Category Archives: National Football League

The NFL Versus Kaepernick

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As the calendar has shifted to the month of June, teams in the National Football League are in the midst of OTAs. For the most part the rosters are set with training camps in the NFL scheduled to begin in July. But one man who has yet to find himself a team to play for in 2017 is former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick made waves last year when he decided not to stand during the national anthem as he was protesting in order to shed some light on police brutality in the United States. Kaepernick had those who supported him, while he had folks who were against him as well. Kaepernick and the 49ers mutually agreed to part ways following the season. But when free agency began in March, Kaepernick was not a sought after player, and three months later he is still unemployed. Last year saw some anonymous front office personnel in the NFL refer to Kaepernick as a “traitor” for his stance, while some others are weary of a potential distraction. But however people want to spin it, Kaepernick is still an unemployed NFL player and it stems from the league’s hypocrisy.

Colin Kaepernick

When Kaepernick made his decision to not stand during the national anthem last year, he made it clear that he was doing it in order to bring attention to police brutality against minorities in the United States. Kaepernick’s critics immediately went off of the deep end to claim that he was disrespecting the military, while some police organizations publicly denounced him. This set off a national debate, but unfortunately the majority of the rhetoric was centered around Kaepernick’s alleged disrespect to the American flag and the military, but not the situation at hand which is police brutality.

Kaepernick knew that once he took his stance that he could be a man without a country as only a handful of players in the National Football League made gestures of solidarity alongside him, while no superstars or “faces of the league” joined in. And as much as the NFL might not want to come out and admit it, they’ve blackballed Kaepernick.

John Mara

Recently in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, New York Giants co-owner John Mara talked about potential fan backlash from signing Kaepernick. Mara claimed that he received numerous letters from Giants fans letting him know that they would not support the team or come to MetLife Stadium if they had a player do what Kaepernick did. And in discussing this Mara officially let the cat out of the bag as he let it be known what anyone with half a brain knew all along, but the National Football League was unwilling to admit to.

Kaepernick is not the first professional athlete to speak out on social issues, nor will he be the last, but the National Football League’s way of dealing with it is to attempt to make things quietly go away.

Tim Tebow

In 2010, quarterback Tim Tebow was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos after winning a Heisman Trophy collegiately with the Florida Gators, while also helping them win a national title. Former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels reached when he drafted Tebow who was scouted as a potential third-round pick in the first round, but he was brought in for his leadership and his ability to win. However the Broncos would fire McDaniels with three games remaining in the 2010 National Football League season which put Tebow’s status in limbo.

In 2011, former Broncos quarterback John Elway became the team’s executive president of football operations. Elway hired Fox to be the Broncos head coach and neither man was sold on Tebow’s ability to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League due to his unorthodox throwing motion and inaccuracy. The Broncos began 2011 with a record of 1-4 and fans were clamoring to see Tebow start. Elway and Fox were reluctant to let Tebow start, but they ultimately gave in just so that they could tell the Broncos fan base that “I told you so” as they expected him to struggle.

However what ensued was a magical journey as Tebow led the Broncos on five comeback victories in the regular season, while leading an upset victory over the defending AFC Champions in the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Game. But with Elway still not being sold on Tebow, and quarterback Peyton Manning becoming a free agent, Tebow was traded to the New York Jets following the season. And after Tebow spent time with the Jets, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles, he was out of the National Football League all together after 2015.

Since that time Tebow has changed sports as he is now playing baseball in the minor-league system of the New York Mets as the National Football League turned their back on him.

Tebow only had a career completion percentage of 47.9%, but he was 8-6 as a starter. However the real reason why Tebow is not currently on a National Football League roster has nothing to do with his ability on the field as it is more about him being outspoken about his religious faith. Tebow is a firm believer in Christianity and he isn’t afraid to spread that message to teammates, fans, and the media. Tebow is a very polarizing figure, but some people around the league deem him as a distraction due to all of the media attention that he received. But at the end of the day quarterbacks in the NFL are judged by wins and losses. And although that it isn’t pretty, Tebow will get wins; the NFL has closed the door on him.

Chris Kluwe

In 2012, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe publicly expressed his support of same-sex marriage. In eight years with the Vikings, Kluwe set a franchise record which still stands as he averaged 44.4 yards per punt. Kluwe was 31-years of age at the time of his comments on same-sex marriage, and never played in the NFL again as he was unofficially shunned away.

In 2013, Missouri Tigers defensive end/outside linebacker Michael Sam was the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as he led the teams in sacks with 11.5. For years the SEC has been the best conference in college football and for a player to be acknowledged as the league’s best defender is a true honor. When that college football season ended, Sam appeared to be a lock to be a top-15 selection in the 2014 National Football League Draft due to his pass rushing ability. However in February 2014, Sam publicly announced that he was a homosexual, and unfortunately for him, his draft stock immediately plummeted.

Sam went from being a first-round pick to almost not being drafted at all as it took a compensatory pick by the St. Louis Rams at the end of the seventh and last round of the National Football League Draft for him to hear his named called. Typically a defensive player of the year from the Southeastern Conference warrants a first-round selection, while some of Sam’s teammates during his time at Missouri which includes New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson, Denver Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray and New England Patriots defensive end Kony Ealy were all taken in the first, two rounds of the draft.

Michael Sam

In four preseason games with the Rams in 2014, Sam tallied 6 sacks, but he still was unable to make their roster out of training camp which led to his release. After Sam’s release from the Rams, Sam was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys who after only tallying 34 sacks in 2013 needed all of the pass rushing help that they could get in regards to rushing the passer. However Sam never appeared in a game for the Cowboys, and would have to pursue his professional football career in the Canadian Football League in 2015 with the Montreal Allouettes, while he has never appeared in an NFL game.

Jerry Smith

I cannot forget about the National Football League turning their back on former Washington Redskins tight end Jerry Smith. From 1965-1977, Smith was one of the best players of that era and a dependable pass catching option for Redskins quarterbacks such as Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer. When Smith retired from the NFL, his 421 receptions and 60 receiving touchdowns were both all-time records for a tight end. However when it comes to enshrinement for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Smith is constantly looked over.

Ray Rice

There was also the case of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice who the National Football League banished in 2014. In February 2014, video surfaced showing Rice having an argument with his then fiancee Janay Palmer at an Atlantic City casino. Rice and Parker entered an elevator, however when they got out Rice was dragging Parker out as she appeared to be unconscious. Initially Rice was suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for just two games in spite of the fact that he and Palmer let him know exactly what happened. However just before Rice was set to be reinstated by the league, TMZ released a video from inside of the elevator showing Rice actually strike Palmer. The NFL would panic due to the public outrage and suspend Rice indefinitely. Rice never played in the NFL again, as he was now the guy that no team wanted any part of.

And this is now what Kaepernick has to deal with as his career in the National Football League has more than likely concluded. Teams are going to make every excuse under the sun as to why they won’t sign Kaepernick, but we all know that he hasn’t found a home as teams are worried about some fan backlash. However instead of worrying about potential backlash from some fans, teams in the NFL need to take a look at the facts.

Kaepernick is 28-30 as a starter with the majority of his losses coming over the last two seasons as the 49ers organization was in complete turmoil. Kaepernick has had to play for a different head coach and offensive coordinator in each of the last three years, while the talent around him in San Francisco diminished greatly since he helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2012 National Football League season. And in spite of that Kaepernick has still been able to maintain a career completion percentage of nearly 60%.

Since Kaepernick decided not to stand for the anthem, he has also become extremely active in the community. Kaepernick sent a plane full of food, water, and relief supplies to those people that have been starving in Somalia. Kaepernick has donated $50k to the Meals on Wheels program. Kaepernick has also donated his time and money to various youth groups in the United States such as Black Youth Project 100, but this effort by him has been put on the back burner by those who still want to refer to him as a “traitor”, or a “distraction” for not standing for the national anthem. However any other player in the National Football League that would have made half of the effort in the community that Kaepernick has over the past nine months would have been the unanimous winner of the league’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award which doesn’t apply to him since he used his platform as a professional athlete to speak out against police brutality and social injustice in the United States.

And it’s sad since Kaepernick cannot even got a job in the National Football League as a backup quarterback; especially since there are so many crappy quarterbacks in the league that are actually starting. Recently the Seattle Seahawks brought Kaepernick in for a visit, but decided not to sign him as head coach Pete Carroll feels that he is still a starter in the NFL. But even with that it would not hurt the Seahawks to have a quality backup behind quarterback Russell Wilson as Kaepernick continues to be shutout by the league; especially since he is willing to be a backup.

So unfortunately for Kaepernick he took a chance to make an impact for people, but paid the personal price for his bravery. Kaepernick isn’t the first and he won’t be the last as he simply tried to become a voice for voiceless while attempting to make the United States a better place for them to live in.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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Still Feeling The Effect

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On February 1, 2015, the Seattle Seahawks took the field at the University of Phoenix Stadium for Super Bowl 49 in what was set to be their crowning moment. The Seahawks were attempting to be the first National Football League team since the New England Patriots in 2004 to win consecutive Super Bowl Championships as it would have been just the seventh time in the Super Bowl era that the champ from the previous year would be able to repeat. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl in the previous season by being a brash and cocky team that could intimidate opponents with their sheer athleticism that was topped off with bravado. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had constructed his team in the same mode that he had previously done during his time collegiately with the USC Trojans as he employed athletes and depth at nearly every position which made Seattle the envy of the NFL.

The Seahawks entered the Super Bowl needing to get past the Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady who was already a three-time Super Bowl Champion. Because of this the oddsmakers in Las Vegas had the contest as a pick ’em, and they were very accurate in their assessment as the game was a toss up throughout.

The strength of both teams was on display early as Brady was able to lead the Patriots down the field into scoring position. But in the red zone Brady was picked off by Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane. Brady would recover and lead the Pats on a pair of touchdown drives. However each time that New England scored, the Seahawks were able to answer and thus the contest was tied at 14 heading to halftime.

The Seahawks would then take control of the game in the third quarter which saw Brady picked off by Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks would take a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter and their second consecutive Super Bowl Title seemed to be right around the bend.

But somebody forgot to mention that to Brady who took over in the fourth quarter as he picked apart the best secondary in the National Football League. Brady was as accurate as could be with crisp passes, while the Seahawks pass rush could not get to him. And with just over two minutes left in the game, Brady found wide receiver Julien Edelman for the go-ahead score to give New England the 28-24 lead.

However Seattle was not ready to mail it in, and led by quarterback Russell Wilson, they charged down the field. On the drive Wilson connected with wide receiver Jermaine Kearse on a deflected pass that netted 33 yards and it got Seattle to the New England five-yard line with 65 seconds remaining. But this is where the Seahawks began to outsmart themselves.

From there the Seahawks would give the football to running back Marshawn Lynch who gained four yards on the next play and got down to the Patriots one-yard line.The Seahawks were expected to keep feeding Lynch the football as his nickname is “Beast Mode”. However the Seahawks would allow the clock to tick in order to deprive the Patriots an opportunity to get the football again. But on the next play Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called a pass play that was intended for wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. It was quick slant that was expected to be a simple pitch and catch until Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped the route sealed the win for the Patriots with an interception.

Carroll and Bevell faced intense scrutiny from the media and public alike for the play call as instead of giving the football to Lynch who was one of the better goal line running backs in the National Football League, they decided to pass.

The Seahawks left the field that night as a dejected team and rightfully so as the game was there for the taking. But instead of the Seahawks losing the game because they weren’t good enough to defeat the Patriots, they had to deal with the notion that their demise came as the result of one of, if not the worst play calls in Super Bowl history. And that public scrutiny only paled in comparison to the issues that the Seahawks have had to deal with ever since.

Whereas the Seahawks are an outspoken team when things are going well, the same can be said when things aren’t going according to plan for them. The following off-season saw Wilson seeking more money and he got it when he and the Seahawks came to an agreement on a four-year deal for $87.6 million with him. But the way that the cookie crumbles in the National Football League is that if the franchise quarterback wants to be handsomely compensated, then he must also expect to see the talent around him decimate.

Russell Wilson

With the Seahawks paying Wilson, the talent around him on offense regressed as players began to be released, while others were allowed to walk in free agency. During that off-season Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor was seeking more money which saw him sit out the first two games of the 2015 National Football League season. The Seahawks would then subsequently lose those two games. And after Seattle began the season with a record of 0-2, it put them in a hole as they would rebound to make the playoffs, but they couldn’t win the NFC West and get a much needed first-round bye. Subsequently the Seahawks would fall to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The loss to the Panthers would be more than just a simple defeat as Lynch who wasn’t the same running back in 2015, decided to retire from the NFL at the age of 29.

Without the services of Lynch, the Seahawks would make it back to the playoffs this past season for the fifth consecutive year. However in the NFC Divisional Playoffs they were unceremoniously shown the door by the Atlanta Falcons by the score of 36-20 as the magic simply wasn’t there.

Since then Lynch expressed interest in returning to the National Football after a year away. Lynch didn’t have any desire to play for the Seahawks anymore, but since he was still under contract with them, his next employer had to find a way to work out a deal with Seattle. Lynch would be traded to the Oakland Raiders who worked out a deal with the Seahawks that would send a sixth-round pick to Seattle in 2018, while Oakland would receive a fifth-round pick.

Richard Sherman

This off-season saw the Seahawks put cornerback Richard Sherman on the trading block. Sherman is a four-time Pro Bowl selection while he is also one of the top cornerbacks currently in the National Football League. But Sherman is never afraid to speak his mind and there are reports that he is still upset with Carroll and Wilson over the Super Bowl. Wilson has denied those reports, but where there is smoke, there is fire.

Pete Carroll

Greed cost the Seahawks a chance to repeat as Super Bowl Champions as Carroll forgot what made him successful in the first place. When the Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl 48, it was a total team effort as they cruised to a 43-8 win. On the first play of the game Seattle scored on a safety after the Broncos botched a snap that went out of the end zone. The Seahawks got a kickoff return from Percy Harvin, while linebacker Malcolm Smith returned an interception for a touchdown. Wilson will go down as the winning quarterback for that game,but he was simply a cog in the wheel.

Wilson’s career regular season record is 56-23-1, while he is 8-4 in the playoffs. But the Seahawks are a team in the truest form of the word.

During the Seahawks championship run, they ran the football effectively with Lynch, while they got timely and accurate passing from Wilson. And when Carroll turned things over to his defense, it was a matter of picking your poison with the likes of Sherman, Chancellor, free safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Michael Bennett, and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks put Wilson in the unique position of not needing to win the game as it more about him not losing it. And going back to Super Bowl 49, it was the latter that happened.

Marshawn Lynch

So now as Lynch is with the Raiders, the other key players that remain with the Seahawks following that eventful night in 2015 only can sit back and ask what could have been? Championship windows close very quickly in the National Football League as you must strike while the iron is hot. Since then Thomas and Sherman have had to deal with injuries while they are also getting older. And as teams are always attempting to upgrade to enhance their chances of winning, other teams have caught up to the Seahawks, while in some cases they have passed them altogether.

A few years ago the Seahawks were as close to invincible as a team could be in the National Football League. Opposing teams feared going to CenturyLink Field as their chances of winning were slim at best. But now that isn’t the case as the Seahawks have lost four games at home over the last two seasons as compared to just two in the previous two campaigns. And whereas the Seahawks still have a team which is capable of making the postseason, they aren’t good enough to once again hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions.

This smells of Carroll’s time at USC where after blowing a 12-point lead against the Texas Longhorns in the 2006 Rose Bowl for the national championship, his teams there continued to be good, but never good enough to win another national title. But whereas Carroll’s guys would graduate after four years at USC, he still has to look the likes of Sherman in the face after blowing a chance to be mentioned amongst the greatest teams in National Football League history.

Time has already proven that the Seahawks will never be the same that they once were as this team of alpha males can only sit back and merely ask what could have been if Lynch had gotten the football on the one-yard line on that fateful night in February.

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2017 NFC West Draft Grades

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Seattle Seahawks

First-Round Pick: (N/A)

Best Pick: Round Two-Malik McDowell-Defensive Tackle-Michigan State

Grade: B

Pete Carroll, John Schneider

In six of the seven years that general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have been running the show for the Seattle Seahawks, they’ve made the playoffs which can traced back to their strategy at the National Football League Draft. The Seahawks have focused on having depth which has also spawned competition at multiple positions on the team which has kept Seattle on top of their game.

At this year’s draft the Seahawks traded out of the first round after making deals with both the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks would not make a selection until the third pick of the second round as they tabbed Michigan State Spartans defensive tackle Malik McDowell.

Malik McDowell

Although that nothing stood out about McDowell’s game during his time in college, he had the potential of being a first-round pick. But when McDowell fell to the second round, it gave him an opportunity to go to one of the best possible situations for him in the National Football League. McDowell joins a solid defensive line and he doesn’t have to be the guy as he can simply fall in line as he plays alongside the likes of defensive end Michael Bennett.

Throughout the draft the Seahawks continued to add depth and athleticism which included them selecting North Carolina Tar Heels defensive tackle Nazair Jones in the third round and Cincinnati Bearcats safety Mike Tyson in the sixth round.

Carroll has been one of the best as far as developing his players and within the next two years we should see players from this draft class have a positive impact for the Seahawks.

Arizona Cardinals

First-Round Pick: Haason Reddick-Outside Linebacker-Temple

Best Pick: Round Two-Budda Baker-Safety-Washington

Grade: B-

2016 saw the Arizona Cardinals take a huge step back in the standings and head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t intend on making their 7-8-1 campaign from last season become a habit which meant him seeking to improve his team at the 2017 National Football League Draft.

Haason Reddick

In the first round the Cardinals selected Temple Owls outside linebacker Haason Reddick. Last year Reddick led Temple in sacks with 10.5 and now he joins a team in Arizona that tallied 48 sacks last season as Arians knows that the way for his team to get back to the postseason is by putting a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The second round saw the Cards get a steal when they added to their already deep secondary when they selected Washington Huskies safety Budda Baker. Baker was an All-American last year at Washington which included him leading the team in tackles with 71. Baker has tremendous range and he isn’t afraid to mixing it up in the run game, while he could form one of the best safety combos in the National Football League with Tyrann Mathieu.

But for as good as Reddick and Baker can potentially be for Arizona’s defense, the team didn’t properly address their issues in the passing game. Last the Cardinals second leading receiver was running back David Johnson with 879 yards. And with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald set to turn 34 in August, it’s time for the Cardinals to find his heir apparent. Arizona did select Grambling State Tigers wide receiver Chad Williams in the third, but I don’t see him coming to have an immediate impact for the Cards.

However even with the Cardinals failing to properly address their issues on offense, they should be a tough team to score against during the upcoming season.

Los Angeles Rams

First-Round Pick: (N/A)

Best Pick: Round Four-Josh Reynolds-Wide Receiver-Texas A&M

Grade: C+

Without a first-round pick in the 2017 National Football League Draft, the Los Angeles Rams had to wait until the second round before they could get active. But even when the Rams began the process of filling out draft cards, it didn’t matter as their draft class for 2017 overall has the makings of being below average. The Rams need more play makers on offense which saw them use three of their first four picks on that side of the football, but will they be able to contribute?

The second round saw the Rams select South Alabama Jaguars tight end Gerald Everett. Last year at South Alabama, Everett had 49 receptions for 727 yards and 4 touchdowns and the Rams will now need him to quickly develop into a security blanket for quarterback Jared Goff.

Josh Reynolds

The fourth round saw the Rams selected Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Josh Reynolds. Reynolds had 61 receptions last year at Texas A&M, while he led the team in receiving yards (1,039), and receiving touchdowns (12). At 6’3″, Reynolds does give Los Angeles size at the wide receiver position. And like Everett, it will be interesting to see how quickly that he’ll be able to get on the same page with Goff.

It the Rams are patient and take their time to properly develop both Everett and Reynolds, they could each turn into solid players within the next two years.

San Francisco 49ers

First-Round Pick: Solomon Thomas-Defensive End-Stanford, Reuben Foster-Inside Linebacker-Alabama

Best Pick: Solomon Thomas

Grade: B+

The San Francisco 49ers may have only been victorious in two contests last season, but that didn’t prevent them from being big winners at the 2017 National Football League Draft. John Lynch is only in his first year as the general manager of the 49ers, but he approached the draft in the fashion of someone who has been around the block before.

The Niners entered the draft with the second overall pick, but with the Chicago Bears eager to swap places with San Francisco in order to draft North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Lynch used their desperation to his benefit. The Niners were able to secure extra picks this year as well as for 2018, while they were still able to get the players that they wanted.

With the third overall selection, the 49ers selected Stanford Cardinal defensive end Solomon Thomas. Thomas was one the best pass rushers available in the draft and he is going to be the first piece of the rebuilding process on defense in San Francisco.

Reuben Foster

Lynch would then trade back into the first round as he struck a deal with the Atlanta Falcons for the 31st overall pick. The Niners would select Alabama Crimson Tide middle linebacker Reuben Foster. The Niners already have NaVorro Bowman at middle linebacker, but as they are attempting to build a strong defense in the mode that they had earlier in this decade, Foster could play the role that former middle linebacker Patrick Willis played for them.

The 49ers continued to upgrade their defense as they drafted Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in the third round, while their first offensive pick of the draft was on Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J Beathard in the fourth round.

Beathard more than likely won’t become a franchise quarterback, but it is a credit to Lynch for not reaching for a signal caller as he understands that the 49ers had other pressing needs.

The 49ers still have some work ahead of them in order to become a contender, but players such as Thomas and Foster could be building blocks for them.

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2017 AFC West Draft Grades

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Kansas City Chiefs

First-Round Pick: Patrick Mahomes-Quarterback-Texas Tech

Best Pick: Patrick Mahomes

Grade: B-

Patrick Mahomes II

It didn’t take the Kansas City Chiefs that long to make a splash at the 2017 National Football League Draft when they moved up 17 spots in the first round to select Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. During Andy Reid’s four-year tenure as the Chiefs head coach, Kansas City has made the postseason three times, but they’ve been unable to get past the second round. A big reason for the Chiefs inability to advance has been the fact that quarterback Alex Smith cannot propel this club. Smith has been a solid game manager for the Chiefs, but his lack of arm strength, along with his inability to make the big play in the passing game has hurt the Chiefs. Mahomes gives the Chiefs a quarterback with a big arm, but he is still raw.

At Texas Tech, Mahomes put up jaw dropping statistics in the wide open offense of head coach Kliff Kingsbury, but he must learn how to conform to a pro-style offense. And who better to groom Mahomes for a career in the National Football League than Reid who is one of the better quarterback gurus in the league. The main thing for the Chiefs is to bring Mahomes along slowly and not rush him. However since the Chiefs still have a solid starting quarterback in Smith, Reid can take his time in order to show Mahomes the nuances of the position.

The Chiefs struck it big in drafting Mahomes, but they still missed out on upgrading the wide receiver position. Last season the Chiefs leading wide receiver was Tyreek Hill with just 593 which simply isn’t going to cut in regards to producing a Super Bowl team. The Chiefs also failed to find a replacement for nose tackle Dontari Poe who joined the Atlanta Falcons in free agency as he paved the way for Kansas City’s linebackers.

The Chiefs were able to peg their quarterback of the future in Mahomes, but it takes more than one player to make a team, or in this case a draft class.

Oakland Raiders

First-Round Pick: Gareon Conley-Cornerback-Ohio State

Best Pick: Round Four-David Sharpe-Offensive Tackle

Grade: B-

In 2016, the Oakland Raiders went 12-4 for their first playoff appearance since 2002. But when quarterback Derek Carr suffered a fractured fibula late in the regular season, it took the wind out of the sails of the Raiders, while exposing some of the team’s flaws. The Raiders were 26th in total defense last season, and they were 24th versus the pass as Carr and the offense consistently bailed them out. The Raiders issues on defense showed up in the playoffs where the Houston Texans easily got passed them. And with Oakland issues in the secondary, you knew what the plan of attack was going to be for Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie heading into the 2017 National Football League Draft.

Five of Oakland’s first six picks in the draft were used on defense which included the first two focusing on the secondary.

Gareon Conley

In the first round, the Raiders selected Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley. Conley had the potential to be taken earlier in the first round, but with allegations of rape being hurled in his direction just prior to the draft, it scared teams off. However that was not the case for the Raiders who decided to take a chance on him in the hopes of solidifying their secondary.

The second round would see the Raiders select Connecticut Huskies safety Obi Melifonwu. Last year Melifonwu led Connecticut in tackles (118) as well as interceptions (4), and now he’ll be expected to become an impact player rather quickly in Oakland.

This draft for the Raiders had the fingerprints of McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio written all over it as after the first two picks, Oakland focused on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as linebacker which included selecting Florida Gators guard David Sharpe in the fourth round, and Wake Forest Demon Deacons outside linebacker Marquel Lee in the fifth round. McKenzie enjoyed a career in the National Football League on the offensive line, while Del Rio was a linebacker. And the Raiders need bring in players that have a “lunch pale” mentality in order for them to take that next step.

Denver Broncos

First-Round Pick: Garett Bolles-Offensive Tackle-Utah

Best Pick: Round Two-DeMarcus Walker-Defensive End-Florida State

Grade: B

The Denver Broncos are in the midst of a transition which means that it is up to the team executive vice president of football operations in John Elway to get this club back to the Super Bowl form that they possessed two years ago. Elway knows where his bread is buttered as when the Broncos won the Super Bowl two years ago they possessed one of the better offensive and defensive lines in football. And the early stages of the 2017 National Football League Draft saw Elway focus on that.

In the first round the Broncos drafted Utah Utes offensive tackle Garett Bolles. Bolles was one of the better offensive linemen that was available at any position coming into the draft and he is a player that the Broncos could plug in as a starter from his first day on the job.

DeMarcus Walker

The second round saw the Broncos select Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker and in the process they may have gotten one of the top steals in the draft. Walker enters the National Football League as the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year after he tallied 16 sacks last year. Walker has a good motor and he should be able to thrive in the Broncos defense as he plays alongside players such as outside linebackers Von Miller and Shane Ray.

With the first pick of the fifth round, the Broncos pegged Michigan Wolverines Jake Butt. Last year at Michigan, Butt won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and he was on pace to be a first-round pick until he suffered a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl. It’s not a guarantee that Butt will be ready when the regular season rolls around, but he is a low risk, potentially high reward for the Broncos. When healthy Butt has the ability to stretch the field, while the Broncos could also use him as an H-back.

It didn’t take Elway that long to make the Broncos a Super Bowl Champion, and this draft class should help to get Denver back on track after they missed the postseason last year.

Los Angeles Chargers

First-Round Pick: Mike Williams-Wide Receiver-Clemson

Best Pick: Round Two-Forrest Lamp-Guard-Western Kentucky

Grade: B

As the Los Angeles Chargers have bid farewell to San Diego after more than 50 years there, it’s all about developing a winner which starts at the draft. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is still the guy for the Chargers which means that general manager Tom Telesco must put a quality team around him if Los Angeles wants to be a playoff team.

Mike Williams

The Chargers typically have one of the better passing offenses with Rivers under center and they gave him another quality wide receiver to get the football to. In the first round the Chargers selected Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams who at 6’4″, 218 lbs., gives Rivers a big target to get the football to in the red zone. The Chargers have Keenan Allen at wide receiver, but he has been bitten by the injury bug throughout his career and Williams gives Los Angeles more depth at the position.

Ironically the second round saw the Chargers select a player whose name fits their franchise. The Chargers selected Western Kentucky Hilltoppers guard Forrest Lamp who should be a starter from his first day with the team, while he will provide the team with versatility on the offensive line.

The Chargers continued to beef up on the offensive line as they selected Indiana Hoosiers guard Dan Feeney in the third round, while their fifth round selection of Iowa Hawkeyes cornerback Desmond King should give them some much needed depth in the secondary.

One way or the other this will be a historic draft class for the Chargers being that it went down with the team now based out of Los Angeles.

Source: Cfbstats.com

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2017 NFC North Draft Grades

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Green Bay Packers

First-Round Pick: (N/A)

Best Pick: Round Seven-Malachi Dupre-Wide Receiver-LSU

Grade: B

The Green Bay Packers are hardly ever in contention when it comes to signing the top-tier free agents which means that their focus is always on the National Football League Draft in regards to making roster upgrades. That was once again the case this year as Packers general manager Ted Thompson sought to make things happen for his team at the NFL Draft and maintain their status as the team to beat in the NFC North.

After making a deal with the Cleveland Browns, the Packers traded out of the first round, but they would obtain the first selection of the second round which is where Thompson began to go to work.

After the Packers secondary was torched in their NFC Championship Game loss to the Atlanta Falcons, upgrading the unit became a top priority here in the off-season. The Packers used their first choice of the draft on Washington Huskies cornerback Kevin King which was followed by using their second pick of the round on North Carolina State Wolfpack safety Josh Jones. The Packers would keep the defensive theme going in the third round when they selected Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Montravius Adams, but they may have found a steal in the fourth round when they selected Wisconsin Badgers outside linebacker Vince Biegel.

Vince Biegel

At Wisconsin, Biegel played opposite of outside linebacker T.J. Watt who went on to be a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Biegel has a motor like no other, and that determination should see him crack the Packers linebacker rotation rather quickly.

Later in the fourth round the Packers selected BYU Cougars running back Jamaal Williams who won’t completely solve Green Bay’s issues at running back, but he can provide them with a player who will be good in short yardage situations as he continues to familiarize himself with the nuances of the team.

The Packers got themselves a steal in the seventh round when they selected LSU Tigers wide receiver Malachi Dupre. Dupre entered college as one of the nation’s top prep players, but a stagnant passing game at LSU didn’t allow him to shine. And now it will be interesting to see if Dupre will be able to take his game to the next level in the National Football League in the same fashion that former LSU Tigers wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and Jarvis Landry of the Miami Dolphins are currently doing.

If you want to question how and why the Packers have made the playoffs in each of the last eight years, just look at what Thompson has been able to consistently do at the draft as he goes in with a plan of attack, and more importantly he sticks with it.

Detroit Lions

First-Round Pick: Jarrad Davis-Linebacker-Florida

Best Pick: Jarrad Davis

Grade: C

It was going to be interesting to see what the Detroit Lions would do to build off of their surprising trip to the postseason last season as all signs pointed to them attempting to fix the defense. But the Lions main issue on defense in 2016 were a lack of sacks as they were only able to tally 26. And when the Lions were ready to make their first choice of the 2017 National Football League Draft, they had both Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris and Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton sitting there for the taking. However Lions general manager Bob Quinn decided to taking Florida Gators inside linebacker Jarrad Davis. Davis does fill a need for the Lions at middle linebacker, but if Davis was their guy they probably could have gotten him in the second round, while still being able to pick up a pass rusher in the first.

Teez Tabor

Three of the Lions first four picks in the draft were used on defense which included taking Davis’ college teammate in cornerback Teez Tabor in the second round. Tabor had first-round potential, but he slipped to the second and only time will tell if the Lions got themselves a steal.

The Lions didn’t take a pass rusher until the sixth round when they selected Arkansas Razorbacks defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter which is not going to help their issues as far as getting to the quarterback. And until the Lions find a way to consistently put pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, they will continue to play second fiddle to them in the NFC North.

Minnesota Vikings

First-Round Pick: (N/A)

Best Pick: Round Two-Dalvin Cook-Running Back-Florida State

Grade: B

After the Minnesota Vikings acquired quarterback Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles last year, they knew that they wouldn’t be picking in the first round of this year’s National Football League Draft. But that didn’t prevent Vikings general manager Rick Spielman from coming out of the draft smelling like a rose. The Vikings watched the first round train pass them by, but they struck it rich in the second round with their selection of Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook.

Dalvin Cook

Cook enters the National Football League as a two-time All-American, while also being one of the most decorated ball carriers in the history of the Florida State program. The Vikings needed to replace running back Adrian Peterson who joined the New Orleans Saints and their rushing attack shouldn’t skip a beat with Cook as the feature ball carrier.

This draft was all about getting better in the trenches for the Vikings which saw them make a run through Big Ten country as in the third round they would select Ohio State Buckeyes center Pat Elflein, while taking Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and Michigan Wolverines inside linebacker Ben Gedeon in the fourth round.

In all the Vikies made 11 selections in the draft as they added depth. And whereas that Cook will rightfully grab the headlines of this draft class, there will be other impact players who’ll emerge from this group.

Chicago Bears

First-Round Pick: Mitchell Trubisky-Quarterback-North Carolina

Best Pick: Round Four-Eddie Jackson-Safety-Alabama

Grade: F

The last three years have seen the Chicago Bears combine to lose 34 games and after their performance at the National Football League Draft, they aren’t any closer to turning things around. This off-season has already seen the Bears sign former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year deal that is worth $45 million with $19 million guaranteed. The Bears entered the draft with the third overall pick with all signs pointing to them improving their defense. However Bears general manager Ryan Pace got trigger happy when he made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to move up one slot to select North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Mitch Trubisky

In making the deal the Bears sent three additional picks to San Francisco this year, while also parting with their third-round pick next year for a player in Trubisky who some people feel might be a one-year wonder. The Bears bet against themselves since there wasn’t going to be another team that was seeking to move up to select Trubisky and have now mortgaged their future in the process.

The Bears failed to address their issues in the secondary until the fourth round when they selected Alabama Crimson Tide free safety Eddie Jackson who missed the majority of the 2016 college football season due to an injury.

In all the Bears only had five picks as they failed to properly address their needs on the offensive and defensive line, as well as in the secondary. And thus it could be another long season in Chicago for the Bears and their fan base.

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