NFL

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. 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why L.A Rams Trade Is So Momentus

The NFL Draft. For fans of American football, it’s one of the key events of the year. Superbowl victories are born and die in equal measure in this one three day extravaganza. For the prospects being selected, draft day is something they have dreamed about since they were children first playing the game. It’s very rare that headlines are made before the draft itself, but that’s exactly what happened last Thursday.

The Los Angeles Rams shocked the NFL by making a blockbuster trade with the Tennessee Titans to secure the first overall pick. It’s been well known over the past weeks and months that the Titans were looking to trade the first overall pick, but no one was predicting it would be the Rams that would make the deal.

On the face of it, the move makes a lot of sense. The L.A Rams have the majority of the parts needed to become a consistent play-off team, but their quarterback play has been a source of concern for them for the past season. Case Keenum and Nick Foles have not established themselves as the definitive starter, and this is what prompted the trade.

The Rams have arguably the best young running back in Todd Gurley, along with a good defense also. The blaring question however is under centre. The prospect of selecting a player such as Jared Goff or Carson Wentz was clearly too tempting for them, hence their successful attempt to move up to the first pick.

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Jared Goff has impressed in his college career at Cal-Berkeley. Has he done enough however to be selected by the Rams first overall next week? Photo copyright USA Today Sports

They are investing a lot in the player they select however. The Rams swapped first round pick this year, along with two second round picks and a third rounder this year. On top of this huge ransom they gave up their first and third round picks next year. These are a lot of top picks for the Rams to give up, with their only return being a fourth and sixth round pick this year.

After giving up this much to move up, the Rams have immediately put a lot of pressure on the player they select. Their move to Los Angeles has put the Rams in a position of high levels of media scrutiny. L.A is a lot more magnified area in terms of media than St Louis, and this will only be amplified by the blockbuster trade.

It’s difficult enough at the best of times for a rookie quarterback to adjust to the huge step up that is the NFL. For Goff and Wentz they have already received a small dose of this thanks to the intense media attention of both in the pre-draft process. Both have been analysed and scrutinised on seemingly everything they do and dissected like few players in other sports ever are.

Some have suggested there is not a single elite quarterback in this year’s draft, but that should not be a huge concern for the Rams. With Keenum and Foles the Rams currently have two average quarterbacks on their roster. All Goff or Wentz have to prove is that they are a significant step up from these two for the trade to make sense.

hi-res-b48d63973bb72b90d1d8c9d2f1c93815_crop_north Carson Wentz has excelled at North Dakota State. Despite the fact he’s coming from a small school he has scouts drooling on his NFL potential. Photo copyright Mike Stone/Associated Press.

Both have the potential to be very good quarterbacks in the NFL, with all the techniques and skill set’s to succeed for a long time in the pro’s. Whilst the amount given up is a lot to give up and will draw inevitable comparison to the 2012 trade the Washington Redskins made to select Robert Griffin the third. Whilst this move was a mistake all teams should certainly learn from, this is something the Rams will hope won’t be repeated when they select first overall next week.

It’s likely neither player will be immediately thrust into the starting role. The Rams will likely build them up and let them develop during the season. This may well end up changing the dynamic of who the Rams select. It’s believed amongst NFL draft experts that Wentz has the slightly better long term potential, but that Goff is the better short term option.

After moving to such an important and vibrant city in Los Angeles, will be Rams want some instant bang for their buck with the selection or take the player with a better potential future? This is a question that will keep everyone associated with the Rams on edge right up until the moment they are on the clock next Thursday evening. So just who will the Los Angeles Rams select? Read my mock draft coming up in the next week to find out who I think they will select.

Any thoughts on this trade or who the Rams will select? Please feel free to comment and let me know. And finally, of course thank you for reading. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Will there be a European NFL franchise anytime soon?

After experiencing the first of the three NFL international series games at Wembley stadium last Sunday between the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders, in the aftermath I found myself wondering as a fan, will there be a fully fledged international franchise in the NFL anytime soon?

The idea for the first NFL franchise to come from outside the United States of America has been slowly building momentum since the first international series game at Wembley in 2007. That one game has now turned into three regular season games with the promise of more to come in the ensuing years. This growing momentum could well lead to a permanent NFL franchise in the next 10 years, but could it work logistically?

Many at first glance would simply dismiss this idea with a quick “no”, citing the vast distance that would be between every other NFL franchise in America and a European franchise. The move would also meet with a widespread resistance from within the NFL, as I’m sure a large majority of the current 32 NFL franchises would not be willing to travel across to Europe to play, despite the obvious commercial benefits of the NFL branching out into Europe.

When actually giving this idea some thought some other considerations have to come into play also. Firstly history, whilst this may sound a bit strange to hear at first we must first look at the success and ultimate failure of NFL Europe when discussing a permanent franchise in Europe. Whilst NFL Europe contained some good players during it’s tenure from 1991 and 2007. The league was supported by the NFL with the teams using the European teams as a development league for young players not yet ready for the NFL. Alongside these players were those in the later stages of their career or free agents not picked up by the NFL after college. The attendances were steady if not spectacular with an average of just over 20 000 across the league for their final season in 2007. Whilst the attendance of 83 459 for last Sunday’s game is very impressive and shows the support the NFL has in Europe, yet could this be realistically sustained across a 16 week season?

Another factor to consider is the logistics with starting an NFL franchise. This is something that is difficult enough to start in America, let alone Europe with the last NFL franchise being the Houston Texans in 2002. The infrastructure needed to start the franchise would take several years to put in place, with obvious factors such as training facilities alongside finding a permanent stadium would all be things to organise. Aside from the infrastructure the actual roster itself would pose problems as it would likely be much harder to attract top line players to join a team so removed from their own culture, despite the growing international flavour of the NFL.

With all these factors considered for me the most logical step is to carry on with what the NFL is planning at the moment, to slowly increase the level of support in Europe with a gradual increase in the amount of games hosted in Europe to effectively gain the required support needed before any thoughts of a permanent franchise can be considered. For now the NFL has the right recipe for success with a crucial market such as Europe, it’s now up to them to follow through with it.

Why NCAA should pay College athletes

First of all, I want to make it clear that I do not claim to be an expert on this subject or indeed have an abundance of expert knowledge on this subject. This is simply written by a regular college sports fans who doesn’t understand how it’s fair for Universities and head coaches to collect millions of dollars from college athletics, yet the athletes themselves are forced to live a hand-to mouth existence until they complete their degree or turn professional in their respective sports.

This is a topical subject at the present moment as a judge ruled in favour of student athletes only a few days ago that they can sell the rights to their names and images, with the money being given to them once they’ve completed College. Although it’s unlikely to generate mega sums for student athletes the opportunity to be given $20 000 dollars after 4 years of College is a lot better than current athletes receive. Lead plaintiff in the case Ed O’Bannon, former UCLA basketball star, stated he joined the lawsuit against the NCAA after he saw his image used in a NCAA licenced video game that he was not paid for.

The role of “improper benefits” and the rules sanctioned by the NCAA are constantly being challenged or broken by student athletes. A Notable example is include Reggie Bush being forced to hand back his 2005 Heisman Trophy, awarded to College football’s best player that year, for receiving “improper benefits” whilst at USC between 2003-2005. For many student athletes the problem occurs when Universities “boosters” get involved, “boosters” are linked to Universities and help with their funding. The problems however is that whilst many student athletes become nationwide stars they are not allowed to receive any benefits from their status.

Whilst the NCAA stance that student athletes are students first and University should only be about furthering their education is a very noble idea in principle, it’s hard to see past how NCAA athletics have simply become farm systems for professional sports such as the NFL,NBA or MLB. It does seem absurd in 2014 that whilst the Universities receive tens of millions of dollars a year from NCAA athletics, and coaches receive millions of dollars a year that the actual players themselves cannot even have someone pay for their breakfast as this would be deemed a NCAA violation under the “Improper benefits” policy.

Whilst I am not suggesting that College players should start being paid an astronomical amount, I simply feel they should be fairly compensated for their efforts with a modest salary that will allow them to have a slightly better existence whilst at College. For many players, they commit NCAA infractions for simple things such as having a meal paid for them or being given money for clothes. This is something most regular teenage students do yet when the NCAA are involved it’s deemed students are using their status for benefit, therefore forfeiting their amateur status.

In the last few years it has become common for College athletes to declare for the NFL or NBA draft increasingly earlier than in the past. Whilst many who follow College sports are trying to work out how to keep students in College for longer so they can complete their degrees, it seems simply that these students jump at the first opportunity they get to go professional and earn enough money to take care of themselves and their family. For College football players they have to wait 3 years whilst for the NBA players can declare at any time during their College career.

The final comment is that throughout the years their have been plenty of incredible College players who have been unable to convert their considerable talent into the money they deserve for an abundance of reasons such as injury or NCAA violations, and this is exactly why College athletes should receive a modest salary in a billion dollar industry as it seems highly unfair in my opinion that players such as Marcus Dupree, Melvin Bratton and Maurice Clarett should be have their dreams of reaching the NFL taken away and yet not be compensated for their previous efforts of playing in front of 60- 80 000 fans. If the University and Coaches should receive mega bucks benefits from College athletics, shouldn’t the players receive a small portion of that too.

Photo sourced from http://www.thesportspost.com , http://www.Cleveland.com and http://www.wisescholar.com

Photo credit goes to http://www.thesportspost.com , Julie Jacobsen and http://www.ap.org and http://www.wisecholar.com