Edge Rushers

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Myles Garrett, A+/A

1. Sam Hubbard – A former safety and lacrosse player, Hubbard is a very good athlete who was developed well at Ohio State. He has impeccable agility and footwork, with great start-stop ability when chasing the ball carrier. This causes a lot of blockers to be forced to hold him, as he is so much quicker than them. Similarly, he is very good at stunting inside from the edge, using his superior quickness to get to the hole faster than the blocker. He is also great at swiping and swimming, using his agility and feisty hands to outmaneuver opponents. He is rarely stalled fully on a pas rush, as he is constantly moving his hands and feet to pressure the blockers and gain an edge. He is fast off the edge, although he possesses no bend when speed rushing from the outside. He has a good power rush, using strong legs to drive blockers back. He is good at shedding blocks in the run game, using his arms and quickness to get to the ball. Hubbard is smart and instinctual, enabling him to adjust rapidly to movement by the quarterback or screen passes. While he has the size and strength to be a 4-3 defensive end, he is athletic and fluid in coverage, allowing him to be a top tier 3-4 outside linebacker as well. He is a well rounded prospect with the overall ability to impact the game through all aspects of his defense. Above all, he is a very good pass rusher.


2. Bradley Chubb – Widely considered the top edge rusher in this draft class, Chubb is a developed pass rusher who can step in and play immediately. He is a big, well rounded athlete with the tools to be a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end, and his splash plays come from a combination of motor than explosiveness. He is not very good at timing snaps, which makes it harder for him to win off the snap. However, he has good burst when he does start, and is excellent at setting up blockers with a devastating first step that make up for the lack of timing. He has great lean coming off the edge, and while he doesn’t always flatten to help him cut toward the quarterback, he does generally finish his rush low. He doesn’t have any prolific moves that he relies on, instead possessing extremely active hands that he can use well when for all rushes. He has very good rip and swim moves that should in the NFL, particularly because of his smoothness as a rusher and effective use of his hands. He is relentless as a pass rusher, doing a good job of chasing plays down and going full speed every day. This helps him wear down opponents and take advantage of the athleticism that he does possess. Additionally, he is fluid enough to drop into coverage well and chase players in his vicinity. While his tackling is shaky at times, Chubb is a sturdy and well built player who is an asset in the run game. He also shows a lot of swagger and confidence in his game, something that is invaluable for a defensive player of his caliber.


3. Duke Ejiofor – A dominant game wrecker at times, Ejiofor is a playmaker on the defensive line. He is surprisingly mature in his game, showing outstanding technique with his hands and pass rushing moves. His pass rushing moves and technique with his hands are the strengths of his game. He has a great spin move going both inside and outside, and his hands are constantly active in attempting rip and swim moves. He is generally double-teamed, but he is able to split the blockers and make plays using his powerful hands to swipe blockers. He is a long rusher with good burst off the snap, and he finishes his speed rushes by flattening toward the quarterback. He can also rush from the inside, using his natural strength and amazing array of moves to attack upfield. He comes flat across the line when playing the run, and will also fight aggressively over run blocks rather than allowing himself to get blocked down. While a huge playmaker in both run and pass defense, he sometimes has trouble holding on to tackles. Additionally, he shows some inconsistency between games, and can get taken out of plays by some top tier opponents. He is not a terrific athlete, and can show some regression when continually stalled by blockers. However, he is still a dominant pass rusher who can make plays defending the run, and has the maturity in his game to be a difference maker from day one.


4. Harold Landry – A pass rusher similar to Vic Beasley, Landry is a high upside player who has the tools to be dominant off the edge. His get off and burst from the line can be outstanding at times, allowing him to beat the blocker from the start of the play. There are also plays where he can be slower off the snap and have stagnant hands. He has amazing bend when speed rushing off the edge, as well as the strength and technique to convert the speed into a power rush. He has a good feel for pass rushing and reading plays in general, knowing when to flatten toward the quarterback or break off to defend the run. He is also very agile, with the ability to change directions and swipe to attack the other side of the blocker. However, he can be slow to disengage when he is stood up. With his hands, he is good at swiping to the sides to gain the edge on blockers, enabling him to get to the quarterback. Additionally, he has a good swim move from outside in, as he is able to sell the speed rush and use his agility to counter. His ability to pressure offenses is shown by the double teams that he merits, and he can fight through blocks well by splitting them with rip moves. While he is not a liability in the run game, he is pretty close to being one, mainly due to his lack of size or strength. Although he is capable and can tackle adequately, he doesn’t always wrap stronger running backs. Landry is a naturally talented pass rusher off the edge, but his small stature is a major hindrance to his ability to effect the game.


5. Marcus Davenport – With good length and a strong build, Davenport is more of a 3-4  defensive end than a pure pass rusher. He is very raw, often relying on his sheer size and athleticism to beat opponents. However, he does know how to use his natural talents effectively. He is a very good run defender who can disengage from blockers easily using his long arms. Additionally, he has the speed and determination to chase runners down from behind. He does a great job holding the edge on runs to his side, as well as coming flat across the line on runs away from him. As a pass rusher, he tends to use his power more than anything else. He has powerful hands, enabling him to punch or shed blockers well. He also has strong legs, enabling him to drive blockers back when rushing the passer. He is very unrefined as a rusher overall, with bad moves to get to the quarterback. Although he is good at using his shoulders and rip moves to maneuver through blockers, his hand work is sloppy. He doesn’t possess any elite moves such as spins or swims, even with his long arms. While raw as a pass rusher, he is a very good run defender, allowing him to still impact the game in the trenches. Davenport has the length to fit as a defensive end in both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme, although his upside as a pass rusher is higher as a 4-3 end.


6. Uchenna Nwosu – Mainly utilized as a pass rusher at USC, Nwosu is a pure speed rusher with minimal experience. He exhibits great burst off the edge, although he rushes high and fails to flatten toward the quarterback at times. He doesn’t have any developed moves, instead relying on his edge burst or sheer effort. However, he has impressive agility and does a good job and maneuvering his body past the blocker. Additionally, he can turn speed into power effectively on his pass rushes, something that is especially useful when considering his versatility rushing from any linebacker spot. He is outstanding at defending passes at the line, showing a knack for timing his jumps right and reading the quarterback’s throwing path. Nwosu is rendered a non factor by most blockers in the run game, as he lacks the power or strength to challenge them. He is not a good tackler, a shame considering the frequency with which he blows up plays in the backfield. He rarely did anything besides rush the quarterback, however his athletic traits have been shown to suffice the few times he dropped into coverage. Many of his flaws are fixable in the NFL, particularly regarding his weight and technique. He has the raw traits that could potentially help him emerge as a dominant situational rusher. In particular, added weight should help him with his tackling and playmaking.


7. Arden Key – Although he has potential, Key has too many problems to be a starter in the NFL. He is not fast or athletic, but he is long with very good bend and outstanding burst off the line. When speed rushing off the edge, he runs upright and gets widened away from the quarterback. This is due in large part to his failure to use his bend to flatten toward the quarterback. He is not very good at changing directions, and his agility leaves much to be desired. He is good at boxing blockers at the sides to gain the edge on them, using his quick hands to gain separation. He can also set blockers up with inside jabs steps to allow him access to a better edge rush. Additionally, he has a tremendous rip move that allows him to dominate offensive tackles. However, he gives up on plays quickly and it is not uncommon for him to show a lack of effort. He is able to hold the edge adequately on run plays, but he generally is not an impactful run defender. Much of this is the result of his inability to disengage from blockers effectively. He is also a very inconsistent tackler, not showing much explosiveness in making plays. He is athletic enough to drop into coverage, but he is more of a gap filler than asset. There are numerous questions about his dedication, as he suffered from weight problems in college. Key has many of the traits teams look for in a dominant pass rusher, but he also displays many of the weaknesses that signify a bust. He could fit in well for a team if he is given good coaching, particularly as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.


8. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo – An undersized edge rusher, Okoronkwo’s talent is marred by his lack of size, elite athleticism, and variation. He is good at cutting and changing directions quickly, which he uses to beat blockers one-on-one in space. Similarly, he has a terrific jab step, using it to set up his pass rush by getting blockers off balance. It is in these situations that he excels, as he is able to get the blocker in the right position for him to execute spin, swim, or rip moves. However, his small stature is a major liability in such situations, as blockers can deal with him easily if they stand their ground. This is due in large part due to his minimal strength and power, because blockers are able to stall him easily if they make solid contact with him. Additionally, the lack of variety in his pass rush will make his easy to defend in the NFL. He has good bend when speed rushing off the edge, but there are times when offensive linemen push him over due to his weak base. He has outstanding burst off the line, combining it with his jab step and slipperiness to beat blockers to the punch. He can get immediate pressure by splitting double teams with his quickness, although it is balanced out by his moments of ineffectiveness and inconsistency. For a smaller player, he is effective at using his free arm to make plays. He is a capable, but weak tackler. He is a stiff but solid player in coverage, although is can react and chase when off the ball quite well. He is likely to be a bust as an NFL pass rusher, but some of his talents will translate well to special teams or as a backup linebacker in space.


9. Dorance Armstrong Jr. – A 4-3 defensive end with the build of a small 3-4 outside linebacker, Armstrong is a raw player whose development upside is his biggest asset. He is long and thin, with the speed and twitchy athleticism required to be a good pass rusher. He has a great jump off the snap, something which is the most important part of his game. He is rendered ineffective unless he wins the initial battle at the snap, something that is not a given regardless of his burst from the line. This is due in large part to his lack of strength and power, limiting his variety has a pass rusher. His footwork is extremely sloppy, leading to bad balance while engaging with blockers in run or pass defense. His hands are active and he can utilize swipes while speed rushing, but he has little else in his repertoire. He is not a good player in coverage, as he is more used to playing defensive end. However, he is not good in the run game either because of his lack of power and strength. Additionally, he lacks instincts and discipline in the run or screen game, causing him to be fooled easily into being taken out of a play. He does have good chase down speed, but it is not enough to make up for his flaws. His burst, speed, and potential to fill out more make his upside appealing, but he is not a very skilled prospect but all means.


Offseason – Part 2

Free agency has begun. After a flurry of trades to open the offseason, the time has finally come for teams to start using their free agency money. Funnily enough, the two teams with the most cap room – the Colts and Browns – have barely spent in free agency thus far. The Browns made some big trades in the weeks prior, though, which makes their lack of involvement understandable. In the meantime, the Jets decided to take action with the 3rd most cap space, signing multiple big name free agents such as Avery Williamson, Isaiah Crowell, and Trumaine Johnson.

Big News

Kirk Cousins Contract

Those expecting Cousins to set the quarterback market were right, but the way he did so was unexpected. His 3 year $86 million contract leads the NFL in yearly average by a small margin, but it is the fully guaranteed nature of the contract that is unprecedented. Instead of potentially signing for over $30 million a year with the Jets, Cousins opted for a smaller sum and the chance to win a championship. The Vikings have one of the best rosters in the league and are Super Bowl or bust, so there is a lot of pressure on Cousins to succeed. This team will have bunch of young players to pay in the near future, something that could be a problem with Cousins’ astronomical cap number. Of course, the Vikings will care a lot less about these problems if they win a Super Bowl.

Chiefs Sign Watkins

In a stunning move, the Chiefs have signed Sammy Watkins to a 3 year deal for $16 million each year. The Chiefs were not expected to be in the market for either a wideout or big money player, but they acquired both in Watkins. While the intention to surround a young big play quarterback with young big play receivers was good, it is doubtful that the reality will end up as good as the theory. As a player, Watkins has struggled with injuries and hasn’t lived up to his potential on either of his two former teams. Even if he emerges as a true number one receiver, it’s a lot of money to pay by a team that is already flush with playmakers on offense. The defense, not so much. Perhaps the Chiefs are thinking long term, trying to develop Mahomes before competing for a championship. If defense wins championships, this move won’t get the Chiefs any closer.

Robinson to Chicago

Although pegged by many to go to the 49ers, the Bears struck first, signing Robinson to a 3 year contract worth $42 million. An excellent deal, the Bears signed a proven number one receiver to a below average deal for such players. It seems the Bears are trying to imitate what the Eagles and Rams each did last year by surrounding their second year quarterback with weapons to help him. The Bears are quietly building an extremely talented offense to go with an underrated defense, although Trubisky’s improvement will most likely mean more to the team than a few extra wins. However, improvement similar to that of Goff and Wentz is not imminent, as both of them were much more talented than Trubisky. The Bears are doing an excellent job building around their quarterback for his development, but for that to work, the quarterback needs to have the tools in the first place.

Aaron Rodgers’ Weapons Exchange

In an attempt to give Rodgers some help, the Packers released Jordy Nelson. This is not as crazy as it sounds, as the move freed up cap space that allowed the Packers to sign Jimmy Graham. However, it was still a questionable move for a variety of reasons. Releasing a player this close to the start of free agency is generally seen as a dirty move, especially when the player has been such an integral part of the organization for as long as Nelson has. Additionally, swapping out one aging veteran for another with a more limited skill set does not seem like a particularly smart move, even when the large sum of $2 million in cap space is saved. While former Packers GM Ted Thompson was a proponent of promoting internally, new GM Brian Gutekunst seems to be a proponent of making splashy moves to please the fans.

Vikings Ex-Quarterbacks

On the same day that the Vikings won the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, all three of their former quarterbacks were scooped up. Teddy Bridgewater signed a one year prove-it deal with the Jets for $15 million, putting them in a very weird position. Although career backup Josh McCown is the presumed starter, Bridgewater is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback coming off an injury, and the Jets still have the chance to draft a rookie quarterback. Josh McCown is known to be a good teacher, so the Jets seem to be banking on his helping develop at least one future starter for them. Meanwhile, the Broncos acquired Case Keenum for a sub-$20 million deal, putting them in a position to make a playoff run. Interestingly enough, Keenum’s low price tag and the Broncos early pick still makes them a candidate to draft a raw quarterback with a huge arm and experience in a pro-style offense. Unlike the intelligent moves made by the Broncos and Jets, the Cardinals did a bit of desperation shopping, signing Sam Bradford to a one year $20 million deal with an option the following year for the same price. While Bradford is a capable starter, he is not the future of the franchise.

Patriot Reunion in Tennessee

Months after hiring former Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel as Head Coach, the Titans signed Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler. Cornerback was a need for the Titans, and signing a proven number one cornerback to a five year $61 million contract is a smart move. He is a good fit in their aggressive man to man defense, and will be playing across from former Patriots teammate Logan Ryan. While I am not sold on Butler as a top ten corner, teams always overpay in free agency. Speaking of overpaying, the 49ers signed Jerrick McKinnon for $7.5 million a year while the Titans got Dion Lewis for only around $6 million per year. While the McKinnon deal was horrible for a multitude of reasons, Lewis fits perfectly with the Titans offense as a lightning to Henry’s thunder, giving them a much more cost efficient backfield than in the past. Although they are in a loaded AFC South division, the Titans are making the right moves on both sides of the ball to spark a playoff run.

Under the Radar Moves

Brees Stays

Drew Brees will remain in New Orleans. Although everyone involved was certain that a deal would get done, it still comes as a relief to know that it’s official. This move was necessary for a Saints team with Super Bowl aspirations, particularly as they lack a successor to Brees. The deal itself was pretty straightforward, with $50 million over two years and $27 million guaranteed. While Brees is now among the highest paid quarterbacks in the league, it is obvious that he took a discount to stay with the Saints. In reality, the contract is only guaranteed the first year, signaling that both parties intend to take it year by year. Even with Brees playing at such a high level, drafting a quarterback in this year’s draft has to be a priority for the Saints, particularly with such a young and talented roster.

Bills Move Up

While the Tyrod Taylor trade confirmed that the Bills would be in the market for a quarterback, this trade shows how serious they are. In exchange for the 12th overall pick, the Bengals received the 21st overall pick and Bills’ starting left tackle Cordy Glenn. Late round picks were also swapped. The Bills have put themselves in a precarious position, as they are just outside the sweet spot to nab one of the top quarterbacks. There is definitely a chance that one of the top quarterbacks will fall to them, but with so many teams in the market for a young quarterback it is unlikely to happen. It is assumed that the Bills are looking to trade up again, but I doubt they will be able to do so until draft night. There is a clear drop-off in talent after the elite prospects, and not many teams would be willing to trade down from the top ten without more compensation than the Bills are willing to part with.

Solder to Giants

After trading for linebacker Alec Ogletree, the Giants have shored up another hole by signing former Patriot left tackle Nate Solder to a 4 year $62 million contract. Offensive line has been a major issue for the Giants for quite some time, even with the amount of draft capital spent on the position. After the Giants brass affirmed their belief in Eli Manning, it looks like their best option with the second overall pick is Saquon Barkley. The Solder signing is mostly important for Eli, and it looks like the Giants are going to push for a playoff spot rather than rebuild.

1 Round Mock Draft – 2018 1.0

1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold

While Josh Allen could also be drafted here, the Browns instead go for the safest quarterback prospect in the draft.

2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley

Barkley is the best player at the biggest position of need, especially after the Giants’ brass reaffirmed their support for Eli.

3. New York Jets – Josh Rosen

One of the best pure throwers in recent years, the Jets nab their future after trading up a few picks.

4. Cleveland Browns – Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Browns are in need of a leader on the defensive side of the ball, as well as major help in the secondary.

5. Denver Broncos – Quenton Nelson

After signing Case Keenum, the Broncos address their biggest need with one of the best interior offensive line prospects in the past few years.

6. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb

Even after trading down, the Colts are still able to shore up their defense with the top pass rusher on most teams’ draft boards.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marcus Davenport

The Buccaneers have been rumored to love Davenport’s skill set and upside, even though this seems a bit early for him.

8. Chicago Bears – Tremaine Edmunds

The Bears focused on offense in free agency and could use an athletic linebacker in the middle of the field.

9. San Francisco 49ers – Derwin James

One of the most hyped safeties in the draft, John Lynch gets a tone-setter to anchor the defense for years.

10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith

The Raiders are in desperate need of an inside linebacker that can run from sideline to sideline, and Smith fits the bill perfectly.

11. Miami Dolphins – Vita Vea

After cutting Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins decide to stick with Tannehill at quarterback and instead gain a monster in the middle.

12. Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen

In this situation, the Bills stand pat and get a high upside quarterback to groom behind recent signing AJ McCarron.

13. Washington Redskins – Derrius Guice

Although the Redskins could go in many directions here, they pick the consensus #2 running back in the draft to solidify the offense.

14. Green Bay Packers – Denzel Ward

With a seemingly constant need at cornerback, the Packers draft the most explosive and best player available.

15. Arizona Cardinals – Baker Mayfield

Even after signing Bradford to a large one year contract, the Cardinals elect to draft a young player to pair with David Johnson.

16. Baltimore Ravens – Calvin Ridley

The Ravens have been lacking at the receiver position since their 2013 Super Bowl run, and Newsome is know to like Alabama players.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne

With a young and explosive roster on both sides of the ball, the Chargers fill one of their few holes with a top tier player.

18. Seattle Seahawks – Carlton Davis

The Seahawks do have major needs on the offensive line, but Richard Sherman’s departure leaves a hole in the secondary.

19. Dallas Cowboys – Taven Bryan

The Dez question still lingers over the Cowboys, but they need an athletic player on the interior defensive line.

20. Detroit Lions – Kerryon Johnson

The Lions haven’t had a 100 yard rusher since 2013, and are perhaps a running back away from contention.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Will Hernandez

After trading down a few picks to solidify the left tackle position, the Bengals continue to revamp the offensive line.

22. Buffalo Bills – Courtland Sutton

As much as the Bills hated Tyrod Taylor, they can’t deny that they were lacking a true number one wideout.

23. Los Angeles Rams – Rashaan Evans

With a newly loaded secondary and the loss of Alec Ogletree, the Rams need a versatile inside linebacker like Evans.

24. Carolina Panthers – Christian Kirk

The Panther could go in many directions here, but the front office seems determined to give Cam weapons in the passing game.

25. Tennessee Titans – Harold Landry

One of the best pure pass rushers in the draft, Landry is a perfect fit to pair with Jurrell Casey off the edge.

26. Atlanta Falcons – Jesse Bates

Although sometimes forgotten, the Falcons have a top tier roster lacking only a playmaking free safety.

27. New Orleans Saints – Dallas Goedert

After striking out on bringing back Jimmy Graham, the Saints finally decide to invest in a target for their quarterback.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ronnie Harrison

This pick largely depends on the situations of Bell and Shazier, but in this instance the Steelers take a talented box safety out of an elite defensive school.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Josey Jewell

The loss of longtime linebacker Paul Posluszny is a big hit to the defense, so the Jaguars draft a similar player to replace him.

30. Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn

The Vikings have an outstanding roster that only got better after signing Kirk Cousins, but they need to make sure he is protected.

31. New England Patriots – Mike McGlinchey

The loss of both their starting tackles hurts, but McGlinchey would do a lot in the way of helping the Patriots recover.

32. Philadelphia Eagles – Kolton Miller

The defending champions have a complete roster with very little needs, so they take their future left tackle instead of reaching on a linebacker.


Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Luke Kuechly, A+

1. Roquan Smith – Generally believed to be the top linebacker in this draft class, Smith is a smaller playmaker who would excel as a sideline to sideline player. He is very fast, using his amazing instincts to read plays and rack up tackles. He excels at getting to the outside, as he is very good at taking the correct pursuit angles to cut off the ball carrier. Although he lacks big hitting ability, his tackling form is good and physical. He is a liability in the interior run game, one of the few flaws in his game. However, he merely gets outsized – rather than fully bullied – and can sometimes shed tackles to make the play. Although Smith tends to get blocked on interior runs, he is generally around the ball and is a very clutch player. He performs his best in big games, coming through with big tackles in particular. Additionally, he did show up to the combine with added weight and still exhibited his top tier movement skills. While he was not fully tested in the passing game, he displays the speed and athleticism to do very well in coverage. As such, he has the tools to play in zone or man coverage effectively and fluidly. He was also the leader of the Georgia defense, a big positive for an NFL team. He is very similar to Myles Jack and would exceed in a similar playmaker type role.


2. Josey Jewell – A classic 4-3 Mike linebacker, Jewell is a general in the middle of the field. He has great instincts and a nose for the ball, important traits that allow him to control the middle of the field. He shows great effort and toughness in the middle of the field, as well as a willingness to engage blockers. He is not particularly big or athletic, but he can shed blockers and is a fluid player. Although he is on the slower side, his speed generally only serves as a hindrance when a play is outside the numbers. He makes up for his lack of top end speed with good technique, showing the ability to shadow running backs out of the backfield and read the quarterback in zone coverage. Additionally, he uses his instincts to read plays and give him an advantage, although he can get trapped in the crowd of blockers at times. He is also disciplined in the run game, staying in his gaps and not over-pursuing. He is a leader who is very technically sound in all aspects of his game, someone who will serve as the center of an NFL defense for many years.


3. Rashaan Evans – An inside linebacker out of Alabama, Evans has had the benefit of excellent coaching that should enable him to have a smooth transition to the NFL. Although he is not an impressive athlete, he is very physical and versatile, as well as possessing enough speed to make plays the full width of the field. He is also a high effort player, going full speed when attacking the ball either in the air or on the ground. He is very good in coverage, especially for a larger linebacker. He reads the quarterback very well and does a very good job shadowing receivers in coverage to make a play on the ball. In the run game, he is good at shedding blocks and shooting gaps to make plays on the running back. While he is a good tackler, he rarely makes splash plays in the running game, in large part due to his lack of natural instincts. In addition to being a good inside linebacker, Evans also displays above average pass rushing ability off the edge. He has a very good spin move and a good combination of burst and power. His versatility and ability to do well in all facets of the position make him ideal for todays NFL, but his lack of natural feel for the position prevents him from being elite.


4. Darius Leonard – A well rounded linebacker, Leonard faces questions about his ability to compete with higher level competition. He plays at full speed all the time, going after plays like he has a chip on his shoulder. He is a violent tackler, hitting with his whole body and stalling players bigger than him in their tracks. He has some missed tackles when he doesn’t break down well. He is capable at shedding smaller blockers, although he struggles with bigger and stronger players. However, he is not fully filled out at 6′ 3″, so he could easily gain the play strength to make his technique more effective. He is very patient in waiting for plays to develop, enabling him to diagnose plays and not get fooled easily. It is in this manner that he makes many of his tackles, although there are times where he misses out on a big play due to this. He is a bigger asset in stopping the pass game, as he excels at reading the quarterback’s eyes. He is a good blitzer from all of the linebacker spots, and is great at knowing when to come up and make plays on the quarterback. Additionally, he is very fluid in coverage, showing great movement skills when in man or zone coverage and good athleticism when making plays on the ball. The concerns about his playing level were quieted while at the Senior Bowl, helping to negate one of his biggest perceived flaws.


5. Malik Jefferson – An elite run defender, Jefferson is a more raw version of Dont’a Hightower. He is very strong and fast, and his explosiveness shows up on the field. However, he can get lazy at times when chasing plays to the sideline, limiting his ability to play the full width of the field. He is an elite run defender who has questions in the pass game, in large part due to his limited action in coverage. He is extremely physical playing the run, with solid tackles and a great deal of pop in his hits. Although he has more toughness than instinct, he is disciplined in his run defense and is great at shooting gaps to make tackles. He is good at scraping along the line and taking on bigger blockers in order to get to the ball carrier. Ideally, he would fit in a 3-4 Mike linebacker role. He doesn’t have very fluid hips, contributing to his flaws in coverage and adjusting to cutbacks. He can play some zone coverage adequately because of his athletic traits, although he is better at chasing the quarterback. He is a tone setter on defense, displaying the hitting ability and aggressiveness to anchor the run game. While his talent and athleticism are undeniable, his questionable effort and other off the field issues are red flags that lower his value.


8. Tremaine Edmunds – At only 19 years of age, Edmunds is extremely raw and extremely athletic. He is very long for a linebacker, but he still possesses great speed and strength. He is a physical and aggressive hitter, pounding the ball carrier relentlessly. Additionally, he is extremely willing to take on blocks, relying on his athleticism to shed blocks. There are also times where he explodes into the running lane before the blocker gets there, using his athleticism to make the play. However, his football instincts and IQ are a detriment to his talent, as he is often taken out of plays because of it. There are many times where he whiffs tackles because of bad angles or is drawn in by fakes and is unable to recover. He has a much better feel for the game in pass coverage, displaying the ability to match up with offensive players in man coverage. He is also good at playing the ball, using his length and speed to make the play. He is decent in zone coverage, as his top tier movement skills generally put him in a good position. He does make mistakes and misses players. He is more of an athletic talent than a football talent, although there is much correlation between the two. Much of his upside depends on the ability of NFL coaches to harness his talent and prepare him mentally, as he has the ability and time to be developed into a dominant player.


6. Leighton Vander Esch – A popular sleeper candidate at the linebacker position, Vander Esch is a long athlete who faces questions about his lack of starter experience and competition levels. He has very long strides when running, but he also has nimble feet to avoid cut blocks and make transitions. While he has bad instincts, he is a turnover generator, especially in important games. He can get caught in bad situations due to his lack of ability to read plays. If he recovers from such plays, it is generally more due to his propensity to chase everything than his athleticism. His strength is in his pass coverage, where he is one of the best at transitioning and making fluid turns in the draft. Similarly, he makes very clean speed turns, wasting little motion and using excellent footwork. He has a great feel for zone coverage, staying in good position to read both the quarterback and the receivers. He is also good at using his size and strength, challenging bigger blockers and getting an arm free to make a tackle. However, Vander Esch has some problems tackling, as it is not uncommon to see him whiff tackles by failing to get a good angle. While he has some problems, he can be a solid starter now and should develop into a good player down the line.


7. Shaquem Griffin – Seen by many as merely a feel-good story, Griffin is a high-level player regardless of his disability. He shows outstanding effort chasing down the ball carrier and has elite speed to match. He is extremely versatile, as he can both rush the passer off the edge and play slot corner. He is an good blitzer from the inside and outside, using his quickness and athleticism to beat blockers with good bend and a good spin move. However, he lacks balance often, making him susceptible to harder blocks. He also has trouble disengaging from blocks due to his inability to hand fight effectively, and he lacks hitting tenacity. He is also an average tackler, although he sometimes has problems holding on to the ball carrier. He is a huge playmaker, showing the ability to take over at times. Additionally, he is very good at getting splash plays, using his missing hand to force fumbles and not letting it prevent him from getting interceptions. In coverage, he plays very relaxedly and fluid, a testament to his confidence in his speed. He is undersized for a linebacker, contributing to his low play strength. He is forced to rely on his speed at times because he lacks above average instincts, often making plays by chasing opponents from behind. Griffin can be used effectively as a hybrid player and playmaker, although he lacks the positional talent to be a full time starter at any position.



Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Marshon Lattimore, A+/A

1. Denzel Ward – The most fluid cornerback in the draft, Ward is an explosive athlete whose talent can’t be understated. He is extremely fast, with recovery speed and burst that makes him extremely hard to beat deep. This also helps him to make plays on the ball, as he uses his burst and explosiveness to cut in front of the receiver and deflect passes in the air. He has outstanding body control, helping him to leap and extend on balls even if the receiver is bigger than him. As such, his technique deflecting passes is flawless and consistent. He is one of the best cornerbacks at mirroring in man coverage, exhibiting top tier agility and smooth transitions and changes of direction. He is extremely instinctive making plays, and is skilled at reading the receivers routes in both zone and man coverage. He is a smaller player without a great jam, although he can still be physical with his arms in redirecting routes. However, he generally avoids contact.  Additionally, he is an able and tackler. His hands are not quite what one would expect from such a skilled athlete, but they are quite capable. Ward is an extremely fluid and instinctive cover corner who has the versatility to play in the slot, although his size may occasionally be a problem against bigger physical receivers on the perimeter.


2. Carlton Davis – A long and strong cornerback, Davis is an aggressive player with the talent to develop into a top tier corner. He is extremely physical, with a good jam at the line that allows him to turn and run with the receiver. He is also displays this physicality at the top of routes, routinely playing the receiver in order to disrupt the catch. He can also shadow the wideout well with a very good back pedal and good use of his hands. However, he does not have very smooth turns or great adjustment to throws, making him susceptible to faster receivers if he can’t make contact with them. He exhibits good drive on balls thrown in front of him, and is at his best in such situations. As such, he is also skilled at playing off coverage or zone, challenging the receiver as soon as the ball arrives. Additionally, he is a very good tackler who comes up to play runs and has good consistent technique. His hands are merely solid. Davis’ size and speed allows him to matchup with all types of receivers, and his tackling ability makes him a plug and play starter for any team. He has high upside, particularly considering his flaws are relatively correctable with good coaching.


3. Jaire Alexander – A very good player, Alexander suffered through injuries in 2017 that forced him to miss a year of development. However, he made up for that with a great workout at the combine, displaying better movement skills than anticipated. He is an extremely smart and instinctual player who has a penchant for clutch turnovers. His trail technique is outstanding, and he is very good at using this to generate interceptions. As such, he is outstanding at reading the receiver’s route and undercutting the throw for the interception. He can play both man and zone coverage effectively with a good backpedal and good press at the line. He is not as fluid mirroring the receiver as one would like, and he tends to avoid contact with receivers. Although he is on the smaller side, he can generally stave off larger receivers. However, he can sometimes get beat deep due to his trail technique, although he generally has the makeup speed to recover. He has the versatility to play the slot, and also exhibits great vision and elusiveness as a punt returner. While he is a solid tackler, he has good instincts to put him in position to make plays. Above all, Alexander is a playmaker with the ability to be a difference maker.


4. Tarvarus McFadden – A great corner in most ways, McFadden struggled with bouts of inconsistency throughout his college career. He has very good instincts and can get interceptions in either man or zone coverage. His ball skills are outstanding, and he does a great job playing the ball in the air. He is amazing at high pointing and finding the ball, giving him the potential to be a turnover machine. Additionally, he has the size to blanket receivers and win any ball in his vicinity. His jam can be sloppy at times, but he has good balance and can remain strong against the receiver throughout the route. He also drives on the ball well when receivers are in front of him. He is generally good at shadowing receivers as well, mirroring their movements with fluid hips. While he can be fluid, his movements are also slow. Good receivers with speed can sometimes take advantage of this by turning his hips or burning him deep. He is an above average tackler who is also good at blitzing off the edge from the nickel position. Although he lacks speed and consistent play, he has the upside to lock down a side of the field.


5. Levi Wallace – The most recent CB1 for the Crimson Tide, Wallace is a pure man to man corner capable of challenging an opponent’s starting receiver. He is a physical player throughout the entire route, combining a strong jam with great hand fighting. He turns his hips well, sticking to the receiver in coverage and rarely giving them space. However, he doesn’t drive on the ball well, limiting his effectiveness in zone coverage or using a bail technique. He uses great form playing the receiver when the ball is in the air, high-pointing the ball and swiping with his hands on the way down. Additionally, he does a tremendous job removing the ball from the wideout’s hands by being extremely aggressive with his own. In part because he lacks the instincts, Wallace is mainly a press corner. Although he plays slow at times, he has enough speed to carry the receiver for some time. Surprisingly for a player under Nick Saban, Wallace is a shaky tackler. However, he can fit in some schemes well as an aggressive press corner.


6. Mike Hughes – A decent all around corner with numerous flaws, Hughes value is increased by his decent ability as a returner. He is also well rounded in coverage, showing the ability to play both press and off. He is able to shadow receivers to an extent, as he is somewhat slow changing directions. Additionally, his backpedal is off balance and he lacks good instincts, making it harder for him to drive on balls. Although he is on the smaller side, he has a physically dominating jam at the line that stalls or reroutes the receiver. He is very good at timing his contact, hitting the wideout at the same time as the ball. He is fast, allowing him to recover on deep balls or routes where he has been shaken off. He is also tracks the ball well in the air, an even better trait when paired with his good hands. He is an extremely aggressive tackler, but his bad form makes him somewhat of a liability. As a returner, he is a smooth runner and can make an immediate impact. Overall, he is a solid second cornerback who excels at the start and finish of a play, but is lacking during the route.


7. Anthony Averett – The corner across from Levi Wallace at Alabama, Averett is a good corner who struggles at the start of plays. When playing man coverage, he tends to be over aggressive at the line, causing him to lose balance. In such situations, he is beat rather quickly, particularly in routes coming across the field. He has very fluid hips, enabling him to shadow receivers well. Additionally, he has great start-stop agility, helping him stick to receivers in man coverage and drive down on them in zone. His body control is excellent, contributing to his agility and ability to defend passes. However, he is not good playing off the ball in man coverage, largely due to his lack of instincts. He is extremely physical when the ball is in the air, although his hands are suspect. It remains to be seen whether the roster at Alabama covered his mistakes, or if they are not as glaring as they seem. He is not a special player by any means, but his mistakes are coachable and he could become a high level starter in time.


8. Joshua Jackson – Highly touted as the best corner in college football, Jackson is a pure zone corner with some questionable flaws. He rarely plays in anything other than off coverage, especially in Cover 3. He has the desired size and necessary speed to fit into a defense and handle his business. He is amazing at reading the quarterback to break on the ball, which results in a large number of interceptions. This is also due to his tremendous hands. Additionally, he is great at driving on the ball, rarely allowing the receiver in front of him to make a play. However, he can also lack the discipline to follow receivers in through zones, resulting in blown coverages. He is also an average tackler. Jackson tends to avoid contact in zone coverage, preferring to get a clear read on the quarterback. However, this limits his effectiveness in many situations where the receiver should not be granted free releases. He is not particularly agile or a great athlete, and his change of direction skills are not great. Thus, he doesn’t have much upside as anything other than a pure deep zone corner. In the right fit, he can be a very good starter, but otherwise he could be somewhat of a liability.


9. Isaiah Oliver – Oliver is a raw player who mainly relies on his size and length to cover receivers. He is at his best when able to press at the line, as he is good at using his arms to crowd the wideout. He is not very fast, although his length gives him some safety when the ball is in the air. While he excels at using his length to reach over and blanket receivers on deep routes, he is generally not great at playing the ball in other capacities. He lacks any of the abilities needed to shadow receivers in man coverage. He is somewhat able to drive on balls, but he is bad at making speed turns and is not fluid when changing directions. Additionally, he is not a playmaker in any capacity, especially because he lacks instincts. However, he is a good physical tackler. Although good coaching could make some use of his size, Oliver is not a special enough talent to make a big impact.


10. Donte Jackson – Although extremely fast, Jackson lacks the positional talent to be a full time NFL cornerback. He is physical at the line with a good jam, although it generally has little effect because most receivers are significantly stronger than him. He mostly plays zone, relying on a smooth backpedal and his outstanding speed to make plays. However, he lacks the instincts and quick twitch athletic ability to succeed more than he whiffs. Even with his recovery speed, he is called for pass interference often, something that is evidence of his discomfort at the position. His balance is bad, something that has a major impact on his coverage and mirroring abilities. Additionally, he doesn’t play the ball well when isolated in coverage, instead tending to just try to get in the way of the wideout. While he can come down on pass catchers in front of him with tremendous speed, he has sub-par agility and change of direction skills. He does have very body control when diving, although it is something he is forced to do too often and to varying degrees of success. He is a bad tackler who only knows how to tackle by sliding full speed on the ground in an effort to trip the runner. While he has the speed and athleticism to be a nickel corner, he is extremely unpolished and would need to be coached excessively to have a chance to succeed in the NFL.





Offseason – Part 1

The past few days have been wild, most notably due to the Browns going from an 0-16 record in 2017 to the predicted Super Bowl LIII Champions. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but this week has been full of big time trades that will have major impacts on the 2018 season. General Managers Les Snead and  Not to be overdone, there were also a few key contract extensions that turned some heads. With the NFL Draft fast approaching, look for these moves and more to have big implications for the following season.

Big News

Rams CB Acquisitions

It seems like the Eagles have a challenger. After a terrific coming out season for Sean McVay and the Rams offense, General Manager Les Snead has decided to work on improving an already scary defense. The additions of Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib through trade for below market value were great decisions, especially as they can help save the Rams money in the long run. Although Talib is old, he is still a very good player, and Peters is a ballhawk who remains on his rookie contract. The Rams even obtained Sam Shields, an older but solid corner who can be their third corner. Going into the draft and free agency, the Rams are expected to have close to $50 million in cap space, giving them the leeway to sign Aaron Donald to a mega-contract. Additionally, the cap flexibility puts them in prime position to resign any other important players in the coming years, such as Todd Gurley and Jared Goff. With a loaded roster that seems locked in for awhile, the Rams are in prime position to make a series of Super Bowl runs over the next few years.

Tyrod Taylor Trade

Tyrod is finally free. After a career in Buffalo in which he was greatly under-appreciated, Tyrod is now a member of the Cleveland Browns. Kudos to the Bills for getting a 3rd round pick for him, although it remains quite curious as to why they were so opposed to him as their franchise quarterback. Meanwhile, the Browns have acquired a quarterback who can at worst be a bridge quarterback or at best break a team’s playoff drought (again). This trade should shake up the draft the most, setting up the Browns to draft Saquon Barkley and the Bills to trade up for a quarterback. Although the Browns are likely a lock to select a quarterback in the first round, it is still entirely plausible that Tyrod runs away with the job in the preseason. Although he isn’t elite, he definitely has the talent to improve an offense rather than just be a fill-in.

Landry to the Browns

Contrary to popular fantasy football belief, Landry is not a top tier wide receiver and does not deserve to be compensated as such. Franchise tagging Landry and then getting value for him was the perfect move for the Dolphins, as it gave them draft picks and kept them from overpaying. That being said, the trade was good for the Browns as well. Although he is likely to be overpaid in Cleveland as well, they have the cap space to accommodate accordingly. He is a tremendous fit, and the Browns already have a true WR1 in Josh Gordon. While I am against paying Landry like a top flight receiver, he is arguably the best slot and secondary receiver in the game. In Miami, he would have been payed to be the top receiver, a position he is not suited for. With the extra cap space that the Browns have, paying him to be an elite complementary piece makes a lot of sense.

Blake Bortles Extension

To the surprise of all, it appears that the Jaguars have found a franchise quarterback. The problem is, the rest of the world doesn’t know how. After signing Bortles to a 3 year, $54 million contract, the Jaguars seem confident in him as their quarterback. However, it’s important to note that his cap hit is lowered from $19 million to $10 million next year and his third year is basically a team option. The Jaguars are still likely to draft a quarterback to try to develop behind Bortles, because it is obvious that he is not good enough to carry the team alone. As with most elite defenses, each player will eventually want to get payed, and Bortles contract should be able to help with some of that. However, defensive powered teams generally do not win more than one Super Bowl, as evidenced by the 2013 Seahawks and 2015 Broncos. The Jaguars have to take advantage of their window, and it would be a shame if it is wasted because they failed to upgrade at quarterback.

Seahawks Rebuild

The Legion of Boom has come to a close. After a run as one of the best defenses in history, the Seahawks have announced that they will enter a rebuilding phase centered around Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. Richard Sherman has been cut, and the status’ of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are up in the air. The decision to rebuild is a bold move by John Schneider and Pete Carroll, and it practically acknowledges that winning regular season games is not enough. By recognizing that Wilson has finally cemented his status as an elite quarterback, the Seahawks have decided to make the most out of his career. Instead of waiting out the years until the Legion of Boom officially fell apart, they accelerated its demise in hopes of maximizing their Super Bowl window with Russell Wilson. With Russell Wilson’s big contract in the books, the Seahawks had no choice but to try to build a playoff team around him. The move is even more logical when considering Schneider’s ability to find late round gems, but that doesn’t make it any less bold.

Richard Sherman Returns

It seems we barely had to wait. Mere days after being released by the Seahawks, Sherman signed with the San Francisco 49ers, who are in the same division as his former team. It is rather ironic for those who remember Sherman at the height of his career, feuding with Michael Crabtree after ending the 49ers’ season. However, it is a great signing for the 49ers. Although coming off of a major injury, Sherman still projects to be a top tier corner, especially in a 49ers scheme that is similar to what he played in Seattle. This 49ers team is very young, and Sherman can serve as a great mentor to the younger players. It is interesting to note that Sherman had stated that he wanted to sign with a contender prior to signing with the 49ers. Did he?

Under the Radar Moves

Ogletree to the Giants

A key piece of the Rams defense in 2017, Ogletree’s trade to the Giants was unexpected. Ogletree is an athletic playmaker who brings much needed versatility and leadership to a vastly underwhelming Giants linebacker core. While he wasn’t a perfect fit in Wade Phillips one gap 3-4 defense, he should fit well in the Giants system as a do everything type player. However, he is among the more expensive inside linebackers in the league, something that could be a signal for the direction that the Giants will take this offseason. As Ogletree was pretty young, this suggests that the Rams like the LB class in this year’s draft and were just looking to clear cap space.

Goodwin Staying in San Fran

Not really a surprise, but Marquise Goodwin signed an extension with the 49ers for 3 years and $20 million. Goodwin is an emerging young receiver who has developed from an amazing deep threat to a more well rounded possession receiver. He is still young and has a good degree of upside, as well as a decent floor due to his rapport with Garoppolo. This is a great deal by the 49ers, as they lock up their quarterback’s favorite target for average WR2 money. With a good number of top wideouts on the free agent market (Allen Robinson), the 49ers passing attack looks to be in good position.

Kizer for Randall

From the outside, it seemed a shocker that the Packers would trade their top cornerback for a Browns quarterback that would inevitably be forgotten after this year’s draft. However, the picture becomes much clearer when considering that the Packers liked Kizer in last years draft and that Randall had become a problem in the locker room. This likely doesn’t change much for both teams in the draft, but both players could end up contributing in the long run. Randall is young and talented, and will likely earn a starting spot for the Browns. Meanwhile, Kizer is a good developmental player who was seriously mishandled by Browns Coach Hue Jackson, and learning under Aaron Rodgers could help him emerge. Hundley is now expendable.


Interior Defensive Lineman

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Ndamukong Suh, A+

1. Da’Ron Payne – Typical of many Alabama prospects, Payne is a dominant and well coached prospect who should be a plug and play starter in the NFL. Primarily a run stopper, he is very good at following the ball while engaged in a block. As such, he is rarely fooled into leaving his gap, and is adept at reading the quarterback to deflect throws. He can excel in both a two gap or one gap system, as he can hold blockers or penetrate to the ball. He is generally double teamed in the run game, a testament to his ability to put pressure on the offense and impact the game. Similarly, he steps up in big situations and makes key plays to close games. He tends to play upright and pop up at the snap, giving him less power than he would have otherwise. Although he could have more lower body strength, Payne has underrated athleticism. As a pass rusher, he displays good quickness off the line and has a good array of pass rushing moves. However, he is abruptly stalled if the initial jam is better than his own. His use of hand fighting is limited besides the distinct moves. Payne is a well rounded prospect with minimal weaknesses and playmaking ability, an appealing talent set in the NFL.


2. Vita Vea – A behemoth on the line, Vea is one of the few pure nose tackles in the draft. He possesses immense size and strength, using his arms to push and his legs to drive oppenents backwards. As a nose tackle, he is a very good run stuffer who can easily hold the lineman and then shed them at the point of the attack, rather than penetrating the hole. He eats up blockers in the run game, effectively opening up holes for his teammates to make plays. Besides converting his strength to power, Vea has limited ability as a pass rusher, although he has incredible quickness to the ball for a player his size. Additionally, he is a good tackler, even leaving his feet at times to make fluid tackles. He lacks explosiveness, but that is a minor flaw for a nose tackle with such impeccable strength and quickness. However, Vea can disappear at times because of this, dampening his impact on a game. While this is sometimes solely a consequence of his job and position on a given play, other times this is because of his lack of big play ability. This is not a major concern, as Vea is still incredibly talented and clean as a prospect.


3. Taven Bryan – Bryan is one of the more athletic defensive linemen in the draft, with explosive playmaking ability from the interior line position. He possesses very good lower body explosiveness, allowing him to burst through gaps and disrupt plays. He also has exceptional burst off of the snap and very good chase down speed. As such, he can get immediate penetration up the middle to redirect run plays or pressure the quarterback. He utilizes his long arms very well, holding blockers at arms length and then shedding them effectively to make plays. Additionally, he is adept at leaving one arm free and using his strength to make the tackle. He has a good rip move when pass rushing, and he is good at turning his speed rush into a power rush. However, Bryan can get pushed around in the run game, regardless of his strength and explosivenss. There are also times when Bryan misses or can’t find the ball, affecting his ability to make plays. He is an athletic difference maker more than a hole plugger, although coaching could elevate that aspect of the game even more.


4. Derrick Nnadi – A smaller nose tackle type player, Nnadi has a safe floor as he rarely puts himself in bad positions on a given play. However, he has limited upside due to his size and lack of top tier athletic ability. He has an amazing anchor, and is rarely pushed backwards or out of his gap on run plays. He also has great power, contributing to his ability to drive defenders back when pass rushing. Although he lacks any consistent pass rushing techniques, he has strong arms that he uses to punch blockers and gain advantages.He is adept at reading the quarterback and putting his hands up to block passing lanes. Additionally, he shows a high effort level and willingness to compete for the ball until the whistle. Nnadi forces teams to double team him in both run and pass situations because of this, as he generally overpowers defenders even with his small stature. He has the ability to be a long time starter due to his consistency as a player, but he will not be able to elevate himself as one of the game’s best.


5. Maurice Hurst – A very good interior pass rusher, Hurst is lacking as a run defender, limiting his ability to be a full time starter. He is extremely explosive off the snap, rushing the passer with burst and low pad level. Additionally, he is outstanding at reading quarterbacks, consistently blocking their throwing lanes and generating sacks indirectly. He has very active hands and pass rushing moves, something that allows him to gain more consistent pressure if his motor were more consistent. Although one of the best interior pass rushers in the draft, he displays very little talent in defending the run. He is easily trapped in the run game, as blockers turn him sideways to set the hole with very little resistance. He also has suspect balance, and can get knocked over on run plays without much effort. He is too small to hold blockers, and is purely a one gap attacking player. While he is outstanding as a pass rusher, he is too much of a liability as a run stopper, significantly lowering his value for many teams.


6. Harrison Phillips – A big nose tackle, Phillips is a solid and trustworthy backup who is capable of starting a few games. He has very good hands and feet drive and position, helping him generate a solid power rush. In the run game, he has a solid anchor and doesn’t get driven back. However, he does not take up blockers like a player of his size should, and he doesn’t compensate with any above average athletic ability. For a big man, he also has a very good swim move. There are times when he can’t see around his blocker. Additionally, he lacks explosive attributes or good enough strength to make big plays more than once while. As such, he is generally forced to leave his feet in an attempt to bring down the ball carrier. He doesn’t usually keep an arm free to make a play. Although he can play without being a liability, he is a below average player regarding everything besides his size.




Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Julio Jones, A+

1. Michael Gallup – The most complete receiver in the draft, Gallup has the makeup of a legitimate WR1. He is a great runner with the ball in his hands, the result his combination of speed and elusiveness. Although not huge, he possesses adequate size to win jump balls while still remaining a big play threat with the ball in his hands. He is a natural receiver who catches the ball easily and fluently with strong hands away from his body. He has great ball skills in the air, with the ability to pluck balls away from defenders and use adjust his body to win 50/50 balls. Additionally, he is an above average route runner with the knowledge and ability to run the full route tree. He is physical at the line of scrimmage, and is somewhat effective at using his hands to generate separation. Although he blocks well, he can sometimes show a lack of effort when not the focal point of a play. His only major flaw is he sometimes gets scared of safeties, but he is generally a consistently dominant player. However, is still talented enough to build an offense around.


* Antonio Calloway – One of the most talented and explosive players in the draft, Calloway’s stock plummeted after he was forced to sit out the 2017 season due to disciplinary reasons. He is very fast and agile, with the ability to explode out of stops and cuts with great speed. He is an extremely smooth runner with the ball in his hands, contributing to his outstanding talent as a returner. His footwork and agility is impeccable, using it both to elude defenders and run routes. When paired with the wide array of routes in his arsenal, this makes him a very good route runner. Additionally, he is able to line up on the outside and in the slot. While he is a smaller receiver, he can effectively deal with press coverage by using hand moves and quick feet. He also possesses great hands, and especially good at adjusting to deep balls. He isn’t a prolific jump ball receiver, but he can still make tough catches in traffic or on the perimeter. Although he is one of the biggest playmakers in the draft, the immense off the field issues make him a major risk that most teams won’t want to draft until late in the draft. Skill-wise, however, he is one of the best receivers in the draft.


2. Dante Pettis – One of the best punt returners in NCAA history, Pettis is also a very good receiver. His prolific punt return talent is somewhat surprising as he lacks top tier long speed, but his great vision and elusiveness make up for it. Although he is not particularly good at making sharp right angle cuts, he has a penchant for subtle open field moves that help him gain extra yards. He is a very good route runner, with an advanced route tree and intelligence in altering routes according to coverage. He is very effective at selling his routes subtly and directly, and he can use his hands to create good separation at the line of scrimmage. He is a natural and fluid ball catcher who extends his arms to catch away from his body with his hands. Additionally, he does a good job high pointing balls in the air with his decent size. His hands are very reliable, and the ball sticks in his hands with minimal bobbling. He is not a good blocker, but he doesn’t lack effort. He can play well both in the perimeter and in the slot. Pettis is an exceptional receiver, and although he is not quite a lead receiver, his punt return talent elevates his stock.


3. Jester Weah – A big perimeter receiver, Weah is a well rounded wideout with high upside. He is exceptionally smooth catching the ball, in large part due to his soft and strong hands. He is very talented at winning jump balls on the outside, using his large frame and strong hands to help him get the ball. Additionally, he contains a muscular frame that helps him dominate opponents physically outside the numbers. This is a benefit to his route running and jump ball skills, as he is rarely bodied in a direction he does not want to go. He is reasonably fast, with sufficient speed to get over the top of defenders on deep routes. He is surprisingly elusive for his size, and his sturdy frame helps him escape would-be tacklers. He is a solid route runner, with generally crisp cuts and good use of speed change. He has a somewhat limited route tree. His size enables him to deal with press coverage, although his release is merely decent. Although he has the traits and ability to be a WR1, he can disappear for stretches of games. His talent is undeniable, especially after a great outing at the combine. While his upside is high, his tendency to disappear could be a problem on the professional level, although much of that may have had to do with inconsistent quarterback play.


4. DJ Moore – Similar to Jarvis Landry in style and skillset, Moore is mainly a run after catch receiver with good playmaking talent. He is very fast and elusive, and is an outstanding runner with the ball in his hands. His amazing elusiveness gives him the ability to make big plays, and he can make defenders like a running back. He is a solid route runner, although he is not quite a special talent getting open. Similarly, most of his routes are run close to the line of scrimmage, giving him limited options within a given passing attack. He can make some cuts well in his routes, although not as many as would be expected with his agility. He has great hands and excellent body control, as he can elevate and make contested catches. While it is not common that he is deep enough on a route to exhibit such displays, he is exceptional. His biggest problem, however, is that is ineffective when faced with strong contact. Jams at the line and contact throughout the route are a big problem, as he cannot get a good release or make catches. Although an explosive playmaker, his chance to excel in the NFL banks on his ability to deal with press coverage. Regardless, his showing at the combine was impressive, showing off speed and explosiveness that would help him make up for his flaws.


5. Anthony Miller – An outstanding technician, Miller displays the necessary talent to thrive at the NFL level. He is one of the best route runners in the draft, with the ability to run the full route tree well. He can face press well, using his hands to generate a release and restack his routes. His feet are not particularly quick when he runs, although he is good at adjusting to balls quickly. He is very fast, which contributes to his excellence at running deep routes. Additionally, he has tremendous focus on such routes, a skill which also translates to sideline routes. He generally has very reliable hands due to his focus, although he sometimes has some concentration drops on short routes that likely stem from turning to run too quickly. However, he is not scared of catching in traffic or of getting hit over the middle, and is excellent at catching with defenders on top of him. As a runner after the catch, he exhibits solid vision and running ability that is greatly helped by his slippery elusiveness. He is not a particularly prolific jump ball receiver, but he has the excellent jump timing and hands to make difficult catches. He lacks the adequate ball skills and size to be an alpha receiver, but he is an outstanding slot receiver who can also play well outside the numbers.


6. Deon Cain – A typical Clemson receiver, Cain is a big and fast wideout with the potential to be an alpha receiver. He is a pure perimeter receiver who excels at winning jump balls due to his ability to high point balls in the air. He has good body control and  great adjustment to balls in the air, although his hands are on the smaller and weaker side. As such, he generally comes down with 50/50 balls that are within his big catch radius. For a big receiver, he has above average speed and talent running with the ball. Although he is a good, physical route runner, he has a route tree that is somewhat limited. However, he shows very good discipline on the routes that he does run. Additionally, he can hand fight exceptionally well at the line, during the route, and when the ball is in the air. He is a good blocker, whose size allows his to be aggressive at the point of attack. His biggest flaw is that he can sometimes lose focus catching the ball, either looking to run too soon or failing to bring the ball in. Another important problem is that his production does not seems to match his talent, something that can be seen as a red flag. While he is a very good prospect overall, he needs stronger and bigger hands to be considered a true big play threat.


7. Auden Tate – A typical big bodied wideout in the mold of Kelvin Benjamin, Tate has a tremendous catch radius and great ball skills. He is not a fast player, although his agility is not bad for a player of his size. His hands and size combine to be his biggest assets, as he is at his best when fighting for contested and tough catches. He utilizes his size extremely well, as he can pluck the ball out of the air and extend to reach high or misthrown balls. His body control is outstanding, as he can adjust to balls thrown nearly anywhere in his vicinity. This makes him a great redzone threat and deep perimeter threat, regardless of his lack of speed. Additionally, he is great at holding on to the ball through contact, making him a reliable safety net receiver. Due to his lack of speed, his hands can be inconsistent at times if he is forced to chase down a ball. He is a very inconsistent route runner, mainly because of his lack of speed and quickness. However, his routes should be able to be refined and are not a problem due to the type of wideout he is. He can handle press by using his size, although his hands also help him somewhat. A classic redzone receiver, Tate struggles to gain separation downfield, limiting his ability to be an elite receiver for a team.


8. Calvin Ridley – Widely believed to be the top receiver in this draft class, both Ridley’s floor and ceiling put him in the range of a top tier secondary wideout. He is among the most polished route runners in the draft, utilizing his top end speed and great agility to get open. He is extremely good at using head fakes to get open without excessive cuts, particularly at the line where he has has very good nuance in his routes. Although he is extremely fast, his release and acceleration are merely good. He is a very smooth runner with and without the ball, and has the ability to catch cleanly without breaking stride. He is also shows intelligence in knowing when to break off routes and help his quarterback. He exhibits good vision and elusiveness, and makes quick, crisp cuts when running in the open field. His hands, while not great, are very consistent and he rarely has drops. Additionally, his hands aren’t very strong, limiting his jump ball talent even though he has some ball skills. His blocking is average, but considering his size and experience doing it at Alabama, it should be an asset to his game. Ridley is one of the safest prospects at the position, regardless of his few flaws.


9. Deontay Burnett – The safety blanket for top quarterback Sam Darnold, Burnett is a very good receiver who will be held back in the NFL due to his stature. Although he is not a great route runner, he has excellent footwork and a very good football IQ. As such, he is very good at making sideline catches. He sells his fakes on routes very well, using his speed and small size to help him get open. Additionally, his experience with Sam Darnold has made him extremely good at running routes on broken plays. He is an average runner with the ball, as he is not particularly elusive. However, he is very smart in how and when he battles for extra yardage. He also has very good hands and technique catching the ball. His hands are very reliable in traffic, and he is fluid in catching and then bring the ball to his body for protection. He is also adept at extending for diving catches and balls that seem outside his reach. He has the potential to be a Pro-Bowl receiver, but his weak build could cause him to get pushed around, no matter how much talent he has. As such, he is not good at winning jump balls on the outside. Depending on if he can add more muscle, his potential varies drastically.


10. Christian Kirk – Highly touted as a top tier slot receiver in this draft, Kirk lacks the difference making ability to be more than an average slot receiver in the NFL. Although he is a very good punt returner, this talent does not usually show up in his play at wideout. He is a reliable player in the slot, but he does not have any exceptional talent besides being a returner. He is pretty fast and somewhat elusive, making him a decent runner in space. He is also very smooth in catch and run situations, enabling him to pick up additional yards after the catch. He is a solid route runner, with a well built route tree that he can run effectively. He also has very reliable hands, although he lacks the talent to make many impressive catches. Similarly, he has great concentration, adding to his ability to rarely drop balls. He is a player whose floor is set as a reliable slot receiver who can offer good support in the return game, however he lacks the playmaking athletic ability of anything else at the NFL level. The combine also reaffirmed that he has the size and strength to handle the rigors of playing slot receiver and going over the middle.


11. DJ Chark – Chark emerged after the conclusion of the CFB season, putting on amazing performances at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. His speed, explosiveness, and jumping ability were some of the best at the combine, but that does not show up in games consistently. He has limited ability as a route runner, although he is very smooth running with the ball in his hands or making cuts on routes. Chark has great footwork as well, showing good talent making catches on the sideline. He is great at tracking deep balls, a skill which combines with his speed to make him a good deep ball threat. He is good at adjusting his body to win some jump balls, and at times can show flashes of outstanding body control. The weakest part of his game, however, are his relatively weak and very inconsistent hands. Additionally, he tends to catch with his chest much more often than he should. However, he is decent at catching over the middle, which will serve him well regardless of his hands. He is also a very good punt returner, with good vision and elusiveness. While he shows some explosive traits, his talent as a receiver is held back by his ability to put them into action.


12. Simmie Cobbs – A player who relies solely on his amazing hands and height, Cobbs is a highly developmental prospect with upside in the redzone. He shows an extreme lack of effort, something which causes his ability to suffer greatly. Although he is decent at running the fade and the hitch, his route tree is extremely limited otherwise. Additionally, he is a sloppy route runner, regardless of the small degree of effectiveness displayed in those two routes. He is not a great athlete, offering very little athletically besides his height. As such, he is slow and bad running with the ball in his hands. He is somewhat strong, contributing to his great talent as a redzone and jump ball receiver. Cobbs has great hands individually, with the talent to make outstanding catches with one hand. He is the best pure receiver with the ball in the air and other jump ball situations, however he is below average at nearly everything else. Cobbs’ sloppiness and lack of effort is a major red flag for a player with such high redzone potential, something that will greatly limit his NFL success.


13. Courtland Sutton – Highly touted as one of the best receivers in college football, Sutton is an athletic player with limited positional talent. He is very long and fast, and takes advantage of this by being an aggressive runner and blocker. He is a very sloppy route runner, due in large part to his lack of agility. Additionally, he is very bad at using his hands against defensive backs, either during or at the start of the route. His hand work is a detriment to his talent, as it leaves him susceptible to physical defense. For a physical receiver, he gets pushed around easily in press coverage. He has very good body control that enables him to release from defenders at the top of his route. However, he doesn’t use his size well when going for jump balls or boxing out defenders, even though he has solid jumping ability. He has strong hands when he extends them away from his body, but generally they are inconsistent. He is a good runner with the ball for a bigger receiver, as he can find running lanes but is not elusive. An extremely raw player, it would take a tremendous amount of coaching to develop him into a productive NFL player.


14. James Washington – Given the Biletnikoff Award as the nations best receiver, Washington’s college numbers do not match up with his NFL talent. He is fast, with the ability to take the top off the defense. Additionally, he has excellent adjustments to deep balls over the shoulder, although less so on back shoulder or sideline type catches. He is a bad route runner, consistently rounding off his routes and failing to sell his moves. While he is good at running deep fades, much of that is pure reliance on speed and failure by the defensive back to play even adequate coverage. He does not have particularly fluid catching ability, with the ball occasionally not sticking in his hands as well. This, along with his lack of strong hands, is a big factor in Washington using his chest a lot to make catches. Built like a running back, he is not good at making moves in space, greatly lowering his value as a receiver. Overall, he lacks any significant talent besides the ability to run straight away deep routes, something that will only serve him well as a deep backup.




Running Backs

Grading system:

A – Top tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Ezekiel Elliot, A+/A

1. Saquon Barkley – The number one overall prospect in this class and the best running prospect in years, Barkley is as close to flawless as you will get from a prospect. He consistently makes the first player miss, and is very good at avoiding huge collisions. He has great wiggle as a runner, with an amazing cutback and juke move to go with his homerun speed. He has great start-stop ability at the line, and above average vision to find open running lanes. As a power back, Barkley is similarly proficient, as he is very strong between the tackles and is adept at falling forward. His dexterity and balance are tremendous, and they are what make him an elite prospect. He has outstanding body control both along the sidelines and through contact, allowing him to make plays that very few can. He is very good at catching the ball both out of the backfield and as a wide receiver, although his pass blocking is merely decent. If there is a flaw, it is that he can try to get the big play rather than just putting his head down for a few yards; however, the highlight reel plays he makes by doing this more than makes up for this slight and infrequent deficiency.


2. Derrius Guice – Although he is more of a power back, Guice is a well-rounded runner who can excel both inside and outside. He is exceptionally strong, and runs with power and tenacity. He is a very determined runner, finishing every run by gaining every possible inch. He is great at avoiding head on hits in traffic and at the line. Additionally, he is a very slippery runner with very good balance, helping him generate a lot of yards after contact. As an outside runner, he has excellent acceleration and very good speed. While he also has good agility and bouncing ability, he knows how to pick up tough yards. His vision is also good, not great; however he is exceptionally good at finding small bits of space to pick up extra yards through contact and traffic. He is a solid receiver out of the backfield, and is very good at pass blocking. As a pure runner, he is very good in all aspects of the position, and will bring good intensity to a teams run game. Although not as big and strong as his LSU predecessor Fournette is, he has a better feel for running the football.


3. Kerryon Johnson – A well rounded runner, Johnson’s has the combination of speed and power to become a top tier runner. He has great vision and outstanding patience at the line of scrimmage. He runs low, enabling him to explode through holes and work well in tight spaces. He is amazing running through contact, and is especially adept at shaking off half-hearted tackles. Similarly, he is very good on the goal line and in short yardage situations, as he knows how to get lower and pick up extra yards. With very good long speed and superior agility, he is a good runner in open space. This combination of speed moves and effective use of power make him a deadly runner in all situations. Additionally, Johnson is very intelligent in all aspects of the game, with great pass blocking ability, decent receiving skills, and exceptional awareness. He knows how to handle various situations in games, contributing to his good pass blocking. The above average awareness is also a major factor in his running style, as he is extremely effective in knowing when to utilize each aspect of his skill set. However, there are some questions about his injury history, especially as his running style can lead to many head on collisions.


4. Royce Freeman – Freeman is an excellent power runner who is surprisingly fluid running the ball, similar to Frank Gore. He is somewhat slow compared to the other top runners in college football, but is able to effectively use what speed he has. He is a low runner who is very good at running through contact between the tackles. He is also strong, able to shake off tackles and bowl defenders over. Freeman has outstanding vision and runs effortlessly through open lanes. Additionally, he has great feet and agility, a talent that was reinforced by a terrific job at the combine. He has very good patience at the line of scrimmage as well, with the strength to shed tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He seems to have suspect lower body explosion, although he had average testing in such events at the NFL combine. For a bigger back, Freeman is an above average receiver out of the backfield. Even when his offensive line struggled he was able to make some plays, but he is even more dominant with decent blocking. While he doesn’t have the look of an elite prospect, he should end up being an extremely good player as a workhorse running back.


5. Ronald Jones II – One of the most elusive runners in the draft class, Jones II is a tall speed back with limited power. He possess elite breakaway speed and is extremely fluid and elusive in space. His juke move is outstanding, and he has great agility and ankle-breaking potential in his cutback. His vision is very good, and he slips through holes quite smoothly and easily. It is very hard for defenders to get a hand on him, although he is not that hard to bring down when they do. This is partially due to his high running style, which takes away some of balance and power. He still exhibits some explosive momentum in finishing runs, but such toughness is rare. Surprisingly, he is a solid runner in short yardage situations, as has a nose for the end zone. He has great burst to the outside, and is skillful at bouncing runs to the outside for big plays. However, he tends to make too many bounces, leading to lost yardage. He is not very good at pass blocking, as he is on the lighter side. He has decent hands, although not quite what one would expect from a player his size. While not quite a bell-cow running back, in part due to injury concerns, Jones II can be an explosive playmaker as a lead back.


6. Nick Chubb – An outstanding all around runner before his knee injury, Chubb’s value has worsened considerably since he was unable to fully regain his speed and agility. He is a a very strong runner who runs low, making it very hard for defenders to tackle him without facing violent contact. He has decent top end speed, but has very good burst and acceleration. However, he looks faster than he did last year, meaning that he could potentially get better if he can regain the form he had in his freshman season. Similarly, he has an amazing juke move that would improve if he can become more confident making cuts. Particularly, his vision suffers because he lacks some confidence in his ability to hit holes. He is exceptionally good at shaking off tacklers that aren’t right in front of him, however he sometimes seems tentative when pressured in tight spaces. Because of this, he lacks the desired wiggle while running inside. He also can serve as a disciplined one cut downhill runner. For a strong back he displays able hands and solid pass blocking ability. He is a very talented runner despite the flaws, and there is Pro-Bowl upside if he can fully recover from the injury. His speed, strength, and explosiveness remain top tier, although the combine did not eliminate doubts about his cutting ability.


7. Mark Walton – A smaller running back, Walton is a complete back who could excel on 3rd downs or in a committee. He is a very agressive runner who uses his strength to deliver blows to the defense. However, he is still an elusive runner who keeps his pads low to effectively pick up yards. His agility gives him potent juke and spin moves, although his cuts into space can be slow. As such, his vision is spotty and inconsistent, and he is often indecisive making cuts into holes. Similarly to Nick Chubb, some of this is due to recovering from an injury. He has great balance, allowing him to stay on his feet and keep his speed through both high and low contact. He has above average breakaway speed and acceleration. He is a decent pass catcher and route runner out of the backfield. Walton also excels at pass blocking, using good technique on defenders that are bigger than him. He is a shifty runner who would fit well in a scheme where he would handle around 15 touches a game. If he can regain some more of his explosiveness, he can be a great role player.


8. Akrum Wadley – Wadley is small satellite back in the mold of Darren Sproles – a dangerous big play threat as a runner and receiver. Although he lacks power, he is a tough player who has elite elusiveness in space. His agility is off the charts, and he is able to effectively string moves together to elude multiple defenders. He has great start-stop ability, allowing him to make jukes and cuts at full speed and in quick succession. He has such wiggle that he is rarely tackled by the first defender, and he can hit holes with good burst and acceleration. He has great top end speed that enables him to get the edge and break off big plays. His vision is very good, and he doesn’t try to force runs outside like other speed backs do. Additionally, his cutback is exceptional in traffic and open space. He is a very good receiver, and can work out of the slot as well as out of the backfield. Because of his small stature, he can be a problem in pass protection. Wadley is an elite scat back who will excel on third downs and as a rotational runner.


9. Justin Jackson – Jackson is a jack of all trades but a master of none. He is technically sound in all aspects of the position, as he is a decent receiver, capable pass blocker, and can run both inside and outside. He is elusive running on both sides of the tackles, and can create a few extra yards for himself on some plays. He is mainly an outside runner, although his potential is limited by his average speed and acceleration, making him lacking as a major big play threat. He is especially adept at waiting for his blockers to make him running lanes instead of just trying to outrun them. His vision is otherwise average. He has very quick feet, although he is not great at making sharp cuts suddenly. However, he explodes out of his cuts after a few gather steps, which works effectively in open field situations. Additionally, he had an outstanding outing in the quickness drills and workouts at the combine. He is a solid player who has the potential to be a starter, but could be a serviceable backup.


10. Rashaad Penny – Although the top rusher in college football, Penny’s skillset is not as dominant as his stats make him seem. He is a prototypical running back in the modern NFL, with the size, speed, and receiving ability to be an every down runner. He is very fast and has decent burst, allowing him to get the edge and break big plays on outside runs. He has solid start-stop ability to help him change speeds and find open holes. Additionally, he has good patience at the line and ability to allow his holes to develop. He has good vision and is very good at finding creases, but he also misses as many cutback lanes as he sees. However, he does do a good job knowing when to bounce outside. Although he possesses some agility, his elusiveness is suspect and he is not great at making defenders miss in one-on-one situations. When he is at his top speed he can run smoothly through holes, but he is generally not very good at planting his feet and making sharp cuts. Despite his size and aggressiveness, he is not a great in short yardage situations due to his lack of balance. He is a good receiver out of the backfield and can play a little in the slot. He is also a capable pass blocker. Although he has the skills to be a good runner, the lack of ability to create plays by himself limits his upside.


11. Sony Michel – A smaller speed back, Michel is an unrefined runner who survives on his pure speed, something that is not a given at the NFL level. He is very explosive and plays at a very fast pace on all his runs. However, this seems to be his only gear, serving as a detriment to his overall talent. He has outstanding agility and a particularly effective jump cut, especially when he can get the edge. Although he typically has good vision, his excessive use of his speed causes him to miss holes or not allow them to develop. Additionally, he is not able to make his own plays as much as one would like to see out of such a big play runner, and seems to rely too much on good blocking. He is a slippery runner who is adept at getting lower and extending when he knows he is falling, but he possesses little power and doesn’t seem to be able to shake off many arm tackles. He has average receiving ability, but is a problem in pass protection. He has the potential to be a capable rotational back at the NFL level if he has good coaching.



Early 2018 Power Rankings

What an end to a very weird season.

In a season in which a 2018 All-Injured team would probably have beaten the 2018 All-Pro lineup, the playoffs featured many unusual and intriguing match-ups. The AFC featured a Titans comeback over the Chiefs, a Jaguars upset on the Steelers, and a predictable Patriots Super Bowl run. In the NFC, nearly every week featured an upset, including the Eagles shellacking of Minnesota on their way to a surprise Super Bowl victory. Minnesota barely even squeaked into that game, but found hope after Stefon Diggs’ “Minnesota Miracle”. This offseason should have a lot of trades, free agent acquisitions and draft picks that drastically improve or worsen teams, but for now, here are the top 10 teams going into the 2018 offseason.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

2. New England Patriots

The Eagles are fresh off of a Super Bowl victory, which is only partially the reason for their placement atop this list. They also possess the deepest and most talented roster in the league, as shown by their terrific Super Bowl run. In addition to getting MVP candidate Carson Wentz back at quarterback, they also get star left tackle Jason Peters and second round draft pick Sidney Jones at cornerback. With limited roster turnover expected in the offseason, the Eagles are prepared to repeat. Meanwhile, the Patriots seem to be in the midst of a transition phase, with McDaniels seemingly preparing to take over and Gronkowski contemplating retirement. However, the Patriots still have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, which puts them in contention every year. Although Malcolm Butler is leaving, the return of Edelman and Hightower bring back two of the team’s best players for next season.

3. New Orleans Saints

4. Los Angeles Rams

5. Atlanta Falcons

6. Minnesota Vikings

One fluke play away from the NFC Championship game, the Saints have a roster chock full of outstanding young talent and a Hall of Fame quarterback to match. With a playoff caliber head coach in Sean Payton as well, they should be able to challenge the Eagle’s supremacy in the NFC. After taking home offensive player, defensive player, and coach of the year, the Rams are primed for another big year. With Jared Goff gaining more big game experience, the Rams could push for playoff run. A bit higher than one would expect, the Falcons have a well balanced roster that should continue to improve under the tutelage of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. With a year under his belt, Sarkisian is expected to turn around the offense in Year 2 just as Kyle Shanahan did. Although the Vikings are getting back Dalvin Cook, the major quarterback questions and the self implosion during the NFC Championship game could limit their success. They have an elite defense and explosive offense, but even a returning Case Keenum doesn’t guarantee success.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Dallas Cowboys

10. Kansas City Chiefs 

Even with Blake Bortles at quarterback, the Jaguars were able to put up a fight with New England in the AFC Championship. The defense is so deep and talented that they will always give their team a chance. After a stunning playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Steelers seem to be facing internal problems. The status of Le’Veon Bell will need to be monitered, but Antonio Brown and Big Ben can still put up points. The defense sans Ryan Shazier will continue to be a weak point. Getting Ezekiel Elliott back for a whole season will completely revitalize the Cowboys and put them back in the heart of the playoff race. Although Dez Bryant is questionable to return next year, Zeke and Dak can carry the offense. The defense has begun to emerge as well, with Demarcus Lawrence turning in an excellent 2017 season. Even after the stunning move to trade Alex Smith, the Chiefs are poised to win their division. Pat Mahomes adds to an offense that already contains many explosive players and a head coach that knows how to use them. The defense is the definite weak spot of the team, but the return of Eric Berry will work wonders.