Golf has an Image Problem

Brooks_Koepka
Brooks Koepka has won three majors in just over a year. (Wikimedia Commons)

It has been several years since Tiger Woods has been at his best, and yet that is all anyone can seem to talk about when men’s golf is brought up. Woods dominated the game for the better part of a decade before his back injuries. Since then, we have seen flashes of the old Tiger, but the man that many thought would topple Jack Nicklaus has never truly returned.

In his stead, there has been a group of new challengers to step into the top spot for golf. First it was Rory McIlroy. Then Jordan Speith took his turn. Jason Day followed him. Now Dustin Johnson is atop the men’s golf world. Those four men have finished atop the PGA rankings in the four years since Woods suffered his injury.

The problem is, none of them have even come close to replacing Tiger. There has been no extended period of dominance, larger than life persona or general awareness to elevate golf to the level of popularity it reached when Woods was at his best. Casual fans do not know the top athletes in the sport.

Brooks Koepka, who won last week’s PGA Championship, admitted most people do not recognize him. In addition to winning the PGA Championship, Koepka also capture the previous two US Opens. He became the first player since 2001 to win both the PGA Championship and the US Open in the same season. The last person to do it was none other than Tiger Woods.

Without a doubt, Koepka is a star in the making. At 28, he currently sits second in the world in the PGA rankings, behind only Johnson. Still, golf is still totally Tiger-centric. In preparing for this post, I searched Koepka’s name on Google. Two of the three top suggested articles were actually about Woods, with the headlines failing to mention Koepka. CBS Sports PR issued a press release last Monday saying the final day of the PGA Championship saw the highest ratings since 2009, including a 69 percent increase over last year. Just to note, Woods made an incredible run to finish second this year, two strokes behind Koepka. Coincidence? Yeah, I don’t think so either.

Additionally, Don Yaeger of Forbes detailed in his great article the clear slant the media takes when covering golf and how it always revolves around Tiger. He pointed out the recent coverage was all about how close Tiger came, rather than Koepka winning again.

Tiger_Woods_2007
At the time of publication, Woods is the 26th ranked men’s golfer in the world. (Wikimedia Commons)

Now, part of it is that Tiger is an iconic figure who has always been fun to watch. His endorsement deals placed him on a national scale. More often than not, people love dominance. They might not always recognize it, but dominance in the sports world draws our attention. With the Warriors in the NBA, Alabama in college football, the Patriots in the NFL, UConn in college basketball, we tune in to witness the dominance and for the chance to see Goliath defeated. It makes for a great story.

Woods has managed to work himself onto the other side of that narrative now. For so long, he dominated. Now he continues to struggle his way back to the top. He hasn’t won a major in 10 years. He has gone from being Goliath to one of the potentially great comeback stories if can ever complete it. It seemed inevitable that Tiger would topple Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors for such a long time. Obvious it is a lot less clear now. If he were to somehow claw himself back into the conversation, it would truly be an amazing feat.

The story of Tiger Woods is not a bad thing for men’s golf. It draws in casual fans and causes massive boosts to television ratings. I know this because I fall into the same category. Outside of the Masters, I tend to watch or follow very little golf if Woods is not competing.

However, and I’ve said it before, the sport relies much too heavily on Woods being involved. Golf has had a hard time moving on from the talking point of Tiger’s dominance. Until someone can truly wrestle that mantle away from Woods, golf will never be able to move on.

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Breaking Down the Dwane Casey Firing

Dwane CaseyAll good things must come to an end. This end seems a bit premature considering how successful the Raptors have been in the NBA regular season, but as many pundits have noted, the regular season does not matter in professional basketball.

The Raptors fired Dwane Casey on May 11, following yet another early exit in the playoffs. Toronto continued to run into a wall in the postseason. That wall is named LeBron James. James has dispatched the Raptors each of the last three years, including two straight sweeps in the Conference Semifinals. It is pretty clear something needs to change in Toronto and Casey might just be the catalyst for larger moves.

But why fire a coach to bring back the same team the following year? That is the question right now when analyzing this situation. Casey was far from the root of the problem in Toronto. He is a finalist for Coach of the Year. He also put the Raptors in a position to succeed in the postseason, as the team earned home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Most of the blame for this year’s playoff collapse can be attributed to DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka. DeRozan averaged 16.8 points, 4 rebounds and 2.8 assists during the series against the Cavaliers. Solid numbers for most, but disappointing for a player who is supposed to be leading his team offensively. He scored 67 points in the series on 66 shots. His inability to get to the line or shoot from behind the arc seriously limits his value. Ibaka was even worse, averaging 8.5, 6.3 and 1 in those same categories. He is not meant to do a whole lot offensively, but he was not very effective, shooting just 44 percent for the series. DeRozan and Ibaka combine for almost $50 million in cap space for Toronto next year, 38.7 percent of the team’s total.

Firing Casey only really makes sense if the Raptors’ front office goes for a massive makeover this offseason. Otherwise, this move makes very little sense. Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Ibaka are all under contract until 2020. DeRozen hangs around another year after that. In fact, 12 of the Raptors’ 15 players from this season have contracts that extend into next year.

In short, this is going to be basically the same team as it was a year ago. Toronto has close to zero potential to add free agents, as it has no cap space and already used a mid-level exception on C.J. Miles. Additionally, the Raptors do not have a single pick in this year’s draft. GM Bobby Webster can hope he can strike gold with another player on a minimum deal who greatly outperforms the deal like he did when he brought in Fred VanVleet. The likelihood of that occurring is seemingly low.

DeMar DeRozanThe best solution for Toronto moving forward is to cut bait with DeRozan and/or Ibaka this offseason via trade. The unfortunate truth is that this Raptors core is not capable of winning a championship. It needs to be revamped or rebuilt. This is more than LeBron simply being the team’s kryptonite.

It would be easy to say, just wait out the Warriors and Rockets, build for the future. However, the Celtics seem to be on the verge of creating a dynasty. The 76ers might be a title-contender by next year.

Becoming a true title-contender can be done in a short time frame too. In 2016, the Rockets were the eighth seed in the West, losing in five games. Two years later, they had the best record in the NBA and pose a legitimate threat to the Warriors. The catalyst was reworking a roster that already had a franchise player. If nothing else, Houston should provide a blueprint for Toronto on how to go from good to great.

Not entirely sure where the Raptors go from here as an organization, but this offseason is going to be crucial for the team’s future plans.

2018 Aftermath NFL Mock Draft

Welcome back fans of the Aftermath for another mock draft. I brought back my usual cast of characters to help me for another year. Jack Venezia, Matt Luppino, Brian Mandel and I each rotated through the first round of the draft, making the selection we feel each team should make. We did not allow for trades in this mock draft. This won’t be how the first round goes, but this is how we think it should go.

  1. Browns- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
    The decision here is between Rosen and Darnold. I went with Rosen because Darnold seems to be more turnover prone of the two and the Browns definitely want to limit their turnovers as much as possible. -JV
  2. Giants- Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
    The Giants need to decide on who their favorite quarterback is in the draft and base this pick on what Cleveland does. If he’s there, take him happily; otherwise, you trade down or take Chubb, a great player to replace the outgoing Jason Pierre-Paul. Rosen was my guy, so Chubb it is. -ML
  3. Jets- Sam Darnold, QB, USC
    In my opinion, he’s the best quarterback on the board. The Jets can continue rebuilding with the new centerpiece of their offense. Darnold is perfect for a modern-day offense with a great arm and good mobility. -BM
  4. Browns- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
    The Browns could very reasonably trade down with a team like Arizona or Buffalo here, but with a player as talented as Barkley on the board, they pull the trigger. He could be a game changing running back on an offense that already has Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, not to mention that Rosen kid. -CM
  5. Broncos- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
    If Chubb falls to them Denver will definitely jump on him. More likely, it will either take a quarterback or trade down. Since we don’t mess with trades in this mock draft I took the quarterback who I thought would best develop behind Keenum for a few years. -JV
  6. Colts- Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
    This assumes that Andrew Luck is ready to play quarterback again. With Chubb and Barkley gone, the Colts need to ensure that he can stay upright, and a great offensive line prospect who projects like his fellow Irishman, Zach Martin, definitely fits the bill. -ML
  7. Buccaneers- Derwin James, S, Florida State
    The Bucs were hoping Barkley would fall. Instead, they draft James because they need more help for their secondary. Although Fitzpatrick is debatably a bit better, James is a good player in his own right and Tampa loves drafting Florida players. -BM
  8. Chicago Bears- Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
    I came very close to selecting Denzel Ward here, but Fitzpatrick’s versatility reminds me a little of Tyrann Mathieu. He has the ability to play nickel corner or safety over the top. He becomes a player quarterbacks must account for when playing Chicago. -CM
  9. 49ers- Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
    The Niners offense is clicking but their secondary needs some help. If Minkah Fitzpatrick falls to them they might consider taking him here, but I rate Ward as a better overall talent. This was an easy pick in that regard. -JV
  10. Raiders- Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
    The Raiders can either go with the pass rushing enforcer in Roquan Smith, or the imposing presence of Edmunds. They won’t go wrong with either, so I will go with the wrecking ball with rocket boosters. -ML
  11. Dolphins- Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
    Although a bit of reach, the Dolphins desperately need another good corner. Alexander should be able to come in on day one and start. He and Xavien Howard give Miami two young corners to develop. -BM
  12. Bills- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
    Not sure that Baker makes it this far, or that Buffalo would let him. I also think Miami would swoop in if he did slide. Finally, the Bills have their man. This gives them a piece to retool this offense around after gutting most of it over the past year. -CM
  13. Washington- Vita Vea, DT, Washington
    Washington has to find a way to stop the run and taking a defensive tackle like Vita Vea early could be the fix. It could also reasonably go with a safety. Some have them taking a running back, but I think Barkley will be long gone and none of the other backs are worth it at 13. -JV
  14. Packers- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
    Green Bay is at its best when Aaron Rodgers has weapons to throw to, usually in the form of three wide receivers that make the defense spread thin. Davante Adams had a breakout year, but Randall Cobb regressed, and Jordy Nelson left. Ridley’s polish and speed are very tempting. -ML
  15. Cardinals- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
    With the retirement of Carson Palmer, the Cardinals need their quarterback of the future. I truly believe Jackson can be a quarterback at the pro level. Being drafted by the Cardinals will put him in the perfect situation to develop behind Bradford for a year or two. -BM
  16. Ravens- Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
    Ridley would be a nice fit for Ozzie Newsome’s team with the Alabama connection. Instead, he will swallow his school pride and draft a Bulldog who can make an immediate impact on this defense. There are a lot of different areas of need for Baltimore, but this is the best player available. -CM
  17. Chargers- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
    Just imagine a first round defensive tackle next to Joey Bosa. The Chargers will have a wall which opposing running backs will bounce off of. If Payne and Vea are not available San Diego/LA might go for a safety. -JV
  18. Seahawks- Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
    A transcendent corner known for creating turnovers and locking down top receivers leaves Seattle, and the NCAA’s leader in interceptions and passes defended is on the board. Jackson can be the next Richard Sherman in that system. -ML
  19. Cowboys- D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
    A massive hole has been created with the departure of Dez Bryant. With Ridley off the board, Moore is the best wideout available. The Cowboys will be getting a larger version of Stefon Diggs in Moore, and the former is already a great receiver. -BM
  20. Lions- Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
    Harold Landry may be tempting here, but the ceiling of Davenport is even more enticing. He could be the athletic counterpart across from Ziggy Ansah by 2019 or his replacement if the Lions can’t work out a long-term deal. -CM
  21. Bengals- James Daniel, C, Iowa
    Andy Dalton could use some more time in the pocket after some struggles last season. The offensive line in general is not great this year, but a late first rounder is worth it for a center who could become a leader in years to come. -JV
  22. Bills- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
    With the quarterback position locked up with Mayfield earlier, the Bills now have other holes to fill. While a WR here like Courtland Sutton is an option, Buffalo lost their starting LT Cordy Glenn this offseason. Taking the best tackle on the board is a no brainer to protect their new toy. -ML
  23. Patriots- Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
    Everyone in the NFL would regret Belichick getting his hands on Landry. Landry is a great talent that underperformed this year and would be coming into one of the best situations in the NFL with the Patriots. -BM
  24. Panthers- Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
    Courtland Sutton seems like an option, but Carolina’s offense seems to find ways to succeed with an odd group. Instead, it’s time to address the Josh Norman-shaped hole in this defense. His size is enough to convince the Panthers to take him. -CM
  25. Titans- Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
    Tennessee’s front seven needs help all over the place. Tennessee won’t necessarily take the best player available, but it will probably take the best defensive lineman or linebacker available. In this case that’s Evans. -JV
  26. Falcons- Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan
    The Falcons desperately need a lineman to fill the Dontari Poe-sized hole left after he signed with division rival Carolina. They will be ecstatic to see Hurst still available here, as some believe he may be the best one in the draft in spite of not working out at the combine. -ML
  27. Saints- Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
    With the three best defensive linemen off the board, the Saints should look towards their offense. Brees isn’t getting any younger, so they should do anything they can to make sure he stays upright. -BM
  28. Steelers- Billy Price, C, Ohio State
    The void at middle linebacker is huge, but I don’t trust Malik Jefferson enough to pick him here. Instead, I will go with the best player on the board. Price has a lot of versatility and will fill in nicely whenever Ramon Foster decides to hang up his cleats. -CM
  29. Jaguars- Connor Williams, OT, Texas
    The question here is: how can Jacksonville help Fournette run the ball more? I think they either go with a wide receiver who stretches the field or offensive lineman who can create running lanes for him. I went with Williams to fill the second option. -JV
  30. Vikings- Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
    Big need on the offensive line for Minnesota, and it has 84 million reasons to protect new QB Kirk Cousins. They take the best available one here and look to do the same next round. -ML
  31. Patriots- Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
    Nate Solder left to join the Giants this offseason, and the Patriots need a replacement. Even with the injuries Miller can still be a good offensive tackle. This will fill out what was a good first round for New England. -BM
  32. Eagles- Sam Hubbard, Edge, Ohio State
    What to do with a team that has very few holes. Fans may clamor for Darius Guice, but I like the edge rusher from Ohio State. He provides some depth to this Eagles pass rush that was dominant at times last season. Look for Philly to trade down if the guy they want is no longer on the board. -CM

2013 NFL Re-Draft

The 2013 NFL draft was one of the worst in memory. It has been five years since that fateful first round, and of the 32 players selected, just nine of them are still on the team that drafted them. There was some hidden talent later in the draft. Not a single quarterback appears in this redraft, which is pretty much unheard of. Overall, it was a solid draft class, the first round just really did not pan out as expected.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
    Original Selection: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
    New Selection: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
    Fisher has put together a solid career in Kansas City, but not quite deserving of the top overall pick. He will still go later in this redraft, but instead, the Chiefs nab potentially the best right tackle in the whole league at this point.
  2. Jacksonville Jaguars
    Original Selection: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
    New Selection: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
    It was assumed there was three elite tackle prospects in this draft. Joeckel proved that wrong. He is currently out of the league and never really managed to solidify a spot in Jacksonville. The Jags take potentially the best player in the draft who fills a need and makes the Blaine Gabbert years a little more bearable.
  3. Oakland Raiders
    Original Selection: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
    New Selection: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
    In 2013, the Raiders traded down with Miami and took the speedy Hayden. Instead, they keep their third overall selection and take a game changing receiver in Hopkins. Even with Terrelle Pyror as his quarterback, Hopkins would still emerge as a top flight receiver.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles
    Original Selection: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
    New Selection: David Bakhtari, T, Colorado
    I debated this back and forth for a while, because Bakhtari might be one of the three best left tackles in the league. I basically would have switched Bakhtari with Johnson, but ultimately decided that Bakhtari needed a little more development right out of school. He still fills a need very nicely for the Eagles.
  5. Detroit Lions
    Original Selection: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
    New Selection: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
    One of the few selections, that goes to the same team, Ansah was an athletic freak who panned out really well for the Lions. No reason to change the pick with him still on the board.
  6. Cleveland Browns
    Original Selection: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
    New Selection: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
    This was a tough choice between Rhodes and A.J. Bouye for Cleveland, who desperately needed another corner to start alongside Joe Hayden in his prime. Rhodes was just a bit more pro ready, which is exactly what the Browns needed.
  7. Arizona Cardinals
    Original Selection: Johnathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
    New Selection: Travis Fredrick, C, Wisconsin
    Arguably the best player in the draft, he just doesn’t play a position that teams value as highly. Still, Fredrick warrants a top 10 selection and looks like a future Hall of Famer at center in Dallas. Arizona would prefer that to the uneven play of Cooper.
  8. Buffalo Bills
    Original Selection: E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
    New Selection: Keenan Allen, WR, California
    Buffalo actually traded back with the Rams and took the first of many quarterback busts. This time around, they nail this pick by taking the dynamic Allen. He may have some injury concerns, but his upside is still massive.
  9. New York Jets
    Original Selection: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
    New Selection: A.J. Bouye, CB, UCF
    Needless to say the Jets were hoping for a game-changing corner when they drafted Milliner. Here, New York selects Bouye and steals a player who might now be the best corner in football. He took a year or two to truly take hold in Houston, but makes the massive jump from undrafted to top 10 pick.
  10. Tennessee Titans
    Original Selection: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
    New Selection: Kyle Long, G, Oregon
    Right position, wrong player for Tennessee as Chance Warmack never lived up to the hype. Kyle Long has been a stud in Chicago since day one. He might even keep Jack Locker healthy for a few more years.
  11. San Diego Chargers
    Original Selection: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
    New Selection: Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU
    With many of the top linemen gone in the past few picks, San Diego finds themselves taking the best player available, which at this point is undoubtedly Mathieu. The Honey Badger is a versatile playmaker. His injury issues are still a concern, but his talent alone makes him worth the selection.
  12. Miami Dolphins
    Original Selection: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
    New Selection: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
    Out of all of the bad moves mad in this draft, Miami might own the worst one. Dion Jordan registered two sacks as a rookie, then served three different suspensions, including one that lasted 15 months. Trufant on the other hand was an integral part of a Falcons defense that made it to the Super Bowl in 2017.
  13. New York Jets
    Original Selection: Sheldon Richardson, DE, Missouri
    New Selection: Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
    While Richardson was no doubt productive in New York, this was not the right team for him as his off the field issues and lack of a true scheme fit caused him to flame out. The Jets haven’t had a good tight end since maybe Chris Baker. Kelce no doubt solves that problem.
  14. Carolina Panthers
    Original Selection: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
    New Selection: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
    The Panthers actually landed Short in the second round of this draft. He has developed into one of the best pass rushing tackles in the league. It would be foolish to let him hang around.
  15. New Orleans Saints
    Original Selection: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
    New Selection: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
    Slay is often over looked after spending years on bad Lions’ defenses, but his play has been one of the lone bright spots. New Orleans desperately needed improved secondary play for several years without finding much until recently.
  16. St. Louis Rams
    Original Selection: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
    New Selection: Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota State
    I’m not buying for a second that Tavon Austin is worth a first round pick, much less trading up into the top 10. I would rather take Thielen, who took a few years to develop. Over the past two seasons, Thielen racked up 160 receptions for 2,243 yards and nine touchdowns. Austin has 71 catches for 556 yards and three scores.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers
    Original Selection: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
    New Selection: Jamie Collins, LB, Southern Miss
    Jones never panned out so Pittsburgh takes Collins, which helps them and hurts the rival Patriots. Collins did a lot well in New England and even more recently in Cleveland to deserve this pick.
  18. Dallas Cowboys
    Original Selection: Travis Fredrick, C, Wisconsin
    New Selection: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
    With Fredricks long gone, Dallas opts for another big body in the middle of the line. Warford started all 16 games as a rookie and made a Pro Bowl in 2017. He might have extended Tony Romo’s career a little bit.
  19. New York Giants
    Original Selection: Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse
    New Selection: Sheldon Richardson, DE, Missouri
    The other New York team gambles on the talent that Richardson brings to the table. The Giants had an aging defensive core including Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. Richardson bridges the gap.
  20. Chicago Bears
    Original Selection: Kyle Long, G, Oregon
    New Selection: Micah Hyde, DB, Iowa
    Long is off the board, so the Bears tab Hyde, who has proven his versatility over the years in Green Bay and now Buffalo. Chicago’s defense fell apart over the past few seasons and could have used a productive player like Hyde.
  21. Cincinnati Bengals
    Original Selection: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
    New Selection: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
    Another example of right position, wrong player. Eifert had his moments, but fell off over the past few seasons. Ertz on the other hand has developed into one of the best all around tight ends in the NFL. He would do wonders for Andy Dalton.
  22. St. Louis Rams
    Original Selection: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
    New Selection: Eric Reid, S, LSU
    Ogletree just left the Rams via a trade, so instead St. Louis grabs Reid. A hard hitter and solid cover man, Reid would make an immediate impact for a team that needed some new blood at safety. The team selected T.J. McDonald in the third round.
  23. Minnesota Vikings
    Original Selection: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
    New Selection: Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
    Floyd never made the impact expected of him at the pro level. Williams has turned into a monster in the middle of Baltimore’s defense, eating up blocks and stuffing run plays. Minnesota could use a bit of that down the line.
  24. Indianapolis Colts
    Original Selection: Bjorn Werner, DE, Florida State
    New Selection: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
    The first overall pick drops 23 spots, but eventually lands in Indy, where keeping Andrew Luck upright must be the priority. Fisher gives the Colts a right tackle opposite Anthony Castonzo, but more importantly a building block to reshape the line.
  25. Minnesota Vikings
    Original Selection: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
    New Selection: Robert Woods, WR, USC
    Rhodes has been off the board for while now. Instead, the Vikings opt for a speedy playmaker who has proven to be a great chess piece when used correctly. Woods’ speed alone makes him valuable and might even make Christain Ponder watchable.
  26. Green Bay Packers
    Original Selection: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
    New Selection: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
    Jones became the latest Packer to fail at providing a pass rush. Ogletree has some baggage, but if anyone could iron it out, it would be Green Bay. He would give the Packers another roaming linebacker to pair with Clay Matthews.
  27. Houston Texans
    Original Selection: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
    New Selection: Kenny Vaccarro, S, Texas
    Obviously, it is wishful thinking for Hopkins to still be here. The Texans go with Kenny Vaccaro, who has been solid if unspectacular in New Orleans. He showed flashes of potential that Wade Phillips and Vance Joseph (both on the Houston staff at the time) could have pulled out of him.
  28. Denver Broncos
    Original Selection: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
    New Selection: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
    Williams was not the big man Denver thought it was getting. Lotulelei drops a bit but still finds a home as a pass rusher on one of the best offensive teams ever built.
  29. New England Patroits
    Original Selection: Jamie Collins, LB, Southern Miss
    New Selection: Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
    If there was anyone who was going to turn Kiko Alonso into a star, it was Bill Belichick. Odds are the Patriots would still trade down from here, but Alonso offered a lot of potential despite the injury risk the New England is almost always willing to take.
  30. Atlanta Falcons
    Original Selection: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
    New Selection: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
    Trufant is off the board way before the Falcons can think about trading up for him. Instead, Atlanta takes a pass catching stud to pair with Julio Jones and aid Matt Ryan. Tony Gonzales was in his final year. Reed fills that void about as well as anyone could hope to.
  31. San Francisco 49ers
    Original Selection: Eric Reid, S, LSU
    New Selection: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
    Reid is gone, so the 49ers take another roaming safety in Jefferson. He has developed into a better than average corner who can press at the line and tackle. He would be a nice consolation prize for San Francisco with Reid already gone.
  32. Baltimore Ravens
    Original Selection: Matt Elam, S, Florida
    New Selection: J.C. Tretter, G, Cornell
    Fast forward five years and Tretter is the starting center for the Browns. He is one of the better ones in the league and would help keep newly paid Joe Flacco clean after his stunning Super Bowl performance.

2017 NFL Mock Draft

I just happened to uncover this going through some old drafts on the site. I figured it was worth a post to see how I thought the draft should go. It’s even better now with a year to see how the players actually performed. More draft coverage coming this week. Enjoy!

  1. Cleveland Browns
    2016 Record: 1-15
    Selection: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
    The Browns don’t overthink things and get the best player in the draft. This defense was one of the worst in the NFL a season ago. Garrett doesn’t fix all of that, but he certainly will make a dent for a pass rush that only tallied 26 sacks last season, good for 30th in the league.
  2. San Francisco 49ers
    2016 Record: 2-14
    Selection: Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
    Most likely, San Francisco will look to trade down. I think they want to continue to stockpile picks. If they have to pick, finishing a rebuild on the defense line will make this a scary group. Thomas would join 2015 first rounder Erik Armstead and 2016 first rounder DeForrest Buckner up front.
  3. Chicago Bears
    2016 Record: 4-12
    Selection: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
    Even though it seems like quarterback is a need, so is corner. Lattimore could become a shutdown corner in the Windy City. Pairing him with Kyle Fuller and newly signed Prine Amukamara makes the Bears secondary a strength.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars
    2016 Record: 4-12
    Selection: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
    Ever since Maurice Jones-Drew left town, Jacksonville has been trying to fill the void in the backfield. Dallas had a ton of success picking a Pro Bowl caliber runner in the first round. The Jags won’t be that good, but this is a good step in the right direction.
  5. Tennessee Titans
    2016 Record: 7-9
    Selection: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
    Marcus Mariota is becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. That’s without a true number one receiver. Williams has the chance to become that. He has an absurd catch radius and should keep the safety from crowding the box.
  6. New York Jets
    2016 Record: 5-11
    Selection: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
    Similar to 2015 when Leonard Williams fell to them, the Jets take Adams as the best player available. A trade with Cleveland is very possible and probably smarter, but staying here, Adams is the player New York should tab to start the rebuild.
  7. Los Angeles Chargers
    2016 Record: 5-11
    Selection: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
    A move to LA does not change the fact that the Chargers are still looking for a replacement to Eric Weddle two years later. Hooker is not the same player, but has the potential to have a similar impact for the Bolts.
  8. Carolina Panthers
    2016 Record: 6-10
    Selection: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
    Resisting the urge to take a corner like White or Humphrey in such a deep secondary draft, Carolina instead goes after a difference maker on offense who should take some pressure off of Cam Newton to make every play.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals
    2016 Record: 6-9-1
    Selection: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
    Cincinnati takes the best player available in Allen. Right away he can rotate in with Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap or he can start along Geno Atkins on the inside, especially on passing downs.
  10. Buffalo Bills
    2016 Record: 6-10
    Selection: Deshon Watson, QB, Clemson
    What? Not Trubistky? In the long run, I think Watson will be the better quarterback. Even with Tyrod Taylor on the roster, Buffalo cannot resist taking the former Tigers signal caller.
  11. New Orleans Saints
    2016 Record: 7-9
    Selection: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
    Character concerns aside, Foster can flat out play. The top-10 pass on him due to the red flags, but the Saints have needed to upgrade at linebacker for a while now. This is the best chance to do just that.
  12. Cleveland Browns
    2016 Record: 1-15
    Selection: Mitch Trubitsky, QB, UNC
    Courtesy of the trade with Philly, the Browns are back on the clock on their prized quarterback is still available. I expect for them to trade up from this spot to land him before Buffalo picks, but in the end, the Browns get who they want.
  13. Arizona Cardinals
    2016 Record: 7-8-1
    Selection: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
    This team might seem set at receiver, but with Larry Fitzgerald entering the final stages of his career and with David Johnson being the team’s second leading receiver behind him, this move makes sense. Davis is hailed as an elite route runner who can block in the running game. His concern is drops. He can learn from the future Hall of Famer before he takes over.
  14. Philadelphia Eagles
    2016 Record: 8-8
    Selection: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
    The Eagles opt for secondary help here with very few options on the current roster. White can slide both inside to the slot or lineup wide across from a receiver, doing both in college. LSU defensive backs have done pretty well in the NFL too (Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid).
  15. Indianapolis Colts
    2016 Record: 8-8
    Selection: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
    Indy adds some corner help as well taking the best player left on the board in Humphrey. Makes sense considering they had a bottom five pass defense last season. He is a physical player with a big body. He can line up across from Vontae Davis day one.
  16. Baltimore Ravens
    2016 Record: 9-7
    Selection: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
    Come on, it’s Ozzie Newsome we are talking about here. It makes too much sense. Landing Howard will give Joe Flacco a top-tier tight end for the first time since Todd Heap left town.
  17. Washington
    2016 Record: 8-7-1
    Selection: John Ross, WR, Washington
    The combine 40 star ends up going from Washington to Washington. This team was decimated at receiver this offseason. Sure signing Terrelle Pyror was nice, but after losing Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, adding more talent is a must. Oh and Ross is basically a carbon copy of Jackson, so he would be a good fit.
  18. Tennessee Titans
    2016 Record: 9-7
    Selection: Haasan Reddick, DE/OLB, Temple
    Interior lineman is still a big need, but with an athlete like Reddick on the board, Tennessee adds a player with a ton of upside and that should make a solid pass rush even scarier.
  19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    2016 Record: 9-7
    Selection: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
    There are currently some allegations hanging over Conley’s head that could push him a little bit down draft boards. Early signs are that the allegations are untrue, but that remains to be confirmed. Conley is a player with great cover skills who would help improve a secondary that allowed 7.7 yards per attempt a season ago, 29th in the NFL.
  20. Denver Broncos
    2016 Record: 9-7
    Selection: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
    Denver has had a revolving door at left tackle since Ryan Clady suffered an injury in 2015. Russell Okung is now with the Chargers and after allowing 40 sacks last season, offensive line is clearly a need. Ramczyk should be able to start Day 1, even with some growing pains.
  21. Detroit Lions
    2016 Record: 9-7
    Selection: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
    The run on secondary players continues. Wilson is a ball hawk who will gamble occasionally to make a play. Detroit only had 10 interceptions last season and allowed an absurd 72.2 percent of passes to be completed by opposing teams. Wilson might give up a few big plays, but he will make his fair share as well.
  22. Miami Dolphins
    2016 Record: 10-6
    Selection: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
    With Mario Williams now long gone, Miami needs a replacement. Barnett could easily be the answer. He is a solid pass rusher and run defender who slots well into a 4-3 defensive front. Adding young talent to that defensive line is what will keep the Dolphins in the playoff picture.
  23. New York Giants
    2016 Record: 11-5
    Selection: David Njoku, TE, Miami
    Linebacker is obviously a huge need, but the Giants cannot afford to pass on a talent at tight end like Njoku. New York has been in desperate need of a pass catcher at the position since Kevin Boss left. Njoku would join Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard to form a scary receiving core.
  24. Oakland Raiders
    2016 Record: 12-4
    Selection: Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida
    The run on Florida players continues. Davis is a great option as a 4-3 linebacker. He is raw and will need to improve his mechanics when tackling, but with the Raiders looking to build their defense to a point that can match their offense, Davis will help in that progression.
  25. Houston Texans
    2016 Record: 9-7
    Selection: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
    Many project Mahomes to go earlier, but with questions surrounding his accuracy, he should probably be a late-first rounder at best. Houston had the worst yards per attempt average in the league a season ago. Mahomes’ rocket arm will likely prevent that from being a repeat performance.
  26. Seattle Seahawks
    2016 Record: 10-5-1
    Selection: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
    Seattle’s defensive line has been decimated. It only makes sense to revamp with some new blood. McDowell can rush the passer as needed for this team on third down situations right away.
  27. Kansas City Chiefs
    2016 Record: 12-4
    Selection: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
    While it is true that Kansas City has Marcus Peters, that is only half the equation. It is tough to say that this secondary is set to go without another solid corner. I think Awuzie has the skills to help out right away and be a good number two corner behind Peters in years to come.
  28. Dallas Cowboys
    2016 Record: 13-3
    Selection: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
    This Cowboys team is going to be very good for years to come. The key now is getting the defense to catch up to the offense. It looked better this season than it had in a while, but that does not mean they should pass on Harris.
  29. Green Bay Packers
    2016 Record: 10-6
    Selection: Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
    It has been years since Aaron Rodgers had a good receiving tight end. Not that this offense really needs that much more fire power, but Engram is built like a tight end and runs like a receiver. He would be a matchup nightmare Rodgers could use to his advantage.
  30. Pittsburgh Steelers
    2016 Record: 11-5
    Selection: Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
    The Steelers could have used a bit of additional pass rush while trying to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Enter McKinley who would immediately step in on third down scenarios to get after the quarterback.
  31. Atlanta Falcons
    2016 Record: 11-5
    Selection: David Njoku, TE, Miami
    Truly, there are not too many holes on this Falcons team, it’s just offensive play calling that seems to hold them back. However, I’m not buying Austin Hooper as a true long-term solution at tight end. Njoku could be something special in this Atlanta offense.
  32. New Orleans Saints
    2016 Record: 7-9
    Selection: Budda Baker, S, Washington
    Offense has never been the problem in New Orleans. It has been a pedestrian defense holding the Saints back. Adding the playmaking Baker to the defensive mix could give this team the boost needed to return to the playoffs.