Senior Bowl Update

The draft features a really strong set of CBs and the list of guys playing in Mobile in a few weeks is very impressive.

Jourdan Lewis – Michigan

Desmond King – Iowa

Marquez White – Florida State

Rasul Douglas – West Va

Corn Elder – Miami

Cam Sutton – Tennessee

And they just got a big name to join the group.

That’s a really good group of prospects. Normally I love watching the OL/DL battles more than anything, but this is a year where I will likely watch a lot of the WR/CB drills. Should be a lot of fun.

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Mystery Man

Solomon Thomas had a great year for Stanford. He’s now off to the NFL. I’m interested to see how teams look at him.

4-3 DE?

3-4 DE?

4-3 DT?

Thomas goes about 6-3, 275. That’s not an ideal size for any of the positions. But this is one of those cases you have to be careful not to get too caught up in numbers. Anyone who watched his performance against UNC in the Sun Bowl saw just how dominant Thomas can be.

And some highlights.

I think Thomas is one of those guys you find a spot for. Don’t obsess on size and labels. This dude can play and you want him on your team.

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Freak

Wow. Just wow.

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Around the League

Sean Payton is one of my favorite coaches. The Saints offense was so much fun to watch a few years back when Drew Brees was in top form and he had some good playmakers around him. Payton knew how to design a great offense and then how to call plays to bring out the best in his guys.

One of my favorite memories is the Saints trailing the Dolphins by 10 or more points in the 2nd half of a game. Instead of turning Brees completely loose, Payton went to the run game. That helped to open up the passing game and New Orleans won. It always frustrates me when coaches panic in the 2nd or 3rd quarter when trailing by 2 possessions or less. There is still plenty of time left. Stay balanced. Run the ball. Be physical. If you get down too much or it gets late, then panic and go pass happy.

Back to Payton. I hate to say this, but he’s turning into the offensive version of Jeff Fisher.

2014  7-9
2015  7-9
2016  7-9

Yikes. Payton is still a great offensive mind, but the Saints defense has been a mess in recent years and it feels like time for a change. I’d love to see Payton go somewhere else and see if he could get back to where he was 5 or 6 years ago.

*****

If you watched the playoffs last weekend, chances are you heard that Houston had the #1 defense in the league. They mentioned it over and over. And over.

The Texans had a terrific season on D, but let’s take a look at the big picture. They were 1st in yards allowed. They were 11th in scoring D. That’s fine, but clearly isn’t compelling.

Jon Gruden was asked if the Texans could ride their D to the Super Bowl, like the 2000 Ravens or 2002 Bucs. Always prone to hyperbole, Gruden said yes.

No.

No.

No.

The Ravens and Bucs were two of the greatest defenses in the history of football. They were special. They were unique. The Texans finished 11th in points allowed. There is nothing unique or special about that.

Good isn’t great.

*****

I loved Matt Ryan coming out of Boston College. I thought he was a great prospect and deserved to go Top 5. Ryan has been a good QB in the NFL since coming into the league.

For some reason, he has been heavily criticized his whole career. I never really understood it. Ryan hasn’t been a great player in the NFL. But he’s been pretty darn good. He has a career rating of 93.7. He averages 26 TD passes a year. The Falcons never had consecutive winning seasons before his arrival. They have only had a losing record twice in Ryan’s 9-year career.

Ryan posted freakish numbers this year, throwing 38 TDs and only 7 INTs. His rating of 117.1 is one of the highest in NFL history. I’m glad to see Ryan getting some of the credit he’s deserved.

Winning in the postseason is the next hurdle for him.

*****

Can Dallas win with rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott leading the way? I have my doubts.

The Cowboys had a great season. Prescott broke records and Elliott is a legitimate contender for league MVP. But the postseason is a very different animal. I’m curious as to whether they can handle it.

Dallas did beat Green Bay in mid-October, but the Packers are a very different team right now. Aaron Rodgers is playing out of his mind and that offense is coming up with huge contributions from a variety of guys.

Their defense is still flawed, but they seem to make big plays. This should be a great game.

*****

It still blows my mind that Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander had such an amazing season. He had 12.5 sacks, 3 FFs, and an INT.

Alexander came into the season with 9 career sacks. 9.

That’s just crazy.

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Next Little Man Up

There was Deion Branch.

And Troy Brown.

Then Wes Welker came along.

Danny Amendola.

Now we have Julian Edelman.

Who is next?

The Patriots seem to do a great job with developing small to medium-sized slot receiver types. Ryan Switzer from North Carolina would seem to be a great fit. He is a gifted WR and a dynamic PR. He has great RAC skills and is the kind of competitive, productive player that Bill Belichick just loves.

Belichick also loves UNC players. His father Steve was an assistant coach in Chapel Hill and Belichick seems to still have a fondness for the guys wearing light blue.

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Staying Put

It seems like every underclassman is coming out, but that isn’t the case. A few key guys are staying in school.

Luke Falk will return to Washington State. Falk had a good year, but there was no reason to come out. Another year could help him develop into a better player and better prospect. Glad to see he made a smart decision.

Wyoming star Josh Allen is also coming back. There was some thought he might come out after a good year and with this being such a lackluster QB class. Luckily Allen will stay in college. A strong Senior season could make him a pretty high pick.

Is Sam Darnold eligible yet?

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Quick Thoughts on the Quarterbacks

I don’t think there are any slam dunk, gotta have this guy #1 overall type prospects this year. That said, there are some talented, interesting QB prospects.

Deshaun Watson is really good, but also flawed. He led Clemson to consecutive title games (and almost consecutive titles). Watson is incredibly clutch, coming through late in some big games. He can make some spectacular throws. Watson doesn’t always read defenses well and his accuracy can be an issue at times.

UNC star Mitch Trubisky started one full year and that’s it. That is an issue. There is no set rule that a QB must play X amount of games, but the more starts a guy has, the more it helps him to show what he can truly do and to be prepared for the NFL. There is some talk of Trubisky being a Top 10 type pick. As of now, I don’t see that.

Pat Mahomes had a great year for Texas Tech. He finished 12th in the nation in passing efficiency and had 41 TD passes. Mahomes can do some creative things.

Throwing from multiple platforms is a good thing in a college QB. You won’t always have a clean pocket and the more things you can do, the better off you’ll be.

DeShone Kizer came out early and is really interesting. He has excellent size at 6-4, 230. He started for 2 years at Notre Dame and had some amazing moments. He is a gifted athlete who can also be a good pocket passer.

I have no idea why Jerod Evans left Virginia Tech early. He played well this year, but wasn’t so good that he needed to leave. I hope he had a good reason and this wasn’t just some agent talking him into the move.

The pre-draft process will be interesting for these players. NFL teams and the media will pick their games apart and it will be interesting to see which guys rise and which guys fall.

The NFL still needs good QBs. That means some teams will over-draft players in late April. And you can bet all 32 teams will be looking for the next Dak Prescott, the mid-rounder who turns out to be better than anyone imagined.

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The Offseason is Here

The NFL regular season is over. It is now time to focus on the NFL Draft.

SCHEDULE

Jan 16 – Deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft

Jan 21 – East-West Shrine Game

Jan 28 – Senior Bowl

Feb 28 – Mar 6 – Scouting Combine

Mar – Apr – Pro days

Apr 27-29 – NFL Draft

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College Freaks

Every year college football writer Bruce Feldman puts out a list of the top freak athletes in CFB. The 2016 list is out now.

Number one is Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett.

The SEC’s leader in sacks (12.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (five) despite seeing an array of double teams, Garrett has more than lived up to his enormous recruiting hype. Listed at 6-5, 262, Garrett’s got the chiseled physique of a DB — a huge DB. The junior has off-the-charts workout numbers. He told me this month he power cleans 440 pounds and bench-presses 485 — staggering when you consider he also has a 40-inch vertical and his fastest 40 time at A&M, he said, is 4.45. “If I could dip into the 4.3s, that’d be great,” he told FOX Sports. It’s also been insane to see someone that big moving that fast. Garrett’s diet is pretty tight. “I just try to stay away from soda and try to stay away from candy and sweets,” he said, adding that he thinks he can bulk up to 270. Scary thought: Garrett doesn’t turn 21 until December.

You think the NFL might be interested in that guy?

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Bum Phillips at his Best

Bum was an incredibly funny man, but was also one heck of a coach.

Go read this piece by Doug to appreciate the impact that Bum had on the game of football. Modern defenses owe him a lot.

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