Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vikings 2016 Mock Draft | Taylor Decker Most Likely First Pick

Taylor Decker Vikings Draft

We are inching closer and closer to the 2016 NFL draft, which will take place next weekend, April 28-30. Here is my final edition of my Vikings mock draft.

Round 1: Taylor Decker/OT/Ohio State- Even with the off season signing of Andre Smith, offensive tackle is still top priority for the Vikings in this draft. The Smith signing along with the return of Phil Loadholt means the Vikings can bring Decker along slowly. Decker is a pass-blocking specialist who could very well be the team's long term answer for Teddy Bridgewater's blind side.

Round 2: Pharoh Cooper/WR/South Carolina- The first two selections of this mock draft don't change much from the previous editions. Cooper is still exactly what the Vikings need, a polished route runner.

Round 3: Jeremy Cash/SS/Duke- This is where this edition of my mock draft starts to shake up a little compared to previous mocks. In my last one, it appeared that it was all but certain that George Iloka was headed to Minnesota. But that didn't happen, so now the Vikings turn to the draft to fill that spot in the secondary next to All-Pro Harrison Smith. Cash is a coverage specialist who fits perfectly as the centerfielder alongside the line of scrimmage skills of Smith.

Round 4: Jatavis Brown/OLB/Akron- At 5'11”, 227 pounds, this is the ultimate definition of the undersized weak side linebacker in a 4-3 zone run scheme. Brown is undersized but about athletic as it gets and plays with tremendous instinct.

Round 5: Roger Lewis/WR/Bowling Green- The Vikings need to come out of this draft with at least two wide receivers they can plug and play now. Lewis is a small-school veteran with a lot of experience. He runs routes well, is a good athlete, and can have an immediate impact at the NFL.   

Round 6: Kieth Marshall/RB/Georgia- Let's take a chance here and go out on a limb, possibly grabbing the long term replacement to Adrian Peterson. Marshall is the full package for a running back. He has size, speed, skill, vision; pass catching, blocking, intelligence. So what in the world is he doing still on the board in round six? Well, he is an injury concern, and he also has an attitude problem. There are some games when he just disappears. If he can grow up and stay healthy, the Vikings will have knocked a grand slam out of the building with this one. 

Round 7A: Conner Wujciak/DT/Boston College- Every team needs rotational depth guys for their line late in the draft. Wujciak plays with a high motor and is just that.

Round 7B: Dom Williams/WR/Washington State- Williams is a project receiver with a high ceiling who could turn into something bigger down the road.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Packers Will Pick a Defensive Tackle in Round One of 2016 Draft

Packers Mock Draft
Well, I wasn't planning on doing a second Packers mock draft this early in 2016, but so much has changed about this franchise since my first set of picks that I decided to produce a second one. All this is subject to the whims and needs of every NFL team, but I'm trying my best to see into the future.

Round 1: Andrew Billings/DT/Baylor- The stunning retirement of B.J. Raji suddenly made nose guard the Packers top priority. Letroy Guion is an okay player, but they need more, and with Mike Pennel facing a four game suspension to start the season, they need A LOT more. Billings is big, strong powerful man in the middle of the field who is hard to take on one on one. Billings would fit perfectly in the Packers scheme.

Round 2: Sterling Shepard/WR/Oklahoma- I originally had Will Fuller in this spot, but he is rising fast, really fast. So is Shepard, out of the third round and into the second. Shepard has straight line speed and is a burner over the top, which as I have harped on 48 million times, is something this offense simply can not go without.

Round 3: Dominique Alexander/ILB/Oklahoma- I still like the undersized but athletic Alexander in this spot for the Packers. He brings desperately needed speed, athleticism, and coverage skills to a linebacking unit that badly needs them.

Round 4A: Jason Fanalka/DE/OLB/Utah- The Packers grab the fast rising Jason Fanalka out of Utah, a college defensive end who translates extremely well to the next level as an rush linebacker in a 3-4 zone stunt.

Round 4B: Daniel Lasco/RB/California- The Packers have Lacy and Starks, one of the best running back combinations in the league. Problem is, they have a big gaping hole in the third spot. Time to fix that. Lasco is a speed demon who is a big play waiting to happen, and would fit perfectly as the third running back in this offense.

Round 4C: Sheldon Day DT/DE/Notre Dame- The Packers need to shore up their defensive line depth in this draft. Day has the explosiveness to play inside or out in this scheme.

Round 5: Ben Braunecker/TE/Harvard- Even with the signing of Jared Cook, the Packers do need to add a tight end at some point in this draft. Braunecker is a smart kid from Harvard who is a skilled blocker.

Round 6: D.J. Reader/DT/LSU- Reader, the biggest defensive lineman in this draft, has off the chart potential. Problem is, he has yet to play up to it. Maybe the Packers can get him to do just that.

Round 7: Kevin Hogan/QB/Stanford- One of the more surprising moves this offseason so far was the Packers losing backup quarterback Scott Tolzien to the Colts. Brett Hundley will slide into the backup role, but the Packers will need to add another quarterback this offseason. Hogan is a highly intelligent winner from Stanford who would fit well.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ted Thompson Is Smarter Than You Think

Ted Thompson Green Bay Packers
We have reached the end of stage one of the free agency period, also known as “stupid season”. This is the time when teams, especially those at the bottom half of the league, with millions in cap room, throw ridiculous amounts of money around at “name” free agents. Most teams participate to some degree. There is one team however, that is known for the exact opposite. That team would be the Green Bay Packers, and their much polarized general manager, Ted Thompson. Over the years, Thompson's approach to the general manager position of the cornerstone franchise of the most popular entertainment commodity in the United States of America is both well known, and has been well documented. Due to his approach, Thompson has picked up many names- “The Gray Vampire”, “The Stone Faced Killer”, “White Fang”, and “CIA Ted” are the four big ones.

The most notable aspect of Thompson's style of running the Packers is his commitment to “draft and develop”. He doesn't just draft and develop. He completely ignores free agency in the process, literally. At one point during his run as the GM, Thompson had a stretch going where he did not sign a free agent from another team for four years. What is his big “free agent” signing so far this offseason? DE/DT Ray Drew, off of Miami's practice squad. This might be completely unfair to CIA Ted though. Every once in a while he does make a free agent signing, and when he does, he hits the jackpot. Charles Woodson went from first round draft bust to first ballot Hall of Fame player in his eight seasons with the Packers. Ryan Pickett was a Rams castoff who was an integral part of the defense that took the Packers to their Super Bowl 45 victory. The career of Julius Peppers was thought to be over two years ago when Thompson swiped him up. Peppers has been an important part of a Packers defense that has returned to its status as one of the league's elite. I prefer to view it as “Thompson makes carefully calculated ventures into the market, and by the time he makes a move, he has covered every possible outcome of that move.”

Personally, I believe Thompson is a bigger player than most people think in free agency. Over the last few years, he has signed Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Brian Bulaga, Mike Daniels, Sam Shields, Morgan Burnett, and Mason Crosby to notable or larger contract extensions. Thompson is not afraid to spend. He would just prefer to spend on players he knows rather than players he doesn't. Think those players I just mentioned wouldn't have been big free agents? Um, Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, had they hit the free agent market, would have been the two biggest free agents in NFL history.

Some people might also ask "Thompson still has 10 million-plus in cap room for this season, why doesn't he spend it on a player or two to get the Packers over the top?" Well, I don't believe any team is that “one player away”. The Atlanta Falcons thought that same thing in recent years when they traded their draft on several occasions for that “one player”. That got them nowhere, and now they are in big cap trouble, craving that cheap young depth they traded away. That 10 million-plus Thompson has in his pocket will get rolled into next season, where he will put it to use, along with the salary cap increase and other freed up money to make his next round of extensions. Next up on the extension block is the entire offensive line minus Bulaga, Eddie Lacy, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, and Jared Abbrederis(Depending on the kind of 2016 seasons all three of them have), as well as Datone Jones, Morgan Burnett, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Micah Hyde, and the much debated tight end Richard Rodgers.

So before you go off complaining about Thompson's strategy, count your blessings as the Packers continue to pile up playoff berths and the occasional Super Bowl.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

NFC North 2016 Roster Moves Required for Teams to Succeed

NFC North Roster Moves
As we dive full on into the off season, I thought it would be a good time to take a look around the NFC North to see what each team's top off season needs are, beginning with the Detroit Lions.

Detroit Lions
What to do about Calvin Johnson. Last time someone checked in with Calvin Johnson, he informed the Lions he intends to retire. Of course, we all know what is really going on. He doesn't want to retire, he is just sick of playing for the Lions. What he really wants is to be released, specifically so he can go play for the Packers and have Aaron Rodgers throwing him touchdown passes. Sorry Calvin, but that pipe dream isn't happening. The Packers draft and develop their own receivers, slowly working them into their complex and extremely complicated system. This is not an easy system to learn, and the Packers are not going to change their system so you can play backyard pitch and catch with Aaron Rodgers. Regardless, the Lions need to get a definite answer from the man so they can make plans one way or the other.

Figure out if they are coming or going: The Detroit Lions are one of those teams that is kind of hanging there, not quite sure if they want to keep on as is, or if they should tear it down, and rebuild. If they choose to keep going, they have a lot of patchwork to do this off season, such as fixing the offensive line and secondary. If they decide to rebuild, they have some interesting assets they could trade for draft choice, most interestingly enough, quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Chicago Bears
Figure out what direction they are going: Much like the Lions, the Bears are one of those teams sitting there, unsure if they should keep on going, or rebuild. There situation though, is a little more obvious than the Lions is. The Bears are about three years overdue for a full rebuild. The question is though; will the Bears 93-year-old owner allow it? If she does, then the Bears have quite a few interesting options to trade, such as wide receiver Eddie Royal, linebacker Parnell McPhee, and even their polarizing quarterback Jay Cutler.

Fix the secondary- Regardless of if they rebuild or not, fixing this secondary is top priority. It's bad, like really bad. Kyle Fuller is the only one who stays, everyone else can pretty much get lost.

Fix the offensive line- The Bears are yet another team with offensive line problems. This seems to be a theme league-wide. Perhaps the league needs to address this in some form as a whole league instead of team by team.

Minnesota Vikings
Fix the offensive line: The Bears and Lions have offensive line problems. The Vikings have big gaping holes in their line. They need one, maybe two new starters at the minimum. A free agent signing on the interior, and then their first round draft choice should be offensive tackle.

Draft another receiver to go with Stefon Diggs: The Vikings found a gold mine in Diggs a year ago when they selected him in the 5th round. Now, they need more. The Mike Wallace experiment failed, and they are expected to cut him in the coming weeks. This should be their second round draft choice as they continue to mold this team into Teddy Bridgewater's team.

Figure out what to do with Adrian Peterson: Adrian Peterson returned with a vengeance, sort of, in 2015, leading the league in rushing. However, many believe the Vikings offense, and team for that matter, are better off without him. They would prefer someone who runs well out of single back, pistol, and shotgun formations. Now here comes the question of the century. What is Adrian Peterson worth in a trade? Honestly, at this moment, I have no clue.