Arun Morace

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Top 5 potential sleepers and busts from the 2014 NFL Draft

Kelvin Benjamin may not be the answer Carolina is looking for at wide receiver. Photo: Stephen M. McDowell, Orlando Sentinel

The 2014 NFL draft is officially over. While it’s impossible to project just how players will turn out this early in their careers, there’s nothing wrong with handing out a few rapid reactions as to whether a player seems like they’ll be a bust….or if they’re one of those under-the-radar sleepers who in a few years people will be wondering “how did they slip so far in the draft?”

So without further ado, here are five potential busts and five potential sleepers from the 2014 NFL Draft.

BUSTS:

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns Round 1, No. 22 overall

- This one’s almost too easy. Manziel was one of the most polarizing prospects in the entire draft, right up there with Jadeveon Clowney and Michael Sam. There were numerous questions about him, questions that likely led to his precipitous draft-day fall. His talent level was considered by many to be top-10 or even top-5, but his “partying” personality, the almost overbearing “Johnny Football” celebrity was cause for concern. Then there were his on-field issues, namely his style of play that too often has him hold on to the ball too long, running around the backfield for an inordinate amount of time, then tossing it up to one of his receivers. While that may have worked in college, holding on to the ball too long at the NFL level will get a quarterback pummeled, and could lead to injuries- a fear augmented by Manziel’s small stature (5’11″, 200 lbs). Lastly, there’s the situation Manziel just landed in. Cleveland is practically a quarterback graveyard, and Manziel likely won’t have the services of Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon, who is facing a lengthy suspension in the wake of his latest failed drug test. All in all, the pre-draft concern about Manziel (personality, playing style), and the Cleveland situation make Manziel a prime bust candidate.

2. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers Round 1, No. 28 overall

- Benjamin is one of those one-year-wonder, height-weight-speed prospects that seem to have a very, very high bust rate in the NFL. He was a good weapon Florida State, but most of his production came because of his sheer size mismatch against defensive backs. He was never asked to run many pro routes, instead often being allowed to freelance in an effort to get open. His 240-pound frame is also a bit troublesome- look no further than what happened to guys like David Boston and Mike Williams. Benjamin also failed two grades in school, leaving questions about his intelligence, and ability to learn an NFL offense. Now, given his raw package of size and skill, he also has the potential to become a dominant receiver in the mold of an Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall, but with only two years of NCAA experience (and only one year of real production), some serious coaching needed, and the fact that Carolina, out of sheer need, will likely thrust Benjamin into the No. 1 receiver role as a rookie, Benjamin has serious potential bust at the next level.

3. Aaron Donald, DT, St.Louis Rams Round 1, No. 13 overall

Donald is one of those late-riser draft prospects who also seem to have a high bust rate. Considered a Day 2 or even 3 prospect before the pre-draft process, Donald had a great Senior Bowl and tested extremely well at the Scouting Combine, making him a seeming lock for the top-15. He has the potential to be a nice interior pass rusher, but his size (6’0″, 285) makes him something of a liability as an every-down defender, particularly against the run. Donald seems like someone who would have been better suited as a rotational player, not a top-15 pick who’s going to be counted on for heavy snaps, and could be a target for opposing teams in the run game, as he’ll likely get dominated by bigger interior offensive linemen.

4. Dominque Easley, DE/DT, New England Patriots Round 1, No. 29 overall

- This is a boom-or-bust pick. Easley was thought to have top-15 potential, but suffered an ACL injury, which can be a notoriously debilitating ailment for bigger athletes. Easley’s size (6’2″, 288) makes him a bit of  tweener, and he may not be able to find a true position at the NFL level. If Easley can come back 100% from his knee injury and carve out a nice for himself, the Patriots will look quite smart for having selected Easley. However, he probably could have been drafted a round later, and the questions about his knee and ability to truly fit into an NFL defense make him a bit of  a bust risk.

5. Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, Houston Texans Round 1, No. 1 overall

- Surprise! Well, not really. Clowney is an absolute freak of nature, and could very well end up as a Hall of Fame player. However, Clowney will have to play up to his vast potential in order to liveup to his No.1 overall draft spot. He’s in a good situation in Houston, with an aggressive defensive coordinator in Romeo Crennel and the best defensive lineman on the planet, J.J. Watt, to take some pressure and blocking away from him, but remember- Clowney took a lot of plays off last year. Perhaps he was protecting himself and his draft stock, but that kind of me-first mentality raises a few doubts. Plus, there’s the last time the Texans took a pass-rusher with the first overall pick. Mario Williams, the top choice in 2006, was a good player who made a few Pro Bowls, but he didn’t exactly alter the fate of the franchise. Clowney has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Texans- the question is, will he become that?

Other potential busts: Dee Ford, DE/OLB (Kansas City Chiefs, No. 23 overall), Blake Bortles, QB (Jacksonville Jaguars, No. 3 overall), Anthony Barr, DE/OLB (Minnesota Vikings, No. 9 overall)

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The toughest job Nick Saban ever had was….

Is being the head coach of one of the most prestigious football schools in the nation like Alabama the toughest job Nick Saban ever had? Nope.

Being an NFL head coach, like he was in Miami during the mid-2000′s? Nope.

It was working as the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator, under the evil genius himself, Bill Belichick. Via FootballScoop’s Doug Samuels, Saban said he found his time in Cleveland the most difficult of his career:

Saban spent 1991-94 as the master of Cleveland’s defense while Belichick was the head coach of the “Factory of Sadness“, before accepting the head coaching job at Michigan State in 1995.

2014 NFL Mock Draft

Draft 2014

May 8 update: The NFL Draft is (finally) upon us! Check out my updated 2014 mock draft, and feel free to tweet your thoughts/hate to me @AMorace1

1. Houston Texans- Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB (South Carolina)
-A fun bit of history: the Houston Texans, who lost their final 14 games of the 2013 season, have the second-longest losing streak all-time for a team that opened the season with a win. The longest such streak? 15 games, a mark belonging to the Carolina Panthers, who accomplished that feat in 2001. Of course, Carolina, despite having the worst record that year, did not have the No. 1 overall pick in the ensuing 2002 draft- that belonged to the expansion Houston Texans. And, that year, the Texans were faced with the same dilemma they are this year: draft the elite pass rusher (2002:Julius Peppers, 2014: Jadeveon Clowney), or the potential franchise quarterback (2002: David Carr, 2014: Blake Bortles). 12 years ago, Houston went with the quarterback in Carr, Peppers came off the board with the very next pick to Carolina. Carr was one of the biggest busts of the past 15 years; Peppers went on to be a perennial Pro Bowler.

So what does all that mean? Well, quite frankly, nothing. Just an interesting set of coincidences between this year, and the first time the Houston Texans held the No. 1 overall choice in the NFL draft.

With the draft process having wound down, it’s looking more and more like Houston will eschew drafting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, and go with the consensus best player available- pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney. No clear-cut franchise quarterback has emerged from the slate of top-tier quarterback prospects in this year’s class (Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr), so Houston will opt to pair Clowney with All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt in an effort to form one of the deadliest pass rushes in the NFL.

{May 1- Houston’s pick updated; previously Blake Bortles, QB on Mar. 1}
{Mar. 1- Houston’s pick updated; previously Teddy Bridgewater, QB on Jan. 1}

 

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington)- Greg Robinson, OT (Auburn)
- St. Louis is a strong candidate to move down. They don’t really need to stay at No. 2, and it’s quite likely team wll want to move up for a pass rusher or a quarterback. However, if the Rams stay put, they can pretty much go after the top player on their draft board. St. Louis has thrown a ton of money the last couple offseasons at their offensive line, but haven’t had much success in improving it. Jake Long and Roger Saffold, their two highly-paid encumbent tackles, are both quite injury prone. The drafting of Robinson would give them an excellent young tackle prospect for the future, allowing Saffold to slide inside to guard, while also giving the Rams the option to possibly release Long or Saffold sometime down the line and save some money.

{May 8- St. Louis’ pick upated; previously Khalil Mack, DE/OLB on May 1}

{May 1- No update from Mar. 1 edition}
{Mar. 1- St. Louis’ pick updated; previously Sammy Watkins, WR at No. 2 on Jan. 1}

3. Jacksonville Jaguars- Blake Bortles, QB (Central Florida)
- Jacksonville has a few options at No. 3. They could add a pass rusher like Khalil Mack, a receiver like Sammy Watkins, or try and solve the franchise’s seemingly eternal woes at quarterback. There’s a good chance they go with the local product, Blake Bortles, a strong-armed passer with size and a playmaking knack that has earned him comparisons to Pittsburgh Steelers franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In short, he’s the kind of quarterback the Jaguars need to move on from the Blaine Gabbert disaster.

{May 1- Jacksonvillle’s pick updated; previously Teddy Bridgewater, QB on Mar. 1}
{Mar. 1- Jacksonville’s pick updated; previously Jadeveon Clowney, DE on Jan. 1}

4. Cleveland Browns- Sammy Watkins, WR (Clemson)
-  For a while, the consensus here was that the Browns would take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with their first pick in the 2014 draft. However, after the NFL Scouting Combine completed, it appears as though the Browns favor Fresno State passer Derek Carr, and plan to acquire him with their second first-round draft choice (No. 26 overall). If that is indeed the plan, then they can use the No. 4 pick to upgrade another position. They don’t really need a tackle like Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson, or a linebacker like Anthony Barr or Khalil Mack, so their best bet would be to take speedy Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Pairing him with Josh Gordon, who emerged as a premier receiving threat this past season, would give their offense two legitimately dangerous threats at wide receiver.

{May 1- No update from Mar. 1 edition}
{Mar. 1- Cleveland’s pick updated; previously Johnny Manziel, QB on Jan. 1}

5. Oakland Raiders- Mike Evans, WR (Texas A&M)
- Oakland could take a quarterback at No. 5, but would probably be better served building up the offense in the first round rather than reaching for a signal-caller. Besides, they already traded for Matt Schaub, and could use a later pick on a quarterback to develop. Mike Evans doesn’t fit the classic “speed” mold of a Raiders receiver, but his wheels are still good enough, and his size, hands and red-zone ability have lent comparisons to current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Pro Bowl wide out Vincent Jackson. While there’s no telling if Evans will live up to that comparison as a pro, he certainly has the potential to blossom into the No. 1 receiver the Raiders have lacked for a long, long time.

{May 8- Oakland’s pick updated; previously Johnny Manziel, QB on May 1}

{May 1- No update from Mar. 1 edition}
{Mar. 1- Oakland’s pick updated; previously Blake Bortles, QB on Jan. 1}

6. Atlanta Falcons- Khalil Mack, DE/OLB (Buffalo)
- Atlanta would really like to get their hands on either Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack in an effort to boost their anemic pass rush, which picked up a meager 32 sacks in 2013, and failed to see a single player notch double-digit quarterback take-downs.  but if both are off the board, they’ll likely settle for upgrading their offensive line with a prospect like Greg Robinson. Clowney will be off the board, but there’s a strong chance Atlanta moves up for Mack. Under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, they’ve dealt up three times for a first-round selection (LT Sam Bakerin 2008, WR Julio Jones in 2011, and CB Desmond Trufant in 2013). When they traded up last year, it was with the St. Louis Rams, who currently hold the No. 2 pick- a slot that would allow Atlanta to comfortably take Mack.

{May 8- Atlanta’s pick updated; previously Greg Robinson, OT on May 1}

{May 1- Atlanta’s pick updated; previously Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB at No. 2 via trade on Mar. 1}
{Mar. 1- Atlanta’s pick updated; previously Jake Matthews, OT at No. 6 on Jan. 1}

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Johnny Manziel, QB (Texas A&M)
-With the right coach, the Buccaneers are probably in position for a major turnaround next year, much like the way the Chiefs got back to the playoffs this past season under Andy Reid after going 2-14 in 2012. Tampa’s roster is just that talented. Still, they have a few positions they could address. The new regime, led by head coach Lovie Smith, is apparently disillusioned with incumbent starting QB Mike Glennon, and though they brought in Josh McCown as a free agent, the 34-year-old is not the permanent answer moving forward. Rumors are swirling that the Buccaneers really like what Manziel brings to the table, and could scoop him up at No. 7- if they don’t deal up for the former Heisman Trophy winner.

{May 8- Tampa Bay’s pick updated; previously Mike Evans, WR on May 1}

{May 1- Tampa Bay’s pick updated; previously Anthony Barr, DE/OLB}
{Mar. 1- no update from Jan. 1 edition}

8. Minnesota Vikings- Anthony Barr, DE/OLB (UCLA)
- There is a chance that the Vikings use this pick on a quarterback like Derek Carr. Christian Ponder has clearly worn out his welcome in Minnesota, and GM Rick Spielman isn’t afraid to reach for a quarterback. After all….he used the No. 12 overall pick in 2011 on Ponder. However, they’ll (probably) play it safe this time around, and go with a sure-fire upgrade at another position of need, rather than pinning another top pick on a “maybe” quarterback. With Jared Allen having signed with Chicago, the Vikings are certainly in the market for a new cornerstone pass rusher, and UCLA’s Anthony Barr fits that bill.

{May 1- Minnesota’s pick updated; previously Justin Gilbert, CB on Mar. 1}
{Mar. 1- Minnesota’s pick updated; previously Derek Carr, QB on Jan. 1}

9. Buffalo Bills- Jake Matthews, OT (Texas A&M)
- Due to the dire need for quarterbacks that will consume much of the top eight selections, teams drafting after Minnesota will enjoy a number of great prospects falling right into their laps. The first such beneficiary is Buffalo, who can upgrade their lacking offensive line with the selection of Jake Matthews. He’s played both left and right tackle in college, so he could supplant Cordy Glenn at left tackle for Buffalo while Glenn slides to the right side, or he could just plug right in on the right side of Buffalo’s offensive line. Either way, he’s a force in the run game and can hold off edge rushers with ease. That last fact is especially important for the Bills, who gave up a ridiculous 48 sacks in 2013, and can’t have franchise quarterback E.J. Manuel getting pummeled every game.

{May 1- no update from Mar. 1 edition}
{Mar. 1- Buffalo’s pick updated; previously Taylor Lewan, OT on Jan. 1}

10. Detroit Lions- Justin Gilbert, CB (Oklahoma State)
- There’s a good chance Detroit tries to trade up for a wide receiver like Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans. However, if they don’t andor both are off the board, they’ll likely take Justin Gilbert to shore up one of the weaker secondaries in the NFL. He’s got the speed, length and ball skills to develop into  a shutdown cornerback for the Lions, something the franchise has lacked for a long, long time.

{May 1- Detroit’s pick updated; previously Mike Evans, WR on Mar. 1}
{Mar. 1- no update from Jan. 1 edition}

11.Tennessee Titans- Eric Ebron, TE (North Carolina)
- Tennessee is a dark horse candidate to move up for a quarterback. Jake Locker showed signs of serious improvement last year before suffering his annual season-ending injury, but the latter part of that statement holds more weight. Tennessee can’t rely on Locker to even be on the field given his apparent fragility, so they may want to look elsewhere for a starting quarterback. If they stay at No. 11, they have a few directions they could go in. Pass rusher is probably the Titans’ first choice, but with Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr all off the board, they could opt for an intriguing receiving option in Eric Ebron, who has been touted by many as the next Jimmy Graham given his freakish athleticism and potential. While tight end may not be the most pressing need for Tennessee, Ebron will almost certainly be an upgrade over Delanie Walker, who can shift back into the No. 2 TE role that made him so successful with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with Tennessee last offseason.

{May 1- Tennessee’s pick updated; previously C.J. Mosley, ILB on Mar. 1}
{Mar. 1- Tennessee’s pick updated; previously Khalil Mack, DE/OLB on Jan. 1}

12. New York Giants- Taylor Lewan, OT (Michigan)
- The Giants’ offense was an absolute disaster this year. A lot of that falls on the shoulders of Eli Manning and his league-leading turnover totals, but a lot of the blame must also be shouldered by the offensive line. They allowed 40 sacks, and couldn’t open any holes for the Giants’ running game, which finished a paltry 29th overall. Drafting Justin Pugh last year was a good start towards rebuilding the offensive line, the selection of Lewan this year would give the Giants another big piece to help improve their offensive line.

{May 1- New York Giants’ pick updated; previously Greg Robinson, OT on Mar.1}
{Mar. 1- New York Giants’ pick updated; previously Cameron Erving, OT on Jan. 1}

13. St. Louis Rams- Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S (Alabama)
- St. Louis is only a few players away from having a great defense. They’ve got two of the best pass rushers in the league with Robert Quinn and Chris Long, and a strong linebacking corps featuring the athletic Alec Ogletree and tackling machine James Laurinaitis. However, the secondary could use a bit of work. Strong safety T.J. MacDonald and cornerback Janoris Jenkins are pretty much the only capable members of the Rams’ secondary. Adding a center fielder like “Haha” Clinton-Dix would go a long ways towards solidifying the back end of the St. Louis stop unit.

{May 1- no update from Mar. 1 edition}
{Mar. 1- no update from Jan. 1 edition}

14. Chicago Bears- Aaron Donald, DT (Pittsburgh)
- Given how awful the Bears’ defense was in 2013, they can pretty much go for the best defensive player on their board with their first pick. Donald put on a show at both the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine, showing that despite his smaller stature (6’0″, 285) he can be an extremely disruptive force on the interior of a defensive line.  Given how desperate the Bears were for defensive line help last year (they signed 32-year-old Jay Ratliff, who hadn’t played all season, for the final five games of 2013), Donald will be a welcome addition to the Chicago defense.

{May 1- no update from Mar. 1 edition}
{Mar. 1- Chicago’s pick updated; previously Darqueze Dennard, CB on Jan. 1}

15. Pittsburgh Steelers- Darqueze Dennard, CB (Michigan State)
- Having addressed the nose tackle and safety positions in free agency this year, Pittsburgh will likely use the No. 15 pick on a cornerback. There’s been talk that they’d like to give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a big wide receiver to throw to, but there are good options for that later in the draft (Martavis Bryant, Brandon Coleman, etc.). This isn’t the strongest cornerback class, so if the Steelers have a shot at someone like Darqueze Dennard- an aggressive cornerback who fits the Steelers’ defensive mentality, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll pass.

{May 1- Pittsburgh’s pick updated; previously Kelvin Benjamin, WR on Mar. 1}
{Mar. 1- Pittsburgh’s pick updated; previously Louis Nix III, DT on Jan. 1}

16. Dallas Cowboys- Timmy Jernigan, DT (Florida State)
- Much like Chicago, Dallas pretty much needs to go with the best defensive player left on the board to improve a defense that ranked dead last in the NFL in yards allowed. They may trade up for Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix so that they never have to see Jeff Heath on the field again, but if they stay put, Jernigan would be an excellent option. He’s a stout interior defender who can defend the run and get after the passer with ease.

{May 1- no update from Mar. 1 edition}
{Mar. 1- Dallas’ pick updated; previously Ra’shede Hageman, DT on Jan. 1}

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Kobe bet Kevin Ware on who would recover from injury faster

Remember Kevin Ware, the Louisville basketball player who suffered that horrific leg injury during March Madness last year? Well, apparently Kobe Bryant approached him with a good-natured wager. At the time, Kobe was also dealing with his own serious injury (torn Achilles tendon), and so he bet Ware on who would get back onto the basketball court first.

Kobe’s still out for the Lakers, but Ware made it onto the court for Louisville’s game against the University of Pikeville last Thursday- making him the winner of his bet with the Lakers’ star shooting guard.

Check out an interview of Ware, where he talks about Kobe, the injury, and the bet:

Ronnie Lott falls out of chair

When he played in the NFL, Ronnie Lott was known as a fearsome safety who laid bone-crunching hits that would put opposing offensive players on their rear ends. Last night, however, a simple chair put Lott on his rear end. Check out this hilarious video of Lott falling out of his chair while on the set of the Pac-12 Network’s Postgame program.

http://pac-12.com/videos/outtakes-ronnie-lott-falls-postgame-report-set

Click the above link to watch the incident, or just check out the shortened version in the GIF below, via @PuntingWinning.

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