« January 2015 | Main | March 2015 »

February 27, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Combine Update

With the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine behind us, it feels like we are much closer to the 2015 NFL Draft, but we still have more than two months to go until Round 1 in Chicago on April 30th.

Over the course of the next two months, I will continue to make weekly updates and add more rounds until we mock out all seven rounds of the draft.

[Follow @EDSFootball for updates.]

With that said, here is my projection for the 2015 NFL Draft:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

With the Buccaneers releasing Josh McCown earlier this offseason, the Bucs gave us further indication that this pick will be a quarterback. There may be some debate between Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, but Winston has the strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence and on-the-field leadership skills to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback. NFL Network's Steve Mariucci referred to Winston "the most astute X's and O's guy that he's ever put on the board."

Of course, the biggest concern with Winston is the off-the-field issues -- and those concerns are amplified given the nature of the position and this draft slot. Before the NFL Scouting Combine, however, reports were that Bucs coach Lovie Smith prefers Winston over Mariota and it's hard to imagine that changing given Winston's strong performance on the field and in meeting rooms.

2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Do the Titans believe in Zach Mettenberger enough to bypass Mariota here? There have been some reports out of Nashville that they do, but general manager Ruston Webster said at the combine that they "like Zach," but are "[n]ot committing to anything now." Certainly, the Titans would be willing to listen to offers from interested Mariota suitors, but it's also clear that they need to get better quarterback play.

Over the course of his collegiate career, Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, rushed for 2,237 yards and accounted for 136 touchdowns -- 105 passing, 29 rushing and two receiving -- with only 14 interceptions. There will naturally be some questions about how well and quickly Mariota will transition from Oregon's spread offense to a pro-style system, but Mariota possesses good size, a strong arm to stretch the field and difference-making mobility for the position in addition to impeccable intangibles.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC

With quarterback-needy teams in front of them, the Jags are the beneficiaries. The top overall prospect on my 2015 NFL Draft Big Board, Williams is a scheme-diverse defensive lineman that has the ability to win in a variety of ways at multiple spots along the defensive line. His ability and versatility has generated some comparisons to J.J. Watt and Richard Seymour and the sky is the limit for this 20-year-old defensive lineman.

4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

The Raiders have found their quarterback of the future with Derek Carr, last year's second-round pick, but one of their focal points in free agency and/or the draft should be to improve the weapons around Carr. The top-ranked wide receiver in my 2015 prospect rankings, White has the size (6-3, 215), hands and run-after-catch ability to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah has compared White to Julio Jones. The concern that some had about White was his long speed and eased all concerns after running a blazing 4.35 forty at the combine.

[Related: 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Results.]

5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska

Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo will be an unrestricted free agent next month and Washington is not expected to re-sign or franchise tag him. In addition, Ryan Kerrigan is entering a contract year, so adding a pass-rusher like Gregory would make sense here. Maintaining playing weight could be an issue for Gregory, who tipped the scales at only 235 pounds at the combine, but he has plenty of explosiveness and upside.

One scout told Bob McGinn of Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal that he thinks "[Gregory's] better than Ziggy Ansah." Meanwhile, NFL Films' Greg Cosell compared Gregory positively to last year's first-overall pick Jadeveon Clowney in terms of movement skills: "He's a better athlete than Clowney. He's more flexible. He's more explosive in his movement. Clearly, not as strong. Clowney could get inside and push back, but Clowney did not have the loose hips that this guy does. Gregory's a much more explosive mover, a much looser athlete. ... Gregory's kind of shifty and elusive in his movement. He's a quick-twitch, explosive guy laterally. Clowney was more straight-line power."

6. New York Jets (Draft History): Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida

If Mariota slips to the Jets, certainly a possibility, there's a strong chance the slide would stop here. With Winston and Mariota gone and no available quarterback worth consideration here, Fowler is the top-ranked prospect on my board and fills a need for the Jets. The Jets' defensive line is the team's strength, but both starting outside linebackers (Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples) are due to become free agents after the 2015 season. Plus, Pace will turn 35 years old in October. A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17).

7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this past season, the Bears have plenty of holes to address and could go in a number of different directions. They ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.6 PPG allowed) and 30th in total defense (377.1 YPG allowed). As they likely transition to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, they need help on all three levels of their defense. With surprising quickness for someone his size (6-2, 335), Shelton had 9.0 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 93 tackles last season for the Huskies.

8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

The Falcons are in dire need of pass-rush help as only the Bengals (20) generated fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest in 2013 as well. There were some concerns about Beasley's weight, but he was a rocked up 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds at the combine without losing a step (4.53 forty) and posting 35 reps at 225 pounds. Not just a workout warrior, Beasley has been one of the nation's most productive pass rushers with a total of 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 26 games over the past two seasons combined.

9. New York Giants (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

It appears that the Giants will at least use their franchise tag on impending free agent Jason Pierre-Paul, who bounced back and recorded 12.5 sacks after a career-low 2.0 in 2013. That said, past successful Giants teams have thrived with a dynamic pass rush. Albeit a bit undersized at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Ray has an explosive first step and was last year's SEC Defensive Player of the Year with 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season.

10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Brian Quick was on his way to a breakout season in 2014, but it was cut short to a torn rotator cuff. Perhaps Quick takes that next step forward in 2015, but he is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season. In addition, Kenny Britt, who played more than three-quarters of the team's offensive snaps, will be a free agent in a couple of weeks. As Alabama's first Biletnikoff winner in school history, Cooper finished with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, all of which ranked first or second in the nation this season.

11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

In many of the previous editions of my mock draft, the Vikings have gone with either offensive lineman Brandon Scherff or Louisville wide receiver Devante Parker. Both are still on the board and would be worthwhile picks here, but Waynes, my top-ranked cornerback in this year's draft class, really boosted his stock at the combine by running a 4.31 40-yard dash and putting up 19 reps at 225 pounds. If he's still on the board here, however, Waynes paired with Xavier Rhodes would give the Vikings one of the better young cornerback duos.

12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

Once again, the Browns will go into the season with a looming full-year suspension for Josh Gordon. Although last year's ban was eventually cut to 10 games, that won't happen this year. In addition, there is uncertainty at quarterback heading into 2015 and no team had fewer passing touchdowns than the Browns (12) last season.

A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of 2014, but the 6-foot-3 wideout finished with a 43/855/5 line in just six games. NFL.com's Jeremiah compared Parker to Keenan Allen saying Parker is "smooth, physical & has outstanding instincts/ball skills." Parker would become an immediate upgrade over all of their eligible-to-play wide receivers next season.

13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky

Bad against both the run (29th in the NFL) and pass (25th), the Saints allowed the second-most yards (384.0 per game) in the NFL and fifth-most points (26.5 per game). They also struggled to get to the quarterback as they finished in the bottom eight in sacks (34). A former tight end, Dupree is a freak athlete (4.56 forty, 42-inch vertical, 11-6 broad jump) at his size (6-foot-4, 269). Over the past three seasons, Dupree has a total of 21.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.

14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

As a whole, the Dolphins struggled in both pass and run blocking. Based on grades from PFF, the Dolphins ranked 31st in pass blocking and 27th in run blocking in 2014. Scherff played left tackle at Iowa and while he could play tackle at the next level, he may be better at guard and starting guard Daryn Colledge is a free agent. Either way, Colledge graded out as the 74th of 78 qualified guards last season.

15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon

Armstead could certainly be drafted higher than this based on potential and upside. Described by an NFL general manager as "a 6-foot-8, 290-pound freak," Armstead was a two-sport athlete (football and basketball) at Oregon and possesses excellent footwork and agility. Justin Smith will turn 36 years old in September.

16. Houston Texans (Draft History): Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

Better as a run blocker than he is a pass protector, Peat has the length and foot quickness to develop into a starting left tackle in the NFL some day. For now, however, Texans starting right tackle Derek Newton is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month.

-> Continue to picks 17-32
-> Continue to Round 2

-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database

-> Also, check out our 2015 NBA Mock Draft

To keep track of our updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 26, 2015

Falcons cut RB Steven Jackson, who doesn't plan to retire

After two seasons with the club, the Atlanta Falcons have released running back Steven Jackson. Although Jackson turns 32 years old in July, he has no plans to retire.

Jackson wrote on his website, "Make no mistake: I can still punish a defense. I still have a warrior's heart. There are 1,000-yard seasons left in these legs. I know what I am still capable of, and I have every intention of proving it."

Before joining the Falcons, S-Jax eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for eight consecutive seasons. Over the past two seasons, however, he has rushed for a total of 1,250 yards on 347 carries (3.6 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.

With Jackson now a free agent, Devonta Freeman tops the team's depth chart and could have an opportunity for a breakout season in 2015.

That said, running back is deep in this year's draft class and it wouldn't surprise me if the Falcons add a running back on Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft, as I have projected in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft.

Jackson has 11,388 career rushing yards, which ranks 16th all-time, but he also has 3,207 career touches, which is the 14th-most ever.


[ Yahoo! ] options

Suspension overturned for Vikings RB Adrian Peterson

The suspension of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been overturned by Judge David Doty. Meanwhile, the NFL can appeal and said they "will review the decision."

Peterson is scheduled to earn a salary of $12.75 million and count $15.4 million towards the salary cap in 2015.

For both sides, it's unclear whether the soon-to-be 30-year-old running back will play for the Vikings or someone else in 2015.

Although the Vikings have expressed interest in having Peterson back, it's unlikely that they'd be willing to pay Peterson his massive 2015 salary. Peterson is currently under contract through 2017 with salaries of $14.75 in 2016 and $16.75 million in 2017.

Meanwhile, a source close to Peterson -- more than likely his agent, who had a heated exchange with Vikings management at the combine in Indianapolis -- told CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora that Peterson "will never play another game for the Vikings. It's over."

If Peterson is traded or released, that would open up opportunities for Jerick McKinnon.

Over an eight-game span from Weeks 4 to 12, McKinnon averaged 16.38 touches and 81.5 yards from scrimmage per game. His 652 YFS during that span ranked 13th among running backs, but McKinnon (back, IR) didn't play after Week 12 last season.


[ Yahoo! ] options

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Collaborative, Post-Combine Edition

With the conclusion of the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine on Monday, we are still early in the process as teams prepare for the 2015 NFL Draft, which begins on April 30th in Chicago.

Even though some prospects saw their stock rise (or fall) after the Scouting Combine, it's important to remember that it's just a part of the process -- and a relatively small one; at least, when it comes to the on-field portion. In fact, the most important aspect of what happened in Indianapolis was the non-televised portion -- interviews and medical evaluations.

Given that free agency won't begin for a couple more weeks, team needs will undoubtedly change as teams sign (or lose) free agents on the open market.

With that said, Brendan Donahue (@DonnyWallStreet) and yours truly (@EDSFootball) will alternate picks, playing the role of general manager, in our latest 2015 NFL Mock Draft.

I will pick for teams with odd-numbered first-round pick; Brendan will pick for teams with even-numbered draft slots. Both will provide comments for their selections.

Here is our first-round collaborative 2015 NFL Mock Draft:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Kevin: With the Buccaneers releasing Josh McCown earlier this offseason, it was further indication that this pick will be a quarterback. There may be some debate between Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, but Winston has the strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence and on-the-field leadership skills to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback. NFL Network's Steve Mariucci referred to Winston "the most astute X's and O's guy that he's ever put on the board."

Of course, the biggest concern with Winston is the off-the-field issues -- and those concerns are amplified given the nature of the position and this draft slot. Before the NFL Scouting Combine, however, reports were that Bucs coach Lovie Smith prefers Winston over Mariota and it's hard to imagine that changing given Winston's strong performance on the field and in meeting rooms.

2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Brendan: I'm not sold on Zach Mettenberger and I don't think the Titans are either, or at least they shouldn't be. Mariota has the all of the physical tools you want in a QB, the question is will he be able to adapt to a pro-style offense. I think he has too much potential for the Titans to pass on here and it is up to them to develop him.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC

Kevin: The top overall prospect on my 2015 NFL Draft Big Board, Williams is a scheme-diverse defensive lineman that has the ability to win in a variety of ways at multiple spots along the defensive line. His ability and versatility has generated some comparisons to J.J. Watt and Richard Seymour and the sky is the limit for this 20-year-old defensive lineman.

4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Brendan: This was a tough call for me, not only because I think you are splitting hairs between Cooper and Kevin White, but also because it's the Raiders and you really just never know what they are going to do in the draft until the actual name is called. Cooper is about as polished as they come though and will be an immediate weapon for Derek Carr and will help his development.

5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska

Kevin: Perhaps Washington would consider an offensive lineman or defensive back here as both are units in significant need of upgrades, but you can never have too many pass-rushers. Plus, Brian Orapko is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and Washington is not expected to re-sign him or use the franchise tag on him. One scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he thinks Gregory is "better than Ziggy Ansah," who was the fifth pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.

6. New York Jets (Draft History): Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida

Brendan: While the Jets do have a very good defensive line, one thing they are lacking is an edge rusher. Fowler could very well be the best one in the draft and will be a great addition to a Todd Bowles defense that likes to get after the quarterback.

7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

Kevin: The Bears defense has a number of holes on all three levels as they ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.6 PPG allowed) and 30th in total defense (377.1 YPG allowed) last season. In addition, they will likely transition to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Not only can he stuff the run, but Shelton had 9.0 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 93 tackles last season for the Huskies with surprising quickness for someone his size (6-2, 335).

8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

Brendan: According to many scouts, Vic Beasley was the "winner" of the combine. He solidified, if not strengthened, his case for being a top-10 pick. The Falcons desperately need playmakers on defense and Beasley was already considered a playmaker as he averaged a sack every 42 snaps in his last two years at Clemson and left there as their all-time sack leader.

9. New York Giants (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

Kevin: It appears that the Giants will at least use their franchise tag on impending free agent Jason Pierre-Paul, who bounced back and recorded 12.5 sacks after a career-low 2.0 in 2013. Albeit a bit undersized at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Ray has an explosive first step and was last year's SEC Defensive Player of the Year with 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season.

10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

Brendan: Although the Rams have question marks about who will be playing QB for them this year and since there isn't a QB worth a pick here, their next best option is to surround whoever is throwing the ball for them with as much talent as possible. That's where White comes in. He is arguably the most talented WR in the draft and only helped his argument by running a 4.35 40 at the combine.

11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Kevin: I strongly considered Devante Parker here and a reunion of the former Louisville teammates would have made sense. More than likely, the Vikings will use early picks on providing second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with both weapons and protection. Scherff, last year's Outland Trophy winner, played left tackle for Iowa and while he could play left or right tackle in the NFL, he may be an even better guard. Not only did left tackle Matt Kalil struggle, but their interior offensive line play had some issues as well, and only four teams allowed more sacks (51) than the Vikings offensive line last year.

12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Devante Parker, WR, Louisville

Brendan: This seems like an obvious choice for the Browns after the suspension to Josh Gordon for all of the 2015 season. Every game I have seen Parker play, he consistently stands out and often looks like the best player on the field. He will immediately be the Browns No. 1 receiver and should have a very productive rookie season (and beyond).

13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

Kevin: The Saints defense was bad all around -- 29th vs. the run and 25th vs. the pass (25th) -- while allowing the second-most yards (384.0 per game) and fifth-most points (26.5 per game) in the NFL. Of the 108 qualified cornerbacks graded by PFF last year, the Saints have two under contract for 2015 -- Keenan Lewis and Corey White -- and they graded out as the 98th and 106th cornerbacks, respectively.

There's a good chance that Waynes, my top cornerback prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft, won't be available this late given his strong workout at the combine. Not only did the six-foot corner post the fastest 40-yard dash (4.31) among defensive backs, but he also posted a 38-inch vertical jump and did 19 reps (at 225 pounds) on the bench press.

14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): La'el Collins, OT, LSU

Brendan: Depending on what scout you talk to, Collins may be the best offensive tackle in the draft. The Dolphins can upgrade their O-Line as a whole so they have the ability to use him at tackle or plug him in at guard where he could excel.

15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma

Kevin: Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from Missouri and sat out last season as a member of the Sooners' scout team, begins his NFL career with off-the-field concerns and it's unclear how far he'll drop on draft day. If the 49ers ultimately feel comfortable using a top-15 pick on him, however, there is little doubt that DGB (6-5, 237, 4.49 forty) has the potential to be a difference-making wide receiver at the next level. With as much upside as any receiver in this year's draft class, DGB also fills a major need for the 49ers as Michael Crabtree is about to hit free agency and Anquan Boldin will turn 35 in October.

16. Houston Texans (Draft History): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky

Brendan: Another big winner of the combine, Dupree is the best pure pass rusher left in the draft and with the health concerns of last year's No. 1 pick, the Texans can add another piece to their defense that can help J.J. Watt get to the QB.

-> Continue to picks 17-32

-> My 2015 NFL Mock Draft

-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database

-> Also, check out our 2015 NBA Mock Draft

To keep track of our updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 25, 2015

Lions release RB Reggie Bush

The Detroit Lions have released running back Reggie Bush, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

In an injury-plagued season, Bush, who turns 29 next week, missed five games and gained just 297 yards on 76 carries, which averages out to a six-year low of 3.91 yards per carry. He also added 40 receptions for 253 yards.

Although Bush played 45 games in the previous three seasons, he has missed multiple games in six of his nine NFL seasons.

Averaging 17.13 touches per game last season, Joique Bell will once again be a solid RB2 option in 2015 and Theo Riddick, who had 34 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns, will see his role expand further for a potential breakout season.

Riddick never played more than 41.3 percent of the team's offensive snaps in any one game last season and managed to play just 20.0 percent on the year. Scoring the 47th-most points among running backs in PPR formats, Riddick has RB2/flex upside in PPR formats in 2015.

Bush's release doesn't generate a ton of savings with the cap, but the Lions could use as much extra cap space as they could get with defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley about to become unrestricted free agents.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 23, 2015

Panthers to release running back DeAngelo Williams

It was expected (and it's not yet official), but the Panthers will release running back DeAngelo Williams, per Molly Grantham of WBTV.

Turning 32 years old the week before the 2015 NFL Draft, Williams played in just six games last season as he rushed 63 times for 219 yards and a career-low 3.5 yards per carry while adding five catches for 44 yards.

Williams is the all-time leader in franchise history in carries (1,432), rushing yards (6,846) and rushing touchdowns (46). Teammate Jonathan Stewart is second all-time in all three categories.

Getting the long-awaited opportunity as the team's featured back down the stretch last year, The Daily Show rushed for 486 yards (5.34 YPC) on 91 carries in the team's final five games. The only running back with more rushing yards during that span was Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (491).

Going into 2015, Stewart will be a solid RB2 in fantasy football drafts and he went off the board at the end of the fourth round in our way-too-early 2015 fantasy football mock draft earlier this month.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 22, 2015

TCU's Paul Dawson says he's "an awesome football player" and "not a track star"

TCU linebacker Paul Dawson was highly productive in college, but he tested poorly at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday.

Dawson ran a much slower-than-expected 4.93 40-yard dash, only three linebackers posted slower times. In addition, he posted a 28-inch vertical jump, the lowest among tested linebackers, and 9-foot-1 broad jump, third-lowest among linebackers.

[We tracked all 2015 NFL Scouting Combine linebacker results here.]

Earlier this month in an "NFL Draft Diary," Dawson wrote "[h]opefully, I run a good 40 — it's looking in the 4.6s right now." In that same draft diary, he addresses some of the "character" concerns linked to him as well.

Despite not being a "track star," Dawson tweeted that he's "an awesome football player."

Always around the football, Dawson had 136 tackles last year and 20.0 tackles for loss, both of which ranked in the top 10 in the nation. In my pre-combine 2015 NFL mock draft, Dawson is off the board early in the second round with the 39th overall pick.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 20, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition

With the 2014 NFL season now in the rear-view mirror and the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine upon us, NFL front offices have ramped up their evaluation process of prospects.

While the majority of a prospect's evaluation process will be based on what has already been done (film), plenty can and will change as prospects interview with and workout for teams.

In addition, the 2015 NFL free-agency period begins on March 10th and how a team addresses their needs in free agency will impact their approach with the draft, which will begin with Round 1 on April 30th in Chicago.

Over the course of the next couple of months, I will continue to make weekly updates and add more rounds until we mock out all seven rounds of the draft.

[Follow @EDSFootball for updates.]

Keep in mind, however, that mock drafts done 24 hours before the actual draft -- let alone in February and prior to free agency -- are generally going to be inaccurate. Based on 2014 NFL mock drafts tracked by The Huddle Report, the most accurate 2014 mock (of 115) nailed eight first-round prospects to their correct teams. (Note: We were tied for 34th in accuracy among the 115 mocks last year.)

My point is that you should view this mock draft, and any site's mock for that matter, as how I could see it playing out versus this is how it will definitely play out.

With that said, here is my projection for the 2015 NFL Draft:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Unlike with Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who I've slotted here in earlier versions of my mock draft, Winston enters the draft process with multiple off-the-field red flags and NFL security departments will thoroughly scrutinize his character over the next couple of months leading up to the draft. The off-field incidents would be a concern for any prospect at any position, but it's especially concerning for a quarterback -- and more so for one that may be selected first overall -- as the face of the franchise.

In other words, the Bucs will need to feel comfortable with Winston's maturity and background, first and foremost, in order to be able to trust him as the first overall pick. Provided that the Bucs ultimately feel comfortable with his character, Winston has all of the tools to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback -- size, strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence, on-the-field leadership, etc. Although he lost his final collegiate game, Winston helped lead the Seminoles to wins in 26 of 27 games and an undefeated national championship season as a freshman.

Per ESPN's Pat Yasinskas, Lovie Smith prefers Winston over Mariota. In fact, Yasinskas reports that was a factor in choosing an offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter over Marc Trestman, who preferred Mariota.

2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC

It wouldn't be a huge surprise if the Titans went with a quarterback like Mariota here. In fact, I slotted him here in my previous update. Some reports from both national media as well as local beat writers have suggested that the Titans will give Zach Mettenberger a shot to prove that he can be their quarterback of the future. That said, the team's general manager Ruston Webster said on Wednesday that the team is "not in a position to commit to anything."

Viewed by many (including me) as the top prospect (regardless of position) in this year's draft class, Williams has the size, strength, quickness, agility and versatility to play multiple spots along the defensive line and is a disruptive force that has drawn a ton of favorable comparisons to players like J.J. Watt, Gerald McCoy and Richard Seymour.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

The Jaguars allowed a league-high 71 sacks last season and although offensive line may be their biggest need, there isn't an offensive lineman worthy of a top-three pick in this draft. Especially considering they will have to face Andrew Luck for the next decade or so, it would make sense to add someone like Gregory, who has the athleticism and length to potentially develop into an elite pass-rusher at the next level.

4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The Raiders have found their quarterback of the future with Derek Carr, last year's second-round pick, but one of their focal points in free agency and/or the draft should be to improve the weapons around Carr. As Alabama's first Biletnikoff winner in school history, Cooper finished with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, all of which ranked first or second in the nation this season.

5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and expectations are that he won't be back. In addition, Ryan Kerrigan is entering a contract year, so adding a pass-rusher like Ray would make sense here. Either way, you'll never hear a general manager complain of having too many talented pass-rushers. .

6. New York Jets (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

If Mariota slips past the first two picks, it will be interesting to see if Chip Kelly and the Eagles make a move to get in front of the Jets to take Mariota. If he's still on the board at this spot, the Jets would be thrilled.

The transition to a new coaching staff and front office is often followed by a transition to a new quarterback. With new head coach Todd Bowles referring to incumbent Geno Smith as a "great college quarterback," it was far from a ringing endorsement for Smith, who has a career 25:34 TD-to-INT ratio.

Over the course of his collegiate career, Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, rushed for 2,237 yards and accounted for 136 touchdowns -- 105 passing, 29 rushing and two receiving -- with only 14 interceptions. There will naturally be some questions about how well and quickly Mariota will transition from Oregon's spread offense to a pro-style system, but Mariota possesses good size, a strong arm to stretch the field and difference-making mobility for the position in addition to impeccable intangibles.

And according to ESPN's Louis Riddick, it appears that Mariota has been "killing it" during interviews with teams at the NFL Scouting Combine:

7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this past season, the Bears have plenty of holes to address and could go in a number of different directions. They ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.6 PPG allowed) and 30th in total defense (377.1 YPG allowed). As they likely transition to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, they need help on all three levels of their defense. With surprising quickness for someone his size (6-2, 335), Shelton had 9.0 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 93 tackles last season for the Huskies.

8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida

The Falcons are in dire need of pass-rush help as only the Bengals (20) generated fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest in 2013 as well. A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17) and has already played for new head coach Dan Quinn. (Quinn was the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Florida in 2011 and 2012.)

9. New York Giants (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

It's a copy-cat league and the Giants could find themselves copying the success that the Cowboys had last season with the selection of Zach Martin, a left tackle in college that moved inside to become an All-Pro guard as a rookie. NFL Network's Mike Mayock made the direct comparison: "When I look at Brandon Scherff, I see a similar example (to current Dallas Cowboys G Zack Martin...). I see a bigger kid with longer arms. That lends you to believe that he could play outside more easily. Again, I believe he can play outside. However, I think his best position, because of his power, his toughness, his football sense, is inside. I think he's an All-Pro guard. But that doesn't mean he can't play tackle in the NFL."

Only the Cardinals (3.3) and Chargers (3.4) averaged fewer yards per carry than the Giants (3.6) and the Giants run-blocking graded out as 26th of 32 by PFF last season. Of 78 qualified guards graded by PFF, starters Weston Richburg and John Jerry graded out as 62nd and 66th, respectively.

On a side note, perhaps it's just me that finds it funny, but Scherff was a 280-pound high school quarterback that had a 190-pound center and as he said, "it should really have been reversed."

10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

Brian Quick was on his way to a breakout season in 2014, but it was cut short to a torn rotator cuff. Perhaps Quick takes that step forward in 2015, but he is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season. In addition, Kenny Britt, who played more than three-quarters of the team's offensive snaps, will be a free agent next month. The top-ranked wide receiver in my 2015 prospect rankings, White has the size (6-3, 215), hands and run-after-catch ability to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah compared White to Julio Jones.

11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

Only four teams allowed more sacks than the Vikings (51) in 2014 and starting left tackle Matt Kalil really struggled last season. Among 84 offensive tackles graded by PFF, only Carolina's Byron Bell received a worse pass-blocking grade than Kalil, who is entering a contract year. If the Vikings were to select Peat, they could kick Kalil inside to guard where left guard Charlie Johnson has also struggled. At this point, however, Peat is a much better run blocker than he is in pass protection, but he has the tools -- size (6-foot-7, 313 pounds), length (34 3/8-inch arms) and foot quickness -- to succeed.

12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Devante Parker, WR, Louisville

Once again, the Browns will go into the season with a looming full-year suspension for Josh Gordon. Although last year's ban was eventually cut to 10 games, that won't happen this year. Not only is there uncertainty at the quarterback position heading into 2015, but no team had fewer passing touchdowns than the Browns (12) last season.

A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of 2014, but the 6-foot-3 wideout finished with a 43/855/5 line in just six games. NFL.com's Jeremiah compared Parker to Keenan Allen saying Parker is "smooth, physical & has outstanding instincts/ball skills." Parker would become an immediate upgrade over all of their eligible-to-play wide receivers next season.

13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

Bad against both the run (29th in the NFL) and pass (25th), the Saints allowed the second-most yards (384.0 per game) in the NFL and fifth-most points (26.5 per game). They also struggled to get to the quarterback as they finished in the bottom eight in sacks (34). One of the best pass rushers in this year's draft class, Beasley has a total of 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 26 games over the past two seasons combined.

14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

The Dolphins need an upgrade at cornerback over Cortland Finnegan, who started opposite Brent Grimes last season. In addition, Finnegan is a release candidate if he's not willing to accept a pay cut. Given the character concerns of Marcus Peters, who was kicked off Washington's football team, Waynes could end up being the first cornerback off the board in this year's draft. According to Tony Pauline, Waynes could be one of the few/only cornerbacks that runs a sub-4.4 forty and does 20-plus reps at 225 on the bench press at the combine.

15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon

Armstead could certainly be drafted higher than this based on potential and upside. Described by an NFL general manager as "a 6-foot-8, 290-pound freak," Armstead was a two-sport athlete (football and basketball) at Oregon and possesses excellent footwork and agility. Justin Smith will turn 36 years old in September.

16. Houston Texans (Draft History): T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh

A converted defensive lineman, Clemmings has only played offense for two seasons, both at right tackle, at the collegiate level, and he possesses the athleticism and potential to play on the left side down the line, if necessary. That said, starting right tackle Derek Newton is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month.

-> Continue to picks 17-32
-> Continue to Round 2

-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database

-> Also, check out our 2015 NBA Mock Draft

To keep track of our updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 18, 2015

Report: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals "closing in" on multi-year deal

There was virtually no chance that Larry Fitzgerald would have played for the Cardinals in a year with a $23.6 million salary-cap figure.

And he won't.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Fitzgerald and the Cardinals are "closing in" on a multi-year contract.

[Update: Per PFT, the deal is "done" and creates $13 million in cap space.]

Fitzgerald currently ranks 19th all-time in receptions (909) and 21st all-time in receiving yards (12,151), but Fitzgerald is coming off the worst season of his career. Missing two games last season, Fitzgerald's 63 receptions and 784 yards were the fewest since his rookie season and his two touchdowns set a career low.

While the days of 1,400-plus yards, something he has done four times in his career, have long been in the rear-view mirror, a significant factor in the year-over-year drop from his 82/954/10 production in 2013 can be attributed to the injuries at quarterback.

Not only did Carson Palmer miss 10 games, but backup Drew Stanton missed the final few games with a knee injury as well. Provided that Palmer stays healthy, I would expect a bounce-back year closer to the numbers he posted in 2013.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 17, 2015

2015 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Round 10

We started a new and way-too-early 2015 fantasy football mock draft on February 7th and all picks in the 10-round mock are now complete and posted.

Here are Round 10 results:

10.01 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys

Other than his rookie season, Witten's 64 receptions and 703 yards last year set or tied career lows. Witten lacks the upside of some other tight ends that are still on the board, such as Dwayne Allen, but he's a solid low-end TE1 at this point in his career.

10.02 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks

While it appears that Marshawn Lynch will play in 2015, there is at least a small chance that he walks away given compressed cartilage in his back that can get worse if he continues to play. If Lynch doesn't play or misses time, my guess is that Michael (over Robert Turbin) would be the biggest beneficiary.

10.03 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans

Walker set career highs in both receptions (63) and yards (890) and he led the team in both categories last season. Given the team's issues at quarterback last season, Walker could certainly improve upon those numbers in 2015 and he's a solid option for those that wait on tight end.

10.04 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams

After tearing his rotator cuff in Week 8 last season, Quick played just seven games last season and he started the season strong. In the first four games of the year, Quick had a total of 21 receptions for 322 yards and three touchdowns and finished as a top-25 fantasy wide receiver in all four games. Although he had just four catches for 53 yards in his other three games, Quick was on his way to a breakout season. Depending on Quick's recovery and health, that breakout season could come for the former small-school receiver in 2015.

10.05 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lee's rookie season was relatively quiet, but he exceeded 50 receiving yards in four of his final six games and averaged 4.0 receptions, 46.83 yards and 7.33 targets per game over that stretch. Lee is the third Jaguars receiver off the board in this mock draft and assuming that Justin Blackmon is reinstated from his indefinite suspension, I would expect both Blackmon and Allen Robinson to be more productive fantasy wide receivers in 2015.

10.06 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Terrance West, RB, Cleveland Browns

The frustrating part of owning a Browns running back is the inconsistency in carries. Selected roughly six rounds later than Isaiah Crowell (in this mock), West offers more value -- or stated differently, he's less of a risk to disappoint based on their respective draft slots. In West's final seven games played last season, here are his rush attempts: 26, 5, 14, 7, 15, 5 and 18.

10.07 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets

With CJNoK about to become a free agent, the Jets may have their sights set on C.J. Spiller in free agency, but I like Ivory quite a bit this late in the mock. Ivory gained a career-low 4.1 yards per carry, but he once again rushed for more than 800 yards and he set a career high with six touchdowns. In addition, Ivory finished the year as a top-20 fantasy running back in standard-scoring formats.

10.08 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

The best handcuff among fantasy running backs, Davis had some big games when given the opportunity as he finished as a top-eight fantasy running back four times last season. With Jamaal Charles leaving Week 2 early (only two carries) and missing Week 3, Davis had a combined 60 touches for 237 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in those two games. In the other games, Davis averaged just 6.92 touches per game but he had double-digit touches in four of those games as well.

10.09 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Cody Latimer, WR, Denver Broncos

Three of Denver's top pass-catchers -- Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas -- are set for free agency next month. There is little doubt that Demaryius will be back, but if the Broncos don't re-sign Welker, Latimer should see a big bump in snaps as Emmanuel Sanders could move inside in three-WR sets. Either way, Latimer, their second-round pick last year, has plenty of upside going into year two.

10.10 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Titans

Despite a huge bump in snaps played (82.8 percent in 2014 versus 36.4 percent in 2013), Hunter was a huge disappointment to those that expected a breakout season from the second-year receiver. Missing the final month due to a lacerated spleen, Hunter finished with only 28 catches for 498 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. Hunter had just 37 yards or less in seven of his 12 games and never had more than four receptions in any game last season. As the WR5 on this team, however, I'd be willing to roll the dice on Hunter's athletic upside.

10.11 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Marquess Wilson, WR, Chicago Bears

One of my favorite sleepers last offseason before he broke his clavicle, Wilson had less than 20 receiving yards in all but one of his seven games played last season. There is plenty of upside with Wilson going into 2015, however, and that's especially so if the Bears part ways with Brandon Marshall, which appears to at least be a possibility.

10.12 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins

Moreno's 2014 season was lost to injury although he opened the season with a surprising and impressive 24/134/1 line against the Patriots in Week 1. When he returned from a multi-week elbow injury, Moreno tore his ACL in Week 6 and the free agent-to-be is not expected back in Miami in 2015. It's unclear where the 28-year-old (in July) will play in 2015 and how productive he'll be.

> Go back to Round 9 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Or start from the beginning of our fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

2015 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Round 9

Another round of our new 2015 fantasy football mock draft has been posted.

Here are Round 9 results:

9.01 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos

Three different Broncos running backs had more than 20 touches last season -- Ball (Week 1), Ronnie Hillman (Weeks 6 and 8) and C.J. Anderson (Weeks 12 through 16). Going into 2015, it appears that Anderson is in line for a featured role under new head coach Gary Kubiak, but it wouldn't be a complete surprise if Ball or Hillman end up in that role at some point in the season as well. And it's not completely out of the question that Ball (or Hillman) won't start the season in that role. That said, Ball averaged just 3.13 yards per carry in the games he did play last season.

9.02 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Blackmon has played a total of four games over the past two seasons combined due to league suspension. Those four games were in 2013 and Blackmon was highly productive in those games -- 29 catches for 415 yards and two touchdowns. Although Blackmon is suspended indefinitely, there is some "optimism" that Blackmon will be reinstated this season. If he plays 16 games this season, he would be a huge value at this point of the draft.

9.03 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Charles Sims, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This team already has the Muscle Hamster, but I wouldn't be surprised if Sims turns out to be the most productive Bucs running back this season. The current regime inherited Martin, but used a relatively early pick on the versatile Sims, who rushed for 3,465 yards in college but also added 203 receptions for 2,108 yards. With that said, he was less than impressive when healthy over the final eight games of his rookie season -- 2.8 yards per carry.

9.04 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Percy Harvin, WR, New York Jets

Harvin was enough of a headache that the Seahawks traded him away in the middle of the season and it appears there is a good chance that his new team will release him as well. If the Jets release him, they save $10.5 million in salary-cap space and only send a sixth-round pick (instead of a fourth-rounder) to the Seahawks. A dynamic and explosive player with the ball in his hands, he certainly has upside at this point in the mock but it's unclear where he will play in 2015.

9.05 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Winning the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2013, Rivers followed up his bounce-back season with 4,286 yards and 31 touchdowns but he also threw 18 interceptions. Dealing with a back injury, Rivers threw seven of those interceptions in the final three games of the season. Fortunately Rivers won't have to have back surgery this offseason and he should be a relatively safe bet for 4,000-plus yards and around 30 touchdowns once again in 2015.

9.06 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers

Gates, who will turn 35 in June, scored more fantasy points than all tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski last season. Although his targets (98), receptions (69) and yards (821) were down year over year, Gates finished with 12 touchdowns, the second-most of his career. Gates finished as a top-two weekly fantasy tight end four times last season and a top-eight tight end eight times. It's unlikely that he finishes as a top-five tight end at 35 years old, but another top-10 season is still within reach.

9.07 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars signed Toby Gerhart last offseason expecting him to be the team's featured back, but Gerhart was a major disappointment. Of the team's running backs, Robinson was head and shoulders above the rest in terms of effectiveness. Robinson got a shot at the featured role in Week 7 and posted back-to-back 100-yard games and averaged 4.3 yards per carry last season, but he finished the season on IR due to a foot injury. Going into 2015, he's the preferred option among the team's current running backs, but it's likely that the Jags will add competition for touches in free agency and/or the draft.

9.08 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills

Although Jackson rushed for a career-low 3.7 yards per carry, he also set career highs with 66 receptions for 501 yards. In fact, Matt Forte (102) and Le'Veon Bell (83) are the only running backs that had more receptions than F-Jax last season. Turning 34 years old this month, however, Jackson is likely to see fewer carries in 2015 than he had last season (although it's crazy to also think that John Riggins had a 375/1,347/24 season as a 34-year-old running back as well).

9.09 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

In two NFL seasons, Reed has played nine and 11 games, respectively, and that's the biggest concern (durability) with Reed. That said, he's been reasonably productive in those 20 games -- 95 receptions for 964 yards (plus 18 rushing yards) and three touchdowns. I like Reed's upside if he can stay healthy, but he also was invisible in too many games last season as he had 25 yards or less in five of his final seven games and he didn't score a single touchdown last season.

9.10 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Fitzgerald had 63 receptions for 784 yards and a career-low two touchdowns last season and his 784 yards were only four more than the career low he had as a rookie. Given the injuries to Carson Palmer and then Drew Stanton, the decline certainly wasn't solely the fault of Fitzgerald, who also missed two games. Assuming that both sides agree on restructuring his contract, Fitzgerald should see a bump from last year's production.

9.11 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants

With his season cut short after after six games due to a torn patellar tendon, Cruz had a pair of 100-yard games in Weeks 3 and 4, but he averaged just 56.2 yards per game, a four-year low, with only one touchdown. Provided that Cruz is on track for the start of the season, it's unlikely that Cruz would be available at the end of Round 9, but there is significant separation between Cruz and Odell Beckham as the top Giants fantasy wide receiver.

9.12 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Brandon LaFell, WR, New England Patriots

In his first season with the Patriots, LaFell had his best NFL season, by far, as he set career highs in receptions (74), yards (953) and touchdowns (seven). As solid as LaFell's overall numbers were, there was plenty of weekly inconistency as he had four top-12 finishes but he finished outside the top-36 eight times. At best, he's the team's third option in the passing game behind Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, but he's a solid value as the 46th receiver off the board.

> Continue to Round 10 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 8 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 15, 2015

2015 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Round 8

Another round of our way-too-early 2015 fantasy football mock draft is complete. Here are Round 8 results of our new fantasy football mock draft:

8.01 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers

With the exception of an 11-game season in 2010, Gore has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in eight of his past nine seasons with at least 1,100 rushing yards in four consecutive seasons. That streak is all but certainly going to end in 2015 for Gore, who will turn 32 in May. Gore is an unrestricted free agent so it's unclear where he will play in 2015, but it will almost certainly be in a secondary role wherever he eventually lands. Some speculation from Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area suggests that Washington would be a strong possibility.

8.02 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

It was a down year for Newton, but he dealt with numerous injuries throughout the season and missed two games. That said, Newton has exceeded 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in all four of his NFL seasons. Over those four seasons, he has averaged 3,606 passing yards and 20 passing touchdowns per season as well as 643 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns per year. Although 16 quarterbacks scored more fantasy points than Newton in 2014, I expect a bounce-back season from Newton with better health in 2015. In fact, Newton's production wasn't all that bad as he finished seventh in fantasy points per game (17.78) among QBs.

8.03 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Based on 2014 average draft position (ADP), Roethlisberger was one of the biggest values last season. Only four quarterbacks scored more fantasy points than Roethlisberger -- Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning. Big Ben threw for a career-high 4,952 yards, which tied Drew Brees last season for the league lead, and 32 touchdowns, which tied a previous career high.

8.04 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions

Bush had one of the worst seasons of his career. Not only did he miss five games, but he gained a total of 550 yards from scrimmage (50.0 per game), averaged only 3.9 yards per carry and scored just two touchdowns. At this point, it's unclear whether or not Bush will be back with the Lions as neither Jim Caldwell or Martin Mayhew "would commit to bringing Bush back after an injury-riddled season." If he is back, it's possible that he is third behind both Joique Bell and Theo Riddick in production.

8.05 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Over his past five seasons, Ryan has finished as a top-eight fantasy quarterback in four of them. During that same span, he has never finished as a top-six fantasy quarterback. Although he's not a quarterback I typically target, he's a solid option to settle on later in drafts. Ryan has more than 4,500 passing yards in three consecutive seasons and 26-plus touchdowns in five straight.

8.06 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints

Stills set career highs with 63 receptions for a team-high 931 yards in his second season. While his overall numbers were excellent, he was even better down the stretch without Brandin Cooks, who missed the final six games of the season. With at least 67 yards in five of his final six games, Stills averaged 5.33 receptions for 83.33 yards per game (compared to 3.44/47.89 in his other nine games played). That production also coincided with Jimmy Graham's (shoulder injury and) lessened output down the stretch. Graham averaged just 49.17 YPG over his final six games.

8.07 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Failing to live up to my expectations, White still averaged a respectable 5.71 catches and 65.79 yards per game with seven touchdowns. Had he not missed two games, he was on a 16-game pace of 91/1,053/8. Given that White turns 34 in November, I think that line would be his upside with his 80/921/7 line from last season being closer to a more reasonable expectation going into 2015.

8.08 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears

Bennett set career highs across the board in 2014 with 90 receptions, 916 yards and six touchdowns. Finishing as a top-five scorer among tight ends, Bennett led the position in receptions and his 916 yards ranked third behind Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen.

8.09 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Despite Andy Reid doing his best to limit Kelce's production (or at least that's how it seemed), he still managed to post a 67/862/5 stat line and finish as a top-nine fantasy tight end last season. Kelce played only 52.3 percent of the team's offensive snaps from Weeks 1 to 10, but that percentage jumped to 86.7 percent from Weeks 11 to 17. As a bigger part of the offense over the course of a full season, Kelce has the upside to finish as a top-five (or better) fantasy tight end in 2015.

8.10 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are certainly having some buyer's remorse after signing him to a big free-agent contract two offseasons ago. In many ways, I had some buyer's remorse after making this selection as Wallace is one of the players I like the least in the NFL due to his attitude. There are few actions worse on the football field than being selfish and quitting on your teammates like he did in the season finale:

When not quitting on his teammates, Wallace has three consecutive mediocre seasons of less than 1,000 yards and has averaged just 13.1, 12.7 and 12.9 Y/R over the past three seasons, respectively. I'd estimate at least a 50-50 chance that Wallace plays for another team in 2015.

8.11 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans

After back-to-back 1,400-yard seasons, Johnson finished with 85 receptions for just 936 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. Johnson's 62.4 Y/G and 11.0 Y/R were his lowest since 2005. Johnson, who will turn 34 in July, has been passed by DeAndre Hopkins as the team's most effective receiver in real life and fantasy. As the 41st receiver off the board, however, he still has the potential to outproduce that draft position.

8.12 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts

Fleener finished with 774 yards and eight touchdowns, both of which were career highs, on 51 receptions last season. Unsurprisingly, Fleener's best games last season came in games that Allen was out. In the four games that Allen missed or left early due to injury, Fleener had 355 yards and four touchdowns. In the other 12 games, he had just 419 yards and four touchdowns. Assuming that Fleener and Allen are healthy for the entire season, I actually prefer Allen over Fleener.

> Continue to Round 9 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 7 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

ESPN Boston speculates that the Patriots won't pay up to re-sign Shane Vereen in free agency

The New England Patriots have two soon-to-be free-agent running backs that topped their depth chart to start the 2014 season -- Stevan Ridley, who ended the season on Injured Reserve, and Shane Vereen.

In a quick-hits post this morning, ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss speculated on the future of Vereen:

"For those looking at a potential financial market for running back Shane Vereen in free agency, one respected NFL source pointed me to the three-year, $10.5 million deal ($4 million guaranteed) signed by Donald Brown with the Chargers last year as the starting point. I could see Vereen exceeding that, and I have doubts the Patriots – given their recent free-agent history with running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead – would match it. From the pure-speculation department: I could see the Jacksonville Jaguars as a strong suitor for Vereen, in part because of the championship pedigree he could bring and their significant salary cap space."

Setting career highs across the board, Vereen carried the ball 96 times for 391 yards, added 52 receptions for 447 yards and scored a total of five touchdowns in 2014.

Vereen, who will 26 in March, was the 35th running back off the board selected with the last pick in Round 7 of our newest 2015 fantasy football mock draft.

The 2015 NFL free-agency period begins on March 10th.


[ Yahoo! ] options

2015 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Round 7

Last weekend, we began a new (and way-too-early) 2015 fantasy football mock draft and the 10-round mock is now complete.

I'm in the process of our adding comments for our picks and here are the results for Round 7:

7.01 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans

One year after his 94/1,079/2 breakout season in 2013, Wright's production dropped year over year to 57/715/6 although the issues at quarterback were at least partly to blame. And even though the Titans lost 14 games and nine of them by double digits, Wright saw 10 targets in only one game last season.

Perhaps a positive is that Wright had 53-plus yards (including a season-best 7/132/1 performance) in four of the five games that he and Zach Mettenberger played together and many expect Mettenberger to enter the season as the starting quarterback. If that is the case, Mettenberger would have a full offseason to prepare as the starter and build chemistry with the receivers.

7.02 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Overall, it was a disappointing season for Smith, who either set or tied career lows with 49 receptions for 767 yards. On a positive note, however, Smith set a career high with 11 touchdowns and he was much more productive from Week 6 to 17. During that span, Smith averaged 3.8 catches for 59.1 yards and a touchdown per game and scored the 14th-most fantasy points among wide receivers on a per-game basis. Smith is about to become an unrestricted free agent, but I expect him to be back with the Ravens and the addition of Marc Trestman to run the offense is a certainly a positive.

7.03 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Aaron Rodgers. Andrew Luck. That's it. That's the list of quarterbacks that scored more fantasy points than Wilson last season. Of course, the primary reason behind Wilson's fantasy production was his rushing stats with 849 yards and six touchdowns, both of which were career highs, and he even had three 100-yard rushing games this season. It may be unrealistic to expect 800-plus rushing yards again, but he has at least 489 rushing yards in all three of his seasons and should rush for 500 yards (or more) in 2015.

While his passing numbers aren't gaudy in Seattle's run-first offense, Wilson has thrown at least 20 touchdowns with 10 or fewer interceptions in all three of his NFL seasons. Not only is Wilson the only quarterback to do that in each of his first three NFL seasons, he's the only one in NFL history to do that more than once per Pro Football Reference.

7.04 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Andre Williams, RB, New York Giants

As a rookie, Williams led the team in carries (217), rushing yards (721) and rushing touchdowns (seven), but Williams averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and exceeded 3.5 YPC in only three games. Over the final four games of the season, the 230-pound back had 83 carries for 328 yards (3.95 YPC) and two touchdowns.

If Rashad Jennings is the team's starting running back in 2015, it wouldn't surprise me if the split is fairly even between Jennings and Williams. Jennings is a much better receivier out of the backfield than Williams, but Williams could be first in line for goal-line carries. With Jennings missing multiple games and never playing 16 games in a season, it also wouldn't surprise me if Jennings missed a game or two next season.

7.05 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Baldwin set career highs of 66 receptions and 825 yards last season and his numbers post-Percy Harvin (4.55/58.0/0.27) were much better than they were prior to the trade (3.2/37.4/0.0). That said, being the No. 1 receiver in a run-first offense certainly does not lend itself to upside. A full season at his per-game pace without Harvin still only extrapolates to 73/928/4. And at 5-foot-10 and 189 pounds, it's no surprise that Baldwin has never exceeded five touchdowns in any season. Baldwin is safe for respectable production, but I probably wouldn't consider Baldwin for a few more rounds due to his modest upside.

7.06 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Smith's first season as a Raven went better than expectations as he posted a 79/1,065/6 full-season stat line. With all four of his 100-yard games occurring in the first six games of the season, Smith was much less effective over the final 10 games. That said, he did have at least five catches in each of the final four games for a total of 25 catches during the final month of the season. Smith turns 36 in May and I think it's a longshot that he posts another 1,000-yard season yet he has made a career out of disproving his doubters.

7.07 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

To say Brady got off to a slow start last season would be an understatement as he averaged just 197.75 yards per game with four touchdowns and two interceptions over the first four weeks of the season. From that point on, however, things clicked as only Peyton Manning (31) threw more touchdowns than Brady (29) from Weeks 5 to 17. Provided that Rob Gronkowski remains healthy for the full season, Brady could post a top-five season in 2015.

7.08 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Charles Johnson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Playing for his third NFL team -- and being reunited with Norv Turner -- was the charm for Johnson, who played all but 19 of the team's offensive snaps in the final six games of the season for the Vikings. (I was shocked though that the Browns waived Johnson especially considering their lack of talent at receiver.) Injuries cost him his rookie 2013 season, but Johnson has an impressive combination of size (6-2, 215) and athleticism (sub-4.4 forty).

In his final seven games of the season, Johnson had 25 receptions for 415 yards and two touchdowns. His 59.29 YPG average over that stretch is the equivalent to a full-season total of 949 yards. With a full offseason and the continued development of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, things should only be better for Johnson in 2015 and beyond.

7.09 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Over his past three seasons, Romo's pass attempts have dropped from 648 (2012) to 535 (2013) to 435 (2014). Despite the drop in volume, Romo threw 34 touchdowns, the most for him since 2007, with only nine interceptions, a four-year low. In addition, Romo led the league in Y/A (8.5), completion percentage (69.9), touchdown percentage (7.8) and passer rating (113.2) last year.

While I wouldn't expect a significant increase in Romo's attempts in 2015 given the team's newly-found commitment to their running game, he could remain a top-12 quarterback with his improved efficiency. That said, his upside is somewhat limited if he throws in the 450 range again next year as he only finished as the QB11 despite his career year in efficiency.

7.10 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets

Unsurprisingly, Decker's first year with the Jets (74/962/5) was worse than his recent seasons with the Broncos, but he still finished as a top-30 fantasy wide receiver in both standard- and PPR-scoring formats. Both of Decker's 100-yard games came in the final three weeks of the season including a massive 10/221/1 line against the Dolphins in Week 17. Given the team's quarterback situation, Decker's upside is capped, but he's a nice value as the 36th receiver off the board in this mock.

7.11 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

One of two second-round receivers selected by the Jaguars last season, A-Rob's season was cut short with a season-ending foot injury in Week 10. From Weeks 2 to 10, however, Robinson averaged 5.22 receptions and 60.89 yards per game. During that nine-game span, Robinson had a minimum of four receptions every game and more than 50 receiving yards in seven of nine games. Especially if Blake Bortles takes a step forward going into his second season, Robinson has plenty of upside from here.

7.12 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots

A free agent-to-be, Vereen finished 28th among running backs in fantasy points scored with six top-25 weekly finishes. Within the Patriots' game plan-specific offense that sees running back touches fluctuate significantly week to week, Vereen had eight or fewer touches in nine of 16 games, which makes it much less predictable on when to play Vereen. As the 35th running back off the board, however, Vereen should at least finish inside the top 35 fantasy running backs in 2015 whether he's back in New England or not.

> Continue to Round 8 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 6 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 14, 2015

The Jets decline option on RB Chris Johnson

Exercising options on linebackers Calvin Pace and Jason Babin, the New York Jets will not exercise their option on running back Chris Johnson.

The move will save the Jets $3.5 million in salary-cap space and Johnson, who turns 30 in September, will be free to test the free-agent market next month.

Johnson carried the ball 155 times for 663 yards and a touchdown and added 24 catches for 151 yards and another score in his lone season with the Jets.

Before signing with the Jets, Johnson had rushed for 1,000-plus yards in all six of his seasons with the Titans although he has been much less explosive over the past several seasons.

With Chan Gailey named offensive coordinator under new head coach Todd Bowles, one of the free-agent running backs that will be linked to the Jets over the next several weeks will be C.J. Spiller. Spiller had his breakout 2012 season (1,244 rushing yards, 6.0 yards per carry) with Gailey in Buffalo.


[ Yahoo! ] options

Cowboys decline option on defensive tackle Henry Melton

One year after signing defensive tackle Henry Melton to a contract in free agency, the Dallas Cowboys have declined his three-year option for $24 million, per Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.

The move will generate roughly $8.5 million in cap space for the Cowboys, which should help them re-sign Dez Bryant and/or DeMarco Murray, both of whom are set to become free agents.

A Pro Bowl player with the Bears in 2012, Melton missed most of 2013 due to a torn ACL and he was probably never 100 percent in 2014 as he played only 41.0 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season.

Finishing second on the team in sacks (five) and generating 17 quarterback pressures last year, Melton was a liability against the run. Among 81 qualified defensive tackles, Melton graded sixth at the position as a pass-rusher by PFF, but he was 66th versus the run.

The Cowboys may try to negotiate a new contract at more favorable terms with Melton, but he is otherwise free to sign with another team when free agency opens on March 10th.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 13, 2015

2015 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Round 6

Another round of our new (and way-too-early) 2015 fantasy football mock draft is complete and we should finish our 10-round mock draft at some point this weekend.

For now, here are Round 6 results:

6.01 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

After three consecutive 5,000-yard seasons, Brees fell short of that mark with 4,952 yards in 2014 and he threw (only) 33 touchdowns, which ties a seven-year low. For the first time since signing with the Saints in 2006, Brees finished outside the top-five fantasy quarterbacks (sixth) in 2014. Perhaps this is the beginning of the decline for the 36-year-old quarterback, but Brees has thrown at least 650 pass attempts in five consecutive seasons and he led the league in pass attempts per game (41.2) last season.

6.02 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

Playing only 10 games as a rookie before landing on season-ending Injured Reserve, Cooks, like most rookie receivers, was inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. That said, Cooks had three top-12 performances last season including two in his final four games before the injury. Through Week 11, his 86.3 fantasy points ranked 25th among wide receivers.

Going into 2015, I expect better production from Cooks on a per-game basis with a full offseason to get more comfortable with the offense. As the 28th receiver off the board in this mock, I think Cooks represents a solid value in the sixth round.

6.03 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Dan Herron, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Part of last year's Boom (Herron) and Bust (Trent Richardson) backfield, Herron was the more productive back in the duo down the stretch with Ahmad Bradshaw placed on IR in the middle of the season. And in the team's three playoff games, Herron was a workhorse with a total of 298 yards from scrimmage on 65 touches including 20 receptions.

Given that Bradshaw will become a free agent next month and that T-Rich's suspension gives the Colts the ability to cut him this offseason without any salary-cap repercussions, Herron sits atop the team's depth chart in February. That said, the Colts will likely to add other backs through free agency and/or the draft as competition for Herron, who is a restricted free agent.

6.04 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans

Not only was Sankey the first running back selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he seemed (at least when he was drafted) that he had the clearest path among rookie backs to a sizable workload. Sankey's workload instead fluctuated quite a bit, but his lack of productivity on a per-touch basis remained consistent. Sankey averaged less than four yards per carry in 10 of his final 12 games and the two exceptions were modest (4.2 and 4.5 YPC) as well.

On a positive note, Sankey's rookie campaign -- 170 touches, 702 yards from scrimmage and 3.7 YPC -- has set the bar low for year two. All of those should increase in 2015, but the question remains: by how much?

6.05 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The good news is that V-Jax eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth consecutive season and sixth time in the past seven years -- the exception was his holdout-shortened 2010 season. The bad news is that Jackson had just two touchdowns, the lowest of his career since his three-catch rookie season (2005).

6.06 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

Posting career highs of 84 catches for 1,008 yards last season, Olsen has now finished with at least 69 receptions and 816 yards while finishing as a top-seven fantasy tight end in each of the past three seasons. Over that three-year span, Jimmy Graham (3,086) is the only tight end with more yards than Olsen (2,667) and only Graham (256) and Jason Witten (247) have more receptions than Olsen (226). Olsen has never had more than eight touchdowns in any season of his career, but he has at least five scores for seven consecutive seasons.

While he doesn't have the same upside as Rob Gronkowski or Graham, Olsen is about as safe and consistent as they come at tight end, which has more than its fair share of question marks. In addition, Olsen is extremely durable and has played all 16 games in each of those seven seasons.

6.07 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

No quarterback underachieved expectations more last season than Stafford, who finished as the QB15 in 2014. Even with the free-agent signing and breakout season from Golden Tate (99/1,331/4), Stafford threw for only 4,247 yards, a four-year low, and 22 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. With better health from Calvin Johnson, who missed a few games and was a decoy in others, Stafford should have a bounce-back season although I'd take Russell Wilson and probably Tom Brady ahead of Stafford.

6.08 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants

Dealing with multiple injuries, Jennings played in just 11 games in his first season with the Giants and had a total of only three carries in Weeks 14 and 15. Although he had 20-plus touches in six of his first eight games, rookie Andre Williams led the team in carries (217) last season. With both backs healthy, I'd expect Jennings to have few 20-touch games in 2015 as Williams' role continues to expand.

6.09 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings

At this point, it appears that the Vikings want Adrian Peterson to play for them and that Peterson, who is due a $12.75 million salary in 2015, wants to play for the Vikings this season. McKinnon's value for 2015 largely hinges upon Peterson's status for 2015 and as we get more clarity, where I would draft McKinnon could swing considerably. When McKinnon was on the field last year, however, he was productive (4.76 YPC).

6.10 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In 2012, Martin racked up 1,926 yards from scrimmage, 49 receptions and 12 touchdowns in 16 games. Over the past two seasons (combined), Martin has only 1,080 YFS, 25 receptions and three touchdowns in 17 games. To complicate matters for 2015, Charles Sims, the new regime's third-round pick from last year, will be healthy to start the year. At this point (RB32), there are plenty of question marks at the running back position and The Muscle Hamster is clearly proof of that.

6.11 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans Saints

With Bill Parcells once famously comparing Robinson to Hall-of-Famer Curtis Martin and suggesting that the Saints give Robinson the ball more often, there is a good chance that happens in 2015. As Mark Ingram is set to enter free agency, it should open the door for Robinson to see a larger share of the workload. Robinson had a 21-carry game with Ingram sidelined in Week 5 before their Week 6 bye, but then he missed six games over the middle of the season. A big back (6-0, 220), Robinson averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season and he should get the majority of the goal-line carries in 2015.

6.12 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Moncrief (6-foot-2, 220 pounds, 4.4 speed) flashed his potential with a couple of big games last season -- 7/113/1 in Week 8 and 3/134/2 in Week 13. Although he only compiled a 32/444/3 rookie season, he should see a significant bump in snaps and targets (and hence production) in 2015. Moncrief played only 39.1 percent of the team's offensive snaps last season with only one game at 40 percent or above through Week 12. From Week 13 through the playoffs, Moncrief was above 50 percent in all eight games and above 70 percent in three of the final five. With Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks both free agents, Moncrief is expected to start opposite T.Y. Hilton in two-WR sets in 2015.

> Continue to Round 7 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 5 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Feb. 13th Update

Over the next two-plus months leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, which begins with Round 1 on April 30th in Chicago, this mock draft will be updated on a weekly basis. In addition, more rounds will be added as we get closer to the draft.

[Note: Those updates will be made to our main 2015 NFL Mock Draft page.]

With that said, here is my projection for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Unlike with Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who I've slotted here in earlier versions of my mock draft, Winston enters the draft process with multiple off-the-field red flags and NFL security departments will thoroughly scrutinize his character over the next couple of months leading up to the draft. The off-field incidents would be a concern for any prospect at any position, but it's especially concerning for a quarterback -- and more so for one that may be selected first overall -- as the face of the franchise.

Provided that the Bucs ultimately feel comfortable with his character, Winston has all of the tools to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback -- size, strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence, on-the-field leadership, etc. Although he lost his final collegiate game, Winston helped lead the Seminoles to wins in 26 of 27 games and an undefeated national championship season as a freshman.

Per ESPN's Pat Yasinskas, Lovie Smith prefers Winston over Mariota. In fact, Yasinskas reports that was a factor in choosing an offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter over Marc Trestman, who preferred Mariota.

2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

In the past few updates, I've had Mariota slipping to the sixth pick (Jets) and that's still a possibility. And reports out of Tennessee have suggested that the Titans feel comfortable giving Zach Mettenberger more time to prove he's the long-term answer. That said, the Titans clearly need better play out of the quarterback position.

Over the course of his collegiate career, Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, rushed for 2,237 yards and accounted for 136 touchdowns -- 105 passing, 29 rushing and two receiving -- with only 14 interceptions.

There will naturally be some questions about how well and quickly Mariota will transition from Oregon's spread offense to a pro-style system. That said, Mariota possesses good size, a strong arm to stretch the field and difference-making mobility for the position in addition to impeccable intangibles.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC

The Jaguars allowed a league-high 71 sacks last season and although offensive line may be their biggest need, there isn't an offensive lineman worthy of a top-three pick in this draft. Viewed by many (including me) as the top player in this year's draft class, Williams is a disruptive force along the line of the scrimmage that has drawn a ton of favorable comparisons to players like J.J. Watt, Gerald McCoy and Richard Seymour.

4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The Raiders have found their quarterback of the future with last year's second-round pick Derek Carr, but one of their focal points in free agency and/or the draft should be to improve the weapons around Carr. As Alabama's first Biletnikoff winner in school history, Cooper finished with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, all of which ranked first or second in the nation this season.

5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and expectations are that he won't be back. In addition, Ryan Kerrigan is entering a contract year, so adding a pass-rusher like Gregory would make sense here. Either way, you'll never hear a general manager complain of having too many talented pass-rushers. Far from a finished product, Gregory has all of the physical tools to develop into an elite pass-rusher at the next level.

6. New York Jets (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

Ideally, the Jets would have an opportunity to select Mariota here. In this version of my mock, however, Mariota is already off the board.

The Jets' defensive line is the team's strength, but both starting outside linebackers (Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples) are due to become free agents after the 2015 season. Plus, Pace will turn 35 years old next October. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Ray set the school record with 14.5 sacks in 2014.

7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this past season, the Bears have plenty of holes to address and could go in a number of different directions. They ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.6 PPG allowed) and 30th in total defense (377.1 YPG allowed) and they need help on all three levels of their defense as they likely transition to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. With surprising quickness for someone his size (6-2, 335), Shelton had 9.0 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 93 tackles last season for the Huskies.

8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida

The Falcons are in dire need of pass-rush help as only the Bengals (20) generated fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest in 2013 as well. A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17) and has played for new head coach Dan Quinn at Florida. (Quinn was the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Florida in 2011 and 2012.)

9. New York Giants (Draft History): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky

The Giants had just 34 sacks in 2013, but they finished fourth in the league with 47 sacks in 2014. The majority of the 13-sack difference can be attributed to the bounce-back season for Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 12.5 sacks in 2014 (compared to 2.0 in 2013). That said, Pierre-Paul is due to hit free agency in March.

Especially if the Giants are unable to re-sign JPP (although I expect him to be re-signed), adding a pass-rusher would make sense to fill at least part of the void. Either way, a strong pass rush has long been one of the staples of successful Giants teams. A former tight end, Dupree is a freak athlete with a 40.5-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds. Over the past three seasons, Dupree has 21.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.

10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Even after selecting Greg Robinson with the second overall pick last year, offensive line is still one of the units in needs of upgrades and reinforcements. The Rams ranked in the bottom 10 in both run blocking (-55.1) and pass blocking (-27.5) grades from PFF last season.

11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

Second-year receiver Charles Johnson was a bright spot for the Vikings; fellow second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was not. As Teddy Bridgewater enters his second season, the Vikings will likely use early picks in the draft to improve the protection he receives and bolster the weapons around him. White has the size, hands and run-after-catch ability to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah had tweeted compared White, his top-ranked receiver, to Julio Jones.

12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

With great length and foot quickness, Peat has the potential to develop into the long-term replacement for Joe Thomas down the line. In the meantime, however, the Browns could use an upgrade over right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

Bad against both the run (29th in the NFL) and pass (25th), the Saints allowed the second-most yards (384.0 per game) in the NFL and fifth-most points (26.5 per game). They also struggled to get to the quarterback as they finished in the bottom eight in sacks (34). One of the best pass rushers in this year's draft class, Beasley has a total of 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 26 games over the past two seasons combined.

14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

The Dolphins need an upgrade at cornerback over Cortland Finnegan, who started opposite Brent Grimes last season. In addition, Finnegan is a release candidate if he's not willing to accept a pay cut. Given the character concerns of Marcus Peters, who was kicked off Washington's football team, Waynes could end up being the first cornerback off the board in this year's draft.

15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Devante Parker, WR, Louisville

With Michael Crabtree about to enter free agency and 34-year-old Anquan Boldin set to enter the final season of his contract, the 49ers could use this pick on a receiver. A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of the season, but the 6-foot-3 wideout finished with a 43/855/5 line in just six games. NFL.com's Jeremiah compared Parker to Keenan Allen saying Parker is "smooth, physical & has outstanding instincts/ball skills."

16. Houston Texans (Draft History): Landon Collins, S, Alabama

Free safeties Kendrick Lewis and Danieal Manning are both set to become unrestricted free agents and starting strong safety D.J. Swearinger has underwhelmed. Swearinger graded out as the 78th of 87 qualified safeties by PFF last season. Collins is the top safety prospect in this year's draft class.

-> Continue to picks 17-32

-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database

-> Also, check out our 2015 NBA Mock Draft

To keep track of our updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 12, 2015

SI's Andrew Brandt predicts DeMarco Murray will be back with the Cowboys in 2015

Without much salary-cap flexibility, there has been speculation that the Dallas Cowboys won't be able re-sign both wide receiver Dez Bryant and running back DeMarco Murray.

Given the career longevity and greater difficulty of finding an elite wide receiver (compared to running backs), the likelihood that the Cowboys bring back Bryant -- over Murray -- is high if they can only afford one.

If Bryant and the Cowboys can't agree on a long-term deal, the Cowboys will likely use the franchise tag on him to at least own his rights for one more season and to buy time to negotiate a long-term deal.

Armed with the ammunition of the franchise tag for Bryant, perhaps the Cowboys will be able to return both players in 2015 based on a free-agency prediction from SI's Andrew Brandt, who wrote the following:

"DeMarco Murray, after shopping his services to a lukewarm marketplace, returns to the Cowboys for a team-friendly contract. As I have often noted, Murray’s strong production may have actually hurt his contract value, with teams more focused on future rather than past performance. Indeed, free-agent running backs with less tread on the tire—think Ryan Mathews and Justin Forsett—may actually procure better contracts. As for the Cowboys, they have clearly prioritized Dez Bryant ahead of Murray all along."

Counting the Cowboys' two playoff games, Murray had a total of 497 touches for 2,486 yards from scrimmage behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last season.

In our new and way-too-early 2015 fantasy football mock draft, Murray was selected with pick 1.04. A month prior to the start of free agency, however, there is obvious risk due to his free-agent status, massive workload from 2014 and previous injury-prone history.


[ Yahoo! ] options

2015 Fantasy Football Way-Too-Early Mock Draft: Round 5

On Saturday, we began our first 2015 fantasy football mock draft of the year and we are now halfway through our 10-round mock draft.

Here are Round 5 results:

5.01 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

This pick hinges in large part on what happens with Randall Cobb in free agency, which begins in roughly one month (March 10th). Although the Packers would like to re-sign Cobb to a long-term deal, there is the potential that the two sides can't agree on a deal that keeps him in Green Bay. Especially if Cobb departs via free agency, Adams would take a huge step forward in 2015. Even if Cobb is back, Adams' numbers should improve (even if not as significantly) next season.

With Aaron Rodgers as quarterback, we have seen instances where three Green Bay receivers have been productive at the same time. In Week 17 and their two playoff games, the rookie was on the field for 91.2, 88.7 and 90.4 percent, respectively, of the team's snaps.

In future mocks (after the free-agency period), I would expect Adams to be drafted around this spot if Cobb isn't re-signed and a couple of rounds lower if he is re-signed.

5.02 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins

Among rookies, only his ex-LSU teammate Odell Beckham (91) had more receptions than Landry (84) last season. Over the final nine games of the season, Landry had a minimum of five receptions each game and racked up a total of 59 catches over that span. In addition, he had at least nine targets in six of his final eight games. That said, Landry had only one game with more than 75 receiving yards last season. With this mock using standard scoring (i.e., not PPR scoring), there are several wide receivers still available that I'd take ahead of Landry, the 23rd wideout off the board in this mock, but I expect him to improve upon his 84/758/5 rookie numbers.

5.03 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Playing 65.0 percent of the team's offensive snaps as a rookie, that ratio should increase in his second season as I would expect Matthews to play ahead of Riley Cooper in two-wide receiver sets. (Cooper played in 81.7 percent of offensive snaps.) In his first season in the league, Matthews finished with 67 receptions for 872 yards and eight touchdowns, which placed him in the top five in all three categories among rookies.

5.04 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

With a slow finish to the season, Manning finished the year as the QB4 (312.68 fantasy points) behind Aaron Rodgers (354.14), Andrew Luck (350.74) and Russell Wilson (327.6). In the first 11 games of the season, Manning averaged 23.96 fantasy points per game (323.45 YPG, 34 TDs and nine INTs). In the final five games of the season, he averaged 9.83 FPPG (233.8 YPG, five TDs and six INTs) and never scored more than 13.02. Part of that decline had to do with his thigh injury, but the question remains, how big of a part? In the fifth round, I'm willing to find out.

5.05 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Inactive for the first six games, Bryant went on a scoring spree in his first four NFL games with a total of six touchdowns in those four games. After that point, Bryant had just 12 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns in the final six games of the season. Although Bryant could reach double-digit scores next season and should start ahead of Markus Wheaton in two-WR sets, there will likely be plenty of week-to-week inconsistency from Bryant as well.

5.06 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots

Although both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are due to become free agents, it's hard to trust Blount (or more accurately, Belichick) this early (24th running back off the board). As we've seen from Blount in the postseason, he can go from one yard on three carries (vs. BAL) to 30 carries for 148 yards and three touchdowns the next week (vs. IND). Blount's carries in his final six games through the Super Bowl were as follows: 20, eight, 10, three, 30 and 14. On a positive note, however, Dan wouldn't have to rely on Blount on a weekly basis as Matt Forte (1.06) and Arian Foster (2.07) are this team's starting running backs and Blount would be his flex option most weeks.

5.07 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins

Despite the revolving door at quarterback, Jackson was one of the few bright spots for Washington's offense in 2014. In his first season with Washington, D-Jax finished with 56 catches for 1,169 yards and six touchdowns and he led the NFL in yards per reception (20.9). It was the second time in his career that he posted a Y/R average greater than 20.0.

Even though he finished as the 16th-highest scoring fantasy wide receiver, the big drawback of owning Jackson is the boom-or-bust nature of his production. Jackson finished as top-17 fantasy wide receiver in eight of 15 games last year; in all of the seven other games, he finished as the WR53 or worse. Stated differently, Jackson had zero games within the range of WR18 and WR52 in a given week last year.

5.08 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

During the draft process last year, Freeman drew some comparisons to Frank Gore. Meanwhile, new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said that he "loved" Freeman when evaluating him last year. Averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, Freeman had eight or fewer carries in all but one game, but he also finished with 30 receptions. Freeman played on just 21.5 percent of Atlanta's offensive snaps last season, but he should see a huge bump in snaps, touches and production in 2015.

5.09 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers

Two seasons ago, the oft-injured Mathews played a full 16-game season and rushed for a career-high 1,255 yards. Playing only six games last season and gaining a yard shy of 400 yards from scrimmage, Mathews has now missed multiple games in four of his five NFL seasons. Set to become an unrestricted free agent, it's unclear where he will play in 2015 and Mathews obviously has plenty of injury risk, but he has plenty of upside here (RB26) if, a big if, he can stay healthy in 2015.

5.10 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills

Like Mathews, Spiller is set to enter free agency and one potential landing spot would be with the Jets, who are expected to cut CJNoK. Under new head coach Todd Bowles, the Jets hired Chan Gailey to be their offensive coordinator and Spiller had his best season in 2012 when Gailey was in Buffalo. Spiller described a potential reunion with Gailey as "a perfect match." Spiller may not end up with the Jets or ever rush for 1,244 yards in a season again, but he has plenty of upside here.

5.11 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos

Injuries limited Thomas down the stretch as he missed three games and was ineffective and/or lightly involved in a few other. After finishing with 65 receptions for 788 yards in his breakout campaign in 2013, Thomas finished with just 43 catches for 489 yards. The good news, however, is that he finished with 12 touchdowns in both seasons. An ideal situation would lead to Thomas (and Peyton) returning to the Broncos, but it's unlikely that they will be able to afford both free-agent Thomases -- Demaryius and Julius -- and Demaryius is a bigger priority.

5.12 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Floyd opened (5/119) and closed (8/153/2) the season with a bang, but there were few bright spots in between. Floyd had zero, one or two receptions in eight games last season and finished the year with a 47/841/6 line after his breakout second season (66/1,054/5). Given the team's quarterback injuries, however, it's no surprise that we didn't see Floyd take another step forward in 2014. With less buzz entering 2015 drafts, Floyd should bounce back at a lower draft-day cost than in 2014.

> Continue to Round 6 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 4 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 11, 2015

2015 Fantasy Football Way-Too-Early Mock Draft: Round 4

Over the weekend, we began a new (and way-too-early) 2015 fantasy football mock draft and we have now completed the first four rounds of the mock.

Note: This is a "slow" draft and we are posted the picks as they occur with comments from yours truly and the mock uses standard scoring (i.e., no point(s) per reception).

Here are Round 4 results:

4.01 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

After sitting out all of 2013 with a torn ACL, Maclin returned to the Eagles on a one-year deal and posted a career-best season (85/1,318/10) in Chip Kelly's offense. Although Maclin is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, it appears that the Eagles will use the franchise tag if both sides are unable to reach a long-term deal. If there are any concerns, it's the potentially uncertain quarterback situation, but Maclin averaged 11.0 targets per game with Nick Foles under center (compared to 7.5/G with Mark Sanchez).

4.02 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

Once again, Ingram missed multiple games and he has now missed a total of 14 games over his four-year career. That said, Ingram set career highs in the 13 games he did play in 2014 -- 226 carries, 964 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and 29 receptions. Ingram is scheduled for free agency and returning to New Orleans may not be the best option for him from a fantasy perspective given the team's use of a three-headed backfield rotation when all backs are healthy.

As a Cowboys fan, I'd love to see Ingram in Big D should the team not be able to re-sign DeMarco Murray, who should command a much larger price tag on the free market. Either way, Ingram could certainly see a larger workload outside of New Orleans.

4.03 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals

The good news is that Ellington averaged more than 20 touches per game last season. The bad news is that Ellington averaged more than 20 touches per game last season. Based on comments from Bruce Arians before the season began, the expectations were for Ellington to get a sizable workload in 2014. And he did -- when healthy. Given Ellington's size (5-9, 199), it's not a huge (no pun intended) surprise that Ellington was unable to hold up for a full season and he missed the final four regular-season games of the year.

With the substantial bump in workload in his second season, Ellington underwhelmed as his yards-per-carry average dropped from 5.5 YPC as a rookie to 3.3 on 201 carries last season. Instead of feeding Ellington 20 to 25 touches per game, he would be better suited for a change-of-pace role with 15 or so touches per game. If the Cardinals cut back some on his volume, it would help him hold up for a full season and be more effective on a per-touch basis.

Either way, Ellington is the 20th running back off the board in this mock and I'd be more than comfortable taking him with that draft position.

4.04 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos

In his first season with the Broncos, Sanders blew his previous career highs out of the water. With previous career highs set in 2013 of 67/740/6, Sanders finished with 101 receptions for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns.

Reports are that Peyton Manning is currently working out in New Orleans with the intention of returning for another season. As much as he struggled down the stretch (only one 300-yard game in the final six games and just three touchdown passes over the final four games), there is certainly reason for concern but at least part of those struggles can be attributed to his thigh injury.

Even though Sanders is a better option in point-per-reception (PPR) formats, he's a solid mid-tier WR2 option heading into 2015.

4.05 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

The fourth overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, Watkins finished his rookie campaign with 65 receptions for 982 yards and six touchdowns. While Watkins had four 100-yard games including a career-high 157 yards against his new head coach's former team, he also had nine games with 35 receiving yards or less. In what should be a run-first offense with a less-than-ideal quarterback situation, there will likely be plenty of weekly inconsistency from Watkins even though I think his numbers will improve on a year-over-year basis.

4.06 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders

Loaded with potential and upside, Murray is a physical freak that runs a sub-4.4 forty at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Murray finally got a chance to showcase what he could do down the stretch last season and he gained 478 yards from scrimmage over his final five games on a total of 83 touches (72 carries and 11 receptions). It would make sense for Jack Del Rio and the new coaching staff to lean heavily on Murray in 2015.

4.07 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions

Tate had a career year with 99 catches for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns plus five carries for 30 yards. With Calvin Johnson missing three games and being a decoy in a couple of others, Tate was especially productive over the middle of the season when he racked up a nine-game line of 64/935/3. If Megatron is healthy for the entire season, Tate is especially unlikely to repeat last year's career numbers, but he's otherwise a solid low-end WR2 in 2015.

4.08 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

While his receptions increased from 71 to 77 in 2014, Allen's yardage (1,046 to 783) and touchdowns (eight to four) both dropped and he finished as the 48th-highest scoring wide receiver last season. Only 22 years old (turns 23 in April), I expect a bounce-back season Allen in 2015.

4.09 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears

Teammates in real life, this fantasy team pairs Marshall with Alshon Jeffery as my top-two fantasy wide receivers to go along with DeMarco Murray and Carlos Hyde as my starting running backs. A lot went wrong for Marshall and the Bears offense last season as he missed multiple games, was limited in others, Jay Cutler struggled and was benched, there was a rift between Marshall and Cutler, etc. As the 20th wide receiver off the board, he's worth the risk as a bounce-back candidate heading into 2015.

4.10 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns

Based on talent alone, I would have selected Crowell higher than this. On a positive note, the coaching staff wants to lean on the rushing attack and the Browns have one of the better run-blocking offensive lines when center Alex Mack is healthy. On a less positive note, the coaching staff's allocation of carries was unpredictable on a weekly basis as the guy with the "best practice" during the week got the most carries. Ultimately, I expect Crowell to be the most productive Browns running back in 2015.

4.11 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers

The long wait from Stewart's fantasy owners for him to be the featured guy is finally here. Over the final five games of the season, Stewart, who turns 28 in March, rushed for 486 yards on 91 carries (5.34 YPC) and only DeMarco Murray (491) had more rushing yards during that span. The likelihood that the Panthers release DeAngelo Williams this offseason seems high, but either way, it appears that the team finally recognizes that The Daily Show gives their offense the best opportunity for success.

4.12 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots

2013 seemed to be a perfect storm for Edelman as he was surrounded by other first-year receivers (either rookies or free agents) and Rob Gronkowski missed more than half of the season due to injury. After his breakout 2013 season (105/1,056/6), however, Edelman actually averaged slightly more receptions (6.57 in 2014 vs. 6.56 in 2013) and yards (69.43 in 2014 vs. 66.0 in 2013) in 2014. A high-end WR2 in PPR formats, Edelman is still a solid low-end WR2 in standard-scoring leagues as well.

> Continue to Round 5 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

View earlier rounds:
> Go back to Round 1 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 2 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 3 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 10, 2015

2015 Fantasy Football Way-Too-Early Mock Draft: Round 3

Over the weekend, we began our a new (and way-too-early) 2015 fantasy football mock draft and another round of the mock is in the books.

Here are Round 3 results:

3.01 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

The best quarterback in football and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, Rodgers was also the top-scoring fantasy quarterback as well. Becoming Green Bay's starting quarterback seven years ago, Rodgers has finished as either the No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy quarterback in six of those seven seasons with the lone exception being his injury-shortened (broken clavicle) 2013 campaign.

In his past four seasons, Rodgers has compiled a combined 139:25 TD-to-INT ratio with an average of 8.5 yards per attempt, 112.6 passer rating and 67.0 completion percentage. And although he hasn't rushed for 300-plus yards with four-plus touchdowns since 2010, Rodgers still is good for 250 yards and a couple of scores on the ground. While I typically wait on quarterback, I'd begin to consider taking Rodgers at the end of Round 2.

3.02 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Luck threw for 4,761 yards and a league-leading 40 touchdowns, both of which were career highs, and his 40 TDs last season nearly equalled his total from his first two seasons combined (46 TDs). As T.Y. Hilton battled a hamstring injury over the final three games of the season, that coincided with Luck throwing for less than 200 yards in the final three regular-season games of the season. Otherwise, he was on pace for 5,000 yards for much of the year. Earlier in the season, however, Luck had the second-longest streak of 300-yard games (eight) in NFL history. Only Drew Brees (nine games, twice) has ever had a longer streak.

Like with Rodgers, Luck gets a boost from his mobility and he rushed for 263 yards and three touchdowns last year. Luck has rushed 62-64 times in all three seasons with at least 255 yards each year and a total of 12 touchdowns.

It wouldn't surprise me if Luck finishes as the highest-scoring fantasy quarterback in 2015, but either way, he and Rodgers are close and alone at the top of the best fantasy quarterback options in 2015.

3.03 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Evans started and finished slowly in terms of yardage, but he was one of three rookie receivers to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark last year. From Weeks 9 to 11, he gave us a glimpse of what we can expect when things really click as he posted a massive 21/458/5 line over that three-game stretch.

More than likely, the Bucs will use the first overall pick in the draft to select a quarterback so there is the potential for an early-season adjustment, but I expect to Evans to continue to take a step forward in 2015. And the 6-foot-5 receiver is already one of the league's best red-zone receivers as he scored 10 touchdowns over his final nine games as a rookie.

3.04 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers

With Frank Gore set to enter free agency, Hyde projects atop the 49ers depth chart at running back. With Gore ahead of him last year on the depth chart, Hyde had just 83 carries for 333 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. Not only will the volume of his workload expand significantly, but I expect his effectiveness on a per-carry basis to increase from last year's 4.0 yards-per-carry average. And as a 235-pound back, Hyde has the potential to approach double-digit touchdowns as the team's primary back.

3.05 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams

One year after Zac Stacy got a huge workload down the stretch, Mason, the team's third-round pick in 2014, emerged as the team's lead back over the second half of the season. Mason didn't get his first carry until Week 6, but he averaged 18.11 touches per game from Week 9 on. His average of 67.56 rushing yards per game over that stretch would extrapolate to a full-season output of 1,081 rushing yards. Mason will enter the 2015 season as the team's lead back and has upside as a third-round pick in this mock.

3.06 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

Hopkins was a personal favorite of Dan's last preseason and few experts in the industry were as high as him going into the 2014 season. Hopkins delivered with a 76/1,210/6 second-year stat line and he emerged as the team's most productive wide receiver. If there's any concern when it comes to Hopkins taking another step forward in Year 3, it's the team's less-than-inspiring quarterback play, but he's a strong WR2 option (WR13 in this mock) in fantasy leagues heading into 2015.

3.07 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers

Along with Evans and Odell Beckham, Benjamin was one of three rookie 1,000-yard receivers in 2014. Like Evans, Benjamin is a big-bodied (6-5, 240) receiver that wins in the red zone. As a rookie, Benjamin was the focal point of the passing attack along with tight end Greg Olsen and he should only see his stream of targets increase in his sophomore campaign. That said, Benjamin will need to cut down on the drops as only Mohamed Sanu (14) had more drops than Benjamin (11) last season, according to PFF.

3.08 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins coaching staff seemed reluctant to give Miller as much work as his fantasy owners would have liked, but Miller was highly productive on a per-touch basis (5.09 YPC, 7.24 Y/R). With more than 15 carries in only four games last season, Miller still managed to post his first-ever 1,000-yard season (1,099 rushing yards). In addition, Miller was very consistent throughout the season as he finished as a top-21 fantasy running back in 12 of 16 weeks. Assuming they don't add major competition at the position this offseason, Miller will be one of my favorite RB2 types entering 2015.

3.09 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Arguably the biggest surprise in fantasy football last season, Forsett scored more fantasy points than all but seven other running backs in 2014. Looking ahead to 2015, it's unclear what is in store for Forsett, who will become an unrestricted free agent in March. If the Ravens re-sign the 29-year-old Forsett, something the Ravens have indicated they'd like to do, and don't add significant competition via the draft and/or free agency, I could see Forsett flourishing in Marc Trestman's offense. With the uncertainty, however, there are some other running backs with more clarity in their 2015 roles that I'd prefer to draft at this point of the mock.

3.10 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

More suited for a change-of-pace role, Bernard lost his role as the team's featured back to Jeremy Hill, but he should still have the opportunity to be productive as an RB2 in fantasy leagues. As an example, Hill carried the ball 22-plus times for 100-plus yards in the team's final three regular-season games. In those same games, Bernard finished as the weekly RB11, RB17 and RB13, respectively. As beat writer Paul Dehner Jr. wrote earlier this month, "... once settling into a complementary role the final three weeks, [Bernard] returned to explosive, multi-dimensional player the Bengals team envisioned."

3.11 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins

Morris averaged a career-low 4.1 YPC last season, but he rushed 265 times for 1,074, also career lows, and eight touchdowns. Despite the shaky quarterback situation, Alf should benefit on a per-carry basis if RG3 is back as the starter with his athleticism putting additional strain on run defenses. Washington's offensive line struggled last year, but the team should add some reinforcements via the draft and/or free agency and the addition of Bill Callahan to the coaching staff is certainly a positive for the team's offensive line play and rushing attack overall.

3.12 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions

Undergoing a couple of offseason surgeries, Bell expects to be available for the team's OTAs even if it's at less than 100 percent. Scoring the 14th-most fantasy points among running backs in 2014, Bell finished with 223 carries for 860 yards, both of which were career highs, as well as 34 receptions for 322 yards and eight total touchdowns. Even if Reggie Bush isn't cut this offseason, I'd expect Bell to once again lead the team in touches and production in 2015.

> Continue to Round 4 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 2 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 08, 2015

2015 Fantasy Football Way-Too-Early Mock Draft: Round 2

On Saturday, four of our contributors -- Brendan Donahue, Sean Beazley, Dan Yanotchko and yours truly -- began a new 2015 fantasy football mock draft.

Although it's a "slow" draft, we will post picks as they are made and I'll include comments along with all of the picks. Another round of our new fantasy football mock draft is in the books.

Here are Round 2 results:

2.01 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

With 21 catches for 448 yards and a pair of touchdowns over a two-game stretch late last season, Jones showed how dominant he can be. On the season, Jones finished with 104 catches for 1,593 yards, both of which shattered his previous career highs, and six touchdowns. Given his size and speed and the fact that he had 18 touchdowns in his first two seasons, I would expect closer to double-digit touchdowns in addition to a similar line of receptions and yards in 2015 with good health.

Despite being the fourth receiver off the board in this mock, Jones has as much chance as any receiver to lead the position in fantasy points in 2015.

2.02 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Over the final nine games of the season, Hill had 22-plus carries and 100-plus rushing yards in five games including the final three of the regular season. During that nine-game span, Hill had 172 carries for 929 yards and six touchdowns and no running back had more rushing yards than Hill during that stretch. (Marshawn Lynch was second with 824 yards.)

For part of that stretch, Giovani Bernard was sidelined, but Bernard was healthy from Week 12 through the end of the season. Going into the 2015 season, Hill is clearly the team's lead back with Bernard as the change-of-pace option.

2.03 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

Similar to Eddie Lacy, Thomas got off to a slow start in the first three weeks but finished the season strong. DT went over 100 yards in 10 of the final 13 games and finished with a full-season stat line of 111 catches and 1,619 yards, both of which were career highs, and 11 touchdowns.

Although it's not a lock that Peyton Manning returns and Thomas is set to become an unrestricted free agent, I expect both Manning and Thomas to return to the Mile High City in 2015. Another season of 90-plus receptions, 1,400-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns is a strong possibility.

2.04 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

Between Sean's Team 2 and Team 3, he has a pair of elite wide receivers on each -- ODB and Megatron on this team, Dez Bryant and Thomas on the other. Given the volatility of production at running back and the injury risk, loading up on stud receivers is certainly a viable option to win your fantasy league. After all, some of the guys drafted outside of the top-24 fantasy running backs include Hill, C.J. Anderson, Justin Forsett, Lamar Miller, etc. to name a few.

Personally, my preference is to have at least one running back with my first two picks especially in a standard-scoring league like this one. That said, it's difficult to ignore the (close to) sure thing at wide receiver at the end of Round 1 and beginning of Round 2 where the uncertainty at running back is growing quickly.

The sixth receiver off the board in this mock, Megatron has more 200-yard games (six) than any other receiver in league history (counting playoffs). And while he still has as much potential as any receiver to take over a given game, he has battled some injuries over the past couple of seasons and missed a total of five games in 2013 and 2014.

2.05 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Injuries kept Green from building upon his 98/1,426/11 campaign in 2013, but he extended his streak of 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career to four. Only Megatron (6,214), Antonio Brown (5,092) and Demaryius (5,034) have more yards during that four-year span than Green (4,874). With good health, Green is a good bet for at least 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2015.

2.06 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers

Not only is wide receiver deep, it's deep with elite wide receivers. The WR8 in this mock draft, the only receiver to score more fantasy points than Nelson last season was Brown. While Nelson is far from a lock to finish as a top-two producer at the position once again, he's certainly one of a group of eight-plus wideouts that has the talent and opportunity to do so.

2.07 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans

With Foster, who turns 29 in August, it boils down to his health. If he can play 14-plus games, something he has failed to do in back-to-back seasons, he'll be a huge steal at this spot. Even if he duplicates last year's 13-game production, he'd be a bargain as well.

Although Foster missed three games in 2014, he averaged 95.8 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry, both of which were four-year highs, and he scored double-digit touchdowns (13). Foster had at least 23 touches in 10 of his 13 games last season. Finishing as a top-five fantasy scorer at running back last season, Foster finished as a top-12 fantasy running back in 10 of 13 weeks last season including a nine-game streak from Weeks 5 to 16 (he missed two games and Houston had their bye during that stretch, though).

2.08 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts

To be fair, Dan was high on Hilton last season; I was not. Dan made a good call, I did not. Perhaps I would take a couple of other receivers still available ahead of him, but Hilton had a breakout 82/1,345/7 season last year. And that breakout year would have been even better if he weren't limited down the stretch by a hamstring injury. With good health, I'd expect Hilton to set new career highs in both receptions and yards this season.

2.09 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

Even though his receptions (85) and receiving yards (1,133) were down year over year, Jeffery set a career high in touchdowns (10) last season. With a combined 2,692 yards from scrimmage (including 138 rushing yards) and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons combined, Jeffery should once again finish as a top-12 (or better) fantasy wide receiver even with a new coaching staff and inconsistency from Jay Cutler.

2.10 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Cobb is unlikely to hit the market after last season's career year. Cobb, who will turn 25 in August, finished the season with 91 receptions for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns, all of which set career highs, but I would be surprised if he scored 12 touchdowns again in 2015.

2.11 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints

With a shoulder injury slowing Graham down, he had 54 yards or less in six of his final seven games last season and finished with only 889 yards, a four-year low. The good news, however, is that Graham will avoid surgery on his shoulder and he should be able to bounce back in 2015. Over his past four seasons, Graham has averaged 89 catches, 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns per year.

2.12 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

One of the greatest running backs of all-time and only two years removed from a 2,097-yard campaign, last year was a lost year for Peterson for disheartening off-the-field reasons. Playing just one game in 2014, Peterson, who will turn 30 in March, is eligible for reinstatement on April 15th. Given the $13 million he is owned in 2015, however, it's unclear if he'll be back with the Vikings assuming he is reinstated. While my guess is that he plays for the Vikings next season, there is plenty of uncertainty still surrounding Peterson at this point, but he has tremendous fantasy upside at the end of Round 2.

> Continue to Round 3 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft
> Go back to Round 1 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 07, 2015

2015 Fantasy Football Way-Too-Early Mock Draft: Round 1

Earlier today, four of our contributors started a new 2015 fantasy football mock draft as each of us will draft for three teams per round. Although it will be a "slow" draft, we will update the picks as they are made (and I will include my thoughts on the picks).

Obviously, free agency in March and the NFL Draft in April/May will impact the outlooks for many players, but the intent here is to give you an early look at how we would expect things to shake out -- at least, based on what we know now.

With that said, here are Round 1 results of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft:

1.01 - Sean Beazley (Team 1): Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Still only 22 years old (turns 23 later this month), Bell was named to the 2014 AP First-Team All-Pro Team as his production spiked across the board -- 1,361 rushing yards, 83 receptions for 854 yards and 11 total touchdowns. Bell finished second to only DeMarco Murray in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage (2,215) and the two backs were tied for the most games with at least 100 YFS (13).

Whether the Steelers have the lead (and want to use the clock) or trail and need to throw, Bell's versatility means that his performance won't vary too much based on game flow. If there is one concern heading into 2015, however, it's the 15 months of probation Bell received from his August arrest for DUI and marijuana. As Bell's attorney notes, "... the guidelines [under the NFL's substance-abuse program] would suggest maybe a one- or two-game suspension."

1.02 - Brendan Donahue (Team 1): Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

While it was a relatively disappointing season for Charles, selected first or second in most leagues last season, he still finished as the seventh-highest scoring fantasy running back in 2014. The 28-year-old back rushed for 1,033 yards, his fifth 1,000-yard season, and added 40 catches for 291 yards while scoring a total of 14 touchdowns.

Despite a year-over-year decline in all of those numbers, the biggest concern was the reduction in his workload. After 320 touches in 2012, Charles had 329 touches in Andy Reid's first season as head coach. Last year, however, Charles had just 246 touches -- 15 running backs had more. Perhaps we won't see Charles get in the 320-range ever again, but it would be a surprise to see him as low as 246 again this season.

1.03 - Kevin Hanson (Team 1): Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers

Starting slowly and worrying those that did not heed the advice of Aaron Rodgers ("R-E-L-A-X"), Lacy carries plenty of positive momentum into Year 3. Lacy faced three elite rush defenses (SEA, NYJ and DET) in the first three weeks of the season, but only Murray and Bell scored more fantasy points than he did from Weeks 4 to 17. Over the final 13 games of the season, Lacy averaged 18.92 touches for 108.85 YFS per game and scored a total of 13 touchdowns.

The benefit of playing with the league's best quarterback means that defenses are less likely to stack the box to slow down Lacy. After averaging 4.15 yards per carry as a rookie, Lacy averaged 4.63 YPC last season (4.89 YPC over final 13 games).

1.04 - Kevin Hanson (Team 2): DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys

This could turn out to be a huge reach -- or a decent value (even though only three players were selected ahead of him). A month prior to the start of free agency, there is plenty of risk that the Cowboys won't be able to re-sign Murray especially given that Dez Bryant should be a bigger priority for the team, albeit one with limited salary-cap flexibility. Not only would Murray's value potentially plunge depending upon his new team, but he carries more than his fair share of injury risk as he missed 11 games in his first three seasons before playing 16 games last year.

If the two sides are somehow able to work out a deal to bring him back in 2015, Murray would have one of the league's best offensive lines opening his holes. And again there is injury risk, but the Cowboys would certainly be committed to giving him an enormous workload. Murray's 449 regular-season touches last year were the sixth-most in the history of the NFL. Plus he had another 48 postseason touches as well.

1.05 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 1): LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

The good news first -- McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards, third-most in the NFL behind Murray and Bell, and he was one of only two backs to get 300-plus carries. That said, McCoy barely finished as a top-12 fantasy running back as he scored only 0.5 fantasy points more than Washington's Alfred Morris (RB13). In addition, McCoy averaged nearly a yard per carry less in 2014 than 2013 while also seeing his receptions (52 in 2013) and touchdowns (11 in 2013) drop roughly in half to 28 and five, respectively.

1.06 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 2): Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears

Not only did Forte lead all running backs in receptions (102) last year, but only three players had more than him -- Antonio Brown (129), Demaryius Thomas (111) and Julio Jones (104) -- and that broke the record for receptions by a running back. With the coaching change, Forte isn't likely to see anywhere close to triple-digit receptions again, but he could certainly finish with around 70 catches.

While Forte averaged less than four yards per carry for the first time since 2009, he has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in three consecutive seasons and has at least 929 rushing yards in all seven of his NFL seasons. For me, Forte is still a top-seven fantasy running back heading into the 2015 season, but I'd take the next guy ahead of him ...

1.07 - Brendan Donahue (Team 2): Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Despite speculation last offseason that the Seahawks could part ways with Lynch this offseason, it's clear that won't be the case. Playing four full seasons in Seattle, Lynch has rushed for 1,200-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns in all four seasons. During that four-year span, no running back has more rushing yards (5,357) or rushing touchdowns (48) and no player has more total touchdowns (56).

Beast Mode has shown no signs of slowing down, but his physical running style (granted, he seems to dish out more punishment than he receives), heavy workload (league-high 1,479 regular-season and playoff touches over that four-year span) and age (turns 29 in April) is at least somewhat concerning. That said, Lynch seems to be a lock for another 1,200 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns.

1.08 - Brendan Donahue (Team 3): Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

This is the point in mock drafts that I'd also go in a different direction than taking another running back. Based on what we know at this point of the year, I believe that the top-seven running backs -- not necessarily in the order they were selected -- should be the first seven picks selected in drafts.

When it comes to fantasy tight ends, Gronkowski is in a tier all by himself. Rested in Week 17, Gronkowski was named the 2014 AP Comeback Player of the Year as he posted an 82/1,124/12 stat line over 15 games. Gronk scored 184.4 fantasy points, 30.3 points more than Antonio Gates, who had the second-most among tight ends. In other words, Gronk had 19.66 percent more than the guy that had the second-most.

While he had some huge games, he was consistent on a weekly basis. Gronk finished as a top-five fantasy scorer at the position in eight of 15 games and a top-11 scorer in all but two games. (The two exceptions were TE25 in Week 2, only nine months post-ACL tear, and TE13 in Week 16.)

1.09 - Sean Beazley (Team 2): Odell Beckham, WR, New York Giants

From Week 9 through the end of the season, Beckham was unstoppable. Not only was he consistent (90-plus yards in all nine of those games), but he had a nine-game stat line of 81/1,199/9 on 115 targets. As impressive as that sounds, he was especially dominant during that span over his final four games -- 43/606/7 on 63 targets.

While ODB is far from being the biggest receiver, his combination of hands, route-running ability, speed and elusiveness makes him nearly impossible to cover especially in today's age of offense-friendly rules. If there is any concern, it's the return of Victor Cruz, who missed the final 10 regular-season games. Personally, I'd take Antonio Brown first among all receivers, but I can certainly see the merits of going with ODB.

1.10 - Sean Beazley (Team 3): Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Even though he was targeted only 136 times, a three-year low, Bryant finished with 88 receptions for 1,320 yards and a career-high and league-leading 16 touchdowns. Even with the team's new-found commitment to the ground game, Dez has at least 88 catches, 1,233 yards and 12 touchdowns in three consecutive seasons. And aside from Lynch, Bryant is the only other player with at least 50 touchdowns over the past four seasons.

1.11 - Kevin Hanson (Team 3): Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

In 16 games this season, Brown never finished as the highest-scoring fantasy wide receiver in any given week. (In fact, that applies to both standard- and PPR-scoring formats.) That said, no wide receiver had more fantasy points over the course of the season -- in either format -- than Brown.

Over the past two seasons, Brown has a combined 239 receptions for 3,197 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also has 17 rushing yards and two return touchdowns. More impressive than his overall production, however, is his consistency. Brown had at least five receptions and 70 yards in all 17 games (counting their playoff loss) last season. Going back to 2013, Brown has at least five catches and 50 yards in all 33 games.

One of the sayings that you'll often hear in fantasy football is that you can't win your league in the first round, but you can lose it. With Brown's production and consistency, there isn't a safer pick.

1.12 - Dan Yanotchko (Team 3): C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos

Like with Murray, this pick could turn out to be a huge reach (or a relative value). If Anderson were assured a massive workload as the featured back, I'd be all-in on him this year. From Week 10 to 17 last year, Anderson finished as a top-five fantasy running back in six of eight games. In the other two games, he was still very productive as the RB10 and RB16 for those given weeks.

With a healthy backfield heading into the season, how will Gary Kubiak allocate the workload between Anderson, Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball? The upside is enormous but so is the risk.

> Continue to Round 2 of our way-too-early fantasy football mock draft

More of our content and resources:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Rutgers FB Michael Burton

Earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to interview former Rutgers fullback (and current NFL Draft prospect) Michael Burton.

A former prolific high school running back, Burton not only set multiple rushing records in high school but he also helped lead the team to a No. Jersey Section 2, Group 3 state title. Beginning his Rutgers career as a walk-on, Burton made the selfless transition from running back to fullback.

Earning a scholarship early in his college career and leaving school as a team captain, Burton helped to pave the way for the team's rushing attack to gain 2,114 yards on the ground this past season, the most for the Scarlet Knights since 2007.

With his versatility as a lead blocker, receiver out of the backfield, third-down back and special teams player, Burton was described by Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood on Media Day as a "do-everything fullback" and Flood went on to say that he "[doesn’t] think [Burton] has a flaw in his game."

Based on my conversation with him, it's clear to me that Burton puts the team and winning ahead of his own personal goals. And a quote from his high school fullback (via the Bergen Record) demonstrates that has been a constant throughout his football career.

"Michael was always a very selfless guy," said Shane Thompson, who played fullback for West Morris during Burton's senior year. "He was always giving credit to his teammates. He would break a long run, make a real nice play, and be the first one to come back to the huddle and say, 'Hey, good job guys. Good push O-line.' He was the ultimate team player."

With today being National Signing Day [interview was conducted on Feb. 4th], I figured a good place to start our interview would be to ask what led you to choose Rutgers (over any other options that you had considered)?

MB: "I really wanted to go to Rutgers when I was a junior in high school. I camped there as a junior and I fell in love with the place -- the facilities, the coaches and the players. I built very strong relationships with coaches and players there when I was in high school and to me, it was really a no-brainer. So, when it came down to choosing a school, Rutgers had always been my No. 1 choice. I was blessed with the opportunity to go there. It was a great five years."

I understand you were initially a walk-on at Rutgers. Did you turn down any scholarships from other schools to go to Rutgers?

MB: "Yes, I had about five or six I-AA scholarship offers from schools like Towson, New Hampshire, Maine, Lehigh, Lafayette, Albany and schools of that nature and then I had a few I-A schools look at me -- Rutgers, Connecticut, Pittsburgh. But like I said before, I love the game of football and I love Rutgers so really to me it was a no-brainer. Obviously, it was very difficult for not only myself but my family to turn down going to school for free. But at the same time, my family believed in me, I believed in myself, that I could eventually earn that scholarship and I did so after my redshirt freshman year so that was great."

In high school, you rushed for more than 3,300 yards and scored more than 50 TDs. Was it difficult making the transition from being the featured guy to primarily paving the way for other running backs?

MB: "It really wasn't. Going into Rutgers, I knew I was being recruited as a fullback and that was the position I was going to play. So the spring of my senior year, I started preparing myself and training like a fullback and things of that nature. When I got there, I think that my running back background actually helped me play fullback. When you're in those two-back sets and you're running isolation plays or zone plays or gap-scheme plays or whatever the case may be, when you're going through the line, I'm reading it out as if I were the running back. So more likely than not, the running back is going to be following me because I would go to that hole if I had the ball. If I go through that hole, there's a good chance that he goes through that hole. So, I really think being a running back actually helped me become a fullback because I can catch and run with the ball in my hands and I'm used to doing things like that. But at the same time, I also had very good running backs over my career at Rutgers. Guys like Jawan Jamison and Paul James, those are guys that made my job really easy and guys I built great chemistry with. I think the combination of that and being a running back in high school made the transition to fullback much easier."

Looking back at your four-plus years at Rutgers, what do you consider to be your biggest achievement?

MB: "I think that personally getting named team captain was obviously very important to me. I definitely consider myself a leader, one that younger players (or even older players) can look up to and know that I'm going to do the right thing on and off the field. In terms of team, I think winning that first Big Ten game in Rutgers football history, beating Michigan at home was very, very significant and then also on the road, beating Maryland, the first Big Ten win on the road. Down 35-10 at the half, we played really well in the second half and got that win down there and I also think that was very significant. A few of those things are definitely very memorable that I'm still holding onto now."

Recently, you participated in the Medal of Honor (college all-star) game. What was that experience like and what type of feedback did you receive from the coaches and/or scouts there?

MB: "That was a great experience. It was definitely a blessing to be invited to that game. It was first-class, everything they did down there was first-class. It was great exposure; the scouts, coaches were right on the field and were able to watch us and able to coach us. And not only that, during our off time, we were able to meet with teams and have interviews. Overall, it was a great experience. I got a lot of positive feedback and I was very excited about that. I actually played a few different positions down there, because the offense that we used during the game wasn't a traditional two-back set so I played a little bit of H-Back, running back and tight end. During practice, I was able to show off my skill set by running different routes, more vertical routes downfield, and I just tried to show off my athleticism as much as I could. But like I said, it was just great exposure and a great experience to go out there and compete with some of the best college football players in the country. It was a great game and I was very happy that I went."

[Burton is currently training at Parabolic Performance & Rehab (Montclair, NJ) in preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis later this month.]

Congratulations on being invited to the NFL Scouting Combine later this month. Football is played in pads (not shorts) and the combine is not necessarily the environment in which fullbacks typically shine. That said, in what way(s) do you expect to impress NFL personnel during your time spent at the combine?

MB: "I think you made a good point. When you go out there, obviously you don't have pads on, so there's not a lot of live football situations. I think a lot of these drills are to see how is the athlete's body control. You look at the three-cone, L drill, things like that. How can he change direction? Can he change it fast? Is he out of control? I think for me, it's to show that I can carry the weight that I'm at and I can show body control, I'm an athlete and all the route running, being able to catch the ball, burst through the bags and the cones. And of course, the 40-yard dash; at the next level, speed kills. So, like you said, there won't be any pads, so there won't be as much blocking as I would like. But at the same time, there's definitely things that I can do to help myself and to show people that I can be that versatile fullback that NFL teams use."

[Note: We will track all 2015 NFL Combine results for running backs here.]

As you evaluate your own game and skill set, what do you consider to be your biggest strength(s)?

MB: "I think that on the field, I'm a versatile guy. I think that you can ask me to line up in a traditional I (formation) and go lead on an iso block. I think you can ask me to catch the ball in the flat and catch the ball down the field or even pass protect as a third-down back. I did that my senior year, this past year; I was the third-down protection back. I was on the field a lot so I think I gained a lot of experience. I think I'm a quick learner, being able to read defenses and coverages and things like that come fairly quickly for me. I think that it's important to be a quick learner. I think the combination of those things together has helped lead to my success. At the same time, there are a lot of things that I can work on and that's what I'm planning on doing this offseason leading up to the combine, then eventually pro day and then if I have the opportunity to get on a team."

Making the jump from college to the NFL means there will be a learning curve for all NFL rookies. Is there a particular aspect of your game that you plan to focus on over the next few months leading up to the NFL Draft and beyond? Or is it to just get better at everything?

MB: "I think you said it right there, you really have to get better at everything. Because I think from the college level to the NFL level, every single thing that you were good at in college, now people are elite at -- speed, strength, size, quickness, burst, explosiveness. All of those things increase once you get to the next level. In terms of physical, those are all things that I will be working on leading up to the draft and even past that. Then when you look at the mental aspect, at times college playbooks can be very complex. But at the same time, when you get to the NFL, that even jumps up a lot more. The playbook gets more complex, you need to learn more and more goes in each week in order to game plan. The defenses are so good, you have so many good defensive coordinators, offensive coordinators, great minds, there's so much that goes into a game plan that you really have to be on top of your game. So I think from a physical and mental standpoint, everything shoots up. I'm just doing the best to learn and get better in all phases of my game."

Growing up, did you have a favorite NFL team and/or player(s) and have you tried to pattern yourself after any particular player(s)?

MB: "Growing up, I really enjoyed watching Marshall Faulk play. I enjoyed watching him play and thought he was an excellent back so I really liked the St. Louis Rams. That was kind of my team growing up because of him. And I also really liked Mike Alstott. I loved the physicality that he ran with and just the way that he played the game. I remember there were times waking up on Monday morning and watching ESPN highlights and there'd be times where he'd run the ball and they would count how many broken tackles he had on a play and it would be double digits some times. So those types of plays and guys like that were always fun to watch growing up. So if I'd have to say two particular players, I'd probably be those two."

Click Thumbnail For More Mike Burton Training Photos at Parabolic:

We wish Mike all the best as he pursues his NFL career and he deserves all of the success that we expect him to have.

[Note: Burton is represented by Pat Capra of Lunar Sports Group and he can be contacted at pcapra@lunarsportsgroup.com.]


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 06, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Feb. 6th Update

Over the next 12 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft that begins with Round 1 on April 30th in Chicago, this mock draft will be updated on a weekly basis. In addition, more rounds will be added as we get closer to the draft.

[Follow @EDSFootball for updates.]

With that said, here is my projection for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Unlike with Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who I've slotted here in earlier versions of my mock draft, Winston enters the draft process with multiple off-the-field red flags and NFL security departments will thoroughly scrutinize his character over the next few months leading up to the draft. The off-field incidents would be a concern for any prospect at any position, but it's especially concerning for a quarterback -- and more so for one that may be selected first overall -- as the face of the franchise.

Provided that the Bucs ultimately feel comfortable with his character, Winston has all of the tools to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback -- size, strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence, on-the-field leadership, etc. Although he lost his final collegiate game, Winston helped lead the Seminoles to wins in 26 of 27 games and an undefeated national championship season as a freshman.

2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC

It wouldn't be a huge surprise if the Titans went with a quarterback like Mariota here. Reports from the national media as well as local beat writers, however, seem to suggest that the Titans will give Zach Mettenberger a shot to prove that he can be their quarterback of the future.

Viewed by many (including me) as the top player in this year's draft class, Williams is a disruptive force along the line of the scrimmage that has drawn a ton of favorable comparisons to players like J.J. Watt, Gerald McCoy and Richard Seymour.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

The Jaguars allowed a league-high 71 sacks last season and although offensive line may be their biggest need, there isn't an offensive lineman worthy of a top-three pick in this draft. Gregory has the athleticism and length to potentially develop into an elite pass-rusher at the next level.

4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The Raiders have found their quarterback of the future with last year's second-round pick Derek Carr, but one of their focal points in free agency and/or the draft should be to improve the weapons around Carr. As Alabama's first Biletnikoff winner in school history, Cooper finished with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, all of which ranked first or second in the nation this season.

5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and expectations are that he won't be back. In addition, Ryan Kerrigan is entering a contract year, so adding a pass-rusher like Ray would make sense here. Either way, you'll never hear a general manager complain of having too many talented pass-rushers.

6. New York Jets (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

If Mariota slips past the first two picks, it will be interesting to see if Chip Kelly and the Eagles make a move to get in front of the Jets to take Mariota. If he's still on the board at this spot, the Jets would be thrilled.

The transition to a new coaching staff and front office is often followed by a transition to a new quarterback. With new head coach Todd Bowles referring to incumbent Geno Smith as a "great college quarterback," it was far from a ringing endorsement for Smith, who has a career 25:34 TD-to-INT ratio.

Over the course of his collegiate career, Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, rushed for 2,237 yards and accounted for 136 touchdowns -- 105 passing, 29 rushing and two receiving -- with only 14 interceptions.

There will naturally be some questions about how well and quickly Mariota will transition from Oregon's spread offense to a pro-style system. That said, Mariota possesses good size, a strong arm to stretch the field and difference-making mobility for the position in addition to impeccable intangibles.

7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Landon Collins, S, Alabama

One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this past season, the Bears have plenty of holes to address and could go in a number of different directions. They ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.6 PPG allowed) and 30th in total defense (377.1 YPG allowed). Not only are upgrades needed in their secondary, but starting safeties Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy are scheduled for free agency in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida

The Falcons are in dire need of pass-rush help as only the Bengals (20) generated fewer sacks this season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest last season as well. A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17) and has played for new coach Dan Quinn at Florida. (Quinn was the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Florida in 2011 and 2012.)

9. New York Giants (Draft History): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky

The Giants had just 34 sacks in 2013, but they finished fourth in the league with 47 sacks in 2014. The majority of the 13-sack difference can be attributed to the bounce-back season for Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 12.5 sacks in 2014 (compared to 2.0 in 2013). That said, Pierre-Paul is due to hit free agency in March.

Especially if the Giants are unable to re-sign JPP (although I expect him to be re-signed), adding a pass-rusher would make sense to fill at least part of the void. Either way, a strong pass rush has long been one of the staples of successful Giants teams. A former tight end, Dupree is a freak athlete with a 40.5-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds. Over the past three seasons, Dupree has 21.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.

10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Even after selecting Greg Robinson with the second overall pick last year, offensive line is still one of the units in needs of upgrades and reinforcements. The Rams ranked in the bottom 10 in both run blocking (-55.1) and pass blocking (-27.5) grades from PFF last season.

11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

Second-year receiver Charles Johnson was a bright spot for the Vikings; fellow second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was not. As Teddy Bridgewater enters his second season, the Vikings will likely use early picks in the draft to improve the protection he reserves and bolster the weapons around him. White has the speed, size and ball skills to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah had tweeted a while back that White was his top-ranked receiver, comparing him to Julio Jones.

12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

Given the full-year suspension of Josh Gordon and looming free agency for tight end Jordan Cameron, few teams have a weaker returning group of pass catchers than the Browns will have in 2015. I strongly considered going with Louisville's Devante Parker here, but the Browns had a chance to add an elite wideout last year and elected to go in a different direction (with a potential full-year ban for Gordon on the horizon in 2014 as well). If they have Shelton (or another prospect) ranked higher, I don't think it's a slam dunk that they go wide receiver here (as much as that would make sense).

The Browns ranked last in the league in rushing defense (141.6 yards per game) and allowed 4.5 yards per carry, only three teams allowed more. In addition to being built like a Mack truck, Shelton has excellent agility for his size as shown by his 16.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks in 14 games in 2014.

13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

Bad against both the run (29th in the NFL) and pass (25th), the Saints allowed the second-most yards (384.0 per game) in the NFL and fifth-most points (26.5 per game). They also struggled to get to the quarterback as they finished in the bottom eight in sacks (34). One of the best pass rushers in this year's draft class, Beasley has a total of 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 26 games over the past two seasons combined.

14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington

Not only has he played defensive back and linebacker in his collegiate career, Thompson also rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games against Colorado and UCLA this season. Not surprisingly, Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player. While he may get the 'tweener label, Thompson is an outstanding athlete that is solid against the run as well as in pass coverage and rushing the passer.

15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Devante Parker, WR, Louisville

With Michael Crabtree about to enter free agency and 34-year-old Anquan Boldin set to enter the final season of his contract, the 49ers could use this pick on a receiver. A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of the season, but the 6-foot-3 wideout finished with a 43/855/5 line in just six games. NFL.com's Jeremiah compared Parker to Keenan Allen saying Parker is "smooth, physical & has outstanding instincts/ball skills."

16. Houston Texans (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

In terms of defensive units, the secondary was the team's weak link last year. In addition, starting cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Given the character concerns of Marcus Peters, who was kicked off Washington's football team, Waynes could end up being the first cornerback off the board in this year's draft.

-> Continue to picks 17-32

-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database

-> Also, check out our 2015 NBA Mock Draft

To keep track of our updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle.


[ Yahoo! ] options

February 01, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Prediction: Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots

One year after facing Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seahawks will look to repeat as champions with a matchup against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Playing in his second Super Bowl in his first three NFL seasons, Russell Wilson will become the youngest quarterback ever to start his second Super Bowl.

The last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Patriots, but they have lost two heart-breaking Super Bowls in their last two appearances. That said, this will mark the sixth time they have appeared in the Super Bowl in the past 14 seasons, a truly remarkable feat in this era of parity in (most of) the league.

The doom and gloom following the Patriots' embarrassing loss to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football in Week 4 seems like yesterday.

Since Week 5, however, Brady has thrown a league-leading 35 touchdowns -- an average of 2.5 touchdowns per game -- with only nine interceptions. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, who was named league MVP last night, threw the second-most touchdowns (33) over the same span.

Even with the addition of Brandon LaFell, who had a career-best season (74/953/7), Julian Edelman was slighly more productive this season with 6.57 receptions per game (6.56 in 2013) and 69.4 yards per game (66.0). In addition, Danny Amendola has been more effective recently with 18 receptions in the past four games. One of the matchups the Patriots should win against this vaunted Seahawks defense is their slot receiver(s) versus Jeremy Lane.

That said, the biggest mismatch comes from tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Aside from being rested in a meaningless Week 17 game, Gronk was healthy all season and finished the year with an 82/1,124/12 line, all of which were the second only to his breakout 2011 season (90/1,327/17). No matter the opponent, Gronk is always a mismatch, but Seattle's Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright are outstanding in coverage at their respective positions.

One week after rushing only three times against the Ravens' stout run defense, LeGarrette Blount rushed 30 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts in the AFC Championship Game. The only time in his career that he faced the Seahawks, Blount rushed for 164 yards on 18 carries as a rookie with the Bucs. I don't expect Blount to be anywhere near as effective as he was last week (or years ago in his appearance against the Seahawks), but I expect the Patriots to stay committed to the run.

The Seahawks have the league's best defense, but Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are dealing with shoulder injuries that won't keep them out of the game but could limit their usual dominance. I'd expect to see the Patriots run the ball often to Sherman's side early to force him to make tackles and to test his shoulder.

Although DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing, the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing as a team.

In his four full seasons with the Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch has exceeded 1,200 rushing yards and double-digit rushing scores each season. In fact, no player has more rushing yards (5,357) or rushing touchddowns (48) over that span. (LeSean McCoy is second in yards with 5,075 and Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson are tied for second in touchdowns with 34.)

As consistent and dominant as Lynch has been during that span, perhaps this was his best season. His 1,306 rushing yards, 1,673 yards from scrimmage and 4.7 yards per carry were all the second-highest totals of his career, but he set a career high with a league-leading 17 touchdowns.

Leading the NFL in rushing yards after contact (707), Lynch was even better in that category in the second half (455 yards) as he wore opposing defenses down. Not only is Beast Mode one of the league's most punishing runners, but Russell Wilson had three 100-yard rushing games this season and finished with 849 rushing yards, tied with C.J. Anderson for 16th in the NFL, and six touchdowns.

While Wilson has had a ton of success running the ball, he's most dangerous when he scrambles to buy himself time as a passer. Wilson had his worst statistical game as a passer last week as he threw four interceptions, but he led them to a come-from-behind victory with a perfect pass to Jermaine Kearse for the overtime touchdown.

The Patriots defensive game plan focuses on taking away (or slowing down) what the other team does best and that will be trying to slow down Lynch and the team's rushing attack. That won't be easy, but the Patriots have allowed the fourth-fewest YPC (3.56) in the league over their final eight regular-season games and two playoff games.

Since I'm not a fan of either team, I hope (and expect) this game to be tight for all four quarters and think it could go either way. That said, I give the slight edge to the Patriots and think Brady gets his fourth Super Bowl ring.

Final score prediction: New England Patriots 21, Seattle Seahawks 20

Related: Super Bowl Historical Results - Super Bowl Squares Probability

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle


[ Yahoo! ] options

Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch discussing "huge contract extension"

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch held out in training camp and even after a some 2015 money was shifted forward to 2014, there was plenty of speculation earlier this season that this could be his final year in Seattle.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, however, the two sides are discussing a "huge contract extension" that could keep Beast Mode in Seattle until retirement and make him the highest-paid running back, on per-year terms, other than Minnesota's Adrian Peterson.

Lynch has rushed for at least 1,200 yards and double-double digit touchdowns in each of the past four seasons.

During that span, he leads the NFL in rushing yards (5,357) and rushing touchdowns (48). With a total of 56 rushing and receiving toucghdowns during that span, he's one of only two players with at least 50 touchdowns -- Dez Bryant (50) is the other player.

If there's any concern with Lynch, it's his physical running style (although he's usually the one dishing out the punishment) and that he will turn 29 in April and has a league-high 1,181 carries during that four-year span.

Going into the 2015 season, however, Lynch should be a top-six pick in fantasy football drafts.


[ Yahoo! ] options

Hosting by Yahoo!