With the end of the NFL season in sight, it is time to focus on one of the better stages of the offseason: The NFL Draft. If your favorite team did not make, or caught an early exit from the playoffs, more than likely GMs and scouts are already working day and night on a plan to improve their team's fortune. We take a look at the teams in the draft with the top 10 picks and project what the team needs and who they could draft.
#1. Tennessee Titans
Pick: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
When you have the #1 pick of the NFL draft that typically means you need help at the quarterback position or help all over the field. In the Titans case, they need help all across the board on offense, other than the aforementioned quarterback spot. A great place to start is by grabbing the best Left Tackle in the draft to protect the face of the franchise in Marcus Mariota.
Yes, Tennessee does have Taylor Lewan and he is a solid player but he is best suited playing at the Right Tackle spot. When you give up 105 QB hits and a league high 54 sacks and your QB has to miss playing time because of that, you need to make that change to maximize not only the talent on the line, but give a guy like Mariota more time to work with.
#2. Cleveland Browns
Pick: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Like Tennessee, the Browns need help across the board on offense and defense. Cleveland ranked one of the worst in every major stat on both sides of the ball so any kind of pick will be an instant upgrade. However, with the addition of Hue Jackson at head coach and Johnny Manziel apparently heading out the door (Jackson doesn't want him around), it would only make too much sense to draft the best signal caller in Jared Goff.
The highly touted prospect has drawn comparisons to another Cal QB in Aaron Rodgers and as crazy as it may sound, that isn't a far-fetched statement after throwing for 4,252 yards and 37 TD passes. Goff can make every throw you want in an NFL pocket passer and has the mental capacity to bring life into a lifeless offense (which is Cleveland).
Pairing him with Hue Jackson is a great start to turning around a horrific offense.
#3. San Diego Chargers
Pick: Joey Bosa, DE/OLB, Ohio State
A tackle here would have been ideal for San Diego but since I had Tunsil going #1, I'll put Joey Bosa here instead. The Chargers run a 3-4 defense but Bosa has the kind of versatility that could have him playing both DE and the pass rushing 3-4 OLB position. Bosa can bring an immediate impact to a defense that ranked 24th in sacks and 27th against the run and wasn't very good at producing turnovers. This would also make sense because Melvin Ingram not only had a tough time staying healthy, he is entering a contract year.
#4. Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Jalen Ramsey, S/CB, Florida State
It's no secret that the Cowboys have been having issues in the secondary for some time now. They addressed it with their first round pick in 2015 by picking the versatile Byron Jones. While Jones enjoyed a pretty good rookie season, there are still holes to be filled. Orlando Scandrick is coming off a knee injury, Mo Claiborne is a free agent, Brandon Carr could be a cap casualty, and Dallas still needs that playmaker at safety. Enter Jalen Ramsey, regarded by some as one of the more talented and versatile players in the draft.
He can play either the Cornerback or Safety spot and bring an immediate impact on a defense that went from 2nd in forced turnovers (2014) to the worst in 2015. Like Jones, Ramsey can line up all over the field and make a difference. He can also get after the Quarterback on blitzes and is pretty good against the run. A talent like this is hard to pass up.
#5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Protect your investment. What I mean by that is if you have a young franchise QB, you should have a young franchise Left Tackle to protect him.
At this point in the draft, Ronnie Stanley is the best at his position and can help stabilize a line that gave up 51 sacks. Luke Joeckel was supposed to be that cornerstone left tackle but has been underwhelming to say the least. Moving him around on the line could help but he isn't suited to be a left tackle. With Stanley, Jacksonville would be getting one of the better (if not the best) pass protectors in the draft.
#6. Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
I almost went with a pass catcher here because the Ravens need to start thinking about life after Steve Smith soon. On the other hand, when your defense is dead last in interceptions (6 during the season), it makes addressing the secondary the #1 priority.
Vernon Hargreaves III has been considered the best cover corner in this draft since he stepped foot at Florida. Although he had a rough finish to the season, he was still arguably the best shut down corner in the nation. He will bring much-needed help to this secondary.
#7. San Francisco 49ers
Pick: DeForest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon
The first season without Jim Harbaugh saw the 49ers defense ranked near the bottom of the NFL in sacks and run defense (29th in both) last season. With that being said, Buckner would be a nice fit in the 49ers 3-4 defense. At his size (6'7, 290) and his ability to rush the passer and to stop the run, he would be an instant upgrade to the defense. He's drawn comparisons to Calais Campbell; I wouldn't be surprised to see him match his productivity in the long run.
#8. Miami Dolphins
Pick: Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
Myles Jack is one of the most talented players in this draft after playing both ways at UCLA as a running back and linebacker. Before his knee injury, Jack might have been a top-5 pick in this draft and even so, there is still a chance he can be.
The Dolphins need help behind the front line of their defense and drafting Jack will add talent and depth to a much-needed spot.
Although he can play all 3 LB spots, he is better fitted playing on the outside where he can rush the passer, cover running backs and tight ends, and even some receivers. He is that talented and can be a playmaker in a defense that needs more.
#9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
In a division with QBs like Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan, you can never have enough pass rushers, but the Bucs really don't seem to have enough of them. Gerald McCoy led the team with 8.5 sacks and Jacquies Smith was second with 7. Other than those two, there wasn't much of a pass rush.
Shaq Lawson is arguably the best pass rusher in this draft class who is also capable of making plays in the back field versus the run. Before his injury against Oklahoma, Lawson was making a living in the backfield, he was doing the same against an also pretty good Alabama offensive line in the championship game.
#10. New York Giants
Pick: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Ranked last in pass defense and 25th in yards per attempt, the Giants also might be losing their best cover corner in Prince Amukamara due to free agency. The quickest way to not only replace, but upgrade from him is to draft the shutdown corner out of Clemson. Mackensie Alexander had a great season for the Tigers before re-injuring his hamstring in the title game against Alabama. Alexander will bring swagger and an immediate impact to a defense that is in need of a true #1 cornerback.
Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.
Since Kris Richard has taken over the back-end of the Dallas Cowboys defense, they have clearly shown a bias towards a "type" of cornerback. Richard, looking to build this Dallas unit in a similar form to his Seattle teams, has prioritized long corners both in height and arm length.
As his responsibilities within the organization increase, it's only fair to expect Kris Richard to have more say in who the Cowboys' defense acquires in terms of talent. This means we should anticipate more defensive backs who fit his type, such as Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.
So why does Lonnie Johnson fit the mold of what Kris Richard tends to look for? Well, for starters, he is 6'3" and 206 lbs with 32 1/4" arms. He's a long corner with excellent size and the trait profile which indicates he could be the perfect candidate to play cornerback in Dallas.
But while he might look great on paper, the tape is always the most important factor for evaluating and projecting talent. And, for Johnson, the tape isn't all-that great. Despite his length, Johnson struggled mightily in press-man coverage at Kentucky. Too often he is late or ineffective with his hands, leaving him susceptible to being blown by by the opposing receiver. He often loses balance due to poor footwork, and is rather average with his hips and quick change of direction.
Where Johnson was his best in college was in zone coverage, playing his deep third of Kentucky's cover-three look. Rarely did he allow receivers behind him in zone coverage, and displayed good instincts when deciding whether to jump routes or play more conservatively when playing in that deep third. He was not nearly as comfortable underneath, and Kentucky didn't ask him to play in that role too often. Because of how big he is, Johnson is able to contest at the catch point regularly, yet he only deflected 9 passes in 2 years.
What gives me the most hope for Lonnie Johnson as a prospect (besides his length) is his Senior Bowl performance. Johnson impressed daily at the Senior Bowl, looking more comfortable in man coverage and playing much better in his press technique.
Was this Johnson becoming more comfortable over time and a sign of things to come at the next level, or was it an anomaly that we shouldn't read too much into? The answer to that question is up to the individual teams, but his combine performance will play a huge role in how those teams answer.
As I've discussed already, Lonnie Johnson Jr. fits what Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks. He is long, tall, and relatively athletic, making him a clay piece for a coach like Richard to develop.
The question is, however, how much development can really occur? The highs for Johnson are rather high when he maximizes his natural abilities on the field. But too often he is sloppy in technique, or looks lost in man coverage. Whether or not Richard can "fix" Johnson completely may never be seen, but teams (especially this one) could fall in love with him as a prospect for what he can become if it all comes together.
Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson
NAME: Rodney Anderson
CONFERENCE: Big 12
POSITION: Running Back
CLASS: RS Junior
JERSEY: No. 24
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma Like, Comment, and Subscribe for More! Follow my Instagram: @szhighlights Songs: - "Don't Know Me" by Trae Tha Truth - "Better Days" by Trae Tha Truth I do not own any of these highlights or music clips.
Before we get into the player, we should really try to get to know Rodney Anderson the person. He attended Katy High School in Katy, Texas, one of the powerhouse HS football programs in the state. He was a four-star recruit who received offers from Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. He originally committed to Texas A&M, but changed his mind and decided to go to Oklahoma instead. He had an up-and-down career on the football field at Oklahoma because of injuries, but did graduate with a degree in Arts and Sciences in May 2018 and is pursuing his Master's in Human Relations.
Rodney Anderson has the ideal size and athleticism to become a featured back in the NFL. He shows good patience and vision on film to allow his offensive lineman to secure their blocks before sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through the hole. He runs behind his pads and shows good strength, loose hips, and balance to run through arm tackles. More than capable of picking up those "dirty yards" and is surprisingly slippery as a runner in the open field.
Anderson is capable of playing in a power scheme or a zone heavy scheme like the Dallas Cowboys deploy. He has been featured in a number of rushing concepts including gap/power, read action, and power sweeps. His talent also carries over to the passing game. He possesses soft hands and looks natural catching the ball both out of the backfield and down the field as a receiver. Solid in pass protection, but this is an area of his game where he can improve.
The biggest negative about Rodney Anderson is his injury history at Oklahoma. He is basically a one-year wonder because of three separate season-ending injuries, but bad things happen in three so maybe that's behind him. Durability will be a question mark entering the NFL though.
His vision is sometimes questionable, especially on inside and outside zone reads. Has a tendency to to try to bounce runs to the outside too often or cut back too quickly. Shows good explosiveness, but only average burst through the hole. Seems to have adequate long speed on tape, but is 40 yard dash time will be heavily scrutinized if he's able to run at the NFL Scouting Combine.
In the passing game he needs to improve his route running and pass protection if he wants to be a three-down back in the NFL. The talent is there, just not the production and consistency. Will also have to prove he can be productive against stacked boxes at the next level since he rarely saw any in college due to Oklahoma's spread offense.
If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a running back capable of being a featured back in the NFL, while also spelling Ezekiel Elliott from time to time, then Rodney Anderson is there guy. His combination of power, balance, explosiveness, and scheme diversity could come in handy as their RB2. Not only would he provide a good insurance policy if the unthinkable were to happen to Zeke, but he could take over if they decide not to give No. 21 a contract extension.
There is a lot to like about Rodney Anderson's game and his ability to contribute in the running and passing game, but he is not by any means a clean prospect. Despite his immense talent, his injury history and lack of consistency in college is bothersome. But, as a mid-round pick the reward far outweighs the risks. Paired with Elliott, the Cowboys could have a formidable one-two punch in their backfield and could pound opposing defenses into submission.
Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
Our search for a new pass catcher for the Cowboys in this years' draft class continues, this time with a wide receiver.
South Carolina's Deebo Samuel put himself on the map with a strong Sophomore season, but fell off a bit due to a severe leg injury early in 2017. After a strong 2018 campaign, and an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Samuel has played himself back into early Day Two draft discussions.
I don't know that anyone "won" Senior Bowl week more than Deebo Samuel did this January. Samuel, who had to deal with some poor quarterback play throughout his college career, didn't get much of a break in that department either at the Senior Bowl. But, he did show out every day at practice, and seemed to go viral on Twitter at least once a day.
During his actual collegiate season, Samuel finished with 882 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 catches, solid production especially coming off an injury and playing in a limited offense. Initially in the NFL, Samuel is going to make his money in the slot. He's a shifty yet explosive receiver type than can quickly beat defenders with his speed. He's not the speedster than someone like Marquise Brown is, but he is explosive enough in his own right, especially in terms of short-area quickness.
Samuel isn't someone who will go up and grab the ball consistently, or even make up for inaccurate throws as often as some others might be able to. But he does have reliable hands, and his ability to get open quickly and create separation should give someone like Dak Prescott easy windows to find him in for completions.
What makes Deebo Samuel so fun for me to watch, though, is his ability after the catch. Despite his lack of size, Samuel is tough as nails, and rarely defers out of bounds or avoids contact. He's built well enough to withstand that contact as well, and when he gets free, he's hard to catch and bring down.
Drafting Deebo Samuel 58th overall would be a heck of a haul for the Dallas Cowboys. In need of another playmaker in the passing game, the Cowboys could make immediate use of Samuel's talents in 2019, specifically as a slot receiver.
As has been mentioned ad nauseam, it seems unlikely that Cole Beasley will be returning to the team this season, which makes the need for a slot wide-out that much greater. Samuel has big play ability from the slot already, and has traits which project him to potentially work outside as well. If he tests well enough at the combine, reps on the outside could very well be in his future.
Samuel should be on every Cowboys fans' shortlist of draft targets in the second round this year.
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