Taysom Hill Proved He’s a Starting Quarterback

Taysom Hill finally got his shot to start for the New Orleans Saints and he did not disappoint. He showed good mechanics and accuracy and was routinely able to move through reads. He dealt well with pressure off of play-action, understood where his hot routes were, and his ball placement helped keep his receivers out of harms way. While it wasn’t a perfect game and he was inconsistent with his anticipation throws, it was a very good showing for his first start as a quarterback.

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Reading the Defense

One of the more common pass game concepts that the Saints run is Dagger. It involves a clear out from the slot and a deep dig in behind it from the #1 receiver with a shallow drag from the receiver to the backside of the play. The clear out takes away the deep defenders and the shallow drag is designed to help hold the linebackers underneath which opens up space for the deep dig. This play shows the versatility that Taysom Hill brings to the quarterback position.

He did a really good job most of the game keeping his eyes up when moving in the pocket and getting outside. Taysom comes out of the play action and looks to locate where the underneath defenders are to see if they’ve gotten under the dig. As he diagnosis that, he feels pressure and has to climb up and out of the pocket. A really good indicator that he has a chance to become a legitimate starter is that he keeps his eyes up instead of relying on his legs. He sees that the dig has made its way across the field and delivers a really accurate ball on the move to his receiver.

This is that same Dagger concept but I want to use this example to show Taysom’s ball placement ability and his understanding of defenses and holes that appear. The Falcons here are bailing to a two-high safety look with the slot defender immediately turning his hips and bailing at the snap. Again, off of play-action, Taysom has to quickly diagnose this shift and process what that means for the play.

With that rotate and with no receivers releasing to the top of the screen, Taysom understands that that corner can now get under the clear out and the original middle field safety is freed up to rob anything in the middle. This means that Taysom needs to protect his receiver on the deep dig if that’s what he’s going to throw. He can’t lead him into the middle of the field because that free safety will be able to deliver a big hit or impact the throw. Taysom is able to diagnose all of that and throw to the back hip of the receiver to slow them down and prevent a big collision with the safety.

Taysom Hill showed a few good anticipation throws throughout the game as well. The guy might be 30 years old, but for a first start and his prospects of being a legitimate starter, these are some really big things at the quarterback position. Taysom consistently had a stable base which allowed him to be accurate and stay on rhythm to throw with anticipation. Here he’s seeing the space underneath the deep curl is open and begins his throwing motion just as his receiver is breaking down. These are the kinds of throws that can be problematic if you throw them late or aren’t seeing the defense well but Taysom was able to hit a number of these through the game.

He wasn’t perfect, but the throws he made were definitely good indicators. Here again, he keeps a solid base and begins his throwing motion just as the receiver is starting to break their route off and hits him at eye level for an easy completion.

Ball Placement

That ball placement is what I found most impressive.  It’s starting quarterback caliber. He’d throw back hip to slow receivers down and protect them from hits, give them balls that they could easily run with after the catch, and showed decisiveness and zip on a lot of his underneath and intermediate throws even with pressure in his face.

Understanding Blitzes

While he showed good understanding of where his hot reads were, there were a couple times where he didn’t realize he was hot. Based on what the defense is showing here, there are seven total potential rushers and the Saints are in an empty formation with no running back to help in pass protection. Taysom knows that if more than five rushers come, he has to get rid of the ball.

The Saints are running a half line slide here to the side with more potential rushers. From the center over, they’re sliding right to take care of the three “bigs” or defensive linemen to that side. Taysom Hill has to know that if either linebacker comes on a blitz to that side, he’s hot and has to throw to the area that that linebacker is blitzing from. The Saints have a drag from Michael Thomas built in that would be the route Taysom should throw since the linebacker is blitzing from that area. However, Taysom doesn’t look to check for a blitz and therefore doesn’t see the pressure coming soon enough. By the time he feels it, it’s already too late and he takes a sack.

Late Reads

While Taysom did show a number of anticipation throws, there were also some reads where he was a beat late. On his only turnover worthy throw of the day here, he’s seeing the window, but throwing it late. He initially wants the route out of the backfield to Deonte Harris but holds onto it for a beat too long. There’s a window for the drag to Thomas but it has to be thrown with anticipation. With Taysom being a beat late, the defender is able to close the opening and get a hand on the ball.

It’s a small sample size in his first start but there also may be some concern for his deep ball. Taysom Hill had no issue driving the ball on intermediate throws but the two times he tried to load up and throw deep, he ended up underthrowing his receivers. It worked out both of these times, but if he’s going to attack deep downfield, he might need to be a guy that does it on rhythm much like Drew Brees does. He doesn’t seem to be a guy that can throw it late on a broken play since he’s topping out at about 50-55 yards on these throws. That’s more than enough for normal fades and rhythm posts, but not quite enough to sling it late downfield.

Arm Strength

Running Threat

Of course, while Taysom Hill may struggle throwing deep late, he does bring his ability to scramble and run to the table which can’t be overlooked. The Saints really didn’t do anything fancy but ran this quarterback power lead play five separate times in the game. It helps the offense gain an extra blocker when the quarterback is the ball carrier and adds to Taysom’s ability and utility. In important situations, he’s able to get yards with his legs and adds another dimension to the Saints attack.

We knew Taysom Hill was a versatile player before this but I came away very impressed with his accuracy, clean mechanics, and ability to keep his eyes downfield when under pressure and outside the pocket. He’s always a threat on the ground but if he wants the opportunity to be a legitimate starting quarterback, he’s going to have to continue to put together games like he did against the Falcons. It wasn’t perfect, but it showed his ability and gave the Saints something to think about going forward. Maybe all that talk Sean Payton did about him being the next Steve Young isn’t so far off and the Saints will be set for years to come.

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NFL Film Breakdown: How Rams DC Brandon Staley Has the LA Defense Playing at a Championship Level

The LA Rams have a new defensive coordinator in Brandon Staley and have been shutting down the run game while maintaining a two-high look, adapting to their opponents, and pairing excellent play from defensive front and their secondary. They’ll use Jalen Ramsay to lock down receivers in man which opens up their safeties for run fits and more aggressive play and have mastered using Eagle and hybrid fronts to bring pressure and simultaneously have the 5th best run defense in the league. Staley worked with the outside linebackers under Vic Fangio his whole NFL career up until his defensive coordinator job with the Rams and a lot of the Fangio tenets have appeared with the Rams but Staley has done an incredible job of adapting his personnel and front to react in-game to what offenses are doing as evidenced by allowing just three or fewer points in the second half in eight out of the nine games the Rams have played in so far.

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Rams’ Samson Ebukam #50 and Aaron Donald #99 sack Giants quarterback Daniel Jones] #8 during their NFL game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA., Sunday, October 4, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Where Staley has really begun to blaze his own path with the Rams is how he has used the Eagle front to great effect this season. There’s a lot of subtle naming differences when looking at fronts so to keep things simple, I’ll refer to any front with three players aligned in a nose or nose shade and tackles lined up as a 4 or 4i technique as an Eagle front. What that means is that the nose tackle is either directly over the center or shaded to one shoulder of the center and that the tackles are lined up directly over the offensive tackles or on their inside shoulders. The Rams will also then bring their outside linebackers down into wide 9 techniques which places them outside of the tight end and allows the Rams defensive front to flow into and out of different front alignments like more generic 3-4 and 4-3 looks. With the interior linemen in 4 or 4i techniques, this makes blocking and climbing incredibly difficult for offensive linemen. It almost mandates double teams across the board and if a guard leaves on a power or hard stretch, it’s very easy for that 4i technique to attach at the hip and follow down the line of scrimmage. That’s what the Eagle is really designed to do. Create free runners at the linebacker position and help defensive linemen penetrate.

We’ll start with how the Eagle front works in the run game. You can see how each defender fits in their run gaps with the nose tackle two-gapping and reading which direction the play is going and run support coming from the safeties. The tackles are responsible for the B gap and the Nose has the play-side A gap which forces him to two-gap as he’s feeling the movement of the center and attacking that direction. The linebacker then has the weak A gap but can flow over the top with split zone looks, fullbacks, or any other movement to help with cutback contain. The outside linebackers have the C or D gap with the strong side outside linebacker typically being the rush end and the weak side outside linebacker dropping into coverage. If that weak outside linebacker does have to run in coverage, the safety now replaces him as the C gap player. Bonus Clip for Patreon

Here, the Bears are running stretch split zone to the outside with a crunch block from the H-back. Since the line is stretching hard to the left, that allows the 4i defensive tackle to go to work. That slight alignment to the inside of the offensive tackle makes it hard for the offensive line to reach him. With the guard vacating to try and help double the nose before climbing to the linebacker, that leaves the tackle all alone to try and cut off Michael Brockers. With Aaron Donald winning his B gap and the nose tackle demanding a double team, that keeps the linebackers completely clean and forces the running back to work to the backside.
That’s where #90, Michael Brockers has beaten his man to the inside B gap because of his alignment and is waiting there for Montgomery to cut back into him. It’s great team defense. The running back has nowhere to go and has to stay play-side because Brockers beat his man, Donald is able to shed his block, and #59 Micah Kiser is also there to help fill.

If you have good tackles and a nose that can demand blocks like the Rams do, you really don’t even need exceptional athletes at the linebacker position. If they play decisively and can read the flow of the offense, they’ll be just fine since they won’t often have to shed blocks when the Rams use their Eagle front.

Since the linebackers are kept clean and are able to be free runners, the Rams often don’t put extra men in the box and maintain a two-high safety look. To combat some of the issue of having lighter boxes, they align their safeties close to the line of scrimmage at 10-12 yards. This allows them to be quicker contributors in the run game and protect gaps on the backside. These safeties are essentially just deep linebackers. Here, with the Dolphins set up with their strength to the left, Micah Kiser is shaded over the tackle to help seal the C gap inside the tight end, with the outside linebacker #54 Leonard Floyd there to seal the D gap outside. So that means Taylor Rapp, the safety #24 is now responsible for that weak side A gap. With the motion though, you can see the gaps shift over for the Rams defense. The slot corner over the receiver bumps down to take the C gap from Micah Kiser, Kiser bumps to take the weak A gap that was held by Taylor Rapp, and Rapp bumps over with the motion. On the snap, the H-back now also crunches across the formation which yet again shifts the gaps. There’s now no longer a D gap, so Leonard Floyd is responsible for the C gap which allows #22 to bump over and take the weak A now and Kiser takes the C gap outside where the crunch is headed to. That’s a lot of adjustment but the three down linemen still have their same assignments and even if the linebackers and secondary get out of position, the front again forces double teams and keeps the linebackers clean. Notice that none of the linemen are initially able to move up to the second level because they are forced by alignment to be solo on blocks or double team Aaron Donald. The Rams are one of the most sound defenses when it comes to playing with gap integrity. Each man does their job and they have the horses upfront to hold blocks and allow their linebackers to fill and fly around.

The run fits and gap assignments upfront make the whole defense go and while the Rams don’t blitz often, they will use their Eagle front in interesting ways to confuse offenses by walking up linebackers in the same alignments as they usually have their down linemen in. You still have someone aligned in a 0 over the center and two guys lined up in a 4i while you now have Leonard Floyd and Aaron Donald with their hand in the dirt to rush the tackles. This can cause protection issues and force solo blocks on some of their best pass rushers. Offenses don’t know who will drop out by alignment and the Rams are stressing every gap. This forces the Bears into sliding to the left to take care of three potential rushers to that side. This however leaves a two on two to Donald’s side with an additional corner blitz. They’ve isolated their best pass rusher one-on-one and overloaded one side with a corner blitz all because of the front. The best thing is that they’ve manufactured this pressure while only rushing four guys so the structure of their coverage isn’t compromised.

They’ll give teams multiple blitz and pressure looks from that same stand up Eagle look with their linebackers. In the second quarter against the Seahawks, the Rams gave them that look and brought Kiser on the blitz while also running a stunt with him and the defensive tackle to try and bait them into opening a lane. Brandon Staley just wants to find any way possible to get his guys into one-on-one situations because he knows over the course of the game, they’re going to win more of those than they’ll lose.

Now that they established that look, late in the 4th quarter the Rams showed the exact same thing. This time, Kiser doesn’t come on the blitz but the center pauses and waits for the rush from Kiser before realizing he isn’t coming and going to help the guard late. That small pause and hesitation of not knowing if Kiser will come gives the rest of the defensive line chances to win their one-on-one matchups and that’s exactly what Michael Brockers does. With no inside help, he works the guard upfield before swimming underneath him to the inside and getting a direct line on Russell Wilson for the sack.

The Rams love this look with additional pressure and if the offense does run it, they still have everyone in their base gaps and assignments. Even though it may look like the Rams are bringing a lot of pressure, they’ll often rush just four but you have no idea where its coming from. Even if they aren’t getting home all the time, they almost always create significant pressure out of these stand-up Eagle looks.

What helps even more with pressures, the run game, and coverage is that they’ll often run Ramsey on lock calls which means he is man-on-man with the receiver. This then allows the safeties to fit their run gaps faster and support the linebackers more quickly because they don’t have to worry about getting over the top to help Ramsey.

You can see an example of this here with Ramsey locked to the top of the screen and the safety Taylor Rapp, doesn’t have to worry about helping him or getting over the top of his receiver. Instead, he can now help bracket and rob routes and crossers in the middle of the field which the 49ers love to run. Ramsey’s ability as a pure man corner frees up the secondary everywhere else and allows them to play aggressive and fast and gain players in other areas of the field.

Having a corner in Jalen Ramsey who can hold a top tier receiver like DK Metcalf to 2 catches for 28 yards and not a single target until the last minute of the 3rd quarter can do incredible things for your defense. It just condenses the field for the offense with more players in less space. Nobody has to get under his route or over the top and keeps defenders closer to the formation.

The Rams rank second in yards per game and are allowing just 18.7 points a game. They’re shutting down teams on the ground and through the air and Brandon Staley has used the pieces that the Rams have to perfection. He has found ways to get his guys in a position to succeed while being aggressive and balancing that with maintaining integrity to prevent big plays behind it with his two-high safety looks. Talent has met scheme in LA and it’s the Rams defense that has them thinking that they just might recapture that 2018 magic and make it back to the Super Bowl. 

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. Suscribe to our YouTube page for our video breakdowns. 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.

NFL Film Breakdown: How Lamar Jackson Has Grown as a Passer and is Used in the Ravens Run Game

Lamar Jackson is one of the most unique quarterbacks in the NFL right now with over 2,000 yards rushing in his career paired with almost 6,000 passing yards and a 102.1 passer rating. A lot of talking heads diminish Lamar’s ability calling him a running back playing quarterback like it’s some kind of knock or dig at his ability. Some of the criticisms are valid, he can struggle mechanically and can overly rely on athleticism but trying to box Lamar into the strict definition of what a quarterback is as foolish as trying to tackle him in the open field. He isn’t a normal quarterback. So why try to define him as one? Lamar is an all-world runner so people try to point out his his ability, or inability, to throw – especially this year where his completion percentage has dropped (although his receivers have dropped 4.9% of his passes) along with his sack numbers rising and a higher rate of fumbling and interceptions. He’s not producing at his 2019 MVP level but let’s take a look at Lamar the player and not just as a pure passer – though we’ll look at that too. When looking at Lamar you have to take a wholistic view and understand how he helps that offense operate both in the run game and the pass game.

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Nick Wass/Associated Press

Lamar is at his best in the passing game when he’s working the underneath game and throwing on rhythm. Because he’s such a dynamic runner, when he progresses through his reads, he can start to get jumpy in the pocket and is prone to try to escape because, ultimately, I think he still trusts his legs more than he does his arm. However, he has started to throw with really good anticipation that shows trust in the scheme, his receivers, and illustrates his growth in his ability to throw off of defensive movements. There are some mechanical issues, but for the most part, the mental side of the game seems to be really slowing down for him.

Here, the Ravens are running a deep Dagger concept with a clear out post from the slot and a 15 yard dig from Hollywood Brown outside. The running back releases into the flats to try and hold the linebackers from getting depth underneath the dig. The post here is designed to hold the safety and pull defenders to open a window for the dig. The clear out is able to pull the safety and there is a window but it’s not a very big one and it’s 15 yards downfield. Lamar begins his throwing motion just as Brown is getting out of his break but he’s still about 10 yards from where he’ll catch the ball. Lamar see’s the two linebackers dropping to their seam responsibilities in cover 3 and knows he has to drive it in the deep hole behind them with anticipation because if he’s late, the window to the dig will close fast.

These anticipation throws are the biggest step Lamar has begun to take in his game and more than that, is an indicator that he’s starting to trust his eyes and his arm to make these plays. These aren’t throws where he’s seeing someone open first and then throwing. It takes high level processing to make these kinds of throws. Here, Lamar is starting his throwing motion just as the receiver is planting to break to the corner. Lamar trusts his guy to be at the right spot and trusts his arm to get it there. It’s an impressive tight window throw with pressure bearing down on him.

Anticipation like this is a really good indicator for Lamar. On this play, he’s hoping to throw the seam to his tight end the whole way but he sees the safety shaded directly over the top bail to the middle of the field at the snap. He looks off the safety to ensure that he has created enough room and then throws an absolutely perfect ball to the seam right over the defenders’ head and before the safety has a chance to make a play on the ball.

However, like I said, as a passer, there are still some big mechanical issues that Lamar has and they’re issues that he also had last year, which is concerning since they don’t seem to have been cleaned up much. This play encapsulates basically all parts of Lamar. His biggest issue throwing the ball is a huge dip at the top of his drop, subsequent heel-click which causes even more issues with vertical accuracy, and then an occasional tendency to drop his eyes and look to escape from the pocket. On the flip side, despite all that, he turns this play into a 10 yard gain and first down.

At the top of his drop, you can see how low Lamar gets and how much his hips sink towards the ground. As a quarterback, you want to stay as even and stable as possible and you don’t want that vertical bounce because if you throw off of this last step in your drop, your body is now rising simultaneously as you throw, it’s harder to get good power and drive, and you get a lot of vertical accuracy issues. Because of this elongated last step of his drop, he also tends to heel click and bring his feet together on his hitch steps. This again creates vertical bounce which you want to eliminate. He then drops his eyes and looks to scramble but if he kept his eyes up, he would see the safety is flat footed and his receiver is running open on a seam for a potential touchdown. Lamar has a pocket, but instead escapes out. I say all this knowing that he gains a first down on this play and that’s great, but it’s important to know that he is leaving plays on the field in the passing game as well.

As a pure passer, these mechanics are going to make you less consistent. You can see here that same huge vertical dip at the top of his drop and how that gets him onto his toes and bouncing in the pocket. If all your cleats aren’t in the ground, you’re going to have difficulty generating power and accuracy from your legs up. As a result, Lamar is unable to open his hips to the throw with his toe pointed towards the sideline and can’t generate enough power and leaves the ball behind his receiver which results in an interception.

The longer the throw, the more impactful this heel click and vertical bounce can be on his vertical accuracy. You can see how pronounced it is here against the Bengals on this deep shot which causes him to overshoot the throw by about 5 yards.

These mechanical issues and misfires pop up in almost every game. Big dip at the top of the drop, lots of heel click, and vertical inaccuracy. While Lamar does tend to sidearm which leads to most of his horizontal inaccuracy, issues with touch and vertical misses are all because of his footwork and this is now year three of these same issues.

A passer isn’t all that Lamar is, though. It’s foolish to think of him as just a quarterback because he just flat out isn’t just a quarterback. He might not be what most people think of as a conventional player, but to use that as a knock just flat out makes no sense to me. We are seeing that he is capable as a passer and to add that to what he does on the ground is what separates him from every other player in the league.

Lamar adds a ton to the Ravens run game as you might expect but he does it whether he keeps the ball or not. The Ravens use a ton of read option which leaves one defender free to be read by Lamar. This allows them to gain an extra blocker and forces defensive flow and gap fits to become compromised. The Ravens really like to run a center and tackle counter read and it can be incredibly powerful. A lot of the time, teams have issues sealing off backside pursuit on counter and preventing penetration from the defensive end but since the Ravens read that guy, it eliminates that issue. Since the Ravens have two ball carriers in the backfield at all times by default with Lamar, they now can force teams to be gap sound on every play. If that end comes down to chase the counter and pulling tackle, Lamar will give the ball to the running back running to the outside. If that end stays up-field, Lamar will pull it and run the counter himself. What this also does is give false read keys to the linebackers who are often taught to read and follow pulling linemen. They can’t really do that anymore because if they do, there’s no way they’ll be in position to chase the running back. You can see that here as the linebackers are frozen during the mesh and are late to get outside which enables to running back to get around the edge of the defense.

The Ravens will also switch it up and have Lamar be the outside keep and the running back run counter. The same principles apply. Read off of the defensive end. If he chases, pull the ball and run around him. The Ravens are also crunch to arc blocking with their fullback. He’s coming around to go up and block the linebacker to seal the outside for Lamar if he keeps the ball. So now there’s a ton of backfield motion for defenses to look at and Lamar is special in the open field. If you crash down like the defense does here, he’s capable of ripping off huge gains when he keeps the ball.

Now since Lamar has kept it once, it opens up the counter action for the running back. Just watch this at full speed and try to figure out what’s going on in the backfield and know that Lamar is capable of burning you if you don’t protect against him keeping it to the outside. The defensive end comes up the field so Lamar gives the ball to the running back since he has taking away his path to the outside. Two of the linebackers are also now sitting and staying home in case of the keep by Lamar which gets them out of position on the counter. The Ravens now have +1 blockers to the play-side as Lamar has influenced three separate players on defense and taken them out of position to make a play.

This is the full power that Lamar has. He influences the running game like no other quarterback does and then he can also play action and boot out of those same looks and has developed into a solid passer of the ball. If for a second, you aren’t sound on defense, the Ravens will make you pay on the ground. That’s never really been up for debate. But as Lamar has grown in the passing game, they’ve also started to make teams pay through the air. Lamar is not by any means an elite passer at this point, but he is still growing and is showing signs of the game slowing down for him. With all that he brings to the field, there’s no deadlier weapon in the NFL right now and if Lamar can continue to evolve, the Ravens may just run – and throw – their way to the Super Bowl.

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.

NFL Film Breakdown: How the Chicago Bears Defense Confuses QBs into Making Mistakes and Taking Sacks

The Bears defense is alive and well. Akiem Hicks is back and disrupting plays with 13 QB hits and 5 tackles for loss, Khalil Mack has 5.5 sacks on the season, Eddie Jackson is one of the best safeties in the league, and Kyle Fuller is allowing just a 51.5% completion percent. To have a truly elite defense, you need to have a secondary and front that work together. The Bears like to move their secondary players around at the snap to force quarterbacks to diagnose things on the fly and adjust in real time. It can cause them to make poor decisions or hold the ball for a half second longer to allow the Bears pass rush to get home. It sounds simple but being static can often be a death sentence for defenses. If you don’t give teams something to think about at the snap, you’re conceding that it’s going to be your guys versus theirs. Moving your pieces around gives the advantage back to the defenses and is part of the reason why Chicago has allowed just 58.7% of passes to be completed this season.

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The Bears are predominantly a one high safety team and play a lot of Cover 3 and Cover 1. They’ll often show two high safeties though because they want to force quarterbacks to process and figure out what’s going on post-snap. At the snap of the ball or leading up to the snap, they’ll rotate their safeties to change their pre-snap look. Often, this leads them to running Cover 1 Robber. Cover 1 just means that there is one high safety and man coverage everywhere else on the field. Robber is describing the action of the other safety because he is going to drop down at the snap and “rob” the middle of the field. This Robber player is free to jump any routes that flash in front of him. Cover 1 Robber can be used to prevent slants, quick hitting hooks underneath, or crossing routes. Here, the Giants are running a common play which is a chains concept where the receivers get to the first down marker and turn around for the ball. The Bears are running their Cover 1 Robber to the trips side so that they can help Roquan Smith in coverage. Smith knows that there’s a robber behind him so he can now bracket to the inside of the tight end. The corner to the top of the screen also knows he can play with outside leverage and funnel inside because the Robber will be there to pick up any crossers. The Robber frees up other players to play with more conservative leverage and funnel things inside to both the free safety over the top and the robber over the middle. Daniel Jones here is reading that Roquan smith is way inside on his tight end, so he’s determining pre-snap that’s the route that he wants. The tight end is going to turn around right at the sticks and with two safeties over the top and with leverage on the linebacker, it should be an easy completion. What Jones doesn’t see though, is Eddie Jackson dropping down to rob the route. Jackson knows the routes are coming based on down and distance and keys off of Jones’ eyes. He breaks on the route and causes the ball to pop up into the air.

You can see in this play how Cover 1 Robber looks when coming down on a crossing route. The Bears show two high before the late rotate back to centerfield by Tashaun Gipson and the Robber, Eddie Jackson, sits right in the middle of the field waiting for a an in-breaking route to rob. The Lions are running a dig route across the middle of the field and Eddie Jackson is sitting in the deep hole ready to break on it. Stafford doesn’t see it, and Jackson is able to break on it and pop the ball into the air again for an interception.

Really this robber look is just designed to cause hesitation on routes in the middle of the field, set the safety up with angles to make a play on the ball, or force the offense to make throws outside where the Bears are getting great play out of their corners Kyle Fuller and their rookie Jaylon Johnson.

For example, here the Falcons use pre-snap motion to try and diagnose what the Bears are doing. When the receiver shifts over and the corner comes with him, that’s a man coverage indicator. You pair that with two high safeties, and you expect to see 2 Man Under which gives the defense two deep players in each half of the field and man coverage underneath. So, if you’re Matt Ryan, what’s a route that you love here? The Falcons are running two crossers behind each other across the field. Based on leverage and having a shallow drag route to the top of the screen, he’s going to want to hit the first crosser because that receiver has inside leverage on the slot defender. The shallow by the tight end at the top will pull the defender to that side, and he sees the boundary side safety getting depth on the snap. What he doesn’t expect is for Eddie Jackson to again be in that Robber look coming down from the four-receiver side. Jackson comes down right in front of that crosser which is where Ryan is looking first. Ryan sees that the crosser is bracketed but by that time is feeling pressure. He has to come off the read, and throws short for an incompletion.  

Similar to Cover 1 Robber, the Bears also use jump calls against teams that like to run a lot of crossers like the Rams in Week 7. The Rams run a ton of tight formations and drag their receivers across on deep over routes in their play-action game. The Bears’ method of combatting that was to use Jump calls. A Jump call is very similar to using a Robber, but it takes a little more communication and understanding from the defense. With a Jump call, the safety is coming down on the crossing route and the corner that was initially over that route replaces them in the middle of the field instead of chasing them across. The Bears use this coverage on the single receiver side of the formation so that that corner isn’t going to be immediately threatened in their half of the field when they vacate it. For the purposes of this play, the slice behind the formation by the receiver in the slot turns this into a single receiver side to the bottom of the screen after the snap of the ball. This Jump call allows the Bears to keep the integrity of their defense and bypass traffic in the middle of the field while picking up crossers from the safety position with an angle to make the tackle or a play on the ball.

So, the Bears run a lot of the Cover 1 Robber, typically with the Robber coming from the trips side and they’ll also use those Jump calls. They’ll also invert that and show a one-high safety look and then bail out of it into Cover 2 Trap, also called Palms. Palms is popular against spread formations and two receiver sets which is what we have here against the Panthers. It’s essentially Cover 2 with match coverage principles tied into it. The corners on the outside are keying the #2 receivers on the inside. If they have an outbreaking route, they’re going to carry the #1 until they see it and then drop to jump the out route by #2. If that’s the case, the safety over the top would then pick up #1 as they go vertical. The linebackers then help to bracket any in breaking crossers like a dig or slant.

That’s what the Bears are running here. The problem that Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers have is that Chicago is showing single high which either means Cover 1 or Cover 3. In either case, Teddy likes the matchups and leverage of his routes to the top of the screen. The #1 goes vertical, the #2 runs a wheel right behind it, and the running back runs an arrow out into the flats. In the Bears Palms coverage, the corner is going to pass off that vertical to the safety coming over the top and jump the outbreaking route from the #2. He then carries that wheel up the sideline since he is now in man coverage on that route. The slot defender is bracketing but has no in breakers, so he runs with the running back to the flats. Everything is covered. Normally, though, in a Cover 3 or in man, that initial vertical would pull the corner deep. The #2 running the wheel route would be carried by the slot defender who would normally have the flats in cover 3 and now there would be no flat defender to pick up that running back since that defender carried the wheel. In Cover 1, you’d be one-on-one with your running back on a linebacker in man. All matchups you’d probably like. So, Teddy looks that way off the snap but then sees the Bears are rotating into that Cover 2 look with two high safeties and the safety getting over the top of the vertical from #1. He knows that that side of the field is going to be covered and tries to get back over to the bottom of the screen.  By then, though, the corner has broken on the slant from Robby Anderson, Teddy has to move out of the pocket, and the Bears close in for a sack. It’s the perfect marriage of coverage and pressure and is what makes these rotates and post-snap movements so effective for defenses. One second of pause from the QB and all the sudden your pass rush can get home for a big play to put the Panthers on their own one yard line.

Here’s another example of Cover 2 at the bottom of the screen with the Bears again giving a late rotate into the two high safety look. The corner is again keying the #2 receiver for an out-breaking route and leaving any crosser or vertical route for the safety or the linebacker. The corner takes the quick out and the linebacker now brackets and gets inside of the post from the #1. Bridgewater knows the Bears like to have their robber to the trips side and the Bears had run a single high look with man coverage earlier in this game against the Panthers’ empty formations so that’s exactly what Bridgewater is looking for here.

The Bears instead rotate the middle field safety over and drop Eddie Jackson into the deep seem to the trips side. Normally, offenses will have reads versus defenses when they’re showing middle of the field open with two high safeties versus middle of the field closed versus one high safety. In this case, DJ Moore has an option route of running a dig versus 1 high or a post versus a 2-high look. You want to attack the weakness of the defense. Because of the strong rush and the late rotate, Teddy still thinks it’s a 1 high look and either man or Cover 3 so he’s expecting a dig from DJ Moore. Meanwhile, Moore is seeing the rotate by the safety and breaks for a post to exploit that vacated middle of the field – which really is wide open if Teddy throws the ball down the field. There’s absolutely nobody there. But because he doesn’t see the rotate and the rush is getting home, he throws the dig right into the linebacker who has bracketed the in-breaking route. It’s an interception that ultimately seals the game and prevents the Panthers from continuing their potential game tying drive.

The Bears are sitting at 5-2 and are right in the mix of the NFC playoff picture. Their defense is getting to the quarterback, locking down receivers, and confusing quarterbacks into holding the ball and making mistakes. With the marriage of an elite secondary and a defensive line that can cause pressure, the Bears have all the pieces to the puzzle on defense. The offense might have its ups and downs but as the old saying goes and as Bears fans are hoping is true – defense win championships.

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Caleb Farley: Next Top CB?

Caleb Farley was one of the first players to opt-out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft and it was a move that made a lot of sense. He’s already entrenched as one of the top cornerback prospects in the class and was on a Virginia Tech team that doesn’t have national title expectations for the season. At the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself and your future. Farley is pretty inexperienced at the position, coming to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver, but has impressed in his two years as a Hokie. I think he’s solidly a first-round prospect due to his upside, but with a good combine and pre-draft process, should become the first corner drafted.


Lockdown Pass Coverage

If you’re going to be a high draft pick as a cornerback, teams must believe that you have the chance to be a lockdown cover corner. While teams might value other skills like tackling or special teams versatility, it’s being able to shut down the passing game that will earn you your money. Farley might have the highest upside of any player in this class when it comes to being a great man corner. Being a former wide receiver, he anticipates routes and thinks like a receiver so he knows the nuances of the position. He has the speed to keep up with smaller, shiftier guys yet the length and strength to battle with bigger opponents. He’s seemingly always in the hip pocket of receivers so it’s tough to gain separation from him.

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Turnover Machine

Six interceptions in twenty-six career games might not seem like a gaudy amount, but it proves to me he has the awareness and anticipation to be a ball hawk in the NFL. As previously mentioned, he’s a former wide receiver, so you know he has the hands to not drop any easy picks. When he turns his head around (more on that later), he does a great job of keeping his eyes on the quarterback and jumping routes. Many of his interceptions came from his excellent coverage skills, in that wide receivers are unable to break free from him.

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Physicality and Athleticism

At 6-2, 200+ pounds, Farley has excellent size for a corner, but it’s how he uses his size that makes him a top prospect. He battles in coverage and isn’t afraid to be physical with receivers. I honestly didn’t see him in press coverage too much, but when he did it, he held his own. In addition to his size, he runs very well and displays good short-area quickness. For what he lacks in refinement and experience, he makes up with with athleticism.

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Raw and Inexperienced

He came to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver and played quarterback in high school, so he doesn’t have much experience at the cornerback position. There are times where his inexperience shows up though. Now that he won’t have a third year of tape, there will be some questions. He might not produce immediate results as he continues to learn the position, so an organization needs to be patient and trust their coaching staff.

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Doesn’t Turn Head Around

This is my biggest pet peeve for defensive backs and it happens at all levels. You’re taught as a corner to stay close to your receiver but at a certain point turn your head around. Farley got cheap penalties or gave up big plays because he lost track of the ball. You can probably say this is a result of inexperience, but some players never develop this instinct.

Bites on Double Moves

Because he’s so aggressive, Farley will bite on double moves. You have to take the good and the bad with aggressive corners, but this leaves you open for a big play against. Maybe being put into a system that utilizes a deep safety over the top will help Farley’s play as it’ll allow him to be aggressive but still have some help in case he gets beat.

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Farley was a pleasant surprise and impressed me when watching his film. He has a good chance to develop into a top corner in this league but a team will have to be patient with his development. He has the skills that you can’t teach and projects to be at worst a mid-level starter in the NFL. With the growing importance of the passing game, good corners are in high demand. I expect him to go right in the middle of the first round, where he has the chance to get some playing time early.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Bears Wide Receiver Allen Robinson is so Good He’s QB Proof

Allen Robinson has flown under the radar with the Chicago Bears but he’s hard to miss once you turn on the film. In 2019, he had 98 receptions for 1,147 yards, was the 5th best receiver on contested catches, and is one of the more nuanced route runners in the NFL. As you might expect with winning contested catches, he has great body control, attacks the ball in the air, and is physical at the point of the catch and that’s all great, but he didn’t even need to use that ability very often. He has a great feel for finding open zones and sitting behind flowing linebackers, he always has a plan of attack at the line of scrimmage, and he consistently sets up defensive backs to open himself up. It doesn’t really matter whether he’s working against zone or man coverage. He shows high football IQ and understands of how to manipulate defenders within the framework of the defense.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

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It might seem simple but he does a great job of working off flowing defenders in zone. It takes an understanding of what defense you’re looking at to understand who to work off of and where the soft spot in the zone will be. The Broncos here are running a variation of cover 6 with an initial inside out bracket on Robinson. Cover 6 is a combination of both cover 2 and cover 4. So to one side of the field you have cover 2 with a deep half safety and a corner in the flats. On the other side of the field you have two deep safeties taking deep quarters. The Broncos nickel corner is aligned pretty deep to bracket the first vertical route that appears to dissuade any inside release before he comes down to the flat. As soon as that defender flows down, Robinson breaks off his curl a yard past the sticks for what would be a first down on 3rd and 8. Not an easy concept and coverage to read and diagnose on the fly but Robinson shows good understanding of the down and distance, coverage, and who to key off of while he’s running the route.

He reads these defender keys incredibly quickly — especially in the underneath game. As soon as flat defenders run by him and clear space behind, he immediately snaps off his route and sits down. You can see as soon as the ball is snapped here he looks at the nickel back who has flat responsibilities. As the defender takes steps towards the flats to cover the running back, Robinson sits immediately behind him in the soft area of the zone coverage for an easy completion.

It’s a simple concept, but it makes for efficient football and it’s a really easy and basic read for the quarterback. It demonstrates an understanding of what’s going on, film study, and is part of the reason why he was able to get almost 100 receptions on the year.

Even if he’s not sitting or snapping his route off, he uses the flow of defenders to signal when to look for the ball and when he’ll be open. Here, the Packers are doing a late rotate by bringing one of their safeties down. As soon as the safety clears him towards the flats, he turns his head expecting the ball. He knows the window where the ball will come to and is prepared and is processing these things incredibly fast.

So, he understands how to defeat zone but to be an elite receiver, you have to be able to win against man and be able to attack man concepts within zone coverage.  His ability to win contested catches and attack the ball certainly help him here and he’s not afraid of taking a hit. He has elite body control along the sidelines and is great at high pointing the ball.

Where Robinson really separates is with his releases and his work in his route stem and breaks. He has a variety of releases that he uses for different situations and defenders and while most receivers have an “A” release and a “B” release that they use most often, Robinson is pretty diverse in his combination of releases. He’s really good and quick at giving a good slide or skip release that pushes the defender opposite of the way he intends to break. He uses this a lot when defenders are walked up on him but aren’t pressing. He works that release right here which gives him more route side space and gets him up on the toes of the DB. The closer he gets to the defender, the less cushion and time they have to break on the route. So if you’re gaining ground AND stemming outside, it’s really hard for guys to recover. He does an excellent job of staying low on these releases too. Once your body sinks, DBs key on that and your hips to help them break on the ball more quickly. By staying at the same level the whole route, he takes that read key away.

Now, once he’s set up that quick stem release, he can work a double to get to a fade which is what he’s doing here. He’s getting up on the defenders toes, stopping their feet with the first jab, and keeping his hips pointed vertically. Keeping his hips vertical allows him to maintain speed and explosiveness while the defender has to turn and run with him.

This stemming concept and pushing defenders away from route-side space doesn’t have to be at the line of scrimmage either. He also uses it when he’s into the route and facing off coverage. Here he pushes the defender inside and gives a jab which opens up more space for him to operate on the outside while simultaneously removing the defenders hand and then working to stack on top of him before breaking off to the corner.

He’s got these stem releases down where he’s pushing defenders away from route side space but he’s also really good at removing defenders’ hands when they do try and bump or re-route him. The cleaner the release, the quicker he can get onto his route track and the quicker he can get open.

Sometimes he’ll just use a bench release and overpower defenders if they’re close enough to the line of scrimmage and he needs room to operate.

He also uses this at the top of his routes with subtle pushes to use the defenders momentum against them and create space for himself. Once he gets an inside release he then leans back outside to create contact with the defender and give himself leverage. In sync with his plant and burst, he also chicken wings to push the defender and propel himself the opposite direction.

He does this horizontally but he can also do it vertically on curls and comebacks. He sells vertical really hard and on his breakdown to come back to the ball, he also pushes the defender by to create that extra separation.

All compiled into one here, the Raiders are running cover 6 just like the broncos were earlier and Robinson is working on the outside corner. It’s a designed double move so he has to sell post and he knows he will get help from Chase Daniel with a pump fake since it’s zone coverage and the defenders will have eyes on the quarterback. With the DBs eyes in the backfield and only having the Robinson in his peripheral vision, Robinson works up on to his toes and into his field of vision before giving a hard shoulder and head nod. Since he’s gained ground and is on the DBs toes, the defender has less time to recover as he converts to a fade. The defender isn’t in terrible position but Robinson is still able to high point and attack the ball in the air and get two feet down.

Robinson is a pretty polished and complete receiver but there were some weird instances of a lack of effort scattered through the film. He’s a more than willing and capable blocker most of the time and uses his length and size to overpower corners and drive them out of the play.

But then in the Broncos game you get plays like these from him where he’s just 100% not wanting to participate in the play at all. He’ll make no effort to block and run right by guys when the play is coming at him.

He literally jogged an entire route while not once looking back for the ball or making himself available for the quarterback. Even if he’s a designed clear out there’s no play on planet earth where you jog 20 yards downfield and don’t turn around on a pass play

Again here he’s running half speed and doesn’t once look back for the ball or to adjust to the quarterback.

It’s wildly confusing because it contradicts everything else he’s put on film. He’ll block, run hard, is disciplined with his route running and is clearly a dedicated player that comes prepared every week so it was surprising to see a whole game where he looked like he had no interest in being there. The good news is these types of low effort plays didn’t pop up much in other games throughout the season.

Allen Robinson is a complete receiver and it’s time for him to get some recognition. He’s incredibly technically sound, is a smart and efficient player, has great hands, and sells out for the ball. It almost doesn’t matter who’s throwing to him because he’s just that talented. As the Bears try to figure out who’s going to be behind center, there’s one thing that’s for sure: Allen Robinson is going to be open.

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Travis Etienne: A Tigers Roar

Back to back 1600 yard rushing yards has put Clemson’s Travis Etienne on the map as one of the best running backs in the nation. Many experts believed that Etienne would declare for the 2020 and be one of the top backs in the class, but decided to go for one more national championship run for the Tigers. He had moments where he looked like the best player on an offense full of NFL caliber talent and scored in all but two games in 2019. He plays more of the Robin to Trevor Lawrence’s Batman and because of that, it allows him to fly under the radar when he is an immensely talented player. While he does have a few things to work on, his draft stock is unlikely to rise too much, but the chance to win a second championship is tough to pass up.


Receiving Ability

Etienne has seen his catch total rise every year, with him totaling 37 in 2019. He does have the advantage of being paired with a skilled quarterback and a spread offense that allows him to get open on short routes. Once he gets the ball in his hands in open space, he is a shifty runner and has great vision that allows him to gain big chunks of yards. He also holds his own for the most part as a pass blocker but will have lapses where he looks average in this department. I think of all of the running backs in this class, he could be the most versatile and dynamic in the passing game.

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While I don’t think he has great long speed, his short-area explosion is off the charts. I am looking forward to looking at his five and ten yard splits at the combine as on film it looks like he’s elite in terms of quickness. Most coaches value short term acceleration rather than long speed, so I suspect that Etienne will be highly coveted and RB1 for most teams. He has quick feet and utilizes this to get the edge on outside runs, which makes him able to run any route or succeed on any carry.

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Downhill runner/breaking tackles

Coaches at every level say, “Always keep your legs moving” and Etienne is a textbook example of that. He is a tough runner despite not being a “big” back and will rarely go down easy. He’s a downhill, north-south runner who will get you any yards that he can. It seems like many runners are more about finesse nowadays, relying on speed and craftiness rather than running through a defender. In the open field, Etienne is especially hard to bring down because any arm tackle that comes his way will be easily broken.

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If Etienne wants to be an effective runner at the next level, he needs to trust his blockers more and be more patient behind the line of scrimmage. Too often he would not let the play develop and end up running right into a crowd of defenders. It seems like he gets too excited or just lacks a feel of his surroundings. He could also be a lack of vision he displays as there were a few times were a cutback lane was open, but Etienne moves too quickly and misses that chance. Hopefully, he can develop into a more well-rounded running back and trust his linemen to do what they are supposed to do.

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System RB?

Is he a product of Clemson’s offense or would he be great on any team? No one knows, but I do feel like he is the beneficiary from having a star like Trevor Lawrence as his quarterback. Defenses will gladly let him beat them while focusing their efforts to shut down Lawrence and the passing attack. This doesn’t mean he’s a scrub or not worthy of his success, but it’s something that I think you have to taken into account when watching his film.


Etienne has probably the highest floor of any running back in the 2021 class but might not have the highest of ceilings. His draft stock is unlikely to change to be honest, but there are still plenty of things to work on. I have three running backs (Etienne, Hubbard, and Najee Harris) all clumped together with none being the clear cut top guy in this class at this point. If Etienne can further develop his feel for the position and can become a more patient running back, he can sneak into the the first round and could be a relatively high pick. He can play in any scheme and he has the one thing you can’t teach, which is being a winner.

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.

NFL Film Breakdown: Josh Allen’s Growth in Buffalo is Almost Complete

After a shaky start to his career in 2018, Josh Allen made big strides in year two with the Bills. Buffalo made it back to the playoffs and Allen cut down on the interception rate, dropped his bad throw percentage by 5.7%, and gained 510 yards on the ground. Allen showed really good understanding of blitzes, made good decisions and reads, and actually showed good touch on a lot of throws. He struggles a bit with anticipation but he moves through full-field reads with ease and he has the arm strength to push the ball into windows despite his lack of anticipation. However, his 58.8% completion percentage was dead last in the NFL and it was that low for a reason. His mechanics are wildly inconsistent and lead to a number of accuracy issues. He might be deciding to throw to the right guy, but getting it there reliably is a whole other issue. He’s reading like he’s Peyton Manning and throwing it like he’s Brock Osweiller.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 24: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills holds the ball during the first quarter of an NFL game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field on November 24, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

Usually these things happen in reverse and young quarterbacks have the physical tools but can’t read defenses. In this case it seems to be the opposite. His mind is recognizing things faster than his body can respond and because of that, his footwork goes out the window.

Despite a growing reputation as a scrambler, Josh Allen does a really good job of keeping his eyes up when he gets out of the pocket. Because of his supreme arm strength, it doesn’t matter which direction he’s rolling to or scrambling to. He can throw to just about any spot on the field – across his body, deep, short, it doesn’t matter. If you’re open, he’ll find you. He shows good patience allowing defenders to flow and stays calm when outside the pocket.

He definitely can put a little too much heat on some throws but that doesn’t mean he isn’t able to take some velocity off and drop balls over linebackers or let receivers run under throws. It’s something he’ll continue to have to work on but from year 1 to year 2, he’s improved his touch throws a lot.

Allen does a good job of getting through his reads and understanding the framework of the defense. He’s rarely confused and makes really solid decisions. Here you can see him key the flat defender and look at the quick out to Beasley before going to the corner behind. This is really supposed to be a rub route to the flat to Cole Beasley here by the Bills with the receiver that’s on the line of scrimmage working to rub his defender and prevent him from chasing to the flats. Instead, though, the Texans switch and the outside corner comes to crash on the flat which leaves the corner route open with a ton of leverage on the inside defender and no safety help. Allen recognizes the defensive framework, who to read, and delivers a strike.

These kinds of reads pop up over and over again when watching Josh Allen. You can see one of his best anticipation throws right here. On the snap, he turns and is watching the safety and overhang defender to check for a rotate. As soon as he sees the overhang defender come up on the sit route, he delivers an anticipation throw to the dig in the cleared zone.

Little nuances like this play against the Texans shows that Allen is really dialed in mentally which is super encouraging. Out of empty, teams often like to blitz with the inside slot defender since they’re stacked close to the line and there’s no extra protector to help out. That’s just what Allen is looking for. As the ball is snapped he gives a quick peak over to the slot corner to see if he’s blitzing and if he can throw hot to that side. When he sees the corner run in coverage, he comes off it and back to the slant on the other side.

He’s got all the mental tools, we know he has the arm, so why is he missing throws and what are the issues holding Josh Allen back? To put it bluntly, his lower body mechanics are really bad. He is so inconsistent with his footwork it’s almost impressive. His base tends to be really wide, he struggles to line up his legs and feet with his throws which prevents hip rotation and accuracy, his drop is almost never synched up to routes which forces him to bounce in the pocket and cause vertical accuracy issues, and whenever his footwork is rushed or when he’s trying to get the ball out fast, his base crumbles.

You can see here he’s mentally processing everything and his eyes are moving through his progression, but his feet are staying. He’s finding the right route but he’s not ready to throw it.

His biggest issue is not lining up his feet to receivers. When you aren’t lined up to throw, it makes it incredibly difficult to have consistent accuracy. You can see here how he’s aimed directly down the middle of the field and trying to throw to his right. It’s tough to get any hip rotation and sound lower body mechanics from this position. You’re off balance with no platform to make the throw from. As a result, the ball sails high.

You can see again how he’s misaligning his feet and stepping horizontally instead of at his receiver. His feet are pointed towards the sideline and he can’t get his hips into the throw and the ball goes into the ground. He has the arm talent to make these throws but without a consistent base, it’s hard to have good ball placement from a down to down basis.

This especially crops up when he’s running RPOs or quick throws. On most quick passing schemes he does a backpedal drop which usually results in him being off balance. He’s falling away from throws, can’t plant with his back foot, and ends up being more inaccurate than not.

When you have no platform to push off and deliver form, you’re relying all on your arm to make the throw as your body is trying to compensate for the momentum and mechanics of your throw. Balls will end up high, low, or behind receivers a ton on these quick throws.

It’s all about the feet and the feet aren’t matching the routes or where he’s throwing. The few times he does a pure dropback, he throws on time, with anticipation and looks really good.

The problem is that’s the exception and not the rule. 90% of the time he does a skip drop where he’s sitting and waiting for receivers to get open or is in the middle of hopping when receivers are coming open. It’s just not good football and not playing within the system and is equal parts to blame on Brian Daboll the OC. You can see that by the top of these drops almost all the time receivers aren’t even looking and Allen has to wait or come off his read. Combined with Allen wanting to see stuff open instead of throwing with anticipation and it’s a recipe for poor mechanics and mistimed throws.

He can also be a little quick to bail from pockets and makes very large moves when he is in the pocket. There isn’t much subtly. He doesn’t need to be Tom Brady with small side steps and movements, but it does get a little wild sometimes and he moves himself into pressure when he is perfectly safe inside the pocket which causes him to miss throws or run into sacks.

Josh Allen is far from a polished quarterback but there is reason to be optimistic in Buffalo. He’s making good decisions and mentally is clearly capable of being a top quarterback in the NFL. The mechanical issues and footwork are a huge concern and if they don’t get fixed, he’ll never be a consistently accurate quarterback. With offseason work and time dedicated to targeting and fixing his wide base, pointing his toe, and syncing his drops with route concepts, you could see a quick turnaround for Josh Allen. We know he’s there mentally and has more than enough arm talent to succeed. Once he puts it all together we may be looking at a quarterback that runs the AFC East for the next 10 years.

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NFL Film Breakdown: The Hidden Star in Miami

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After a slow first four years in the NFL where his highest yardage total in a season was 744 with only 4 touchdowns, DeVante Parker blew the doors off his 2019 campaign. The 27 year old out of Louisville racked up 1,202, 9 touchdowns, and averaged 16.7 yards a reception – good for 10th best in the league. His combination of route running ability, size, speed, and physicality at the point of the catch made it difficult for defensive backs to win contested catches and stay with him. He’s fearless across the middle, will attack the ball in the air, shows really good understanding of route running technique, and consistently turns defenders around and creates space for himself.

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Parker does an amazing job of attacking the ball in the air. He high points, has strong hands, and is truly exceptional at winning 50/50 balls downfield. He elevates, uses his hands, and shows incredible eye discipline. Tracking the ball all the way through the catch separates the elite pass catchers in the NFL. If their helmet and eyes follow the ball all the way through, they catch it almost 100% of the time. Take a look below at how Parker elevates and tracks the ball with his eyes all the way through the catch, and immediately protects the ball and pulls it away from defenders in the clips below.

He has elite body control which allows him to win those jump balls, back shoulders, and contested catches. Now throw in his route running abilities which jump off the screen and you’ve got a guy that almost doubled his career yardage total in his 5th year. His ability to manipulate even the best corners by attacking their blind spot, forcing them to turn their hips with route stems, and setting up corners to guess incorrectly is elite. My favorite play of his from last year is a simple deep out on defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore. The Dolphins put Parker in motion which gives him momentum to take an outside release and forces Gilmore to play a little further off than normal. With his goal to get to the sideline 10 yards downfield, Parker has leverage on Gilmore which immediately makes him opens up his hips to run with Parker. Parker then works back inside indicating he’s going to the post or dig which again forces Gilmore to turn his hips and run with him to the inside. As soon as Gilmore turns his back to flip his hips, Parker attacks his blind-spot and cuts flat outside with Gilmore totally lost in coverage.

Parker shows great understanding of getting onto the defenders toes to close space and minimize the time that the corner has to react to his cuts. Below, he does some front foot skip that eats up a yard and closes the cushion while freezing the defender. Since his inside foot stays up on the skip, he’s primed and ready to explode up and out on a fade release to the outside and quickly wins his route.

Whether he slow plays it or does a hard stem outside, he will routinely sell fade and come back to slants. When defenders are up close, it makes it incredibly hard to defend – especially with his frame and the way he attacks the ball in the air. The foot fire and initial fade steps close the distance and gets the corners out of position.

A principle of attacking man coverage as a receiver is to push their leverage. Whatever way the defender is shading you is the way they generally don’t want you to go. By attacking that leverage, you are threatening the space they most want to protect. Parker uses this to his advantage on Gilmore below and sells a slant with Gilmore shading inside. He takes two steps in before turning it up to a fade on the outside. Parker wins on the route but if he has one weakness, it’s that he can lack physicality when running his routes and can struggle with jams. Gilmore gets a punch on him and slows him down but he still is able to create separation and you can see the impact of the initial slant stem and how it opens up space for him to the outside.

While he’s incredibly aggressive to the ball in the air, he can struggle to use his hands when releasing against press or against physical defenders. You’d like to see more active hand fighting to help create separation and prevent corners from slowing him down. He has the strength and frame to out-reach most corners and while he’s gotten better, he still isn’t quite all the way there yet.

DeVante Parker has finally started to put all the physical tools together. He’s using his frame to attack the ball in the air, demonstrates great route technique and understanding, and has translated it all into production on the field. It’s rare to find guys that take 4 whole years to develop into true number one receivers, but Parker has all the makings of one. Maybe not as dominant as Michael Thomas, but if he continues to improve and polish and develop a connection with new Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa, Parker can become an absolutely dominant force in the AFC East.

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2017 NFL Re-Draft

The 2017 draft will go down as one of the greatest of all time. Seriously, look at how many pro bowlers and all-pro’s there are just after three seasons. But, for every superstar, there was a bust. Fourteen of the thirty-two picks didn’t get their fifth-year options picked and in this exercise thirteen players who were picked in the first round in 2017, weren’t picked here. That’s a relatively high bust rate, especially for a class that has had twenty-three pro bowlers. To note for this, I did not include draft night trades but did include ones that took place before the first-round. Nonetheless, here’s how I would re-draft the 2017 class:

1 Cleveland Browns- Patrick Mahomes, QB Texas Tech

Does this one need an explanation? Mahomes has quickly become the best player in the league and a Super Bowl MVP. Would he be as good as he is now by not being with a great offensive mind like Andy Reid and not having the luxury of sitting out his first season? Probably not, but with that talent alone he’s an all-time talent at the quarterback position. Garrett has been great for the Browns (when not hitting players in the head with a helmet), but he’s not a generational quarterback like Mahomes.

2 San Francisco 49ers- Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson

Watson was a case of over-analyzing a prospect rather than just accepting the fact that they’re a great player. Already a two-time pro bowler, Watson has displayed elite accuracy while being able to create with his legs. Imagine him with a play-calling genius like Kyle Shanahan? He’s already one of the premier quarterbacks in the league and Shanahan would guarantee him reaching his ceiling. Solomon Thomas (whom they drafted at 3 after moving down one spot with the Bears) has been a bust. No other way to describe it at this point and the team feels the same way by not picking up his fifth-year option. 

3 Chicago Bears – Myles Garrett, EDGE Texas A&M

When on the field, Garrett has become one of the most feared pass rushers in no time. After 13.5 sacks in 2018, he had 10 sacks in 10 games in 2019. He was viewed as one of the best defensive end prospects of all time and while he may not have lived up to that hype just yet, he’s young and has a chance to get there. He has the tools to be the best defender in the league, but he just has to stay on the field. The Bears traded up one spot to select Mitch Trubisky, who while a Pro Bowler in 2018, appears to be on very thin ice with his fifth-year option was declined.

4 Jacksonville Jaguars- Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford

Depending on who you ask, the running back value is tanking. However, a player like McCaffrey is a unicorn, a player who can do it all. An All-Pro in 2019, he became the first player in this class to get a contract extension and became just the third player to have a season of 1,000 yard receiving and 1,000 rushing yards in a season, and that’s with suspect quarterback play. He’s a true game-changer and a legit MVP candidate for years to come. While most running backs have short play careers now, a guy like McCaffrey will age well due to his versatility. The Jags picked Leonard Fournette at this spot who hasn’t been a bust but hasn’t performed like a fourth overall pick. Due to his high price tag, the Jags didn’t pick up his fifth-year option and is a trade candidate. 

5 Tennessee Titans- George Kittle, TE Iowa

The People’s Tight End was an afterthought in the 2017 Draft and didn’t get drafted until the fifth round. Kittle exploded onto the scene in his second season, putting up the most receiving yards in a single season for a tight end. He’s just not a receiving threat though, he’s one of the best blocking tight ends in the league as well and is crucial to the 49ers run game. There’s simply no other tight end currently who is so dynamic in receiving and blocking than Kittle. Add in his energetic personality and he really is the second coming of Rob Gronkowski. Quite simply he’s the best tight-end in the league and was able to break records with Nick Mullens as his quarterback. Kittle is a superstar. The Titans originally went with Corey Davis, who was a late-rising prospect from Western Michigan. He has yet to reach 1,000 yards in a season and while it’s in part to lackluster quarterback play, he simply isn’t the starting receiver they had in mind as his fifth-year option was also declined. 

6 New York Jets- Jamal Adams, S LSU

The Jets hit this pick out of the park and in this re-draft they get their guy again in Jamal Adams. While their relationship has been a soap opera, Adams has become one of the best safeties in the league and a leader in the locker room. A two-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro, Adams does everything the Jets ask him to do at an extremely high level. While contract talks have been rocky and trade rumors have surrounded him all season, Adams should be paid as the top safety in the league whether the Jets will agree to it or not. His situation with the team will be a fascinating story this upcoming season.

7 Los Angeles Chargers- Tre’Davious White, CB LSU

In a class stacked with top-end cornerback talent, White has been the best so far and has the highest upside. Named an All-Pro this past season, White has been the catalyst for the Bills defense by leading the league in interceptions and not allowing a touchdown against him all season. Outside of Stephon Gilmore, there isn’t a cornerback playing better than White right now. Adding White with the dynamic pass rush of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram would give the Chargers a top defense. The team selected Mike Williams who did just have a 1000 yard receiving season after spending the first two seasons as a complementary player. The upside is still there but needs to build off of this season’s success. 

8 Carolina Panthers- TJ Watt, EDGE Wisconsin

The Watt family name has become football royalty. His brother J.J. has been one of the best defensive players over the past decade and T.J. is becoming as good as J.J. His 34.5 sacks are the most for any player in this class and was an All-Pro this past season. It’s tough to dispute that he’s outperformed #1 overall pick Myles Garrett up to this point. Despite all of this, Watt has still been underrated in his career. Hell, I might even be putting him too low on this list. He may not have the flashy athleticism, but when it comes to rushing the passer, not too many are better than Watt at the moment. The Panthers selected Christian McCaffrey at this spot and he’s become the face of their franchise. While he’s already gone in this re-draft, getting a guy like Watt is a great consolation. 

9 Cincinnati Bengals- Marshon Lattimore, CB Ohio State

Another stud corner from this class is Marshon Lattimore, a two-time pro bowler, who’s been a rock in the secondary for the Saints. Coming from Ohio State, also known as DBU, Lattimore has constantly battled the likes of Mike Evans and Julio Jones in the NFC North and for the most part has held his own. A shutdown corner would provide stability to an otherwise shaky position group in Cincinnati. In reality, the Bengals selected John Ross III, a guy whose stock rose because of his all-time great 40 time but lacked the polish. As many expected, Ross hasn’t worked out and has yet to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in his career. He’s flashed at times, but overall has been a bust and did not get his fifth-year option renewed.  

10 Buffalo Bills- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR USC

It’s been years since the Bills had a legit #1 receiver (until just recently acquiring Stefon Diggs of course) and Smith-Schuster would have brought credibility and swagger to the Bills locker room. He was also the youngest player drafted in this class and has gone onto becoming the youngest player to reach 2,500 yards receiving. At worst, he’s going to become a fantastic second option. In this spot, the Chiefs changed their franchise forever by moving up to select Patrick Mahomes. I’d say that worked out well for them. It worked out pretty nicely for the Bills either as they got stud corner, Tre’Davious White at 27.

11 New Orleans Saints- Alvin Kamara, RB Tennessee

Three Pro Bowls in three years? Not a bad start for Mr. Kamara, who like McCaffrey has become a dual-threat out of the backfield. He was utilized in his first two seasons alongside Mark Ingram to form the best 1-2 punch in the league. Kamara is a great runner but has honestly been more effective as a pass-catcher, catching 81 passes in every season so far. He’s an explosive athlete yet savvy route-runner that allows him to get open. In this Saints offense, he’s the perfect player. While the Saints lucked out by getting him in the third round in 2017, their first-round pick was Marshon Lattimore who has been a great player for them and figures to be a part of their future plans on defense. 

12 Cleveland Browns- Chris Godwin, WR Penn State

The Browns were able to get their second first-round pick due to the Carson Wentz trade with the Eagles before the 2016 draft. Then, come time for this draft then traded down to the Texans who got their franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson. So for those keeping track, that’s two stud quarterbacks the Browns passed on at one overall. At 25 they were able to get Jabrill Peppers who was eventually flipped for Odell Beckham, Jr. In this case however, they go get an emerging star receiver in Godwin. He’s had the benefit of being in a pass-first offense but the detriment of having Jameis Winston as his quarterback. Talk about a sticky situation. In this hypothetical, you pair Mahomes with a talented receiver that would grow as pro’s together. Ideal situation.

13 Arizona Cardinals- Budda Baker, S Washington

Another case where a team actually got a player on their own team but not in the first round in this redraft was the Cardinals with Budda Baker. Baker possibly has had great success early in his career and the only rookie named All-Pro in 2017. While he hasn’t yet recorded an interception in his career, he’s been a tackling machine and tough in coverage. The team has been able to line him up anywhere on the field and he excels. As Patrick Peterson reaches the end of his career, Baker replaces him as the heartbeat of the Cardinals defense. 

14 Philadelphia Eagles- Marlon Humphrey, CB Alabama

It seems like every year, particularly the last two, that the Eagles are a team in desperate need of a corner. Luckily in this scenario, they were able to have an All-Pro cornerback in Marlon Humphrey fall right into their laps. While Humphrey didn’t become a full-time starter until this past season, he made the most of it and became the star of the Ravens defense. He led the league with two defensive touchdowns and became the playmaker in the back end this team sorely needs. The Eagles drafted Derek Barnett, who has had some great moments including recovering a huge fumble in the Super Bowl LII. Despite this, he hasn’t performed to his draft slot, but still has the time to become a star. 

15 Indianapolis Colts- Ryan Ramcyzk, OT Wisconsin

The Colts couldn’t protect Andrew Luck for years and injuries seemed to be one of the main reasons why he retired. If they had invested any draft capital in the offensive line, maybe Luck is still playing today. Ramczyk is a two-time All-Pro and didn’t allow a sack this past season. PFF graded him out as the best tackle in the 2019 season. With Anthony Castonzo on the left and Ramczyk on the right, you have one of the best tackle duos in the league. The Colts went with Malik Hooker at this point and he’s been a very good player, just not at a position of the utmost importance as a team. 

16 Baltimore Ravens- Kenny Golladay, WR Northern Illinois

Before Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback, the Ravens offense the previous few seasons was as exciting as watching paint dry. They sorely lacked a playmaker that would strike fear in the opposing defense. In this scenario, they get a big-play receiver in Golladay. In 2019, he was 4th in yards per reception and that was without Stafford for most of the season. For his efforts, he was named to his first Pro Bowl and is now the centerpiece of the Lions offense. That’s the kind of playmaking that any team, especially one that struggled with offense, envies. Marlon Humphrey was the pick here and was well worth it, but alas doesn’t make it to this point now.

17 Washington Redskins- Eddie Jackson, S Alabama

The unsung hero of the Bears defense is Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowler and 2018 All-Pro. Seriously, if you ask the casual fan they might not have heard of him. He gets overshadowed by players like Khalil Mack, but Jackson is almost a carbon-copy of Earl Thomas. A ballhawk who has forced fifteen turnovers (ten interceptions) in three seasons, he’s become the back end player who’s been one of the largest beneficiaries of the Bears pass rush. The Redskins could use a turnover machine on defense like Jackson and while they went with Jonathan Allen here, who’s been a solid player, he doesn’t have the upside or immediate impact Jackson gives you. 

18 Tennessee Titans- Cooper Kupp, WR Eastern Washington
One of the reasons why the Titans may have reached for Corey Davis at 5 was because of the need for a wide receiver. At this point in the draft, they would be getting one of the best route-runners in the league in Cooper Kupp. Kupp has seen his role increase every year and despite tearing his ACL in 2018, he rebounded quite well in 2019 with an 1100 yard receiving season. He might not have the upside as the other receivers already drafted, but he is going to be a starting receiver in this league for a long time. At this spot the Titans went with Adoree Jackson, who many believed was a reach but has become a solid corner who’s still developing. 

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Malik Hooker, S Ohio State

It’s been years since the Buccaneers had stable safety play and Hooker would be the deep safety to help solidify the secondary. Hooker was off to a hot start early in his career before going down with a torn ACL halfway through his rookie season. Since then, there have been ups and downs in his career, mostly due to more injury problems. When healthy, he’s an obvious talent that can change the game. However, the Colts surprisingly declined his fifth-year option which might just be a sign that I overvalue him. The team went with O.J. Howard at this slot, who while very talented, has been inconsistent. He might have a chance with Brady as his quarterback to reach that potential but the clock is running out on Howard. 

20 Denver Broncos- Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State

Cook himself has had his fair share of injury concerns ranging from shoulder, knee, hamstring, and chest ailments in his early career. Those injuries hampered his first two seasons as a pro before having a Pro Bowl season in 2019. Even with that season, he did most of his damage early in the year and the last eight games (including the postseason), he only averaged three yards a carry. By playing in Denver he would be the featured back but still a part of a rotation that would help keep him fresh and hopefully healthy. The Broncos went with Garrett Bolles, who’s one of the league’s most penalized linemen. The team figures to keep him as the starting left tackle for this upcoming season, but the team declined his fifth-year option. 

21 Detroit Lions- Jonathan Allen, DL Alabama

Allen was seen as a top-ten prospect who saw a bit of a draft-day stumble due to a shoulder injury and landed at 17 to the Redskins. While injuries derailed his first season, the last two he has been very steady. The Lions have shuffled players in and out of the defensive line rotation the past few seasons and haven’t had the consistency needed, especially at defensive tackle. The team tried solving a similar issue at linebacker with Jarrad Davis, who seemed to be a reach at the time, and he’s struggled so far in his career. His fifth year option wasn’t picked up.

22 Miami Dolphins- Evan Engram, TE Clemson

Another case of a talented yet injured player from this class is Evan Engram> he’s listed as a tight end but is essentially a big receiver who lines up at the “Y” position for the Giants. The Dolphins are a team in need of offensive playmakers and while Engrams; injury history, especially with concussions is concerning, he’s too talented of a player to pass up. The Dolphins went with Charles Harris, who was traded for a seventh-round pick in 2021. Safe to say it didn’t work out too well. 

23 New York Giants- Jabrill Peppers, S Michigan

While Peppers in real life is a Giant, he was drafted as a Brown and traded after two seasons to the Big Apple. He was the starter at strong safety this past season but lines up in a few places due to his versatility. While he will probably never become a superstar like he was in college, there’s still plenty of untapped potential there that makes Giants fans excited for the future. The Giants went with Evan Engram here, who was just selected in this exercise by the Dolphins.

24 Las Vegas Raiders- Kevin King, CB Washington

The Oakland native gets to play his first three seasons here and the Raiders get some much-needed help at corner. The team has used plenty of early draft capital on corners over the past decade, but none have quite yet seemed to work out. They have a promising defensive line, above average linebackers and the secondary is the main work in progress. King only played in fifteen total games over his first two seasons, but put together a strong season in 2019 by leading the Packers with five interceptions. He has the desired size and athleticism for a corner and if he can stay healthy, he has the chance to become a Pro Bowler. The Raiders went with another corner here in Gareon Conley, who couldn’t crack the starting lineup and was traded for a third-rounder this past season. 

25 Houston Texans- Leonard Fournette, RB LSU

Fournette maybe hasn’t lived up to the hype as a fourth overall pick, but he’s still a pretty damn good running back. He was the focal point of the offense as a rookie but has struggled with injuries and poor quarterback play the past few seasons. GIving the Texans a legit running back would provide some run/pass balance in their offense. The team did move up to get Watson, a great trade for them and the Browns selected Jabrill Peppers at this spot. 

26 Seattle Seahawks- Shaquill Griffin, CB UCF

There was a five-year stretch where the Seahawks only made one first-round pick, with them often trading down to get more day 2 and 3 picks. However, in this case they have to keep their pick and in return get one of their own in Shaquill Griffin. He’s been an instant starter for the team and was named a pro bowler in 2019. He may never be a flashy player, but is consistent. The Falcons traded up to this spot to get Takkarist McKinley, who has been up and down so far and the team did not pick up his fifth-year option.

27 Kansas City Chiefs- Mike Williams, WR Clemson

Mike Williams was seen as a high ceiling receiver coming out of Clemson despite a few injury concerns. He was drafted seventh overall despite this and for a few seasons, it took until this past season for him to be really featured in the offense. The jury is still out on him, but his potential alone makes him a worthwhile selection. The Chiefs have plenty of speed on offense but could benefit from a possession receiver like Williams and Andy Reid would make sure he’s a focal point of the offense. The Bills traded with the Chiefs (Mahomes trade) and drafted All-Pro Tre’Davious White at this spot, who has become one of the best corners in the league. 

28 Dallas Cowboys- OJ Howard, TE Alabama

I previously mentioned how Howard has been relatively inconsistent so far and every preseason, experts keep anticipating a breakout season. He can develop into one of the games best tight ends but really needs to take a step forward in his progression soon. The Cowboys would love a guy like Howard due to his potential and the chance to learn from Jason Witten for a few seasons. The team drafted Taco Charlton here who was released just two weeks into the 2019 season. He signed with the Dolphins before being released again and recently signed with the Chiefs. 

29 Green Bay Packers- Aaron Jones, RB UTEP

It took a new coach for Aaron Jones to help come into his own. He led the NFL in rushing touchdowns this season and cracked 1000 yards for the first time. The Packers got a steal by drafting the former UTEP running back in the fifth round as he is a perfect fit for the zone scheme the Packers run. The Browns traded up to this spot for David Njoku, a player with so much skill but can’t stay on the field. He’s been the subject of trade but he’s fifth-year option was picked up so it seems the team has big plans for him in the future. 

30 Pittsburgh Steelers- Adoree Jackson, CB USC
Jackson was seen as more athlete than football player coming out of USC so it surprised a few when the Titans took him in the first round. He has become a pretty solid player for Tennessee and became a starter right off the bat. He’s also one of the younger players in the class and still only 23 so has the chance to continue to develop. The Steelers struck gold here by taking T.J. Watt, but he’s long gone at this point and a player with the skill of Jackson you can’t pass up for a corner-needy team like Pittsburgh. 

31 Atlanta Falcons- Derek Barnett, EDGE Tennessee

This pick bounced around a few times from Atlanta to Seattle to finally San Francisco, but Atlanta gets to keep this slot and go with Barnett. They targeted Tak McKinley, who hasn’t worked out too well for them and while Barnett may have not totally lived up to the hype coming out of college, he’s still been a solid pass rusher and is just now getting a chance to get true starter playing time. The 49ers took a risk by trading up for talented yet troubled Linebacker Reuben Foster here and halfway through his second season he was released after a few arrests. He’s now with the Redskins and is coming off of a torn achilles. 

32 New Orleans Saints- Marcus Williams, S Utah

The Saints traded Brandin Cooks a month before the draft to the Patriots and with the pick they take another player who they drafted later on in Marcus Williams. That’s now four players the team drafted now ending up in the first round of this redraft. Very impressive. Williams has ten interceptions in three seasons and is a good starting free safety in this league. He may be best known for missing the tackle on the “Minnesota Miracle” play, but that does not define who he is as a player. The last pick of the first round was Ryan Ramyczk, who as we know is one of the better tackles in the league. 

First Rounders not drafted this time

2. Mitchell Trubisky

3. Solomon Thomas 

5. Corey Davis

9. John Ross

13. Haason Reddick

20. Garrett Bolles

21. Jarrad Davis

22. Charles Harris

24. Gareon Conley

26. Takkarist McKinley

28. Taco Charlton

29. David Njoku

31. Reuben Foster

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