NFL MOCK DRAFT 2016

The time has come. We’ve been waiting for Draft Day for months and with already three trades into the top ten, you can expect more moves to come in the first round. Here’s my full mock draft of the first 31 picks in the NFL Draft with predicted trades.

  1. LOS ANGELES RAMS: JARED GOFF (QB/CAL) goff-jared-09192015-us-news-getty-ftr_17vy4gug61xw81vf2t6buxk3x1Welcome to Hollywood, Mr. Goff. The former Golden Bear will play in USC’s Coliseum for his rookie year and will get the fortune of handing the ball off to Todd Gurley. The Rams give up the house to land their first potential franchise quarterback since Kurt Warner.

2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: EZEKIEL ELLIOTT (RB/OHIO STATE) USATSI_9030262_1461772954030_1973462_ver1.0.jpgI know, I know. This is insane. Is it really? Many have forgotten that GM Howie Roseman loves Elliott and he’s finally back in control. Roseman AND Head Coach Doug Pederson come from the school of Andy Reid which means a dynamic running back has tons of value in their offensive system. Elliott is a three-down back that can be a weapon out of the backfield, carry the ball 20-plus times a game, and pass protect efficiently. Also, Carson Wentz says he has not talked to the Eagles AT ALL since the big trade. FINALLY, Philadelphia is making sure they get the best running back in the draft before their NFC East rival, the Dallas Cowboys do.

3. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: JALEN RAMSEY (DB/FLORIDA STATE)os-fsu-jalen-ramsey-start-cornerback-20150318In my humble opinion, Ramsey is the best player in the draft. He automatically starts at safety for the Chargers but can cover the top wideout on opposing teams as well as line up in the nickel. Tunsil would be a great pick but it looks like San Diego has made moves to solidify the offensive line this offseason.

4. DALLAS COWBOYS: JOEY BOSA (DE/OHIO STATE) joey-bosa-breaking-through-line-bf40c8294940b0f7The Cowboys really want Elliott but too bad, so sad. Joey Bosa is the best player on their board and they need pass rush help desperately. Jerry Jones does not care about potential off the field issues so Bosa won’t have to worry.

5. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: MYLES JACK (LB/UCLA)0ap3000000537028.jpgNo-brainer here. Jack fits perfectly into Gus Bradley’s 4-3 defense. Don’t forget Bradley was Jim Mora Jr.’s defensive coordinator in Seattle. You can bet that the Jags head coach has been doing his homework. I don’t believe in the “Jack will slide” rumors because of his knee injury. If Jacksonville’s doctors think he’ll be good to go, this is the pick.

6. BALTIMORE RAVENS: LAREMY TUNSIL (OT/OLE MISS) – This is too easy for Ozzie Newsome. Arguably the best player in the draft, Tunsil protects big-money QB Joe Flacco immediately.

7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: DEFOREST BUCKNER (DE/OREGON) – Watch for Trent Baalke to trade down here because he loves generating picks but if Buckner is available, I think Chip Kelly gets what he wants. Kelly was still at Oregon when his staff was recruiting Buckner so there’s history. Buckner and the 49ers’ 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead (former teammate) would be an intimidating tandem to block.

8.*TRADE* CLEVELAND BROWNS/CHICAGO BEARS: VERNON HARGREAVES III (CB/FLORIDA)
– This is what you call striking gold. Hargreaves is a top ten talent and the Bears have a significant need at corner. Tracy Porter is not going to cut it and VH3 can line up opposite Kyle Fuller for years to come.

9. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: RONNIE STANLEY (OT/NOTRE DAME) – Protecting the Bucs’ first overall pick is a major priority. Tampa Bay likes Stanley and he should be available at this point.

10. NEW YORK GIANTS: DARRON LEE (LB/OHIO STATE) – The G-Men are seriously thin at the linebacker position when it comes to talent. Lee flies to the ball with his 4.4 speed and can rush the passer.

11. CLEVELAND BROWNS: JACK CONKLIN (OT/MICHIGAN STATE) – It’s been reported the Browns want to take Jack Conklin to fill a hole at right tackle and they also come out with extra picks on this trade-back.

12. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: JARRAN REED (DT/ALABAMA) – Reed is the prototypical run-stuffer and the Saints desperately need help in that department. Reed brings penetration and can take on double teams.

13. MIAMI DOLPHINS: ELI APPLE (CB/OHIO STATE) – Apple is a long, rangy corner that plays physical. Dolphins GM Mike Tannenbaum drafted Darrelle Revis in the top 15 in the 2007 draft and he will look to replicate that success here.

14. OAKLAND RAIDERS: SHAQ LAWSON (DE/CLEMSON) – Lawson is a productive pass rusher and run stopper that can play on the interior and on the edge. He would definitely make plays opposite Khalil Mack. Don’t forget Mario Edwards is a question mark while he rehabs from his neck injury and Aldon Smith is suspended.

15. TENNESSEE TITANS: TAYLOR DECKER (OT/OHIO STATE) – Plays nasty and will protect Mariota for the next five years at least. Can play on both sides as well.

16. DETROIT LIONS: SHELDON RANKINS (DT/LOUISVILLE) – Still recovering from losing Ndamukong Suh and Haloti Ngata is on his last legs. Rankins is a fit at the three-technique and will help out Ziggy Ansah.

17. ATLANTA FALCONS: LEONARD FLOYD (LB/GEORGIA) – Floyd stays in the Peach State and sparks the Falcon’s pass rush. He’s a tweener but Dan Quinn will figure out where to play him.

18. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: RYAN KELLY (C/ALABAMA) – The Colts have a need at center and love Kelly who was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide. He’s got experience in a pro-style offense and should be in sync with Andrew Luck.

19. BUFFALO BILLS: A’SHAWN ROBINSON (DT/ALABAMA) – Another Alabama player goes off the board. Robinson is a massive man that can eat up blocks and could learn a lot from Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams. Key piece for Rex Ryan’s scheme.

20. NEW YORK JETS: NOAH SPENCE (LB/EASTERN KENTUCKY) – Spence has a high ceiling and can be productive in the Todd Bowles system when it comes to the edge. You have to hit Tom Brady again and again to win the AFC East.

21. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: LAQUON TREADWELL (WR/OLE MISS) – This would be a great value pick for Washington. There’s not a lot of size at the wideout position on the Redskins roster and in Jay Gruden’s west coast offense, a possession target is key.

22. HOUSTON TEXANS: WILL FULLER (WR/NOTRE DAME) – The run on receivers begins. The Texans know they have to surround Brock Osweiler with weapons and Fuller can take the top off the defense. This will dictate safety coverage between him and DeAndre Hopkins. Pick your poison.

23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: JOSH DOCTSON (WR/TCU) – In my opinion, it’s between Doctson and Treadwell when you’re talking about the best receiver in the draft. Doctson will make his money in the red zone. Pair him up with Stefon Diggs and watch Teddy Bridgewater work.

24. CINCINNATI BENGALS: COREY COLEMAN (WR/BAYLOR) – Yes, that’s four wideouts in a row. The Bengals need to get Andy Dalton help now that Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are gone. Coleman doesn’t have a lot to offer as far as route running but he’s got pure speed.

25. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: WILLIAM JACKSON III (CB/HOUSTON) – The Steelers get a big, physical, and fast cornerback they’ve been longing for in Jackson. He will have to learn fast by covering A.J. Green and Steve Smith Sr.

26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: GERMAIN IFEDI (OT/TEXAS A&M) – Ifedi is a dark horse pick and the Seahawks have a huge need at offensive tackle. Word around the league is Seattle has a lot of interest in him.

27. GREEN BAY PACKERS: REGGIE RAGLAND (LB/ALABAMA) – Clay Matthews can move back to the outside while Ragland steps in at middle linebacker. He already knows the 3-4 defense from his two years with Nick Saban.

28. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: ROBERT NKEMDICHE (DT/OLE MISS) – Andy Reid has a track record for drafting defensive linemen in the first round. He takes a shot on Nkemdiche here despite the character issues. See Marcus Peters (2015 Draft).

29. ARIZONA CARDINALS: ARTIE BURNS (CB/MIAMI) – This may be a reach but I’m hearing the Cardinals will target a defensive back in the first round. Burns is physically gifted with long arms and is will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. His mother passed away last October which was the main factor in Burns leaving Miami for the NFL.

30. CAROLINA PANTHERS: KARL JOSEPH (S/WEST VIRGINIA) – Joseph is a beast. Plain and simple. The Panthers have one of the best front sevens in the league. The only thing missing is an enforcer on the back end. If Joseph can be the same player after the ACL tear, Carolina will reap the benefits.

31. DENVER BRONCOS: CARSON WENTZ (QB/NORTH DAKOTA STATE) – John Elway gets a poor man’s version of himself when he played. Big, mobile, with a strong arm, Wentz fits into Gary Kubiak’s system and has an elite team behind him. His long first-round wait is finally over.

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NFL MOCK DRAFT 2016: PICKS 1-16

  1. TENNESSEE TITANS-LAREMY TUNSIL (OLE MISS/OT): If the Titans didn’t have a franchise QB to protect, Jalen Ramsey would be the pick because he is clearly the best player on the board. But Tunsil is the best left tackle in the draft and will give Marcus Mariota peace of mind.usa-today-9030597.0
  2. CLEVELAND BROWNS-CARSON WENTZ (NORTH DAKOTA STATE/QB): I’ve been complaining about the Carson Wentz hype train for months but he will most likely be the first QB taken no matter how small a school he is coming from. Hue Jackson desperately needs a quarterback that is the polar opposite of Johnny Manziel and he finds that guy in Wentz who will definitely go through growing pains.NCAA Football: FCS Championship-Jacksonville State vs North Dakota State
  3. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS-JALEN RAMSEY (FLORIDA STATE/DB): Simply the best player in the draft when you look at the natural talent and versatility. Ramsey automatically makes the Chargers secondary better, being able to replace Eric Weddle at safety or playing corner opposite Jason Verrett. This is a home run pick for San Diego.os-fsu-jalen-ramsey-start-cornerback-20150318
  4. DALLAS COWBOYS-MYLES JACK (UCLA/LB): The Cowboys have holes in their front seven with Greg Hardy out of the picture, Randy Gregory suspended, and Rolando McClain may not return. Myles Jack can play any linebacker position and learn from Sean Lee who can’t seem to stay healthy. Jack is a safe pick.jack-myles-92415-usnews-getty-ftr_xof0roe3nbnn1eir0xmwdpixp
  5. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS-DEFOREST BUCKNER (OREGON/DE): Gus Bradley adds a physical specimen and the Pac-12 DPOY to his front while getting a healthy Dante Fowler back. Buckner to me, is a better prospect in Joey Bosa.deforest-buckner-848a5a323d138081.jpg
  6. BALTIMORE RAVENS-JOEY BOSA (OHIO STATE/DE): This is great value and a solid fit for the Ravens defense. Bosa can play the 5-technique at defensive end and could help revitalize Terrell Suggs. This piece could bring back the vintage Ravens defense of old.joey-bosa-breaking-through-line-bf40c8294940b0f7.jpg
  7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS-VERNON HARGREAVES (FLORIDA/CB): Something tells me Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly won’t do what many experts are predicting and that’s draft the QB in their own backyard. The 49ers passed on Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and they’ll pass on another Cal Bear in Jared Goff. I love Vernon Hargreaves and he can be a lock down corner for an unimpressive San Francisco secondary. (But Goff is a no-brainer)maxresdefault
  8. MIAMI DOLPHINS-SHAQ LAWSON (CLEMSON/DE): Olivier Vernon could definitely be chasing the money elsewhere and Cameron Wake isn’t getting any younger. Take Lawson and let him rush the passer one-on-one while Ndamukong Suh pushes the pocket.320151207124927000
  9. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS-RONNIE STANLEY (NOTRE DAME/OT): The Bucs protected Jameis Winston fairly well last season but you can always improve. Ronnie Stanley is right behind Laremy Tunsil when it comes to the best offensive tackles. Winston will have a blindside protector for at least four to six years.maxresdefault.jpg
  10. NEW YORK GIANTS-NOAH SPENCE (EASTERN KENTUCKY/LB): This is a wild card pick and the Giants may take a gamble because they literally have no pass rush. Jason Pierre-Paul is on the way out and the New York was third-word in sack production last year. Spence may have some off the field red  flags but he can get after the QB.Noah_Spence_01_2015_10_08_vs_TTU_.jpg.jpg
  11. CHICAGO BEARS-DARRON LEE (OHIO STATE/LB): The Bears are going into their second year running Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense and Lee showed out at the combine. He ran 4.47 and can match up with running backs as well as bring pressure. It’s all about how many things you can do in the NFL.crazy-tackle.jpg
  12. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS-ROBERT NKEMDICHE (OLE MISS/DT): Is this a risky pick? Probably so. But when you evaluate pure talent, Nkemdiche could easily be going in the top-five if not for his off the field incident. The Saints defensive line on paper looks atrocious besides Cameron Jordan who needs help.ole-miss-defensive-lineman-robert-nkemdiche.jpg
  13. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES-MACKENSIE ALEXANDER-(CLEMSON/CB): The Eagles did not get their money’s worth with Byron Maxwell and can take a shutdown type of corner in Alexander.AAPJFSDKGJSBTXP.20151103184859
  14. OAKLAND RAIDERS-JACK CONKLIN (MICHIGAN STATE/OT): Definitely not a “sexy” pick but Donald Penn is not giving Reggie McKenzie a discount and Derek Carr needs the protection he got last season if the Raiders want to win. Conklin is a nasty mauler and keeping Carr safe is a bigger priority than fixing the secondary at this point.maxresdefault.jpg
  15. LOS ANGELES RAMS-JARED GOFF (CALIFORNIA/QB): The Rams prevent Goff’s agent from having a heart attack with this choice. I believe Goff is the best QB in this class and this is not a bad spot when you can hand the ball off to Todd Gurley. Not to mention LA is a pretty sweet city to live in. Goff stays in a blue and yellow uniform.goff-jared-09192015-us-news-getty-ftr_17vy4gug61xw81vf2t6buxk3x1.jpg
  16. DETROIT LIONS-LAQUON TREADWELL (OLE MISS/WR): Calvin Johnson isn’t happy in Detroit as we wait on an official retirement. Laquon Treadwell might as well be a poor man’s version of Megatron. Not a burner but can high-point the ball and be a danger in the red zone. Matt Stafford, you’re welcome.dallas-cowboys-2016-draft-laquon-treadwell-film-review-2.jpg

NFL DRAFT 2014: MY TOP 5 SAFETIES

Game changing safeties are rare and special in the NFL. The ability to be a ball hawk that can read the quarterback’s eyes but also impacting the run defense is a combination scouts are paid to find in draft prospects. In 2014, experts are debating between two players that are competing to be the first safety taken off the board.

1. CALVIN PRYOR (LOUISVILLE) 5-11/207

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Calvin Pryor hits like the late Sean Taylor. I have not seen a safety bring that much contact in a while, especially out of a 5-11 frame. He can play free safety or strong safety and plays with great instinct. His coverage will improve in time but I have seen some splash plays from Pryor in the secondary. The only red flag is the amount of aggressiveness he brings with his hits. It is clear that he will be called for unnecessary roughness and helmet to helmet contact by referees. Those hits will also take a toll on his body but if he can learn to play within the rules, his career will last long.

2. HA HA CLINTON-DIX (ALABAMA) 6-1/208

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For some reason I don’t trust Alabama defenders as pros. There are some good ones…but there are some really bad ones (see Rolando McClain). Maybe it’s because these players come from a star-studded defense in college and make each other look better than what they really are. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may prove me wrong and he is the top safety on many experts’ rankings. He is rangy and athletic with a lanky build but he isn’t afraid to tackle. Clinton-Dix will lead with his shoulder at times which can cause injuries and is overly aggressive so he may be fooled by misdirection plays. Overall, he is coming out of a Nick Saban defense and should be fine with defensive Xs and Os, plus his ball skills are above average.

3. JIMMIE WARD (NORTHERN ILLINOIS) 5-11/193

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Last year we saw Johnathan Cyprien (Florida International) represent a small school and still be drafted way higher than many thought. In 2014, we may witness Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois be taken in the first round. Don’t be surprised. Ward is a wiry and aggressive strong safety that can help in run support but also stay on top of receivers. He has logged many starts during his college career and finished 2013 with 95 tackles and seven interceptions, one of those picks went 62 yards for a score against Purdue. Stats and big plays against big competition have made Ward’s stock skyrocket in the past week.

4. LAMARCUS JOYNER (FLORIDA STATE) 5-8/184

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Lamarcus Joyner is a poor man’s Tyrann Matheiu. Joyner was an elite defensive back recruit that is scrappy and plays with special instincts. His intangibles are traits that coaches will fall in love with but what they won’t be fond of is his size. At 5-8 he is a tiny safety that won’t be able to go up with the big body receivers but he can carve out a career like a Bob Sanders who was productive at strong safety for years. With that said, being that small will cause more damage to his body over time. Bottom line, Joyner is a steal in the mid rounds and will fight for playing time.

5. DEONE BUCANNON (WASHINGTON STATE) 6-1/211

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NFL-sized safety with big hit radius. Compares to Brian Dawkins and has that crazy look in his eye that will intimidate receivers after the first time he contacts them. Have not seen him truly excel in coverage so that will drop his stock. Put him at strong safety and you basically have an extra linebacker roaming around. Three-time captain shows that he is a trusted teammate and loves the game. Started all 13 games in his last season and led the team in special teams tackles. Bucannon will have to earn his spot on a squad first by covering kicks.

NFL DRAFT 2014: MY TOP 5 CBs

Finding a shutdown corner in the NFL Draft is a science. The receivers in the game today are so dynamic, explosive, and talented that the players who will be covering them have to almost be an identical mirror image, physically. This draft class is not only deep in wideouts but there are also gifted athletes at the cornerback position.

1. KYLE FULLER (VIRGINIA TECH) 6-0/190

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Like fellow draft guru Mike Mayock, I do not have Darqueze Dennard or Justin Gilbert ranked as the top guy at the cornerback position. Watching Kyle Fuller’s film is a treat because his game is made up of both Gilbert and Dennard’s strengths. Fuller can play man to man, zone, hit hard, and also closes on the ball excellently. Alabama QB A.J. McCarron said Fuller was the best DB he played against this season. Comes from a football family and loves the game. I believe his size is adequate and he uses his eyes well in coverage. This player can potentially play 6-7 years at corner and move to safety like Charles Woodson. His versatility will absolutely upgrade any NFL secondary and I expect him to go earlier in the first round than most experts predict.

2. JUSTIN GILBERT (OKLAHOMA STATE) 6-0/202

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If you want a flashy cornerback, meet Justin Gilbert. I like him more than Dennard because I believe Gilbert brings more to the table. Besides playing defense he is an explosive kick returner, taking six kicks to the house during his college career. Gilbert led the Big 12 in interceptions with seven and two of those picks went for scores. Gilbert is a fluid athlete with loose hips who can change direction easily, making man to man coverage a plus for him, especially against the deep ball. He is a pure cover-corner and is not a player to trust in run support or against the screen game. Despite those flaws, he will make his money taking the ball away and Gilbert’s ball skills are elite.

3. DARQUEZE DENNARD (MICHIGAN STATE) 5-11/199

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The 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner is a serious lockdown corner that fits a physical, pressure-packed defensive scheme. Leave Dennard one on one with a receiver and watch him work. He has long arms and brings the boom anytime he makes contact, forcing incomplete passes consistently. Dennard plays with confidence like great corners do and has been ranked as the consensus No. 1 DB in this draft. Here are my issues with Dennard’s game and they are not huge red flags. He plays sticky coverage which is a strength but grabs a lot and knocks hands down when he doesn’t even have to. When the ball is thrown, especially deep, Dennard’s head won’t be looking at the ball but he is usually caught with his back turned. This is an equation for defensive pass interference and in the NFL, it’s a well known penalty we see A LOT. At the end of the day, Dennard will be a solid starter for years to come but he won’t be taking interceptions to the end zone very much.

4. JASON VERRETT (TCU) 5-10/189

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I’m in love with this kid’s game and think he is a sleeping giant while many scouts pick at his “small frame”. At 5-10 and barely 190 pounds Jason Verrett isn’t close to being Richard Sherman but he plays bigger than he looks. He knows how to read and react, undercut routes, and is basically a natural at covering wideouts. Verrett can be lined up in the nickel and cover deadly slot receivers while also being able to blitz the QB in a flash. Came back to TCU for his senior year so he could earn his degree and is a former JUCO transfer from Santa Rosa, CA. Bottom line, he’s had to work for his time on the gridiron and will do the same at the next level. Verrett has battled injuries and must prove durability but I like his upside. Earned Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors after shutting down the conference’s best receivers (CHECK OUT THE FILM VS BAYLOR ALL-AMERICAN ANTWAN GOODLEY, 1 REC, 12 YARDS). Can he go head to head with Megatron? At his size, most likely not. Compares to a small, tough corners like Cortland Finnegan and Brent Grimes.

5. BRADLEY ROBY (OHIO STATE) 5-11/194

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Bradley Roby was arrested recently and pleaded guilty to having physical control over a motor vehicle while being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This incident of course will bring Roby’s stock down even though he has obvious first round talent. He is a gifted athlete with elite speed (4.39 40-yard dash) and his agility helps him break to the ball. Consistency and focus is a problem for Roby and his worst game came against Wisconsin when receiver Jared Abbrederis obliterated him for over 200 yards.  The 2013 season was up and down for Roby and that to me is a red flag. The talent and skill set is there but can Bradley Roby be a true professional in the NFL?

 

NFL DRAFT 2014: MY TOP 5 ILBs

Inside linebackers have evolved in the NFL from larger, hard-hitting players to smaller, quicker, and more agile playmakers. As speed has increased at every position on offense, the defense has also had to adjust. Value in drafting an inside linebacker depends on how dynamic they are. Can this prospect play fro 1st down to 3rd down? Can he efficiently put the defense in the right formation and give the correct signals? If these traits aren’t checked off the list and a team reaches for a middle linebacker early in the 1st round, it’s definitely a wasted draft pick.

1. C.J. MOSLEY (ALABAMA) 6-2/234

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C.J. Mosley is a plug and play starter once he is drafted. He has played in Nick Saban’s diverse defense since being a true freshman and has not looked back. Experts say he has more of a narrow build but I don’t worry about that. 234 pounds is not tiny and Mosley uses his speed, agility, and keen anticipation to make plays in the backfield. One flaw he must correct ASAP, is shedding blocks. There were many times on tape I saw him get stuck on a block and essentially disappeared off the play. He will have to go head to head with stronger offensive linemen at the next level but I expect his game preparation to help him succeed. Mosley is the consensus No. 1 linebacker because he can play all three downs due to his pass coverage ability.

2. SHAYNE SKOV (STANFORD) 6-2/245

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Time and time again, Shayne Skov has made big plays in big games. Check out the tape vs Oregon in 2013 when Stanford upset the Ducks 26-20 but with the leadership of Skov on defense, the Cardinal had shut out Oregon’s high octane offense in the first half. Skov is an elite run stopper. He has excellent football IQ and is a vocal leader who leads with his character by example. Scouts note that ever since coming back from three leg surgeries (ACL, MCL, tibia), he has not had the same explosiveness. I disagree. Yes, his 2012 season was a step down from his usual play because his legs were getting acclimated to the game after rehab. At this moment, I believe he can be a 3-down inside backer, earn his spot in training camp, and eventually become a starter for years to come.

3. CHRIS BORLAND (WISCONSIN) 5-11/248

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Mike Mayock has this kid ranked second to Mosley but I have him third. He is a shorter inside backer at 5-11 and I don’t think that’s a big deal. Chris Borland is low to ground and bulky in frame, weighing close to 250. Having short arms (29 inches) is a red flag since he will have to shed blocks against linemen who can extend much longer than him. Borland was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year and racked up 112 tackles in 12 starts. He has totaled 50 tackles for loss in his career but will probably be a liability in pass coverage. Mid-round pick that will have to prove himself first on special teams.

4. MAX BULLOUGH (MICHIGAN STATE) 6-3/249

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Two-time captain with great football character who was born into a football family. Bullough’s father, grandfather, and two uncles all played at MSU. But coaches will ask why was he suspended before the Rose Bowl this past season (undisclosed). On the field, Bullough has the physicality and intangibles to lead a defense with seasoning. Not as explosive as you would like and is a bit stiff in the hips. Bullough is somewhat of an “old school” linebacker. Did not have to play zone coverage much in the Michigan State scheme.

5. PRESTON BROWN (LOUISVILLE) 6-1/251

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Maybe Preston Brown should surpass Bullough in these rankings but for now he is at No. 5. Brown is 2-down thumper who shows explosiveness to the ball and brings good contact. Brown was a three-year starter for Louisville and has a nice frame at 251 pounds and 33-inch long arms. This gives him the power to hit and also wrap up ball carriers. But just like these lower ranked backers, he does not excel in pass coverage. If he can improve on that aspect and show he can cover dynamic tight ends, he will be able to play for an NFL defense.

NFL DRAFT 2014: MY TOP 5 OLBs

This year’s crop of outside linebackers have the potential to be game changers. Explosiveness and the ability to rush the passer are what NFL scouts look for. This group definitely has that skill set and should be taken by the third round.

1. KHALIL MACK (BUFFALO) 6-3/251

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Some experts believe Khalil Mack is a better prospect than Jadeveon Clowney. He reminds me of Von Miller coming out of Texas A&M who was a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker. Mack would preferably be more productive in a 3-4 scheme being able to rush the passer and also drop in coverage. He has a high motor and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He hasn’t always been the anointed, elite prospect since high school a la Clowney. The only thing that scares me is that he did not consistently play against top competition but he did show his raw talent against Ohio State this past season.

2. ANTHONY BARR (UCLA) 6-5/255

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This former running back turned outside backer is an imposing figure at 6-5 and 255 pounds. Anthony Barr is still rough around the edges but he showed enough at UCLA to be a top 10 pick. What stands out is his closing speed and agility which helps him wreak havoc in the backfield. Stand him up in a 3-4 defense and turn him loose. Barr is still improving as a run defender but that will come with time. His running back days definitely give him a natural burst off the snap that is a plus. Bottom line, in three more seasons Barr can end up being the best outside linebacker coming out of this draft class.

3. KYLE VAN NOY (BYU) 6-3/243

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Put on Van Noy’s tape and you will witness an instinctive and explosive linebacker who knows how to bring down the ball carrier at all costs. His reaction skills are elite even though some scouts think his athleticism is not at the standard as some of the other prospects. I disagree. Van Noy can reads offenses well and can stop the run while being savvy in pass coverage. He earned even more respect by returning for his senior season and battled late season injuries to keep playing, an absolute leader on defense. Van Noy is a mid-round sleeper who will make an NFL team with no problems.

4. RYAN SHAZIER (OHIO STATE) 6-1/237

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Ryan Shazier looks like a safety but hits like a backer. He is undersized and his frame is leaner than most at his position. Despite his size, he makes plays and uses speed to get to the ball. Reminds me of Lavonte David who has been productive for Tampa Bay so far in his young career. David also has acceleration and burst which helps him blitz with ease through any gap. We will see how tough he is at the next level where blockers are much larger and more physical. Shazier’s stock has been soaring because of his impressive combine and pro day numbers.

5. MARCUS SMITH (LOUISVILLE) 6-3/251

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Marcus Smith played quarterback in high school before converting to linebacker as a true freshman. Smith is raw and is a definite sleeper because of his pass rush ability. Racked up 14.5 sacks in 2013 and projects to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. His QB experience has helped him on the other side of the ball and must be coachable since he did change positions. Must get stronger to go against NFL offensive linemen so he may start out as a situational pass rusher. In this day and age, it doesn’t hurt to have a few of those on your depth chart.

NFL DRAFT 2014: MY TOP 5 DEFENSIVE TACKLES

1. AARON DONALD (PITTSBURGH) 6-1/285

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Put Donald at the 3-technique in a 4-3 front and you have a disruptive force a la Warren Sapp. He excels at leverage and a first step to penetrate inside the trenches. Quick enough and strong enough to hit the gap while using his hands violently. Yes, he is undersized at 285 pounds but that should not discount his strength at all. Bottom line, the kid has a motor and is deceptively athletic who is skilled at stopping the run. Aaron Donald also has upside rushing the passer because he already has sound technique and can afford to bulk up.

2. TIMMY JERNIGAN (FLORDA STATE) 6-2/299

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Jernigan is another prospect that I think would fare well as a 4-3 defensive tackle. He’s a bit bigger and thicker than Aaron Donald but still has good quickness. Does a good job of using his hands and shedding blocks while controlling the line of scrimmage. One knock is that he is still raw after starting his first season full time in 2013. I see him get driven back at times when he is head up on the center so nose tackle is probably not the best fit for him. Finally, he must learn more pass rush moves or he won’t be on the field every down.

3. RA’SHEDE HAGEMAN (MINNESOTA) 6-6/310

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Now here is a big man that can be a versatile fit on the defensive line with the right coaching. His size and frame allow him to be  3-4 defensive end or a 4-3 defensive tackle. Hageman can even be a nose tackle if he adds just a little bit more weight. I like that he has a nasty attitude to his game and puts an emphasis on finishing a sack or tackle. Hageman has a knack for getting after the quarterback and has a high ceiling for improvement. Physical specimen that has to polish up on his technique and use his hands much more.

4. STEPHON TUITT (NOTRE DAME) 6-6/304

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Tuitt has playmaking upside that could definitely boost his stock before the draft. He carries 300 pounds nicely on his frame and is explosive off the snap. Played defensive end in a 3-4 scheme at Notre Dame but can probably shift inside to the 3-technique at defensive tackle. You can see that he loves the art of pass rushing so he is not just a run stopper. The key is being consistent and accountable which was a problem for him in 2013. If a coaching staff can mold his combination of power, quickness, and range, Tuitt will be a absolute factor.

5. LOUIS NIX (NOTRE DAME) 6-2/331

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The first thing you notice about Louis Nix is his huge size. His frame allows him to fit in at nose tackle in a 3-4 defense by anchoring down and taking on double teams. His ability to drive blockers back will automatically improve a run defense. Athletic and moves well for his large size. Most scouts may compare to him to B.J. Raji from the Green Bay Packers. One red flag is post season knee surgery that could cause his weight to creep up.