Tag Archives: Dalvin Cook

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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2017 NFL Mock Draft 4.0

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1. Cleveland Browns-Myles Garrett-Defensive End-Texas A&M

It will be very hard to mess up this selection, but nothing is impossible when it comes to futility for the Cleveland Browns.

2. San Francisco 49ers-Solomon Thomas-Defensive End-Stanford

Offense sells tickets and wins games, but defense wins championships. New 49ers general manager John Lynch is a defensive minded guy and where better for him to find his first draft selection than right up the road at his alma mater.

3. Chicago Bears-Jamal Adams-Strong Safety-LSU

There are several directions in which the Bears can go here, but they need an enforcer in their secondary.

Leonard Fournette

4. Jacksonville Jaguars-Leonard Fournette-Running Back-LSU

The best way for the Jaguars to protect quarterback Blake Bortles is to put more play makers around him, and it starts by improving the running game.

5. Tennessee Titans (via the Los Angeles Rams)-Malik Hooker-Free Safety-Ohio State

With a pair of first round picks at the Tennessee Titans disposal, this is a golden opportunity for them to stockpile play makers.

6. New York Jets-Marshon Lattimore-Cornerback-Ohio State

There are several directions in which the Jets can go here which includes making a trade. However the Jets do need help in their secondary.

7. Los Angeles Chargers-Ryan Ramczyk-Offensive Tackle-Wisconsin

Quarterback Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger and the Chargers must do everything in their power to protect him.

Christian McCaffrey

8. Carolina Panthers-Christian McCaffrey-Running Back-Stanford

For the Carolina Panthers to get back to being a playoff team, they must go back to the basics which means concentrating on their rushing attack.

9. Cincinnati Bengals-Reuben Foster-Inside Linebacker-Alabama

If ever there a was a team who would take a first-round flyer on a guy who failed a drug test, it is the Bengals.

10. Buffalo Bills-Haason Reddick-Outside Linebacker-Temple

The Bills are looking up at the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins in the AFC East who are both loaded at the skill positions on offense which means that they must get more athletic on defense.

11. New Orleans Saints-Derek Barnett-Defensive End-Tennessee

If the Saints take care of their business at the draft which means fixing their defense, they could be a playoff team for the upcoming season.

12. Cleveland Browns (via the Philadelphia Eagles)-Mitch Trubisky-Quarterback-North Carolina

Quarterback Deshaun Watson makes more sense here, but the Browns like Mitch Trubisky.

13. Arizona Cardinals-Mike Williams-Wide Receiver-Clemson

With wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald getting up their in age and the Cardinals second leading pass catcher last season being running back David Johnson, they must improve their vertical offense.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (via the Minnesota Vikings)-Dalvin Cook-Running Back-Florida State

Last  year the Eagles got their franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz and this off-season has seen them stockpiling play makers for him to get the football to.

O.J. Howard

15. Indianapolis Colts-O.J. Howard-Tight End-Alabama

The Colts have already traded tight end Dwayne Allen this off-season to the Patriots and they need to get some help on offense for quarterback Andrew Luck.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Jonathan Allen-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

Jonathan Allen has the talent to be a top-five pick, but if he falls this far it would be a steal for the Baltimore Ravens.

17. Washington Redskins-Corey Davis-Wide Receiver-Western Michigan

For the second consecutive year the Redskins slapped the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. But after the Redskins let their two top wide receivers leave in free agency, they need to keep Cousins happy.

18. Tennessee Titans-T.J. Watt-Outside Linebacker-Wisconsin

If T.J. Watt is half as good as his older brother in Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, the Titans will be a force to be reckoned with for the upcoming NFL season.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Taco Charlton-Defensive End-Michigan

If the Buccaneers want to be legitimate threat to win the NFC South here in 2017, they are going to have to upgrade their pass rush in a division that is littered with Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks.

20. Denver Broncos-David Njoku-Tight End-Miami

It’s still unsure whether it will be Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch that will be under center for the Broncos when the season begins, but they need to upgrade the tight end position where they hardly got any production from last year.

21. Detroit Lions-Charles Harris-Defensive End-Missouri

The Lions only managed to get 26 sacks in 2016 and they still managed to be a playoff team. But that won’t cut it once again.

22. Miami Dolphins-Kevin King-Cornerback-Washington

If the Dolphins want to overtake the Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East, they need to find a way to neutralize all of their talent at the skill positions.

Malik McDowell

23. New York Giants-Malik McDowell-Defensive Tackle-Michigan State

After the Giants lost defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins in free agency to the Colts, this is a no-brainer here.

24. Oakland Raiders-Chidobe Awuzie-Cornerback-Colorado

The Raiders secondary was exposed last season when quarterback Derek Carr suffered a fractured fibula. And if this organization wants to be a legit Super Bowl contender, they are going to have to find a way to slow down opposing offenses via the pass.

25. Houston Texans-Deshaun Watson-Quarterback-Clemson

If the Browns screw it up and pass on Deshaun Watson, the Texans won’t be as foolish.

Garett Bolles

26. Seattle Seahawks-Garett Bolles-Offensive Tackle-Utah

Over the last two years Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 86 times which isn’t going to cut it if they want to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

27- Kansas City Chiefs-John Ross-Wide Receiver-Washington

After hardly getting any production from their wide receivers in 2016, the Chiefs need to get more speed on the outside.

28. Dallas Cowboys-Takkarist McKinley-Outside Linebacker-UCLA

The Cowboys currently possess a Super Bowl offense, but they are lacking play makers on the defensive side of the football.

29. Green Bay Packers-Marlon Humphrey-Cornerback-Alabama

In the Packers playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons, their secondary had it handed to them which is all that you need to know.

30-Pittsburgh Steelers-Zach Cunningham-Outside Linebacker-Vanderbilt

Zach Cunningham fits the mold of a Steelers linebacker as he possesses size, athleticism, toughness, speed, and a knack for making big plays.

31. Atlanta Falcons-Forrest Lamp-Guard-Western Kentucky

Forrest Lamp gives the Falcons a versatile presence on their offensive line and he’ll be a starter from his first day.

Adoree Jackson

32. New Orleans Saints (via the New England Patriots)-Adoree jackson-Cornerback-USC

A few years from now we could be looking at the trade which sent wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Patriots as the deal that got the Saints back to the Super Bowl if Adoree Jackson pans out here.

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2017 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

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1. Cleveland Browns-Myles Garrett-Defensive End Texas A&M

Entering the 2017 National Football League Draft, Myles Garrett is the best player available which makes this an easy selection for the Browns.

2. San Francisco 49ers-Jonathan Allen-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

The Niners need a quarterback, but they get a value pick in Jonathan Allen while still having the ability to address that issue later in the draft.

3. Chicago Bears-Jamal Adams-Strong Safety-LSU

In a division that features quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, the Bears must get better in their secondary.

Dalvin Cook

4. Jacksonville Jaguars-Dalvin Cook-Running Back-Florida State

As the Jaguars leading rusher last season was T.J. Yeldon with just 465 yards. And with Tom Coughlin entrenched as the Jags executive vice president of football operations, Jacksonville will be a better running team by hook or by crook.

5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)-Solomon Thomas-Defensive End-Stanford

The Titans are on the verge of being a playoff team and it’s time to get defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau some more play makers.

6. New York Jets-Marshon Lattimore-Cornerback-Ohio State

The Jets can go in several directions with this selection, but their safest choice could be cornerback.

Jabril Peppers

7. Los Angeles Chargers-Jabril Peppers-Strong Safety-Michigan

Not since the days of Rodney Harrison have the Chargers had an enforcer in their secondary which could change if they draft Jabril Peppers.

8. Carolina Panthers-Leonard Fournette-Running Back-LSU

The Panthers took a huge step backwards in 2016, and in order for them to resemble the team that went 15-1 in 2015, they have to get back to the basics which means a power rushing attack.

9. Cincinnati Bengals-Ryan Ramczyk-Offensive Tackle-Wisconsin

After allowing veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth to leave in free agency, the Bengals need to get more athletic on their offensive line.

10. Buffalo Bills-Marlon Humphrey-Cornerback-Alabama

New Bills head coach Sean McDermott is a defensive minded coach. And after Buffalo allowed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to leave in free agency, this is a chance for them to address that void.

11. New Orleans Saints-Malik Hooker-Free Safety-Ohio State

If the Saints are going to squeeze another title run out of quarterback Drew Brees, they must assemble a defense that can stop opponents.

Deshaun Watson

12. Cleveland Browns (From Philadelphia Eagles)-Deshaun Watson-Quarterback-Clemson

With the luxury of two, first-round picks the Browns can get the best player available along with their franchise quarterback.

13. Arizona Cardinals-Reuben Foster-Inside Linebacker-Alabama

As the Cardinals are looking to bounce back in 2017, the first thing that they need is a leader on the defensive side of the football.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (From Minnesota Vikings)-Derek Barnett-Defensive End-Tennessee

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is working on getting this team back to what it was during the 2000’s which was being a consistent playoff team, and a defensive end like Derek Barnett who can wreak havoc is a step in that direction.

15. Indianapolis Colts-Corey Davis-Wide Receiver-Western Michigan

The Colts have a new general manager in Chris Ballard and it is time for this organization to put more talent around quarterback Andrew Luck.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Zach Cunningham-Outside Linebacker-Vanderbilt

The Ravens have always been an organization that is known for defense and player like Cunningham plays with a nasty disposition.

17. Washington Redskins-Mike Williams-Wide Receiver-Clemson

After the Redskins allowed wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to walk in free agency, this is an opportunity to keep quarterback Kirk Cousins happy.

18. Tennessee Titans-John Ross-Wide Receiver-Washington

The Titans love to run the football and a burner like John Ross could be dangerous off of play action.

Christian McCaffrey

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Christian McCaffrey-Running Back-Stanford

The Buccaneers front office is showing that they are serious as far as putting a team around quarterback Jameis Winston and here they would get one of the best play makers in the draft.

20. Denver Broncos-O.J. Howard-Tight End-Alabama

The Broncos still have questions at the quarterback position, but bringing in a solid pass-catching tight end will benefit whoever is taking the snaps.

21. Detroit Lions-Taco Charlton-Defensive End-Michigan

As a team the Lions only had 26 sacks last year with no player accumulating more than 8 which makes selecting Taco Charlton here a no-brainer.

22. Miami Dolphins-Obi Melifonwu-Strong Safety-Connecticut

As the Dolphins continue to bring in play makers on the defensive side of the football, they’ll be out to show that their playoff run last year wasn’t a fluke.

23. New York Giants-Cam Robinson-Offensive Tackle-Alabama

There are several directions in which the Giants can go here, but it might be time for them to move Ereck Flowers to right tackle.

24. Oakland Raiders-TreDavious White-Cornerback-LSU

When quarterback Derek Carr suffered a fractured fibula last year, the Raiders secondary got exposed when the offense wasn’t putting up 30 points per game anymore.

25. Houston Texans-Forrest Lamp-Guard-Western Kentucky

The Texans already have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and it could get better here by adding Forrest Lamp.

26. Seattle Seahawks-Garrett Bolles-Offensive Tackle-Utah

Last year Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 41 times and that isn’t going to cut it if Seattle wants to get back to the Super Bowl.

27. Kansas City Chiefs-Curtis Samuel-Wide Receiver-Ohio State

In 2016, the Chiefs didn’t have a wide receiver gain 600 yards as they need explosiveness at the position in order to take some attention off of tight end Travis Kelce.

28. Dallas Cowboys-Charles Harris-Defensive End-Missouri

The Dallas Cowboys have everything on offense to be a Super Bowl contender, but until they can improve their pass rush, it won’t mean a thing.

29. Green Bay Packers-Malik McDowell-Defensive Tackle-Michigan State

In three playoff games last season the Packers surrendered 88 points as quarterback Aaron Rodgers cannot bail them out all of the time.

Tim Williams

30. Pittsburgh Steelers-Tim Williams-Outside Linebacker-Alabama

Tim Williams could be the steal of the first round as he goes to a team in the Steelers that loves to have versatile linebackers.

31. Atlanta Falcons-Takkarist McKinley-Outside Linebacker-UCLA

The Falcons had a solid defense in 2016, but after watching the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 51, it is clear that they need more pass rushers.

32. New Orleans Saints (From New England Patriots)-Carl Lawson-Defensive End-Auburn

If the Saints are able to fix their defense, a trip to the postseason is very likely here in 2017.

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2016 Heisman Preview

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Christian McCaffrey is just one of several talented players to look at in this year’s Heisman race.

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2016 Atlantic Coast Conference Football Projections

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Atlantic

Florida State Seminoles 11-2 (7-1)

Jimbo Fisher

When the Florida State Seminoles hired Jimbo Fisher to be their head football coach in 2010, they brought him in with the premise of returning the school to being a national power on the gridiron. In six years at the helm of Florida State, Fisher has a sparking record of 68-14 which includes three Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, and a national title. The Seminoles have finished each year under Fisher ranked in the top 25 of the Associated Press Poll as they are getting back to the dominance that they had in the 1980’s and 1990’s under former head football coach Bobby Bowden. And although that the 2015 college football season didn’t end in the fashion that the ‘Noles would have intended as they lost in the Peach Bowl to the Houston Cougars on New Year’s Eve, the bar of expectations will once again be high in Tallahassee.

After splitting time last year with Everett Golson at the quarterback, Sean Maguire won’t be looking over his shoulder in this his senior campaign. It could be very easy for Maguire to attempt to do everything himself, but instead he must lead while also relying on the talent that is around him.

Dalvin Cook

If not for the rule that requires a collegiate player to be out of high school for at least three years before entering the National Football League, running back Dalvin Cook could have been a first-round pick this past April. But the NFL’s loss is Florida State’s gain as Cook is back for his junior season which is bad news for defenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last year Cook rushed for 1,691 and 19 rushing touchdowns as he was a first-team All-ACC member. Cook has that rare blend of size, speed, and elusiveness which makes him a logical candidate to be the ACC Player of the Year.

The Seminoles also have speed at wide receiver position in the form of junior Travis Rudolph and he should see his fair share of one-on-one matchups due to the respect that defenses will give Cook.

 

Last year saw the ‘Noles ranked 19th in the nation in total defense. And even though that Fisher must replace some talent on that side of the ball, the Seminoles still have quality athletes as they are led by senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker.

The Seminoles will get things started on September 5 when they travel to Orlando, Florida to face the Mississippi Rebels of the Southeastern Conference before they embark on a relatively easy conference schedule. Florida State will face their biggest test in the Atlantic Coast Conference on October 29 when they host the Clemson Tigers in a game that will more than likely determine the winner of the Atlantic Division.

Clemson Tigers 11-1 (7-1)

The Clemson Tigers are in the midst of their most prolonged success on the gridiron. Each of the last five years has seen Clemson win at least 10 games. But after going 14-1 last year with a spot in the national championship game, Clemson knows that they will have a bulls eye on them; especially in the Atlantic Coast Conference where they haven’t lost a game since November 15, 2014.

Dabo Swinney

For Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney, he enters the 2016 college football season with one of his deepest teams ever. Junior quarterback Deshaun Watson enters this year as the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. Last year Watson accounted for 5,209 all-purpose yards, and after finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2015, he is one of the favorites to win the award this December. Watson simply frustrates defenses with his elusiveness, and his pocket presence. Watson has a strong arm which sees him get the football to an array of wide receivers such as juniors Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, along with sophomore Hunter Renfrow.

The Tigers will return three starters on the offensive line and this unit which is led by senior center Jay Guillermo as they are set provide protection for one of the best group of play makers in nation.

Clemson was 10th in the nation in total defense last year. Although that the Tigers lost impact players such as defensive end Shaq Lawson and Mackensie Alexander to the National Football League, the defense under defensive coordinator Brent Venables will still be able to be stingy against offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Senior linebacker Ben Boulware was third on the team in tackles last season with 82, and he is set to be on of the top linebackers in the ACC in 2016.

Under Swinney, Clemson cannot be accused of playing a soft schedule which is evident by them opening this season on the road against the Auburn Tigers from the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers will begin conference play on the road against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets which won’t be an easy trip. But Clemson’s season will come down to their meeting with the Florida State Seminoles on October 29th as these two schools have accounted for the last seven Atlantic Division winners.

Louisville Cardinals 9-3 (6-2)

Bobby Petrino

Although that the Louisville Cardinals went 8-5 in 2015, it might have been one of the best coaching jobs that their head football coach Bobby Petrino has ever done. The Cardinals began the year with a record of 0-3 before they rallied to win eight of their final 10 games which included a Music City Bowl victory over the Texas A&M Aggies of the Southeastern Conference. Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, Petrino and Louisville have been a second-class citizen to the Clemson Tigers and Florida State Seminoles in the Atlantic Division, and in order for Louisville to reach the conference title game, that must change.

Petrino is known for having one of the best offensive minds in college football and it will be put to good use he has some talent to work with this year at Louisville. The Cards return 10 starters on offense and they will be led by sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson. As a freshman in 2015, Jackson dealt with his fair share of ups downs, but that experience should help him to navigate here in 2016. Aside from being Louisville’s starting quarterback last season, Jackson was also their leading rusher which is something that must change if the Cardinals want to become a serious contender for the Atlantic Coast Conference Title.

Senior running back Brandon Radcliff needs to take some of the rushing load off of the legs of Jackson as he needs to provide some balance for Louisville’s passing attack, while senior wide receiver James Quick and sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Smith need to be more consistent with their pass catching.

Louisville does have four starters returning of the offensive line, but none of them are seniors, with junior in guard Skylar Lacy having the potential to be a standout.

As the 2015 college football season progressed, Louisville’s defense improved. And in 2016, there are some impact players on that side of the football that includes senior defensive end Devonte Fields, junior cornerback Trumaine Washington, and senior middle linebacker Keith Kelsey.

Over a three-week stretch that begins in mid-September, Louisville will itself face both Florida State and Clemson and these two games will go a long way in determining the Cardinals chances in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

North Carolina State Wolfpack 6-6 (3-5)

It’s been more than 10 years since the North Carolina State Wolfpack contended for the Atlantic Coast Conference Title, and you have to go back to 1979 to find the last time that they won it. Like most of the original remaining members of the ACC, North Carolina State has been caught up in the wash as the conference has now expanded to 14 members, and it won’t get any better for them or their head football coach Dave Doeren here in 2016.

Jalen McClendon

Last year as a redshirt freshman, quarterback Jalan McClendon saw limited action for the Wolfpack, but he is expected to be the guy this year. McClendon checks in at 6’5″ and weighs 212 lbs., and Doeren is hopeful that the youngster is ready to lead the Wolfpack offense full-time. Last year as a junior, running back Matthew Dayes led the team in rushing, but a foot injury prematurely ended his season. Dayes is now healthy and he will be big part on any success that they Wolfpack intend on having in 2016.

But overall North Carolina State will be dealing with their fair share of growing pains in 2016 as there is a youth movement on the offensive line that has four sophomores and one junior in the starting lineup.

The same can be said on the defensive side of the football where there were plenty of underclassmen who saw valuable time last year. Junior linebacker Airius Moore was the team’s leading tackler last year with 77 and he should once again be an impact player.

The Wolfpack should be able to start 2016 strong, but things will get difficult during October and early November where they will have a brutal stretch that includes games against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Clemson Tigers, Louisville Cardinals, and Florida State Seminoles.

Syracuse Orange 4-8 (2-6)

2016 finds the Syracuse Orange in a very familiar situation as they are once again starting over. Dino Babers is set to begin his first year as the head football coach of the Orange and he will be the school’s fifth different head football coach since 2004. And with the constant turnover for Syracuse at the head coaching position, it isn’t that much of a surprise that they’ve only managed to have three winning seasons since then.

Dino Babers

It is going to take Babers some time, but he is looking to revamp the Syracuse offense. Babers comes to Central New York after having the fourth-ranked offense in the nation last year with the Bowling Green State University Falcons, but only he made the trek up north and not his former players.

With a new head football coach in place, you can expect an open competition at every position; including at quarterback as Babers isn’t attached at the hip to any of the current Syracuse roster. The Syracuse offense will be a work in progress, but defensively there is one standout player in junior linebacker Zaire Franklin who should garner some recognition in the Atlantic Coast Conference as one of their top defensive players.

The main thing that Syracuse must focus on in 2016 is competing because they have a long uphill battle in front of them if they expect to contend in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Boston College Eagles 5-7 (2-6)

2015 wasn’t a good one for the Boston College Eagles as they became the first team in the Atlantic Coast Conference to go winless in the conference since the Virginia Cavaliers in 2013. In spite of Boston College’s struggles, the school decided to stick by head football coach Steve Addazio as they feel that he is still the right man for the job, while they are also committed to upgrading the team’s facilities in order to compete in the ACC.

Last year saw the Eagles with some near misses as they lost three conference games by three points or less, and they had a very young team. Of B.C.’s projected 22 starters for the upcoming campaign, only five will be seniors. The main thing that held the Eagles back last year was that they lacked the play makers that could step up and make those critical plays.

Addazio was able to skate by with a subpar season in 2015, but that might not the case again in 2016.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons 1-11 (0-8)

It’s been a tough go at it for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Tobacco Road as they have been caught up in the wash that is the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Demon Deacons last made a bowl appearance in 2011, while they haven’t posted a winning record since 2008. Dave Clawson is in his third year as the head football coach at Wake Forest as he has so far compiled a record of 6-18. And by the looks of things, it won’t be getting any better in Winston-Salem anytime soon.

What Wake Forest needs is to find some more consistency on offense. Last year the Demon Deacons were 114th in nation in total offense and it is important that players such as junior quarterback John Wolford and sophomore wide receiver Cortez Lewis are able to next step to propel this squad into contention.

Wake Forest began 2015 with a record of 3-3 before they dropped their final six contests. And if wins are few and far between for the Deacons here in 2016, it won’t turn out pretty for Clawson.

Coastal

Miami Hurricanes 11-2 (6-2)

Life in the Atlantic Coast Conference hasn’t been kind to the Miami Hurricanes. Since joining the ACC in 2004, Miami has failed to record a 10-win season or participate in a major bowl game. This is a far cry from what the Hurricanes were able to do from 1983-2003 when they finished in the top 10 of the Associated Press Poll 14 times while being a frequent participant in the Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls. Typically head football coaches at Miami don’t last that long as in the past they’ve pursued other ventures such as jobs in the National Football League. But each the last three head football coaches that the school employed have been fired as each man was unable to return the program to prominence.

With the ‘Canes looking to once again become a national power, the school reached out to an alum in Mark Richt to turn things around. Richt spent the last 15 years as the head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs where he compiled a record of 145-51 to go along with a pair of Southeastern Conference Championships. But apparently Richt didn’t win enough big games at Georgia which led to his dismissal. Miami has welcomed Richt with open arms and they are hopeful that he will be able to bring some of his magic from Athens with him to South Florida. But as Richt comes to Miami, there will be definitely be some talent in place for him to work with.

As a freshman in 2014, quarterback Brad Kaaya was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Year, and if he can make a smooth transition to Richt’s offense in 2016, he could find himself in the running to be the conference’s player of the year. Richt loves to run the football, while he also relies on smart quarterbacks that don’t make mistakes. In Kaaya’s first two years with the ‘Canes, he has done a solid job of protecting the football which bodes well for the success of the team this season.

At 5’9″, 202 lbs., junior running back Joe Yearby is a speedster, but he will definitely get his fair share of carries this year for the Hurricanes as Richt looks to establish the running game. Led by senior guards Trevor Darling and Daniel Isidora, Miami returns all five starters on the offensive line from 2015 as they should be one of the better units within the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Led by senior middle linebacker Jermaine Grace, the ‘Canes will have their top four tacklers on defense return this year as this unit looks to become more aggressive under Richt.

With the exception of a road game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Miami finds themselves with a very winnable slate of games. But when conference play begins for the Hurricanes, they will be running the gauntlet. In Richt’s first Atlantic Coast Conference game, he will face a familiar foe in the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets who he dominated during his time at Georgia. The meeting against the Yellow Jackets will be the first of five consecutive tough games for Miami as they will also face the Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina Tar Heels, Virginia Tech Hokies, and Pittsburgh Panthers.

Richt’s teams are typically very mentally tough, and it will be interesting to see how he will adjust to life at Miami.

Pittsburgh Panthers 10-2 (6-2)

Pat Narduzzi

The first year for Pat Narduzzi as the head football coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers was a successful one. 2015 was Narduzzi’s first go round as a head football coach and he led Pittsburgh to their first 8-win season since 2009. And after finishing second in the Coastal Division last year to the North Carolina Tar Heels, Pitt is hopeful that they have what it takes to make the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game for the first time in school history.

Last year as a junior, quarterback Nathan Peterman had his first season as the Panthers starting quarterback and he was solid in helping Pittsburgh win 8 games. Peterman has solid pocket awareness, and if he is able to continue improving as a quarterback, it could be a fantastic year in Western Pennsylvania.

Running back Qadree Ollison was a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Second-team as a redshirt freshman. Ollison averaged 5.3 yards per carry, along with 11 rushing touchdowns, and in 2016, he stands to once again be one of the better runners within the conference. Senior running back James Conner is one of the feel good stories in college football as after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015, he has been undergoing treatment and he looks to play football once again. But what Conner has become is an inspiration to his teammates, coaches, and the entire Pittsburgh community.

Narduzzi has built his reputation on the defensive side of the football which has seen him be the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bearcats and Michigan State Spartans as they are merely two of the stops along his coaching journey. Last year the Pittsburgh defense was a work in progress, but this unit should be improved here in 2016 with the likes of junior defensive back Avonte Maddox and senior linebacker Matt Galambos leading the way.

This year will see Pittsburgh’s non-conference schedule include bragging rights within the State of Pennsylvania against the Villanova Wildcats, and Penn State Nittany Lions. Pitt won’t have that many soft spots in their conference schedule as they’ll have road games against the North Carolina Tar Heels, Miami Hurricanes, and Clemson Tigers who will all be in the running to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.

North Carolina Tar Heels 8-4 (5-3)

It hasn’t taken head football coach Larry Fedora that long to turn around the fortunes of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Fedora just completed his third season at Chapel Hill and he led the Tar Heels to their first 11-win season since 1997. And after reaching the Atlantic Coast Conference Title Game for the first time in school history last December, Fedora wants to make sure that his Tar Heels squad doesn’t go in reverse in 2016.

With quarterback Marquise Williams having graduated, North Carolina will some competition between junior Mitch Trubisky and sophomore Caleb Henderson to get the nod to be the team’s starting quarterback. But whoever will be Carolina’s starting quarterback in 2016, he will have the luxury on handing the football off to one of the best running backs in the nation.

Elijah Hood

Last year as a sophomore, running back Elijah Hood tore up the Atlantic Coast Conference to the tune of 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns. With Carolina lacking a quality passing game, Hood will once again be the focal point of the offense as defenses will be stacking the box in the effort to stop him.

Junior defensive back M.J. Stewart has some of the best hands of the defensive side of the football in the Atlantic Coast Conference as he had 4 interceptions last year, and he’ll be looking to improve his status this season for the 2017 National Football League Draft.

North Carolina and the Atlantic Coast Conference overall are still searching for respect on the college football scene in spite of putting a team into the College Football Playoff in each of the last two years. And for the Tar Heels, they will begin their season at the Georgia Dome against the Georgia Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference, while their ACC schedule will see them face the Pittsburgh Panthers, Florida State Seminoles, Virginia Tech Hokies, and Miami Hurricanes in consecutive conference games as winning 11 wins in 2016 won’t be as easy as it was in 2016.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 7-5 (4-4)

Paul Johnson

During Paul Johnson’s eight-year run as the head football coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, he has a pair of 11-win seasons under his belt. But each time that the Yellow Jackets have won 11 games, they have taken a huge step backwards in the following year. After the Jackets won 11 games in 2014, they managed to go 3-9 last year for their worst season since 1994. And although that Johnson and his triple-option attack are down, they are far from out.

Georgia Tech lives and dies by their triple-option attack and they need to get more consistency in 2016. Last year saw junior quarterback Justin Thomas and a pair of freshman running backs in Marcus Mitchell and Clinton Lynch as the Yellow Jackets top three runners, but the trio only combined to gain 1,608 yards which is a number that must increase drastically in 2016 in order for Georgia Tech to be a contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Georgia Tech offensive line in 2016 will be young with just one senior in center Freddie Burden as a starter, but they will need to develop some cohesion early on.

P.J. Davis

Linebacker P.J. Davis led the Yellow Jackets in tackles last season with 77 and here in 2016 as a senior, he could be one of the better linebackers in the conference.

Last year saw Georgia Tech lose six games by eight points or less, and they have to find a way to win those tight affairs this season. Georgia Tech will get their frequent flyer miles to begin the college football season as they’ll travel to Ireland to meet the Boston College Eagles, and a victory there could be just what the doctor ordered for this year to be much more beneficial than 2015 was.

Duke Blue Devils 6-6 (4-4)

Being that the Duke Blue Devils don’t have a strong football history, the school has been patient with head football coach David Cutcliffe which has paid off. In each of Cutcliffe’s first four years at Duke, the Blue Devils had a losing record. But in each of the last four years, Duke has gone bowling while also winning the Coastal Division in 2013 as Cutcliffe is showing that this is no longer just a basketball school. Aside from winning, Duke has also sent several players to the National Football League which should add some appeal of the program to recruits. But with all of the recent success by Duke, they will be fighting an uphill battle in 2016.

Thomas Sirk

Senior quarterback Thomas Sirk is a solid field general for Duke, but he cannot do it by himself as he was also the team’s leading rusher last year as well. However aside from Sirk, Duke is lacking playmakers on both sides of the football for the upcoming college football season which will test Cutcliffe’s ability as a coach. And with an improved Coastal Division this year, it will be difficult for the Blue Devils to not get caught up in the wash.

Virginia Tech Hokies 6-6 (4-4)

It’s the dawn of a new day for Virginia Tech Hokies football as their new head football coach Justin Fuente is charged with replacing a legend. For the past 29 years, each time that Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared from the pubic address system at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia, it was Frank Beamer that led the Hokies onto the field as their head football coach. Beamer put Virginia Tech on the map with his famed “Beamer ball” that relied on an opportunistic defense and quality special teams. Under Beamer, Virginia Tech became a pipeline for the National Football League which included the likes of quarterback Michael Vick and strong safety Kam Chancellor, while the Hokies had a stranglehold over the top football recruits within the State of Virginia. But the Hokies have recently fallen on hard times as they have finished each of the last four years not ranked in the top 25 of the Associated Press Poll for the first time since 1992.

There will be an open competition to be Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback this year between junior Jerod Evans and senior Brenden Motley. Evans spent the last two years at Trinity Valley Community College and his ability to be a dual-threat quarterback can immediately be beneficial to Virginia Tech. Last year as freshman, running back Travon McMillan continued the Hokies tradition at running back when he rushed for 1,042 yards. And even though that there is a plethora of talented running backs within the Atlantic Coast Conference, McMillan can hold his own. If junior wide receiver Isaiah Ford is able to put some weight on his 6’2″ frame, he could become one of the most imposing figures in the conference as the Hokies look to make it 24 consecutive years with a bowl appearance.

Led by senior left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin, Virginia Tech plenty of experience in their offensive line which should benefit them during their adjustment period under Fuente.

Bud Foster

Fuente made sure to maintain longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster who has been at Blacksburg since 1987 when Beamer took over. Last year was a down year for the Hokies defensively as they were 44th in the nation in total defense, and if they are going to get things turned around here in 2016, it is going to begin with junior middle linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka who was third on the team in tackles last year with 73 to get the ship righted.

The road to a 24th consecutive bowl game won’t be an easy one as it includes a contest against the Tennessee Volunteers of the Southeastern Conference, and road games within the Atlantic Coast Conference against the Duke Blue Devils, North Carolina Tar Heels, and Pittsburgh Panthers will put immense pressure on the Hokies.

Virginia Cavaliers 2-10 (0-8)

After only being able to lead the Virginia Cavaliers to one winning season during his six-year stint in Charlottesville, Mike London was relieved of his duties as the school’s head football coach. The search for a new Cavaliers head football coach took school officials to Provo, Utah where they were able to convince longtime Brigham Young University head football coach Bronco Mendenhall to leave his cozy post after 11 years at the school where he compiled a record of 99-43 which included a pair of Mountain West Conference Championships, in favor of a Virginia program that has struggled mightily in the Atlantic Coast Conference as they’ve only managed to have one winning season since 2008.

I’m sure that Mendenhall and his staff has been thoroughly evaluating Virginia’s roster from his first day on the job and he does have a veteran quarterback in senior Matt Johns and a leader on defense in junior linebacker Micah Kiser to work with, but as of right now the overall talent pool simply isn’t there in Charlottesville.

Mendenhall will definitely be fighting an uphill battle at Virginia in 2016, and the most important thing for him to do is to find a way for his squad to compete as he builds his foundation.

ACC Championship Game: Florida State vs. Miami

Conference Champion: Miami

Coach of the Year: Mark Richt-Miami

Offensive Player of the Year: Deshaun Watson-Quarterbck-Clemson

Defensive Player of the Year: M.J. Stewart-Cornerback-North Carolina

Sources: NationalChamps.net, Cfbstats.com, Ourlads.com, Sports-reference.com

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The Return Of The Running Back?

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It’s safe to say that the National Football League has diminished the value of having a quality running back. This decade has only see nine running backs selected in the first round of the NFL Draft while this past season only produced seven running backs that gained at least 1,000 yards on the ground. The NFL has become more of a passing league where teams have diminished the role of the running back. More teams are going to running back tandems in order to keep their backs fresh as the physical riggers of the game can be grueling on the position. This off-season has already seen running back Marshawn Lynch retire. Lynch is only 29-years of age, but he apparently had enough of the physical pounding that comes with playing the position. But as Lynch decided to retire, the running back position in the NFL is still defined by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson who is the current gold standard for the position and Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley who is the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. But there could be some help on the way from the collegiate ranks to make the running back position once again the glamour position in the NFL.

The past college football season saw 66 players gain at least 1,000 yards rushing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and some of these guys are expected to be headliners once again in 2016. Last year saw Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry win the Heisman Trophy and for the first time since 1999, we could see a running back win the Heisman in consecutive years.

Christian McCaffrey-Stanford

This past season saw Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey finish second to Henry in the Heisman voting. McCaffrey gained 2,019 yards on the ground while setting a new NCAA single-season record for all-purpose yards with 3,864. There was a growing consensus about the “West Coast” bias when it came to McCaffrey not winning the award, and he gave the nation an opportunity to see what he was about in last month’s Rose Bowl victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes where he set a Rose Bowl record for total offense with 368 yards. McCaffrey will return to Stanford for his junior year, and if it were not for the National Football League rules which require a player to be out of high school for at least three in order to get drafted, he would be a first-round pick this April. But McCafrrey’s loss in college football’s gain as he will be displaying his skills for free for another year.

Leonard Fournette-LSU

Whereas McCaffrey stepped onto the college football scene as a relative unknown, the same could not be said about LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette came to LSU as a highly touted recruit. Last year Fournette had three consecutive games in which he rushed for at least 200 yards which paved the way for him gaining 1,953 rushing yards to go along with 22 touchdowns on the ground. Like McCaffrey, Fournette has been done in by the rules of the National Football League as he must return to college for his junior year before becoming eligible to be drafted next year. At 6’1″, 230 lbs., Fournette is a load and I feel sorry for any defenders that have to tackle him.

Dalvin Cook-Florida State

Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook is another back that has his sights set on the National Football League in 2017. Like McCaffrey, and Fournette, Cook will be a junior heading into the 2016 college football season and he is the real deal. Cook was a product of Miami Central High School which has produced NFL talent such as Bruce Armstrong and Willis McGahee. As a freshman at Florida State, Cook ran for 1,008 yards and he was also the MVP of the Atlantic Coast Conference Title Game. This past season Cook rushed for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns and heading into 2016, he will look to reach the 2000-yard mark in rushing.

Semaje Perine-Oklahoma

As a true freshman in 2014, it didn’t take running back Samaje Perine that long to make an impact for the Oklahoma Sooners. In Perine’s first collegiate game, he rushed for 77 yards on 13 carries and he was just getting warmed up. Before 2014 ended, Perine set a new single-game Football Bowl Subdivision record with 427 rushing yards against the Kansas Jayhawks as he was named as the Big 12 Conference’s Rookie of the Year. This past season, Perine ran for 1,713 yards in helping Oklahoma win the Big 12 and advance to the College Football Playoff.

Perine’s running ability will translate to the next level due to the fact that at 5’11”, he runs very low to the ground and he has very thick legs as he tips the scales at 237 lbs.

Royce Freeman-Oregon

Another potential junior that will garner interest from the National Football League next year is Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman. Make no mistake about it that Freeman is a burner and he is tailor-made for the spread-offense attack of the Ducks. Freeman will be an early favorite to be the Pac-12 Conference’s Player of the Year as there are not that many defenders around in the nation that can catch him when he gets a full head of steam.

Wayne Gallman-Clemson

Unlike the other running backs so far, Clemson Tigers running back Wayne Gallman had the opportunity to leave school this year. Heading into the 2016 college football season, Gallman will be a redshirt junior, but he is returning to school as he is looking to help Clemson win their first national title since 1981.

Last year Gallman exploded for 1,527 rushing yards as he was intrical in helping the Tigers play for the national championship. This year all eyes in the Atlantic Coast Conference will be on Gallman and Clemson, but another strong performance will have the scouts of the National Football League focused on him.

Elijah Hood-North Carolina

Last year saw the North Carolina Tar Heels win 11 games for the first time since 1997 along with making their first trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference Title Game with a big part of the team’s success being running back Elijah Hood. As a sophomore in 2015, Hood ran for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he was overshadowed within the ACC by Cook and Gallman. However if Hood can lead the Tar Heels to the ACC Title in 2016, everyone will know who he is.

The Tennessee Volunteers are coming off of their best season since 2007 and heading into the 2016 college football season, they will be a trendy pick to win the Southeastern Conference. A big part of the Volunteers re-emergence can be traced to running back Jalen Hurd. At 6’4″, 240 lbs., it is safe to say that Hurd is a load as he gained 1,288 on the ground last year. And as a junior in 2016, a 1,500-yard season by Hurd should symbolize a solid season for the Vols. Due to Hurd’s size, defenders tend to tackle him low, but he is agile, and he can be a solid short yardage back at the next level.

And once you factor in the talent of New Mexico State Aggies sophomore Larry Rose III , Wyoming Cowboys sophomore Brian Hill, Georgia Southern Panthers junior Matt Brieda, Northwestern Wildcats sophomore Justin Jackson, and South Florida Bulls sophomore Marlon Mack, the running back position will be loaded heading into the 2016 college football season with all of these players expected to make National Football League rosters in 2017 as we could see a return to the ground attack as opposed to doing everything by air.

Source: Sports-reference.com

 

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