2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Safeties

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

In football, safeties are literally and figuratively the last line of defense, sometimes the only things between opposing offenses and the end zone. More and more, safeties are asked to be Jacks of All Trades, capable of playing against the run or the pass, and to see the entire field play out in front of them. This requires people playing the position to be smart, instinctive and to have the ability to be versatile in what they do. This year’s class of safeties is certainly no different, with many players who have experience at multiple positions, or in multiple schemes.

1. Nate Andrews, Florida State – Perhaps the surest tackler of any safety in the country, Andrews is a tough, physical player that plays all over the field. He isn’t the biggest (5’11”, 210 pounds) or fastest (4.52 40) player you’re going to find, but with his intelligence, instincts and nose for the football, he doesn’t have to be.

Photo Credit: Florida State Athletics

Photo Credit: Florida State Athletics

One of Florida State’s top leaders, he leads by example and is, arguably, the hardest worker on the team. His teammates love his attitude, and they play hard for him. That type of leadership, especially at a young age, is very attractive to NFL front offices, who are often dealing with “me first” types of players. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Cornerbacks

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

Thanks to Richard Sherman’s boisterous ways, the cornerback position has become a more attention-getting area of football. Teams are looking for these players that can shut down entire halves of the field at their best, changing game plans of opposing offenses and forcing them to look elsewhere. It’s an important position, with high risks and high rewards, and it takes a special type of player to be successful in this day and age of ultra athletic wide receivers running like gazelles all over the field. Leading the pack in the Class of 2016 is my pick for the best overall prospect, and as close to a “sure thing” as you’re going to find this year.

1. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida – If you’re looking for the prototypical “shutdown” CB, look no further than Hargreaves. He isn’t the tallest CB (5’11”) out there, but he plays much bigger than his height would indicate because of his physicality. He has no problem jamming WRs at the line of scrimmage, and doesn’t allow them to get the best of him as they move down the field. His body control and instincts are top level, and his closing speed helps to eliminate issues when the occasional mistake is made.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Photo Credit: USA Today

His aforementioned physical style of play is an added bonus against the run or against screen passes. He enjoys contact, and isn’t afraid of shedding blocks to lay a hit on a ball carrier. The stereotype of CBs, especially the stars, is that they shy away from contact. You don’t have that issue here, making him something of a dual threat as a defender. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Linebackers

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

As the game of football continues to evolve, the linebacker position continues changing with it. With different defensive fronts, hybrid schemes and better athletes comes a different direction for the position. You have LBs that are strictly on the field to provide a pass rush, and are basically players who were defensive ends, but are too light to play DE anymore. You have the “traditional” LBs, who stay in their spots and rack up the tackle stats, playing sideline-to-sideline. It seems like every team has a different fit, and therefore, a different set of ‘Backers to play with. This is another loaded position in the Draft, with plenty of names fighting it out for first-round spots.

1. Scooby Wright, ILB/OLB, Arizona – Wright isn’t someone that you would refer to as an elite level athlete. He runs a 4.65 40, which isn’t bad at all, but compared to the 4.4’s and 4.5’s that some LBs run, his number doesn’t jump out at you. What he doesn’t have in elite athleticism, he makes up for it with world class instincts and a motor that simply doesn’t stop. When you watch an Arizona game, you’d swear that Wright ends each of them with 20+ tackles. He’s around the football like he was playing on offense, whether it’s making tackles, stuffing the run, pressuring the quarterback, forcing fumbles, and so on. His 2014 numbers (163 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, six forced fumbles) are what your LBs would get if you fired up a season in NCAA Football on your PS3.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Photo Credit: USA Today

If there’s anything people can point to and say Wright needs to improve at it, it would be his pass coverage. Some would tell you it doesn’t matter much, though, because that isn’t what his game is. He can sometimes fall into a one-dimensional spell when it comes to his pass rush moves, but that is something that he can easily improve on, making him an even better prospect for 2016. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Defensive Line

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

The cornerstone of a great defense (some would say of an entire football team, in general) is a great defensive line. The pass rush that it creates makes life easier for the back end of the unit. Opposing running games would thrive in the open field without a great run defense at the line, clogging up holes. A good defensive lineman is often asked to do so many things these days, and the best ones do it with relative ease. The names on this list make great impacts on the games they play, whether it is being in a quarterback’s face every time they step back to throw the football, being ready to smash a running back before he can even get momentum built up, using his size advantage to affect a kicker’s attempts, or all of the above.

1. Joey Bosa, Defensive End, Ohio State – Many are calling Bosa the “next JJ Watt,” and for good reason. Bosa simply lives in opposing backfields, making life hell for anyone with a football in their hands. In his two seasons at OSU, he has a total of 99 tackles, 34.5 of them going for a loss, to go with 21 sacks and four forced fumbles… all while regularly being double-teamed or avoided altogether in the run game. Like Watt, Bosa plays with a great motor, always working hard and playing tough, no matter the score or situation.

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

At 6’6” and 275 pounds with a 4.7 40, Bosa is in the mold of the prototypical NFL defensive end. He has great strength, elite quickness, long arms, fast hands and he combines them with tremendous instincts to change games. As a pass rusher, he is multi-faceted, able to get to QBs whether he’s lined up on the inside or the outside. He sheds blocks as if they were set up by people half his size, doing so with a variety of different moves, meaning that opposing linemen have to be ready for any move at any time. Those moves also allow him to blow up holes and running room for RBs, closing up gaps as soon as they open. He is as close to unblockable as they come. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Offensive Line

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

Year in and year out, football teams of both the professional and collegiate variety produce star after star on offense, with quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and the occasional tight end getting all the publicity for making things happen. Almost without fail, though, the offensive linemen on those teams don’t get the recognition they deserve for what they do. Your team’s running game is the best around? Thank the “hog mollies” that are paving the way up front. Your team’s QB is putting up all kinds of big passing numbers? Thank his blockers for keeping him upright.

This year’s group of O-Line prospects features another group of stud tackles at the top, followed by depth at all three positions to round things out. NFL teams need to build their franchises around players like this, and there will be a couple more squads to have that opportunity next year.

1. Laremy Tunsil, Tackle, Ole Miss – A very athletic blocker with the ability to succeed in the running or passing games, Tunsil came into college as a heavily-recruited player, and has lived up to the hype. He’s super quick out of his stance when the ball is snapped, which allows him to take on speed rushers coming in off the edge, where that athleticism comes in handy and keeps him fighting.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Photo Credit: USA Today

In the run game, he uses his skill set to push holes open for his backs. Although he possesses a lot of strength, he doesn’t play in an offense that allows him to truly showcase it all the time. He isn’t what is considered a “road grader,” as he more finesses his way through run blocking, so he’ll have to show more of his power in 2015 if he wants to prove to NFL teams that he is the total package. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Tight Ends

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

When you look at the Class of 2016’s group of tight ends, you aren’t going to see anyone like a Rob Gronkowski or a Jimmy Graham, who can come in and become superstars immediately. What you will see is a group that is deep on those who can, and should, contribute immediately. You don’t need to catch 100 passes a year to be a successful NFL TE, and there could be a handful of players in college right now that will prove that in the future.

1. Hunter Henry, Arkansas – Some have referred to Henry as somewhat of a one-dimensional player, pointing at the fact that he doesn’t have eye-popping stats to back up their claims. What those people fail to realize is that Henry plays in a run-first offense, and has also had some very spotty quarterback play to deal with on top of that. He has caught a total of 65 passes since arriving at Arkansas two years ago, for a total of 922 yards and six touchdowns, so it isn’t like he’s just standing around, growing cobwebs.

Photo Credit: wholehogsports.com

Photo Credit: wholehogsports.com

In that run-first offense, Henry really shines, as he is a tremendous blocker. He’s strong off the snap and isn’t afraid to get in there and make room for his running backs. That’s a trait that NFL teams love to have in their TEs, but far more often than not, they merely have to settle on someone who “only” catches passes. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Wide Receivers

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

When you take a look at the group of wide receivers that lead the Class of 2016, one of the first things you notice is that there is no Amari Cooper here. There is no Sammy Watkins. There is no AJ Green. There isn’t a player that is a “sure thing” to dominate and do the same as a pro, without any sort of red flags, deserving or otherwise, popping up. It’s another deep class, with somewhere in the vicinity of 20 names being mentioned as people who could be drafted before the third round is over. There just isn’t that stud of the class to be head and shoulders above everyone else, which is actually a good thing. It means the names on this list will be in competition with each other all season long, jockeying for that top spot.

1. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh – In Boyd, Pitt has a player who has been successful in putting up numbers since the day he showed up on campus. In his first two seasons, he has a total of 163 receptions, totaling 2,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has the combination of size (6’2”, 200 pounds) and speed (has run a sub-4.4 40) that pro scouts drool over, and has the on-field intangibles that will transfer to the NFL. He works hard, is not afraid to play a physical game, is a very solid route runner and has a knack for making the clutch catch when his team needs him to.

Tyler-Boyd-Pittsburgh

Photo Credit: Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

The term “on-field intangibles” was used because of a DUI arrest that he had during the offseason. It will keep him out of the team’s season opener, but those closest to him and the program say it was a kid making a mistake, and not a troublemaker with poor decision making, as is the case with some college kids with arrests on their record. He has to stay out of trouble to even think about keeping the top WR spot on most teams’ draft boards, but if he can, he should succeed again in 2015. Pitt also returns their starting QB from last season, Chad Voytik, which should allow the duo to continue picking opposing secondaries apart. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Running Backs

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

The NFL seems to go back-and-forth between being a run-first league and a pass-first league seemingly every few seasons. For a little while, league offenses were all about the passing game, with record-breaking quarterbacks such as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady guiding their teams and taking them all the way. Things are beginning to shift again, as running backs are starting to become more important to a team’s success.

The NFL Draft Class of 2015 saw a loaded group of RBs, from Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon at the top, down to less talked-about gems like Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, David Johnson and Jay Ajayi. As of now, the Class of 2016 isn’t as strong at the top, but one could argue that it provides more depth and more chance to find those hidden diamonds in middle rounds. As I did with the QBs, I’ll be looking at the top RBs in this class, why they’re ranked so high and what they need to do to continue seeing their stock rise throughout the season.

1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State – The man came out of nowhere to become the best RB in the country last season, absolutely decimating defenses, especially at the end of the year, when he ran for a combined 696 yards and eight touchdowns in his final three games. None of those three defenses he shredded would be considered poor against the run. In fact, Alabama, who was the first of those teams, had a top 5 defense against the run all year, and they still saw Elliott run for a whopping 20 percent of the total rush yards (and two of the three rushing touchdowns) they gave up all season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Elliott possesses a rare blend of size (6’0”, 225 pounds) and speed (4.5 40), using both to wear defenses down. He isn’t afraid of contact, showing a penchant for taking defenders on directly and winning far more of those battles than he loses. He is at home between the tackles, but has shown that he can stretch to the outside for home run plays with ease. In the NFL, backs are often called on to catch passes out of the backfield or to block in the passing game, and those are both things Elliott excelled at last season. He is heads and shoulders above anyone else in this class, and is as complete a running back as there is in the country. [Read more…]

2016 NFL Draft Prospects: Quarterbacks

By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor

The 2016 NFL Draft is still 250+ days away, but as is always the case when it comes to the draft and the fanatics who follow it, there is no such thing as “too early” to look at the upcoming class. As part of an ongoing series, I will be going position-by-position and discussing the top draft prospects for 2016. Their strengths and weaknesses will be looked at, as well as their chances for their stock to rise or fall in the upcoming season, as there is plenty of time for things to change in the next eight months.
To get things started, we’ll be going to the very top and discussing the quarterback class, starting with the current top player at the position.

1. Connor Cook, Michigan State – When you look at what the “prototype” of an NFL QB would be in the eyes and minds of general managers around the league, Cook fits that description. He’s tall (6’4”), has a cannon for an arm, doesn’t turn the ball over a lot and is deceptively quick for someone who isn’t a Michael Vick-style burner at the position. As an added bonus, he is a solid leader for a team that will contend for a national championship this season, which will put him directly in the spotlight.

Photo Credit: MLive.com

Photo Credit: MLive.com

Cook’s one flaw is a lack of consistency. One play, you might see him connect on a deep pass into double coverage, with an opening the size of a microwave to get the ball into. Two plays later, you might see him overthrow a wide-open receiver that is a mere 10 yards downfield. If he can improve that issue, he has a very good chance to be the top QB taken in 2016. [Read more…]

Playing the Whole Town: A Waskom State Football Championship

By Bob Cole
PSDC Litigator

There is a t-shirt often seen at Waskom High School football that reads, “When you play us, you play the whole town.” This past Thursday, the Waskom Wildcats won their first ever Texas state championship in football; and the whole town of Waskom, plus 10,000 more, showed up at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to play.

Photo Credit: dallasnews.com

Photo Credit: dallasnews.com

Waskom, Texas is located on Interstate 20 just west of the Louisiana state line near Shreveport, Louisiana. Waskom High School has an enrollment of 255 students. That is roughly one-third the size of my high school graduating class in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Seven years ago, I responded to an ad in the local Marshall newspaper seeking writers for high school football. I was assigned to cover Waskom. There was a little adjustment period for me. Later I was offered the job of calling play-by-play for KMHT radio, and I was assigned to Waskom, too. [Read more…]

Here’s The Thing – Hey Cleveland: Winning. Cures. EVERYTHING. #WreckThisLeague

By Stephen Thomas
PSDC Funnyman and Brad Pitt Doppelgänger

I’m Stephen Thomas with Here’s The Thing.

Faithful listeners, I’d like to talk to you today about the NBA and NHL playoffs. I’d like to, but it seems my beloved Cleveland Browns are ALL OVER the headlines of the sports world and social media today, so I’ll be talking about them instead. Seriously, Cleveland hasn’t had this much national publicity since The Drew Carey Show was canceled and LeBron left town, and as usual the national media wants to ridicule every move they make. [Read more…]

Here’s The Thing – Johnny Manziel And No Pants Decisions

By Stephen Thomas
PSDC Funnyman and Brad Pitt Doppelgänger

I’m Stephen Thomas with Here’s The Thing.

The first round of the NFL Draft is in the books, and fan reaction is all over the place, from happy to sad to hung over to more hung over to REALLY hung over to naked and pantsless in public but then my wife came and got me so it’s OK. Anyway, we’re fans, so let’s overreact about actions whose consequences won’t be known for years. [Read more…]