NFL Draft

Top Tight Ends

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There is debate at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and every defensive position on which NFL Draft prospect would be the top player at the position, but there is no question at tight end.

Florida’s Kyle Pitts is a special talent and will be an immediate weapon for the team that drafts him in the top 10.

After Pitts, there are three to four prospects who should be drafted on Day 2 followed by a handful of tight ends who will be targets in the mid to late rounds.

1.Kyle Pitts, Florida, 6-6, 246: On my draft board, Pitts is the second-best player in the 2021 NFL Draft and the rarest prospect after Trevor Lawrence.

Some scouts think Pitts could move to wide receiver and be a Calvin Johnson style player.

Pitts was dominant in 2020, showing superb speed, hands, leaping ability, route running, and dynamic mismatch potential for the NFL.

Every opponent was incapable of covering Pitts, including future first and second rounders in the Alabama and Georgia secondary. Some scouts say Pitts is the best receiving weapon in the draft and is a more dynamic mismatch than Chase, Smith and Waddle.

  1. Pat Freiermuth, Penn State, 6-5, 256: Freiermuth was solid in 2020 before going down with a season ending injury that required surgery.

Medicals will be extremely important for Freiermuth. As a receiver, Freiermuth has the potential to be a contributor to a team’s passing attack, but lacks separating speed and elite athleticism.

Freiermuth’s most distinctive positive trait is his physicality as a runner and blocker. NFL coaching will help him get a better technique and a more aggressive demeanor. Late round 2 – early round 3

  1. Brevin Jordan, Miami, 6-3, 244: Jordan is a smooth route runner with the quickness to separate.

He glides through the secondary and is able to use his athleticism with speed to get open.

Along with good route running, Jordan has very reliable hands that give him the ability to control the ball with his hands.

As a blocker, Jordan shows the willingness to block but he lacks size to take on NFL defensive ends and linebackers. Early round 3

  1. Hunter Long, Boston College, 6-5, 253: Long has good size and does an excellent job of winning contested catches.

He uses his build to shield off defenders with skilled body control and awareness to put himself in between the ball and coverage.

Long is a solid blocker but the skill set is not there for him to develop into an effective NFL blocker. He has the potential, but he needs to get stronger to pack more punch and sustain his blocks after point if contact. Late round 3 – early round 4.

  1. Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame, 6-4, 252: Tremble displays the competitiveness to be a bulldozer as a run blocker and ties up defenders in pass protection.

Although his production was lacking at Notre Dame, his tape is enough to get scouts excited.

Tremble was an underutilized receiver in college and therefore unrefined in route running.

He flashed the athleticism and body control to work pass underneath defenders and make himself a large target. He is projected to be a better pro than college player as he continues to develop. Round 4-5.

  1. Tre’ McKitty, Georgia, 6-5, 245:McKitty only made six receptions during the 2020 season with the Bulldogs. He had better receiving production in 2018 and 2019 when playing for Florida State.

McKitty is a good athlete with a nice burst of speed out of his breaks to create space from defenders early on and challenge defenses vertically.

Scouts are concerned with his blocking and non-existent production in 2020.

Other players to look out for: Quintin Morris, Bowling Green; Nick Eubanks Michigan; Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss; Pro Wells, TCU; Tony Poljan, Virginia.

There is a clear delineation between the haves and the have nots at tight end in the NFL nowadays and this year’s draft is the same. There is Kyle Pitts and everyone else

New Dirty Birds

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL Draft is a magical time. It is both a beginning and an ending.

One door shuts on the college career of young and hungry hopefuls, while the door to their professional career opens wide.

It’s a time of hope for fans as well, as they look for their favorite team to draft the players that will turn them around or help them take the next step.

People will debate until they are blue in the face which college player should be drafted at what point in the draft, or who is the best fit for what team and who will be the player that falls the farthest. The point is everyone has an opinion about the NFL Draft and that includes Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, apparently.

Word is that Ryan sent a text message to the Falcons’ General Manager, Thomas Dimitroff, thanking him for drafting offensive linemen with both their first and their second picks in the Draft. That says something profound about how badly Ryan needed protection after season that saw him get hit third-most in the league and sacked eighth-most.

Those offensive linemen were Chris Lindstrom at 14 and Kaleb McGary, whom the Falcons traded up for to draft 31st overall.

Lindstrom is a guard from Boston College and McGary played right tackle at Washington, though he could also be moved to guard.

Lindstrom was not likely the 14th best player in the Draft, but the Falcons made a statement by drafting him and by trading their 2nd and 3rd round picks in order to get McGary in the first round. The O-line is going to be better this year come hell or high water.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Falcons signed two offensive guards during the offseason in Jamon Brown and James Carpenter.

It seemed fairly likely that those two would be starting for Atlanta come September, but with these two draft picks it now seems like a competition for those positions will be on. These are choices that potentially improve the team by leaps and bounds.

After missing the 2nd and 3rd rounds, the Falcons picked up cornerback Kendall Sheffield from Ohio State. Sheffield’s game is his speed and will play an important role for the team, if his pectoral injury doesn’t plague him the way it plagued Desmond Trufant.

Dimitroff then took John Cominsky, a Defensive End from Charleston, for his second pick in the 4th round. He’s got size and versatility, and his presence could keep the likes of Vic Beasley, Jr. and Takk McKinley on their toes and motivated.

Round 5 saw the Falcons draft a running back from Pittsburgh by the name of Qadree Ollison. Ollison is a big dude and should be capable of brining power to the short-yardage game of the Falcons, serving as a nice compliment to Devonta Freeman.

Atlanta’s second pick of the 5th round was another corner: Jordan Miller – also of Washington. Their second at that position of the draft, Miller will add depth to the secondary and join another former Washing player in Trufant there.

For Round 6, the Falcons branched out and took a wide receiver: UL Monroe’s Marcus Green. Green isn’t going to supplant Julio Jones, but he may be counted upon to make both kickoff and punt returns. He has the potential to provide some explosive returns and provides competition with free agent signing Kenjon Barner for the role.

Vicious Jaguar

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Joshua (Josh) Allen is now a Jacksonville Jaguar.

The 2018 SEC Defensive Player of The year will now set up shop in the River City and wreak havoc on AFC South quarterbacks for the next decade.

Allen played his college football at the University of Kentucky and led Kentucky to its first 10-win season since 1977.

Here are Allen’s 2018 career highlights and awards to date:

2018 SEC Defensive Player of the Year

Unanimous 2018 First Team All American

Chuck Bednarik Award 2018

Lott Trophy 2018

Nagurski Trophy 2018

First Team All SEC 2018

Allen is proof that recruiting rankings and stars don’t mean anything, as one highly thought of recruiting service had Allen rated as a two-star prospect coming out of high school in New Jersey.

Jacksonville didn’t think he would there at 7. They thought he would go at 3 or 4 or 5. I absolutely love this pick. Their identity is that defense. The Jags needed an edge rusher, and Allen fell to them and they took him.

Thank you to the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants for making this happen.

Allen was a star in the best football conference in the land, where he registered 17 sacks, 51 total pressures, and 28 hurries in 2018.

He finished his career with 31.5 sacks at UK and is the all-time sack leader there. Allen declared for the NFL draft after his junior season.

Allen is listed at 6’5 and 260 pounds, and is very quick. He is equipped to be one of those special speed edge rushers that keep opposing offensive coordinators up at night.

When it comes to pass coverage, he can drop into coverage with ease and is fluid in the hips, and moves like a safety. That will be a huge plus for a Jaguar defense that took a step back in 2018. Even with the addition of Nick Foles at QB this organization’s identity is defense. Now, with the addition of Allen, the Jaguar pass rush may get back to the standard it set during the 2017 season.

Allen runs a 4.6 40 Yard dash and looks to be another Pro Bowl caliber player on a talented defense. He is a high character young man that will come in, roll up his sleeves and go to work immediately. He is a Tom Coughlin type of player that eventually will take over leadership in that locker room.

I view this selection as a culture builder in Jacksonville. Allen is a winner and a producer and talks with his shoulder pads.

As I was watching the first round unfold, I could not believe Allen didn’t go to Raiders at 4 or the Giants at 6. And when the Giants went QB at 6 I said wow Josh Allen is going to be a Jaguar.

They say the NFL is an offensive league now, but do you remember the 13-3 Super Bowl contest that just concluded? The Patriots shut down the high-powered Rams offense and held them to 3 points.

Josh Allen was the absolute best pick the Jaguars could have made. The Jaguars got the biggest steal in the first round.

Draft Grade: A+

 

 

Back To The Future At QB

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is well documented that the Jacksonville Jaguars need a QB going into the 2019 season.

Nick Foles will not receive the franchise tag in Philadelphia and that may set the wheel in motion for Foles to become a Jaguar.

Even if the Jags get Foles, he will be just a bridge to the future. Jacksonville with its top 10 pick needs to draft a QB to groom for the future.

Let’s take a look at this QB draft class:

Dwayne Haskins: The former Ohio State Buckeye is the top rated QB in the draft.

Haskins set 28 OSU records at a school that has produced some quality quarterbacks over the years.

He has a strong arm and is confident in a traditional pro-style offense. He has good mobility and can make things happen when the pocket breaks down.

When you pass for 50 TD’s and 5,000 yards in a 14-game season you are a special talent.

It seems like the New York Giants like Haskins at the number 6 pick. Will teams like the Miami Dolphins trade up to try and get Haskins.

If Haskins falls to Jacksonville will the Jags take him? Haskins seems to be the most pro ready quarterback at this moment in time.

Kyler Murray: Murray had a Heisman winning 2018 season at Oklahoma, passing for over 4,000 yards, rushing for 1,000 and propelled the Sooners into the College Football Playoffs.

Murray is just 5′ 10″ and 195 pounds. The shortest signal-caller in the NFL right now is Russell Wilson at 5′ 11″.

Murray only had 5 passes batted down last season. Baker Mayfield shut up the critics last year after the Browns were heavily criticized after taking Mayfield with the number pick in the draft because of his size.

Mayfield had the Browns in playoff contention last year. The Jaguars have more pieces on defense and Murray is a dynamic playmaker. Murray walked away from $5 million from the Oakland Athletics to play baseball, and will focus on being an NFL QB. Murray is a generational talent.

While the critics chime in on size this kid just makes plays that leave you scratching your head. Murray to me is a better talent than Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have pinned their future on Lamar Jackson.

Drew Lock: The Missouri QB has a gunslinger mentality and throws the best deep ball in the draft. After the Tigers started 1-5, Lock took over and led his team to six straight wins and tossed 44 TD’s.

Lock will turn the ball over sometimes, but he is a natural leader. Lock is tall at 6’4 and will be a steal for a team that is on the cusp of being a playoff contender.  Lock reminds me of a Matt Stafford, who is super talented but plays on a bad team.

Who do the Jaguars select?

My pick today is Kyler Murray. The Jags offense needs an infusion of excitement.

Murray will sell out the stadium and would bring a wow factor to the city. You can’t go wrong with Haskins, Murray, or Lock, but the pick is Murray and the Jags are set for the future.

Murray would almost guarantee that no tarps will ever cover upper deck seats in Jacksonville again and end the relocation rumors that are always floating around.

A future trip to Super Bowl would be in reach also.

NFC South Draft

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL Draft is April 26, 2018. So, it is approaching soon.

This can change the fortune for several franchises. The best division in 2017 was the NFC South because they had three playoff teams. Let’s take a look at the division and their 1st round picks.

No. 7 Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers (5-11) were the only team in the division with a losing record. They took a step back because they were 9-7 in 2016. We expected them to improve and make the playoffs. They also added speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson to pair with Mike Evans but it obviously did not work.

The biggest team needs are defensive back, running back and offensive guard. Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a great pick. He played both safety and corner in college. He can cover and he’s physical and can make tackles. He also has very good size at 6’1, 201 pounds.

No. 24 Carolina: The Panthers (11-5) rebounded last year after regressing in 2016. They addressed a need by drafting running back Christian McCaffrey in the 1st round last year. He was very good as a pass catcher but he did not run the ball well. He only rushed for 435 yards and averaged 3.7 yards per carry.

The biggest team needs are wide receiver, offensive line and defensive line. The Panthers traded their #1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo on Halloween.

Cam Newton needs a good WR so I think they will go in that direction. Courtland Sutton from SMU should still be available. He’s 6’4, 225 lbs. so he’s a big target.

He caught 68 passes for 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017. Newton struggles with accuracy so having a tall receiver with a big catch radius is a good move.

No. 26 Atlanta: The Falcons (10-6) had an up and down year coming off last year’s heartbreaking Super Bowl meltdown. They did win in the first round of the playoffs against the LA Rams. They came very close to beating the eventual world champion Philadelphia Eagles in the second round, losing 15-10. Atlanta should return to being an elite team if they make the right personnel moves.

The biggest needs are defensive line, WR and offensive guard. Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst would be a good fit. Putting him next to Grady Jarrett might give the Falcons one of the best young defensive lines in the league.

No. 27 New Orleans: The Saints (11-5) had a great season. They have the best running back duo in the NFL and an elite veteran quarterback. They lost to Minnesota in the divisional round of the playoffs on the last play of the game. The defense ranked 16th in total D and 17th in run defense.

They need to improve the defensive front seven, WR or slot corner. Boston College defensive end Harold Landry might be selected here. He showed he could rush the passer in 2016 when he recorded 16.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. Landry is a bit of a one-year wonder though because he did not have a season with more than 5 sacks outside of 2016.