Chicago Bears – Last Word on Pro Football2018 NFL Off-Season: Which Teams Have Improved and Which Have Declined?2018 NFL Draft Grades: NFC North and NFC SouthChicago Bears 2018 NFL Draft Reviewhttp://lastwordonprofootball.com Fri, 18 May 2018 01:19:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/05/12/2018-nfl-off-season-improved-declined-teams/ http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/05/12/2018-nfl-off-season-improved-declined-teams/#comments Sat, 12 May 2018 12:18:52 +0000

http://lwosonnfl.ms.lastwordonsports.com/?p=43633

The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone and rookie minicamps have already started. This signals the ending point for most teams off-seasons. Sure, some teams might add or drop players before the season to make their final 53-man roster limits. However, most teams aren’t adding any more players any time soon. This opens the door for us to be able to look how teams have fared in the 2018 NFL Off-season.

Most Improved Teams

Chicago Bears

Wow, what an offseason. The Bears entered free agency with one goal in mind, to give Mitch Trubisky all the weapons he needs. They end up with a brand-new look on offense with some nice pieces on defense. In free agency, they go out and grab Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Then in the draft, they took wide receivers Anthony Miller and Javon Wims. After finishing 32nd in receiving yards last year, these key additions put them in a good position going forward.

The Bears also hired Matt Nagy to be their new head coach. He’s an offensive minded coach, being the Chiefs offensive coordinator a season ago, who should help Trubisky take gigantic steps forward with his development.

The team also went out and got some new faces on the defensive side of the ball. First-round pick Roquan Smith, being the biggest one. Smith immediately steps in at linebacker and takes control of the defense. He is a good cover linebacker, with the range of a safety to make plays anywhere on the field. He should put up great tackle numbers in his first year and is an early defensive rookie of the year candidate for me.

Overall, this team improved drastically since the end of last season and their record this upcoming season should show it. Don’t be surprised if the Bears make the playoffs as a wildcard team or come close to it.

San Fransisco 49ers

The 49ers are a very popular team right now. Ever since Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the team and won the last five games of their season, some people have already anointed the team as division champs. Others have even gone far enough to say they will most definitely be in the Super Bowl this upcoming season. Now that’s some high praise for a team that finished last in the division just last season ago. Especially when you must play the even more dangerous LA Rams twice a year.

Still, the 49ers were able to improve as a team this offseason and help Garoppolo out. They signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year $30 million deal. Pairing him and Matt Breida together will make for a good backfield (or maybe that’s just the Georgia Southern bias in me talking) that could look familiar to what Kyle Shanahan ran in Atlanta with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.

The team also drafted two wide receivers to help Garoppolo in Dante Pettis (second round) and Richie James (seventh round). Pettis is expected to be an instant starter and could turn out to be a good compliment to Marquise Goodwin. James won’t see any playing time soon, as he is still very raw and needs to learn. He provides good upside and might be a guy who could see the field as a rotational guy in late years. The 49ers first round pick Mike McGlinchey will start instantly at right tackle for the team. He has Jack Conklin type upside at right tackle and could move to the left side when Joe Staley retires. The team also signed center Weston Richburg this off-season, shoring up the offensive line and giving their franchise quarterback some protection.

On defense, the team added depth at linebacker in Fred Warner. Warner is a good linebacker who is a safety plan depending on what happens to star linebacker Reuben Foster. No matter the outcome don’t be surprised if you see Warner on the field in certain packages as he offers good upside with his instincts and cover skills.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Going into the draft the Bucs knew they needed to improve at a few positions: running back and cornerback being the biggest. They did just that. In the second round, they were able to grab running back Ronald Jones II. He should be the starter coming out of training camp and can take a lot of pressure off Jameis Winston. They then doubled up on corners drafting Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart both in the second round. Both corners will challenge for the number one spot.

The team also drafted offensive lineman Alex Cappa in the third round. Cappa is a versatile player who has a chance to be a long-term starter for the team. He probably won’t start instantly but don’t be surprised to see him on the field down the home stretch of the season depending on offensive line play.

Teams Getting there

Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Antonio Callaway, and David Njoku. What a receiving core. If you can get Gordon and Callaway to stay clean off the field, then this could be one of the best receiving corps in the league. Then you add in first overall pick Baker Mayfield throwing them the ball. Not to mention the likes of Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde carrying the ball. This Browns offense has a lot of potentials to be an upper tier offense in the league, it is just going to come down to coaching, which is very worrisome.

On paper, this team has a lot of good pieces. They have a good running back and receiving corps, a good quarterback, two linebackers in Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey who finished tied for first and tied for fourth in the league in tackles respectively, a good defensive line with depth throughout it, and a true number one corner. That’s a lot of pieces for a team that has only won one game in the past two seasons.

The Browns also drafted Genard Avery in the fifth round who could end up being a starter and outplaying Schobert. He probably won’t beat him out year one, but he could be the answer long-term at middle linebacker for the team and a name to watch out for.

It is going to be interesting going forward watching the quarterback battle of Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield during the preseason and in training camp. My prediction is that even if Mayfield doesn’t come out week one as the starter it is only going to take a game or two of below average quarterback play from Taylor for fans to be calling for Mayfield.

This could be the year that the Browns win more than a game but ultimately comes down to coaching and how long Hue Jackson lasts as head coach before he’s fired.

Indianapolis Colts

Chris Ballard is one of the best GMs in the league and has already brought in some great talent to a roster that is lacking outside of Andrew Luck, who is even a big question mark at this point in his career.

Coming into the offseason the team had a handful of key pieces to build around, half of which were drafted by Ballard his first year. They came into the off-season with Quincey Wilson at cornerback, Malik Hooker at safety, TY Hilton at wide receiver, and Andrew Luck at quarterback.

The Colts come out the offseason with a lot more starters and pieces that improve a very bad roster. They grab tight end Eric Ebron in free agency to help give Luck that security blanket over the middle, they grab Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines in the draft to pair with Marlon Mack and make a potentially good running back trio. The most important pieces they grabbed were offensive guards Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. Both with be immediate starters at left and right guard respectively and make a good interior offensive line with center Ryan Kelly already there.

The Colts still have holes on their roster, but Ballard took the job knowing it was a multiple year rebuild. Next year, if Luck can play again, we should see the emergence of the team and see them win games.

New York Jets

After doubling down on safety in the 2017 draft the Jets finish the secondary in the 2018 offseason. They add cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Parry Nickerson to the group of Morris Claiborne, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye.  They also traded for edge Henry Anderson who will be a starter for the team. Their third-round pick Nathan Shepard could end up starting early for the team as well.

On offense, they add their quarterback of the future in Sam Darnold. Darnold was my number one overall quarterback in this year’s draft and him falling was a blessing for the Jets. Darnold might not start this year but has the chance to learn behind veteran quarterback Josh McCown. The team also signed Teddy Bridgewater this off-season. It is currently a crowded quarterback room but that could be beneficial to the team and Darnold. Right now, the Jets aren’t a win now team and Darnold might take some time before he’s ready to start. The team could start McCown or Bridgewater and have them work through the rough patches on offense while Darnold sits and learns. Then next year surround Darnold with weapons and give him the reins of your franchise.

Overall, the Jets aren’t going to be competing for division leaders this year but are closer than many people think. I think the team just needs one more good off-season before they are competing for second in the division. Let’s be honest, they aren’t beating Tom Brady any time soon.

Total Rebuild (& they might not even know it)

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle addressed the draft like a team without many holes, and that’s just the problem. This is a team that would surprise many if you say they are going through a rebuild. Then you look at their depth chart it is apparent they need help at some major spots.

This offseason the Seahawks lost star corner Richard Sherman, pass rusher Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, which was just a one-year experiment gone terribly wrong. They also lost tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Paul Richardson on the offensive side of the ball this off-season. That’s a lot to replace in an off-season, while also trying to fill the other holes on this roster.

I am a Rashaad Penny fan but taking him in the first round just doesn’t make any sense. He is a running back who can not catch or pass block to save his life. This will make him struggle to stay on the field for all three downs. You also have so many other holes on the team that need to be addressed. The team has done well with Russell Wilson carrying them, but you can’t continue to put it all on him.

On the flip side, the team did make some good decisions this off-season. Being able to snag Jamarco Jones in the fifth round was an absolute steal. He needs to learn better body control but makes up for it with his long arms and upper body strength. He has potential to be an NFL starter for the team. The Seahawks also drafted tight end Will Dissly in the fourth round. Dissly was one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft and fits the mold of what Seattle looks for.

Overall, this is a team who may struggle more than anyone expects them too. After making the playoffs six of the past seven years they may find themselves facing their first losing season since Wilson was drafted.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals entered the offseason with their quarterback and head coach retiring. That put them a little behind where they wanted to be as an organization. However, they now have a new head coach in Steve Wilks and a new and crowded quarterback room with Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, and Mike Glennon.

The team had a solid draft, giving up for virtually nothing for Rosen. Then turning around in round two and grabbing Christian Kirk to learn under Larry Fitzgerald for a few years. In round three coming around and grabbing Mason Cole to help solidify a bad offensive line. Still, the team is lacking at many positions and aren’t looking to finish high in a competitive division.

While Rosen will be their quarterback of the future, he won’t play right away. He may be the most “pro ready” quarterback but is injury prone and would play behind a bad offensive line. Even though Rosen may be ready for Arizona, Arizona may not be ready for Rosen.

Overall, the Cardinals have many core pieces needed, but it might take them another off-season before they’re ready to compete.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images

The post 2018 NFL Off-Season: Which Teams Have Improved and Which Have Declined? appeared first on Last Word on Pro Football.
]]>

The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone and rookie minicamps have already started. This signals the ending point for most teams off-seasons. Sure, some teams might add or drop players before the season to make their final 53-man roster limits. However, most teams aren’t adding any more players any time soon. This opens the door for us to be able to look how teams have fared in the 2018 NFL Off-season.

Most Improved Teams

Chicago Bears

Wow, what an offseason. The Bears entered free agency with one goal in mind, to give Mitch Trubisky all the weapons he needs. They end up with a brand-new look on offense with some nice pieces on defense. In free agency, they go out and grab Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Then in the draft, they took wide receivers Anthony Miller and Javon Wims. After finishing 32nd in receiving yards last year, these key additions put them in a good position going forward.

The Bears also hired Matt Nagy to be their new head coach. He’s an offensive minded coach, being the Chiefs offensive coordinator a season ago, who should help Trubisky take gigantic steps forward with his development.

The team also went out and got some new faces on the defensive side of the ball. First-round pick Roquan Smith, being the biggest one. Smith immediately steps in at linebacker and takes control of the defense. He is a good cover linebacker, with the range of a safety to make plays anywhere on the field. He should put up great tackle numbers in his first year and is an early defensive rookie of the year candidate for me.

Overall, this team improved drastically since the end of last season and their record this upcoming season should show it. Don’t be surprised if the Bears make the playoffs as a wildcard team or come close to it.

San Fransisco 49ers

The 49ers are a very popular team right now. Ever since Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the team and won the last five games of their season, some people have already anointed the team as division champs. Others have even gone far enough to say they will most definitely be in the Super Bowl this upcoming season. Now that’s some high praise for a team that finished last in the division just last season ago. Especially when you must play the even more dangerous LA Rams twice a year.

Still, the 49ers were able to improve as a team this offseason and help Garoppolo out. They signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year $30 million deal. Pairing him and Matt Breida together will make for a good backfield (or maybe that’s just the Georgia Southern bias in me talking) that could look familiar to what Kyle Shanahan ran in Atlanta with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.

The team also drafted two wide receivers to help Garoppolo in Dante Pettis (second round) and Richie James (seventh round). Pettis is expected to be an instant starter and could turn out to be a good compliment to Marquise Goodwin. James won’t see any playing time soon, as he is still very raw and needs to learn. He provides good upside and might be a guy who could see the field as a rotational guy in late years. The 49ers first round pick Mike McGlinchey will start instantly at right tackle for the team. He has Jack Conklin type upside at right tackle and could move to the left side when Joe Staley retires. The team also signed center Weston Richburg this off-season, shoring up the offensive line and giving their franchise quarterback some protection.

On defense, the team added depth at linebacker in Fred Warner. Warner is a good linebacker who is a safety plan depending on what happens to star linebacker Reuben Foster. No matter the outcome don’t be surprised if you see Warner on the field in certain packages as he offers good upside with his instincts and cover skills.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Going into the draft the Bucs knew they needed to improve at a few positions: running back and cornerback being the biggest. They did just that. In the second round, they were able to grab running back Ronald Jones II. He should be the starter coming out of training camp and can take a lot of pressure off Jameis Winston. They then doubled up on corners drafting Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart both in the second round. Both corners will challenge for the number one spot.

The team also drafted offensive lineman Alex Cappa in the third round. Cappa is a versatile player who has a chance to be a long-term starter for the team. He probably won’t start instantly but don’t be surprised to see him on the field down the home stretch of the season depending on offensive line play.

 

Teams Getting there

Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Antonio Callaway, and David Njoku. What a receiving core. If you can get Gordon and Callaway to stay clean off the field, then this could be one of the best receiving corps in the league. Then you add in first overall pick Baker Mayfield throwing them the ball. Not to mention the likes of Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde carrying the ball. This Browns offense has a lot of potentials to be an upper tier offense in the league, it is just going to come down to coaching, which is very worrisome.

On paper, this team has a lot of good pieces. They have a good running back and receiving corps, a good quarterback, two linebackers in Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey who finished tied for first and tied for fourth in the league in tackles respectively, a good defensive line with depth throughout it, and a true number one corner. That’s a lot of pieces for a team that has only won one game in the past two seasons.

The Browns also drafted Genard Avery in the fifth round who could end up being a starter and outplaying Schobert. He probably won’t beat him out year one, but he could be the answer long-term at middle linebacker for the team and a name to watch out for.

It is going to be interesting going forward watching the quarterback battle of Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield during the preseason and in training camp. My prediction is that even if Mayfield doesn’t come out week one as the starter it is only going to take a game or two of below average quarterback play from Taylor for fans to be calling for Mayfield.

This could be the year that the Browns win more than a game but ultimately comes down to coaching and how long Hue Jackson lasts as head coach before he’s fired.

Indianapolis Colts

Chris Ballard is one of the best GMs in the league and has already brought in some great talent to a roster that is lacking outside of Andrew Luck, who is even a big question mark at this point in his career.

Coming into the offseason the team had a handful of key pieces to build around, half of which were drafted by Ballard his first year. They came into the off-season with Quincey Wilson at cornerback, Malik Hooker at safety, TY Hilton at wide receiver, and Andrew Luck at quarterback.

The Colts come out the offseason with a lot more starters and pieces that improve a very bad roster. They grab tight end Eric Ebron in free agency to help give Luck that security blanket over the middle, they grab Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines in the draft to pair with Marlon Mack and make a potentially good running back trio. The most important pieces they grabbed were offensive guards Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. Both with be immediate starters at left and right guard respectively and make a good interior offensive line with center Ryan Kelly already there.

The Colts still have holes on their roster, but Ballard took the job knowing it was a multiple year rebuild. Next year, if Luck can play again, we should see the emergence of the team and see them win games.

New York Jets

After doubling down on safety in the 2017 draft the Jets finish the secondary in the 2018 offseason. They add cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Parry Nickerson to the group of Morris Claiborne, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye.  They also traded for edge Henry Anderson who will be a starter for the team. Their third-round pick Nathan Shepard could end up starting early for the team as well.

On offense, they add their quarterback of the future in Sam Darnold. Darnold was my number one overall quarterback in this year’s draft and him falling was a blessing for the Jets. Darnold might not start this year but has the chance to learn behind veteran quarterback Josh McCown. The team also signed Teddy Bridgewater this off-season. It is currently a crowded quarterback room but that could be beneficial to the team and Darnold. Right now, the Jets aren’t a win now team and Darnold might take some time before he’s ready to start. The team could start McCown or Bridgewater and have them work through the rough patches on offense while Darnold sits and learns. Then next year surround Darnold with weapons and give him the reins of your franchise.

Overall, the Jets aren’t going to be competing for division leaders this year but are closer than many people think. I think the team just needs one more good off-season before they are competing for second in the division. Let’s be honest, they aren’t beating Tom Brady any time soon.

Total Rebuild (& they might not even know it)

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle addressed the draft like a team without many holes, and that’s just the problem. This is a team that would surprise many if you say they are going through a rebuild. Then you look at their depth chart it is apparent they need help at some major spots.

This offseason the Seahawks lost star corner Richard Sherman, pass rusher Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, which was just a one-year experiment gone terribly wrong. They also lost tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Paul Richardson on the offensive side of the ball this off-season. That’s a lot to replace in an off-season, while also trying to fill the other holes on this roster.

I am a Rashaad Penny fan but taking him in the first round just doesn’t make any sense. He is a running back who can not catch or pass block to save his life. This will make him struggle to stay on the field for all three downs. You also have so many other holes on the team that need to be addressed. The team has done well with Russell Wilson carrying them, but you can’t continue to put it all on him.

On the flip side, the team did make some good decisions this off-season. Being able to snag Jamarco Jones in the fifth round was an absolute steal. He needs to learn better body control but makes up for it with his long arms and upper body strength. He has potential to be an NFL starter for the team. The Seahawks also drafted tight end Will Dissly in the fourth round. Dissly was one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft and fits the mold of what Seattle looks for.

Overall, this is a team who may struggle more than anyone expects them too. After making the playoffs six of the past seven years they may find themselves facing their first losing season since Wilson was drafted.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals entered the offseason with their quarterback and head coach retiring. That put them a little behind where they wanted to be as an organization. However, they now have a new head coach in Steve Wilks and a new and crowded quarterback room with Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, and Mike Glennon.

The team had a solid draft, giving up for virtually nothing for Rosen. Then turning around in round two and grabbing Christian Kirk to learn under Larry Fitzgerald for a few years. In round three coming around and grabbing Mason Cole to help solidify a bad offensive line. Still, the team is lacking at many positions and aren’t looking to finish high in a competitive division.

While Rosen will be their quarterback of the future, he won’t play right away. He may be the most “pro ready” quarterback but is injury prone and would play behind a bad offensive line. Even though Rosen may be ready for Arizona, Arizona may not be ready for Rosen.

Overall, the Cardinals have many core pieces needed, but it might take them another off-season before they’re ready to compete.

 

 

Main photo:
Embed from Getty ImagesThe post 2018 NFL Off-Season: Which Teams Have Improved and Which Have Declined? appeared first on Last Word on Pro Football.
]]>
http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/05/12/2018-nfl-off-season-improved-declined-teams/feed/ 1 http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/05/06/2018-nfl-draft-grades-nfc-north-and-nfc-south/ http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/05/06/2018-nfl-draft-grades-nfc-north-and-nfc-south/#comments Sun, 06 May 2018 15:15:51 +0000

http://lwosonnfl.ms.lastwordonsports.com/?p=43533
Vita VeaThe first part of the 2018 NFL season has officially come to pass with the end of the 2018 NFL Draft. Every team has added young, talented players to their respective squads, but some teams fared better than others. This installment of the 2018 NFL Draft grades series takes an in-depth breakdown of the NFC North and NFC South drafts.

NFC East and NFC West Grades

AFC North and AFC South Grades

AFC East and AFC West Grades

Chicago Bears: B+

Players Added: Roquan Smith, James Daniels, Anthony Miller, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Billy Nichols, Kylie Fits, Javon Wimms

The Chicago Bears first two rounds rival the first two selections of anyone in the league. With the eighth overall pick, the Bears selected the best linebacker in the draft, Roquan Smith. Smith is a dynamic linebacker capable of doing just about everything that first-year head coach Vic Fangio could ask of him. He’s a physical freak, and can line up all over the defense, and has the football IQ to play multiple roles. Chicago’s defense was already a solid unit, but the Smith selection could make it a top-ten unit.

The second round was devoted to making quarterback Mitch Trubisky comfortable, and the Bears hit with both their picks. James Daniels was a great steal and was viewed by some as a mid-first talent. He should go a long way in helping to keep Trubisky upright.

Anthony Miller just adds to an already revamped receiving core. The second-round selection fits his projected talent, but he may struggle to find the field. After signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency, the Bears should have one of the deeper receiving corps in the league. Miller will probably face a lot of single coverage and should light up the stat sheet whenever he’s on the field. However, right now he’s third at best on the depth chart.

The biggest surprise for the Bears is that they didn’t select any edge defenders. After losing Pernell McPhee in free agency and former first-round pick Leonard Floyd disappointing, it seemed like the Bears would target pass rushing help. However, they never did. In an otherwise talented defense, the lack of edge defense is the biggest weakness for opposing offenses to attack.

Detroit Lions: B

Players Added: Frank Ragnow, Kerryon Johnson, Tracy Walker, Da’Shawn Hand, Tyrell Crosby, Nick Bawden

The Detroit Lions focused more on offense than most expected in head coach Matt Patricia’s first draft. With their first pick, they selected center Frank Ragnow out of Arkansas. While the pick surprised most, Ragnow was the best center left on the board, and it’s never a bad idea to invest in the offensive line. Ragnow is a great run blocker and pass blocker and immediately upgrades the offensive line. He can play all three interior positions, which only increases his value.

The Lions run game has been historically bad, as they haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013. Detroit tried to rectify that by trading up in the second round for Kerryon Johnson. Johnson immediately becomes the most talented running back since Bush, and he has the chance to be a true difference maker as a rookie. He has a running style similar to Le’Veon Bell and should be an impact player out of the backfield. If defenses have to respect the run, then that will only continue to open the field for Matthew Stafford and the aerial attack.

It was curious to see how little the Lions invested in their defense. Stafford alone makes the offense a top-ten unit, but the defense has held the Lions back in recent seasons. With a defensive-minded coach in Matt Patricia, conventional wisdom said that this draft would be used for Patricia to make his dream defense. That didn’t happen, as Detroit will field basically the same defense as 2017. Perhaps better coaching will increase production, but the Lions defense could have used a few more new faces.

Green Bay Packers: B+

Players Added: Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Oren Burks, J’Mon Moore, Cole Madison, JK Scott, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, James Looney, Hunter Bradley, Kendall Donnerson

The Green Bay Packers learned the hard way that having quarterback Aaron Rodgers can mask a lot of team flaws. With Rodgers missing the majority of the 2017 season, the Packers struggled to a 7-9 record with a defense that couldn’t stop anybody. First-year general manager Brian Gutekunst knew this was a problem, and made the first step to fix the problem with the selection of Jaire Alexander.

After trading out of their initial 14th overall selection, Green Bay moved back in exchange for a king’s ransom while still getting a great player that fills a need. Alexander is a great cornerback prospect, capable of taking away an entire side of the field when he’s at his best. With how thin the Packers are at cornerback, Alexander could be the top cornerback on the roster entering the season.

Green Bay doubled down on corners, selecting Josh Jackson with their second pick in the draft. Typically, teams don’t double down on the same position this early, but the Packers secondary is easily bad enough to justify this. Jackson, while less polished than Alexander, arguably offers a higher upside. These two picks will go a long way in revamping a subpar defense.

While Green Bay did their job with the secondary, they didn’t invest much in fixing the pass rush. Outside of Clay Matthews, the Packers don’t have an edge player that can consistently rush the quarterback and play the run. That hasn’t changed after the draft. Granted, the Packers defense had too many holes to fix in one draft, but it was surprising to see so little invested in edge defenders.

Minnesota Vikings: C+

Players Added: Mike Hughes, Brian O’Neill, Jalyn Holmes, Tyler Conklin, Daniel Carlson, Colby Gossett, Ade Aruna, Devante Downs

The Minnesota Vikings boast one of the deepest rosters in the league and didn’t have too many areas of need entering the draft. They were truly capable of drafting the best player available, which led to the Mike Hughes selection.

The Vikings don’t particularly need a cornerback, but there’s no denying Hughes’ talents. He’s a little smaller than the ideal cornerback, but he has all the talent in the world to play outside. In many way, Minnesota was the perfect landing spot for Hughes. He’s considered a raw prospect, and Minnesota’s stacked defense means he won’t be forced to play until he’s ready. He may not contribute much as a rookie, but he should be a major force in 2019 and beyond.

The one glaring weakness on the Vikings roster was the offensive line, Minnesota didn’t do much to fix that. They added an offensive tackle Brian O’Neill in the second round, but he’s more of a developmental prospect. Minnesota’s director of college scouting said O’Neill doesn’t have the strength to play right away, so he’s not a plug-and-play pick. Fortunately, with stopgap tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers ahead of him, he doesn’t need to be ready right away.

The Vikings still don’t have an answer along the interior offensive line. Minnesota’s interior line is one of the worst in football and has been the Achilles heel of this team for the past few seasons. Unless sixth-round selection Colby Gossett turns out to be a steal, that won’t be changing. With new quarterback Kirk Cousins under center, Minnesota should have focused more resources on making sure their quarterback took as little damage as possible.

Atlanta Falcons: A-

Players Added: Calvin Ridley, Isaiah Oliver, Deadrin Senat, Ito Smith, Russell Gage, Foyesade Oluokun

The Atlanta Falcons may have lost Taylor Gabriel in free agency, but they more than made up for it in the NFL draft. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who many had as the best receiver in the draft, somehow fell into Atlanta’s lap at the 26th overall pick.

Ridley’s a genuine force capable of serving as the number one receiver on most teams, but pairing him with Julio Jones is just unfair. This duo immediately becomes one of the best in the league, and that’s not even accounting for Mohamed Sanu as the third receiver. Factor in a top-ten quarterback slinging the ball in Matt Ryan, and this offense should be nearly impossible to stop.

The Falcons got another steal with the next selection, drafting highly talented cornerback Isiah Oliver with the 58th overall pick. Many analysts had Oliver as a late-first or early-second round selection, so grabbing him at the end of the second round was yet another great move. The Falcons didn’t desperately need a cornerback, but Oliver will certainly improve the unit. In today’s pass-happy NFL, there’s no such thing as too many defensive backs.

Quality offensive linemen are hard to find, and almost every team has a need. However, despite the high demand, it’s surprising to see the Falcons not even try to add a developmental prospect. The Falcons took running back Ito Smith in the fourth round, despite the fact he won’t have much of a chance to see the field. Devonta Freeman is one of the best backs in the league, and Tevin Coleman would be starting for most teams. There were still a few high-upside guards on the board at this time, yet the Falcons went a different direction.

Carolina Panthers: B+

Players Added: DJ Moore, Donte Jackson, Rashaan Gaulden, Ian Thomas, Maquis Haynes, Jermaine Carter, Andre Smith, Kendrick Norton

After spending years ignoring the wide receiver position, the Carolina Panthers finally invested in a true number one option for Cam Newton. At pick 24, the Panthers made DJ Moore the first receiver off the board. Newton hasn’t had a true do-everything receiver since Steve Smith left in 2014, until now. Smith himself was an analyst at the NFL Draft, and he proclaimed Moore the heir to his throne. That alone says everything about how great a selection this was.

The Panthers secondary was good in 2017, but it fell victim to speedy receivers multiple times over the course of the season. The scouting department correctly identified this flaw and set to fix it with the selection of cornerback Donte Jackson. Jackson was one of the fastest players at the NFL Combine, recording a 4.32-second 40-yard dash. His tape backs up that speed, and his presence should be a welcome addition to the Panthers secondary.

Interestingly, the Panthers didn’t take a running back to fill the shoes of Jonathan Stewart. Stewart was a great back in his day, but his 2017 tape showed that his day has passed. He excelled as a between the tackles rusher, and Carolina currently doesn’t have a player like that on the roster.

Yes, the Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey last season, and he performed well as a rookie. However, most of his positives came in the passing game, while he struggled running the ball. He could be one of the best third-down backs in the league, but the Panthers need a thunder to McCaffrey’s lightning. Unless they believe McCaffrey can make a big second-year leap, they don’t have that thunder.

New Orleans Saints: C+

Players Added: Marcus Davenport, Tre’quan Smith, Rick Leonard, Natrell Jamerson, Kamrin Moore, Boston Scott, Will Clapp

The New Orleans Saints realize their championship window with Drew Brees is closing, so they went all in to build the best 2018 roster they could. That mentality was never more obvious than when the Saints sent a king’s ransom to the Packers to select Marcus Davenport. Davenport’s a great talent, there’s no denying that. However, was it worth giving up two first-round picks and the 147th overall selection? That’s debatable. Frankly, it was only a 13-spot jump and probably wasn’t worth giving up that type of capital. The move will hurt New Orleans in the long run but will serve its purpose in the short term.

The Saints may have found a diamond in the rough with Will Clap late in the seventh round. He’ll never become a Hall of Famer, but he has the potential to make a serious impact on the roster. While in college, Clapp played all three interior line positions and created gaps for Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice during his tenure. It would likely require injuries for him to start, he could be a solid backup for years to come.

While Clapp was a steal, the other offensive lineman selected was not. The Saints reached big time in the fourth round when they selected offensive tackle Rick Leonard. While Leonard does have the size of an NFL offensive lineman, he’s only an average athlete and is still a major project. Most analysts had him going undrafted, just because he’s so raw and his ceiling isn’t that high. Perhaps the Saints saw something nobody else did, but right now, the Coleman selection looks like a wasted pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B

Players Added: Vita Vea, Ronald Jones, MJ Stewart, Carlton Davis, Alex Cappa, Jordan Whitehead, Justin Watson, Jack Cichy

For the first time in NFL history, four quarterbacks were selected with the first ten picks. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the prime beneficiaries of this, as it allowed defensive tackle Vita Vea to fall into their lap at 12. Vea was arguably the best interior pass rusher in the draft and would have easily been a top-ten selection most years. Tampa Bay didn’t need another defensive lineman, but the value was too good to pass up. Send a prayer to the NFC South quarterbacks, because the defensive line of Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul, Gerald McCoy, and Vinny Curry should wreak havoc week in and week out.

After six years on the Doug Martin roller coaster, Tampa Bay is starting anew with Ronald Jones heading the backfield. Selecting a running back was obvious but was Jones the right guy for the job? He was taken 38th overall when there were still plenty of potential stars on the board. Additionally, running backs aren’t worth what they used to be, and Tampa probably could have found a similar caliber running back in the third or fourth round.

If linebacker Jack Cichy can stay healthy, he should be able to contribute immediately on the defense. His draft stock plummeted after missing 2017 with an injury, but he was one of the better linebackers in college football in 2016. Obviously, it’s difficult to come back from a serious injury under any circumstances, but that challenge increases tenfold along with learning the NFL game. Those factors mean he probably won’t contribute much in 2018, but he could play a role in 2019 and beyond.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images

The post 2018 NFL Draft Grades: NFC North and NFC South appeared first on Last Word on Pro Football.
]]>

Vita VeaThe first part of the 2018 NFL season has officially come to pass with the end of the 2018 NFL Draft. Every team has added young, talented players to their respective squads, but some teams fared better than others. This installment of the 2018 NFL Draft grades series takes an in-depth breakdown of the NFC North and NFC South drafts.

NFC East and NFC West Grades

AFC North and AFC South Grades

AFC East and AFC West Grades

Chicago Bears: B+

Players Added: Roquan Smith, James Daniels, Anthony Miller, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Billy Nichols, Kylie Fits, Javon Wimms

The Chicago Bears first two rounds rival the first two selections of anyone in the league. With the eighth overall pick, the Bears selected the best linebacker in the draft, Roquan Smith. Smith is a dynamic linebacker capable of doing just about everything that first-year head coach Vic Fangio could ask of him. He’s a physical freak, and can line up all over the defense, and has the football IQ to play multiple roles. Chicago’s defense was already a solid unit, but the Smith selection could make it a top-ten unit.

The second round was devoted to making quarterback Mitch Trubisky comfortable, and the Bears hit with both their picks. James Daniels was a great steal and was viewed by some as a mid-first talent. He should go a long way in helping to keep Trubisky upright.

Anthony Miller just adds to an already revamped receiving core. The second-round selection fits his projected talent, but he may struggle to find the field. After signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency, the Bears should have one of the deeper receiving corps in the league. Miller will probably face a lot of single coverage and should light up the stat sheet whenever he’s on the field. However, right now he’s third at best on the depth chart.

The biggest surprise for the Bears is that they didn’t select any edge defenders. After losing Pernell McPhee in free agency and former first-round pick Leonard Floyd disappointing, it seemed like the Bears would target pass rushing help. However, they never did. In an otherwise talented defense, the lack of edge defense is the biggest weakness for opposing offenses to attack.

Detroit Lions: B

Players Added: Frank Ragnow, Kerryon Johnson, Tracy Walker, Da’Shawn Hand, Tyrell Crosby, Nick Bawden

The Detroit Lions focused more on offense than most expected in head coach Matt Patricia’s first draft. With their first pick, they selected center Frank Ragnow out of Arkansas. While the pick surprised most, Ragnow was the best center left on the board, and it’s never a bad idea to invest in the offensive line. Ragnow is a great run blocker and pass blocker and immediately upgrades the offensive line. He can play all three interior positions, which only increases his value.

The Lions run game has been historically bad, as they haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013. Detroit tried to rectify that by trading up in the second round for Kerryon Johnson. Johnson immediately becomes the most talented running back since Bush, and he has the chance to be a true difference maker as a rookie. He has a running style similar to Le’Veon Bell and should be an impact player out of the backfield. If defenses have to respect the run, then that will only continue to open the field for Matthew Stafford and the aerial attack.

It was curious to see how little the Lions invested in their defense. Stafford alone makes the offense a top-ten unit, but the defense has held the Lions back in recent seasons. With a defensive-minded coach in Matt Patricia, conventional wisdom said that this draft would be used for Patricia to make his dream defense. That didn’t happen, as Detroit will field basically the same defense as 2017. Perhaps better coaching will increase production, but the Lions defense could have used a few more new faces.

Green Bay Packers: B+

Players Added: Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Oren Burks, J’Mon Moore, Cole Madison, JK Scott, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, James Looney, Hunter Bradley, Kendall Donnerson

The Green Bay Packers learned the hard way that having quarterback Aaron Rodgers can mask a lot of team flaws. With Rodgers missing the majority of the 2017 season, the Packers struggled to a 7-9 record with a defense that couldn’t stop anybody. First-year general manager Brian Gutekunst knew this was a problem, and made the first step to fix the problem with the selection of Jaire Alexander.

After trading out of their initial 14th overall selection, Green Bay moved back in exchange for a king’s ransom while still getting a great player that fills a need. Alexander is a great cornerback prospect, capable of taking away an entire side of the field when he’s at his best. With how thin the Packers are at cornerback, Alexander could be the top cornerback on the roster entering the season.

Green Bay doubled down on corners, selecting Josh Jackson with their second pick in the draft. Typically, teams don’t double down on the same position this early, but the Packers secondary is easily bad enough to justify this. Jackson, while less polished than Alexander, arguably offers a higher upside. These two picks will go a long way in revamping a subpar defense.

While Green Bay did their job with the secondary, they didn’t invest much in fixing the pass rush. Outside of Clay Matthews, the Packers don’t have an edge player that can consistently rush the quarterback and play the run. That hasn’t changed after the draft. Granted, the Packers defense had too many holes to fix in one draft, but it was surprising to see so little invested in edge defenders.

Minnesota Vikings: C+

Players Added: Mike Hughes, Brian O’Neill, Jalyn Holmes, Tyler Conklin, Daniel Carlson, Colby Gossett, Ade Aruna, Devante Downs

The Minnesota Vikings boast one of the deepest rosters in the league and didn’t have too many areas of need entering the draft. They were truly capable of drafting the best player available, which led to the Mike Hughes selection.

The Vikings don’t particularly need a cornerback, but there’s no denying Hughes’ talents. He’s a little smaller than the ideal cornerback, but he has all the talent in the world to play outside. In many way, Minnesota was the perfect landing spot for Hughes. He’s considered a raw prospect, and Minnesota’s stacked defense means he won’t be forced to play until he’s ready. He may not contribute much as a rookie, but he should be a major force in 2019 and beyond.

The one glaring weakness on the Vikings roster was the offensive line, Minnesota didn’t do much to fix that. They added an offensive tackle Brian O’Neill in the second round, but he’s more of a developmental prospect. Minnesota’s director of college scouting said O’Neill doesn’t have the strength to play right away, so he’s not a plug-and-play pick. Fortunately, with stopgap tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers ahead of him, he doesn’t need to be ready right away.

The Vikings still don’t have an answer along the interior offensive line. Minnesota’s interior line is one of the worst in football and has been the Achilles heel of this team for the past few seasons. Unless sixth-round selection Colby Gossett turns out to be a steal, that won’t be changing. With new quarterback Kirk Cousins under center, Minnesota should have focused more resources on making sure their quarterback took as little damage as possible.

Atlanta Falcons: A-

Players Added: Calvin Ridley, Isaiah Oliver, Deadrin Senat, Ito Smith, Russell Gage, Foyesade Oluokun

The Atlanta Falcons may have lost Taylor Gabriel in free agency, but they more than made up for it in the NFL draft. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who many had as the best receiver in the draft, somehow fell into Atlanta’s lap at the 26th overall pick.

Ridley’s a genuine force capable of serving as the number one receiver on most teams, but pairing him with Julio Jones is just unfair. This duo immediately becomes one of the best in the league, and that’s not even accounting for Mohamed Sanu as the third receiver. Factor in a top-ten quarterback slinging the ball in Matt Ryan, and this offense should be nearly impossible to stop.

The Falcons got another steal with the next selection, drafting highly talented cornerback Isiah Oliver with the 58th overall pick. Many analysts had Oliver as a late-first or early-second round selection, so grabbing him at the end of the second round was yet another great move. The Falcons didn’t desperately need a cornerback, but Oliver will certainly improve the unit. In today’s pass-happy NFL, there’s no such thing as too many defensive backs.

Quality offensive linemen are hard to find, and almost every team has a need. However, despite the high demand, it’s surprising to see the Falcons not even try to add a developmental prospect. The Falcons took running back Ito Smith in the fourth round, despite the fact he won’t have much of a chance to see the field. Devonta Freeman is one of the best backs in the league, and Tevin Coleman would be starting for most teams. There were still a few high-upside guards on the board at this time, yet the Falcons went a different direction.

Carolina Panthers: B+

Players Added: DJ Moore, Donte Jackson, Rashaan Gaulden, Ian Thomas, Maquis Haynes, Jermaine Carter, Andre Smith, Kendrick Norton

After spending years ignoring the wide receiver position, the Carolina Panthers finally invested in a true number one option for Cam Newton. At pick 24, the Panthers made DJ Moore the first receiver off the board. Newton hasn’t had a true do-everything receiver since Steve Smith left in 2014, until now. Smith himself was an analyst at the NFL Draft, and he proclaimed Moore the heir to his throne. That alone says everything about how great a selection this was.

The Panthers secondary was good in 2017, but it fell victim to speedy receivers multiple times over the course of the season. The scouting department correctly identified this flaw and set to fix it with the selection of cornerback Donte Jackson. Jackson was one of the fastest players at the NFL Combine, recording a 4.32-second 40-yard dash. His tape backs up that speed, and his presence should be a welcome addition to the Panthers secondary.

Interestingly, the Panthers didn’t take a running back to fill the shoes of Jonathan Stewart. Stewart was a great back in his day, but his 2017 tape showed that his day has passed. He excelled as a between the tackles rusher, and Carolina currently doesn’t have a player like that on the roster.

Yes, the Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey last season, and he performed well as a rookie. However, most of his positives came in the passing game, while he struggled running the ball. He could be one of the best third-down backs in the league, but the Panthers need a thunder to McCaffrey’s lightning. Unless they believe McCaffrey can make a big second-year leap, they don’t have that thunder.

New Orleans Saints: C+

Players Added: Marcus Davenport, Tre’quan Smith, Rick Leonard, Natrell Jamerson, Kamrin Moore, Boston Scott, Will Clapp

The New Orleans Saints realize their championship window with Drew Brees is closing, so they went all in to build the best 2018 roster they could. That mentality was never more obvious than when the Saints sent a king’s ransom to the Packers to select Marcus Davenport. Davenport’s a great talent, there’s no denying that. However, was it worth giving up two first-round picks and the 147th overall selection? That’s debatable. Frankly, it was only a 13-spot jump and probably wasn’t worth giving up that type of capital. The move will hurt New Orleans in the long run but will serve its purpose in the short term.

The Saints may have found a diamond in the rough with Will Clap late in the seventh round. He’ll never become a Hall of Famer, but he has the potential to make a serious impact on the roster. While in college, Clapp played all three interior line positions and created gaps for Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice during his tenure. It would likely require injuries for him to start, he could be a solid backup for years to come.

While Clapp was a steal, the other offensive lineman selected was not. The Saints reached big time in the fourth round when they selected offensive tackle Rick Leonard. While Leonard does have the size of an NFL offensive lineman, he’s only an average athlete and is still a major project. Most analysts had him going undrafted, just because he’s so raw and his ceiling isn’t that high. Perhaps the Saints saw something nobody else did, but right now, the Coleman selection looks like a wasted pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B

Players Added: Vita Vea, Ronald Jones, MJ Stewart, Carlton Davis, Alex Cappa, Jordan Whitehead, Justin Watson, Jack Cichy

For the first time in NFL history, four quarterbacks were selected with the first ten picks. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the prime beneficiaries of this, as it allowed defensive tackle Vita Vea to fall into their lap at 12. Vea was arguably the best interior pass rusher in the draft and would have easily been a top-ten selection most years. Tampa Bay didn’t need another defensive lineman, but the value was too good to pass up. Send a prayer to the NFC South quarterbacks, because the defensive line of Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul, Gerald McCoy, and Vinny Curry should wreak havoc week in and week out.

After six years on the Doug Martin roller coaster, Tampa Bay is starting anew with Ronald Jones heading the backfield. Selecting a running back was obvious but was Jones the right guy for the job? He was taken 38th overall when there were still plenty of potential stars on the board. Additionally, running backs aren’t worth what they used to be, and Tampa probably could have found a similar caliber running back in the third or fourth round.

If linebacker Jack Cichy can stay healthy, he should be able to contribute immediately on the defense. His draft stock plummeted after missing 2017 with an injury, but he was one of the better linebackers in college football in 2016. Obviously, it’s difficult to come back from a serious injury under any circumstances, but that challenge increases tenfold along with learning the NFL game. Those factors mean he probably won’t contribute much in 2018, but he could play a role in 2019 and beyond.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty ImagesThe post 2018 NFL Draft Grades: NFC North and NFC South appeared first on Last Word on Pro Football.
]]>
http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/05/06/2018-nfl-draft-grades-nfc-north-and-nfc-south/feed/ 3 http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/04/30/chicago-bears-2018-nfl-draft-review/ http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/04/30/chicago-bears-2018-nfl-draft-review/#comments Tue, 01 May 2018 02:02:28 +0000

http://lwosonnfl.ms.lastwordonsports.com/?p=43157


View the original article on Last Word On Pro Football: Chicago Bears – Last Word on Pro Football