After ten weeks of regular season play, it is time to start predicting who will win what awards in the NFL.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
Many may argue that Carolina Panther’s wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is the clear offensive rookie of the year since he has caught seven touchdowns compared to Watkins’ five. However, Watkins provides more of an impact to his team. Anytime Watkins hauls in over 80 receiving yards in a game, the Bills are 4-0. When he records less than 80 yards in a game, the Bills are 1-4. Watkins and Benjamin have put up similar numbers but Watkins’ impact to his team is undeniable.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
Despite dropping off the radar the last couple of weeks due to injury, Kyle Fuller is still in contention for defensive rookie of the year. Fuller’s performance this season should have Bears fans excited about their heir to Charles Tillman. As the first player in 20 years to record three picks and two forced fumbles in his first three NFL games, Fuller’s play indicates he will easily fill in Tillman’s big shoes. Fuller currently has three forced fumbles and three interceptions on the season. Regardless of Fuller’s impressive play, if the Bear’s defense keeps giving up 50 points per game, there is no way Fuller wins this award.
Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
After breaking his collarbone last year in a contest with the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers has sought out revenge against Chicago and is playing some of the best football of his career. Rodgers has torched Chicago this season throwing for ten touchdowns against them in two games, including a six down touchdown performance in the first half alone against the Bears this past Sunday. Rodgers isn’t only performing well against Chicago, as he is third in the league with 25 touchdowns and only three interceptions. What’s amazing is that Rodgers has thrown for 25 touchdowns on only 277 passing attempts. In comparison, touchdown leaders Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have compiled passing attempts of 353 and 393, respectively. Rodgers is officially back.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians is the clear-cut coach of the year. Through Week 10, the Arizona Cardinals are 8-1 and hold the best record in the league after defeating the St. Louis Rams 31-14 in Week 9. Arians’ performance this season has been especially impressive since he has lost many key players on both sides of the ball, but the Cardinals somehow continue to win games. However, it will be tough for the Cardinals to recover after losing quarterback Carson Palmer for the season due to an ACL tear, but if Arians is able to get the Cardinals to win the NFC West with Drew Stanton under center, Arians should win the award unanimously.
Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray has been everything and more that the Cowboys have asked for this season. Murray started the season rushing for 100 yards in each of his first eight games. Perhaps the reason for these amazing numbers is that his workload is insane. He has carried the ball a total of 244 times and has rushed for a league high 1,233 yards. If Murray stays healthy, he is on pace to break the 2,000 rushing yard mark and possibly Eric Dickerson’s regular season rushing yard record of 2,105 yards. The only blemish on Murray’s resume is that he has fumbled the ball five times this season. Murray’s performance this season is one of the key reasons why the Cowboys are playing so well.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Defensive end, Houston Texans
Watt’s dominant performance this season has not only put him ahead in the defensive player of the year discussion but also in the NFL MVP conversation. In addition to three touchdowns, Watt also has 39 tackles, eight and a half sacks, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Since 1957, the NFL MVP has been awarded to the best player who is thought to be the most valuable to his team. The award is almost always won by a quarterback or a running back and has only been awarded to a defensive player twice. Lawrence Taylor, linebacker of the New York Giants, last won the award back in 1986. Watt is with no doubt going to win the defensive player of the year award, the real question is, will he be the first defensive player to win the MVP award since Lawrence Taylor?
Most Valuable Player: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
There are many candidates for MVP in the NFL this year including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and J.J. Watt but, through Week 10, Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck is the frontrunner for the award. With a league leading 3,085 passing yards through nine games, Luck is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477 passing yards in a season. Luck’s completion percentage (63.6%) and average yards per attempt (7.85) are significantly higher than his first two seasons in the NFL. Luck and the Colts are also on pace to win the AFC South for the third straight year and could possibly clinch a first round bye in the postseason. Even with similar numbers to Brady and Manning, Luck might be given the award simply because he has never won it before.
I’ve done a few baseball blogs in a row, and now it’s time to get back into football mode. Former Texas Longhorns players had a pretty nice showing in the NFL’s Week 6. Here are a few standouts from Sunday’s games.
Marquise Goodwin (Buffalo Bills, wide receiver)
Goodwin is finally back for the Bills after fracturing his hand in Week 1. Whenever he plays, he not only gives the Bills a dangerous deep threat, but also has home run ability on kick and punt returns. On Sunday, at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, Goodwin was targeted three times and hauled in two passes for 51 yards and a touchdown, including a 40-yard touchdown reception. On special teams he was even more lethal, gaining a total of 94 yards on four returns. Although the Bengals won 27-24, the speedy Goodwin left his mark on the game.
Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs, running back)
Charles had another relatively inefficient day on the ground on Sunday. He needed 22 carries to gain 78 yards, but he got the ball in the end zone twice for the Chiefs. He contributed five receptions for 50 yards. Charles played no small part in continuing the Chiefs’ perfect season with a win at home over the Oakland Raiders, 24-7. While he hasn’t quite been the explosive runner we are used to seeing, he is contributing much more in the passing game. He’s always had good hands for a running back, and that makes him even more valuable.
Kenny Vaccaro (New Orleans Saints, safety)
Vaccaro and the Saints’ defense played well against Tom Brady and the Patriots on Sunday. Vaccaro helped limit the still-potent Patriots’ offense to just 376 yards on 83 plays. Brady was flustered all afternoon, as Vaccaro and the Saints’ tight secondary coverage paved the way for the front seven’s five sacks. In typical fashion, Brady engineered a last-minute drive to steal the win at home, 30-27. The Saints’ defense isn’t the first victim and certainly won’t be the last of Brady’s clutch gene.
Last week I circled both the Washington Redskins-Oakland Raiders and the Buffalo Bills-Baltimore Ravens games as the two to watch if you were interested in following some former Longhorn greats. Both of these contests lived up to the hype I put on them in my blog last Friday. Contrary to my predictions, the Redskins earned their first victory of the season, while the Bills upset the Ravens at home. Here’s a look at how some key former Longhorns performed for both teams, and other standout Texas performances from the week.
Brian Orakpo (Redskins defensive end)
I guess Orakpo heard me loud and clear last week. He had to play well and set an aggressive defensive tone for his team if the Redskins wanted to pick up their first win of the season. He did just that by providing suffocating pressure on Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn. Orakpo finished the game with four tackles with two for a loss, and two sacks. He spearheaded the Redskins’ defensive attack as they would tally a whopping seven sacks in the game. Overall his defensive did a nice job of limiting the Raiders to just 298 total yards and 14 points. That’s a nice way to set up a win.
Aaron Williams (Bills defensive back)
This is Williams’ second fantastic defensive week of the season. Quarterback Joe Flacco had possibly the worst game of his career and Williams and the Bills’ defense played no small part in his embarrassing afternoon. The Ravens’ defense forced five — that’s not a typo — five interceptions and from Flacco. Williams claimed two of these picks, while also finishing with two tackles and four pass breakups. Buffalo’s defense is starting to become a stingy unit. Williams has been, and will continue to be a major factor in its success as the season progresses.
Earl Thomas (Seahawks safety)
In typical fashion, Thomas brought energy and swagger to the Seahawks’ heroic defensive efforts in what was a potential Super Bowl preview against the Houston Texans. The defining play of the game was cornerback Richard Sherman’s pick six against quarterback Matt Schaub late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20. Thomas contributed on defense all throughout the game prior to that play. He pitched in seven tackles and two critical pass breakups from Matt Schaub. The result: The Seahawks remained unbeaten even after one of their toughest tests of the season. Quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense played poorly and still managed to win this game. That speaks volumes about the quality of Seattle’s defense.
As always, this weekend of NFL action features a parade of former Texan Longhorn players. For Longhorn fans there are quite a few games Sunday to keep an eye on. Two games in particular – Washington Redskins vs. Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills – will feature a nice collection of Texas players. In addition to their appeal to Texas football fans, both of these games seem to have make-or-break implications for at least one of the teams involved. Let’s take a look at the matchups.
Ravens at Bills
Marquise Goodwin is still out with the fractured hand he suffered in the Bills’ week-one loss to the Patriots. Bummer. It would have definitely been exciting to see his blazing breakaway speed matched up with the likes of defensive backs Michael Huff and Chykie Brown.
Look for CB Aaron Williams to have another huge day against a Ravens squad, which is depleted at the receiver position. In week two, Williams recorded a team-high 12 tackles. This is a paramount game for the Bills – the difference between 1-3 and 2-2 in this league is greater than it appears. This is Williams’ chance to shine again, only this time against the defending champs. I’m taking the Ravens in a close one, as Justin Tucker wins it on a last second field goal.
Redskins at Raiders
Since 1990, only three teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3. To avoid permanently crippling their season with their 0-4 start, the Redskins need some big-time defensive help for Robert Griffin III. Enter the Texas stars: DE Brian Orakpo, CB Cedric Griffin and LB Keenan Robinson will need to step and play effectively to keep Griffin and the offense on the field. The defense has already surrendered 98 points in their first three games. Offensively, the Redskins are putting up a decent amount of points but Griffin is constantly having to play catch up – thus turning himself into a one-dimensional quarterback. The defensive effort starts with Orakpo, who has been Washington’s best individual defender over the first three weeks.
Oakland defensive tackle Lamarr Houston will be key in applying pressure to Griffin in the pocket. In three games this year, he’s tallied two sacks and a forced fumble. If he and the Raider defense can minimize their time on the field, Oakland is in good shape. The last thing the Redskins’ defense needs right now is 35+ minutes on the field. This is going to be tough contest for Washington, but I think they’ll pick up their first win. It’s not the opponent but the wild, Oakland atmosphere that will make things difficult for the ‘Skins as they look to avoid an 0-4 start.
For former Texas Longhorns, Week 2 of the NFL season was collectively one of the most impressive in recent memory. Here's a recap of some of the great Longhorn performances this week, as well as a look ahead to their teams' matchup in Week 3.
Earl Thomas - Safety, Seattle Seahawks
Along with Seattle's deafening home crowd, Thomas was a large part of a phenomenal defensive effort against the potent 49ers' offense. He recorded three tackles and intercepted the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick. This week the Seahawks will host the Jaguars. Expect Thomas and the Seahawks' secondary to perform well against struggling Jags quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Brian Orakpo - Defensive End, Washington Redskins
Orakpo filled out his stat sheet nicely this week against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Despite the Skins' 18-point loss, Orakpo's never-ceasing motor earned him five tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.This weekend he'll face another relatively immobile quarterback in the Lions' Matthew Stafford.
Aaron Williams - Cornerback, Buffalo Bills
The Bills fought hard for new head coach Doug Marone's first NFL victory against Carolina last week. Aaron Williams made a pretty bit difference in the Bills' secondary, as he made a game high 12 tackles including one for a loss. He's always been a lock down corner but sometimes had issues tackling. It appears he's corrected that problem since he left Texas. This weekend, Geno Smith and the New York Jets await Williams, a great matchup.
Jermichael Finley - Tight End, Green Bay Packers
Finley had an effective outing last week against the Redskins. With Greg Jennings gone, Finley figures to be a bigger target for Rodgers going forward. His six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown last week certainly validates that claim. He and Rodgers will face a tough Cincinnati secondary next week.
Jamaal Charles - Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs
Compared to Charles' standards, last week's results weren't all that impressive: 16 carries for 55 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, is far below his career averages. But he made big runs when the Chiefs needed them the most. He ran for a key first down late in the fourth quarter to keep Dallas' offense off the field, sealing the win.
Former Longhorn quarterback Vince Young is now the likely backup quar- terback for the Packers after the team released quarterback Gra- ham Harrell on Friday evening. Young has been out of the NFL since 2011.
After an impressive career in burnt orange, Kenny Vaccaro joined New Orleans in the first of the 2013 NFL Draft — the first time in franchise history the Saints drafted a safety that early. The 15th overall pick will strengthen the Saints’ defensive backfield, which was the second-worst in the league last season. The hard-hitting Vaccaro recorded 92 tackles in his final season at Texas and tallied two interceptions. He’s already created a buzz around the Saints’ organization after starting a few on-field skirmishes, most notably with veteran tight end Jimmy Graham.
Former Olympian and Longhorn Marquise Goodwin established himself as an impact player early on for the Bills this preseason. Goodwin, a third-round pick in 2013, returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown in his first preseason game.
Goodwin will add needed speed and quickness to the Bills’ return game.
The Arizona Cardinals selected Alex Okafor in third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The defensive lineman set a number of records during his senior season, which included a 4.5 sack effort in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Okafor, who played defensive end at Texas, is listed as an outside linebacker on the Cardinals’ roster. Either way, expect Okafor to find a way to the quarterback.
Green Bay Packers
Young is back in the NFL after sitting out the 2012 season, after the Bills released him at the end of the preseason. The Packers released Graham Harrell on Saturday evening, making it likely that Young will be the backup to Aaron Rodgers to start the season. Although he is firmly entrenched behind Rodgers on the depth chart, Young impressed in his preseason debut, throwing for 41 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 39 yards on three carries in Friday’s 17-10 loss to Seattle.
Orakpo returns to the Redskins’ starting lineup in Week 1 after a torn pectoral muscle forced him out of the final 14 games of 2012. The Redskins hope that Orakpo, who has recorded 29.5 sacks in 49 career games, can return to form as a pass-rusher. If he can, it would be a huge aid to the 30th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. Now in a contract season, the 27-year-old outside linebacker is healthy and primed for a productive year in Washington.
Ross will play a significant role in the Giants secondary, especially after cornerback Jayron Hosley left Saturday’s preseason game with an ankle injury. If Hosley is unable to return for the season opener, Ross could slot as the Giants’ third cornerback behind Prince Amukamara and Corey Webster. In the pass-happy NFC East, look for Ross to see plenty of time in New York’s secondary.
Former Longhorns wide receiver Marquise Goodwin runs after the catch during the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State. Goodwin was drafted to the Buffalo Bills over the weekend with the 78th pick.
Three former Longhorns will boast new jerseys, new teams and new cities after being selected during the 2013 NFL Draft this past week.
Safety Kenny Vaccaro was selected in the first round of the draft as the 15th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was picked 78th overall by the Buffalo Bills in the third round while defensive end Alex Okafor was chosen as the 103rd overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals.
First off the board for the Longhorns was Vaccaro, who had made it his goal to be the first safety chosen. Without waiting too long on Thursday at Radio City Music Hall, his wish was granted.
“This is just the beginning,” Vaccaro said. “Now I have to keep working hard to get to New Orleans and make an impact.”
Vaccaro was a strong prospect heading into the draft after leading the Longhorns in tackles in 2012.
“I have been grinding my whole life, literally since I was four years old, for this opportunity,” Vaccaro said. “The Saints were my last visit, and I had a good feeling about it.”
Goodwin, well aware of the other talented players still up for grabs, didn’t pay much attention to the draft Friday night, during which he got the call from the Buffalo Bills.
“I was just sitting out there throwing the football with my brothers and sitting on the back of the truck talking,” Goodwin said. “I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t even think I’m going to go today. There are still receivers ranked ahead of me on the board.’ I got the call while I was on the back of the truck.”
Being chosen as a new member of an NFL team came after a whirlwind eight months for Goodwin, during which he competed at the Olympics in London and finished out his senior year of football, forgoing his last season of track to prepare for the draft.
“[My time at Texas] really taught me patience and how to persevere through thick and thin,” Goodwin said. “I went off the board before guys that had a lot more catches and yards than I did. But I’ve got a wonderful opportunity in front of me, and I’m just going to make the most of it.”
For Goodwin, Buffalo comes with some familiar ties. Former Longhorn and current Buffalo Bills safety Aaron Williams is a close friend while men’s head track coach Bubba Thornton also played as a wide receiver for the Bills.
Okafor said he couldn’t stop smiling after the call he received from the Arizona Cardinals.
“It’s just a blessing,” Okafor said. “No matter what team you go to, when you get that call on draft day you’re already in love with the team. Really, that is all you can ask for.”
Two other former Longhorns, defensive end Sam Acho and center Lyle Sendlein, are already on the Cardinals roster.
For Okafor, who many analysts predicted would be chosen in the second round, the phone call that came upon his selection was a welcomed end to the waiting game.
“I expected to be called yesterday,” Okafor said on Saturday. “It was a long wait yesterday. But God has a plan for me. Today I couldn’t be any happier.”
Former Longhorns wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday night, the second Texas player to be picked this year after safety Kenny Vaccaro was picked by the New Orleans Saints with the No. 15 pick of the draft Thursday.
Buffalo, who had used its first-round pick to take Florida State's E.J. Manuel, the first quarterback off the board at No. 16, drafted USC wide receiver Robert Woods in the second round before taking Goodwin in the third. The speedy wideout made just 26 catches for 340 yards and three touchdowns last season but wowed scouts with a 4.27-second 40-yard dash at this year's NFL Combine -- the fastest-ever by a receiver.
Goodwin was on both the Texas football and track teams, finishing 10th at the 2012 Olympic Games in the long jump. Now he'll focus on football as a member of the Bills, who had the 25th-ranked passing game in the NFL last year.
"Marquise, in my opinion, has his best football ahead of him," Texas head coach Mack Brown said. "He was such a star in track-winning the World Games in the long jump, being an Olympian, which was a goal of his and we sure didn't want to get in the way. But because of that, he was never in a spring practice, and he was never around in the summer. He has tremendous skills-leaping ability, speed, and hand-eye coordination. He his tough and can be a kick returner as well. We think he has a great up side and someone will be lucky to get him."
Goodwin will be the third former Longhorn in Buffalo, joining cornerback Aaron Williams, the last Texas player to be drafted by the Bills when they selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft, and offensive guard David Snow, who signed with the team as an undrafted free agent last year. Buffalo's selection of Goodwin marks the sixth time a Longhorns wide receiver has been drafted since Brown was hired as Texas' head coach. Wayne McGarity (4th round, Dallas Cowboys, 1999), Roy Williams (first round, Detroit Lions, 2004), Sloan Thomas (seventh round, Houston Texans, 2004), Limas Sweed (second round, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008) and Jordan Shipley (third round, Cincinnati Bengals, 2010) were the other five Brown-coached Texas wideouts drafted.
When comparing Luck to Griffin Robert Griffin III, it’s easy to overlook Luck’s athleticism. But the Stanford product ran the fourth-best 40-yard-dash among quarterbacks, turned in the fifth-best vertical leap and had the furthest broad jump. He’s much, much more athletic than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Luck’s arm and touch could eventually put him in that upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks, though: he ranked seventh in the NCAA with a 71.3 completion percentage, sixth with 8.7 yards per attempt and tied for fifth with a touchdown percentage of 9.2 — meaning for every 100 passes he attempted, roughly 10 of them were for touchdowns. But will he have anybody besides Reggie Wayne to throw to in Indy?
Bear with me here, but I like the Heisman Winner from Baylor better than I do Luck. In those aforementioned passing metrics, RG3 ranks better than Luck — third in completion percentage, first in yards per attempt, a tie with Luck in touchdown percentage and also a interception percentage that ranked among the best in the country (1.5, good for 12th). Luck, on the other hand, threw an interception 2.5 percent of the time he put the ball in the air — 46th in the country.
It really is arguable that Griffin III is a better passing prospect than Luck. It’s unarguable that he’s a better athlete (best 40 time of any QB, best vertical leap), one who put up whopping rushing numbers in college with 2,943 total yards and 10 games of triple-digit yardage in essentially three seasons.
One last stat: his passer-efficiency rating in 2011 was the second best ever.
USC tackle Matt Kalil has been penciled in at this spot since the combine, but it won’t be too surprising if the Vikings elect to go with this year’s best cornerback. In a division where you’re facing Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler (not to mention, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall) twice a year, you need to be able to stop the pass.
Offensive tackles aren't full-proof options, either. Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Trent Williams are recent examples of top-10 tackles whose teams (St. Louis, Jacksonville and Washington, respectively) rank among the worst in the league (32nd, 28th, 26th, also respectively). Take Claiborne and give yourself a secondary to build on.
Montario Hardesty, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Chris Ogbonnaya…I don’t care who your quarterback is, or who you’ve got on the offensive line; you’re not winning many games with that core of skill players. That’s why the Browns have to get the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. Cleveland traded down last year (and drafted a defensive tackle, Phil Taylor, at 21) in order to stockpile picks. Those picks need to be used to help give a quarterback — for now it’s Colt McCoy — a prayer at winning games in the AFC North. Richardson steps in and starts from day one.
With Claiborne and Richardson off the board, the Bucs have to reach a bit here to get a cornerback, but it’s a major position of need. Ronde Barber has very little left in the tank and the troubled Aqib Talib is being shopped.
From 2010 to 2011, Blackmon scored 38 touchdowns and hauled in 232 passes. His 3,304 receiving yards might be a byproduct of a system, but that’s insane no matter how you slice it (as is his ypc average of 14.6). He’s neither the fastest nor the tallest receiver in this draft, yet he is far and away the most productive and should immediately become Sam Bradford’s top target.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California
Since 2008, the Jags have chosen in the top 10 every year. And with little results to show for it: Derrick Harvey busted, Monroe has provided little semblance of a building block, Blaine Gabbert could be a disaster. The pick of defensive tackle Tyson Alualu is actually the best so far — and even that is saying something. So this pick needs to be right, and when you’re facing that kind of pressure, you take the best player available, regardless of need. Kalil, a potential franchise left tackle, is just that.
Here’s what I don’t like about Tannehill: He has only 20 games at quarterback under his belt and he was perhaps the main culprit in A&M’s choke job of 2011.
Here’s what I do like: He’s a confident, stand-up type of guy with an above-average arm.
Here’s what I hate: His 61.6 completion percentage last season, his seven yards per attempt, his 2.8 interception percentage.
And here’s what I love: He was sacked only nine times last year, so I know the former wide receiver can avoid the pressures of the Jets, Patriots and the newly-revamped pass rush of the Bills in the AFC East, and he can throw on the run. When a play breaks down, or when a receiver just can’t get open — with Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, this could happen quite often — Tannehill can make things happen with his feet.
Look, Tannehill is the ultimate project quarterback. But the Dolphins can afford to be patient. Matt Moore is a serviceable option and it’s not like the team is about to challenge New England or New York for the division. He’s worth the risk here at 8.
With Cam Newton and Steve Smith doing their thing on offense, it’s time for Carolina to shore up things on the other side of the ball. The NFL’s seventh-worst rushing defense would be buoyed by the addition of Cox, who had five sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss last season.
Despite the offseason signing of Mario Williams, there’s still work to be done to improve Buffalo’s D, which ranked 28th in total defense and 30th in run defense. Kuechly, who led the NCAA in tackles last season, gives the Bills one of the best front sevens in the league. Offensive help — mainly, receiver — can come in the later rounds.
Probably a reach here. Then again, they said the same thing about Jason Pierre-Paul at No. 15 a few seasons ago. The Seahawks put up pedestrian sack numbers in 2011 (33, for a sack percentage of 5.7). Coples never put up huge numbers at UNC, but it’s his potential — a 4.7 40 time at 6-foot-6 and 284 lbs. — that has Seattle pulling the trigger.
The Cowboys have taken three defensive backs in the first round the last decade — safety Roy Williams in 2002 and cornerbacks Terence Newman in 2003 and Mike Jenkins in 2008. Barron becomes No. 4 here and it’s easy to believe he could be better than any of the three.
Philly chose a guard with its first-round pick a year ago, but it’s been a long time since it used such a high pick on an offensive tackle — 1998 ,to be exact. With left tackle Jason Peters possibly out for the season, now seems as good a time as any to break the streak.
For a team that’s made the AFC Championship game two of the last three years, the Jets sure do have a lot of holes. The “ground and pound” offense hasn’t gone anywhere behind Shonn Greene (22nd in team rushing last season), the passing game is in a state of disillusion (21st) and the Jets finished in the red in takeaways. But dangling Poe in front of Rex Ryan — who loves taking on defensive projects — is just too tantalizing.
With a boatload of draft picks after dealing Carson Palmer to the Raiders midseason, there’s plenty of time later on for the Bengals to make a sexier choice, possibly at corner or receiver. Take the draft’s best guard prospect off the boards.
What is it that has caused the Chargers to fall short so often? Among other things, the team failed to establish the run it its six-game losing streak in the middle of last year, posting a paltry 98 yards per game. You’ve got a capable runner in Ryan Mathews, now give him somebody to run behind.
Unless the plan is to turn Jay Cutler into David Carr, it’s high time to improve the offensive line. Stick Glenn at right tackle and hope last year’s top pick, Gabe Carimi, is healthy enough to play a full season at left. Then bid adieu to J’Marcus Webb and Lance Louis, the weak links of a unit that allowed 49 sacks in 2011.
In a division that will one day be run by Andrew Luck, it’s imperative to have somebody who can get after the passer. Upshaw (8.5 sacks last season) can put his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 defensive set or play upright in a 3-4.
Randle is just the kind of deep threat the Browns need to stretch the field, and clear out the box for fellow rookie Trent Richardson. His 17.3 yards per reception ranked among the top 20 in the nation a year ago.
Character issues, schmaracter issues. When you can get this kind of talent this late in the first round, and fill a need while doing it, you take a risk. (Jenkins was dismissed by the Florida Gators after a myriad of drug problems and he’s fathered four children with three different women.) If Jenkins can stay out of trouble — granted, a big if — he can help the Lions.
It has been a game of musical chairs at the right guard position for Steelers, where Darnell Stapleton, Ramon Foster and Trai Essex have been used as temporary replacements until a franchise-type player comes along. In the rugged AFC North, with Ben Roethlisberger feeling the heat, here’s the opportunity to grab a long-term starter.
Those who didn’t flip the channel in between Tim Tebow’s series on offense most likely noticed Denver’s glaring weakness. In eight losses, the Broncos gave up an average of 150 rushing yards a game. Peyton Manning won’t be nearly as effective if he’s sitting on the sidelines watching the opposition run at will.
It’s a choice here between Wright or Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech. Because Houston needs somebody to step in opposite Andre Johnson immediately, the best bet is it’s the uber-productive Wright (one touchdown in every seven catches last season) over a raw talent like Hill.
Last year’s sack leader (16) winds up on a team that has twice seen, firsthand, what an effective pass rush can really do (the New York Giants of 2007, 2011). There's a hole to fill, too, with Mark Anderson signing with the Bills.
Like Clay Matthews, McClellin is a bit of a late-bloomer who’s just now starting to pick up steam. Funny timing. Green Bay is in desperate need of a pass-rushing ‘backer to draw some attention away from Mr. Matthews.
This pick might fall into the hands of a team trying to trade up for Brandon Weeden. Among the contenders, Cleveland has the most to offer in terms of draft picks (Nos. 37 and 67). If not, Patriots should go defense again.
One minor cost of the Giants winning the Super Bowl in Feb. was that two of their tight ends, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, suffered knee injuries that could cause them to miss the entire 2012 season. Fleener averaged about 20 yards a catch in his final year at Stanford and also hauled in 10 touchdowns.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been on fire this year, while leading his team to a 3-0 record.
It was another turbulent week in the world of fantasy football, with a number of key injuries and numerous breakout performances that just make you ask, “He did what?” So, let’s explore how last week’s games affect your lineup: who is truly hot and who is not.
Any Buffalo Bills offense player
If you haven’t been watching football this season and you took a look at this story, you’d probably think I was crazy, and to be honest, it feels a little bit weird seeing the Bills in this spot. But they are on fire. Buffalo is averaging 37.66 points a game, and everyone is getting touches. Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick is scorching with at least 18 points in his first three games, making him a viable starting quarterback in any league. Running back Fred Jackson is quickly establishing himself as a top-10 back with at least 11 points in every game — he has also broken the 20-point mark in the last two. Plus, wide receiver Steve Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler have both firmly announced their fantasy prowess as strong starting options. It’s not too late to get on the Bills’ bandwagon: Chandler is still available in 51 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Not much to say here. When paired with Tom Brady, this guy is a monster. The former Red Raider had 217 receiving yards and two touchdowns last Sunday and is a must-play week to week.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore
Who? That’s what many will say when they look at the Week 3 scoring leaders and see this rookie at the top of the list. Smith, a second-round pick from Maryland, went off for 152 yards receiving and three touchdowns against the St. Louis Rams. He is still available in 99 percent of ESPN leagues, and while he won’t consistently post such ridiculous numbers, he should still see quite a few balls from Joe Flacco the rest of the season.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia
This guy cannot seem to stay healthy. A week after suffering a concussion against the Falcons, Vick reportedly broke his non-throwing hand Sunday against the Giants. It’s uncertain if he’ll be good to go in Week 4, disappointing news for owners who picked Vick in the top-10 of the draft. If you did, it’s probably time to pick up Fitzpatrick or Eagles’ backup Mike Kafka because Vick’s injury pattern is a troubling one.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee
The wide receiver has been a fantasy beast this year, but on Sunday, he tore ligaments in his knee and will miss significant time. For those desperately scrambling after his loss, think about picking up his teammate Nate Washington, who is available in 90 percent of leagues, or Oakland’s Denarius Moore, available in 60 percent of leagues.
Frank Gore, San Francisco
Gore continued his slow start to the season Sunday with only 42 yards on 17 carries. The running back is fighting nagging injuries and is starting to show signs of aging. Astute owners might look to pick up his backup, Kendall Hunter.
Printed on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 as: Who's hot, who's not in fantasy football