2020 49ers Draft Review: Quality Over Quantity

The expectation was that the 49ers were going to be a team aggressive in trading down, gaining more picks than the six they had coming in. However, in typical draft fashion, things did not go how we all planned. They went better. Each move and selection came with a purpose and a plan. Here I talk about each pick and what each means to the franchise.

1.14- Javon Kinlaw: Identity

The 49ers loooooooove their defensive linemen and for the fifth time in six years, they drafted one in the first round by selecting Kinlaw. To be honest, I was upset at first thinking that there was a greater need at receiver and a duo of highly regarded receivers sitting atop the best players available. I felt that the team can’t simply replace a player like Buckner and a committee of Solomon Thomas, DJ Jones, Kevin Givens, Kentavius Street, and Julian Taylor can fill-in at three-technique. Then I quickly snapped back to reality and realized that Kinlaw has the upside and talent to be the next Buckner. Kinlaw is 6-5, 315 lbs, and a human wrecking ball that can blow up tackles and guards with pure power and quickness. While he won’t replicate Buckner’s production in year one or year two, he’s going to be a good player for years to come. Great teams build identities, the 49ers identity is having a strong defensive line which results in having a great defense. By drafting another young lineman that’ll put pressure on the quarterback, you’re ensuring that you’re committing to that identity. In the short-term he’ll start but not have to bear the weight of the line like Buckner did early in his career, but to just simply do his job, which is to provide interior pressure to force the quarterbacks to panic and to occupy blocks on runs. 

Also, what a trade by Lynch to gain a fourth-rounder to move back one spot. It would come in handy….

1.25- Brandon Aiyuk: Fit

It was no secret that the 49ers were going to target a receiver early and from a pure schematic point of view, Aiyuk may have been the best fit. Shanahan agreed as he said that Aiyuk was the #1 receiver on his board and doubled down by saying that the team considered drafting him at 13. So, the team got aggressive and decided to move up from 31 to 25 to draft the Arizona State product as they felt that he would not have been there at 31. Aiyuk isn’t the biggest receiver, but he has an insane wingspan (81 inches) and has fairly good speed (ran a 4.5 at the combine). He’s very similar to Deebo Samuel in the fact that they are explosive and are excellent in intermediate routes (slants and dig routes notably) and both are exceptional in the run after the catch. Aiyuk seems to have no fear over the middle and is afraid of contact, similar to Deebo and which is something that’s plagued Dante Pettis so far. He does struggle with beating press coverage, but do you know a way to beat that? Using pre-snap motion, which the 49ers implement on nearly 80% of their plays. Shanahan loves chess pieces that he can use to manipulate the opposing team’s defense to exploit their weaknesses and Aiyuk is certainly an intriguing one. 

Trade for Trent Williams, this years 5th and next years 3rd- Reloading

Highway Robbery. Another great trade by Lynch and company to send a 5th and next year’s third to pick up one of the best left tackles in the league. Even if Williams isn’t the elite tackle, which would not be a total surprise after not playing an entire season, I can’t see him being anything worse than a very good tackle. The 49ers lucked out that the Redskins are a poorly run organization and that Williams wanted to come out west, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. 

Trade Matt Breida to Dolphins for pick 153- The Future

Breida was a dang good back for the 49ers the past three seasons and should receive nothing but praise from the Niners faithful. An undrafted, undersized speedster immediately stepped in and was a good #2. However, with a 3.2 million cap hit this upcoming season and the emergence of Raheem Mostert, the need for Breida just wasn’t there anymore. Getting a 5th for him is good value.

5.153- Colton McKivitz- Versatility

Fans want every pick to be a home run and that every selection should be a pro bowler, but that’s not how things work. You need to find the players who are going to round out the roster and bring value in multiple aspects of the game. McKivitz may very well develop into a starter, but more likely than not he’s going to be a high-level starter. What he is going to be is a guy who can play all across the line and be exactly what a back-up offensive lineman should be. He’s a quick and athletic guy for his size which makes him a perfect fit for the 49ers offense. Laken Tomlinson and Daniel Brunskill figure to be the starting guards this upcoming season, but in case of injury or inconsistent play, then McKivitz will get his chance to play.  

Trade Marquise Goodwin, pick 210 for pick 190- Budgeting

This was the move that we all knew was coming. Goodwin had a great 2017 season, but injuries and drops moved him down the depth chart. Being the highest-paid receiver on the roster, it was time to move on to clear cap space for a future contract extension for Kittle. Moving up 20 picks was good, but getting rid of Goodwin’s contract was better.

6.190- Charlie Woerner- Physicality

Every team needs a player or two with a junkyard dog’s mentality. Willing to be physical and do the dirt work and not receive the notoriety for it. Last year a prime example of that was Levine Toilolo, the third tight end and blocking specialist who only had two receptions all season. However, he was vital in the running game and saw his playing time increase during the playoff run. Now that Toilolo’s with the New York Giants, the need for a blocking tight end is massive. Kittle is the best blocking tight end in the league, but also the best receiver on the team so he can’t be tasked to do one or the other. That’s where Woerner comes in. He’s not as big as Toilio and has a body type similar to Ross Dwelley, who isn’t known for his blocking but loves to get his nose dirty and deliver pancakes like he’s working at IHOP. Woerner won’t appear often in the box score, but his footprint on the team will be seen. 

7.217- Jauan Jennings- Toughness

A team at any level can’t be successful with a bunch of choir boys, you need a few guys who will bring the fight. Jennings ran a slow 40 time and had multiple disciplinary issues at Tennessee, but for a 7th round pick, he’s worth the risk. He adds a wrinkle to the 49ers offense that they were missing last year, a big-bodied receiver who can operate in the slot. While he’s not fast, he’s very good after the catch because he’s so strong which leads to him breaking tackles. Jalen Hurd is who the coaching staff and fanbase wants out there, but he’s been injured and is a question mark right now. The team did come out and say that Hurd is cleared, but nothing wrong with some insurance. If he can keep his head on straight, Jennings can make the team due to his value as a receiver and special teams ability. Deebo, Aiyuk, Bourne seem to be locks, Taylor and Bourne are if they can stay healthy, which leaves Pettis, James, Benjamin, and Jennings to fight for one or two spots. I’m willing to bet Jennings makes the team.

UDFA thoughts

There always seems to be at least one undrafted player that makes the team every year. The better that the team has gotten, the chances that these guys have to make the team go down, but there’s still a chance someone slides into the rotation. I would say there are four guys who have a chance to make the team at some point next season: RB’s JaMycal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed, DB DeMarkus Acy, and S Jared Mayden. Hasty is a smaller, stouter runner who isn’t a burner but hits the hole hard. Ahmed is a Breida clone, relatively skinny for a running back but has great speed. Acy is an athletic corner who needs a lot of work but has the upside and special teams to be in consideration for a spot. He’s battling Tim Harris, Dontae Johnson, Jason Verrett, and Teez Tabor for a roster spot. Finally, Jared Mayden, who started this past season for Alabama and has experience at every defensive back position. He’s best suited off at strong safety where he has to compete with Marcell Harris. Think former 49ers Adrian Colbert for this one. I do hope that Chris Finke aka The Slippery Fox makes the team. That’s just too good of a nickname. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBeDN1s4e1c

All in all, it was a very good draft for the 49ers, showing that quality is more important than quantity, especially when you are a team ready to win now. 

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NFL Film Breakdown: The Power of Devin Singletary

Devin Singletary, taken with the 74th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, one behind fellow running back David Montgomery averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry and 969 total yards. While his 4.3 yards per carry from shotgun were nothing to laugh at, his 5.8 yard average from under center really helped him steal away more carries as the year went on and edge out Frank Gore for more touches. Absolutely deadly in a power run game system and an incredibly tough and physical runner, Singletary did most of his damage between the tackles despite being only 5’7” and 203 lbs. Where he really struggled though, was in zone concepts and setting up and reading blocks. When he could follow a puller through the hole or get up on a linebacker, he could hit defenses for big chunks. However, when that didn’t happen he’d dance in the hole, had trouble reading open space blocks, and continually struggled to read zone scheme blocking.

Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary (26) Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 17, 2019. Photo by Craig Melvin

Singletary is one of the most abrupt and explosive slashing-style runners there is in the league and his ability to cut and accelerate is special. He almost never goes down on first contact and can accelerate away from defenders.

His ability to get north and south in a hurry and follow blocks allows him to punish linebackers and second level defenders with his physicality. Singletary’s power on smaller defenders is a recipe for success for both him and the Bills who run a ton of power schemes to take advantage of exactly that skill set. The Bills love to run this center and tackle pull out of 12 personnel as the two tight ends down-block and the tackle kicks out while the center pulls and wraps through the hole. This allows for their athletic center to get through the hole and lead block for Singletary.

They’ll also do a similar pin and pull wrap concept with the playside guard and center allowing for the same type of hole and concept to open up for Singletary.

When Singletary encounters zone blocking, though, he has a really tough time. He tends cut too soon or read the holes incorrectly, dance in the hole, and show a lack of patience and understanding of the flow of the defense. You can see below an outside zone concept where if Singletary pushes outside and stays with his fullback, he has a clear lane down the sideline, instead, he stops his feet and tries to cutback right into flowing defenders. On the second gif, it’s 3rd and 1 and he has a clear lane following the double team to the right and he tries to cut back, getting tackled and resulting in a 4th down.

When he does sift through the traffic, he can often dance and do too much in the open field when he has the physical tools to run over or run away from defenders. He’ll often try to make one more slashing cut or step back which gives defenders time to recover and make a play on him – which coincidentally lead to a number of his fumbles where defenders are tackling him from unexpected angles. Below he makes a great initial read and then immediately makes another cut which allows defenders to recover and make the tackle.

Often he’ll go outside of blocks when he should be going inside and vise-versa.

Singletary’s style is a juxtaposition. On one hand, he’s incredibly physical and can explode through the hole while searching for contact on the sidelines. On the other, he dances, reads blocks poorly, and looks to cut to avoid any contact in the open field. His burst, lateral cuts, and ability to run in a power-based offense saves him from his current struggles when running zone. Excessive cutting and indecisiveness is common in first year backs so it’s not the end of the world. If he can master zone scheme reads, he has the tools to be a really really good back in the league. If he can’t he may end up being a utility piece and a guy that is relatively limited in the scheme his team runs and the amount of touches he subsequently gets. Despite all this, he as the tools and still produced at an impressive clip while sharing the backfield in his rookie season. With more weapons for the Bills outside in Stefon Diggs, the box may get lighter for Singletary and he could begin to feast on smaller linebackers and defenders in the Bills’ power run game.

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2021 NFL Mock Draft

Is it too early to do a 2021 Mock? Yes. Did it stop me? No. I used the odds to win the Super Bowl to select the order of this example. So, if you think your team is being undervalued here…blame them, not me.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson

This is an easy one. Lawrence is the best prospect since Andrew Luck and will immediately turn around a franchise. I don’t believe Gardner Minshew is the long-term answer for the Jaguars and Lawrence gives them an identity and a star to build around. Here’s the interesting hypothetical: IF ownership decides to move the Jaguars to London (which is the rumor that I don’t agree with as Jacksonville has an extremely underrated fanbase), wouldn’t this be the time to do it? You have a possible superstar in a new market that potentially can help the popularity of the sport. 

  1. Washington Redskins- Justin Fields, QB Ohio State

If the Redskins are drafting this early, it means that Dwayne Haskins more than likely struggled again. As Ron Rivera did not draft Haskins, he could easily move on and find his own quarterback. Justin Fields, who oddly enough took over for Haskins as the Ohio State quarterback, has the makings of a franchise quarterback. Fields had a fantastic season for the Buckeyes, passing for 41 touchdowns and 3 interceptions and has good mobility that teams covet in quarterbacks now. He may not have the upside Lawrence has, but he’s going to be a high-level starter in this league for over a long time.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals- Penei Sewell, OT Oregon

Sewell might be one of the best tackle prospects of all time. Seriously, he’s that good. He’s a top-five lock and could go as high as the first overall selection if a team like the Bengals, who have their franchise quarterback, are drafting there. He won the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top offensive lineman, this past season and figures to win it again assuming he stays healthy. He has great size and athleticism that will help protect Burrow’s blindside and figures to be one of the best players, not just offensive lineman, very soon.

  1. Carolina Panthers- Trey Lance, QB North Dakota State

Trey Lance is the best player you’ve never heard of. He plays at 1-AA powerhouse North Dakota State (who also produced Carson Wentz) and as a redshirt freshman won the Walter Payton Award, which is essentially their version of the Heisman. His stat line was 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions and also rushed for over 1,000 yards. Absolutely unreal. He’s also 6-3, 220 lbs which shows that he has the desired size for the position. He might need a year to get up to speed, but the Panthers have Teddy Bridgewater. Let him start and Lance redshirt a season before taking over. Matt Rhule gets his quarterback to build this team into a contender. 

  1. New York Jets- Gregory Rosseau, EDGE Miami

The Jets need a pass rusher in a BIG way. Rosseau exploded onto the scene as a freshman with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 TFL’s on a Miami defense where he was the main focal point of opposing teams. At 6-6 250 lbs, he has an NFL ready body as a 20-year-old and has the athleticism to be a demon off the edge for years. The Jets currently have Jordan Jenkins and Jabari Zuniga as their starting edge defenders so this would not only be picking the best player available but fills a need too.

  1. New York Giants- Ja’Marr Chase, WR LSU

The 2020 NFL Draft receiving class was historically great, but  2021 may not be too far behind. The crown jewel of the class is Chase from LSU, who has 1780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns, which are video game numbers. It makes sense though as Chase is a create-a-player that you do in Madden. He has good size, elite athleticism, and can run every route in the book. If he was eligible in this past year’s class, he could have contended for WR #1 without question. The Giants do have two good receivers in Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, but they came with question marks. Shepard has never hit 900 yards in a season and has missed multiple games with various injuries. Golden Tate will be 32 at the start of this upcoming season and has an out in his contract that would make it easy to move on from. 

  1. Detroit Lions- Micah Parsons, LB Penn State

I’ll just assume that Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn won’t be back next season if they finish as poorly as their projection indicates which makes this pick that much tougher. However, looking at the current state of their roster they have a huge hole at linebacker. Enter Micah Parsons. Parsons is the heart and soul of the Penn State defense and is the perfect blend of a new-school hybrid linebacker in pass defense and old-school run stopper. He’s going to be a stud at the next level, so I don’t see a talent-deficient team like the Lions passing on a guy like Parsons. 

  1. Dolphins- Alex Leatherwood, OL Alabama

The Dolphins are quickly building a strong team, but there are still holes on the offensive line and a guy like Leatherwood is exactly what they need. He can play anywhere on the offensive line at a high-level and has experience at left tackle. He may not have the highest of ceilings compared to other prospects, but he’s going to be a good player for a long time. If he had come out in this year’s draft, I don’t see a scenario where he would have dropped out of the first round. Now that the Dolphins have their quarterback in Tua, it’s time to protect him with a former teammate of his. 

  1. Dolphins (via HOU)- Justyn Ross, WR Clemson

Oh hey look, the Dolphins have another year of multiple first-round picks. Man, this new regime of theirs is killing it. They acquired this pick from the Texans in the Tunsil trade. I mentioned earlier about protecting Tua, but now it’s time for them to get some weapons. Ross is very similarly built to former teammate Tee Higgins, very long and lean but is a much better athlete than Higgins is. He had an incredible freshman season and took a small step back in production as a sophomore as he was the target of many double teams. However, if he gains a little more weight this season then he’ll be able to play more physical and see an uptick in production once again. 

  1. Denver Broncos- Patrick Surtain II, CB Alabama 

Surtain II has been an immediate impact player at Alabama from the moment he stepped on campus. He has the size and athleticism desired for a cornerback in today’s NFL which make him being a first-round pick a very strong likelihood. The Broncos (whom I’m very high on this year and don’t think they’ll be picking in the top ten but I abide by the rules) did get rid of Chris Harris, Jr. but did pick up AJ Bouye to help balance that out. However, there’s still questions on the opposite corner position. Surtain II has the upside to be a top corner and the skill currently to be an immediate starter. Fangio may not value the corner position as much as other defensive coaches, but a talent like Surtain II is too tough to pass up. They have their pass rushers, now it’s time to beef up the secondary. 

  1.  Atlanta Falcons- Jevon Holland, S Oregon

The best way to describe Holland is to call him a chess piece. He has the talent to play corner, slot corner, or either safety spot but his best spot is at free safety and slot corner, which makes him very similar to Tyrann Mathieu in my opinion. He may not be the aggressive player Mathieu was in college, but he’s the type of player that no matter where you play him, he’ll be a high-level producer as proven by his nine career interceptions. The Falcons you think might not have a huge need at safety, but you have to look closely at it. Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal are free agents after the season and Ricardo Allen is a free agent after the 2021 season, thus leaving an opening at the safety position. They also could utilize Holland in the slot, but regardless he’s an immediate impact playmaker that the Falcons would love to utilize in a division as strong as the NFC South.

  1. Arizona Cardinals- Samuel Cosmi, OT Texas

The Cardinals improved in many ways in this year’s draft but I feel like they still need to build a stronger offensive line. They did draft Josh Jones, which is a good start but have questions at guard. They also seem to really like DJ Humphries, but I’m not a believer. Cosmi is a raw, but intriguing prospect. He’s athletic and big but needs to work on his technique. If he can figure that out this season, he’s a top-ten lock. If he doesn’t then I still think he’s a starter at tackle eventually but might need to kick inside to guard for a bit. I think the Cardinals will love his athletic ability and upside in protecting Kyler Murray. 

  1. Chicago Bears- Brock Purdy, QB Iowa State

Sorry Bears fan, Trubisky and Foles aren’t the answer at quarterback for you. The defense is legit, but the offense needs a major facelift and that starts at quarterback. Purdy has been starting since his freshman year and displays the accuracy and athleticism desired. He’s not the biggest quarterback and isn’t the most patient in the pocket, but he’s also on an Iowa State team that’s not filled with world-class players. I don’t think he has the upside of the previous quarterbacks drafted, but he’s safe and he’s going to be a damn good leader for any team that drafts him. I’d compare him to a poor man’s Russell Wilson, which is a compliment more than an insult.

  1. Oakland Raiders- Marvin Wilson, DL Florida State

Marvin Wilson had steadily improved his draft stock throughout the season and was getting first-round buzz when he decided to come back for his senior season. He’s a wrecking ball at defensive tackle who right now is more dominant in the run game but improved his pass rush over the course of the season which shows that the potential is there to be dominant. The Raiders have done a good job of rebuilding their roster of the past few seasons and have invested some picks at defensive tackle, but don’t have a truly dominant man in the middle of the line. Wilson changes that for them. 

  1. Cleveland Browns- Dylan Moses, LB Alabama

Moses was a top-ranked recruit coming to Alabama and was poised for a breakout season this past season before a torn ACL in the preseason derailed that. However, it was still a surprise that he came back for his senior season when it looked like he would have been selected in the top two rounds. He’s an athletic freak that while raw, could step in and play right away. The Browns at the moment have Mack Wilson, B.J Goodson, and Sione Takitaki as their starting linebackers, which isn’t going to cut it if they want to be a legit defense. Moses fits in perfectly as a three-down linebacker that becomes the leader of the defense. 

  1. Tennessee Titans- Rondale Moore, WR Purdue

Despite being injured most of the past season, Moore is quite possibly the most electrifying player in college football. He had 1400 yards from scrimmage as a freshman and it seemed like every time he touched the ball, a big play ensued. He’s a mismatch no matter where he lines up and would be deadly in any offense. For the Titans, they have a stud receiver in AJ Brown but don’t have too much behind him. Corey Davis has been a bust and Adam Humphries is an average receiver. Right now, their offense solely relies on Derrick Henry, who is only under contract for this season at the moment. It’s time for them to get some explosiveness and a big-play threat.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams)- Travis Etienne, RB Clemson

Etienne is the leading rusher in Clemson’s history and figured to be a shoo-in for this past year’s draft until he shocked everyone by announcing he’s coming back for his senior season. The ultra-productive back has run for 1600 yards in back to back seasons but really improved his ability to be a receiving threat this past season. He needs to continue to improve his catching ability and possibly add a little muscle to his frame. The Jaguars have shopped Fournette all offseason and seems unlikely to figure into their plans. With no strong back-up behind him, it’s time to pair your new quarterback, Lawrence in this case, with a college teammate who happens to be the best running back in the draft. 

  1. Minnesota Vikings- Jaylen Twyman, DL Pittsburgh

Jaylen Twyman, 6-2 290 lbs, 10.5 sacks as a sophomore. Aaron Donald, 6-0 285 lbs, 11 sacks as a sophomore. Both went to Pittsburgh. I’m not saying Twyman is going to be Donald, I don’t think anyone can. What I am saying is that Twyman is a pass rush force in the middle of the line and should certainly be a first-round pick despite not having the measurables. At some point, you have to ignore the look of a player and look at their production and skill. The Vikings need a pass rush threat at defensive tackle and Twyman is going to be a force, assuming he develops his all-around game.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers- Shaun Wade, CB Ohio State

The Chargers currently have Chris Harris Jr. and Casey Hayward at corner, but both are on the wrong side of 30. Desmond King, their nickel corner, has been up and down and is also a free agent. Shaun Wade, the newest top-flight corner to come from Ohio State would be a smart target for them. He was the third corner the past two seasons for the Buckeyes but figures to be the star in the secondary now. He was a draft-eligible sophomore this past year and would have been selected on Day 2, but decided to come back and probably made the right decision. He gets the chance now to shine as the top corner on an elite team, which will surely raise his game to a new level. 

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers- Najee Harris, RB Alabama

Harris was another top recruit to go to Alabama, wherein typical Alabama fashion, he has been a part of a running back committee in three seasons in Tuscaloosa. He’s a physical runner but has the nimble feet to fit into multiple offensive schemes. He broke out this year with 1200 yards rushing, but the most impressive part was 27 catches and he needs to continue to develop in that aspect of the game. The Steelers do have James Conner, the hometown hero, but he’s a free agent after the season and has had injury issues that have prevented him from ever playing a full season. Harris is the prototype for what the Steelers want, a gritty, physical player who has a high football IQ. 

  1. Indianapolis Colts- Paulson Adebo, CB Stanford

Adebo is a big-time corner prospect with eight career interceptions and has the physical tools to play in today’s NFL. He has some technical issues he needs to clean up, but that’s the reason he decided to stay in school for one more year. The Colts are a team without many weaknesses honestly. Quarterback seems to be the biggest one, but there’s no one at this spot that I think would be ready to start right away. One position that could use an upgrade, however, is cornerback. Rock-Ya Sin and Kenny Moore are two promising players, but besides that there are questions. They signed Xavier Rhodes who looked horrible last year and TJ Carrie has never been able to be a consistent producer. Slide Moore into the slot and let Adebo battle outside. 

  1. New England Patriots- Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR USC

St. Brown was supposed to be the next great USC player and become one of the best players in the school’s history. While he’s been good so far, he hasn’t reached that level yet in his play. While poor coaching and inconsistent quarterback play hasn’t helped him, he has tremendous talent and upside that will make him a good receiver at the next level. The Patriots may or may not be in a rebuild and are the toughest team to predict for next season. Assuming Stidham is their quarterback, they need more weapons. N’Keal Harry is unproven, Mohammed Sanu made no impact last year and Edelman may be the next Patriots great to move on. They need a game-changer like St. Brown to bring that spark to the offense. 

  1. Buffalo Bills- Hamilclar Rasheed, EDGE Oregon State

Another stud that most fans have never heard of. Rasheed was one of the best pass rushers in college football this past season but is a tad bit undersized to play the edge right now. He needs to gain about twenty pounds or be with a smart defensive-minded coach who will use him in creative ways. That’s where Sean McDermott shines. One of the best coaches in the league, he could use Rasheed as a SAM linebacker in base downs and on the edge on passing downs or commit to him being a full-time edge player if he has him gain some muscle, similar to how Lorenzo Alexander was used but Rasheed has bigger upside than him. Bills currently have Trent Murphy, Jerry Hughes, and Mario Addison but all are aging and/or getting towards the end of their contracts

  1. Green Bay Packers- Devonta Smith, WR Alabama

The Packer inexplicably passed on a receiver this draft. Either they have more faith in their receivers than everyone else does or believe that Rodgers can elevate the talent around him. Both might be true, but they need to add a receiver or two. They should target a guy like DeVonta Smith, a speed demon who was Alabama’s most statistically accomplished receiver this past season. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops without Jeudy or Ruggs, but it’s safe to say he will still be a big-time player.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles- Carlos Basham Jr, EDGE Wake Forest 

One of the reasons the Eagles won a championship in 2018 was due to their pass rush and looking at their pass rush now, it’s still good but not elite. Derek Barnett has been good, not great, Josh Sweat is still developing, and Brandon Graham is 32. Time for some fresh blood and Basham Jr. could provide that. He’s a well-rounded defensive end who had double-digit sacks this past season and is stout in the run game despite being the focal point on defense. He may never become a superstar but should be a strong starter for years to come. 

  1. Seattle Seahawks- Walker Little, OT Stanford

Little had the hype of an early draft pick coming into this past season, but an injury ruined any chance of that happening. So, he decided to come back for one more season to try and reclaim his draft value, and depending on how he responds to the injury, he could just do that. The Seahawks need offensive line help badly and Little would be a rock at left or right tackle and possibly even guard if they do need him to slide inside. 

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Chubba Hubbard, RB Oklahoma State

He might have the best name in college football and also might be the missing piece for the Buccaneers offense. They have Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, but neither are legit three-down backs. Hubbard ran for over 2000 yards this past season and also caught 24 passes. He may have some wear and tear on his body, but he’s ready to take on a large workload early.

  1. Dallas Cowboys- Pat Freiermuth, TE Penn State

The Cowboys offense is absolutely stacked now with skill players. The one weak spot, tight end. They inexplicably brought back Jason Witten which stunted the development of other tight ends on the roster but I think regardless that they don’t have the upside of Freiermuth. He’s in the Gronk mold of a dominant run blocker and displays soft hands with surprising athleticism. He’s an asset in both the run and pass game. 

  1. New Orleans Saints- Rashod Bateman, WR Minnesota

College football fans probably thought that Tyler Johnson was the best Gopher’s receiver this past year. They would be wrong, the best was Rashod Bateman. Bateman is a strong route runner, especially for his age, and has good size to become a possession target. The Saints did acquire Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, but he’s 33 and not a long-term option. 

  1. San Francisco 49ers- Israel Mukuamu, CB South Carolina

The 49ers were exposed in the Super Bowl at cornerback and still didn’t address it this offseason. Sherman, Witherspoon, and Williams are also all free agents after the season so it appears the biggest hole on the team will be at cornerback. Israel Mukuamu is a massive corner standing at 6-4 and while he’s more athlete than football player currently, based on his raw skill he would be able to see some playing time early. The 49ers covet long corners who will excel in cover 3. Also, the 49ers have drafted Gamecocks early the past two drafts so have surely kept their eye on Mukuamu. 

  1. Baltimore Ravens- Creed Humphrey, OL Oklahoma

The Ravens were by far the hardest team to find a weakness in. They are deep on both sides of the ball, but if there’s one spot where you can look to improve, it would be in the interior offensive line. Matt Skura is a free agent at center and Ben Bredeson, a rookie, figures to be one of the leaders to start at guard. Humphrey plays center at OU and that’s his best position at the next level. He can play guard in a pinch so would provide much-needed versatility to an explosive Ravens offense. 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs- Wyatt Davis, OL Ohio State

For a Super Bowl champion, the Chiefs have surprisingly several holes on the roster. Fortunately, they have the best player in football who covers up all of them. As he gets close to signing a mega-deal, you have to make sure to protect your expensive franchise player. By building up the offensive line, they keep Mahomes clean and on the field. Davis is a mauler who will be a solid starter for a decade. He doesn’t have crazy upside, but he’s a plug and play starter at either guard spot.  

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2020 NFL Draft Round One Winners/Losers

Nothing makes you feel better than your team knocking it out of the park with a possible cornerstone franchise player in the first round. On the flip side, nothing will make you want to throw your chair across the room that reaching for a guy that Mel Kiper has a third-round grade on. Here are who we think are the winners and losers of the 2020 first round:

WINNERS

Broncos

They were able to get Jerry Jeudy, arguably the top receiver in this class, without having to move up from 15 after weeks of rumors that they were trying to do so. Jeudy steps in and becomes the starter next to Courtland Sutton, giving Drew Lock a few weapons to play with now. Watch out AFC, the Broncos have arrived.

Browns

The Browns actually made the right pick? Is this the Twilight Zone? No it’s not and it seems that the new front office has it figure out. They knew their weakness was at the offensive line and drafted Jedrick Wills, a tackle with tons of experience against elite competition. No excuses for Baker Mayfield now.

Cowboys

How ’bout them Cowboys?!?!?! By selecting CeeDee Lamb, they now have the leagues best wide receiving group and could have the best offense too. They are set up nicely for the future and while they still have needs on the defensive side of the ball, if you’re going to score 40 points a game you might not need much defense to win games.

Vikings

After the loss of Stefon Digs, the Vikings had a massive hole at receiver. So they got the silky-smooth Justin Jefferson. Last season, one of their biggest weaknesses was corner. So, they got the Jeff Gladney, an alpha male, while also trading back a few slots. This was the perfect combination of getting the best player available while also addressing a need. Vikings look primed for another playoff appearance.

America

We finally got some sports during these terrible times. Thank you NFL for doing this event and making us forget what’s going on for a few hours.

LOSERS

Seahawks

They got Jordyn Brooks which 1) did not address a pressing need 2) puts him at the same position as their best defender, Bobby Wagner 3) they could have easily traded down and got him in the second. Knowing the Seahawks, Brooks will be a solid player but this one is a head-scratcher to me.

Eagles

Jalen Reagor isn’t a scrub, the man should become a starter sooner rather than later. They are losers in this because their rival, the Dallas Cowboys, got a stud receiver just four picks ahead of them. Eagles had the draft picks to move up ahead of the Cowboys to pick CeeDee Lamb and decided not too. Now they have to face him twice a year.

Packers

For Jordan Love’s sake, this was a great fit. For the Packer’s short-term, this was a terrible fit. They are in win-now mode and should build around Rodgers, not get his replacement. Rodgers also isn’t the ideal mentor and there will surely be conflict between Love and Rodgers. Get your popcorn ready, fireworks will be happening in Green Bay.

Raiders

The Raiders always make a head-scratching pick every season. They drafted Henry Ruggs at twelve, which to some is a slight reach due to the other receivers that were still on the board, but he should be a productive player early. However, it was their second selection of the first in Damon Arnette that’s a surprise. Arnette is a late-second at best prospect and will struggle early. Mahomes is going to continue to torch this defense.

Falcons

It was no secret that the Falcons wanted a corner and their were rumors of them trying to move into the top-ten for CJ Henderson. That didn’t happen so they drafted a borderline first-rounder at 16. Wait, what? Yes, they could have drafted down and gotten more picks while drafting AJ Terrell, or a player of similar or better quality, later in the draft. This does not help them this season, when head coach Dan Quinn is on the hot seat and in need of a playoff appearance.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

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2020 Second Round Mock

A little second round mock to get you ready for another day of the NFL Draft! Just a reminder, I’m not intentionally trying to screw over your team. Enjoy!

33. Bengals- Josh Jones, Houston OT

34. Colts- Denzel Mims, Baylor WR

35. Lions- Marlon Davidson, Auburn DL

36. Giants- Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State EDGE

37. Patriots- AJ Epenesa, Iowa DL

38. Panthers- Kristian Fulton, LSU CB

39. Dolphins- D’Andre Swift, Georgia RB

40. Texans- Trevon Diggs, Alabama CB

41. Browns- Xavier McKinney, Alabama S

42. Jaguars- Tee Higgins, Clemson WR

43. Bears- Chase Claypool, Notre Dame WR

44. Colts- Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma QB

45. Buccaneers- Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB

46. Broncos- Ezra Cleveland, Boise State OT

47. Falcons- Zack Braun, Wisconsin LB

48. Jets- Robert Hunt, Lousiana OL

49. Steelers- Michael Pittman, Jr., USC WR

50. Bears- Grant Delpit, LSU S

51. Cowboys- Jaylon Johnson, Utah CB

52.Rams- Lucas Niang, TCU OT

53. Eagles- Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois S

54. Bills- JK Dobbins, Ohio State RB

55. Ravens- Julian Okwara, Notre Dame EDGE

56. Dolphins- Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU OL

57. Rams- Curtis Weaver, Boise State EDGE

58. Vikings- Ross Blacklock, TCU DL

59. Seahawks- Terrell Lewis, Alabama EDGE

60. Ravens- Jonah Jackson, Ohio State OL

61. Titans- Justin Madubuike, Texam A&M DL

62- Packers- KJ Hamler, Penn State WR

63- Chiefs- Amik Robertson, Lousiana Tech CB

64- Seahawks- Raekwon Davis, Alabama DL

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Aaron Jones Might Be the Best Zone Runner in Football

With a 5.0 yard per carry career average, his first 1,000 yard rushing season, and 23 total touchdowns in 2019, Aaron Jones has officially arrived on the scene. A 5th round pick out of Texas-El Paso, Aaron Jones has been an absolute steal for the Green Bay Packers. Matt LaFleur’s offense is the perfect fit for Jones’ running style with his ability to read zone blocking, get vertical quickly, and squeeze through holes you can barely even see. While he won’t exactly run anyone over and isn’t the biggest back at 5’9” and 208 lbs, his ability to bounce off of direct contact and twist to fall forward allows him to play between the tackles and be a workhorse back. His ability to find yards where there aren’t any, manipulate linebackers by pressing the line, and his speed to get outside all combine to make him one of if not the best zone runner in football.

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones runs for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

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When you watch Aaron Jones run, he doesn’t cut — he bends. It might not look sudden and explosive but it allows him to maintain speed and hit creases without slowing down. Here the Packers are running split flow zone with Jimmy Graham, the wing coming across to kick out Nick Bosa #97. We’ve covered a lot of this split flow and outside zone blocking scheme in our posts on Josh Jacobs and Raheem Mostert. The general concept though is for the running back to press playside with the goal to get outside the defensive end and onto the perimeter. If the defense walls off the outside, as they do in the play below, the running back sequentially looks one gap inside until there is a crease that they can take. If you have aggressive linebackers and a patient running back, linebackers can over pursue and leave cutback lanes open on the backside of the play. Normally the backside defensive end is left unblocked so the split flow or crunch for the H back or wing attacks that player and prevents them from pursuing down the line. Teams will sometimes fake the split flow crunch and have the tight end or H back go out into a route off of play-action to really make the defensive end think.

This zone scheme gives the ability for running backs with good vision to exploit over-pursuit of the defense and allows for holes to open up even if a lineman gets beat quickly. You can see here even though the defensive tackle #95 immediately wins against the Packers’ guard, Aaron Jones is able to cut-back and has enough speed to get the edge and get around the linebackers that had already started to fill.

You can see the sequential reading Aaron Jones does play after play on outside zone. He is incredibly efficient and fluid going from gap to gap and being able to find yards even against superior fronts and defenses.

Combine his vision with his ability to bend instead of making hard stop and start cuts and he’s able to hit holes at full speed which maximizes his ability to take advantage of defenders that are out of position.

He doesn’t have to be flowing outside to be effective though. He won’t run anyone over but his size allows him to squeeze and wiggle through holes that not a lot of backs are able to. One of the most impressive things about him is that you can see how tight he gets to his blocks, often rubbing right off of them to avoid direct contact and squeeze out extra yards.

Ideally you’re not asking him to run people over but he is more than willing to take contact and if you don’t wrap Jones up, he has really good balance and an uncanny ability to fall forwards.

You’re also going to get plays like the one below though. If defenders get hands on him, it’s tough for him to break through despite his leg churn and balance.

Jones is the perfect back for a zone system and as LaFleur expands his offense in Green Bay, I’d only expect to see an even greater impact from Aaron Jones. Throw in that it is his 4th year and contract year with the Packers and he could be in store for a dominant 2020 campaign. His explosiveness through the hole, ability to squeeze through small spaces, understanding of how to set up linebackers, speed on the edge, and exceptional vision make him perhaps the best zone running back in the NFL.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

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2020 Final Big Board

The final big board is here!!! After months of studying film, here is the top 100 players in this years draft. Whether you love it or hate it, I appreciate the support as always!

  1. Chase Young, Ohio State EDGE
  2. Joe Burrow, LSU QB
  3. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB
  4. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama WR
  5. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson LB
  6. Jeff Okudah, Ohio State CB
  7. Tristian Wirfs, Iowa OT
  8. Derrick Brown, Auburn DL
  9. Jedrick Wills, Alabama OT
  10. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma WR
  11. Mekhi Becton, Louisville OT
  12. Henry Ruggs, Alabama WR
  13. Andrew Thomas, Georgia OT
  14. K’Lauvon Chaisson, LSU EDGE
  15. Antoine Winfield, Jr., Minnesota S
  16. Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State EDGE
  17. Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina DL
  18. CJ Henderson, Florida CB
  19. Xavier McKinney, Alabama S
  20. Justin Herbert, Oregon QB
  21. Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn CB
  22. Cesar Ruiz, Michigan IOL
  23. Justin Jefferson, LSU WR
  24. AJ Epenesa, Iowa DL
  25. Grant Delpit, LSU S
  26. Jordan Love, Utah State QB
  27. KJ Hamler, Penn State WR
  28. JK Dobbins, Ohio State RB
  29. Tee Higgins, Clemson WR
  30. Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma LB
  31. D’Andre Swift, Georgia RB
  32. Patrick Queen, LSU LB
  33. Laviska Shenault, Colorado WR
  34. Bryce Hall, Virginia CB
  35. Ross Blacklock, TCU DL
  36. Kristian Fulton, LSU CB
  37. Jeff Gladney, TCU CB
  38. Denzel Mims, Baylor WR
  39. Trevon Diggs, Alabama CB
  40. Cole Kmet, Notre Dame TE
  41. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB
  42. Malik Harrison, Ohio State LB
  43. Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M DL
  44. AJ Terrell, Clemson CB
  45. Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State WR
  46. Jake Fromm, Georgia QB
  47. Marlon Davidson, Auburn DL
  48. Brycen Hopkins, Purdue TE
  49. Jalen Raegor, TCU WR
  50. Raekwon Davis, Alabama DL
  51. Chase Claypool, Notre Dame WR
  52. Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois S
  53. Austin Jackson, USC OT
  54. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU RB
  55. Michael Pittman, USC WR
  56. Curtis Weaver, Boise State EDGE
  57. Damon Arnette, Ohio State CB
  58. Jacob Eason, Washington QB
  59. Josh Jones, Houston OT
  60. Jaylon Johnson, Utah CB
  61. Zack Braun, Wisconsin EDGE
  62. Adam Trautman, Dayton TE
  63. Jonah Jackson, Ohio State IOL
  64. Julian Okwara, Notre Dame EDGE
  65. Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne S
  66. Devin Asiasi, UCLA TE
  67. Davon Hamilton, Ohio State DL
  68. Lynn Bowden, Jr., Kentucky WR
  69. Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma DL
  70. Isaiah Wilson, Georgia OT
  71. Terrell Lewis, Alabama EDGE
  72. Troy Dye, Oregon LB
  73. Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech LB
  74. Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin C
  75. Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU IOL
  76. Matt Hennessy, Temple IOL
  77. Van Jefferson, Florida WR
  78. Robert Hunt, Louisiana IOL
  79. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma QB
  80. Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State CB
  81. Ben Bartch, St. John’s IOL
  82. Ezra Cleveland, Boise State OT
  83. Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State RB
  84. Thaddeus Moss, LSU TE
  85. Zack Moss, Utah RB
  86. Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas OT
  87. Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn OT
  88. Bryan Edwards, South Carolina WR
  89. Jonathan Greenard, Florida EDGE
  90. Ashytn Davis, Cal S
  91. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan WR
  92. Collin Johnson, Texas WR
  93. K’Von Wallace, Clemson S
  94. Nick Harris, Washington IOL
  95. Eno Benjamin, Arizona State RB
  96. Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State LB
  97. Darrell Taylor, Tennessee EDGE
  98. Michael Ojemudia, Iowa CB
  99. Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State WR
  100. Jordan Elliot, Missouri DL

Instead of including a highlight or two for every prospect, I’d thought I’d share some of the best game tape I saw in some of this years prospects. Don’t watch highlight compilation to judge a prospect, find a way to watch an entire game!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDEilANMT-E

49ers Seven-Round Mock Draft

As a lifelong 49ers, I had to do a full seven-round mock for the team. I used the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator (which is fantastic by the way) to make this as realistic as possible. BANG BANG NINER GANG! #Questforsix

Round 1, pick 13- Henry Ruggs, WR Alabama

The 49ers desperately need another receiver to complement Deebo Samuel and Ruggs is the perfect fit for Shanahan’s offense. He’ll step in right away and become what Marquise Goodwin was to the offense in 2017 when he became Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target. Ruggs has blazing 4.2 speed but isn’t just a deep threat as he only had one drop this past season and is as sure-handed as it gets. He’ll become a RAC star, which is tailor-made for the 49ers offense that wants to get the ball to its playmakers in open space. Jerry Jeudy would also be a great fit here, but I fully expect him to be gone at 13. CeeDee Lamb might be ranked higher on most boards, but I just see Shanahan falling in love with a player like Ruggs who will give a new wrinkle to the offense. 

Round 1, pick 31- Trade to the Jets for pick 48 and 68

Trade Alert! The 49ers move out of this pick and get a second and third-rounder from the Jets who will look to grab an offensive tackle at the end of the first round. The 49ers also throw in their last pick (245 overall) in the trade.

Round 2, pick 48- Raekwon Davis, DT Alabama

As the 49ers lose a mammoth defensive tackle in DeForest Buckner, they gain a new one in Raekwon Davis. Davis is a versatile player who can line up at a few spots in the defense but his primary position will be playing the three-technique, which is where Buckner played. His best season came as a sophomore and had a lot of first-round hype, but failed to put up equivalent stats the past two seasons. He’s a good athlete for his size and his best quality is occupying blocks which will help free up the other studs on their defense. He might not be an immediate starter, as the team can roll with Solomon Thomas at first and give him his final chance to produce. If that experiment fails again, Davis will be ready to contribute 20-25 snaps a game and provide value in the run and pass rush. It was a close call between Davis, Justin Madubuike, and Ross Blacklock (who all would play the same role in this defense) but there are reports that the 49ers have shown strong interest in Davis which might mean nothing, but I’m willing to bet in a strange draft like this that it means a lot.

Round 3, pick 68-Bryce Hall, CB Virginia

To me, this would be a match made in heaven. Hall is a high-character, high-IQ, natural leader that will be able to take over the reins for Sherman once he moves on and will push for playing time right away with Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon. Would have been a late first-round pick most likely a season ago, he decided to stay for his senior year and missed most of the season due to an ankle injury. He has good size and strength and excelled in cover three, which just happens to be what the 49ers run a lot. He’ll struggle initially in man due to lack of speed and agility, but with the right coaching will be able to develop into an all-around solid corner. He reminds me so much of Richard Sherman, without the alpha-male swagger but is a leader of men that teammates will love and respect. I personally think he’s good enough to start right away, but even if he doesn’t he will be a starter in year two. 

Round 4, pick 145 (from Eagles for Brieda)- Hakeem Adeniji, OL Kansas

Trade Alert! The 49ers trade Matt Breida to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round pick (145). The running back room is getting pretty crowded and Breida is the second most expensive one now who doesn’t have the versatility to match his payday. Also, he’s a free agent after the season and looks pretty unlikely that he will resign. Time to get some value for him.

Adeniji is a good athlete but needs to get stronger to play at the next level. Played left tackle all four years at Kansas, but might be asked to play guard which offers him positional versatility that Shanahan covets in all his players. Due to his athleticism and IQ, he would fit best in a zone-blocking scheme where he can pull and get out in space. While he’s not ready at all to play right now, but essentially use a redshirt year for him to get stronger and refine some technique and he could be a starter at tackle or guard in a few years. 

Round 5, pick 156- Nick Harris, C Washington

With a serious injury to Weston Richburg and releasing Mike Person, the 49ers depth at center and guard is suspect to say the least. Harris is undersized but is an athletic center prospect who fits best in an outside zone scheme. He will get beat against the bull rush, but when he’s able to pull or get to the second level he becomes a human wrecking ball. Richburg could be ready week one but has had relatively serious injuries the past three seasons and can’t count on him long-term. Harris will be able to step in at a moment’s notice at center, but can also fill in at guard. With Ben Garland being a replacement-level player, it would be wise to look at the long-term for interior linemen possibilities. 

Round 5, pick 176- Antoine Brooks Jr, S Maryland

Brooks Jr. has a lot of qualities in common with current safety Jaquaski Tartt, who’s a free agent after the season. Both are strong tacklers who have no problem laying the wood and both are also good at defending in shallow areas where tight ends tend to operate. However, Brooks Jr. struggles in deep coverage due to his lack of speed. I’m not overly worried about that as the 49ers usually run a cover 3 and have a free safety play deep center field. Brooks Jr. needs to continue to develop a better feel in the passing game, but is the aggressive tackler needed for a strong safety. He’s an immediate upgrade over Marcel Harris who can’t defend a rolling chair in coverage, so it would be wise to look at the future of strong safety if they’re unable to lock up Tartt long-term. 

Round 6, pick 210- Jared Pinkney, TE Vanderbilt

All offseason the 49ers have been attached to different free-agent tight ends. From Austin Hooper to Jordan Reed, the team is in the market for a player who can give Kittle a rest more often. Ross Dwelly is a nice player but after losing Levine Toiolo to the Giants and the only other tight end on the roster is Daniel Helm. Pinkney has the tools to be a good player, but had a poor season and combine that plummeted his stock. He has good hands and is a solid blocker, but lacks the speed or quickness to beat coverage in man. However, in year one he can be utilized as a blocker and eventually develop into a solid #2 tight end. At the point in the draft, it’s worth taking a risk on a player who will provide value early in his career. 

Round 7, pick 217- Stanford Samuels III, CB Florida State

The 49ers need to build corner depth with Sherman, Williams, and Witherspoon all being unrestricted free agents after the season. It’s unlikely that the team brings all of them back and there’s not much proven depth behind them at the moment. Samuels III is an athletic specimen who needs time to develop the technique needed to play in the league. Stash him on the practice squad for a year and then give him a chance to compete for a role in the future. 

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NFL Film Breakdown: Terry McLaurin – The Rookie Receiver with the Least Acclaim but the Most Pop

Terry McLaurin, taken in the 3rd round by the Washington Redskins, may end up being the best of the 2019 receiver class. He had the second highest PFF rookie receiver rating all time at 86.5 behind only Odell Beckham. Over his 14 games, McLaurin’s 919 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns trailed only AJ Brown out of the 2019 rookie receivers. In watching his film, he looks incredibly fluid and his cuts and ability to snap off routes looks effortless. He transitions incredibly well and his change of direction is deceptively explosive. He may have ranked behind OBJ’s rookie year, but his big play ability and running style looks shockingly similar. Let’s take a look at how Terry McLaurin accounted for 32.7% of Washington’s total passing yards in his rookie season and see where he needs to improve for a 2020 campaign with new head coach Ron Rivera.

MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The first thing that jumped out on film was the smoothness of his cuts. He runs speed cuts on digs and sails incredibly well and can also snap off fades and posts into curls and comebacks with suddenness and with the ability to create space. He can throttle down very quickly without demonstrably changing his stride length right before so it’s difficult for the DB to key his hips for the break. You can see in both gifs the amount of separation he gets as he speed cuts (rounding at the route at the top instead of a hard plant and flat cut) on the dig in the first gif and comes to a post sit on the second.

While he does create separation off these cuts, sometimes he doesn’t attack the ball and allows the defensive back to make up ground and impact the play. It doesn’t happen super often, but you’d love to see him working back towards the ball and attacking it in the air.

Because of his surprisingly long stride length, he can get up on defenders faster than they expect. He uses this to his advantage when stemming his routes towards the defender’s wrong shoulder before planting and getting into his route. Numerous times he forces safeties and corners to turn their hips right before planting and creating tons of space for himself.

Combine all these physical tools and understanding of how to manipulate defensive backs and you have a pretty complete receiver on your hands. He shows the ability to beat defenders quickly and then stack on top of them to really create separation for himself. By stacking back onto his route stem, the defender is now in a trail position and can easily be manipulated with shoulder and head nods before the cut. You can see two examples of just that below.

While he progressively became more willing to catch the ball in traffic and attack the ball in the air through the season, he isn’t the most physical receiver. At times he got easily washed off his mark. It’s important to fight to stay on the line of your stem because the further you get washed to the sideline or to safety help in the middle of the field, the harder the throw and catch is going to be.

The talent is absolutely there for McLaurin. There’s not a lot of receivers that can make the play like the one below reaching back for a one handed catch running full speed.

However, there is one area of concern that consistently cropped up on the film. His effort was pretty abysmal in the blocking game and when the play didn’t directly involve him. As soon as the ball is out and not going to him, he’s done and there’s no effort to block for his teammates or stay involved in the play even when the ball carrier is running right at him.

If it was one play that’d be fine, but it’s multiple and spanning through many games in the season.

Is it the worst thing in the world for your rookie receiver to lack effort in the blocking game? Of course not. If you’re Washington though, you’d hope that he and Haskins are the faces of your franchise for years to come and tone setters for the offense. I think a culture shift like one that Ron Rivera will bring could get McLaurin to buy in in the run game and make him a problem for defenders to deal with every snap that he’s on the field for. Whether he’s blocking, running a clear out, or catching a slant and taking it to the house, you need effort and intensity from your best players to build a winning culture.

There’s a lot to love about Terry McLaurin. The talent is clearly there to be a top level receiver in the NFL. From his ability to stretch the field, change direction, and the fluidity and understanding of route techniques, he can be a difficult task for any defender. As he polishes some of his techniques like working back to the ball and being more physical during his routes, he can open up the Washington offense. Considering the Redskins only had 2,812 passing yards last year, there’s only room for him to grow statistically. He’s flying under the radar for now, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him putting up 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns next year as he helps keep the Redskins competitive in a relatively weak NFC East.

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2020 NFL Draft Gambling Guide

The draft is one of the few events that degenerate gamblers like myself are going to be able to bet on in the month of April, which makes it that much more exciting. All lines were provided by Bovada on 4/12/20. Please gamble responsibly.

O/U 5.5 receivers in the first round- under (+190)

Because of it being such a deep wide receiver class, teams might look into grabbing a receiver in the second or third round and get close to equal value to a first-round receiver. There are four locks: Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs, and Justin Jefferson. After that, it’s a crapshoot and at +180 the odds are too good to pass up. 

O/U total SEC players in round one (15.5)- under (-130) 

While former SEC players will hear their name early and often in the first round, I don’t see it getting to sixteen. Players like LSU’s Grant Delpit and Alabama’s Xavier McKinney’s stock has been dropping the past few weeks and now they look more likely to be drafted in the second. Based on my calculations, the SEC will come in at fifteen, right below for the under to hit.

O/U OL in the first round (6.5)- over (-115)

There’s a lot of good offensive linemen in this year’s draft and in a league where protecting the quarterback is at a premium, the demand for the big fellas will be high. We’ll see four prospects in the top half (Wirfs, Wills, Becton, and Thomas) and likely see center Cesar Ruiz drafted by 25. Then, in the group of Austin Jackson, Ezra Cleveland, Josh Jones, Isaiah Wilson, I’m fairly confident at least two of them will sneak into the end of the first round. Because of that, fairly confident in seven in total. 

Round Jalen Hurts gets drafted- 2nd (+140)

Just last week we were looking at +185 odds on this, so this means that the money is heading this direction. In an uncertain quarterback class after Burrow, Hurts is a proven winner that fits the mold of an athletic quarterback which seems to be working in the NFL. A team will have to gamble, but one that is willing to be creative and bold, like the Saints, will take a chance at the end of the second round. 

First OL taken- Tristan Wirfs (-130)
This is another one that has the public money heading its way. Wirfs is the most versatile and dynamic offensive lineman in the draft and fits any system. He could go as high as four to the Giants and don’t see him dropping past seven to the Jaguars. In a weird draft that prohibited teams from working out prospects, go with the one that showed out at the combine. 

First receiver taken- Jerry Jeudy (-105)

One of the “big three” receivers in this class along with CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs, Jeudy’s all-around game makes him the safest pick of the three. He can fit any scheme and is ready to play a big role immediately. The Jaguars, Jets, Raiders, 49ers, and Broncos all need receivers and we might even see a team move up for one and I’m willing to bet it’ll be for Jeudy. 

Order of thirst three picks (exact)- Burrow, Young, Tua (+180)

With all the rumors about the Dolphins cooling off of Tua, the odds on this one are dropping fast. To me, that just means better value on this pick. Burrow and Young will go one and two, that is a certainty but the options of going third will be Okudah or Tua if a team moves up. I’m still banking on the Dolphins being aggressive and moving up to three for their franchise quarterback. 

O/U Derrick Brown draft position (8.5)- under (-125)

Once again, public money is all over this. Just a week ago it was at +130, but the rumors of the Cardinals at eight being enamored with Brown makes this much more likely that the under will hit. The Jaguars at seven could even be interested in Brown, so I’m really liking these odds. 

O/U Andrew Thomas draft position (10.5)- over (-140)

I don’t see more than three offensive linemen going in the top ten and right now I have Thomas as the fourth rated lineman in this draft. I think at this point he’s likely to be going fourteen to the Buccaneers and that’s his peak in my opinion. 

O/U Kenneth Murray draft position (21.5)- over (-140)

There’s a wildcard here that the Raiders at nineteen could pick Murray, but I think he’s a target starting at the mid twenties which means this bet is a smart one. The linebacker position in the draft isn’t as valued as it once was due to the pass-first nature of the league to the point there’s only one or two drafted in the first per year. Murray is a hell of a player, but the positional value pushes him down in the draft.