the NFL

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

After seven rounds and 256 selections in the 2014 NFL draft, Texas had no names on the selection board.

But by the time Mr. Irrelevant — the name given to the last player drafted — was picked in the 2015 NFL draft, Texas had made its presence felt.

Five Longhorns, the most since 2010, were selected in this year’s draft, which was hosted in Chicago over the weekend. The Longhorns first got on the board Friday, when the New England Patriots drafted defensive end Malcom Brown No. 32 overall, and the team’s involvement ended when the Dallas Cowboys selecting tight end Geoff Swaim with the 29th pick of the seventh round.

“It was just a relief — the past four or five hours have been pretty intense,” said Swaim, who will be joining former Texas teammates Donald Hawkins and Chris Whaley, in a statement. “It’ll be cool to play with the guys that I’ve known and have a relationship with.”

Defensive backs Mykkele Thompson and Quandre Diggs were taken in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, of the NFL draft. The New York Giants selected Thompson with the eighth pick in the fifth round, while the Detroit Lions picked Diggs with the 24th pick of the sixth round.

“It’s great,” Diggs said of being drafted on the same day as Thompson, who is one of his closest friends. “Mykkele’s my brother; that’s my best friend. He’s one of the people who definitely pushed me.”

Another person who pushed Diggs was head coach Charlie Strong, whom Diggs developed a close relationship with in Strong’s inaugural season at Texas.

“He can cover and may not have top-end speed, but he makes up for it with his intelligence,” Strong said. “He plays within himself, studies receivers, studies splits [and] studies everything the offense does.”

The Philadelphia Eagles selected linebacker Jordan Hicks with the 20th pick in the third round.

“I’ve been talking to [Philadelphia] for a while, actually,” Hicks said in a statement. “I went on a pre-draft visit there and had a great time, felt really comfortable and enjoyed meeting with all the coaches and getting a feel for the place.”

Four other Longhorns found teams in the NFL after the draft ended. Once the draft is over, players have the chance to sign with teams as rookie free agents.

Wide receiver John Harris will be joining Hicks after signing a free agent deal with the Eagles, while long snapper Nate Boyer signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. The St. Louis Rams picked up running back Malcolm Brown, and defensive end Cedric Reed signed with the Buffalo Bills. 

“It was great,” Boyer said. “[Seahawks] coach [Pete] Carroll called me, actually. He called and said, ‘I want to invite you out to training camp,’ and he actually said, ‘I hope you accept my invitation.’ Obviously, ‘yes’ was the answer to that.”

Before playing at Texas, Boyer was a member of the Green Berets. He joined the team in 2012 with no prior football experience.

“The thing about Nate is he’s such a hard worker,” Strong said. “Any time someone represents your country, when you talk about courage, you talk about honor, that’s what it’s all about. I love him so much.”

By the end of the weekend, the Longhorns had nine players headed to the NFL — a distinct turnaround from last year.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Tuesday marked head coach Charlie Strong’s first NFL Pro Day with Texas, where he saw 14 Longhorns perform for scouts and coaches from 25 different teams in the league.

The five players who participated in last month’s NFL Combine — defensive tackle Malcom Brown, running back Malcolm Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks, defensive end Cedric Reed and cornerback Quandre Diggs — mostly focused on position drills as they tried to establish a spot in the NFL Draft. 

Diggs participated in the vertical jump and the broad jump, reaching 36 inches and 9 feet 11 inches, respectively. Malcolm Brown ran in the 40-yard dash, aiming to beat his time of 4.62 from the Combine. He clocked in around 4.5 seconds.

“I definitely believe I am one of the best cornerbacks in this class,” Diggs said. “A lot of people have made a big to do about my size. It is one thing if you’re 6 foot 1 inch but are soft. I know the kind of player I am, and I let my play speak for itself.”

Reed, after only taking part in the bench press at the combine, did not participate in the Pro Day. He is still recovering from meniscus surgery he had during the offseason.

Tuesday was crucial for wide receivers Jaxon Shipley and John Harris and safety Mykkele Thompson, who weren’t invited to the Combine. 

Shipley ran between a 4.43 and a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and jumped a 39-inch vertical. During wide receiver drills, his routes were clean, and he showed scouts the strong hands Texas fans were familiar with.

“Coming out here today, I really want to surprise some people with my speed,” Shipley said. “I also wanted people understand that, even with injuries in college, I can still play at a high level.”

Shipley said he felt good about his performance and was glad to talk with a couple of scouts following his workouts.

Thompson also looked strong in all of his drills, especially the broad jump, which was around 10 feet 9 inches. His broad jump would have been better than many guys at the combine, including Alabama safety Landon Collins and LSU cornerback Jalen Collins.

Harris, one of the Longhorns few offensive weapons last season, gave a good performance.  He completed 19 reps on the bench press and ran a 40-yard time of about 4.5. On the his last attempt for the 40, Harris pulled his hamstring, but it didn’t bother him the rest of the day.

“At this time last year, I was not really paying attention to Pro Day,” Harris said. “I remember coming to watch for a little while but quickly leaving. Now, a year later, a lot has changed.”

The Longhorn prospects still have a long process ahead of them, with individual team workouts and meetings before the NFL Draft on April 30 through May 2.

Why don’t I care about the Pro Bowl?

This may be the million-dollar question. The Pro Bowl is the NFL equivalent of the All-Star Game, but it fails compared to the MLB and the NBA ones.

Now, what is the reason for this? It can’t be because baseball and basketball are better than football; now that’s just ludicrous.

Maybe it’s the lack of value in the game. The MLB All Star Game actually matters. The winning division gets home field advantage in the World Series.

This could be a great thing for the NFL to adopt, but then they would have to have the Pro Bowl during the season.

The recent reformatting of the Pro Bowl has only made it worse. Firstly, they moved it to be before the Super Bowl, which excluded some of the best players each year. I mean, that’s obvious, they made it to the Super Bowl after all.

Secondly, it is no longer NFC versus AFC. This has really led to the demise of the Pro Bowl, not that it was ever great, but it was better than this. This year, for example, it was Team Irvin versus Team Carter. Each coach “drafted” players that were selected to the Pro Bowl by voting.

Now let’s be frank, this is just unnecessary. They are trying to model a pickup game of football. Why are you ruining something that could honestly be so great?

Think about it. A game where Aaron Rodgers is throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. Does that sound awesome or does that sound awesome?

On paper, it should be. In reality, it is similar to watching paint dry.

So, why can’t we have the Pro Bowl midseason like the NBA and MLB do?

Maybe the reason the NFL is opposed to this is because of the physicality of the sport.

However, the NFL plays the fewest games per season compared to these sports. Yes, I understand football is literally running into someone and getting hit. But playing 82 basketball games a season probably isn’t too easy either.

Regardless of the levels of physicality, you play any sport at a professional level that often, your body will feel it.

I’m not asking for the NFL to play 50 games. I’m asking for one more game halfway through the season, I’m asking for 17 games. Give these guys an All Star break.

There won’t be any defense until the fourth quarter. It will just be exciting and electrifying plays for the fans. That’s all they really want.

Does anyone watch the NBA All-Star Game for a good matchup? No. We watch it to see a dream team that will never exist elsewhere. We watch it to see Chris Paul lob the ball to James Harden. We watch it to see LeBron throw the ball to the perimeter for Carmelo to shoot a three.

Why can’t we have this in football?

I want to live in a world where I can see Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy in the backfield together for one game a year.

Am I really asking for that much? No, no I am not.

So please, give me an NFL All-Star Game that everyone will watch.

Millions tune in to watch the NBA All Star Weekend. Millions tune in to watch the MLB All Star Game. Let’s add the NFL to that list.

There won’t be a dunk contest, but there could be a 40-yard dash contest, a one-handed catch contest, and a throwing contest.

Basically, it could be a casual combine. I mean, why not?

Do it for the fans. Bring the Pro Bowl back to life. Honestly, the NFL could use all the good press it can get right now.

During his time on the 40 Acres, kicker Anthony Fera proved to be one of the best kickers Texas has seen with a school record-tying 15 straight field goals. Though he did not receive an NFL spot last year, Fera is hoping to get another shot.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

After transferring to Texas from Penn State and suffering a groin injury that delayed his Longhorn debut, Anthony Fera took to the field his senior year to become one of the most consistent kickers Texas has ever seen. During his tenure, he hit 15 straight field goals — tied for the longest streak in school history.

Fera, who kicked and punted for the Longhorns in 2012 and 2013 after transferring from Penn State following the Sandusky scandal, was a consensus All–American in 2013 and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best kicker.

“We saw the real Anthony Fera in his last year at Texas,” former head coach Mack Brown said. “He was focused and excited, and you could see that in his kicking. To go from such a difficult situation to becoming a Groza Award finalist really speaks to his determination.”

Kicking may be the most high-pressure job in football, but for Fera, the task became second nature.

“For me, kicking … it’s easy to me,” Fera said. “Once you learn it and you master it, then it’s not a problem.”

Now a year removed from college, Fera needs the confidence and determination that allowed him to thrive amid a collegiate career sullied by scandal and injury. The kicker, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. referred to as the best in the 2014 draft class, is still trying to join the tiny fraternity of NFL kickers and punters.

“It’s a waiting thing,” Fera said. “It hasn’t really worked out for me yet.”

Though he was not drafted, the former Longhorn standout did get a taste of the NFL dream at the Miami Dolphins’ rookie minicamp. But by the time the regular season rolled around, Fera found himself without an NFL roster spot.

“Right after the draft, I went down to the rookie minicamp down in Miami and had a little setback with a school injury, just a strained muscle, and a couple weeks later I went to Jacksonville, but they were looking more for a punter,” Fera said. “That didn’t really work out as planned.”

Despite the yearlong setback, Fera is still dead set on landing in the NFL. He now spends his time hopping around the country, punting and kicking at veteran combines and working out in Austin.

“[I’m] working out … probably five, six times a week, still kicking … probably two times a week just trying to stay fresh.” Fera said.

Still, no player can maintain peak physical performance for long — as anyone who has labeled the NFL as “Not For Long” can attest. For a player such as Fera — an undrafted specialist hanging in limbo after a full season on the market — it is especially important to have a backup plan in place.

When Fera is not trying to maintain NFL levels of fitness, he is busy learning the ins and outs of the oil industry from his father at MidStar Energy, a directional drilling company in Houston. He hopes to eventually have enough industry knowledge to land a career in sales.

“I’m just trying to learn the whole process at the moment,” Fera said. “Every now and then, I’ll go out to an oil rig and check out a few things.”

Fera said his fledgling career will not pry him away from his dream of landing on an NFL roster.

“My main focus is making the NFL,” Fera said. “I’ll probably give it a try the next year or two.”

In this day and age, the NFL is regarded as the most popular sports league in America as 35 percent of sports fans call the NFL their favorite sport, followed by Major League Baseball (14 percent) and college football (11 percent).

Most fans consider Pete Rozelle, the late former commissioner, to be responsible for the NFL’s immense popularity; however, over the last decade, the NFL’s success can be attributed to elite quarterback play.

When mentioning the NFL’s elite quarterbacks Denver Bronco’s Peyton Manning (age 38), Green Bay Packer’s Aaron Rodgers (age 30), New England’s Tom Brady (age 37), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (age 35), and Pittsburgh Steeler’s Ben Roethlisberger (age 32) are always at the top of every NFL analyst’s list.

Their résumés are impressive and illustrate why they are considered elite and so entertaining to watch.

Collectively, these five quarterbacks have eight Super Bowl victories, 13 Super Bowl appearances and 32 division title in the past twelve years. There have only been two years since 2002 when none of these quarterbacks were playing in the Super Bowl (Super Bowls XXXVII and XLVII).  Not to mention, all five quarterbacks this season are in the top ten for most passing yards and touchdowns.

So what will happen to the NFL when they all retire?

Football fans everywhere should feel blessed to have had the privilege to watch these great quarterbacks in action on Sundays over the past decade. When they retire, the league will not be the same. Their successors have shown potential but they aren’t as consistent as the current elite quarterbacks.

Most NFL analysts believe that the quarterback position will continue to evolve from a pocket passer style of play to a dual threat style of play, meaning a quarterback who is a threat to throw the ball downfield and rush for big plays.

This dual threat style of quarterback play has been problematic for many defenses around the league as quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III have all thrived in this new era of NFL football.

However, the NFL is a league of adjustments. As defenses have been able to figure out how to contain these dual threat quarterbacks, their style of play has been less impactful. This season, these dual threat quarterbacks are a combined 20-23-1 and none of their respective teams are a lock to make the playoffs, as all of the quarterbacks have struggled.

Of all the younger quarterbacks in the NFL, Indianapolis Colt’s quarterback Andrew Luck has shown the most potential in becoming one of the elite as he currently leads the league in passing yards and is second in touchdown passes. However, Luck is considered to be more of a pocket passer than a dual threat quarterback.

This dual threat style of play at first seemed like the future of the NFL but has proven to be less effective and not as enjoyable to watch for NFL plans.

The NFL will most likely still be the most popular sport in America but the switch from pocket passing quarterbacks to dual threat quarterbacks will diminish its overall popularity.

No more waiting with bated breath, I am back. Last week, similar to six NFL teams, I took my bye week (although I took mine because of midterms). But fear not, your fantasy expert has returned with one of the more important articles of the year.

The fantasy playoffs are suddenly creeping up on us. For most leagues, you’ve only got 3 weeks left to either make a run or make an exit. Now for some, you may already be looking towards the playoffs. Maybe you’re sitting at 8-2 and have already clinched a spot, or maybe you’re 7-3 just looking for one more win to punch your ticket. Whatever circumstance you find yourself in, it’s time to look at players with an eye for the playoffs. So in today’s article I want to take a look at a couple players at each position that could be the difference between making the playoffs and being a championship contender. Now you may feel it’s a little early to start looking ahead but remember the key to fantasy football success: being ahead of the curve. Beat your league rivals to the waiver wire and reap the benefits on your way to the trophy.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume your playoffs run from weeks 14 through 17…

AND DON’T FORGET: You can always email me at with any weekly questions, trade help or anything you need. I’m the “expert” with the answers.


Favorable Playoff Schedules


·Robert Griffin

The Baylor project may just have the most favorable down the stretch schedule of any QB in the league. In weeks 14-16 he faces the Rams, Giants, and Eagles. Or in other words, the seventh, ninth, and third worst against the pass, respectively. It’s hard to find a more passing-friendly stretch of matchups. If he’s somehow available in your league’s waiver wire, stop reading this article and go grab him. I also think you could get him for very little in a trade if your deadline hasn’t passed. While you’re not starting him over any of the top three-six guys, he could easily slide in to the second tier of QBs.

·Tony Romo

It’s no coincidence that, like RG3, Romo plays in the NFC East. For such a consistently competitive division, the passing defense among the four teams is lacking, to put it lightly. Romo may even have a better schedule then the aforementioned Griffin. In weeks 14, 15, and 17 Romo plays three of the four worst passing defenses in the NFL! The juiciest matchup obviously being the Bears in week 14. (Did you catch what happened when Aaron Rodgers took a turn at them in week 10? Yeah, I want anyone and everyone on the offense playing Da Bears)



·Mark Ingram

Some may be considering “selling high” on Ingram with the Saints running backs getting healthy and coming back to steal carries. If that’s the case in your league, please go send whatever it takes to get the Alabama stud on your team. It’s no fluke that Ingram has AVERAGED 27 carries the last three weeks. He has been an absolute bellcow in an offense that hasn’t had one in a long, long time.  And his schedule just gets easier and easier. He’s facing 3 of the 10 worst rush defenses in the playoff weeks. Including maybe the very best matchup of any position down the stretch, a week 16 home game against the Falcons, the league’s worst rushing defense. His numbers aren’t a fluke. Sean Payton trusts him and so too should you.

·Chris Ivory

This week may be your last chance to buy in on the Ivory market. After a bye this week, Ivory’s schedule is almost full proof (minus a tough week 12 matchup in Buffalo). In weeks 14-16, Ivory faces the 24th, 25th, and 26th ranked rushing defenses, respectively. The Jets RB is the perfect, under the radar tailback that could easily be a RB2 on a championship team. Not to mention, it shouldn’t take much to get him after two tough weeks and this week’s bye. Buy in on him now and be prepared to use him to crush your league-mates.



· Andre Johnson

My homer-ism may be strong here but my boy Dre has a shot to be a top 10 WR come playoff time. Two matchups against Jacksonville certainly don’t hurt with that prediction. Not to mention a meeting with the Ravens who lost Jimmy Smith, their top cornerback, for the year to a foot injury. Mallett and Andre are known to have a special bond, more so than Fitz had with Dre. By the time we get to the fantasy playoffs, Mallett will have had 3 games under his belt and will be looking for the trustworthiest hands in the NFL. A hall of fame receiver will be looking like his old self as he tears up the Jags in route to a huge end to the season.

· Kelvin Benjamin

The huge red zone target has been absolutely massive for Newton this season. His acclimation to the NFL has had its bumps but there’s no questioning his talent, which has led to him being the 10th best receiver in fantasy this year. I’m loving the week 14 and 15 back to back against the Saints and Bucs, the 4th and 1st worst passing defenses in the league. With a bye in week 12, Benjamin may be gettable in your league. Make it happen and smile as the Florida State kid tears up some weak secondaries.



·Kyle Rudolph

The young TE has finally returned to practice after going through foot surgery following week three. Teddy Bridgewater needs a reliable target in Minny and I think Rudolph provides that for the young QB down the stretch. He had 5 targets in all three games to start the season and returns to a team desperate for a better passing offense. Rudolph has a great sandwich of the Jets awful secondary in week 14 and a week 17 meeting with Da Bears. Now that’s some favorable white bread on your sandwich. Just today I actually dropped Vernon Davis for the young TE. I’m all in and I think you should be too.



·Texans D/ST

Just remember, this defense put up 20 points in the only game of the year in which JJ Watt, Brian Cushing, and JD Clowney played together. This unit has had a bye week to get healthy and it’s time to store them away for the playoffs. If nothing more than for the week 14 and 17 matchups against the woeful Jaguars. A stiff D against the Jags in the last week of your championship? Yeah I’ll take that everyday of the week.


Week 11 Rankings



1.  Aaron Rodgers

2.  Peyton Manning

3.  Andrew Luck

4.  Philip Rivers

5.  Tom Brady

6.  Drew Brees

7.  Matthew Stafford

8.  Matt Ryan

9.  Robert Griffin

10. Josh McCown

11. Colin Kaepernick

12. Mark Sanchez

13. Jay Cutler

14. Teddy Bridgewater

15. Ryan Tannehill

16. Cam Newton

17. Shaun Hill

18. Derek Carr

19. Andy Dalton

20. Ryan Mallett



1.  Arian Foster

2.  Matt Fort

3.  Le’Veon Bell

4.  Mark Ingram

5.  Jamaal Charles

6.  Marshawn Lynch

7.  Alfred Morris

8.  LeSean McCoy

9.  Eddie Lacy

10. Jeremy Hill

11. Andre Ellington

12. Frank Gore

13. Ryan Matthews

14. Ahmad Bradshaw

15. Rashad Jennings

16. Fred Jackson

17. C.J. Anderson

18. Jonathan Stewart

19. Shane Vereen

20. Steven Jackson

21. Jerick McKinnon

22. Terrance West

23. Lamar Miller

24. Ben Tate

25. Bobby Rainey



1.  Demaryius Thomas

2.  Jordy Nelson

3.  Calvin Johnson

4.  Antonio Brown

5.  Jeremy Maclin

6.  A.J. Green

7.  Randall Cobb

8.  Julio Jones

9.  DeSean Jackson

10. Kelvin Benjamin

11. Emmanuel Sanders

12. Brandon Marshall

13. T.Y. Hilton

14. Roddy White

15. Odell Beckham Jr.

16. Sammy Watkins

17. Andre Johnson

18. Golden Tate

19. Mike Evans

20. Alshon Jeffery

21. Vincent Jackson

22. Mike Wallace

23. DeAndre Hopkins

24. Julian Edelman

25. Brandon LaFell



1.  Rob Gronkowski

2.  Jimmy Graham

3.  Antonio Gates

4.  Julius Thomas

5.  Greg Olsen

6.  Larry Donnell

7.  Dwayne Allen

8.  Travis Kelce

9.  Jared Cook

10. Martellus Bennett



1.  Broncos

2.  Bills

3.  Seahawks

4.  Cardinals

5.  Dolphins

6.  Lions

7.  Steelers

8.  Redskins

9.  Chargers D

10. Vikings



1.  Arian Foster

2.  Demaryius Thomas

3.  Matt Forte

4.  Le’Veon Bell

5.  Jordy Nelson

6.  Calvin Johnson

7.  Antonio Brown

8.  Mark Ingram

9.  Jamaal Charles

10. Rob Gronkowski

11. Marshawn Lynch

12. Jeremy Maclin

13. Alfred Morris

14. LeSean McCoy

15. A.J. Green

16. Randall Cobb

17. Eddie Lacy

18. Jimmy Graham

19. Jeremy Hill

20. Andre Ellington

21. Julio Jones

22. DeSean Jackson

23. Kelvin Benjamin

24. Frank Gore

25. Antonio Gates

26. Ryan Matthews

27. Emmanuel Sanders

28. Brandon Marshall

29. Julius Thomas

30. T.Y. Hilton

31. Roddy White

32. Odell Beckham Jr.

33. Ahmad Bradshaw

34. Rashad Jennings

35. Fred Jackson

36. C.J. Anderson

37. Greg Olsen

38. Jonathan Stewart

39. Sammy Watkins

40. Andre Johnson

41. Shane Vereen

42. Larry Donnell

43. Steven Jackson

44. Golden Tate

45. Mike Evans

46. Alshon Jeffery

47. Jerick McKinnon

48. Terrance West

49. Vincent Jackson

50. Mike Wallace

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.

With senior Malcolm Brown graduating and junior Johnathan Gray possibly, although unlikely, leaving early for the NFL draft, Texas is going to be looking for their next stable of running backs to lead the balanced running attack that head coach Charlie Strong wants. The 2015 recruiting class has three backs already committed to the Longhorns, each with their own set of skills that could bolster the run game for the next four years.

Committed since April, Tristian Houston is a 5’10” 203-pound speedster from North Shore High School in Houston. Rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN, Houston also held offers from UCLA, LSU and Mississippi State among others. Houston ran for 18 TDs and almost 1500 yards as a junior, netting him around 10 yards a carry. On tape, it’s clear that Houston will not be used in short yardage situations, as he tends to rely on quick cuts and shifty moves over physical running. He figures to factor in as a more Johnathan Gray-type back, able to run past defenders if he gets a step but not the guy you want in with two yards to go on third down.

Kirk Johnson only had one college offer when he ended his junior year at Valley Christian in San Jose, California. That one was from Texas. The 6-foot-one 200-pound bruiser battled injuries his junior year, leading him to poor showings at a Nike event last summer and unimpressive highlight tapes. His father, Longhorn Johnnie Johnson, said he was only ever at 60 percent last season, causing him to miss a few games and make a few colleges back off their recruitment. Assuming the younger Johnson can heal enough to play like his sophomore tape suggests he can, however, Texas could be glad other schools backed out. He has the potential to combine his sub 4.5 speed and strong legs into a dangerous back, with the ability run past and through defenders.

Jordan Stevenson out of football powerhouse South Oak Cliff in Dallas is a smaller back than the previous two. At only 5-foot-eight 185 pounds, Stevenson will have to rely on his speed to be successful out of the backfield. Good thing he ran a 4.37 40 at the Dallas NFTC event in 2013, which matches most elite high school track stars. Though he’s not going to be able to translate into a power back in college, his ability to get a low center of gravity and run behind his pads makes him difficult to bring down in the open field. One of Stevenson’s best attributes is utilizing his speed, running laterally as little as possible because he knows how shifty he is, and how hard he can be to catch.

Out of the three RB commits Texas has already acquired, I’d put my bets on Jordan Stevenson to get on the field early and often. Johnson is a bit of a wild card after an injury plagued season, and Houston hasn’t been utilized enough at North Shore to see what all he is capable of. I’d be surprised if Texas was able to pull anymore backs into this class, but don’t ever count out backs coach Tommie Robinson’s recruiting savvy.

When the Chicago Bears selected cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech with the 14th overall pick in the NFL Draft, most people were stunned. 

The Bears passed on star safety prospects Haha Clinton-Dix out of Alabama and Calvin Pryor out of Louisville to draft a cornerback when the Bears already had two capable corners, Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Tim Jennings. It seemed Fuller was destined to be a backup, at least for his rookie season.

After Tillman went down in week two with a triceps injury, it was Fuller’s time and his impact was immediate. 

Fuller subbed in for the injured Tillman against the 49ers and intercepted quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice in the fourth quarter, keying the Bears’ victory. The next week, Fuller recorded another interception and forced two fumbles as the Bears beat the New York Jets 27-19.

Kyle Fuller’s impressive performance this season has put him on top of the NFL’s stats sheets as he currently leads the NFL with five turnovers and is tied for first with three interceptions. His performance through the first four games of the season earned him the honor of NFC defensive rookie for the month of September. Fuller however isn’t satisfied.

‘‘That’s a good honor,’’ Fuller said, ‘‘but still, I’m just trying to get better every week.’’ 

Fuller’s performance in October has been just as impressive. Two weeks ago against Carolina, Fuller faced off against the offensive rookie of the month, receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Fuller handled Benjamin with ease, allowing only three receptions for 38 yards on 11 targets. 

On Sunday against the Falcons, Fuller was at it again. He limited Julio Jones, a top-five wide receiver, to only four receptions for 68 receiving yards on 12 total targets. Fuller also forced a fumble on Jones but it was later recovered by the Falcons. 

Now mentored by Tillman, Fuller has adopted the injured Tillman’s aggressive style of play on both coverage assignments and forced fumbles. This includes the “Peanut Punch”, in which Tillman and now Fuller literally punch out footballs out of receiver’s hands at every possible opportunity, leading to a high number of forced fumbles.

Coming from a football family, Kyle Fuller knows what it takes to be a football player in the NFL. Kyle’s oldest brother, Vincent, is a retired safety and his older brother, Corey, is a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. The youngest Fuller brother, Kendall, is presently playing cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies. 

Fuller doesn’t have the outspoken personality like star cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson but has proven to have the same tendency for making big plays. Fuller doesn’t want the lime light that Sherman and Peterson receive. He just wants to play football. 

‘‘I’m just being myself,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just low key, doing what I’ve got to do and staying out of trouble.’’ 

Kyle Fuller, the soft-spoken cornerback, is taking the NFL by storm and is quietly becoming one of the best defensive players in the league.

Every year, NFL fans from all over the country travel to watch the NFL Draft in hopes of their team selecting the next NFL star. But, next year, instead of booking a flight to New York, NFL fans will be rerouting their travel plans.

According to multiple reports, the 2015 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago rather than New York City. The NFL Draft has been held in New York since 1965, including at Radio City Music Hall for the past nine years.

Once the NFL learned Radio City Music Hall could not be reserved for the 2015 NFL Draft, 12 cities showed interest in hosting the Draft.  The list was then narrowed to Los Angeles and Chicago before NFL officials decided the Draft will move to the Windy City.

The Chicago Bear’s twitter page posted that the Draft will be held at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, which is located on Chicago’s busiest and most popular street, Michigan Avenue. The Draft will take place on April 30-May 2.

The NFL Draft has always been popular to football fans and the three day event in 2014 was viewed by 45.7 million people surpassing the record of 45.4 million in 2010. Popularity increased last year, in part, over speculation of which team would take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Curiosity over Manziel increased dramatically on draft day when he slipped all the way to No. 22 of the first round when he was finally selected by the Cleveland Browns.

Every year one major goal of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is to further increase fan interest in the NFL’s already incredibly popular offseason. This year Goodell believes the change in scenery might help. He is specifically hoping to strengthen interest in the rounds of the draft and keep the Draft’s TV ratings up.

"We're talking about different concepts, primarily how to strengthen the last day and whether we should maybe push that back to the clubs a little bit more and allow the clubs to have a little bit more freedom as more of a club day," Goodell said.

The last NFL Draft not to be held in New York City was coincidentally held in Chicago at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel from 1961-63.  We will find out in April if the move to Chicago is another score for the NFL.