2017 NFL Draft Expectations

With the Final Four set for this Saturday, it marks the soon-to-be closing of the NCAA basketball tournament, and brings along the ever-exciting Opening Day of the MLB and the heated up tension of the NBA going into the playoffs. It’s a never-ending cycle of major sports events that come and go every year.

At the end of the month of April, however, essentially starts the NFL season with the 82nd annual draft on the 27th, held in front of the stoic Philadelphia Museum of Art. Being one of my favorite events of the month, I enjoy seeing which players will go where and whether they’ll make a positive impact on whatever team they land on. Unfortunately, some players will end up being labeled busts within two years of playing.

Despite all the animosity, there are many things I look to see: how much Roger Goodell is booed, how uncomfortable the draftees get when Goodell tries to embrace them on stage, how loud Mel Kiper will get on the panel, and what draftees are waiting on the edge of their seat to have their named called surrounded by their families. With that said, here are my notable picks of the 2017 NFL Draft (note: this is not the order of the draft. They are simply the specific picks that I believe will have the most impact within the respective franchise).

  1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett (DE), Texas A&M

For the Browns to draft another quarterback would only add to the list of problems they already have, especially since Brock Osweiler is practically fighting for the starting spot. With Garrett posting astronomical numbers for a player his size at the Combine, he’s what Cleveland needs as a pass-rusher, upgrading their defense. Cleveland often focuses on their offense too much when they need to simultaneously focus their attention on improving their defense. That’s where Garrett fits the mold.

2. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen (DE/DT), Alabama

The Bears were projected to pick a quarterback with this selection. However, after signing Mike Glennon to an absurd contract and kicking Jay Cutler out, the QB spot has been filled. Allen is the best player available at his position and would fill a huge gap on the defensive line across from Akiem Hicks. Despite the concerns with his shoulder, Chicago cannot pass up on talent like Allen’s.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette (RB), LSU

Adding talent around Blake Bortles would very much improve their offense. I’ve said before that the Jaguars could very well be a dark horse one season and become a contender. After signing defensive keys in Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler, Jr., Fournette is best running back prospect available since Adrian Peterson. Although his 2016 season was lackluster due to an injury, his tape from the 2015 season showcases some of the best talent ever displayed. For Jacksonville to select him would add to a budding backfield alongside Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon.

4. New York Jets – OJ Howard (TE), Alabama

Alabama keeps cranking out “first rounders” left and right every year, and Howard is one that is very unique. He didn’t get the ball in his hands nearly enough this past season. But when he does, he is explosive and makes big plays. If Fournette is not available by the time the Jets get to select, I can see them going in this direction. They’ve been trying to sign tight ends during this offseason, so it is seen as a need, and Howard could provide the team with some much needed play-making ability.

5. Cincinnati Bengals – Dalvin Cook (RB), Florida State

He posted poor numbers at the combine… big whoop. That shouldn’t take away from his excellent vision of the field and his high-level production. Jeremy Hill has posted disappointing numbers these past two seasons while Giovanni Bernard cannot handle the full-time responsibility as the main running back. If the Bengals like Cook enough, I see them taking him.

6. Cleveland Browns – Mitch Trubisky (QB), North Carolina

Oh wait,… sorry, it’s Mitchell. Mitchell Trubisky. Because, apparently, that’s a very important thing to factor into this player’s ability. My fault. Anyways, if the Browns go defensively with Garrett for the first pick in the draft, this selection could possibly happen for the 12th overall pick. He does fit Hue Jackson’s scheme well, and could very well still be available come time for Cleveland’s second pick in the first round.

7. Indianapolis Colts – Reuben Foster (LB), Alabama

Yet another Alabama “first rounder”. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Colts’ linebackers suck. There’s no other way to put it. They haven’t been able to cover tight ends and pass-catching running backs out of the backfield, so Foster will be a much-needed upgrade. Although he made some news after yelling at a hospital employee, this debacle isn’t expected to affect his draft status that much. And it shouldn’t; if you want to see how much he wreaks havoc on the field, go to YouTube and you’ll see why.

8. Tennessee Titans – John Ross (WR), Washington

Okay, yes, the Titans did acquire a wide receiver during this offseason, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough. Tennessee made great strides last year posting a 9-7 record, placing second in the AFC South. They fell short, however, when their main asset, Marcus Mariota, ended the season on the injured reserve. When he comes back, he will need some weapons, and Ross will be the playmaker. After breaking the combine 40-time record, he’ll be able to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Christian McCaffrey (RB/WR), Stanford

He predictably stood out at the combine by not only posting good numbers, but also showing a passion for the game. That’s what Tampa Bay has been looking for in their players as of late. They desperately need a running back, and McCaffrey fits that description. I did see him going lower in the draft after he skipped out on the historic Sun Bowl, but the combine turned that around.

10. Miami Dolphins – Jabrill Peppers (S/LB), Michigan

He played a total of nine positions last year, both offensively and defensively. I repeat, nine. Any position you put him in, he will do the job that he is expected to do. After a tremendous combine, I see Peppers adjusting well to a professional environment with the fortitude to succeed and help whatever team he lands on. For Miami, in order to compete against New England, they need all the help they can get.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers – Deshaun Watson (QB), Clemson

It seems like a longshot, but there’s a lot to take into consideration when it comes to this pick. Big Ben has been hinting at retirement quite a bit during the offseason. He will play this upcoming season, but after suffering from injuries from time to time, the end of the Roethlisberger era in Pittsburgh may be closer than you think. The last time a team had future Hall of Fame quarterback retirement drama was Green Bay. Remember that? Out with Favre, in with Rodgers. Something similar could very well happen again, especially since Landry Jones isn’t the ideal quarterback you want leading your team. Watson has to go somewhere within the first round, given his ability and “wow” factor at his position. This move could potentially be a huge storyline for the NFL, and for the Pittsburgh franchise.

This upcoming NFL Draft flaunts big names; some that could possibly leave a long-lasting impact on a team. Like I said, these were the points that I think could make a difference in the progression of certain teams. I’d like to see all of my predictions come true, but even that is a longshot, especially after last year with the Laremy Tunsil scandal shaking up the entire projected order of the draft. Either way, it looks to be an exciting time for football and these young players’ futures.

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Mr. Ball, What Are You Doing?

If you haven’t been keeping up with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this year, you’ve most likely witnessed the major losses of both Villanova and Duke in the round of 32, Kansas shockingly falling to Oregon in the Sweet 16, and the impressive run made by seventh-seeded South Carolina who will play Gonzaga in the Final Four on April 1st. If you haven’t been keeping up with all this madness, you’re probably about as un-American as President Trump who didn’t fill out a presidential bracket this year, breaking away from tradition.

However, there’s one team that’s been getting a lot of attention even before the tournament started. The UCLA Bruins not only had an impressive run in the tournament, losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, but worked out a 31-5 season, finishing third in the Pac-12 conference. Lonzo Ball, who has just declared for the NBA Draft this June, has put together a very notable stat line for a freshman, averaging 14.6 PPG, 7.6 APG, and a 67.3% FT percentage. Besides an unremarkable performance against Kentucky for his last game, NBA teams have been keeping a watchful eye on him throughout his college career.

Unfortunately, it’s not Lonzo that has been getting the attention from the media that he deserves. It’s his father, LaVar.

If you search up his name on Google, a lot of news stories will come up about his controversial statements to reporters and in the media. However, my favorite is what comes up for his Wikipedia page: “a whole lotta nothin'”. He began his rampant journey through media coverage by exclaiming in March that his son was better than both Steph Curry and LeBron James, two of the most dominant players in professional basketball today. On March 14th, he said, “Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.”

Quite a lot of talk coming from someone who, back in their “heyday”, averaged 2.2 PPG at Washington State. What was Jordan doing back during his “heyday”? Averaging 37.1 PPG, earning MVP awards, working his way towards becoming the greatest basketball player of all time… the rest is pretty much history.

It’s almost cringe-worthy to watch LaVar Ball deliver these outlandish comments and wonder where all this confidence comes from. Apparently, according to a SportsCenter Featured piece on the Ball family, it runs in the family.

All of this criticism towards the family seems similar to those shows, like “Dance Moms”, where the parents will push their kids into the spotlight and subsequently gain attention to themselves. It stops and makes you think, “What if I was raised like that?”

Besides dancing though, there are some parents, like LaVar Ball, that are a bit too vocal when it comes to their children and the sports they play. Maybe it’s time to step out of the spotlight and let your kids take it from there. Your “heyday” is over, and now some professional players are beginning to take note of what LaVar is saying, especially NBA All-Star John Wall who says that him and other players will punish Lonzo for his “daddy’s remarks” come time for him to play in the NBA. Better watch out.

At the end of the day though, Lonzo is well aware of what his father has been saying. All he’s focused on is what he does on the court. It’s a smart move, but after a while, he’ll definitely have to take his dad off his high horse. Don’t know how difficult that’ll be, but it’ll surely be another media debacle and debate waiting to happen.

The Intelligence of NFL Players

The National Football League is full of players who come from various backgrounds. All of them, however, had to go through years of schooling before making it big time, whether that means two, three, or a full four years of university learning. Maybe even five year, which is what Brandon Weeden did at Oklahoma State before being drafted by the Browns in 2012.

No, players can’t simply be drafted out of high school like some MLB and NBA athletes are. Going from high school football to the marquee NFL is way too big of an adjustment for a high school player to humanly adapt to.

So, scholarships are handed out left and right to recruit top-performing high school football stars so they can attend the well-oiled machines of Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan, etc.

But it’s what these athletes do with these extraordinary offers that they shouldn’t be passing up on; they’re meant to be student-athletes, not the full-time jock only stereotyped to be the playmaker on the field and a party maniac off the field (ex: everything Thad Castle did in Blue Mountain State).

Recently, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Jameis Winston, has received criticism after being a guest speaker at a St. Petersburg elementary school. The remarks that he made in front of the children there were not quite the proper message that he was trying to convey. Here’s the video:

Winston later said that this was “poor word choice” and not at all what he was trying to say. He was attempting to have one individual in the crowd, who was a young male, get involved after being distracted.

Fellow players and coaches say that this was a mistake on Winston’s part and that he has definitely learned from it. They all know Winston to be highly motivational and a huge asset to the team as a leader. He’s one of the main reasons why Tampa Bay had a winning season for the eighth time since the new millennium, finishing 9-7 and placing second in the AFC South behind Atlanta.

But on hot take shows like First Take and Pardon the Interruption, analysts of both shows have said that the elementary school should’ve done its research before having Winston come and speak.

While attending Florida State University, despite having successful on-the-field achievement, his off-the-field conduct was far from admirable. Being the subject of many allegations and scandals, including vulgar comments, shoplifting, and a sexual assault accusation (for which he was later proven innocent), the target has been placed on Winston for quite a while.

However, this should in no way create any questioning of the intelligence level of NFL athletes. They are not dumb, stupid, ignorant, dimwitted, pea-brained, or whatever way you want to put it. For having to learn so much information (plays, formations, routes, defensive shifts, coverages, etc.) and play one of the hardest sports in the world, the level of intelligence is at an all-time high for NFL superstars.

Not only has Winston become the youngest player ever to receive a Heisman trophy and claim the title of a first overall draft pick while at FSU, he also maintained a 3.4 GPA as an exploratory major (meaning that he was so interested in a variety of topics that he couldn’t decide on a specific major).

What Winston did was a mistake, which is what a lot of major league athletes have admitted to committing. What matters is what they learn from it and how they move forward. And no, Winston is not dumb. Saying that should be insulting to other players, like him, who worked hard to get where they are.

eric-berry

Eric Berry, cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs and now the highest paid cornerback in the league, received the 2015 Comeback Player of the Year Award after taking time off to go through a huge amount chemotherapy for his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While attending the University of Tennessee, he maintained a 3.7 GPA as a psychology major and also interned at several places of medicinal practice, including a dental surgeon where he learned how to perform a root canal surgery (he could still perform one if he needed/wanted to).

deshaun-watson

Projected first round draft pick, Deshaun Watson out of Clemson, possesses all the essentials of a quarterback that any NFL team within the first 10 picks this year needs. He has the dynamics, the athleticism, and consistency that will only improve teams like the Buffalo Bills, where Mel Kiper Jr.has projected Watson to go in his latest mock draft (updated on Feb. 15th). He also has stayed out of trouble while attending school, maintaining a GPA of 4.0 and above and receiving a degree in communication this past December. Any team would be lucky to have him.

Before you start questioning the intelligence of NFL players, or any athlete for that matter, do your research and check the facts. You’ll most likely eat your words because of what you find. Athletes from all walks of life may dedicate themselves to the game and their craft, but they are aware of the importance of getting a proper education, and that’s one thing that makes a huge difference in how they perceive themselves and how the media sees them.