – Sheldon Rankins – Defensive Tackle – Louisville

The New Orleans Saints have been significantly hindered from addressing their areas of need thanks to a significant lack in cap space. This didn’t allow them to make any splashes in free agency, which means they really have to nail the draft if they want to address their weaknesses.

Much like the Bears their biggest issue is their pass rush, which was an abysmal 25th in the NFL for sacks last season. With this in mind they can immediate improve this with the selection of Sheldon Rankins from Louisville. He was a very productive player in college and should translate well into the NFL.

Whilst some may argue getting an offensive weapon for quarterback Drew Brees is a more important position to address, I feel it would be a reach to select a wide receiver with this pick. We’ll see which side of the ball the Saints address with this first round selection.

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Rankins showing his ability to be a disruptive pass rusher in college, but can he have similar success with the step up to the NFL level? Photo copyright Tim Easley/Associated Press.

13th Overall Pick: Miami Dolphins – Ezekiel Elliott – Running Back – Ohio State

The Miami Dolphins are close to being a play-off calibre team, they only have a few positions to address to achieve this. They stole headlines with their defensive free agent signings last off-season, but they still need help with the offense. Ryan Tannehill is firmly entrenched as their starting QB, but they need to give him further help.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry helps with this, but with this pick I think they will select premier running back Ezekiel Elliott to help their at times spluttering offense. Elliott is by far the best back in this draft, and rumours of the Cowboys selecting him with the fourth pick are a smokescreen in my opinion. He could immediately come in and becoming a 1,000 yard rusher in his first season, something that would hugely help Tannehill and the offense to score points and win games.

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Elliott proved himself as the best college running back at Ohio State, and looks set for a successful career in the NFL. Photo copyright Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images.

14th Overall Pick: Oakland Raiders – Taylor Decker – Tackle – Ohio State

The Oakland Raiders were one of the major winners from the free agency period, as they made several significant statements with their signings that they want to win now. They have also drafted well in the past few years and will be looking to continue this year.

Although they signed Kelechi Osemele they still have needs on the offensive line. This is something they will address with the selection of Ohio State tackle Taylor Decker with this pick. Drafting an offensive lineman in the first round is never a sexy pick, but provides great insurance for QB Derek Carr and adds some youth to the line.

Some may argue they should select Jake Conklin instead, I think the size and good technique skillset of Decker will win over the Oakland front office.

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Taylor Decker showed despite his 6ft 7 size, he still has good footwork and technique for a tackle. Photo copyright Justin Galler/Getty Images North America.

15th Overall Pick: Tennessee Titans – Jack Conklin – Tackle – Michigan State

The Tennessee Titans started the trade madness that has engulfed this draft in the past few weeks, after they traded away the first overall pick to the L.A Rams. After swapping first round picks they not sit with the 15th pick, with some major needs for the organization.

After selecting building blocks such as Marcus Mariota last year, this year they need to help him by giving him some protection on the offensive line. They can use this pick to select Jack Conklin from Michigan State, who has elite technique for a tackle.

Some experts have questioned his physical attributes at the NFL level, but he could be a day one starter at either tackle position. This gives insurance to Mariota as he looks to progress in his second NFL season. It also adds some youth to the line and the franchise can be confident in Conklin for the coming years.

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Jack Conklin has some question marks on his physical intangibles heading into the draft, but can overcome this with his excellent technique. Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

16th Overall Pick: Detroit Lions – Reggie Ragland – Linebacker – Alabama

The Detroit Lions are another team who have plenty of the building block to be real contenders, but are just one or two pieces away from achieving this. The franchise has a lot of needs on defense, and despite losing superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson to retirement, the defensive side of the ball is what they will improve with this 16th pick.

Reggie Ragland is the latest linebacker stud to come out of serial winners the University of Alabama, and will be a great pick for the Lions. He can play outside but is much better suited as an inside linebacker, but his versatility is one of the many strengths of his game. He could be an immediate starter and impact player in Detroit, as they look to building a winning team.

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Reggie Ragland showing his big hitting ability at Alabama. Could his talents make other teams which they had selected him in the coming years? Photo copyright Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports.

17th Overall Pick: Atlanta Falcons – Leonard Floyd – Linebacker – Georgia

The selection of Ragland will start a run on linebackers, as many defensive needy teams select the best available talent after the early talents are taken off the board. The Falcons have a sound offense, but need some help on defense if they want to become a serious play-off contender in the coming seasons.

The franchise will have the choice between Darron Lee of Ohio State or Leonard Floyd from Georgia. I think they will select Floyd, who had more production in college. Some argue he is the best pure pass rusher in this draft, and the chance to select such an athlete at this stage in the lower middle first round is surely too enticing for the Falcons to pass on.

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Leonard Floyd showed tremendous athleticism and production whilst at Georgia, and will be rewarded with a first round selection in this years draft. Photo copyright Brett Davis/Associated Press.

18th Overall Pick: Indianapolis Colts – Darron Lee – Linebacker – Ohio State

The Colts will be looking at a return to the play-offs as their objective this season, after an injury plagued 2015 season. The franchise has a very good young offense who can outscore almost anybody in the league, but needs help on defense to become a true all round championship calibre team.

With this in mind I feel they will select Darron Lee from Ohio State, the best available linebacker after Ragland and Floyd come off the board. He didn’t have as much game time at Ohio State as he would of liked, but when he did play he showed he is a very gifted football player. His athleticism is up there with any linebacker in this draft and will likely become a day one defensive anchor for the Colts in the coming seasons.

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Darron Lee showed his potential on a loaded Ohio State team, and will now take his limitless talents to the NFL. Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

19th Overall Pick: Buffalo Bills – Laquon Treadwell – Wide Receiver – Ole Miss

The Bills are still in transition under head coach Rex Ryan, but showed great potential with their debut 8-8 season last year under Ryan. With the top end prospects at positions of more important need already off the board, I predict they will choose to fill a lower end need at wide receiver.

They will have the opportunity to select any of the top level receivers in this draft, in what many consider a slightly down year for the position. This should not put teams off as there are still at least half a dozen player who have the potential to be great in the NFL. Despite some pre-draft concerns with his measurable, I feel the Bills will select Ole Miss man Laquon Treadwell.

He was a stud player in college and this should not change once he moves into the NFL. The partnership of Treadwell of Sammy Watkins will be a scary prospect for any NFL defensive cop-coordinator, and arguably the best young receiver combination in the NFL this coming season.

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Laquon Treadwell is for many NFL personnel and draft experts the best WR available this year, and would cause defensive nightmares in partnership with Watkins. Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

20th Overall Pick: New York Jets – Noah Spence – Linebacker -Eastern Kentucky

The New York Jets are in the very tricky position of being very close to a serious contender in the NFL, but with several pressing needs going into the 2016 season. These needs are not something the franchise is unlikely to be able to address with this 20th pick in the draft, therefore they have the potential to be a team that organises a trade to move up or out of this pick.

If they keep this pick I think it would be hard for the team to pass up selecting the high profile prospect Noah Spence from Eastern Kentucky. The former Ohio State linebacker has showed he is in terms of pure talent probably one of the best linebackers in this draft, but has off-field concerns.

He was dismissed from Ohio State for repeated failed drugs tests for Ecstasy, but has rebuilt his draft stock at Eastern Kentucky. He appears to have come through the draft process well and has solidified himself as a first round talent. Some teams may be wary of drafting him so high, but purely based on his production and talent he is a top 15 pick. The ability to get a top 15 calibre player with the 20th pick is an enticing prospect for the Jets front office, and something they may find hard to pass on.

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Noah Spence has proved he’s going to be a disruptive pass rusher in the NFL, but can he leave his off-field concerns behind him? Photo copyright Kirk Irwin/Getty Images.

That wraps up part two of my NFL mock draft, looking at picks number 11 through 20. There could be some very productive future NFL players who slide down because of a myriad of concerns, both on and off field. Time will tell who makes the right and wrong selections this year, but all of these players can contribute immediately at the next level.

The third and final part of my mock draft will look at the final eleven picks from 20 through 31, looking at who the play-off contending teams will select to push them one step closer to the Superbowl this coming season. Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed my NFL mock draft.

 

 

 

2016 NFL Mock Draft Part 1

The 2016 NFL Draft is less than a week away now, and the buzz surrounding one of the hugely momentous event of the NFL calendar is reaching fever pitch. Teams are finalising their draft boards and completing their final pre-draft meeting with the array of prospects hoping their dreams will come true next week.

This years draft has already made major headlines with the huge trades of the top two picks, something that has not happened since 1997. The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles have already said they will use their first and second picks to select a quarterback, with Jared Goff and Carson Wentz the two prospects who are very likely to be selected.

At this present moment it seems every pick in the top ten is up for grabs if the right offer is made, and teams with positions of needs are feeling worried the player they want will not be available by the time their on the clock. This could mean this final week before the draft seems a lot more trades, but at this present moment let’s take a look at who each team is likely to choose when they are on the clock next Thursday night in my opinion as purely an NFL fan and in no way an expert.

#1st Overall Pick: Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff – Quarterback – California

Jared Goff was a three year standout quarterback at Cal-Berkeley, improving both personally and helping his team over his three years as starter. He led the team to it’s first winning season (7-5) since 2011.

An average combine performance was tempered by a very good pro day workout, and his stock has been steadily rising since the draft process started. He and Carson Wentz have separated themselves from other prospects, and many feel the Rams are a good QB away from becoming a play-off team.

The general consensus between draft experts is that Goff is the better immediate prospect, but Wentz may have a slightly better upside potential in the coming seasons. For this reason I think the Rams won’t be able to pass on Goff, who will energize the team in their move to L.A and can immediately challenge Nick Foles and Case Keenum for the starting role come the season opener.

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Goff in action for the Cal Golden Bears. He could immediately improve Rams to a potential play-off side. Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

#2nd Overall Pick: Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz – Quarterback – North Dakota State

Carson Wentz has become a major talking point of this years draft class, after a standout career at North Dakota State. As a fifth year senior he led the Bison to his second FCS National Championship, despite missing the majority of the season with a broken wrist.

This has not deterred NFL personnel from declaring he is one of the top two QB’s in this draft class, along with Goff. The debate has been running for weeks as to who should be selected with the first pick, and seemingly both players are garnering equal backing to be the first name commissioner Roger Goodell calls.

Wentz is considered to have more longer term potential, but a major knock on him has been the level of competition he has faced at FCS level. Many NFL experts believe he will need some time to adjust to the huge leap from FCS standard to the NFL. This is why I think Goff will be selected first. But Philadelphia may end up the perfect place for Wentz.

The Eagles have signed Sam Bradford and Chase Daniels to lucrative contracts, therefore Wentz will have the opportunity to sit behind these players without huge pressure to be the day one starter. Whilst Bradford is said to be requesting a trade after the Eagles made this trade earlier this week, Wentz could still learn and develop behind Daniels. This is a win-win situation for both sides and could prove to be a very smart trade by the Eagles in several years time.

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Wentz impressed in his final two seasons at NDSU, and would provide huge insurance for the Eagles at the QB position for the future. Photo copyright Mike Stone/Associated Press.

#3rd Overall Pick: San Diego Chargers – Laremy  Tunsil – Tackle – Ole Miss

After the two blockbuster trades, the San Diego Chargers will likely be fielding calls for the third overall selection in the coming week. If the Chargers remain with the third pick it’s likely the team will fill a major position by selecting the premier tackle in this draft, Laremy Tunsil.

This is a very sensible pick from the Chargers, who need to rebuild the offensive line to protect Philip Rivers. He is widely predicted to be a premier left tackle and potential Pro Bowler in the coming years once he’s made the transition to the NFL.

Tunsil had a standout career at Ole Miss, and tackle is a position that usually is the safest position to draft from the college ranks. Tunsil has cemented himself as one of the best overall players in this draft, and with the first two picks almost certain to be QB’s, the Chargers will have acquired a steal by selecting a player of Tunsil’s quality with the third overall pick.

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Tunsil solidified himself as the top tackle in this year’s draft, and will likely be an immediate starter for the Chargers. Photo copyright Aaron M Sprecher/NFL.

#4th Overall Pick: Dallas Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey – Defensive Back – Florida State

The Dallas Cowboys are rumoured to have been eyeing running back Ezekiel Elliot with this fourth overall pick, but the more sensible move is to select defensive back Jalen Ramsey from Florida State.

Ramsey is the best defensive player available this year, and is extremely versatile. Many teams in the NFL are unsure whether he will transition into a cornerback or safety at the next level, and was successful playing linebacker for portions of his three year Florida State career.

Some have question marks on how Ramsey will adjust to the NFL, especially against quicker change of direction agile wide receivers. These are only small concerns however, and he is the second best player overall this year amongst most experts and NFL personnel.

For the Cowboys this selection will be a case of picking the best player available, something that could very well prove to be a major building block towards the Cowboys returning to play-off contention after a poor 4-12 season. The team have a very good offensive line and Tony Romo returns from injury at QB, and Ramsey could prove to be an immediate impact player in Dallas.

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Jalen Ramsey was the first true freshman since Deion Sanders to play in the secondary at FSU. Will he come close to Sanders achievements in the NFL? Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

#5th Overall Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars –  Myles Jack – Linebacker – UCLA

The Jacksonville Jaguars have proved in free agency their intentions are to become a very good football team, and fast. The amount of money they spent in free agency significantly improved their team and they are building a very talented young roster for the future.

Fitting with this new direction will be whoever they select with this fifth selection, most likely to be UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. He is one of the most athletic players in this draft class, and proved to be a weapon both on offense and defense whilst at UCLA.

The only major concern on Jack is his recovery a season ending knee injury, which is not progressing as quickly as some NFL personnel would like. A medical re-check a few weeks ago produced mixed results, with teams split on whether they were happy with his results or whether they deemed them a red flag.

For now the Jags are developing quickly and with this pick they can afford to take a risk on a player such as Jack. He has bucket loads of potential and fills a position of need for the team also. If the Jags are happy with his recovery then they would be fools not to select him with this pick, as he would immediately upgrade a key position on the defense for this franchise.

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Myles Jack excelled in two and a bit years at UCLA, and once fully recovered from his knee injury could become a high level linebacker for the Jags in the NFL. Photo copyright Jae C.Hong/Associated Press.

#6th Overall Pick: Baltimore Ravens – Joey Bosa – Defensive End – Ohio State

The Baltimore Ravens suffered an uncharacteristic 5-11 season after numerous years of making the play-offs. This is the earliest selection the franchise has had since the 2000 Draft, and the Ravens will want to draft an immediate starter to help their roster.

The Ravens and GM Ozzie Newsome are famed for their policy of draft the best available player over positional needs, but this year they can select a player that can do both. Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa is a very good player who excelled in three years with the Buckeyes.

The Ravens have two very good pass rushers in Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, but both are close to the end of their careers and an injection of youth at the position will do the team a world of good. There are no glaring red flags with Bosa and in tandem with two long term Pro Bowlers such as Suggs and Dumervil this will be a pass rush every NFL team will fear.

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Joey Bosa showed his talents consistently at Ohio State, and looks likely to translate his skills into a successful NFL career. Photo copyright Darron Cummings/Associated Press.

7th Overall Pick: San Francisco 49ers – Paxton Lynch – Quarterback -Memphis

The 49ers have suffered a lot since narrowly losing Superbowl 47 in 2013, with the team embroiled in a public conundrum whether to move on from quarterback Colin Kaepernick or not. It seems Kaepernick himself is ready to move on from San Francisco, but despite many links to other franchises the organization have not been able to find a trade partner for him.

With such uncertainty at the most valuable position on the roster the 49ers will look to address this in this draft. With only Blaine Gabbert at backup, the position needs to be improved if the franchise want to return to a winning season. With this in mind and the early run on signal callers at the beginning of this draft, I sense the 49ers will nab the best available QB before Cleveland get’s the chance to one pick later.

Early in the draft process Memphis QB Paxton Lynch was considered on a similar par to Goff and Wentz, but has slipped now to a clear third best QB in this class. Whilst the team may wait and select a player such as Christian Hackenberg or Connor Cook in the second round, they need a potential immediate starter as insurance and Lynch is the perfect player to provide this.

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Paxton Lynch was at one point with some draft experts considered the best QB prospect in this class. He can provide immediate insurance for the 49ers. Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

8th Overall Pick: Cleveland Browns – DeForest Buckner – Defensive End -Oregon

The Cleveland Browns have made the majority of headlines this off-season, as they have adapted a completely new approach under the “Moneyball” philosophy  that has worked so well in Baseball. The team has been completely gutted as they have accumulated draft picks to the point they now have a league high 12 picks this year, including six in the top 100.

With so many glaring needs for this team it would be sensible for the organization to adopt a best available player mantra, and based on this they will select DeForest Buckner from Oregon. He is up there with Bosa as the best pass rusher in this draft, and has been a projected top six pick for the majority of this draft process.

Some have questioned if he will transition well to the NFL, but this has not stopped many still declaring him a top six pick.If the Browns are able to select him with the eighth pick it would be a steal of a  first move for the franchise as it’s enters a completely new era.

ap_190955917774Buckner has some concerns in how he will translate to the NFL, however for the Browns he would be a steal if he’s still available with the eighth pick. Photo Copyright Ryan Kang/Associated Press.

9th Overall Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves – Cornerback – Florida

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have developed an exciting young offense led by Jameis Winston. On one side of the ball the team are a formidable proposition, but to become a play-off contender they will need to add some youth to their defense.

With this in mind and the top pass rushers such as Bosa and Buckner off the board I think the team will add a future starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. The local man has developed into a top tier prospect at the University of Florida and was considered a potential top five selection earlier in the draft process.

The trades for QB’s have reduced his stock, and for him to fall to Tampa with the ninth pick will be one they will be very excited to make. For Hargreaves the opportunity to join a rising football team and get to stay in the state of Florida ensures this pick will provide plenty of excitement for both parties. Watch out for Hargreaves to make an impact in the coming years for the Bucs.

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Could Florida prospect Vernon Hargreaves be taking his talents to nearby Tampa come Thursday night? Photo copyright Butch Gill/Associated Press.

10th Overall Pick: New York Giants – Ronnie Stanley – Tackle – Notre Dame

The New York Giants have a lot of the pieces needed to be a play-off team. They have good offensive weapons, but a major area of need for the franchise is on the offensive line. Giants QB Eli Manning can only show his tremendous throwing skills when he has the time to make the throws.

After using their first round pick last year on Ereck Flowers, this year the franchise will once again add a young player to the offensive line. Tackle Ronnie Stanley is one of the premier O-linemen in this draft aside from Tunsil, and would instantly provide competition to start week one in New York.

There have been some question marks surrounding his technique and how it adjusts to the NFL level, but with a need on the offensive line they could instantly counter this by selecting Stanley, who has the potential to be an NFL starter for the next ten years.

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Ronnie Stanley has the potential to be a very good offensive linemen in the NFL for the next ten years, but will the Giants select him? Photo Copyright Rick Scuteri/Associated Press.

That wraps up Part 1 of my NFL mock draft. Whether any of these predictions became fact next Thursday, only time will tell. I would like to thank you for reading and any comments would be greatly appreciated. Watch out for Part 2 of my mock draft, looking at picks 11-20, which will be posted on here in the next few days.