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NFLPA Bowl Day 2 practice recap

The weather was perfect again today, and the field was in great shape. The players still had some shadows to deal with but overall it was a perfect setting to play

NATIONAL

Quarterbacks
-From worst to first, Andrew Hendrix really had a good day today and the best day of the morning group. He hit some really good fade routes and was much more decisive in his decision making. Andrew did bobble one of the center quarterback exchanges, but I’ll give him a pass since he is working with a new center.

-Brandon Bridge showed the crowd why he is a project at the next level. He would make a great pass followed by one off target. He made a great pass over the middle to Cameron and then threw a pick on the next play. All the physical gifts make him an intriguing prospect, but he is still a project and likely won’t hear his name until middle or late day 3. Jameill Showers again had a solid day hitting some nice passes, but his read and accuracy were off.

Running Backs
Again the clear cut best back was Malcolm Agnew, if he can overcome his small stature he might be able to carve out a role on an NFL team. He has a great burst, shows good acceleration, and has good balance. The other two running backs that had some good plays were Ricky Seale and Jahwan Edwards.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
-What a day for Chris Conley; he was like a 7/11 today, always open and feeding us good stuff. He had multiple deep routes where took the top off and made nice over the shoulder catches. In the red zone drill he made a great shoestring catch from Hendrix in the corner of the end zone keeping both feet in bounds.

-The next best receiver was Nick Harwell; he made lots of plays today including a few nice TD catches. He looks like a guy that can find a place playing in the slot on the next level. He has average hands but he was catching the ball in his hands and not letting it get to his pads. He ran a great fade route and caught a TD in the red zone 11s drill, and got both feet in bounds.

-The best Tight End again was Cameron Clear with quite a few catches in traffic. The one play for him that scares me is a ball was thrown high by Bridge (during the red zone 11s) and he gator armed it when he hear d the safety closing in. I know it’s just one play but in the NFL as a tight end you have to be willing to take a shot or two even if your QB hangs you out to dry. Devin Mahina had a nice TD catch in the 11 on 11s as well.

Defensive Line
-In the morning session the guy who had the most “splash” plays was Marcus Rush. He really was using his intelligence and football IQ to beat guys on the edge. There was one sequence where he set up the OT with a speed rush to the outside, then on the next play started the same way then planted his foot and spun back inside. He had a wide open shot at the QB, had that been a game situation he would have had a blind side sack.

-Lean Orr had a couple of good splits of the A gap; his initial burst is really nice. Quayshawne Buckley continues to show he can hold up against the higher quality completion; he had multiple good stops up the middle and he had a pass breakup today. One of the things that really impressed me with Buckley is that as soon as he comes off the field he posts himself right next to the coach and is asking questions. He is making the most of the opportunity of having great coaches at his disposal.

-A guy I don’t remember seeing much from in day one, maybe I just missed it, but that was DeShawn William from Clemson, he had an excellent practice. That definitely changed on day two. He was getting off the ball very quickly and pushing the pocket from the middle. He was using a nice swim move to get past the center and guards.

-LaDarius Owens made a great play in 11s when he didn’t bite and chase the run fake away from him and when the QB went to bootleg his way he was right there. Since it was two hand touch the QB was able to buy some time and throw it away, but in a game that would have been a sack lunch for sure.

Linebackers
In the morning session they were in shorts and pads so it’s a little hard to say which linebackers really did well. They were all playing two hand touch and a lot of a linebacker’s skill has to be there tackling ability. The two players that I kept noticing around the ball the most were Zaire Anderson and D.J. Welter. They both were in the backfield multiple times early on a play and would have made a tackle for a loss. Now, I also take that with a grain of salt because the offensive linemen can’t block the same as full pads. Zaire also made a nice interception in traffic off of Brandon Bridge.

Secondary
-No one in the secondary was consistently shutting down their receiving counterpart. The offense won the battle of skill players all morning long. Al-Hajj Shabazz had a good pass breakup in 11s where he read the QBs eyes and jumped the route to break up the play.

-Chris Dunkley also had a decent day with a pass breakup as well. They had multiple calls on them for interference and there were plenty more that weren’t called. I am interested to see if it is that the wide receivers are better for the National team or if this secondary is weaker. Saturday will tell me a lot about this group.

AMERICAN

Quarterbacks
-Thursday was another unflattering day for the quarterbacks. Cole Stoudt probably had the best day with some good throws to Mario Alford in the individual drills. Cato had some nice passes but he still holds the ball too long and wants to scramble too much.

-Jerry Lovelocke looks like he is out of place, he fumbled a few snaps, his throws were off target, and the offense is stagnant when he is the QB.

Running Backs
-Paul Lasike had another nice day with some good receptions out of the backfield and some nice gains on the ground.

-The show today was stolen by Prince-Tyson Gulley he had an amazing practice. In the 11s he broke off two big gains and was setting up his blocks all day long. He looked like an NFL back on Thursday there was no question about it. He reminded me of an Ahmad Bradshaw type of player, he was catching the ball and running elusively with power and burst.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
-The struggles under center continued to hamper the receivers in the afternoon of day two. This time there were a few bright spots to mention though. Mario Alford really is a guy that I think will play on the next level. They had him running some kick returns and he is so fast it’s unreal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him crack 4.4 on his 40 time. His big knock is his questionable hands, but I haven’t seen anything so far that would have me worried. I cannot recall any balls that he dropped that were catchable.

Kaelin Clay made a nice over the shoulder catch as well. He was the next best receiver besides Alford. Anthony Johnson looks the part; he’s big, long arms, and is fast for his size. The problem is his routes are sloppy and need polishing; he’s had a few drops, and really hasn’t made any terrific plays. I really wish that we would have got to see this receiver group with the other quarterbacks for a little while to see what they can do.

-Brian Volger again had a nice day for the tight ends and has be the most consistent pass catcher from that group.

Offensive Linemen
-The small school guy that I really liked today was Antoine Everett. He played tackle in college but they moved him to guard and that looks to be the future position for him. He has really powerful hands and he won over and over in the individual drills. He had a two play sequence against Hudson were he pancaked him and then stonewalled him on back to back plays.

-Jarvis Harrison had another quality day and was stifling his competition all day long. He beat Botticelli on back to back plays in individual drills as well; he basically stopped him right in his tracks both times.

Defensive Line
-Ethan Farmer had another solid day and he looks like he will be able to play DT or DE on depending on the team he goes to and their scheme. He has a great burst and strength and uses a good variety of moves to get by the offense.

-Cameron Botticelli has a great motor but he seems to rely on the speed rush up the middle too often. He will need to work on adding moves to be effective at the next level. Brock Hekking, Andrew Hudson, and Zack Wagenmann all had some positive plays, but none of them were able to do it consistently.

Linebackers
-The two linebackers that showed the most promise in the afternoon were Damien Wilson and J.R. Tavai. They were both flying around the ball a lot and Tavai had a great pass break up (he was yelled at for making too much contact, but I liked it) he went right for the ball and knocked the receiver in the process.

Secondary
-The best in the secondary seems to be Troy Hill. Terell Floyd had another good day but Hill is the best NFL prospect from the corners. He is being avoided by the QBs and when they come his way he makes them pay. He broke up more than one pass and he plays press coverage well. He has great speed so when he is in press and can look at the QB he can really be a menace.

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NFL Mock Draft

R1 Pick 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Marcus Mariota-QB Oregon
The Bucs have a legit option at WR and now need someone to get Mike Evans the ball. Josh McCown is not the answer and we saw what Evans can do in the scramble drill at A & M. With Mariota’s ability to extend plays when he has to, Evans could flourish next year.  When your picking number one in the draft you have to take a QB if there is one that COULD be a franchise changer like Mariota.

R1 Pick 2 Tennessee Titans
Leonard Williams-DE/DT USC
This is a tricky spot here, I think Winston could be the pick but I’m not sure that the Titans are ready to give up on Mettenburger and he might stay in school. If one the two QB prospects don’t sell themselves as the answer they will go with a pass rusher. Williams is my top DE/DT and can play the run as well as the pass. He is also a tough gritty player who has shown he can play through pain and injuries. He translates well to a 4-3 DE and can slide into the middle for 4-3 teams with their speed packages.

R1 Pick 3 Jacksonville Jaguars
Randy Gregory-DE Nebraska
The Jags could maybe go with a guy like Cooper here to get a stud for Bortles, but it’s a little early and any of the OTs.  The Jags will continue to build on the defense and take an edge rusher that can get after the QB. In a division that only has one franchise QB, getting pressure can win you games. Gregory is the perfect fit for Gus Bradley’s defense as the LEO* position.
*LEO position splits speed rusher at the 5 or 7 technique, need speedy player for this i.e. Gregory, Mingo, Dion Jordan types

R1 Pick 4 Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper-WR Alabama
The Raiders need help with interior pass rush badly, but they can’t take one this high it would be foolish from a value standpoint. David Carr has looked good this year, so getting him a weapon is their next biggest need. Amari Cooper is a stud, and a near can’t miss prospect from the WR position. They can address the pass rush with their next pick, this class is deep.

R1 Pick 5 Washington Redskins
Brandon Scherff-OT Iowa
The Redskins could go with Winston here if Jay Gruden gets his way, but I think RG3 will get one more year. They gave up so much to get him they almost have too. They need to protect RG3 to really see what he can do, Scherff is good in the run and passing game and can play Guard right now if they need him too.  He steamrolls people in the Run game and is an above average pass protector.  That’s what the Redskins need, give the ball to Alfred Morris and let RG3 benefit from some play-action passes.

R1 Pick 6 New York Jets
Jameis Winston-QB FSU
Geno Smith is not the answer at QB and if Marrone left Buffalo because they didn’t have a QB, he’s going to want one (I think he lands the coachig gig here). If one of the two top QBs is staring him in the face at 5 he’ll run to the podium.
Jameis no doubt can play the position on the field and has the killer instinct. Can he handle the distractions off the field of the NFL? That’s the real question, his INTs have been way up this year but I see that as him pressing. Winston to the big apple, there will be fireworks one way or another.  He has all the tools to be an NFL QB, but is he willing to put in the work to become great? That’s where the real questions lie, windows get smaller in the NFL so your reads have to be second nature and instinct.

R1 Pick 7 Chicago Bears
Shane Ray-DE/OLB Missouri
The Bears defense has more holes in it then your grandma’s pin cushion. They will take the BPA on defense for sure this year again. Ray can get after the passer and in a division with Rodgers, Stafford, and now Teddy B they will need to do that to win. He’s an ideal fit for a 4-3 DE and edge rusher.  He has violent hands and attempts to play the run. He is a special prospect, but he has some boom or bust potential.

R1 Pick 8 Atlanta Falcons
Vic Beasley-DE Clemson
The Atlanta pass rush is so bad they need all the help they can get. They couldn’t get to the QB at all this year, Beasley will help with that.
Beasley will need to add some weight to help in the run game he’s not that strong at the point of attack (POA). He can use his speed and be an edge rusher for them and as he adds weight he can turn into a 3 down player. His first step is great so he can turn the corner on the best of OT. He can play OLB or DE for the Falcons.

R1 Pick 9 New York Giants
La’el Collins-OT LSU
When Eli has time to throw he has shown he can win a Super Bowl. When he doesn’t have time he leads the league in INTs. The Giants need to go back to winning in the trenches.
Collins is my top run blocking prospect; he is a road grater. He has gotten much better in the passing game this year and could end up the best OT that comes out of this class. He can slide in to a Guard spot if Beatty and Pugh hold the tackle spots. Pugh has struggled at RT so whoever wins that spot the other can ply Guard until Beatty moves on. La’el Collins will need to work on staying back on his feet a bit, he can get on his toes and overextend at times.

R1 Pick 10 St. Louis Rams
Ronnie Stanley-OT Notre Dame
How many times did Rams QBs get hurt this year, for that matter how many injuries has Bradford had in his career? The Rams need to get better up front for whoever is the QB next year.  With both of the potential franchise QBs off the board they go with someone to protect the QB.
Stanley will shoot up board this year much like Zack Martin did last year. He is a smart player who uses his hands well to pass protect and is versatile to play multiple spots.

R1 Pick 11 Minnesota Vikings
Shaq Thompson-OLB Washington
If I know Mike Zimmer I know he’s going to follow the same strategy that they used with the Bengals to build that roster. Take BPA every time no matter what. My feeling is that he goes with Thomson because of that.
Thompson is a true 3 down LB that can cover, blitz and is a sure tackler. Zimmer will get the most out of him as well.

R1 Pick 12 Cleveland Browns
Devante Parker-WR Louisville
The Browns need a WR badly and after seeing how Josh Gordon has become friends with JFF who knows if he will be back next year either.
Parker is a special talent and has just begun his assent. He has good hands and great size and is one of the best at the stutter step toe drag. It’s a deceptive move that causes many missed tackles over the middle.  He also has great waste bend to allow him to locate the ball easily on downfield route, improving his catch radius.  Below is an example of the toe drag, notice the black pieces of turf that fly up.

http://www.draftbreakdown.com/gif-embed/?clip=254688&gif=GoodnaturedOccasionalAustralianfreshwatercrocodile

R1 Pick 13 New Orleans Saints
Trae Waynes-CB Michigan State
The Saints will likely make their first three picks on the defensive side of the field. They need pass rushers, but that group is deep, so they may wait for later value. They also need CBs badly, especially ones that can tackle and play the run. Waynes can do that and would be an instant starter for them. He’s very similar to Darquese Dennard that came out last year but he’s better at staying in the hip pocket “in phase” defending and less handsy/grabby. He will be a solid starter and will bring some toughness to that squad.

R1 Pick 14 Miami Dolphins
Kevin White-WR West Virginia
The Dolphins need to add some help and a red zone option for Tannehill. Mike Wallace has been a disappointment and quit on the team, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is cut.
Kevin White isn’t fastest guy in the world, but he is definitely fast enough to get behind defenders and let Tannehill sling it deep. He is a great red zone option and win a lot of 50/50 balls with his good combination of size and leaping ability.

R1 Pick 15 San Fransisco 49ers
Marcus Peters-CB Washington
The niners were an incredible disappointment this year, they need major help in the secondary and to replace some of the aging defensive front. Peters is the best CB in the class from a talent perspective, but his issues with the Washington coaching staff will have him slide a bit. There are lots of rumors on what did and did not happen and I’m sure teams will dig around and make their judgement. The niners are not too big on character concerns as you can see with their recent issues, so I think this could be a landing spot.

R1 Pick 16 Houston Texans
Landon Collins-S Alabama
The Texans could go CB or WR here but the best value is at Safety. They have Daniel Manning at safety and DJ Swearinger is cheap shot away from missing time every season.
Collins is good in coverage for a strong safety, that really will help them in the running game too. If his shoulder checks out and he doesn’t have major damage after the game vs OSU he’s a great value here. Teams will reall have trouble with this Houston defense with there strong pass rush and Collins protecting the middle.

R1 Pick 17 San Diego Chargers
TJ Clemmings-OT Pittsburgh
The Chargers really need help on he offensive line it’s the worst position group on the team according to PFF rankings. Both of their guards are horrid and they could use a Tackle as well. Good thing for them is that Clemmings can play both of those positions. He’s versatile and is great in the run game. The Chargers second round pick should be for a RB and they will need someone to pave the way for that back. With Clemmings clearing the way for a new running back this team will be much improved next year.

R1 Pick 18 Kansas City Chiefs
Erik Kendriks-ILB UCLA
The Chiefs can use some help in the middle of their defense. The need someone to help cover the middle with teams like San Diego and Denver that spread them out. Hendricks is not your conventual size for an ILB, but his speed, blitzing ability, tackling, and coverage ability will make him a force in the middle. If you want to see him fly all over the field watch his game vs. Virginia and your see why he will be a hug pick. There is not a WR that is a good value here so they will take the best ILB fit for them in the draft. McKinney is a great player but they need Kendricks speed to handle teams like Denver and San Diego.

R1 Pick 19 Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo)
Alvin “Bud” Dupree-DE/OLB Kentucky
The Browns couldn’t stop anyone on the ground this year and Mingo has been very inconsistent. Bud is the perfect fit for a 3-4 DE and will be able to play OLB too. He is going to crush the combine and race up boards as the draft approaches. I can see him creeping into the top 15. He’s very athletic and that will make him the perfect tweener in the NFL for a 3-4 team.

R1 Pick 20 Philadelphia Eagles
Ronald Darby-CB Florida State
The Eagles need help at secondary badly (see Brandon Fletcher vs Dez Bryant this year). The Eagles will see Dez and now OBJ twice a year now, they need someone to slow them down. Darby has had a really good year and is a physical corner that can play against bigger WR with his strength.

R1 Pick 21 Cincinnati Bengals
Dante Fowler Jr.-DE Florida
The Bengals have had zero pass rush this year and need to improve that area badly. Fowler is a stellar Edge rusher that fits the Bengals 4-3 system perfectly. He will come in and start opposite fellow Gator day 1 and begin to make the Bengals pass rush formidable again.  He will have to work on his play vs the Run but he can come in an be a pass rushing DE and also plat SLB.

R1 Pick 22 Pittsburgh Steelers
Alex Carter-CB Stanford
The Steelers need to add some youth to that secondary with guys like Ike Taylor aging and declining. Carter doesn’t have elite speed but the AFC North is more about how well you can play the run and hold your own at the LOS where he should be fine. None of the AFC North teams real spread it out use tons of speed so he will slide right in to the slot or outside for the Steelers.

R1 Pick 23 Detroit Lions
Malcolm Brown-DT Texas
The Lions won’t even try to retain Nick Fairley and Suh is also a free agent. That vaunted front 7 could have a huge hole up the middle and will need to fill it. Brown is a massive man that can not only get after the passer he can stop the run at 320lbs.  He will not be Suh right away but he definitely has big upside.  He was productive with only average players around him on the defensive line.

R1 Pick 24 Arizona Cardinals
Can Erving-OT/C Florida State
The Cardinals need to give Palmer as much time as possible until they find a long term answer. They also need an edge rusher but no value here and it’s a deep class so they can wait.  Cam was once regarded as one of the top OT prospect coming into this season.  His footwork is subpar so FSU moved him inside and it was a great move for him.  He is a powerful run blocker, he can push the pocket forward, and his footwork is not as crucial “in a phone booth.”  Since he is so versatile, the Cardinals could move him around if injuries strike, or as other players age and his footwork improves.

R1 Pick 25 Carolina Panthers
Ereck Flowers-OT Miami
The Pantheer are much better when they are able to run the ball. This allows Cam to use his big arm in the play action passing game.  Their running back situation is a mess, but lucky for them this class is loaded.  I see them taking a running back in round two like many other teams.  They also need an edge rusher, but there was not really good value here and it’s a deep class so they can wait.  Flowers is a big strong prospect that is elite in the run game now and will continue to improve in the passing game. He has experience at not LT and RT

R1 Pick 26 Baltimore Ravens
Jalen Collins-CB LSU
The Ravens have a major need at CB because Webb has not been able to stay healthy at all. The need someone reliable opposite Jimmy Smith. After how well all the LSU rookies did this year don’t be surprised if players get a boost this year. He is strong and physical so he will fit right in, in the AFC North.

R1 Pick 27 Indianapolis Colts
Eddie Goldman-DT Florida State
The Colts need to get some additional pass rush but there’s no value at that position right now due to the early run. Goldman can help with some interior pass rush and defend the run. Devin Funchess could be an option here but they have two good TEs and he is TE/WR hybrid so might not be what they want.  Goldman will have to work on his consistency at the NFL level because it looks as he can take plays off.  When he is playing well he is a force right in the QBs face.

R1 Pick 28 Dallas Cowboys
Eli Harold-DE/OLB Virginia
The Cowboys defense was surprisingly good this season but they still need to get some help on the edge. Harold is a great pass rusher that will need to work on his ability to get off blocks to help in the run game. For now he can be a strict pass rusher for the Cowboys.  He is very fast and turns the corner with the best of them.  He has a great swim move and waste bend to get under the pads of OT and through them.

R1 Pick 29 Green Bay Packers
Danny Shelton-NT Washington
Ok here’s two picks that they could make and it depends on if BJ Raji leaves. If he does I think this is the pick, since I think he leaves that’s why Shelton. If BJ stays I think they go with a bigger guy like Jordan Phillips to beef up the line. They may also consider an ILB here in Perryman or McKinney.
Shelton is a disruptive guy that’s a great fit for a 3-4 NT that can stuff the run and collapse the pocket.

R1 Pick 30 Denver Broncos
Devin Funchess-WR/TE Michigan
The Broncos have some big weapons that will be FA this offseason. I don’t think they will be able to keep both Demaryous and Julius, so how do you fix that…draft a guy like Funchess and get their replacement. Manning only has a few years left so they have to keep going all in for him with weapons.  Funchess has never had a good QB during his college career so he has some big upside with Manning.  Guarding Denver in the Red Zone will be very difficult with the likes of Thomas, Laitmer, and Funchess.

R1 Pick 31 New England Patriots
Jalen Strong-WR Arizona State
Tom Brady needs some options to throw too besides Gronk. The perfect option is a big physical receiver like Strong. Tom doesn’t have the cannon he used to but he can still get it down the field. The combo of Strong, Gronk, and Wright would be a nightmare in the red zone.  Edelman and Lafell have been ok this year, but having someone to force teams to not double team Gronk will only make him more deadly and protect him from some hits.

R1 Pick 32 Seattle Seahawks
Todd Gurley-RB Georgia
Lynch will be in the last year of his deal and approaching the edge of the cliff soon. They will have the luxury of being able to red shirt Gurley most of the season and use him just for KR to fill the hole Harvin left. Then hand him the keys at the end of the year, or in 2016 depending on Lynch’s performance and attitude.  Gurley has the ideal build for an every down NFL back, he has power, speed, patience, and he hits the hole hard.  Once he’s fully recovered from his ACL injury he will be a real threat.

Make sure you  to for constant updates on NFL Draft prospects and scouting reports.  I try to respond to all resonable questions about prospects and I always enjoy a good debate on prospects or Mock Drafts.  If you don’t have twitter, you should get it, or you can email me at nfldraftlab@gmail.com

I also would like to thank the following people for their incite to specific teams and their overall needs for this and future multi round mocks.  They are great Twitter Draft follows, as well.

Packers: Justin Musqueda 
Jaguars: Blake Grittles 
Titans: Paul Kuharsky 
Bears: Tyler Gross 
Chiefs: Sully 
Jets: Jeff LJ Lloyd 
Raiders: David 
Tampa Bay: Luke Easterling 
Cowboys: John Owning 
Vikings: Arif Hasan 
Steelers: Curt Popejoy 
Dolphins: Ian Wharton 
Cardinals: Shaun Church 

It’s not on Primetime but it matters Bigtime

To say Sunday’s match up vs. Pittsburgh is important is an understatement; it’s the biggest game thus far this Season. Why is this game the biggest game of the the season?  Well, here’s why….it’s the first meeting between the Steelers and the Bengals, they need to get the first head to head win.  The Steelers are 1.5 games back of the Bengals for the AFC North division lead and losing puts them right back in the race.  The Steelers were red hot a few weeks back and everyone thought they were about to run away with the Division. While the Bengals got embarrassed on Thursday night vs the Browns.  Since then, the Bengals gutted out three straight road games and the Steelers lost twice when they were favorites. Now the Bengals are sitting in the drivers seat with complete control of their playoff future, what .

Winning is important, but taking wins from your Rivals is even more important:
It’s important to win games in the NFL, but equally as important is the teams in your division losing games.  The easiest way to make that happen is to do it yourself.  Here is what the division looks like as of right now.

If the Bengals can win they put the Steelers in a terrible position to make the playoffs.  At 7-6 the Steelers will probably have to win out to get the Wild Card spot.  They have to play at Atlanta, vs the Chiefs, and another game against the Bengals.  With how bad the Steelers have looked on the road and two good teams playing them after that I can’t see that happening.  Whats better than putting yourself in good playoff position?  Sticking it to the Steelers two times in three years!


The Wild Card Race is Jam Packed:
There are currently 6 teams all tied for the second wild card position.  There is no way the Bengals can afford to drop back closer to that group.  With road games at Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and a Primetime game vs Denver waiting for the Bengals, they are going to need all the space that they can get.  I don’t want a scenario where Andy and the gang have to go out and beat the Broncos on Monday night, under the lights, to keep their playoff hopes alive.  Andy’s going to have enough pressure on him for that game already, no need to add to that monkey.

The other two AFC North teams are likely to Lose:
The Dolphins are the real deal this year, Tannehill has taken a major step forward and their front four can really get after the QB. The Ravens just lost Ngata for the rest of the regular season due to a PED suspension, as Jason wrote about earlier this week. They just found out on Thursday, so they will have to adjust their gameplan in the middle of the week.  Lamar Miller has been good this season and when you lose your run stuffing NT in a 3-4 defense it hurts immensely.  Going to hot Miami with a shortened defensive line rotation will be a tough task, I think they lose this game.
The Browns are playing the Colts this week, do I really need to go into detail on why they might lose this week?  I am not saying it’s a guaranteed loss this is the NFL, but there is a good chance they lose.  So if the Bengals can win this Sunday all three other teams could get a loss in two straight weeks, giving them a 2.5 games


As the Bengals get healthy they need to capitalize on Pittsburgh’s misfortunes:
Just as the Ravens lost a key defensive lineman, so did the Steelers.  Brett Keisel was just put on IR with a torn muscle, so this defensive front will be lacking veteran leadership.  James Harrison actually strung together a few good games and he is likely out as well.  Troy Polamalu is dinged up and Ike Taylor has looked bad coming back from his arm injury.  The Steelers secondary is old, much like ours, but their secondary is really showing it of late.  The receivers need to attack this group and force them to make plays.  Hue must get Gio in space and both Gio and Hill need to get 15+ touches.  Wear down this aging and shorthanded defense and control the clock.
On the other side of the ball Marcus Gilbert has not been practicing either, if he can’t go that means Mike Adams will will be starting at tackle.  The former 2nd round pick has been a been a human turn-style most of the time during his pro career.  The Bengals need to move Dunlap and Gilberry around to confuse him and give them both better opportunities to pressure Big Ben.


Finish the season with momentum, so that they go into the playoffs with confidence:
If the Bengals can win this game they only will need to win one of their last three games to lock up the division crown. The Ravens would have to go 4-0 to pass the Bengals since the Bengals swept them and I don’t think they will do that. As I mentioned, they need to go into the playoffs with momentum, but they only have to go 1-2 in the final three games.  This takes the pressure off Andy, so we can see more GOOD Andy instead of BAD Andy.  They will then go into Cleveland with revenge and the Division title in their sites, it will motive them to play their best.  Then the games will all line up with no real pressure, but with good motivation each time.  Assuming they win the first two the will have the Broncos at home to play for the first round bye.  If they win that, the have motivation to beat Pittsburgh to keep the bye and go 5-1 in the division.  They can go into the playoffs on a seven game winning streak with a week to get healthier and ready themselves for a showdown in the Jungle to get their first playoff win in over two decades…..Do you BELIEVE????

This game may only count as one win in the standings, but it means much, much more then that.  They can secure a great spot in the division, knock out a division foe, and set the tone for the final quarter of the season.  If you want the bully to stop beating you up and taking your lunch money, you have to go punch him in the mouth and take it back! I fully expect the Bengals to run the ball right at the Steelers and do just that on Sunday.

Week 5 ATS

This year NFL Picks ATS (16-5) 76% winners
Last Week 7-1

Bears @ Panthers
The Bears are a good team; this is an overreaction play here. The Panthers are historically good at home, but they cannot move the ball on offense. The Bears might be beat up on Defense but they can score points and the Panthers defense is giving them up in bunches recently. If I get the better talent and points I am going to take them. The Bears showed they can run the ball last week, and I think the Panthers are calling high school teams to ask if they have any RBs available. When you are one dimensional in the NFL you lose games.

Cody Says: Take the points BEARS (+2.5)
Browns @ Titans
This game is simple for me. Without Locker the Titans are a bad team. The Browns are one of the worst teams in the league against the run but they also have played some good RBs. I think they will stop the run and for the Titans to pass the ball. With two bad teams I will take the one with the better defense and more consistent QB. The Browns will win this game and pretty easily.

Cody Says: lay the points BROWNS (+1)

Steelers @ Jaguars​
The Steelers are not the Steel curtain anymore, but they are not the Jags either. To not have to lay more then a touchdown to a team that hasn’t stayed within double digits of any other team is a blessing. Look for Pittsburgh to be a little pissed off about squandering away a game at home that they should have won. Bell is going to go bananas this week, I don like laying big numbers but less then a touchdown against an 0-4 ATS team…I’ll take that.

Cody Says: Lay the Points STEELERS (-6.5)

Seahawk @ Redskins
The Seahawks are not as good when they are out of the Hawks nest. The Redskins are not a terrible team they did have a bad game last week though. The wheels started rattling and completely came off. They have an extra 3 days to prepare and I don’t put much stock in Thursday night games, just ask the Steelers. I think the Redskins keep it close and I will take the big points.

Cody Says: Take the points REDSKINS (7.5)

Ravens @ Colts
Andrew Luck is the best player in the NFL right now, plain and simple. Neither of these teams excel at running the ball and both defenses have holes. In a shootout I am going to take the best QB, who just happens to be the best player in the NFL. Under Luck the Colts cover nearly 70% at home ATS.

Cody Says: Lay the points COLTS (-2.5)

Cardinals @ Broncos
With both teams coming off the buy this is the Thursday night game right? Oh, that would make too much sense NFL, never mind don’t get me started on that. Both teams come into this game fresh and rested now. This Arizona defense is the real deal, even with all the injuries. How the 3-0 Cardinals are laying more then a touchdown to anyone blows my mind. I am sorry, with two top teams I am going to take a big number every single time. Denver hasn’t been able to run the ball this year, and I don’t think that changes this week. One dimensional team, with no play action threat for Manning I can’t see that leading to a blowout.
Cody Says: Take the points CARDINALS (+8)

All picks officially post on Saturday
http://www.sugarbookie.com

Bengals Player Preview: Victor Hampton

Victor Hampton

Height: 5’9″

Weight: 197 lbs

Age: 22

College: University of South Carolina

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Even the biggest Bengals fans might not know the Victor Hampton story.  Unless you bleed orange and black and love draft prospects, you probably don’t know much about Victor Hampton.  You’re in luck, I happen to be one of those weirdo’s that watches tape of prospects, and fans think lives in my parents basement and eats Totino’s pizza rolls.

As an undrafted free agent, like all of his fellow UDFAs, he is a longshot to make the squad.  He does have one thing on his side, that’s talent.  He is not an UDFA that was not selected because he cant play and is invited to be a camp body.

Hampton has a checkered past and teams passed on him because they didn’t want to use a pick on a guy who might bring a distraction to camp. He even lost his starting job because of poor effort last year, even though he was clearly the most talented cover corner.

If you like Vontaze because he talks trash, well then you will love Hampton, as he is a chatterbox.

Hampton  has great instincts from the CB position and is excellent at tracking the ball in the air.  He needs to work on his consistency in his run support.  He is not big enough to just throw his body at people, which he does, and he rarely wraps guys up.

I wont get into too much detail on his game play he will be one of the UDFA featured in my article that will come out right before camp.  It will go over all of the UDFA with my typical play breakdowns and analysis.  He played in 8 games as a junior totaling 43 tackles and 3 INTs.  He did return some punts for South Carolina last year but didn’t have much success, so I don’t suspect that he will be used in the role for the Bengals.

Its going to be tough for him to crack this lineup at CB, especially with all the 1st rounder’s in front of him.  With Dennard, Jones, Newman, Hall, and Kirpatrick all locks to make the roster, that leave the rest of the guys to fight for likely one roster spot.

It will be quite the uphill battle for all of them.  If Hampton stays out of trouble and shows flashes of his talent, it will come down to him and Westbrooks for the last spot.  He will need to have success in the slot in his preseason games to win the last spot.  That is the best spot for him to backup with his skillset, and his small build wont matter as much against smaller slot receivers.

 

If there is a sting of injuries, look for Hampton to have a real shot at the roster.  A spot could open up if Hall is not fully recovered for the start of camp, let’s hope it is not the case but that could be another way for a spot to open.  Hampton may feel like Sisyphus in camp, but if he keeps putting in work he will at least get a spot on the practice squad, if not picked up by another team.

Video link via gamecocksonline.com

James Wilder Jr. UDFA to Final 53?

James Wilder-RB (FSU)
Height: 6’3” Weight: 232 lbs
40 yard dash: 4.86 Vertical Leap: 32”

Initial Thoughts: He definitely has the talent to be on an NFL roster as the short yardage guy.  The problem is for him they have a vet in BJGE they can keep in that roll with added character and leadership, even if Hill would go down.  He has the look and the NFL bloodline with his dad being a former pro bowl RB with the Bucs.  I see him as an insurance policy in case they lose BGJE, Hill or both in training camp or the pre-season.  He will get his fair share of touches in the pre-season though. I assume the Bengals will have their mind made up on BGJE at that point and will be protecting Hill for the long haul by limiting his workload.  His combine measureables are not great, but are what were expected.  Chances to make the team barring no injuries in 2014 about 5%, chances for the practice squad are 100%; unless he gets arrested.  Even if they let BJGE go they will likely go with Burkhead and Peerman.  I think they see if he can keep his nose out of trouble while learning the offense in 2014.  He will be the short yardage backup to hill in 2015 and I give him a 75% of making the final 53 next year.

Strengths: He has the NFL back and looks the part. He has a strong build, and was used sparingly at FSU (only about 225 carries all time).  Possesses a great stiff arm and well balanced for a guy his size.  Stays behind his pads and absorbs contact well, does well at breaking tackles and getting YAC.  High upside possibility and low risk for the Bengals, could be a good battering ram in the future.  He does well at pushing the pile with his leg strength and drive.  With his body type and attributes he is a perfect between the trees type of runner, when he stays north/south he excels.  Averaged 7 YPC in 2013, but was stuck behind Freeman on the depth chart, who was drafted in the 4th round.

Weaknesses: Not very elusive, doesn’t really have the foot speed to string moves together.  This causes him to have to slow down to make his cuts, which allows him to get caught from behind at times.  Not a shake you guy has to use the stiff arm or absort the hit and keep his feet moving to break tackles.  Character concerns are obvious; he was arrested multiple times at FSU.  Lets his pad level get to high, running upright will cause him to get stood up in the NFL and increase his risk of injury when taking big shots to the midsection.  He has had durability issues and this is the main reason.  He didn’t get a pass thrown to him in the limited tape I had access too.  In his combine tape he chest catches almost all of the passes, when he has pads on this will certainly lead to drops.

Key plays vs Miami:
1) Sees opening in the B gap early on and disregards his lead blockers to the A and C gap shoots the gap.  The hole quickly closes in front of him since he has no blocker so eat up the LB approaching.  He lowers his pads and absorbs the contact, keeps his balance, and keep his feet churning for the TD. (0:18)
2) Good read of the play, correctly follows his blocker and has a huge opening.  Unfortunately he gets his foot tripped up by the LT and falls for a short gain.  (0:52)
3) Great sweep run, uses a stiff arm to stop the would be tackler.  He keeps his feet and dives for the pylon to get the TD. (1:15)
4) Winston fumbles the snap and he alertly notices this and runs back over to place a block for Winston and buy him some time.  (2:08)

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NFL Draft Scouting Report; Russell Bodine Project or Potential Starter

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Russell Bodine
HT: 6’3″ WT 310 Lbs
Pos: C/OG
School: North Carolina
Arm Length: 32 1/2″
Hands: 10″
40 yd dash 5.18 sec
Bench Reps: 42
Vert: 29.0″
Broad Jump: 109.0 INCH
3 Cone: 8.26 SEC
20 yd shuttle: 4.66 sec

Initial Thoughts:
I think that most Bengals fans, if not all of them, wanted this team to find a better option than Kyle Cook before the 2014 season. Kyle had his flash in the pan season, but those days have come and gone. Recently he has been more like one of those revolving doors in the Chiquita center, than he has been an NFL linemen. In the end he was not strong, or big enough to get any push on the mammoth NTs that he went up against in the AFC North.

We all knew the solution would have to come in the draft; it’s not in this team’s typical workings to make a splash in free agency. This year’s draft class was talked about as being thin at the Center position, and I was worried that would cause a real issue for the Bengals. The top Centers would most certainly be over drafted, the buzz about the top Centers was at a quiet roar by draft week. The Bengals did the right thing and waited for a guy that they liked to fall in their lap. They had a third round grade on Russell Bodine and Paul Alexander really, really wanted this guy. As he slid into the middle part of the forth they traded up to get their guy. They had an extra sixth round pick and with this roster that pick was unlikely to make the final 53 anyway. According to the Bengals draft board, it was a good value to move up, but questions remain for Paul Alexander. Can he harness this incredibly strong, but raw man-beast and turn him into a road grater?

Strengths:
He is incredibly weight room strong he had the max bench reps with 42 at the combine. He is a high character player with no red flags, went to a military academy. Bodine embraces the role of being one of the “Big Uglies” in the trenches. He is not afraid to mix it up and protect his teammates, has a nasty streak and plays through the whistle. He has the ideal size for an NFL lineman, is a big barrel chested man with great speed for his size. Workout warrior, he had top marks at the combine for bench press and vertical leap. No real injuries in his history, he is durable and tough (I saw his leg/ankle get rolled up on in a game, he missed a play and went back in). He is great at getting to the second level but struggles to connect on those blocks. He has a strong plant to stop the initial push from DT, seals off well in the running game for backside runs. He is a versatile player that can play G or C if needed, although I think the Bengals see him as only a Center for this year. Has experience in running silent snap counts, which is a critical asset in todays NFL thanks to Peyton Manning. Is better in a man blocking scheme then he is in a zone blocking scheme, he is a smart player so I think he just needs to be coached up here.

Weaknesses:
He lacks ideal agility, struggled with his cone drill times at the combine (slowest 3 cone time). He doesn’t use his size to his advantage as much as he could, settles with the cut block too often. Can let his pad level get to high and get push off the point of attack. Overextends himself and loses leverage on the play. Sticks to his block a little to long sometimes leaving his guards with no secondary help. When he has to move a lot getting to the second level for screen plays and pulling for sweep plays, his poor mechanics cause missed blocks. Lacks ideal recognition of who he should be blocking on the second level when reading the defense.

Key plays vs. Boston College:
1) He completely whiffs on his block and gives up a sack 3:45 (2nd play Breakdown below)
2) Get’s out well on the screen play, but misses the block downfield that would have sprung the TD (5:00) (1st play breakdown below)
3) He makes a good block to lead the run play and pushes the DT off the POA. He finishes the block by driving him into the ground. (5:45) (3rd play breakdown below)
4) He does a good job of selling the run then getting out on the screen, but misses his block on the second level. This is unfortunately something that recurs in his tape and something the Bengals need him to do well. (7:14) (4th play Beakdown below)
5) He pulls with the guard but misses his block and runs over his own guy (7:43)
6) He makes a good weak side seal on the play and allows the QB to escape the pocket for positive yardage. (7:53)
7) He holds his block and seals the DT to the strong side alley, allowing the run play to develop behind him for the TD. (8:20)

2) Screen play breakdown that uses the Silent snap count

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1) Missed block that causes a sack breakdown

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3) Bodine wins the POA on the run play

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4) Bodine smoke screen play breakdown

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Key plays vs. Virginia Tech:

1) He pulls left to lead the run sweep and connects on the block knocking the defender down. (1:07) (gif below)
2) He gets beat to the outside of his block, it forces the QB to scramble and get tackled for a loss. Holding was called on him during the play too (2:08)
3) Successfully chips the DT and gets out in front of the screen play. Finds the closing LB in traffic and cuts off his angle to the RB allowing him to get by and break off a big play. (2:22)
4) Wins the point of attack (POA) on the short yardage QB sneak,(something the Bengals need) allows the QB to get the first down. (3:17)
5) Seals the A gap to the left and wins the POA pushing the DT back. The run play is able to follow through the alley created behind him. (3:35)
6) Shows off his upper body strength, shoving the defender engaged with the RG to the ground. (3:55) (1st Play breakdown below)
7) He doesn’t hold his block long enough on the WR double reverse play. The defender sheds him and forces the WR to cut back inside and is tackled for a loss. (4:15)
8) They are in a diamond offensive set (pretty much declaring run) that is a variation of the pistol or T formation. He wins the POA on the DT and allows the RG to finish the block. Aggressively works to get to the second level and blocks the LB, creating an alley for the play. (4:28)
9) He misses his block and gives up the QB sack. The very next play he gets knocked down and his defender tackles the RB in the backfield. (5:15)
10) He makes a good cut block of the DT and opens a hole for the RB. (8:08)
11) He gets blown off the POA and pushed into the QBs lap, giving up a QB sack. (8:15) (He does get his ankle rolled up on the play. He toughs it out and plays the rest of the game.)
12) He does a good job getting to the second level and cutting the safety in the run play. (11:30)

Game Summary: This was the worst game of his that I watched. He really struggled with the exotic defenses that Boston College threw at them. Part of this could have been that his teammates were making the mistakes though. They did start two freshman next to him. If it was him that made the errors he will really have to put his nose in the book and get in the film room. The Steelers and Ravens are known for their exotic looks, cutting edge defensive fronts, and blitz packages. They didn’t line up over him much in this game and made him move to get to the POA. When he got there he did fine but he definitely struggled initially.

1) Bodine makes a quality pull block on the run sweep

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6) He assists with the block on the RG and knocks the DT down using his brute strength. This is definitely a play that Paul Alexander saw and it has him licking his chops!

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Key Plays vs. Cincinnati:

1) He does a good job on a left side pull block of locating the defender and cutting him successfully. I would still prefer to see him stay up in these situations and bull guys over. In this case his cut was effective so you cannot really fault him. (1:12) (1st Play Breakdown below)
2) He loses the POA badly and is pushed back collapsing the pocket around the QB. The pressure in the face of the QB forces an earlier throw and missed opportunity on the big play downfield. (1:22)
3) He does a good job of making the initial contact and then passing off the block to the RG. This allows him to help the LG that was starting to lose his seal. (1:45)
3) He is moved to LG and has a good back side chop block of the DE in pursuit. (2:37)
4) He is pulling to the right from the LG position. He does a good job of getting in front of the play, but does a poor job of recognizing the person he should block. He blocks a whole lot of air and the play goes for no gain. (3:42)
5) He allows himself to get way to upright on the play, then gets blown off the POA right from the start. Luckily the QB throws the ball quickly and avoids the sack. Talk about being put on a pair of skates…that is this play in a nutshell. (3:53)
6) He has a good stretch of plays on a series that leads to a TD. It is capped off with a good cut block and a good chip of the safety on the scoring play. (5:53)
7) He moves back inside to play Center (6:05)
8) He does a good job of getting to the second level and keeping the LB away from the ball carrier. (9:41)
9) He properly gets out on the screen play and forms a wall with the guards. The RB cuts back inside instead of following the block for a big gain. No fault of Bodine’s that the RB made the improper read. (11:37)
10) In another instance of his poor downfield recognition he gets ahead of the screen play, then proceeds to block no one. (12:24) (2nd Play breakdown below)
11) He makes a good cut blow on the DT allowing the QB time to turn the corner on the designed QB run. (13:17)
12) He gets too aggressive and overextends on his block, causing him to lose the POA and get beat. (13:57)
Game Summary: This game did show you a few of the big reasons that the Bengals had Bodine high on their board. He played both LG and C in this game, and he showed his raw strength multiple times. He controlled the point of attack most of the game and especially in the second half. His main areas of concern were his missed blocks and inability to decipher which guy to block on some of his pulls and screen get outs. There were only a few times the whole game were he lost the POA badly and Cincy had a pretty good run defense this year. The versatility that he showed in this game allows the Bengals flexibility down the road. If a elite center falls in their lap in the draft or FA he can slide over to guard.

Here are two quick videos showing Bodine with the opposite extremes on the POA. One with him winning convincingly; the other he is put on skates:
Reminder:
He is the Center on the left play, and the LG on the right one.

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1) Bodine successfully pulls left and seal off the defender:

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12) Breakdown of Bodine pulling and missing his blocking assignment:

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Final Analysis:

This is the pick that I think will surprisingly define this draft class. If Paul Alexander can make the rough edges on Bodine’s game shiny this draft could be a huge haul. It will provide a buffer in case Clarke doesn’t pan out or Hill gets himself in trouble (although he has looked very grounded so far). Bodine definitely has the build and strength to be a top Center in the league. He is a perfect fit for what the Bengals want to do this year; punch you in the mouth, then do it again.

He will benefit from the 3-4 schemes that all the other teams in the AFC North run. The NT will almost always be lined right over him, unless they are in an exotic front. Then it will simply be the question can you transition your incredible lifting strength onto the field. I think we have to trust Paul Alexander’s eye for talent, he got his guy now he needs to mold him into his next Anthony Collins. The best thing about Bodine is the Bengals drafted a strong, prototypical build, with big upside at Center. It’s not likely that a rookie Center will receive promising marks if you put a lot of weight into Pro Football Focus plus/minus system, as Paul Dehner pointed out earlier this week. The one thing I can say is most of the Centers that are drafted high enough to start are on bad offensive lines. This surely contributes a bit to their low numbers. With the guys around him I think Bodine will grow quickly. He is a very smart player Paul Alexander and his fellow linemen are singing his praise already.

“He’s had a good spring. He’s really mature for a young guy. Smart. He knows football. He’s really been very impressive. The center is the brains of the operation. And he can do that.” –Paul Alexander

“(Bodine) has the characteristics we are looking for in a center. It’s not that Trevor (Robinson) hasn’t, we just put him in there for right now. He’s got to get the ball to the quarterback right. He needs to do a better job of snapping the ball. He can’t play center if you don’t snap the ball correctly. He’s working at it and he’s done a good job. But he’s got to become a little more consistent on an everyday basis.” -Hue

Jackson

“He’s picking stuff up quickly. For somebody who has only been live in the offense for two weeks, he’s definitely improving every day. He knows the situation. He’s not freaking out about it. He’s taking it in stride and he’s taking it to heart.”- Kevin Zeitler

After just a few days with him I would say those are some pretty high praises from the three most important people he needs to impress. The guy to his right in the trenches, his OL coach, and his OC.

I think the ideal situation is he gets the lions share of the snaps in the preseason, as guys get healthy. He then can sit behind Pollock in the beginning of the season and when he is ready send in the steamroller. At that point Pollock and Boling can fight over the LG spot. Is he going to make some plays this year that make you want to pull your hair out? I’d bet my 401K on it. Is he going to plant some guys on their asses paving the way for Gio or Hill to break off for a huge gain, I’ll bet my 401K on that too. The Bengals obviously have a plan and Bodine fits that plan, the Bengals don’t trade up…ever; yet they traded up to get a guy that throws up 225lbs like the rest of us throw back 12oz curls tailgating at PBS. That in itself should tell you something this guy has some major potential.

Leave your comments and feedback on the article below or tweet me, I welcome discussion on the article or other Bengals draftees
These screenshots came from videos from draftbreakdown.com
Special Thanks to Andrew Q for adding extra videos for this article.
Shot out to my guy Animal_like_me for helping me to stave off the grammar police.
Combine stats and measurements courtesy of NFL.com