2017 NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings

For many college football players, the goal is to have success at school to earn a spot in the NFL. Most players who turn pro after college enter the league via the NFL Draft.

I started this project a year ago, ranking each school based on the how many athletes they send to the NFL and how high those athletes are drafted. I only look at the last five years of NFL drafts to keep the sample size manageable. This also reflects modern trends in college football, rather than historic ones. With this five-year rule, that means results from the 2012 NFL Draft are no longer considered. Oregon and Baylor take major hits in the rankings as a result. This is college football we are talking about, so here is the top 25.

The scoring system is as follows:
1st round-10 points
2nd round-7 points
3rd round-5 points
4th round-4 points
5th round- 3 points
6th round- 2 points
7th round- 1 points

Alabama Logo1. Alabama Crimson Tide- 253 points
Previous: 1 (225 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Amari Cooper, 4th Overall, 2014
It is good to be king. Alabama just sent one of its most loaded draft classes yet to the NFL, with seven players going in the first two rounds. All that did was stretch the lead atop the rankings for ‘Bama. The Tide have had 10 first round selections since 2013.

Ohio State Logo2. Ohio State Buckeyes- 200 points
Previous: 3 (166 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Joey Bosa, 3rd Overall, 2016
Ohio State isn’t going anywhere. With eight first rounders in the past two drafts, Urban Meyer has turned Colombus into a football factory again. Having moved passed Florida State, the Buckeyes will take aim at Alabama next.

Florida State Logo3. Florida State Seminoles- 192 points
Previous: 2 (183 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Jameis Winston, 1st Overall, 2015
Jimbo Fisher has turned Florida State into a breeding ground for NFL talent. The Seminoles increased their point total with a strong draft class, but didn’t have a first rounder for the first time since 2009. As a result, they drop to three.

Florida logo.jpg4. Florida Gators- 181 points
Previous: 6 (145 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Dante Fowler Jr., 3rd Overall, 2015
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, the Sunshine State is churning out pro prospects. The Gators close in on their in state foe while passing up SEC rival LSU. A deep group this season has Florida in the top five.

Louisiana State University logo5. LSU Tigers- 175 points
Previous: 4 (160 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Leonard Fournette, 4th Overall, 2017
LSU sent eight players to the NFL this year, including three first rounders. Yet, the Tigers slide back a spot to round out the top five. Three first round picks in one draft weren’t enough to make up for back-to-back years without a player going in the opening round.

Clemson Logo6. Clemson Tigers- 151 points
Previous: 8 (134 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Sammy Watkins, 4th Overall, 2014
Five straight years Clemson has had a player selected in the first round. Only a year removed from a national title and with Dabo Sweeney still calling the shots, there is a good chance that Clemson unseats someone in the top five next year.

Notre Dame Logo7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 123 points
Previous: 5 (151 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Ronnie Stanley, 6th Overall, 2016
A down year for the Irish on the field leads to a meager draft class and a drop in the rankings. Notre Dame had only two players selected this year, in the second and seventh rounds respectively. Brian Kelly’s group might fall a little more before he rights the ship.

Texas A&M logo8. Texas A&M Aggies- 115 points
Previous: 10 (108 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Myles Garrett, 1st Overall, 2017
Texas A&M makes a small leap in the rankings after seeing Myles Garrett go first overall, followed by four more of his former teammates before the draft was over. The Aggies should continue to rise playing in the ultra-competitive SEC.

UCLA logo.jpg8. UCLA Bruins- 115 points
Previous: 17 (90 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Anthony Barr, 9th Overall, 2014
A huge jump for UCLA sees it move up nine spots after sending six more prospects to the pros. Takkarist McKinley made it two straight years with a Bruin going in the first round. Josh Rosen will likely make it three in 2018.

Stanford Cardinal10. Stanford Cardinal- 113 points
Previous: 7 (137 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Solomon Thomas, 3rd Overall, 2017
Despite Stanford producing two first round picks this year, Stanford falls three spots. That’s because those were the only two players the Cardinal had drafted this year. With that 2012 class that featured Andrew Luck no longer counting, Stanford saw it’s point total dip significantly.

MichiganWolverines11. Michigan Wolverines- 107 points
Previous: Unranked
Highest Drafted Player- Taylor Lewan, 11th Overall, 2014
We all knew it was coming. Michigan roars into the top 25 after sending 11 players, including two first rounders, to the NFL this year. That was the most by any school this spring. With Jim Harbaugh continuing to produce quality players, it would not be a surprise to see the Wolverines nestled into the top 10 next year.

USC logo12. USC Trojans- 105 points
Previous: 11 (107 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Leonard Williams, 6th Overall, 2015
The Trojans had a player selected in the first round for just the third time since 2013. A solid class of five prospects should bolster USC for the near future. Entering the top 10 is unlikely until it starts producing first rounders regularly, but I have a feeling that Sam Darnold should help with that.

Miami logo13. Miami Hurricanes- 98 points
Previous: 14 (92 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Ereck Flowers, 9th Overall, 2015
Don’t look now but the U is returning to its former glory. Success on the field is growing and as a result, Miami climbs closer to the top 10. In the early 2000s, the Hurricanes would have dominated this list. Now, they are sending deep classes to the NFL, just not the star-studded ones of yesteryear.

Washington Huskies logo.jpg14. Washington Huskies- 97 points
Previous: 25 (71 points)
Highest Drafted Player– John Ross, 9th Overall, 2017
The biggest jump of any team from last year’s rankings belongs to Washington. John Ross made it five straight years that a Washington player went in the first round. The difference from previous classes is that there were several more Huskies that followed. As a result, Washington finds itself in the thick of the top 15.

Georgia Logo15. Georgia Bulldogs- 96 points
Previous: 9 (125 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Todd Gurley, 10th overall, 2015
Georgia has been very hit or miss with recent draft classes. After producing five prospects last year, including first rounder Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs had just one player drafted this year. Fifth rounder Isaiah McKenzie was the lone Georgia player in the 2017 draft. Georgia’s fall in the rankings is reflective of that.

Oregon logo16. Oregon Ducks- 88 points
Previous: 13 (101 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Marcus Mariota, 2nd Overall, 2015
It is unbelievable that Oregon is envious of Georgia’s draft class, but when not a single Duck gets drafted, that’s what happens. I guess when Chip Kelly left, all of the blue chip prospects disappeared with him. The likelihood is that Oregon will continue to fall.

Oklahoma Logo17. Oklahoma Sooners- 87 points
Previous: 12 (106 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Lane Johnson, 4th Overall, 2013
The Sooners fell pretty hard in these rankings and seemed poised to continue to do so. Oklahoma has not produced a first round pick since Lane Johnson in 2013. Good for them they have produced a ton of players drafted in rounds four through six or they would already be off the list.

Missouri logo18. Missouri Tigers- 86 points
Previous: 21 (81 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Sheldon Richardson, 13th Overall, 2013
Missouri hasn’t exactly been competitive in the SEC of late, but it continues to send highly valued prospects to the NFL. Charles Harris represented the only player from Missou selected this year, which likely means that the Tigers are due for a drop come next year.

Louisville logo19. Louisville Cardinals- 85 points
Previous: 18 (88 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Sheldon Rankins, 12th Overall, 2016
Only producing two players this year in the sixth and seventh rounds certainly hurt the Cardinals, but with Louisville looking like a team on the rise, there could be more prospects on the way to bolster its ranking. Still, the Cardinals could be in for a sharp drop in a couple of years with its 2014 class accounting for more than a third of its points.

Wisconsin logo19. Wisconsin Badgers- 85 points
Previous: 15 (92 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Melvin Gordon, 15th Overall, 2015
A really solid 2012 draft class accounted for much of Wisconsin’s success a year ago and with how tight the points are in the middle of the table, it shows. Wisco drops four spots, but now has a good base to build from with two first round picks in 2017.

UNC logo.jpg21. UNC Tar Heels- 84 points
Previous: 22 (74 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Mitchell Trubisky
You would think that having the second overall pick in the draft would correlate with a big jump up the rankings. Instead, North Carolina moves up just one spot, but seems set to climb higher. A deep class this year consisting of six players should keep the Tar Heels in the top 25 for the foreseeable future.

West Virginia logo22. West Virginia Mountaineers- 83 points
Previous: 16 (90 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Kevin White, 7th Overall, 2015
This is my pick for the school most likely to leave the rankings next year. With West Virginia’s 2013 class consisting of five players taken in the first three rounds and just one player drafted this year in round five, the Mountaineers would need a stellar draft next year to keep them in the conversation.

Michigan State logo23. Michigan State Spartans- 75 points
Previous: 20 (87 points)
Highest Drafted Player– Jack Conklin, 8th Overall, 2016
The Spartans slid a little with just two players selected in 2017. A rough season for Michigan State in 2016 could seal its fate for the future of these rankings. Still, East Lansing has produced more than its fair share of Day 2 selections, which could keep them alive.

Utah_Utes_logo23. Utah Utes- 75 points
Previous: Unranked
Highest Drafted Player- Star Loutelilie, 14th Overall, 2013
Utah is quietly becoming a football school. The PAC-12 is improving each year and NFL teams are noticing. Washington has climbed the rankings. Utah has it’s niche now. Colorado is a candidate to join a in the future. The Utes have produced several mid-round selections headlined by the occasional first rounder; a solid recipe for success.

Auburn_Tigers_logo25. Auburn Tigers- 74 points
Previous: Others Receiving Votes (66 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Greg Robinson, 2nd Overall, 2014
After just missing the rankings a season ago, Auburn snags the final spot. A solid if unspectacular 2017 group pushed the Tigers over the hump. Tennessee is knocking on the door though and could push Auburn out if its draft success does not improve.

Others Receiving Votes: Tennessee- 66 points, Penn State- 65 points, Ole Miss– 62 points, Arkansas- 59 points

Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

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2016 NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings

For many college football players, the goal is to have success at school to earn a spot in the NFL. Most players who turn pro after college enter the league via the NFL Draft.

With this year seeing a host of Ohio State players drafted in the first three rounds, I was curious which schools have the best track record for sending players to the next level. Not just getting them there, but producing players that go high up in the draft. I set up a scoring system for player selections in each round and then scored the last five NFL Drafts to come up with our first ever Pro Potential Power Rankings. This is college football we are talking about, so here is the top 25.

The scoring system is as follows:
1st round-10 points
2nd round-7 points
3rd round-5 points
4th round-4 points
5th round- 3 points
6th round- 2 points
7th round- 1 points

Alabama Logo1. Alabama Crimson Tide- 225 points
Highest Drafted Player– Trent Richardson, 3rd Overall, 2012
This should come as no surprise. Alabama has become a football factory under Nick Saban. They have the most first rounders of any team over the past five years and are one of only a few teams to have a first rounder in each year I looked at.

Florida State Logo2. Florida State Seminoles- 183 points
Highest Drafted Player– Jameis Winston, 1st Overall, 2015
There is a sizable drop off from number one to number two, but that’s Alabama for you. Jimbo Fisher has done well at producing high profile draft picks though with first rounders going in each of the last four drafts.

Ohio State Logo3. Ohio State Buckeyes- 166 points
Highest Drafted Player- Joey Bosa, 3rd Overall, 2016
Something tells me that these guys are going to challenge Alabama next year. The Buckeyes had 10 players drafted in the first three rounds this past year with plenty more pro prospects expected in the next few years.

Louisiana State University logo4. LSU Tigers- 160 points
Highest Drafted Player– Barkevious Mingo/Morris Caliborne, 6th Overall, 2013/2012
It has been two years now since Les Miles’ club has produced a first rounder, but with Leonard Fournette on the horizon, next year LSU should expect another one. These guys will be staying in the top ten for a while.

Notre Dame Logo5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 151 points
Highest Drafted Player– Ronnie Stanley, 6th Overall, 2016
The Fighting Irish are one of the most high-profile teams in college football. That reflects in the draft as well. Notre Dame continually produces players going in the first three rounds. 2015 was the only season they did not produce a first round selection.

Florida logo.jpg6. Florida Gators- 145 points
Highest Drafted Player– Dante Fowler Jr., 3rd Overall, 2015
It hasn’t always lead to on the field success, but Florida has continued to produce elite level college prospects. 2012 was the only year the Gators didn’t have a players selected in the first round.

Stanford Cardinal7. Stanford Cardinal- 137 points
Highest Drafted Player– Andrew Luck, 1st Overall, 2012
Don’t be surprised if Stanford takes a dip in next year’s rankings. They are still riding a 2012 draft that saw four players go in the first two rounds. However, Christian McCaffrey seems like a lock for a first round pick next year, so they shouldn’t drop too far.

Clemson Logo8. Clemson Tigers- 134 points
Highest Drafted Player– Sammy Watkins, 4th Overall, 2014
This is another team we should see continue to rise up the rankings. Clemson has had a player drafted in the first round each of the last four years. Next year should make it five with DeShaun Watson a projected top five pick.

Georgia Logo9. Georgia Bulldogs- 125 points
Highest Drafted Player– Todd Gurley, 10th overall, 2015
Another SEC team in the top ten should be no surprise. Georgia has a strong tradition of producing NFL-caliber players. If we went back further, Georgia might have been higher up on this list.

Texas A&M logo10. Texas A&M Aggies- 108 points
Highest Drafted Player– Luke Joeckel, 2nd Overall, 2013
Why not have another SEC in the top ten? A&M is another one of those schools to have a first rounder in each of the past five years. They should be locked in as a top 15 school with the recruits they continue to attract.

USC logo11. USC Trojans- 107 points
Highest Drafted Player– Matt Kalil, 4th Overall, 2012
10 years ago, USC likely would have topped this list. Just goes to show how far USC has fallen since the Reggie Bush scandal broke. The Trojans will eventually regain composure, but they need to solve their coaching debacle first.

Oklahoma Logo12. Oklahoma Sooners- 106 points
Highest Drafted Player– Lane Johnson, 4th Overall, 2013
Oklahoma is a traditional football power but that doesn’t always translate to high draft picks. In fact Johnson, is the only Sooner in the last five years to go in the first round. Oklahoma has thrived off players being selected in the second through fourth rounds.

Oregon logo13. Oregon Ducks-  101 points
Highest Drafted Player– Marcus Mariota, 2nd Overall, 2015
Oregon’s success in the NFL Draft is mostly a testament to Chip Kelly’s time in the Pacific Northwest. Mariota is the biggest name taken, but Oregon has several other first round draft picks, mainly over the past three years. The Ducks aren’t going away any time soon.

Miami logo14. Miami Hurricanes- 92 points
Highest Drafted Player– Ereck Flowers, 9th Overall, 2015
Miami isn’t the same football factory it was back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but the U is on it’s way back. Brad Kayaa is a projected top five pick next season. The Hurricanes could be moving up these rankings very quickly.

Wisconsin logo15. Wisconsin Badgers- 92 points
Highest Drafted Player– Melvin Gordon, 15th Overall, 2015
Despite having the same score as Miami, Wisconsin loses out because Flowers was drafted earlier. The Badgers are in for a drop on this list next year with a stellar 2012 class doing most of the heavy lifting in their score. Still, top 15 is very good for Wisco.

West Virginia logo16. West Virginia Mountaineers- 90 points
Highest Drafted Player– Kevin White, 7th Overall, 2015
We are not grading schools based on pro success, because that might be a category where West Virginia struggled. Or at least living up to expectations. Either way, the Mountaineers have done really well producing players in the first three rounds of the draft.

UCLA logo.jpg17. UCLA Bruins- 90 points
Highest Drafted Player– Anthony Barr, 9th Overall, 2014
Another PAC 12 team makes the list. UCLA has had mixed results over the past few season in terms of draft success. The Bruins seem to do well at sending players to the NFC North (Barr, Brett Huntley, Datone Jones). They lose out to West Virginia because White was drafted higher than Barr.

Louisville logo18. Louisville Cardinals- 88 points
Highest Drafted Player– Sheldon Rankins, 12th Overall, 2016
This is probably the most surprising team on the list. Louisville is not a traditional top 25 team, but they have had a player drafted in the first round each of the past three years. They are helped mainly by the three that came out in 2014.

South Carolina logo19. South Carolina Gamecocks- 87 points
Highest Drafted Player– Jadeveon Clowney, 1st Overall, 2014
Still riding a strong 2012 draft class featuring Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram and Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina is likely in for a drop off next season. However, the SEC often finds ways to produce pro-ready players out of nowhere, so the Gamecocks will be interesting to watch.

Michigan State logo20. Michigan State Spartans- 87 points
Highest Drafted Player– Jack Conklin, 8th Overall, 2016
Michigan State has been one of the most successful college football teams in the country over the past few years. That is beginning to translate into draft success. Sparty is another program we could see rising up the rankings in the near future.

Missouri logo21. Missouri Tigers- 81 points
Highest Drafted Player– Sheldon Richardson, 13th Overall, 2013
Only two Missouri players have gone in the first round since 2012, but a solid number of mid-round selections pushes them onto the list. Just goes to show that even some of the middling teams in the SEC produces high draft picks.

UNC logo.jpg22. UNC Tar Heels- 74 points
Highest Drafted Player– Eric Ebron, 10th Overall, 2014
There were a couple of players that I was surprised to discover went to North Carolina. Giovani Bernard was one, Sylvester Williams another. Either way, the Tar Heels haven’t produced a tremendous amount of prospects, but the ones they do churn out, tend to go high in the draft.

Penn State logo23. Penn State Nittany Lions- 74 points
Highest Drafted Player– Donovan Smith, 34th Overall, 2015
Penn State was the only team to make the list without a player selected in the first round over the past five years. Happy Valley continues to churn out mid round selections, particularly second rounders.

Baylor logo24. Baylor Bears- 73 points
Highest Drafted Player– Robert Griffin III, 2nd Overall, 2012
Because I am only looking at the last five years of draft history, Baylor is a popular bet to drop out of the rankings next year. Most of Baylor’s points come from a strong 2012 class, but the 2016 group wasn’t bad. The recent scandal unfolding in Waco doesn’t bode well for the future though.

Washington Huskies logo.jpg25. Washington Huskies- 71 points
Highest Drafted Player– Danny Shelton, 12th Overall, 2015
A 2015 draft featuring three Washington players sneaks the Huskies into the top 25. Washington is very top heavy, not having produces many draftees, but placing a lot of them in the first round.

Others Receiving Votes: Arkansas- 69 points, Boise State- 68 points, Mississippi State66 points, Auburn66 points, Cal- 61 points

Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Fournette is exposing larger NCAA problem

For most college football players, the best thing for them to do to improve their draft stock is to perform at the college football level. That will usually punch their ticket to the NFL. Doing it at an SEC school is even better. That shows scouts that you can perform against college football’s best.

LSU LogoLeonard Fournette is doing everything right so far at Louisiana State University. He is dominating the NCAA field at an SEC school and drawing comparisons to some of the best in college football history. Already, we’ve heard names like “Emmitt” or “Herschal” thrown around when describing the phenom running back.

NFL scouts have already seen enough of Fournette to justify taking him when he is eligible to come join the NFL. Through five games this year, he has amassed 1022 yards on the ground on 8.6 yards per carry. Pair that with his 12 touchdowns and you have a solid season for a lot of college backs. Fournette has reached those marks in only half a season.

The issue is though, Fournette isn’t eligible to jump to the NFL until the 2017 NFL draft. He looks pro-ready today but NFL rules state that he must wait until after his junior season to apply for the draft. So now Fournette faces a very tough decision. Should he continue to play for the Tigers, or should he sit out his junior season to cement his draft status?

Fournette could probably sit out the entire 2016 college season and still go in the top half of the first round if he continues to stay in shape and performs well at the combine.

Many have called Fournette selfish for thinking that way but honestly can you blame him? NFL first round picks sign contracts worth millions of dollars. Todd Gurley, a former running back from Georgia, signed a contract this season after being drafted 10th overall that was worth up to $13.8 million over four years. The contract guaranteed $9.3 million over the four years and Gurley received a $2 million signing bonus upon signing the contract.

All of that is probably pretty comparable to what Fournette would stand to make and honestly it is probably below what he is worth. Many are viewing the LSU back as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He would likely go higher than 10th overall and with the increase over the next two years, his contract would probably be even a little larger.

So we are talking probably upwards of $20 million on the line here for Fournette. All he has to do is stay healthy and avoid a drop off heading into the draft. The only problem is that there is no easy way to avoid injury other than to sit out. Fournette has nothing financially from the NCAA to fall back on if he blows out his knee or develops a hernia. His draft stock would plummet and he might not even make it to the NFL.

Marcus LattimoreThinking for the future makes too much sense at this point. We see it happen to players, especially running backs all the time. A couple of years ago, Marcus Lattimore suffered a gruesome knee injury that derailed his promising college career. Lattimore was a lock for a first round pick but the October injury where he tore every ligament in his knee and dislocated it obviously set him back. He had surgery and began rehab as soon as possible. He declared for the NFL draft in December knowing that it was his best shot at going pro. He fell all the way to the fourth round to the 49ers. He signed a four-year deal worth up to $8.5 million but with only a $300,000 signing bonus. Lattimore spent two seasons on San Francisco’s reserve roster before finally retiring when he realized he would never be able to play again.

Obviously, that is an extreme example but it is not the only one. Just a week ago, Nick Chubb suffered a serious knee injury where he tore several ligaments and damaged cartilage. His ACL was not one of the ligaments torn, which gave doctors hope at first, but now reports have surfaced saying that the injury could be career ending. He will have surgery soon but the outlook is less than positive. Heading into this season, Chubb was a projected first round pick for 2017, just like Fournette.

Matt BarkleyThen there are players who avoided injury but still saw their draft stock plummet due to poor play. Matt Barkley is the perfect example of a player who was deemed NFL ready, but who decided to stay in college another year. He seemed to be a certain top 10 pick in the 2012 draft but Barkley decided to stay at USC for his senior year. Barkley muddled through an up and down season and then fell to the fourth round of the NFL draft in 2013.

It is hard to shame Fournette for considering sitting out and it will be harder still if he decides to skip his junior year. He has every right to and he would be protecting his future, which is completely uninsured by the NCAA.

Each NCAA athlete has a health insurance policy of $90,000 for medical expenses. They are willing to cover other costs such as in-home care if it is required but there is no way for students to ever recoup any of the money they might have made.

There is no sure-fire way to solve this situation and I won’t pretend to know what it is. It might be to compensate athletes. It might be to provide some sort of insurance if athletes are unable to continue to the professional level due to injuries sustained while playing in college. All I know is that it needs to change. If the NCAA can profit as much as it does from these kids, then there should be a way for the kids to get compensation for a major career-altering or ending injury.

If the NCAA refuses to pay athletes, guarantee insurance fund for those who cannot continue to the pros because of injury or some combination of the two, it will continue to see Leonard Fournettes in the future. If Fournette sits, he will set a precedent. There will be players who believe that they have shown enough talent and ability to make the jump to the league and will refuse to continue playing in college. It will hurt the college game in terms of the level of play and could begin to undermine college football as a whole.

This development would be many years down the line but it is not unrealistic if the NCAA does not find a solution. Players who have serious aspirations of playing in the pros view college as a stepping stone and if they can find a way to minimize the risk that comes with that stepping stone, you can bet they are going to take it.

What if Brees had landed in Miami?

If you follow football, you’ve heard of Nick Saban. You’ve probably also heard of Drew Brees. These two have been wildly successful at what they do. Saban has coached Alabama to three National Titles in four years and Brees has both a Super Bowl trophy and the record for most consecutive games with a passing touchdown. These two have been very successful in their own right, but they could have been very successful together.

Nick Saban2006. Way back before either of them had had any of their major triumphs, Nick Saban was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and Drew Brees was a young quarterback on the San Diego Chargers. Neither one had anything to do with each other. Saban was fresh from his days of coaching LSU and made the move to Miami. Brees was dealing with a career-threatening shoulder injury that had caused the Chargers to let him walk into free agency. The two nearly crossed paths, and we are going to discuss what might have happened if they had.

The Dolphins were searching for a starting quarterback during the 2006 offseason. Gus Ferrotte had been the Dolphins starter under center the year before but was not convincing by any means. Brees was a free agent and the Dolphins were in contract talks with him. Miami ended up ending negotiations when they traded for Dante Culpepper and Brees signed with New Orleans. But what if the Dolphins had signed Brees?

Brees had turned the Saints from a doormat to a playoff team in just one year. The Dolphins were already a pretty solid team and the addition of Brees would have put them over the top. Brees’ receivers would have been Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, and Randy McMichael, with Ronnie Brown in the backfield as well. Before you know it, the Phins would have had an offense that scared people. Brees would have had Andre Whitworth to protect his backside when Miami used their second round pick on him instead of trading it to the Vikings for Culpepper.

Drew_BreesInstead of faltering down the stretch, the Dolphins make a huge push toward the postseason in 2006, making it as a wildcard. As a result, Saban never jumps ship for Alabama and stays in South Beach. The Dolphins would be preparing for a stellar season in 2007.

Meanwhile, down in the Bayou, the Saints never end up with a quarterback, which means they select Vince Young in the 2006 draft. Young has a nice year for New Orleans as a rookie but fails to get much else going. After another year or two of poor play from the Saints, the team packs up and heads to Los Angeles. 

2007 comes and goes and the Patriots dominate the league going 16-0 again. Rather than suffer through a 1-15 season with Cleo Lemon at the helm, Brees guides the Phins to yet another wildcard berth. The defense is rock solid behind the play of Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Channing Crowder and Joey Porter. After the emergence of bench player Wes Welker with the gun slingin’ Brees at quarterback, Miami has no need for Tedd Ginn Jr. and opts to bolster their offensive line instead drafting Ben Grubbs.

In a storybook tale, Brees matches up with his former team, the Chargers and delivers a shocking win. Miami followed that up with an upset of the Peyton Manning led Colts, leading to a matchup with the rival Patriots. Miami is simply outmatched in that game, and falls in the AFC championship. The Dolphins get some satisfaction though as New England still loses in the Super Bowl as Tom Brady can’t seem to find enough offense with Welker on the field.

Instead, Welker and Brees are tearing apart the league, and in 2008 when Brady goes down for the season with a major knee injury, the Dolphins have their chance. The Dolphins rule the AFC and roll to a number one seed. Instead of Chad Pennington throwing four interceptions to end the Dolphins’ hopes in the wildcard round, Brees catches fire and the Dolphins look destined for glory.

Miami beats up the outmatched Steelers in the AFC title game and heads on to the Super Bowl played in nearby Tampa Bay. The Dolphins win a shootout with the Cardinals and Brees wins his first Super Bowl a year earlier than he would have in New Orleans.

The Dolphins go on to compete with the Patriots as the top team in the AFC, and the Brees vs. Brady matchup becomes a biannual classic. Saban goes down as a great NFL coach, instead of a quitter. Alabama never turns into a football factory and the Saints live out their days competing with the Raiders to avoid being the worst team in California.

There are some other interesting nuggets that would happen in this scenario. Brees would still go on to break the single season passing record, eclipsing Dan Marino, this time in a Dolphins uniform. However, unlike Marino, Brees would have a ring, which would probably hold weight for the conversation of greatest quarterback to don a Miami uniform.

Just think, all of this could have happened, if only the Dolphins had decided to sign Drew Brees in the summer of 2006. 

Brian Mandel’s NFL Mock Draft

by Brian Mandel

It’s that time of the year again.  Tonight we will see all of the drama of the NFL draft.  Here what I think could happen.

Trade
#1 San Diego Chargers (from Tampa Bay)
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
To begin this draft, the Chargers trade Philip Rivers, their 2nd round pick, 3rd round pick and future 1st round pick to Tampa Bay for the first overall pick. This fills a need for a Tampa with a Pro Bowl QB since they really want to contend now and fills the Chargers need of long term security at QB.

#2 Tennessee Titans
Jamies Winston, QB, Florida State
Jamies is the best QB on the board at this point, and even though Tennessee has Mettenberger, Winston would be huge upgrade.  Winston would also usher in a new era for the Titans.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Williams, DE, USC
In my opinion he is the best defensive prospect in the draft and the Jaguars desperately need game changing pass rusher and defensive upgrades in general.

#4 Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Amari Cooper may not have the highest ceiling, but he has the highest floor. After years of failed high ceiling receivers (Heyward-Bay, ect.) it seems like a safe wide receiver pick would be best for Oakland.

#5 Washington Redskins:
Dante Fowler, Jr OLB Florida
Fowler fits with Washington perfectly. They need and edge rusher and he’s the best one in the draft.

#6 New York Jets:
Vic Beasley OLB Clemson

With the two best QBs of the board there is no point for the Jets to reach for one.  Instead they will go for and edge rusher to complete their offseason defensive overhaul.

#7 Chicago Bears:
Danny Shelton NT Washington
The Bears can’t stop the run.  Plugging in Shelton at nose tackle will have an immediate impact on run defense for Chicago.

#8 Atlanta Falcons:
Bud Dupree OLB Kentucky
The Flacons still have not filled in their need of a pass rusher on defense.  Although Dupree is raw, he has the potential to wreak havoc on opposing QBs.

#9 New York Giants:
Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
The Giants need to protect Manning and create better holes for running backs. Schreff is a versatile offensive lineman that can plug in at tackle or guard and if moves to guard can be one of the best in the league.

#10 St. Louis Rams:
Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Rams will take the next best OT to give better protection to Foles because there OL still has some holes to fill.

#11 Minnesota Vikings:
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

They only have one established WR on the team, and it would give Teddy Bridgewater another target.

#12 Cleveland Browns:
Devante Parker, WR, Louisville
With the whole Josh Gordon the TBD QB of Cleveland needs a true number 1.

#13 New Orleans Saints:
Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska  

Off field issues aside, Gregory would give immediate help the Saints defense.

#14 Miami Dolphins:
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan St.
He is the best corner prospect and Miami is need of another CB next to Grimes.

#15 San Francisco 49ers:
Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon
A solid all around DT, and he fits an immediate need.

#16 Houston Texans:
Nelson Agholor WR USC
The Texans need a wide receiver to fill the departure of Andre Johnson and Agholor is the perfect fit.

#17 San Diego Chargers:
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
San Diego has no true number 1 RB as of now and Gordon can be that prototypical number 1 RB.

#18 Kansas City:
Malcom Brown, DT, Texas  
Defensive tackle is a huge need for the Chiefs and Brown is the next best one.

#19 Cleveland Browns
Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The Browns still have holes to fill in their front five and Goldman is good all-around tackle.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles 
Damarious Randal, FS, Arizona State
The Eagles need help in their secondary and Randal is the best free safety on the board.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals
Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
With a solid all around team in every corps the Bengals should take the best player available.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers 
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The Steelers are in need of a shutdown corner and Kevin Johnson has the size and skills to be that.

#23 Detroit
D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Detroit has a hole in their O-line, and this guy can help keep Stafford on his back.

#24 Arizona Cardinals
Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
Arizona can go for an OLB, but they would be reaching for one know.  Instead they will draft a guy that will protect Palmer.

#25 Carolina Panthers
Ereck Flowers, OG, Miami
Flowers is the guy to fill their hole at guard.

#26 Baltimore Ravens
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
With Forsett locked up for a while but not getting any younger, Gurley can take it easy with his ACL injury, but then be ready to take Forsett’s place at RB.

#27 Dallas Cowboys
Marcus Peters, CB Washington
Dallas needs all the help they can get on defense and Peters has lockdown corner potential.

#28 Denver Broncos
T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
Denver has a hole at offensive tackle and Clemmings is the man to protect he aging Peyton Manning.

#29 Indianapolis Colts
Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

He may be raw, but the Colts need all the help they can get with all the shoddy O-lines they have had since Luck has been the starter.

#30 Green Bay
Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami
This will allow Mathews to move back to his natural position, and Packers will have a thumper in the middle for years to come.

#31 New Orleans
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Mizzou
New Orleans has no true number 1 WR.  If Beckham can put all of the off field stuff aside, then he is their man.

#32 New England
Laken Tomlinson, OG, Duke

The Patriots will just take the best player available.

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