With the schedule finally being released, the next big event for the NFL is the draft which kicks-off with round 1 on Thursday, May 8th. Here is a look at some of the top talent that will be available on the offensive side of the football.
Johnny Manziel: 5ft11 208lbs Texas A&M
Johnny Football's creativity, elusiveness and production versus the defenses of the mighty SEC cannot be denied, but there are plenty of question marks surrounding the young man. Height, lack of a pocket presence and concerns over durability could cause teams in the top 10 to pass on the Heisman Trophy winner.
Blake Bortles: 6ft5 232lbs Central Florida
Has the size along with a big arm QB guru's drool over and while not a running QB, isn't a statue either and can scramble for yards. Many feel he is the signal caller with the most upside but isn't ready to start day one for a franchise.
Teddy Bridgewater: 6ft2 215lbs Louisville
At the beginning of the 2013 season Bridgewater was at the top of just about everyone's draft board, but his recent pro day workout has caused his stock to plummet. He has an above average arm and is mobile, but not a real running threat a-la Cam Newton. There are also concerns about possible durability issues in the NFL due to his thin frame.
Derek Carr: 6ft2 215lbs Fresno State
Have heard some analysts call Carr the most natural passer in this class. He has great vision, a strong arm and is your prototypical pocket passer. The problem is he beat up a bunch of weak teams playing at Freson State. Will his success translate to the pros?
Jimmy Garoppolo: 6ft2 225lbs Eastern Illinois
Folks sure do love this kid's quick release and arm strength, with his biggest knock being the level of completion he played against. I've also read some who criticize his hand size. I view him as a round 3 selection, but have a feeling a team will panic and reach for him in the 2nd.
Carlos Hyde: 6ft 230lbs Ohio State
Is the kind of RB who will either run thorough or over you. POWER is the name of his game and could easily be the feature guy for any NFL team. Hyde is also a receiving threat as he has surprisingly good hands for a bigger back. Has had off the field problems and served a 3 game suspension after a video showed he attempted to strike a woman in a bar.
Jeremy Hill: 6ft1 233lbs LSU
The only red flag I hear about Hill are his off the field issues, which he has seemingly put behind him after his LSU teammates voted him back onto the team. What I see is 3 down potential in the pros with the ability to dominate a game. Has the power to put defenders on their backs to go along with a speed burst that makes him difficult to track down.
Trey Mason: 5ft8 207lbs Auburn
Monster games against Missouri and Alabama really propelled his name into national attention. While small in size, showed the ability to break tackles to go along with his speed. Mason's size may prevent him from being a feature back in the NFL, but his value lies in the cat-like cutting ability along with his quickness.
Bishop Sankey: 5ft9 210lbs Washington
Sankey is another back that may be small in size but sure packs a punch. Has great vision along with sweet cutting ability that allows him to gain extra yards after contact. He also has great hands and is a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Ka'Deem Carey 5ft9 207lbs Arizona
This young man would be ranked higher if he didn't have some off the off the field concerns and had a better showing at the NFL combine. But Carey is quick, with good power in his lower body and even catches the ball well out the backfield. His vision and football IQ are also considered some of the best in the class at this position.
Sammy Watkins: 6ft1 200lbs Clemson
One word to describe Watkins is EXPLOSIVE. If he touches the football he is a threat to score. He has excellent hands and speed; a few extra inches height wise would be nice but Watkins is still easily the best receiver in this year's class. Many are comparing to the likes of AJ Green of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Mike Evans: 6ft4 231lbs Texas A&M
Evans was physically imposing in every game he played in last year no matter who he was matched up against. His arms seem abnormally long and give him a devastating reach to haul in passes. Another big plus is he is not afraid to block. Evans must watch his temper though and avoid taking stupid penalties.
Odell Beckham Jr. 5ft11 198lbs LSU
Fill a dual need for a team as OBJ can be one of your top receivers and also continue on special teams as a return man. Speed is in his genes as his mom was a track star while he also gets athleticism from his dad who was a running back at LSU. Beckham's big hands cradle passes like soft pillows and is a sure thing to be taken in round 1.
Brandin Cooks: 5ft9 189lbs Oregon State
Sure he is a bit undersized, but should be able to play the slot in the NFL. Will be a mismatch problem and can stretch the field vertically with hits jets that should be able to burn the top corners in the league. Cooks is also a great route runner and has good hands. He should be a lethal weapon on 3rd downs.
Marqise Lee: 5ft11 192lbs USC
Lee has seen his draft stock dip due to health concerns, but is hell when he's well as a pass catcher and a return man. Finding the ball is no problem and has suburb hand-eye coordination. Had a disappointing 2013 though sue to a knee injury. That could be a concern at the pro level since the body takes even more of a beating.
The Pelicans 2013-14 season is mercifully in the books, as the team finished 12th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference with a record of 38-48. I say mercifully not because they were an abomination to watch, but because I fear the team would lose even more guys if they kept playing, as the injury bug was more like an injury plague this year.
Julius Caesar was warned "beware the Ides of March"; well, it would have been nice if someone had given head coach Monty Williams a heads-up about what he was in store for back in January.
It all started with forward Ryan Anderson going down with a freak injury. Anderson fell on his back and suffered a herniated disc. Done for the year.
Then, point guard Jrue Holiday followed about a week later, with a stress fracture in his right tibia. Ultimately, Holiday was ruled out for the entire season after 34 games played.
We aren't done with January yet, as center/forward Jason Smith would be the month's final victim of season-ending injuries. He hurt his shoulder, and like those previously mentioned, needed surgery and would not suit up again this year.
New Orleans core five - Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Holiday and Anderson - played a total of 12 games together.
Even then, Davis and Gordon would join the infirmary later in the season. AD was rested the final 5 games of the year due to back spasms, while Gordon's last game was in late March as it was revealed he needed arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
Injures are part of the game as we all know, but this season for the Pelicans was just insanity. With so many players hurt, the team obviously struggled with back-ups now being forced to play starters' minutes. Wouldn't you know it, the "Fire Monty" chatter began and is still going.
But I ask, how is it his fault? Being critical of Monty's lineups while his resources are so limited due to injuries is just unfair to me. You have to give Monty another shot to prove he is the guy for the job with a healthy line-up. He is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA, after all. If he wasn't, Team USA would not have brought him on as an assistant. Besides, who are you going to replace him with?
If you ask Monty, he certainly isn't losing sleep over his job status with the Pelicans.
"That's not something we talk about at all," Williams said. "Mickey Loomis is the only guy that I answer to when it comes to that kind of stuff, and it's not something that comes up. We are in a production business and you have to produce. And we all know that."
Looking at what the Pelicans need to add next season, the position that jumps to the forefront is center. The team needs a big guy that is physical down low and can own the paint. The Pels ranked 22nd overall in rebounding out of 30 ballclubs this past season.
Don't expect the draft to help, since the team will likely not have a 1st round draft pick. Philadelphia owns it unless a miracle occurs and the Pelicans end up in the top 5 after the NBA draft lottery. Don't hold your breath, though, as those odds are at only 4%.
So that means free agency. Who are some options that will be available on the open market this summer, you ask? I won't lie; the position is thin with Marcin Gortat, Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden really being the only names worth mentioning and that isn't saying much. GM Dell Demps may be going overseas to find a big man or make a trade. Only Anthony Davis is untouchable.
While the season is less than a week away from being over for the Pelicans, Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon's year's are officially done as of today. The team announced that both players will miss the final four games of a season in which we've seen Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson & Jason Smith all suffer season ending injuries.
Gordon has missed the last 10 games with a left knee injury and will have surgery next week. He played in 64 games this season, which matches his career high for a season and averaged 15 points with 3 assists and 3 rebounds per game. Since coming to New Orleans, Gordon's points per game have gone down every year, and his max contract deal still has 2 more years remaining on it, unless, of course he decides to opt out in his final year.
On the other hand, Davis wowed spectators in his sophomore season, and has many analysts that cover the game believing that he is the heir to King James' throne as the best player in the NBA. Last week, back spasms started to hamper his play, and the team has now ultimately decided to shut 'er down with nothing to play for the rest of the way. Davis was examined by team physicians who made the determination that the injury will require 1-2 weeks of rest and rehabilitation.
AD may very well win the most improved player award this season as we saw his numbers jump dramatically from year one to year two. Davis averaged 21 points with 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game this year. He carried the team the entire season as the ballclub dealt with a slew of injuries and thrived as a leader despite just turning 21 years old in March.
The Pelicans are doing the right thing by protecting their future. I know any fans that have tickets to the final 2 home games may disagree, but it just makes sense to rest your biggest asset when there is absolutely nothing to gain. Let's hope all the injury gris-gris surrounding this ballclub has run its course and doesn't make a return next season. With a healthy core-4 of Davis, Holiday, Anderson and Tyreke Evans all healthy, this team should be a lock for the playoffs and then eventually with a few more pieces… a legitimate title contender.
8 games remain in the Pelicans' season, and with the team being eliminated from postseason contention, I ask you… should Anthony Davis sit out the remainder of the way?
He really has nothing left to prove, as Davis has dazzled in his 2nd year in the NBA. The 21-year-old is averaging 21 points with 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per contest. Even the national media has recognized that the future king of the NBA now resides here in New Orleans. Check out this article entitled Building the Brow.
I know sitting the superstar is far from what coach Monty Williams or Davis have in mind, though. Williams' philosophy is that if a player is healthy enough to play, he belongs in the lineup. Meanwhile, Davis is the type of guy who would lie about his status just so he could be in the game.
Normally, I would not be an advocate for giving a player an early vacation, but there is absolutely no benefit to continue to play Davis. And there are a few very good reasons to shut him down.
A.D. is playing on a sore left ankle currently. It's an injury that has given him some problems in his rookie year and forced him to miss a game in San Antonio this past Saturday. Why strain it any more this season and risk further damage? There is also a chance of suffering an even worse injury on top of that.
Did you see the elbow Davis took to the chin Monday night versus Sacramento? Luckily there was no serious damage; he just got his bell rung a bit.
So, you tell me… do I just sound like a "nervous Nelly," or is benching the face of the franchise the rest of the way with nothing left to play for an option the Pelicans should consider?
I can understand a penalty if the goal post was thrown off-kilter like Graham did last year in Atlanta, but to ban dunking all together just seems like the "No Fun League" is trying to remove emotion from the game.
Rumor has it that next year the NFL will try to outlaw high-fives. Kidding... maybe.
While the NFL free agency period has quieted down a bit following a fast and furious opening, that doesn’t mean there still isn’t important business to take care of, especially for the Saints.
The team needed a safety, and checked that off the to-do list in a big way by inking 3-time Pro Bowler Jairus Byrd to a 6 year deal. Great; but now what?
My top priority right now if I worked for the Saints would be to shore up the offensive line that protects “the franchise” Drew Brees. There were too many times this past season when Brees got rocked, definitely more than I’ve ever seen in the past. The numbers don’t lie either; he was sacked a career-high 37 times, and each one made the Who Dat Nation cringe and gasp.
Tackle Zach Strief and center Brian De La Puente are both free agents and still currently on the market. The buzz is that the Dolphins and Jets may take a look-see at Strief while the market for De La Puente has been rather tepid, with only the Giants having expressed interest.
I could see Strief retuning to the Saints, but feel like De La Peunte’s days in Black & Gold are done.
Some other o-line possibilities out on the open market right now are:
Tackle Donald Penn
He was released by Tampa after the Bucs signed free agent Anthony Collins. Penn has never missed a game, but his play seemed to take plunge last year. Still he is the top ranked tackle currently available.
Tackle Michael Oher
He is best known for being the subject of the book turned move “The Blindside”. Oher has spent the first 5 years of his career working on the right side of the Baltimore Ravens offensive line, but he has never been able to develop into the top-tier bookend they were hoping for.
Center Evan Dietrich-Smith
Dietrich-Smith appeared in all 16 games each of the past three seasons in Green Bay and split time between center and guard. He started all 16 this past season strictly at center and would definitely be an upgrade for the Saints. The big question though…is his price tag fairly reasonable?
When a loved one decides they need to stick up for you in the workplace, the results are NEVER good. Amid the talks Darren Sproles would be released by the Saints and then reports turned to that the running back was getting traded, Sproles wife Michel took to social media to express her frustration:
As for the latest on what is going on with the running back, he has been shipped off to the Philadelphia Eagles. Kind of a surprising move by the Black & Gold since Philly is in the NFC and a legitimate playoff contender. I guess at least the Saints don’t play the Eagles in the regular season this year.
In return, the Saints get a 5th round draft pick. It was originally owned by the New England Patriots and is the 157th overall selection. The Saints now currently own 7 draft picks in 2014.
The NFL free agency period opens today at 3pm, and while the Saints are fighting the salary cap, GM Mickey Loomis will still be active in the market. Don't expect the team to chase any big names, though, as they are still trying to hook their own big fish by penning a long-term deal with tight end Jimmy Graham.
Here are my main positons of need and some names the Saints could target. Click through to see their stats!