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Chiefs Take It Home, Focus Towards Continuance

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Week one NFL kickoff game New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs. Two key players out for the season: Edelman from the Patriots, and Ware from the Chiefs. After winning the superbowl for the 2016 season Patriots fans were expecting the Patriots to blow the Chiefs out of the water. To everyone’s surprise, the Chiefs dominated 42 to 27.

                       Key players to watch in the weeks to come

QB:

After a shaky season for Alex Smith in 2016, he proved his dedication to the game and the improvements made in the offseason. In game one Smith had 80% completion, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 368 yards.

Tom Brady played with 44% completion, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 267 yards.

RB:

Unfortunately for Hunt his first chance to prove himself ended with a fumble during the Chiefs first possession of the game. Hunt proved himself after with 2 touchdown receptions, 1 touchdown rush, 148 rushing yards, and 98 receiving yards. Hunt showed agility and confidence when running the ball. In the midst of Wares absence Hunt stepped up to plate.

WR:

Tyreek Hill, the 2016 sleeper, showed why he is the Chiefs most reliable receiver. In game one Hill had one touchdown reception, 133 receiving yards, and 5 rushing yards. The highlight of the night being the 75 yard throw caught by Hill for a touchdown.

S: 

Without Eric Berry we can’t be sure if this kickoff game would have went as well for the Chiefs. As the Chiefs number one safety it will be hard to continue with the same strength of defense without him. Eric Berry came in hard all four quarters until the last five minutes when he possibly ruptured his Achilles tendon. I’ve always been on team Berry, even hoped Chicago would make an offer to him in the coming season, it will be quite a shocker if the Chiefs are able to replace the position with someone as efficient as he.

 

Needless to say an exciting game to start this NFL season.

Week 2: Chiefs vs Eagles

Patriots vs Saints

 

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AFC

2018 GridIroned Staff Mock Draft

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With the 2018 NFL Draft just 3 days away, GridIroned Contributors Peter DiPaola, Ryan Drohan, and Dan Heffernan put together the first and only 2018 GridIroned Staff Mock Draft. The writers alternated making picks for each team and trades were not included.

Have your own projections or critiques of our picks? Put your thoughts in the Comments section below!

1. Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC

There are several reports indicating the Browns like Josh Allen, but it seems unlikely that Cleveland would take such a boom-or-bust prospect with the first overall pick. They instead go with Darnold, who excels in the type of short to intermediate passes that have become the latest trend in today’s NFL. Darnold had an outstanding freshman year in Pasadena, completing 67% of his passes with 31 TDs and just 9 interception, but turned the ball over far too often in his sophomore campaign. Some of that can be attributed to poor offensive line play, and the former Trojans passer would have a year to sit behind Tyrod Taylor and learn to improve his decision making. -Dan Heffernan

2. New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

The Giants go with the player with possibly the highest ceiling in this draft. At 6’0 230lbs, Barkley ran a 4.4 40-yard dash and put up 29 reps on the bench press. He tested off the charts at the combine, further solidifying his status among the most heralded RB prospects in years. His 3,800 rushing yards and 43 TDs on the ground at PSU earn him the RB1 spot in New York, transforming the Giants team that hasn’t had a true starter at the position in years.  -Ryan Drohan

3. New York Jets: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

During his last season at Oklahoma, Mayfield threw for over 4,600 yards, with 43 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions, and completed 70% of his passes. His statistics and his attitude can help him thrive in the New York market, and give the Jets the franchise quarterback they’ve been searching for since Joe Namath left. -Peter DiPaola

4. Cleveland Browns: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State

The Browns are likely hoping for Barkley to fall to them at 4, but with the running back off the board, Cleveland instead goes with the draft’s best pass rusher. Chubb is a menacing edge rusher at 6’4” and 275 pounds who also plays the run well and can drop back into coverage as an OLB if needed. Pairing the former Wolfpack defensive end with 2017 number 1 pick Myles Garrett could give the Browns one of the most dynamic pass rushes in the league for years to come. -Dan Heffernan

5. Denver Broncos: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame

The Broncos take possibly the safest pick in the draft. He has top-tier size and strength at the guard position with the tape to back it up. He probably has the highest floor in the draft, and the Broncos (if they stay here and make a pick) won’t pass up the chance to add the 6’5 330lb potential All-Pro to their trenches. -Ryan Drohan

6. Indianapolis Colts: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State

The Colts have plenty of needs to fill. Denzel Ward can join 2017 first round pick, Safety Malik Hooker in the Colts secondary to help bolster their pass defense. In a passing friendly league, a stout pass defense helps. -Peter DiPaola

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

After finishing dead last in total defense last year, the Bucs almost have to go defense with their first pick. Tampa Bay has holes at both corner and safety, and the versatile Fitzpatrick showed the ability to play both secondary positions in his time at Alabama. -Dan Heffernan

8. Chicago Bears: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia

The Bears need a consistent run-stuffer and pass rusher on the outside of their defense that allowed over 108 rushing yards per game last season. Roquan Smith led his Bulldogs with 95 tackles (5 TFL) in 2017 and helped his Georgia squad play Alabama into OT in the National Championship game. He ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the Combine, and with his raw skills and size (6’1 235) Smith is poised to help the Bears take the next step on defense.  -Ryan Drohan

9: San Francisco 49ers: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

49ers GM John Lynch spent two first round picks on defense last season, and adding another linebacker to help improve the 49ers defense would be beneficial. During the 2017 season, Edmunds racked up 5.5 sacks along with 14 tackles for loss, and his skill set can help improve a 49ers defense that ranked 22nd against both the pass and run in 2017. -Peter DiPaola

10. Oakland Raiders: DT Vita Vea, Washington

With both Smith and Edmunds off the board, this could be a situation in which Oakland looks to trade back. Still, the Raiders lack an elite run-stuffer in their interior defensive line, and Vea would be an immediate upgrade to a run defense that showed significant improvement in 2017. Vea is talented space-eater at 6’4 and 347 lbs, and has drawn comparisons to Haloti Ngata. -Dan Heffernan

11. Miami Dolphins: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming

Ryan Tannehill has injury concerns, and hasn’t exactly produced for the Dolphins even when on the field. The Dolphins take full advantage of the QB’s falling here and scoop up their eventual replacement in the 6’5 junior from Wyoming. Josh Allen is athletic for his size and position, running a 4.75 40 and producing a 33.5” vertical and 119” broad jump. We have all heard about Allen’s rocket arm, and we’ve all heard about his lack of production in college and struggles against top competition (when he played them). But Allen’s raw potential is enough to get a team to bite and give him a chance to grow for a year or two. -Ryan Drohan

12. Buffalo Bills: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa

With 2017 first round pick Tre’Davious White already on the roster, the Bills can add another young talented corner to the defensive backfield. With Tom Brady and his weapons in New England in their division, along with plenty of talented passing offenses in the AFC, being able to anchor down on both sides with cornerbacks would benefit the Bills. -Peter DiPaola

13. Washington Redskins: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

Washington has several holes to fill on defense, but with the top LBs and DBs all off the board, the former Alabama defensive tackle is the best option here. Jay Gruden’s team was the worst in the NFL at stopping the run last year, and Payne could be the first step in rebuilding that part of the defense. At Alabama, Payne utilized an impressive blend of size and athleticism to anchor the SEC’s top-ranked run defense in 2017. -Dan Heffernan

14. Green Bay Packers: S Derwin James, Florida State

The Packers are throwing a party watching Derwin James slip and slide into their arms. He’s got prototypical size and athleticism at the safety position at 6’2 215lbs, a 4.47 40, 21 bench press reps, a 40” vert and 132” broad jump. Green Bay’s defense was subpar in 2017, ranking 24th in total defense and giving up 24 points per game. Adding a versatile, athletic defender that can play in the box and play coverage is a picture-perfect outcome in Wisconsin.       -Ryan Drohan

15. Arizona Cardinals: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama

Arizona needs to add more talent to this position and give themselves a future beyond Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver. Ridley will learn from one of the most talented receivers to ever play the game, as well as help quarterback Sam Bradford. -Peter DiPaola

16. Baltimore Ravens: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville

The more you look at this move, the more it makes sense. Joe Flacco is 33 years old, has dealt with injuries in recent years, and frankly hasn’t performed to the massive contract he earned in the 2013 Super Bowl run. 2019 is the first year that the Ravens can realistically cut Flacco (though 2020 would be much more cap-friendly) and Jackson is a generational talent who could use a year or two to develop and add some weight to his slight frame. Mike McGlinchey and D.J. Moore are definite possibilities here as well (as is Josh Rosen who is somehow still available), but Jackson could be the spark that reignites a Ravens fan base that has grown increasingly disgruntled in recent years. -Dan Heffernan

17. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

The Chargers have room to upgrade the outsides of their OL, and adding Mike McGlinchey makes sense here. The 6’8 senior from Notre Dame was durable in college, extremely skilled in protecting his QB’s blindside, and  boasts the raw skills NFL teams look for in a first round OT. Between his strength and athleticism, McGlinchey should be a serviceable OT at the worst and a bonafide starter if he meets expectations. -Ryan Drohan

18. Seattle Seahawks: DE Harold Landry, Boston College

Harold Landry had just 5 sacks in 2017, but did that in just 8 games. In 2016, he was able to rack up 16.5 sacks in 12 games. His ability to rush the passer is important given the number of talented offenses in the NFL, including the high scoring division rival Los Angeles Rams. Seattle is known for their defense, this pick makes sense. -Peter DiPaola

19. Dallas Cowboys: WR D.J. Moore, Maryland

Goodbye Dez Bryant. Hello D.J. Moore. The former Terp has skyrocketed up draft boards in the last couple months after initially receiving a “Go Back to School” grade from the NFL College Advisory Committee, and it will be interesting to see if he can live up to the hype. Dak Prescott’s style of play never quite meshed with Dez Bryant, but Moore excels in short to intermediate routes, as well as in screens, and should be a much better fit in the Cowboys’ current system. -Dan Heffernan

20. Detroit Lions: C James Daniels, Iowa

The Lions have struggled in the rushing game to say the least. After producing the league’s worst rushing attack by over 100 yards in 2017, Detroit looks to add a brute blocker to their line. Daniels is extremely athletic for an interior lineman and excels in zone blocking schemes due to his quickness and strong essential skills. He has room to grow and learn new schemes, but Daniels is a safe pick to add to an interior of an offensive line that can use help both opening lanes for runners and keeping Matthew Stafford upright. -Ryan Drohan

21. Cincinnati Bengals: OG Will Hernandez, UTEP

The Bengals couldn’t block anyone in 2017, which led to the league’s 31st ranked run game and 32nd ranked offense overall. Hernandez lacks ideal size, but makes up for it with outstanding athleticism and a strong motor. The 2017 Second Team All-American could provide an instant jolt to Cincinnati’s run game help keep Andy Dalton upright. -Dan Heffernan

22. Buffalo Bills: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA

Josh Rosen has some red flags with his personality, but it would be hard the Bills to pass on Rosen, who could potentially be the best quarterback the Bills have had since Jim Kelly. Rosen can sit and learn the offense, and when called upon, has the chance to be a special player in the NFL. -Peter DiPaola

23. New England Patriots: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville

The Pats saw former SB hero Malcolm Butler depart, so filling a void here at DB would be a great outcome in Foxboro. Alexander shows fantastic speed (4.38 40) and excellent athleticism (35-inch vert and 127-inch broad jump). The junior is listed at 5’10 195 lbs. with 31 1/8” arms and exhibits excellent instincts and playmaking ability. He has room to grow, particularly in the run game, but Alexander is an enticing product for Bill Belichick and co.        -Ryan Drohan

24. Carolina Panthers: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

Cam Newton needs some more weapons on offense. With their current starting Tight End, 33 year-old Greg Olsen, coming off a season in which he just played 7 games, the Panthers could be looking for a replacement.               -Peter DiPaola

25. Tennessee Titans: DE/OLB Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio

The Titans could use an upgrade at edge rusher, and Davenport is a physical freak that stands at 6’6 and 264 lbs and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds. This could be the perfect situation for Davenport, who is still raw, to learn under the tutelage of new Head Coach and former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel. -Dan Heffernan

26. Atlanta Falcons: DT Taven Bryan, Florida

The Falcons saw DT Dontari Poe depart for division rival Carolina this offseason, and immediately fill the large void left with Taven Bryan from Florida. He has good size and speed running a 4.98 40 at 6’4 290lbs. He put up 30 reps on the bench press and showed impressive athleticism with a 35” inch vertical and 119” broad jump. He is a project with less-than-ideal instincts for the position, but he could be versatile enough to play outside or inside on Atlanta’s defensive front. He can be disruptive and is a solid tackler, and projects to be a solid starter with room to grow even stronger. -Ryan Drohan

27. New Orleans Saints: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State

Sean Payton is an offensive-minded head coach, and the Saints haven’t had a stellar tight end since Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. The Saints have the receivers and running backs, but a tight end can help open up the middle of the field, giving quarterback, Drew Brees, another weapon in that offense. -Peter DiPaola

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama

It was clear to anyone watching the Steelers down the stretch last year just how much that defense missed Ryan Shazier after his scary injury. Shazier is thankfully able to stand again, but it remains to be seen whether or not he will return to football. Rashaan Evans would be the latest in a recent line of Alabama linebackers to be drafted in the first round and would be an immediate upgrade at either inside or outside LB in Pittsburgh’s defense. -Dan Heffernan

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU

Simply because both wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are no longer part of the Jaguars, they will need to turn their eyes to the draft in order to help fix their receiving corps. Standing at 6′ 3″, Sutton would give the Jaguars a tall and talented receiver. -Peter DiPaola

30, Minnesota Vikings: OT Kolton Miller, UCLA

The Vikings badly need to upgrade the offensive line. With some of the interior lineman gone earlier here, the Vikings upgrade the outside of the line with the athletic big man from the west coast. Kolton Miller ran a 4.95 40 and is listed at 6’9 310lbs. Miller has his flaws, but has the athletic ability and quickness to be a starter. He is known to show strong effort every play and has a high-level understanding for the position. If the Vikings can work with the young man, he has the chance to grow into a reliable blindside protector. -Ryan Drohan

31. New England Patriots: OT/OG Connor Williams

The Patriots can use an upgrade at the tackle position to protect their aging asset in Tom Brady. Connor Williams showed some weaknesses in his 2017 season, but is a strong blocker with extremely positive work ethic and good size (6’5 320lbs). He also maintains the athleticism and possible skillset to move inside and play the guard position for the Patriots, if need be. Williams posted a 5.05 40 yard-dash, a 34” vertical jump and 112” broad jump and has room to grow inside a good system like New England. -Ryan Drohan

32. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State

As the use of mismatch-creating tight ends has evolved in the NFL, so has the need for big, athletic linebackers that can cover them. Vander Esch could be the prototype for the future of the linebacker position. At 6’4 and 256 pounds, he has the size to match up with big tight ends, while also showing the ability to cover running backs out of the backfield with his 4.65 speed. The defending Super Bowl champs don’t have many glaring holes to fill, so adding a freakish defender like Vander Esch that could develop into a star makes sense. -Dan Heffernan

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NFL Draft Deep Dive: Quarterback Edition

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It’s officially March 2018 tomorrow, and that means the NFL off-season is officially over and the NFL Scouting Combine is here.  It’s a joyous time for fans of the sport as the next crop of elite athletes begin to display their unique abilities on a national stage.  It’s also the perfect time for the raging debates over the draft status of former college kids to peak.

In recent memory, the blind resume has become a popular way to compare players quantitatively without the bias of their name or school affecting your judgement.  So, without further explanation, here are the blind resumes of the consensus top tier quarterbacks eligible to be drafted in 2018:

Passing Stats:

Rushing Stats:

Note: QB1 recorded 1 receiving TD in 2017 and QB2 recorded 1 receiving TD in 2016 that are included in the TD column.

Total Stats:

And in case it hasn’t been spoiled who is who just yet, here are their measurable’s and notable awards:

Size and Awards:

If that didn’t completely give it away, below is the guide to exactly whose resumes you are digesting.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

QB1: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

QB2: Josh Allen, Wyoming

QB3: Josh Rosen, UCLA

QB4: Lamar Jackson, Louisville

QB5: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

QB6: Sam Darnold, USC

Shocked? Surprised? Some of you might be.  With the current talk around the football world and the hype that is carried over from these player’s high school days, you would assume the prolific passers were Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, with Josh Allen following closely in 3rd.  Mason Rudolph is hardly receiving even a first-round buzz, while Lamar Jackson is sometimes being pawned off as a transition receiver at the pro level.

But everyone has an opinion, including the numbers themselves.  Baker Mayfield accounted for the most passing yards and total yards, as well as the most passing TD’s and total TD’s of the group.  Fellow passer from Oklahoma (State) Mason Rudolph holds claim to the most yards passing per game, while Lamar Jackson is the group’s superior runner by a large margin (over 3,000 more rushing yards and 28 more TD’s than 2nd place Baker Mayfield in 10 fewer games).

Look at the deeper stats, and they paint a similar picture.  Baker Mayfield leads the pack in completion percentage, TD to INT ratio, yards per attempt, AY/A (average yards per attempt), and passer rating all by a fair margin.  Mayfield was the most prolific scorer of the bunch by totaling 153 touchdowns for 3.19 TD’s per game, just higher than fellow explosive QB Lamar Jackson with 3.13 TD’s per game.

As a player there are almost no credible knocks to Baker Mayfield’s game relative to his peers in the 2018 QB class. The concerns seem to hold more water when the world at large looks at his size and personality compared to his competitors.  Mayfield is the shortest at 6 feet 1 inch and is listed at 220 pounds, while Lamar Jackson is 6’3 211, Rosen and Darnold are 6’4 220, and Allen and Rudolph are both 6’5 230.  And of course, Baker is known much more than the others listed above for his personality, grit and occasional lapse in judgement. But as an extreme competitor who plays with chips on both shoulders, Mayfield’s personality isn’t far-fetched.  With the right system and coaching staff, it should not be a significant detractor in his NFL future.

All things considered, I’ve ranked the top echelon of quarterbacks for the 2018 NFL Draft ahead of the combine.  Combine results could shift the rankings slightly here or there, but overall the following rankings are relatively stable moving forward.

  1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
  2. Sam Darnold, USC
  3. Josh Rosen, UCLA
  4. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
  5. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State*
  6. Josh Allen, Wyoming

*As a pure passer, Mason Rudolph is surely ranked ahead of Lamar Jackson.  However, I can not leave out Jackson’s elite athleticism and play making ability that earned him the 2016 Heisman, as well as a finish in the top 3 in the 2017 voting.  I also tend to lean towards Mason Rudolph ultimately being a better QB in the long term than Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen.  If he is drafted late in the first round as a stash away/backup QB, he could end up on a complete team with a good staff around him.  If he is placed in a good situation, I think Mason Rudolph could be the steal of the draft when we revisit the results in 5 years.

Final Takes for February, pre-Combine:

Baker Mayfield is the most talented, well rounded QB in this draft.  Rosen and Darnold will be taken in the top of the draft partly due to pedigree, and Josh Allen will inexplicably be drafted higher than Mason Rudolph. Overall, 5 of these QB’s are drafted in the first round, with Rudolph falling into the 2nd.

 

 

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AFC

Steelers Get Their Shot At Revenge Vs Jaguars

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The Jacksonville Jaguars saw themselves move onto the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday with their 10-3 win over the Buffalo Bills. This win has set them up for a match up in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.

This match up will be a rematch of their meeting in week 5 where Jacksonville handed the Steelers a 30-9 loss, which was their worst loss of the 2017 season. This game also saw Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, have his worst game of his career. Big Ben finished that game with five interceptions and no touchdowns.

He has made it very well known that he wanted the Jaguars to be the team the faced in the divisional round of the playoffs so that he could redeem himself.

Pittsburgh has to be feeling good heading into Sunday’s match up with the Jaguars after watching them only put up 10 points against the Buffalo Bills. The Jags saw their QB, Blake Bortles, only complete 12 passes for 87 yards and a score on Sunday afternoon. It is safe to say that if he plays like that this coming Sunday, it’ll be a long day for Jacksonville.

The Steelers also are getting back their number one wide receiver, Antonio Brown, back from injury. Brown got hurt in week 15 when the Steelers were hosting Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The fact that he is back for their playoff push is crucial.

Brown’s first match up back from injury is going to be one of the toughest of the season. He will be lined up against Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey, who has been phenomenal all season long. If Ramsey can contain Brown then Big Ben will have to look to Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith Schuster or commit to the ground game.

The ground game starts and ends with Pittsburgh’s bell cow Le’Veon Bell. He totaled 1,946 yards in 2017 and added 11 total touchdowns. He is arguably the best running back in the NFL and if the Jaguars secondary is giving Roethlisberger issues, it could be a big Le’Veon Bell game.

When you look at this game on paper the Steelers have opened as 7.5 favorites, according to Vegas. I think this game will be all Pittsburgh from the beginning till the end. The Jaguars may have gotten to Roethlisberger in week five, but I do not see that being the case this time around.

With the Steelers coming off a bye and the Jaguars coming off a 10 point showing last week, I think the Pittsburgh defense will shut down Leonard Fournette and the running game and make Blake Bortles throw it. If the Jaguars need to have Bortles to win the game for them, he simply won’t.

Pittsburgh will win this game comfortably and move on to the AFC Championship for a chance to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LII.

 

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