2019 AFC North Outlook

The 2019 AFC North Outlook

img_7471By Jimmy Herring

Guess who’s back….back again…. No seriously, I haven’t been on the videos as much due to work beating me down as well as home life taking a little turn to the left. Just don’t think for one second I’m going to up and leave one of the best things I’ve had an opportunity to do in a long time. I’ll be making my on screen return very soon. Until then, it’s time for my annual, unfiltered, wild majestic  AFC North Outlook in which I dive into each teams transactions, who I see them potentially targeting in the first round of the NFL Draft, mixed with some banter to either get you laughing or piss you off. Pretty sure I’m going to piss a few people off on what I have to type….(cawwww cawwww)….. So let us get this party started!

 

Let us start with probably the least active team and as of right now, the last place team in the AFC north…The Baltimo…. The Cincinnati Bengals! Yayyyy…. Or for the sake of our AFC North followers, who gives a damn about them? They finally canned Marvin Lewis after several lackluster seasons with either brief playoff visits or the 7-9 to 8-8 records they would usually have. Is it right to say the Marvin Lewis is a bootleg Jeff Fisher? He most likely is. They have problems to me across the board. Whether it’s the health of player, the production of player, the suspensions of players, the respect the players have for the coaches and ownership, there’s everywhere. Let us start with the good. They went and got a new head coach in Zac Taylor who I honestly know nothing about except he’s one of Sean McVay’s road dogs. A young coach with higher energy is something that can put the good stamp on the culture. There are plenty of coaches you want to play for and some I wouldn’t pay to play for. Marvin Lewis looks like the quiet uncle with no swag that sits in the living room of the family reunion and doesn’t know how to fit in. No one wanted to lay it all on the line for him. So a culture shift was due. Next and probably the best thing they’ve done was can Vontaze Burfict. Hallelujah! To change the culture you have to get rid of cancerous players in the locker room. That dude was one hit away from the opposing team whooping his ass, his own team whooping his ass, and a severe injury due to his dirty play nature. In the words of Duane “GET EM OUTTTT!”  No other big moves were made with the Bengals as of yet. Sometimes no news is good news. So who do I think they could go after in the draft? The biggest need is inside linebacker. I could definitely see a Devin White or Devin Bush at pick #11 if they decide to go defense. Both of those kids are athletic freaks who love the game and have the leadership skills that you want on your defense. If they decide to go offense, I could see an offensive lineman like Jawaan Taylor out of Florida or Jonah Williams from Alabama. You have to protect your Franchise Quarterback! That is something that they have ultimately struggled with for a few years. My petty pick would be to take any of the Quarterbacks and ship Andy Dalton off to no man’s land. But that contract he’s locked into looks pretty steep. They may have to keep him for another year or two.

 

Now it’s time to discuss my third place team at this point…. The Baltimore Ravens. Yes… I can hear Gerald and Duane in my ear lighting me up. Just stick with me here for a few minutes. The Ravens are probably one of the smartest teams in the AFC North at this very point. They are also one of the most delusional teams in the AFC North as well. This isn’t an opportunity for me to slander the Ravens. I can do that whenever I feel like it. From a football fan perspective, I’m so happy the Joe Flacco era is over. Yes, he brought a ring to Baltimore. Yes he had that playoff run that was incredible. He looked like a future superstar! After that playoff run and that fat payday, I believe he got complacent and said he got his bread. I’ll never forget last NFL offseason. I told BOTH of my best friends Lamar Jackson would be a Raven. And they scoffed at me. Matter of fact after the Ravens drafted Hayden Hurst, Duane went to bed. I stayed up as I was interested in what could happen. That’s when the Ravens traded back into the first round and selected Lamar Jackson.  I was happy and confused on how this was going to play out. Well it played out pretty well. Joe Flacco sustained an injury and Lamar took the wheel and never looked back. They made the playoffs and made the statement that they needed. The birds were back… and not the Orioles. This offseason for them hasn’t gone so well in my eyes. I know my Charm City Beat team hates when I talk about the Ravens. Let us not act like I haven’t lived in Maryland for 20+ years and have been forced to digest this team. I know them almost as well as I know the Steelers. They lost CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Zadarius Smith, Alex Collins (he made his bed on that one), Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and probably a few that I’m missing. Mosley wanted his bag and deserved his bag. Suggs was a shocker. I thought he’d retire a Raven. But let’s not act like his playing time wasn’t declining. Can he still be a productive pass rusher? Absolutely he can. He just isn’t an every down guy at this point in his career. Weddle had up and down play but he was the defenses QB and a straight up Baltimore guy. It sucks that they let him go. I’m sure a contract could have been worked out for the both of them. Zadarius Smith played great and wanted his bag too. Alex Collins??? Weedman Weedman YEAH THAT’S MEEEEE! Crabtree was hot trash. John Brown was the surprise move. That deep threat and speed could have been deadly with Jackson getting the ball to him. So you lose all of that talent on the team. But the splash move of bringing in Earl Thomas is awesome. He brings a ball hawk and hard hitting mentality to the Ravens. He’s the new QB of the defense. He will do just fine and that type of play is needed in the rough AFC North.  Mark Ingram is a solid running back. I’m glad to finally see him in a 3 down role. He could easily top 1000+ yards in the new look Ravens offense. My biggest question with the Ravens is who is Lamar going to throw to? I know they have 16 tight ends but where’s the WR’s at? You got rid of your top 2 guys and haven’t brought anyone in at this point. Which leads to by draft needs… If they go offense in the draft, it has to be receiver and no other position. Luckily the receiver class this year is deep. They could go the speed route and take a Parris Campbell out of Ohio or a Hollywood Brown from Oklahoma. Be wary of WR’s with the last name Brown. Ask Pittsburgh how that has worked out for them. Especially since they are related. I’d steer clear of these egos. The only wide receiver with the last name Brown I’d take is A’s Brown out of Ole Miss which is definitely an option at this point in the draft. If they go defense, I can see a linebacker or pass rusher at this point. Look at a Mack Wilson out of Alabama or Brian Burns out of Florida State. If these needs get addressed in the draft and it pans out, the Ravens could move up to second place or even win the division again. With no good receivers on the roster at this point, I have to leave them in third. Plus the overall talent loss from this offseason makes them a little more vulnerable in my opinion. We shall see.

 

On paper, my second place team is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, throw some bias on it too. I recently had a discussion with Gerald and we both agreed on paper this can switch between both the Ravens and Steelers holding down the 2nd and 3rd ranking in the AFC North. I give Pittsburgh the edge on paper because they are the more complete team at the moment. We have limited areas of concern as of right now. We will dive into that issue in a moment. Let’s talk the elephants in the room. To be completely honest, I gave Lev Bell a ton of shit for not taking the contract that was offered. 5 years 75 million with about 33 million paid in the first two years? Not a bad look to me. I do agree that NFL players deserve guaranteed money as this is a violent game at the pleasure of the consumer. They have to learn to not cut off their noses to spite their faces. I am a firm believer that Lev Bell is a talent player who is a major product of his offensive line and QB. He will be missed but he has been replaced. Enter James Conner who didn’t miss a beat with the team. As a matter of fact he outplayed Lev Bell stat wise from the last full year Lev played. We will be fine in the RB department. Hopefully we add a set of legs in the draft this year. Now let’s talk Mr. Big Chest, Blonde Mustache…..yeah the asshat himself, Antonio Brown. He was my favorite player. He deserves to get paid. He is a top 2 receiver in the NFL and in my opinion, he isn’t # 2. What disappointed me is the growth of the ego, childish behavior, interviews, crying, pissing, and moaning.  He ran his mouth so much that he damaged his value and in turn the Steelers got a Checker burger and fries in picks for him. The locker room cancer is gone. His feelings are probably hurt. Should I be that guy and say his stats are because he gets the ball forced to him? Yes. He is definitely a product of the system as well. I think we will be okay in the WR room. Juju, Moncrief, and Washington should hold up fine. Also, I’m a firm believer in a WR being taken as early as round 1. The need is there for sure. Sooooo, now the reason why I think the Steelers are better than the Ravens right now? We didn’t lose as many players as they did. We are a better defense on paper. We are a better offense on paper. Just saying again that this is all ON PAPER. Paper is different than on the field. They have beaten our ass with less. It’ll always be one of my favorite matchups. When drafting this year, I can see the Steelers going many ways. Some of us say we will trade up since we have the ammo from a few trades. I’m saying we will stay put unless someone crazy is dropping. If we trade up into the top 10, look for a WR or LB. A D.K Metcalf, Devin White, or Devin Bush would be my move but it would have to be for a trade up. If we stay put, I can see a best player available scenario. Look at Nassir Adderly, the safety from Delaware or Noah Fant, the blazing tight end from Iowa. The reason I even slotted Noah Fant here is to do the New England Patriots dirty. Gronk just retired. Do not let Brady get another athletic tight end. For the love of god please don’t.

 

                  Surprise…. The Browns are the projected first place team for the AFC North…. No I haven’t been smoking crack. I may have to if the Browns go 12-4 with a first round bye and on paper there is nothing leading me to the fact that they can’t win the division. They hit big time in the draft last year. Baker Mayfield has the swag and attitude. The kid is a winner. The kid can ball out too. As he got more comfortable, he was slicing teams up. Yes, he had his ups and downs. I still haven’t forgiven him from not getting the Steelers in the playoffs. However, if it’s up to him, he may keep the rest of the north out of the playoffs. The defense is ready and willing to play. Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, and Denzel Ward will lead up a more physical and talented defense. Just thinking of that defensive line gives me nightmares of the havoc they can put out. Then on offense, the have the kid Mayfield, Kareem Hunt (even if he’s suspended for 8 games, he will still be a problem), Nick Chubb who had a great rookie year, Duke Johnson, who may be one of the best receiving backs in the league, David Njoku, Jarvis Landry, and then they had the nerve, the audacity to trade their first round pick and Jabril Peppers for Odell Beckham Jr…. Are you freaking kidding me?! The weakest part of the Browns to me is the offensive line. Also, middle linebacker could be an issue as well. Without a first round pick, they won’t get the top half of the talent. However, with the offseason moves, who needs a first round pick? I truly think they aren’t done at all. I haven’t even dove into the second round of the draft so I’m not going to sit here and throw random names out. It would be crap. Just wait and see with the Browns. I’m excited for them from a NFL standpoint to see how high they can go.

 

                      So after reading this, I’m sure there are upset fans everywhere with me. I could honestly care less. Just look at things from a NFL perspective and not a homer perspective. I’m not telling you to not root for your team. Just be a realist and take your head out of your ass for a few minutes and you may realize something about your own team. I welcome all criticisms and feedback. I welcome new ideas as well as teaching me something I may not know about your team. I’m still a rookie at being a journalist so feel free to beat me up! I look forward to talking to all the readers and listeners of Littube Sports throughout the year. I apologize for the on screen hiatus but don’t worry; I’ll be back and better than ever! Until next time!

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2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Justin Holden vs Mel Kiper

Written By:  Justin Holden

Introduction:

The NFL Combine doesn’t start until February 27th, and the first day of the NFL Draft isn’t happening until April 26th, so I put this out as a disclaimer that there is still plenty of time for sports analysts to change their minds (and their rankings) as new information comes out.  However, I wanted to compare my pre-combine top prospects at each position to those of Mel Kiper Jr, the most recognizable (and perhaps most respected) NFL Draft analyst of all time.  As a reference, I am providing a link below this paragraph that will direct you to another article where you can review Mel Kiper Jr’s top 10 prospects at each position as of January 2018.

http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/mel-kipers-top-10-prospects-position-2018-nfl/story?id=52263598

Quarterback – Baker Mayfield (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #4)NCAA Football: Big 12 Championship-Texas Christian vs Oklahoma

 There is quite a discrepancy when looking at my top ranked quarterback prospect compared to where Kiper has him ranked on his list.  Kiper seems to view Baker Mayfield in the same light as he did Johnny Manziel a few years back, which is a prospect that is a bit of a wildcard.  Someone that could end up being a good football player, but at the same time could be a bust.  Baker Mayfield is obviously getting knocked by the mainstream sports media for his infamous “crotch grab” and his height (just over 6 feet tall).  But in all honesty, it shouldn’t take a genius to realize that Baker Mayfield is a far superior NFL prospect than Johnny Manziel ever was, even before we knew about the partying and substance abuse that would ultimately derail Manziel’s career.  Let’s start this exercise by doing a 3 way comparison between the college career statistics of Baker Mayfield, Johnny Manziel, and Kiper’s top prospect for this category, Josh Rosen:

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/baker-mayfield-1.html

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/johnny-manziel-1.html

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/josh-rosen-1.html

You’ll notice that Baker Mayfield outperforms the other two in every statistical category.  It is not close.  In defense of Josh Rosen, Johnny Manziel and Baker Mayfield both played their college careers with superior offensive lines, and that can only help a quarterback in terms of his on-field efficiency and production.  But even taking that into account, I don’t see how Mel Kiper Jr can list Josh Rosen higher on his rankings than Baker Mayfield for any reason other than size or character concerns.  But unlike Johnny Manziel, Baker Mayfield has strong work ethic and strong character.  Don’t let the crotch grab fool you.  This young man is viewed as the ultimate leader and professional by his teammates and coaches.  He puts in the time to improve his game, and it shows on the field.  At the end of the day, even if you just want to look at film and not care about the on-field production/statistics at all, there isn’t much to knock Baker Mayfield for.  He has the accuracy and can make all the throws.  He’s one of the most efficient passers in college football history.  To top it all off, he has the athleticism to make plays with his feet if necessary.  To me, Baker Mayfield is the only can’t miss quarterback prospect in this year’s draft class.  And his ceiling is a more mobile version of Drew Brees.

Running Back – Saquon Barkley (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #1)NCAA Football: Penn State at Iowa

I have no argument with Kiper on this position.  And you’ll be hard pressed to find a single person that disagrees with Saquon Barkley being the top ranked running back prospect for this year.  There are other quality running backs in this draft class that are effective in all phases of the game, and while I tend to see the use of early first round draft capital on a running back as a waste, there is no denying that whatever team picks Saquon Barkley will be getting a generational talent at the position.

Fullback – Nick Bawden (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #3)

Nick Bawden has great size for a fullback at 6’3 and 245 pounds.  But not only that, he’s an excellent lead blocker that contributed heavily to star running back Rashaad Penny’s on-field rushing production.  Bawden was First-Team All-American in 2016 according to Pro Football Focus.  Another reason he’s my top prospect at this position is that he used to play quarterback, and thus I project him to have an additional level of awareness and athleticism that other fullbacks wouldn’t typically have.  Kiper’s top prospect from this category is Jaylen Samuels.  Don’t get me wrong, Samuels was a great college football player who put up some nice stats, but I question his ability to be an elite blocker at the NFL level.  In a true fullback, the most important qualities you look for are strength and lead blocking ability, in my opinion.  Bawden has those qualities and fits the mold of a true fullback better than Samuels.

Wide Receiver – D.J. Moore (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #6)moore

Huge disparity in comparison to Kiper’s rankings on this one.  But hear me out as I make my case for D.J. Moore as the top wide receiver prospect in this year’s draft class.  First of all, the dude set a school record at Maryland for most receptions in a season (80) with four different quarterbacks throwing to him throughout that season.  Even more impressive than that, D.J. Moore accounted for 53.3% of his team’s receiving yards and touchdowns during his most productive college season.  That is good for a 97th percentile college dominator rating.  We rarely see that high of a dominator score for a wide receiver, especially at a division one program.  While we don’t have the combine measurements to back it up yet, studying tape would lead you to believe that D.J. Moore possesses excellent burst and speed.  If D.J. Moore has a weakness, it is his size.  He’s 5’11 and 215 pounds.  Ideally you want a receiver that is taller than this or can jump exceptionally high to challenge for 50/50 balls and be a redzone threat.  While D.J. Moore may lack that element to his game, he checks all other boxes and has the on-field production numbers to back it up.  I can understand why Kiper might prefer Calvin Ridley from Alabama as his top prospect, but having D.J. Moore ranked all the way down at #6 in his rankings, particularly in a year that has a weak wide receiver class overall, is straight up disrespectful to this Maryland product.  D.J. Moore remains my #1 wide receiver prospect with confidence.  And that won’t change no matter how far Kiper moves him down his draft board.

Tight End – C.J. Conrad (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #9)

To tell you the truth, I actually really like Kiper’s #1 prospect, Dallas Goedirt.  He was highly productive and efficient in the passing game at small school South Dakota State.  But just because Goedirt is a valid choice as a top tight end prospect in this year’s draft class, does not excuse a snubbing of the promising prospect that C.J. Conrad is.  I really don’t understand why Conrad is this far down on Kiper’s rankings.  Granted, Conrad is not the best blocking tight end in this class.  But, he’s even better than Goedirt when it comes to being productive in the passing game (which is increasingly becoming the more important thing for tight ends in today’s NFL), and Conrad actually played for a division one school against division one caliber defenders.  Conrad’s 2017 college receiving stats may not jump out at you (16 receptions for 286 yards and 4 touchdowns), but keep in mind that he accounted for 30.5% of his team’s receiving yards and touchdowns.  This equates to an 88th percentile college dominator score at the tight end position, which is phenomenal.  But here is a statistic that will really open up your eyes to the potential of C.J. Conrad.  In his most productive college season, Conrad had 17.9 yards per reception, which is 95th percentile historically among all tight end prospects.  It is Conrad’s big play ability that makes him my top prospect.  There is nothing wrong with Conrad’s size at 6’5 and 245 pounds.  I project Vernon Davis as his floor and Jimmy Graham as his ceiling, in terms of player quality.

Offensive Tackle – Orlando Brown (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #3) brown

Orlando Brown has the best size I have seen for an offensive linemen in a long time.  He is massive at 6’8 and 360 pounds.  Brown’s father played in the NFL for 11 seasons, so you know he has the pedigree.  In terms of what he did in college, Brown was responsible for protecting Baker Mayfield’s blindside at Oklahoma and was the best member of an exceptionally strong offensive line unit.  Brown won several awards throughout his college career including First-Team AP All-American.  Brown has exceptionally long arms, which should benefit him greatly in pass blocking but perhaps hurt him a bit in run blocking.  Fortunately, he’s a natural fit at left tackle, where pass blocking is much more important.  I have no issues with Kiper’s top prospect, Mike McGlinchey, who also has excellent size and blocking ability.  But Brown is my number one prospect at this point.

Offensive Guard – Quenton Nelson (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #1)

No debate here at all.  Nelson is far and away the best offensive line prospect in this year’s draft class.  I believe he’s a can’t miss prospect.  By all accounts, he is a shoe-in to be an early first round selection, which is all the more impressive when you consider how much offensive guard tends to get overlooked and devalued in drafts.  My best comparable player to Quenton Nelson is Zack Martin from the Dallas Cowboys.  I believe Quenton Nelson will bring that type of quality to the league.

Center – Billy Price (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #1) price

Kiper and I are both projecting Billy Price as the top center as of right now.  The Ohio State product is talented and durable (tied school record for most consecutive starts at 55).  I expect his combine numbers to be outstanding, particularly on bench press.  This guy is strong as an ox.  This is the kind of guy you want on your offensive line.  He brings grit and toughness to the center position.  His strength is off the charts.  He doesn’t have the best footwork and may take some time to develop beyond his raw physical talent.  But he’ll make a fine second round selection in this year’s draft.  He reminds me of Lane Johnson, but plays center instead of tackle.

Defensive End – Bradley Chubb (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #1)

Bradley Chubb is a consensus top 5 draft pick, so it is no surprise that I have him ranked exactly where Kiper does as the #1 defensive end prospect in the draft.  In his senior year, Chubb was named a First-Team All-American, but the accolades didn’t stop there.  He also won the Hendricks award (for best defensive end) and Nagurski award (best defensive player).  Chubb has great size at 6’4 and 275 pounds.  Overall, he is a prospect that checks many boxes including NFL size, great athleticism, and on-field production.  The few weaknesses that Chubb does have can be ironed out through experience and proper coaching at the next level.  There is no reason to believe that Chubb won’t be a multi-year pro bowler in his career, thus he is worthy of an early first round pick.

Defensive Tackle – Da’Ron Payne (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #3)

payne

It’s honestly a pretty close decision for the top defensive tackle in the draft.  I’m not particularly high on Kiper’s #1 ranked player at the position, Christian Wilkins, but Kiper’s #2 ranked player, Vita Vea, makes his own case for deserving to be a top selection.  Ultimately, the reason I chose to go with Payne over Vea for the #1 ranked spot had to do with consistency.  Vea has excellent size and physical attributes, but he goes on stretches of just looking like an average defensive linemen.  Payne’s performances are more consistent.  And while Payne doesn’t get a lot of sacks, he’s a very effective run stopper.  He’s going to be great at the next level, particularly if he gets to play as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.  For me, he’s comparable to Brandon Williams from the Baltimore Ravens.  So in essence I’m projecting Payne to be below average as a pass rusher at the next level, but develop into an elite run stuffer at the position.

Inside Linebacker – Roquan Smith (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #1)

It gets tricky when you breakdown linebacker prospects between “inside” and “outside”.  In the case of Roquan Smith, he has the versatility to play either position.  I’m agreeing with Mel Kiper’s top ranking on this one.  It will be interesting to see Smith’s combine measurables, because he used to play wide receiver in high school and when you watch him on tape you notice excellent speed for the linebacker position.  This high-end speed helps Smith in pass rushing and also in coverage.  Smith was productive in college, leading his team in tackles.  In terms of weaknesses, he’s a bit undersized for the position at 6’1 and 225 pounds.  Block shedding is an area where he needs to improve.  Too often you see him get sucked into a block and not be able to get out of it to make a play.  Overall though, Smith is a worthy first round selection and you can certainly make the case for him being the top linebacker prospect for this year’s draft class.

Outside Linebacker – Tremaine Edmunds (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #1)

edmunds

This one is a no-brainer really.  Edmunds is well deserving of being a top ranked prospect at the position.  He combines elite athleticism with NFL-caliber size (6’5 and 250 pounds).  In addition, he’s one of the youngest players in this year’s draft class, currently only 19 years of age.  Paradoxically, this is both a strength and a weakness for Edmunds.  On the plus side, it means he was an excellent age-adjusted producer at the college level, and in theory he should have a longer lifespan in the NFL.  A great investment for any NFL team in that sense.  But the downside is he relies too much on his athletic gifts and therefore lacks the insticts, awareness, and play recognition you’d like to see at the position.  As a result, I expect Edmunds to struggle early on as a rookie, but he has far and away the highest ceiling of any linebacker prospect in this year’s draft class.  Edmunds just needs the experience and to be coached up.  Over the long-term, I expect he will prove to be a great player.

Cornerback – Josh Jackson (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #2)

We could be seeing a deep cornerback class this year that is loaded with talented players.  On the top end of this spectrum, I’d go with Josh Jackson because I believe he has the highest ceiling.  Denzel Ward is a safe selection, so I understand why Kiper would mark him down as the top prospect here.  Josh Jackson is coming off of an incredible season where he recorded 27 PBU’s and 8 interceptions.  He will be entering this draft at 21 years of age.  It should be noted that Josh Jackson played wide receiver in high school before converting to cornerback in college.  This is another guy who appears to have amazing athleticism on tape.  I can’t wait to see his combine measurables.

Safety – Derwin James (Holden’s #1 and Kiper’s #2)

derwinjames

While Kiper makes the argument for Minkah Fitzpatrick being listed at the top prospect here, I will note that Minkah Fitzpatrick is a hybrid player who could play cornerback or safety at the next level.  My preference is for a prospect that is a pure-play at the safety position to be top ranked here, so I’m going with Derwin James.  James is 6’3 and 215 pounds.  James was the top recruit at DB out of high school due to his amazing production (94 tackles and 4 interceptions in eight games).  He went on to suffer a left lateral meniscus tear early on in his college career.  But James bounced back, producing 84 tackles and two interceptions in his most recent season.  By all accounts, James puts in extra time to study film on weekends and is a great leader in the locker room on game days.  He has the ability to do it all on the field, from making big hits to playing tight coverage.  For all these reasons, and because James was named a Freshman All-American in his first college season, he’s my top ranked prospect at safety.

 

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson Will Be Biggest Bust of 2017 NFL Draft

By: Justin Holden justin

 

 

 

As the 2017 NFL Draft approaches, I want to be on record with my “biggest bust” for this year. With no doubt in my mind, the most obvious bust candidate of the 2017 NFL Draft class idrafts Deshaun Watson, quarterback from Clemson. I’m going to explain why soon enough. But first, let’s set the stage with a backstory.

Deshaun Watson finished the 2016 NCAA football season with a 67% completion percentage, 4,593 passing yards, 41 passing touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. He also rushed for 629 yards and 9 touchdowns. Watson passed the eye test for many analysts that reviewed his film, most of whom touted his ability to produce well against top defenses like Alabama. In fact, Watson posted a college QBR that ranks 90th percentile when compared historically to all other college quarterbacks. I have seen mock drafts having Deshaun Watson go anywhere from #12 overall to #30 overall in the first round of the draft. Watson seems to be the consensus second best quarterback of this year’s draft class, behind North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky.

Walterfootball.com is the website that has Deshaun Watson going #30 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their mock draft. The reasoning behind this is that the Steelers would be able to groom a young quarterback behind an aging Ben Roethlisberger, reminiscent of what the Green Bay Packers did with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. However, Walterfootball.com<http://Walterfootball.com&gt; also notes that no team they have spoken with placed a first round grade on DeShaun Watson, making it conceivable that he actually ends up being a second or third round selection on draft day given the apparent disconnect between analysts, the media, and NFL franchises.

Now, since the draft has not even happened yet as of the writing of this article, I do not ultimately know where Deshaun Watson gets drafted. I have no crystal ball at my disposal. But, I will confidently tell you that Deshaun Watson is automatically the biggest bust of the 2017 draft if selected anywhere from early first round to mid second round. If he gets drafted later than that, he is still a bust, but perhaps not the biggest. Because as we all know, the earlier a bad player is drafted, the bigger a mistake it is.

watsonSo having said all this, I am now ready to tell you why Deshaun Watson is the player I am projecting to be biggest bust of the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite his solid college production and mobile ability, Watson simply lacks the requisite arm strength to play at the NFL level. The speed of the game at the NFL level is significantly quicker than the college level. This fact holds true even when we limit the comparison to top college conferences only, such as the SEC. So when you throw the ball downfield, NFL linebackers and defensive backs react much quicker to make plays on the ball.

While you do not need to be a strong armed quarterback to have success in the NFL (Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, Tyrod Tayor, etc.), you still need to put enough velocity on your throws to complete passes downfield before the defense can react. All the weak armed quarterbacks I just mentioned in parentheses throw the ball at a velocity of 50mph or higher. Deshaun Watson throws the ball at a velocity of 45mph, as obtained from his pro day workout metrics. This is a putrid 1st percentile when compared to all other NFL quarterback prospects on record.

Some of you may call me silly for pointing to one single metric as an indication that Watson iswatson2 a bust, but I assure you the throw velocity metric in this case represents a major red flag. It is one thing to be a quarterback with a relatively weak arm. It is another to have one of the weakest arms ever on record. By having a throw velocity that is 1st percentile, that means at least 99% of NFL quarterbacks throw the ball faster than Watson does. Now, as someone that doesn’t hold the “eye test” in the highest regard to evaluate prospects, I can tell you that when watching film on Watson, it is clear he appears to throw the ball slow even on bullet passes. Seeing Watson throw the ball on film clearly matches up with the throw velocity metric he posted on his pro day. While throwing the ball 45mph is good enough to make plays against NCAA defenders, it simply is not good enough to make plays against NFL defenders unless it is a quick pass route, such as a slant or flat.

All this to say, what often separates high-end starting caliber quarterbacks from replacement level quarterbacks at the NFL level is the ability to throw the ball deep downfield with accuracy. Deshaun Watson lacks the arm strength to throw deep passes. Heck, I’d even go as far to say he lacks the arm strength to throw intermediate passes! Some of you will mock me for this article and my analysis, but I will have the last laugh. Because Deshaun Watson won’t be able to consistently complete comeback routes, streak routes, post routes, corner routes, or any other intermediate to long routes at the NFL level. He will be picked off constantly if he tries to go deep. Mark my words. So, in conclusion, Watson is- in my mind- a mobile gadget player, not worthy of being drafted. Yet, he is likely to be drafted early and viewed as a franchise quarterback. Go ahead, try to explain his upcoming poor rookie season by blaming the team that drafted him, or the coaches, or the excuse that all rookies struggle. I’ll just be sitting here, ready to throw this article back in your face when Watson is out of the league before reaching age 30. Never being able to clear himself of the big word “BUST” permanently labeled next to his name.