Beware of: The Pro Day

It is that time of year where NFL prospects take the final public step, the Pro Day. It is the last opportunity that fans and media to see a draft prospect (Although, teams will have private workouts and talks with players before the big day next month). The Pro Day is a seen as the big opportunity to impress. Especially if you are a Quarterback but BEWARE of the Pro Day.

For those that do not know a Pro Day is basically a combine re-do for all the prospects but for some positions they have the chance to script certain things to highlight their skills. For QBs and Wide Receivers they get the chance to work with the players they have spent years working with. They have scripted throws and routes but will also take requests for certain throws at the end, An example of this was Andrew Luck being asked to throw as far as he can before dropping a 70 yard (all air) bomb into the end zone to a receiver. Andrew Luck was a can’t miss prospect, he is a generational talent albeit being wasted by Indianapolis through a bad defense and O-line. However, what other QBs have fantastic pro days? Two big ones spring to mind. JaMarcus Russell and Johnny Manziel.

JaMarcus Russell’s Pro Day was heralded as the greatest Pro Day people had ever seen and we know he has a Ryan Leaf-esque historical bust of a career. He didn’t have the work ethic to succeed and the money that The Raiders ended up having to pay Russell crippled their franchise for a decade and a half (Until Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper and Derek Carr along with some cap clearing by Reggie McKenzie got The Raiders back on their feet). He was a consensus Number 1 pick so you can’t fault The Raiders for taking a QB that was considered the number 1 player in the draft.

Johnny Manziel is the more recent example. He broke new ground in his Pro Day but working out in full pads and helmet to better simulate his game speed. It was a decision that was praised and he was fantastic in his Pro Day. Again considered one of the better Pro Days of the 2012 QB class. Manziel was taken 22nd overall by The Browns. He showed flashes of greatness but was bogged down in personal problems off the field that could have potentially cut his career short, though he is reportedly working on getting back into the NFL with The Saints where he can sit behind Drew Brees.

So the being good at your Pro Day is important? Well you can’t be terrible. You still have to be good but if you are amazing then that means everything? Again no. The Pro Day seemingly is to re-affirm everything you see on Tape and in the Combine workouts but it should make no difference to teams as they have been scouting these players for years. It means nothing in an ultimately year/2 year long process, particularly for a QB, as you always have game tape to rely on but the big problem is assessing the mind of a player and are they really focused on working hard after they have spent almost their entire life being told they are great and gonna go far. It is difficult but you should BEWARE the Pro Day.

NFL Draft Simulation – Top 5

Instead of drafting for ALL the teams in round 1. Let’s draft for 1 team using draft simulation software. In the first of these we will start with the number 1 overall pick and the rest of the top 5 (Browns, 49ers, Bears, Jaguars, Titans from Rams). I will be doing a 7 round draft simulation where I will draft for The Browns, then The 49ers etc. There will be no trades in this draft although I will state where I would ‘trade down’ in belief I could get the same player a few picks later. The computer will be picking for the rest of the 31 teams in each of the 5 simulations. I will try and avoid taking the same players in order to add realism, although the computers will take different players.

Cleveland Browns – 
Needs: Everything
Myles Garrett, DE, R1, P1.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, R1, P12.(Could Trade here if a team is in love with a player, team in 16-20 range and still find great value)
Haason Reddick, DE, R2, P1. (You could potentially trade down here as Reddick is highly sought after but being there at 33 is a no brainer pick to double up on Blue Chip Pass Rushers)
Zay Jones, WR, R2, P20.
Adoree Jackson, CB, R3, P1.
Ethan Pocic, C, R4, P1.
Jordan Morgan, G, R4, P35.
Dan Skipper, T, R5, P1. (Trade Down)
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, R5, P31.
Joshua Dobbs, QB, R5, P37.
Lorenzo Jerome, S, R6, P1.

That’s The Browns. There was no value in a QB in round one as the flew off the board in quick succession in the top 10. Focused on building the team rather than getting the QB. 2 top edge rushers, two corners (With Jackson at great value in round 3), A WR to pair with Corey Coleman and some bodies to put on the offensive line with some development prospects in the late round with Hobbs and Jerome. With the all-time NCAA Rushing yards leader but his size could be an issue at NFL level.

The 49ers –
Needs: QB, DE, WR, OT, LB, CB, DT.
Jonathan Allen, DE, R1, P2.
Mitch Trubisky, QB, R2, P2.
Cooper Kupp, WR, R3, P2.
Julie’n Davenport, OT, R4, P2.
Devonte Fields, DE, R4, P36.
Malachi Dupree, WR, R5, P2.
Isaac Rochell, DL, R5, P17.
J.J Dielman, OT, R6, P2.
Jason Brown, LB, R6, P18.
Tarean Folston, RB, R7, P1.

This time, Trubisky FALLS dramatically in the draft, to the 2nd round. The Browns took Watson at 1 and in order to avoid taking Garrett again I took Allen though in reality it would be Garrett if the Browns don’t pick him. With no trading Trubisky fell. With trading he doesn’t get past the top 15. Similar approach to last time but with a top QB. Doubled up on Pass Rushers, WRs and Offensive Line. They are areas of need so take more than 1 to increase the odds.

The Bears –
Needs: QB, DE, S, OT, DL, CB.
Jamal Adams, S, R1, P3.
Patrick Mahomes II, QB, R2, P4.
Jordan Leggett, TE, R3, P3.
Damontae Kazee, CB, R4, P4.
Daeshon Hall, DE, R4, P10.
Samaje Perine, RB, R5, P3.
Levon Myers, OT, R7, P3.

Jamal Adams at 3 gives The Bears security in their backend. A box safety who can set the tone on Defense. Patrick Mahomes II won’t start in year 1 but will be a development project under a veteran free agent (Romo or Fitzpatrick) to give Mahomes a year to sit under a guy who has been in the league a long time before swapping roles in year 2 or 3.
Jordan Leggett gives the QB a safety net at TE because of a lack of O-Lineman in the first 3 rounds. They needed a complimentary piece to Kevin White and Leggett could provide this.  The rest is about filling needs in the team and Perine is about giving them a two headed monster at RB. Jordan Howard will be the starter but Perine will give them a one-two punch in the backfield to help a new QB find their feet in the system.

The Jaguars –
Needs: OT, S, CB, G, QB, RB, DE, DL, TE
Solomon Thomas, DE, R1, P4. (This could be a good trade spot for Jacksonville to drop down and find lineman)
Budda Baker, S, R2, P3.
Evan Engram, TE, R3, P4.
Kevin King, CB, R4, P3.
David Sharpe, G, R5, P4.
Will Holden, OT, R6, P3.
Chad Kelly, QB, R7, P4.

Just 7 picks for Jacksonville. Trading down from 4 could provide extra picks to fill more holes in their team. Thomas gives them a pass rusher. Baker will set the tone from Safety, hard hitting, and help build the culture. Kevin King, college team-mate of Baker, will provide depth at CB. Engram will hope to fill the hole left by the impending trade of Julius Thomas and Will Holden can learn from incoming Branden Albert. Chad Kelly provides value in the 7th round and an extra arm to push Blake Bortles to improve.

The Titans (From LA Rams) – 
Needs: CB, WR, S, LB, TE, DE, DL, G, OT

Mike Williams, WR, R1, P5.
Sidney Jones, CB, R1, P18. (With lots of CB depth a trade to try and get a 2nd rounder could make sense at 18)
Dion Dawkins, OT, R3, P19.
Jake Butt, TE, R3, P36.
Marcus Maye, S, R4, P18.
Keionta Davis, DE, R5, P20.
Ben Gedeon, LB, R6, P30.
Darreus Rogers, WR, R7, P18.

 

The 2017 NFL Combine – Players to watch.

It is that time of year again. The NFL world heads to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana to see the top prospects in the draft be tested. Starting on Friday March 3rd (Today as of posting) to Monday March 6th we will see players be tested on they 40 yard, 3 cone, broad jump, vertical jump and position drills. Teams will also interview prospect as the penultimate step towards the NFL draft (Which we will once again be bringing you live coverage of) starts.

The schedule for the Combine:

Friday 3rd March: Running Backs, Offensive Lineman and Special Teams.
Saturday 4th March: Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
Sunday 5th March: Defensive Line and Linebackers.
Monday 6th March: Defensive Backs.

So who are the players to watch. USKSports will be selecting a player at each position that  will be interesting to watch (given their hype or ability to make or break their draft stock) minus special teams players. Be sure to check back after each day to see our review of our player to watch. It is considered a very even draft for players with most of the 1st/Early 2nd  round prospects considered to be very close in talent. It is a deep, team building draft rather than a top heavy superstar draft (Outside of Myles Garrett).

Running Back: Leonard Fournette, LSU. The first of 2 LSU players to watch. Leonard Fournette was a dominant Back in college. He is considered the only threat to Myles Garrett for the number 1 pick to Cleveland. Universal belief that he could be the next generational Running Back that could give a huge be-birth to the value of a Running Back (Along with Ezekiel Elliott) for the next 10 years. He weighed in a 240 pounds. This is heavy for an NFL RB but teams are not worried as a lot of it is muscle rather than fat. He has a lot of hype and intrigue around him, which is why he is a player to watch.

Combine Numbers:

Offensive Lineman: Ill admit I’m not an expert on Offensive Lineman. I know their importance but I have no idea how to assess them. So I will rely on experts for this one. Ill go with Garett Bolles, Utah. He will face a tough week compared to other lineman that could heavily affect his draft stock. Only a 1 year starter at Utah after transferring from Junior College, 25 when the season starts. Off-the-field issues may also be a factor but a good combine, solid interviews and a good pro day could put the concerns to bed. If he puts on a good show and reassures teams about his past then he will end up going in the first round. He could fall completely out of the 1st and maybe even the 2nd round, as teams have become more weary of guys with off-the-field issues.

Combine Numbers:
40 Yard Dash – 4.91 seconds.
Vertical Jump – 28 Inches
Broad Jump – 115 Inches
Bench Press – DNP

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech. Considered the 4th best QB in the QB draft class. A raw prospect who will need a few years to develop. He could tempt a team into taking him with a first round pick, to a team with an ageing QB. A good performance showing flashes of his potential will blow teams away in a Quarterback desperate league. He is not the safest pick but he is a player with a high ceiling and all the traits that teams look for. Not as much hype as Mitch Trubisky, DeShaun Watson or DeShone Kizer but has much more intrigue as teams look for value at QB. If he performs well look for a team to trade into the backend of the first round to get a jump on the other potentially QB needy teams at the start of round 2 or for a team like The Cardinals or The Steelers start to future proof behind their QBs.

Wide Receiver: Zay Jones, East Carolina. A small school receiver who caught 400 balls, with 158 coming in his senior year, in 4 years in College. He has great hands and improved his route running. He impressed at the Senior bowl. He broke the NCAA record for receptions and has the size to play in the NFL at 6 ft 1. He lacked touchdowns, despite his massive yardage and catches he scored just 23 touchdowns. He will likely just secure his status as a 2nd round player at best with a good show at the combine but he could open some eyes to an international fanbase in the NFL. This is the opportunity to make himself a household name amongst the draft buzz but his school will hold him back in the eyes of some fans but he has the potential to step up considering he caught almost everything thrown his way.

Tight End: David Njoku, Miami. The position has grown more important since New England revitalised the position. O.J Howard is the top TE in the draft but Njoku is a first round bubble player and the number 2 TE in the draft class. A good performance could see him creep up into the 20’s. He is being hailed as an ‘athletic freak’ and the chance to put on a good show will make his draft stock soar.

Defensive Line: Myles Garrett, Texas A & M. He has to be the most anticipated non-QB/RB in Indianapolis. The consensus Number 1 pick has the opportunity to wow The Browns and make other teams jealous with a top performance at The Combine. It was an easy choice for the must watch Defensive Lineman. A consensus number 1 always has eyes all over them with teams in the top 5 hoping that they fall if the Browns were to take someone else (Fournette should he blow the combine away). The Browns are open to trading the number 1 pick so there could be an opportunity for a team to get their hands on Garrett.

Linebacker: T.J Watt, Wisconsin. Purely for being a Watt. He will come in with a big reputation simply because he is J.J Watt’s brother. He will need to prove that he can step out of his brother’s shadow as an OLB. How he handles being compared to his brother could help or hurt him. He seems like he will be more than happy to be compared to his brother but he will need a good showing to prove that he is seperate from his brother and capable of being a solid NFL player. He is projected as a late 1st/2nd round player.

Defensive Back: Jamal Adams/Malik Hooker, LSU/Ohio State. It was hard to split them. They are two players who could go anywhere from 2 down to the middle of the 1st round. Jamal Adams is a great box safety who can hit hard and force fumbles for a good LSU team. Malik Hooker is a great safety in the backend with good hands. Both players will go high in the draft. A blow away performance could see either of them go to The 49ers at 2 (Particularly with a former NFL Safety as their GM).

Wildcard: Jabrill Peppers, Michigan. What position will he play at NFL level? He played Linebacker, Edge Rusher, Safety and Running Back at Michigan. He is projected as a Safety but doesn’t have natural hands and lacks real playing time at any position he could potentially play. He needs to shine in position drills for whatever position(s) he ends up  testing for.

Remember to share this with your friends and tune into the combine. Follow us on Twitter @USK_Sports

Were Leicester Right to Sack Ranieri?

The biggest moment in the Premier League this season was when the Premier League Champions, Leicester City, announced the sacking of their miracle man Claudio Ranieri. It was almost universally criticised by fans of other teams, experts and football writers but was it the right decision? Was it player power? After a nightmare season that has seen Leicester plummet off cloud 9 and back into the grim realities of being a football supporter.

In the wake of Leicester’s 3-1 win over Liverpool on Monday Night could have provided a reason that Ranieri lost his job. They were inspired. They were ruthless and they were dominate from start to finish. It was the kind of performance we saw all of last season. Ranieri was given plenty of time to turn things round and he was rightfully given as long as the board felt they could give him before they had no choice. He had earned the right to try and keep Leicester in the Premier League but he couldn’t turn the sinking ship around. Momentum works both ways in football and the plummeting confidence in the Leicester team was evident. They no longer believed they were champions.

Was it down to the manager? or did the players believe their own hype? Were Mahrez and Vardy unhappy that they stayed with The Foxes? If two key pieces (that ended up staying) were unhappy then it was a problem for Ranieri. Player power is often scoffed at in football, particularly with how prevalent it is at clubs like Chelsea where it has been controlling the club for almost a decade, but it is important to keep star players happy. Yes, Ranieri won the Premier League with a relegation favourite. Yes, Ranieri made lots of his players superstars but he was never going to replicate it this season. The players had no chip on their shoulders. No reason to prove everyone wrong. It was a miracle but miracles don’t happen twice. Claudio should be remembered for what he did with Leicester but to stay he was untouchable on the inevitable slump to The Championship is short sighted. Football is no longer about loyalty. Football is about results. Football is about what have you done recently. Not what did you do for me last season. Overall he did a great job but there was no reason to keep Ranieri based on their performances this season.

Craig Shakespeare made the players battle. He had them motivated and ready to prove a point. If the players were unhappy with Ranieri then it was their night to prove that they are still capable. They produced. Was it harsh? Maybe but it wasn’t undeserving. They needed to avoid the indignity of being the first Premier League Champions to be relegated the season after winning the title and if this is the first sign of life in this Leicester team then they have the chance to hit a run of form and get out of trouble. They have better players than the relegation candidates and they are starting to show it. Whether that was a one off remains to be seen but there is a sign of life amongst the players we haven’t seen for 9 months.