Happy Thursday folks! We welcome you aboard a jam packed edition of The Drive on this lovely day in Eastern North Carolina. We get started where else but with the headlines with Carolina, recapping last nights Game 1 in the Eastern Conference finals, Alex Smith got his feelings hurt by the Chiefs drafting Patrick Mahomes, and Joey Bats is at it again with the bat flips. News Channel 12’s Ariel Epstein stops by to talk some baseball, and why we should be selling this Yankees stock…for now. Tar Heel hoopster Michael Norwood drops by as we really delve into the NBA, and the upcoming draft. And as always, the Table Takeout Stat of the Day, What’s Up from Cravin A Cup, buffoonery, childishness, and so much more!
The NFL draft is upon us and football fans everywhere are chomping at the bit for just the smallest fix of the sport they love and blah blah blah blah blah…can we get over this? The NFL draft is the most hyped up, over rated, drawn out act that the NFL strategically places in the calendar year and rams down our collective throats as fans.
Just when football begins to fade from your mind, the NFL drops hints of the upcoming season’s schedule, then the full schedules are released, then we have the draft, followed by contract negotiations, hold outs, summer camps, Hard Knocks, all serving the purpose of keeping the NFL as top dog. We are right in the middle of the heart of the NBA playoffs but all that can found on SportsCenter is whether or not Myles Garret is worth a number one selection, and how Jabrill Peppers doesn’t understand how drug tests work.
The first round of the NFL draft is always interesting….scratch that, about 10 of the 32 picks are interesting. The other 22 picks tend to be some obscure lineman or secondary player from Blue Mountain State that no one has ever heard of, but the hardo pundits at ESPN sit there on TV and lie to us and throw cliche lines at us like “Bobby Jones is a safety I really love, he has a high motor and great footwork, really a solid pick up here for the Bears”. Get out of my face Mel Kiper, you and your stupid haircut have no idea what you are talking about. None of us do, these NFL teams keep everything so close to chest. The obvious selections are there, especially near the top, but there is no science or “draftology” (because apparently you can just add “-ology” to anything these days) that can convince me that the Colts will take a linebacker over a right guard.
That being said….we love it.
As ridiculous as the whole charade is, from the underwear olympics at the combine, to the interviews which ask the most ludicrous and unnecessary questions, and all 12.0 versions of Todd and Mel’s mock drafts, the NFL draft is the lifeline a football fan needs this time of year. Witness your team drafting the foundation of a franchise for years to come, only to watch said player tear apart your dreams with an injury in summer camp. Is that first round quarterback the next Jamarcus Russell, or should you have waited until the sixth round and snagged Tom Brady? There is no way to really predict how these players career will play out, but we will yell and argue until we are blue in the face to make our case for a certain guy.
So sticking with that theme, I’m going to run through the first 10 picks, and then maybe a few final notes on a couple other guys.
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, Defensive End, Texas A&M
For starters, the Browns should trade this pick. Like immediately. But without being able to forecast a trade any more than who will be picked, Garrett has to be the number one pick here. Cleveland has enough assets in the rest of this draft (6 picks in the top 65) to be able to scoop up a quarterback later on, and at the end of the day, no body in this QB class is a can’t miss. A lot of question marks surround Garrett, but his measurables alone give you reason to take him. Warren Sapp hates him, and a lot of his production comes against weaker competition. But hey 31 sacks is 31 sacks. Don’t get cute, don’t overthink it, don’t pull a Cleveland Browns. Just take the top guy.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas, Defensive End, Stanford
The 49ers are in a desperate need of a quarterback, and young coach Kyle Shanahan is as offensive minded as they come. But the 49ers signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley for a reason. San Fran is seeing what many are seeing, none of these QB’s are really worth such a high pick. So just build that defense while the top notch talent is still there. Thomas is a 10 sack guy, but a better run defender, racking up 46 stops last season which led the nation for defensive linemen. He plays the edge and can slide inside, versatility and all those other buzz words that GM’s drool over. San Fran should trade down out of this pick too, but assuming they stay put, Thomas is the man.
Solomon Thomas is elite – puts fear in tackles because he can beat you w/physicality & with speed-he's an athlete w/a rush understanding pic.twitter.com/8k6AfHNKIM
— Draft Dr. Phil (@FulphilO) April 14, 2017
3. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen, Defensive End, Alabama
All accounts would’ve been to go quarterback here, but the Bears gave Mike Glennon $45 million dollars to come be their signal caller. Good luck with that. Jonathan Allen could probably play every position for the Bears and would be a significant upgrade at each spot, but it’s best to let him play his natural role of defensive end. Deserving of the number one pick, Allen has the size and athleticism to line up anywhere on the front line. I give this guy a lot of credit, he didn’t like his late 1st-early 2nd round projection a year ago and came back to improve his stock. Well, 13 sacks and 41 hurries will do that for a guy. Plus, he was a financial planning major, so you won’t catch him on a 30 for 30 one day.
Jonathan Allen is a brute pic.twitter.com/1Q6oVpz7zF
— Yung Buñuelo (@PovediitzBDL) April 8, 2017
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU
It’s too early to cut bait on Blake Bortles so it just doesn’t make sense to burn this pick on a QB to sit behind him. WR’s are strong, the defense has been a focal point for a while in drafts with high picks in Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler over recent years. The TJ Yeldon/ Chris Ivory experiment is over however. Jacksonville was 23rd in the league in rushing offense, with their interchangeable starters combining for just 4 touchdowns. Fournette, if healthy and not fat (he showed up to the combine at 240 lbs) is the top power runner in this class. Maybe thank Zeke Elliot for providing some optimism for a high draft selection of a running back, but this seems like a need for the Jaguars who seem to have all the pieces, just a horrible inability to put it all together.
Vertical? Who needs a vertical?
Leonard Fournette doesn't jump over defenders. He runs through them 🚛🤕
— TotalProSports (@TotalProSports) March 3, 2017
5. Tennessee Titans – Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Slam dunk pick, best pick in the draft, the turning point for a franchise that is on the verge of taking control of the dreadful AFC South, a division that has been without a real team in years. Marcus Mariotta was sneakily one of the best quarterbacks in the league in the back half of last season, managing to make Rishard Matthews a thing. Mike Williams is a natural talent who dazzled all year and came up big in the college football playoffs. He has the “go up and get it” ability, and would’ve had far more staggering college numbers if it wasn’t for that spinal injury in 2015. Going back to those trade talks from earlier, I would not at all be surprised to see Cleveland sitting at this 5 spot before it’s all said and done, but with Tennessee here, it’s their biggest need and the hands down best WR prospect in this class.
#Clemson WR Mike Williams
40 Time: 4.5
NOT FAIR pic.twitter.com/fqdmt3BO8o
— Ur Opinion Overrated (@TheLakeShOwKinG) March 17, 2017
6. New York Jets – DeShaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson
New York, your savior is here. Long gone is Geno Smith, and no is buying that Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty could actually be a real solution. It’s disrespectful to Watson to even mutter the idea that Mitch Trubisky is a better pro prospect than he is. Watson has a lengthy resume worth of accolades from Clemson, and showed up on the biggest stage and got things done against an NFL lite team in Alabama in the national championship. We know all about his talent, but the intangibles are key for Watson, and he can provide the whole Jets franchise with an attitude adjustment. A winner, and an ability to lead. Think Derek Carr without all the eyeliner, Watson is still a year or two away from coming into his own, but will make quick strides in the NFL.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) April 12, 2017
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
Position by position, Jamal Adams is the best player in this draft. He is a generational talent at safety, always moving downfield and a huge addition in run defense. Adams will not back down from hitting anyone. Garnering a lot of playing time as a freshman, Adams only continued to improve before being named first team All-American by the AP this season. Adams is a leader of men with a do-as-I-do mentality. San Diego is kinda stacked up front, with the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram anchoring things down. Adams will give the Chargers a versatile option in the secondary and a voice for the unit.
Jamal Adams measurable comps from ESPN Sports Science:
Closing Speed- Jalen Ramsey Change of direction- Landon Collins
Overall- Earl Thomas pic.twitter.com/MX8FLjLmDS
— 49ers Dynasty 4 Life (@TheFranchize55) April 25, 2017
8. Carolina Panthers – Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, Stanford
If Fournette was still on the board we would see Carolina take him here. The Panthers tend to love themselves some power running backs. But with Jonathan Stewart under contract for a while longer, the Panthers will start to plan for the future. McCaffrey is a do it all hybrid guy, who can line up in the backfield, slot, and return some kicks. He’s Danny Woodhead if Danny Woodhead wasn’t a joke and was actually Hulk Hogan in a 5’11” frame. Don’t underestimate his ability to run inside, but McCaffrey’s greatest attribute for the Panthers are his hands, and ability to take that 5 yd screen and turn it into 50 real quick. McCaffrey will quickly become Cam’s favorite weapon.
— Stanford Athletics (@GoStanford) April 22, 2017
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Haason Reddick, Linebacker, Temple
Ok this is one of those guys that I have really no idea who he is. I think I watched about 5 minutes of Temple’s win over ECU this year, other than that, no, I was not a real big consumer of Owls football. But this pick makes sense. Everything on Reddick shows that he is the best linebacker in this years draft. A quick twitch guy, Reddick compiled 23 sacks over his final two seasons at Temple before really exploding onto the scene at this years Senior Bowl. Reddick can put his hand in the dirt, line up outside, or shift to inside linebacker. What you see is a top LB prospect who may never have to come off of the field and can do it all. Plus, Cincy’s linebackers aren’t getting any younger, between Mauluga and Dansby, plus Vontaze Burfict is just a terrible human being. Bring on the new guy.
Temple LB Hassan Reddick. A smaller but quicker Bruce Irvin? pic.twitter.com/WmcmND2puc
— Durst (@DurstNFLDraft) January 31, 2017
10. Buffalo Bills – Derek Barnett, Defensive End, Tennessee
There are a million different ways for Buffalo to go here, and the best pick would probably be to go ahead and take Alabama’s OJ Howard, who is undoubtedly the next Gronk. But new head coach Sean McDermott is a defense first guy, and with so much work to do on that side of the ball in Buffalo that will be where we see his attention turn first. Barnett is not the same freak athlete as Myles Garrett, but 33 sacks in the SEC is worth something. In a 3-4 scheme, Barnett will probably be more of an outside linebacker than an end, you have to love a player you can slide around. McDermott will be getting a top 5 talent at a much later slot in Barnett.
I think Cam Robinson will be a solid NFL player, but not at LT. Here's an example why v. Derek Barnett, who deserves to be a top 10-15 pick. pic.twitter.com/06bkSVljUd
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) March 24, 2017
And some other guys…
Mitch “We aren’t going to call you Mitchell so get over it” Trubisky, Quarterback, UNC
Look. Trubsiky will be a fine NFL quarterback. Maybe. I just don’t know how you can tell with such a limited sample size. That’s just science. Could Mitch end up being the best QB in this class, absolutely. But to waste a number one pick on him or any quarterback in this draft class is absolutely ridiculous. Trubisky showed some great moments and put up stupid good numbers, but he was also worked over by NC State and Duke and couldn’t beat out Marquise Williams his junior year. All the shade aside, he does have the prototypical NFL size and arm, he throws a great ball, and even has some underrated wheels. He’s a good quarterback. Cleveland wants him, bad. They are already in love with the story line of Trubisky being the home town boy who will raise the Browns from the ashes. Why not. I’m going to go out on a pretty steady limb here and say Cleveland packages that #12 pick along with one or two others in this draft to slide up to Tennessee’s #5 here and grab Trubisky. I’d personally rather have Watson, and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes is going to be the best QB to come out of this draft, but Trubisky will go to Cleveland, and worst case scenario is gone before the top 15.
— Juhn (@john_s559) April 17, 2017
Zay Jones, Wide Receiver, ECU
I’m not saying Zay Jones isn’t a great receiver…he is tremendously talented and there is a lot to love about him. But come on, can everyone get over the numbers and realize that is a complete byproduct of the system he was in? Stick me out there and give me 20 targets a game, I bet I catch at least 3 of them. Put a real athlete out there, and you get Zay Jones’ numbers. Jones is perfectly unflawed as a receiver. He is also perfectly average. Just 6’1″ he is not the biggest guy. He is not the fastest guy. Dude can’t even jump that high. But you know what he can do? Run every single route as crisp as can be. And if you put it near him, he will catch it, Jones has impeccable hands. Hardworking with something to prove, Zay Jones has an attitude that every NFL team should want to add to its roster. So perfectly average, great check down guy, solid hands, 7 yards at a time…can you see where I am heading with this? TA-Da!! Welcome to the Kansas City Chiefs Zay Jones. Jeremy Maclin took a huge step backwards last year, and Jones would be the perfect counterpart to future Hall of Famer Tyreek Hill who broke out as a premier deep threat in the NFL during his rookie campaign. Alex Smith needs a safety blanket and Jones will be just that. Jones is worthy of a first round pick, and it’s not crazy to think that Chiefs could reach for Jones at 27. At the end of it all, when the dust settles after round two Jones will have a new home in the NFL.
Zay Jones breaking the bejeezus out of Marcus Maye's ankles from the slot pic.twitter.com/rH8V5lTjzy
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) April 23, 2017
Matt Dayes, Running Back, NC State
I love Dizzy Dayes and I wish I had more good things to say about him, but Dayes is nothing more than a dime a dozen running back in the NFL. Not that there is really anything wrong with that, the whole NFL is built off of guys like that. Dayes is small and doesn’t break tackles, gaining just 1.8 yards after contact this year. He just doesn’t have the break away speed that you need in the NFL either. But he is a talented receiver and a strong one cut runner who is decisive. Think of him as a Ronnie Hillman or a Bilal Powell. He may show the occasional flash, but Dayes will not be a feature or every down back for any team in the NFL.
NC State's Matt Dayes gets skinny through a hole, makes the defender miss and shows off his breakaway speed. pic.twitter.com/4LKirCJri6
— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) March 28, 2017
I realize that is not a great example of a lack of breakaway speed. Just trust me on that one.
Ryan Switzer, Wide Receiver, UNC
Can I say he is the next Wes Welker? Is that just way too stereotypical? It’s sad because we often make that comparison for diminutive white wide receivers, but Switzer actually does play like Welker. He is fearless, has an ego that is 4 times bigger than he is, and is amazingly gifted. He’s listed at 5’10” but I’m not buying it. I’ve stood next to him, he barely came up to my hip. But in all seriousness, I’ll take the little guy who isn’t scared to go across the middle and get lit up, but still hang on to that ball. You won’t catch me doing that. Switzer is shifty and quick, and can suck you in with those slants before blowing by you down the sideline. I think any team would love to have him, but justifying how high of a pick he is worth is the tricky part. Switz is probably a 5-6 rounder, and I’m just going to take the odds on favorite of him going to the Patriots. It just makes sense. Switzer has potential to be tormenting corners with underneath option routes for years.
— Jack McGuire (@TailgateHeisman) April 10, 2017
DeVon Edwards, Free Safety, Duke
Not much is going to be said about Edwards going into this draft. He may not even be drafted at all. But the guy deserves some love because if it were not for his torn ACL last September Edwards would certainly be hearing his name called this week. Edwards brings so much to the football field, being named as an All-American three times as a kick returner and All-ACC as a safety his sophomore and junior year. A draft pick on Edwards is an investment, he may not be fully healthy to see the field this season. But if he gets back to it, Edwards will quickly show he belongs in the league. My #1 biggest steal of the NFL draft, here is to hoping that DeVon Edwards gets there.
Adoree’ Jackson, Cornerback? USC
I only mention this guy here because he is my favorite player in this draft. The most athletically gifted, multipurpose, coolest name having player, and it’s not close. Jackson played corner, wide receiver, and handled return duties while at USC, succeeding at all three. The fastest player in the draft, it’s hard to see him dropping to the second round, even if he is a small-ish corner. Would love to see him in Philly, but 14 is too high for him, however he wont be around when it gets back to the Eagles. I’m just terrified he is going to be a Cowboy, and will be a great fit there, I just wanted to publicize how sad that will make me. Love you, Adoree’.
If you made it this far into this I regretfully inform you that all of this information is completely useless because it’s really beginning to sound like there are going to be a ton of trades at the top of this years draft. As a fan, just remember that the “sure thing” your team just drafted is almost certainly not that, and the next big thing was right under your nose the whole time. In the mean time, enjoy the hype machine and round 1. And if you are one of those crazy people who is sitting there on Saturday watching the 5th and 6th rounds like a hawk just know that while the rest of us think you should be committed, we still love you.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamAvolis
We are mere days away from that first taste of the NFL season. This is that time of the year where football has been gone a short while, and the smell of summer camps are right around the corner. With the 2017 draft coming up I wanted to give you my breakdown on a few players here in the ACC. Along with that, I came up with what I think the Carolina Panthers, and the Washington Redskins should do with their picks. Both teams are needing some key players out of the gate, but which team is going to be the most successful come draft day?
The wide receiver group is pretty stacked with talent this year, and it is no surprise that Mike Williams (Clemson) is leading the pack. He is my favorite wide receiver in this year’s draft (even though he broke my heart during the National Championship). He has great long distance speed, but not enough burst speed. Tennessee should take Williams at 5 and put his speed to work with Marcus Mariota. Williams would be best suited for a team that needs to break up a one-dimensional offense down field like Oakland has done with Crabtree and Cooper. I like his aggressiveness with the defenders and his ability to go toe to toe against corners and separate in coverage.
Mitchel Trubisky(UNC) and Deshaun Watson(Clemson) are both decent quarterbacks that will go in the first round but should not be considered immediate starters. Mitchell has great mechanics but only starting for 13 games makes it hard to think he could be ready day one as the starting quarterback. He needs to sit behind a seasoned veteran, like Aaron Rodger, for a few years before becoming a starter so that he can make his game stronger. Being put into a leadership position his first year will be a terrible situation and makes me think of Ryan Leaf. If teams can pass on him until 7, the Chargers would be the best fit. Phillip Rivers can be a great mentor, and that rookie harassment will be in full force when NC State plays UNC in the fall.
Deshaun Watson is a two-time Heisman Trophy candidate and is almost ready to be the face of a franchise. His footwork needs work to improve his accuracy with the deep ball, but he could take over a team in as early as a year. Any team that has an aging quarterback that will retire soon should take him first. If San Francisco drafts a defensive player first, he could be picked up by the N.Y. Jets at 6, Buffalo at 11, or Cleveland at 12. I hope that they pass on him because Arizona is the best team for him. Carson Palmers younger brother J.P., is Watson’s quarterback coach while preparing for the NFL and can get Watson ready to take over when Carson retires. Best bet for Arizona is to trade up and take him before the Jets have a chance.
Leonard Fournette (LSU) and Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) are leading the charge for running backs this year, but Dalvin Cook (FSU) is a force to be reckoned. I thought he had a strong combine and a decent season. For his college career, he had 4464 yards in 3 seasons. He is smaller than Fournette and McCaffrey, but I would rather have Cook as my back. He is dangerous in the backfield and I love backs that block. His biggest weakness is as an inside runner and his ball security, but having great veterans to surround him can improve that aspect of his game. If he stays available long enough, he could be a good fit in Philadelphia with the 14th pick.
Now the bread of butter of the draft, the teams themselves.
The Carolina Panthers are in need of offensive lineman, defensive lineman, wide receiver and a running back for sure. Being at 8, the Panthers will have plenty of options for players. The Panthers may be the first team to take a running back in the draft. If Joe Mixon’s off the field issues are truly a once in a lifetime situation, he could be a great second round steal. The Oklahoma back averaged almost 7 yards per rush in his two seasons starting and can be used on special teams if needed.
With the signing of Kawann Short, the Panthers will most likely try and get a defensive lineman in later rounds. The first rounds the Panthers should focus on getting an offensive lineman. There are slim pickings for this year’s group.
Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp plays left guard with great feet. He will not be around in the second round. Carolina should take an offensive lineman at 8, take a running back at 40, take a defensive linebacker, outside linebacker, or wide receiver at 64, 98, and 115. The last three picks could be a toss-up for who is left to be developed whether that be another defensive lineman, defensive backs, or offensive lineman.
The Washington Redskins are in need of linebackers, safeties, and running backs but should focus on getting the best outside linebackers and defensive backs. Washington will be deciding if they should take a running back first round and they should wait. The backs they have are young with less than three years of experience, and I do not see any of the running backs from this draft having a breakout rookie season like Ezekiel Elliott had last year. They are all collectively talented but need time and development. They need to take a safety. The top 10 safeties are all very close in comparison, so no matter who has been taken before 17, they will be getting a highly-rated player to make an immediate impact.
If Washington does decide to take a safety first, then they will take a running back in the second round at 49. With the 81st pick, they should try and get a linebacker or defensive linemen. With 114 and 123 they will pick up secondary players and 201, 209, 220, and 235 will be back up positions for players that will be getting to the end of their contracts, or have been plagued by injuries.
I cannot wait to see which teams are going to have the best drafts, or trade up to get someone they desperately need. Which players are going to fall and which ones are going to be taken earlier than expected? Will Cleveland draft a decent team to win games this year? These questions finally get answered in Philadelphia, April 27th at 8 pm.
The Rivalry is renewed as an undefeated Rose squad host the defending Eastern Carolina Conference Champs Conley in the first week of conference play for the season … Trevor Dunnell & Sean Finnerty in the booth with all the action .
Friday Football Tailgate Brian North ( WCTI TV12/WFXI Fox Eastern Carolina) & Jordan Honeycutt talking some Football