SEC East Preview 2014

East Division Breakdown

The most sacred time of year has returned, yes it is college football, and more importantly the SEC. I will take a look at the SEC East division and give some superlatives as we did for the Western Division of the SEC.

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1. Georgia Bulldogs 11-1 (7-1)

The Bulldogs are hungry to avenge last season’s debacle of disappointment and injuries. They are led by 5th year senior Hutson Mason and arguably the best back in the country in Todd Gurley. We believe they will lose week 2 to South Carolina in Colombia and run the table from there. Most analysts will say that whoever wins that matchup is going to win the East, but I would point to the last 3 seasons where UGA won last season and did not represent the East in Atlanta, but the previous two seasons they lost to the Gamecocks and were in the Georgia Dome for the early-December showdowns. This team will go as far as Gurley takes them, and we believe that is at least to the Dome.

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2. South Carolina Gamecocks 10-2 (6-2)

We believe that this is one of the most talented teams in the SEC. The games that we have circled for the Gamecocks are the matchup late in the season at Auburn and when Tennessee comes to town as a possible trap game. They have a solid group of leaders and Mike Davis is a bruiser in the backfield so they should have another successful season. They can manage the schedule but they have some flaws on defense and at receiver, but the offensive line and a backfield with the experience that Davis and Thompson possess, they will be in every game with a shot to win.

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3. Missouri Tigers 9-3 (5-3)

The Tigers have a solid team returning and should have success, the main concern this season would be the defensive line. Losing two very productive defensive linemen and having to face several offenses that control the clock, it will be difficult to make it out unscathed. Dorial Green-Beckham was electrifying and he was the key to another SEC east title run, the only problem is that he didn’t have what it takes to stay on the team and has since been kicked off and transferred. The Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk is a game-changer and will compete for a championship before his time in Colombia is over, this just isn’t the year.

Tennessee

4. Tennessee Volunteers 6-6 (4-4)

This is my surprise team in the east, but they will not quite have enough to run the table. They should be better in year 2 under Butch Jones, as they welcome in some great freshman and return the likes of Marquez North at wide receiver and All-SEC linebacker AJ Johnson in the middle of the defense. I did not account for this in my record prediction, but watch out for Tennessee upsetting Alabama in Knoxville for Lane Kiffin’s return as the OC for Bama, this could be the year.

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5. Florida Gators 6-6 (3-5) 

There are too many people hopping on the Florida bandwagon saying that because Jeff Driskell is back that they will return to form that we saw in 2012, but they fail to realize that the team won those games because of the defense and not Driskell. He has never shown consistency at the most vital position on the field. He will make some plays but ultimately be the reason that they are inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball by stalling drives.

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6. Vanderbilt Commodores 5-7 (1-7)

James Franklin is gone and I hate to say it but I just do not think that they have enough to win many games in the SEC this season, but Derek Mason will grow with the program eventually.

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7. Kentucky Wildcats 4-8 (0-8)

It is tough sledding for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats, they are simply a better team in a league in which they can not move up. The team will be stronger and they can beat Louisville, but they will be winless in the conference.

 

SEC accolades:

MVP: Georgia RB Todd Gurley

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This is the best player in the country as well as the SEC, he always seems to make the difference in his team winning or losing. He is healthy this season and in the best condition since arriving in Athens, thus looking for a huge year. I believe he has the edge to win the Heisman trophy as well.

Offensive Player of the Year: South Carolina RB Mike Davis

Possibly the second best player in all of the nation, he just happens to be second at his position in his own division as well due to the aforementioned Todd Gurley.

Defensive Player of the Year: Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr

This stud will be playing on Sundays soon and what is so impressive about him is his versatility in his ability to stop the run and rush the passer. He has stepped out as his defenses leader, and he brings that traditional Florida intensity that we are accustomed to seeing in Gainsville.

Newcomer of the Year: Tennessee WR Josh Malone

This is my favorite person tho watch this season, I believe that he will be the next Sammy Watkins. He is big and explosive, and he will be second focus for defenses as they watch Marquez North on the opposite side of the field, so he should shine as a compliment receiver.

Coach of the Year: Tennessee HC Butch Jones

NCAA Football: Tennessee-Spring Game

With Tennessee being my surprise team, I believe in Jones and his ability to beat at least two teams that are favored over the Vols this season.

SEC Championship Game: Georgia vs. Alabama

We have a rematch from 2012. This game we believe ends a little differently with the Bulldogs exacting revenge and winning the SEC.

SEC Champion: Georgia

I believe that Georgia has the tools available, especially with Todd Gurley in the backfield, to win the SEC. I think they will then get their shot in the College Football Playoff and defend the SEC’s name for the 2014 season.

 

So there it is, our SC East Preview. Check out the West Preview to see how that side may shake out, and thank you for reading!

2014 SEC West Preview

It’s the most wonderful time of the year everyone, college football is back! I know I am excited just like all of you are I’m sure and I’m here to break down probably the toughest division in college football, the SEC West. This division alone gave us some memorable moments last season along with the rest of the conference and I expect more of the same. Every team has its strengths and weaknesses and it will be interesting to see who can survive the trek through this daunting conference and division. Along with these great teams, there are several individual stars that I will give recognition too as well, because they certainly deserve it. Now, without further a due, I am going to show you exactly how this division will play out and tell you why.

 
1. Auburn Tigers                           auburn_university_logo
Auburn certainly had a magical season last year and although you can’t count on that magic again, you can count on them being a better football team just with a harder schedule. They return their starting quarterback and Heisman candidate Nick Marshall which gives Auburn an advantage over other schools. Marshall now has had a full season, spring, and summer under his belt. Look for Auburn to have the best receiver duo with Sammie Coates and D’haquille ‘Duke’ Williams and make the passing game very dangerous. This will make Auburn more balanced and even more dangerous on offense.

Questions will remain on defense and special teams having to replace starters due to injuries and guys graduating. For the defense, Auburn needs to continue forcing turnovers and guys like Gabe Wright and Kris Frost must lead, and for special teams, the young guy at kicker and punter will need to progress to give Auburn a formidable kicking unit. Their schedule is tough at home and even tougher on the road, but I see Auburn navigating it and winning the right games to get to the SEC Championship game.
2014 record: 10-2 (6-2)

2. Alabama Crimson Tide            alabama-logo
For Alabama, last year ended rough for them which gives them all the motivation in the world to reclaim top spot in the SEC. They will be good again, as they always seem to be no matter who they lose after each season. Their biggest concern of course is the question to be answered at quarterback. Transfer Jacob Coker and last year’s back up Blake Sims are in a tight competition for the starting job. Sims has a better grasp on the system so I would give him the early nod as of now. Regardless of who it is, their offense will be driven on the running game with T.J. Yeldon leading the way and when they do throw expect Amari Cooper to be there snagging the passes.

I would say their defense is going to be their strength, but what else is new right? They lost some key pieces but always seem to reload. Look for Trey DePriest and Nick Jones to be the leaders on that defense and make them just as good as they have ever been. Their kicking game is well their biggest weakness, Cade Foster was good, except in last year’s Iron Bowl and replacing him will be tough. Word of advice Alabama, don’t put the new guy in a stressful situation to have to make a game winner from whatever distance. All in all the Tide will roll on again and manage their schedule but just miss the SEC Championship game for the second straight year.
2014 record: 10-2 (6-2)

3. Ole Miss Rebels                            ole miss logo
Spoiler Alert: My surprise team in the SEC. These guys are dangerous and now that they are back under the radar, they should perform better than expected. Hugh Freeze will have his guys chomping at the bit after last year’s disappointing season ending in a dreadful loss in the Egg Bowl to hated rival Mississippi State. They return their quarterback Bo Wallace, inconsistent at times, but don’t sleep on this guy. Ole Miss has a veteran offensive line and returns one of the better receivers in Laquon Treadwell. Just get him the ball Bo and you, your starting job and the offense will be just fine.

I believe where Ole Miss will win their games this year will be through their defense, mainly because of their sophomore phenom in Robert Nkemdiche. He is going to be lined up at defensive tackle and I think give every team they face fits. This guy will no doubt be one of the top defensive players in the country this year and make everyone else on the defense better because of it.  As far as special teams go, they got a new guy at punter and kicker, so that remains their biggest question mark in my opinion. Ole Miss has the chance to be very dangerous, they get a lot of their tougher opponents at home and could surprise some teams. In reality though, I think they have an improved season, just not enough for winning the West.
2014 record: 9-3 (5-3)

4. LSU Tigers                                      LSU_logo
Another team that lost its starting QB after last year, LSU looks to Anthony Jennings and/or Brandon Harris to replace Zach Mettenberger. Each one will get equal looks in their tough opener against Wisconsin. A two QB system has worked in the past for Les Miles, so this could be the start of that all over again. They are weak at receiver but strong on the offensive line and running game. That will be their bread and butter no doubt. LSU back to the ground and pound, win with defense strategy.

For their defense, they have to replace guys yet again, but never a problem for the Tigers. Led by returning defensive end Jermauria Rasco, this Tigers unit will be good, and maybe a little underrated. They will be looking to Rasco to make plays and lead this young unit every week. A main strength for the Tigers will yet again be their kicking game. They return their starting kicker and punter who were both very effective last year and I see them being even better this year. LSU will be good but a year away from great. Their inconsistency at QB will plague them and cost them a few games when they will need big plays from their quarterback. Other than that, the Tigers will be right in the thick of things.
2014 record: 9-3 (5-3)

5. Mississippi State Bulldogs        91xsfe9nvvedeghyqi4sx161k
It’s another season where Mississippi State is looking to be pretty good, can they handle the pressure though? Returning their quarterback Dak Prescott certainly helps, along with a very experienced offensive line. State looked good in games last year and had rough ones as well. Finishing the season beating Ole Miss sure left a good taste in their mouth. The running game will be in good hands with Josh Robinson, as I think he will be one of the better backs in the league. If Dak and Robinson can move this offense on the ground effectively, it will open up the passing game and make this offense dangerous for anyone to face.

Defensively, they will be pretty strong, led by defensive end Preston Smith coming off the edge to provide the pass rush. A very senior laden defense bodes well for the Bulldogs because you can never have too much experience on that side of the ball. They will be tough to score on for anyone, and with teams taking a step back at quarterback, they should have a good season. Their kicking game certainly needs to improve for them to get better on special teams, but no where to go but up from last year.  Their home schedule is favorable but it’s the road schedule that will give them problems and keep them in the middle of the pack in the SEC.
2014 record: 8-4 (4-4)

6. Texas A&M Aggies                        TAM-Logo
Johnny Football comeback! Is what all the A&M fans have been saying since he decided to go pro. Granted their now starter Kenny Hill has the potential and talent to be good, just going to be a rough learning curve this year for him but much needed experience. Their strength on offense will be their offensive line which will keep them relevant in games and make them a frustrating offense to get off the field.

Their problems are going to lie on the defensive side of the ball. This team struggled all of last year to stop anyone and they haven’t had a good defense in some time now. They need guys like Howard Matthews and Deshazor Everett to really step up and be leaders to make this defense any good. They will be able to hang their hats on their kicking game though, which is big for them. This gives them the chance to really help out their defense as well as have the potential to win those close games. In the end though, it’s going to be tough for them to make a bowl game, which I think they will, and if they do it will be a success.
2014 record: 6-6 (2-6)

7. Arkansas Razorbacks                7305
Oh those Razorbacks, led by Bret Bielema trying to turn this program around. It certainly will be a trying season for them for sure. Doesn’t look good when your quarterback’s car catches on fire on game week, that can’t be a good omen but nonetheless this team will take a step in the right direction this year. Quarterback Brandon Allen will have the luxury to hand the ball to a dangerous running back tandem in Johnathan Williams and Alex Collins. These guys are going to combine for lots of yards this year. They will have a solid offensive line and be very physical up front, but if you stop their ground game, not going to be hard to beat these guys I think.

Their defense will remain to be their biggest concern and will hurt them because if they are behind a lot, they can’t run the ball to stay in games. Hopefully for them they can improve behind the likes of defensive end Tray Flowers and linebacker Braylon Mitchell. If they can be better on defense then they can be a dangerous team, I just don’t see their defense being that good. Their kicking game on the other hand will be strong and will need to be strong to help out their offense and defense for sure. Their schedule is brutal but I believe they get better, it’s just the record won’t show it.
2014 record: 4-8 (1-7)

 

SEC Accolades:
MVP: Auburn QB Nick Marshallncf_g_nick-marshall_mb_600
The most dangerous player in the SEC and a Heisman contender for sure. He will be electric and make this Auburn offense even more dangerous than last year with his improved passing.

 

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon
The bell cow for the Alabama rushing attack. He will be leaned on heavily early on as they figure out their QB situation. Even though they are deep RB, he will get a majority of the touches.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche
Hands down the most impactful player in the SEC. His presence upfront will make Ole Miss one of the better defenses in the conference and give them a chance in every game.
Newcomer of the Year: Auburn WR D’haquille ‘Duke’ Williams
Another Auburn diamond from the JUCO ranks. He will be a dominant receiver and have that A.J. Green/Julio Jones type presence where any ball thrown his way is going to be his.

 
Coach of the Year: Ole Miss HC Hugh Freezehugh freeze
He will have his Rebels in every game this year and sneak up on some teams as well.  They can challenge anyone in the conference and compete for a SEC West Division Championship.  If nothing else, A nice back bounce season will easily make him Coach of the Year.

 

 
SEC Championship Game: South Carolina vs. Auburn
A rematch of the 2010 matchup of these teams and it will certainly be much closer than that one. I think South Carolina gets out early but withers late with the rushing attack of Artis-Payne, Marshall and Grant and Auburn repeats.
SEC Champion: Auburn
Auburn wins back-to-back SEC Championships and gets a look for the College Football Playoff. I think the SEC Champ is a lock for it but with 2 losses, who knows. Either way, it’s another successful season for Malzahn and his Tigers.

 

Well there you have it! Exactly how the West and SEC will play out this season. There will certainly be lots of great games and many to keep your eye on. I know I am excited for it! Enjoy the season everyone and the best of luck to your teams. To see how the East will play out, check out the SEC East Preview on our blog, and also tell us your predictions for the SEC, we would love to hear them!

2014 Two Round Mock Draft

First things first, we created this mock draft as if we were the GM for each individual team. We had 4-5 possible picks for each slot and had a “war room” discussion as each pick was made. We wanted to make a realistic scenario for each team’s needs and account for trades that would intrigue both sides of the deal. We also tried to use conventional knowledge of draft history for each franchise and their front office. So now, let’s get to the draft:

Round One

1. Houston Texans- DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

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The Skinny: This is the best player in the draft and the only one truly deserving of the number one selection.

2. St. Louis Rams- OT Greg Robinson, Auburn

The Skinny: The Rams need to build the offensive line as a strength so that Sam Bradford can finally progress into the confident franchise QB.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars- QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida

The Skinny: The Jags have needed a quarterback ever since…ever? They have the ability to finally end the viscous circle by taking the franchise QB they have been coveting, and they have the opening via the Blaine Gabbert-to-San Fran trade that had all of us scratching our heads. Never the less, they have a much more favorable position moving forward.

4. Cleveland Browns- QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

The Skinny: The biggest punching bag of the draft so far is still a stud QB who is a future franchise guy. The Browns could take a receiver here, but there are several first round caliber wide outs available…yes even with passing up Sammy Watkins, Josh Gordon is the number 1 they need a number 2.

5. Oakland Raiders- WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

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The Skinny: Speaking of Watkins, He is simply too talented to be passed up by the Raiders, who are hurting for a playmaker on offense. They signed Matt Schaub, so the immediate need for a QB can be set aside for a later round, meanwhile adding the best offensive player in the draft.

6. Atlanta Falcons- OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

The Skinny: The bottom line is, PRIORITY NUMBER 1 is keeping Matt Ryan protected, and especially with Clowney off the board, the greatest need is an offensive tackle immediately on the right side and eventually on the left and Matthews fits the bill.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

The Skinny: The Bucs are looking for impact offensive playmakers and why not get your franchise QB in the process? Manziel is the best QB and offensive talent available at this point.

8. Minnesota Vikings- QB Derek Carr, Fresno State

The Skinny: The Vikings have a history of reaching for QBs in the first round (Christian Ponder) and this season would have been different had one of the top 3 dropped to this position. They like Carr and they may get impatient with how the other quarterbacks are flying off the board.

9. Buffalo Bills- DE/OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

The Skinny: There was talk the Bills could have traded up for Clowney or Mack, but we believe the way this crazy draft will go, that they can stay put and get their local stud who will be the best player available when they make this selection.

10. Detroit Lions- OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan

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The Skinny: There is a high chance of the Lions taking a safety here, but Lewan is simply too tempting to pass up. he is the most NFL ready offensive tackle and he can “stay home” by getting drafted by the Lions. Stafford can make plays, but he needs to stay upright so that he can use all of those offensive playmakers and a good safety will be available in round 2.

11. Tennessee Titans- WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

The Skinny: The Titans need offensive playmakers, and even though they want a new quarterback, there is not one left worthy of this pick. We say they should get a weapon either for Jake Locker or for their future QB.

12. New York Giants- TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina

The Skinny: Eli Manning simply needs better targets, especially since they just lost Hakeem Nicks.

13. St. Louis Rams- OT/G Zack Martin, Notre Dame

The Skinny: This is the second first round pick by the Rams, and their offensive line is a major priority, so we say they double down on the o-line and grab Martin to initially play guard.

14. Chicago Bears- S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

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The Skinny: The bears are looking for youth in their secondary to renew the energy and they are in need of a safety, so they will take care of both right here.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers- CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

The Skinny: The Steelers need to get younger on defense and this is a classic value pick by them.

16. Dallas Cowboys- DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

The Skinny: They could have taken Anthony Barr right here to replace Demarcus Ware, but as we discussed it, they really should build from the inside out.

17. Baltimore Ravens- ILB C.J. Mosely, Alabama

The Skinny: The Ravens have been looking for a stud in the middle of the defense for the past two seasons and to put it simply, Mosely is the only inside linebacker worth a first round selection.

18. New York Jets- WR Marqise Lee, Southern California

The best receiver left on the board is a must for the Jets who need to help out whoever their quarterback will be.

Trade!!!!!

19. Atlanta Falcons- OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA* Trade From Miami

Anthony-Barr-Article

The Skinny: The Falcons have been in the news for being willing to trade up, but it won’t be for Clowney since he will be gone first overall. This trade stems from the Dolphins not having the coveted offensive tackle available here. The terms of the trade are as follows: Falcons receive 19th overall pick, and Miami receives 2015 1st round selection, 2014 2nd, 4th, and 6th round selections.

20. Arizona Cardinals- S Calvin Pryor, Louisville

The Skinny: The Cardinals need a safety to play opposite of Tyrann Matheiu, and complete their strong defense with another playmaker. There are no quarterbacks worth taking at this position.

21. Green Bay Packers- WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

The Skinny: They can take this luxury pick and also fill a need. They will replace the loss of James Jones right here.

22. Philadelphia Eagles- CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

The Skinny: The Eagles need to lock down another corner to put opposite of Brandon Boykin and improve the defense by also taking the best player available.

23. Kansas City Chiefs- WR Odell Beckham Jr, LSU

The Skinny: The Chiefs need to get more explosive on offense and Beckham could be their guy.

24. Cincinnati Bengals- WR Brandin Cooks 

BrandinCooks

The Skinny: The Bengals may be looking to replace Andy Dalton at quarterback, but they need to balance the offense with a receiver to stretch the field and take pressure off of A.J. Green.

25. San Diego Chargers- NT/DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

The Skinny: The Chargers need a disruptor in the middle so that the linebackers can free flow to make plays in the running game.

26. Cleveland Browns- CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

The Skinny: With their second pick in the first round we say that the Browns address the need at their cornerback spot opposite Joe Haden.

27. New Orleans Saints- CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State

The Skinny: The signing of Champ Bailey is just a short term help on the defense, but Roby has the talent to come in and compete and learn from Bailey.

28. Carolina Panthers- WR Donte Moncreif, Ole Miss

donte moncrief

The Skinny: THEY NEED A RECEIVER!!!!!! BADLY!!!!!! That is all.

29. New England Patriots- DE/OLB Dee Ford, Auburn

The Skinny: The Patriots love versatile playmakers and Ford fits the bill. He can flourish in this organization.

30. San Francisco 49ers- CB Jason Verrett, TCU

The Skinny: The Niners are becoming one of the best overall teams in recent history, and their strong draft history certainly is the reason why. They take a need and one of the best players available in Verrett.

31. Denver Broncos- OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA

The Skinny: They really filled a lot of needs in free agency, so the biggest need remaining is a stud plug and play guard who will keep Peyton Manning upright and happy.

32. Seattle Seahawks- OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

The Skinny: The offensive line was not up to par last season even though the Seahawks won the superbowl. They have a chance to take an offensive tackle that has a ton of upside and potential.

 

Round Two

33. Houston Texans- OT Morgan Moses, Virginia

morgan moses

34. Washington Redskins- OG Joel Bitonio, Nevada

35. Cleveland Browns- OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

36. Oakland Raiders- DE Kony Ealy, Missouri

37. Miami Dolphins- OT JuWan James, Tennessee* Trade From Atlanta

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

Jace-Amaro1

39. Jacksonville Jaguars- DE Kyle Van Noy, BYU

40. Minnesota Vikings- DE/OLB Jeremiah Attaouchu, Georgia Tech

41. Buffalo Bills- TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

42. Tennessee Titans- QB Tom Savage, Pittsburgh

43.  New York Giants- DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame

44. St. Louis Rams- WR Allen Robinson, Penn State

45. Detroit Lions- CB/S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

lamarcus joyner1

46. Pittsburgh Steelers- DT RaShede Hageman, Minnesota

47. Dallas Cowboys- DE/OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

48. Baltimore Ravens- OT Cameron Flemming, Stanford

49. New York Jets- TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame

50. Miami Dolphins- OG/T Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State

51. Chicago Bears- CB Phillip Gaines, Rice

Trade!!!!! The Buccaneers have traded QB Mike Glennon to the Arizona Cardinals for the 52nd overall pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots

52. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson

53. Green Bay Packers- S Jimmy Ward, Northern Illinios

54. Philadelphia Eagles- WR DaVonte Adams, Fresno State

55. Cincinnati Bengals- QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinios

56. San Francisco 49ers- WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

Jordan+Matthews+Mississippi+v+Vanderbilt+gjNKOGmyb6ll

57. San Diego Chargers- WR Paul Richardson, Colorado

58. New Orleans Saints- OT Billy Turner, North Dakota State

59. Indianapolis Colts- S Deone Bucannon, Washington State

60. Carolina Panthers- WR Cody Latimer, Indiana

61. San Francisco 49ers- DE Marcus Smith, Louisville

62. New England Patriots- RB Tre Mason, Auburn

TreMason

63. Denver Broncos- ILB Chris Boreland, Wisconsin

64. Seattle Seahawks- OG David Yankey, Stanford

What are the Falcons planning to do at safety?

The Falcons have answered some questions this off-season thus far. They have signed NT Paul Soliai and DE Tyson Jackson to bolster the run defense and OG Jon Asamoah to start at right guard. They also re-signed DT Corey Peters, DT/DE Johnathan Babineaux, C Joe Hawley, and RT Mike Johnson. The recent addition of CB/KR Javier Arenas shows that the Falcons are still shopping, per recent reports that they are still interested in KR Devin Hester to provide a spark in the return game. One question still remains, what are the Falcons doing at safety? With the top targets coming off of the free agency board all within 24 hrs of the league year beginning, what options does that leave the Atlanta Falcons?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins

The obvious choice would be Chris Clemons, formerly of the Dolphins. He has the physical tools to  immediately help the Falcons in both run and pass situations. He has his flaws, but the value in that is his price has dropped since we are more than a week after the start of free agency. He could help bridge the gap for one of this May’s draft picks, to allow time to develop.

major wright

Another good option would be Major Wright, formerly of the Bears. This guy has the starting experience on a good defense and will be even cheaper than Clemons due to less name recognition. He quietly keeps the defense from breaking and will help bring along a young rookie that would be drafted this May.

james ihedigbo

There had been talk early this off-season that William Moore could return to his natural position at free safety and the Falcons could sign a strong safety like James Ihedigbo, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. He has the big play ability close to the line of scrimmage. He could bring a mean streak and aggressiveness to this defense that could change its identity.

The NFL Draft:

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The Falcons could trade back from their 6th overall pick and draft either Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama, or Calvin Pryor from Louisville. Though this option seems less likely due to their huge need on the offensive line and need for elite pass rusher.

deon bucannon

The Falcons could also sit tight at 37 overall and take Deon Bucannon from Washington State, this is still less likely due to the prior response of greater needs on the team.

terrence brooks

Another option is in the third round at 68 overall. This is the last position where they would likely draft a starter. Florida State’s Terrence Brooks or USC’s Dion Bailey would both be good fits right here, a sleeper would be if Lamarcus Joyner slips to this pick and the Falcons want him at safety instead of corner.

120113 tech premium JC15

The last option in the draft would be to get a back up safety to groom along as the future starter behind a veteran that I mentioned before in free agency. This option could be a local player such as Jemea Thomas out of Georgia Tech or maybe Isaiah Lewis from Michigan State. Both of these players have potential, but may not be ready for a starting NFL role just yet.

The Prediction:

The Falcons will add a veteran safety in free agency and draft a back up/future starter somewhere in rounds 3-5.

Atlanta Falcons Offseason Outlook plus 2014 7-round Mock Draft

First things first, a 4-12 season shows that the Falcons have plenty of holes to fill. They started by maximizing their cap room by “trimming the fat” by cutting cost-efficient salaries and older players who don’t fit the future vision.  The following players have been cut:

CB Asante Samuel, Cap Savings $5.25 million Image

This move should speak for itself. Samuel is still a good player but not worth the $5+ million he’ll count against the cap, seeing as how he has already been replaced by two rookies this season.

LB Stephen Nicholas, Cap Savings $2 million 2014 and $5.5 million in 2015

Nicholas is the highest paid linebacker on the team with the least amount of production, this is a no-brainer.

G Garrett Reynolds, Cap Savings $1.329 million

An under-performing offensive line needs a complete makeover, enough said.

Others that could be cut:

DE Osi Umenyiora, Cap Savings $3.5 million 

I know he just came in this year, but this is a position in need of being upgraded and the birds will need every dollar they can to make the necessary improvements.

S Thomas DeCoud, Cap Savings $3 million in 2014, $4 million in 2015, and  $4.2 million in 2016Image

This move will save a small fortune over the next 3 seasons. It is affordable money if DeCoud’s production was that of his Pro Bowl 2012 season, but the Falcons have little time to wait and see if that returns. They need to use every dollar to see if they can capitalize on a veteran free-agent safety.

RB Jason Snelling, Cap Savings $1.375 million

With three running backs on the roster making more than 1 million against the cap this season, including incumbent starter Steven Jackson and flex back/return man Jaquizz Rodgers, unfortunately Snelling is the odd-man out. Antoine Smith has stepped up as well, making this move less risky.

Free agency is also where the Falcons could make some noise and turn around their fortunes. So here are a few of the options they could pursue:

DE Michael Johnson, Cincinnati

Michael Johnson 

He is a product of the home-town Georgia Tech and could be affordable as a run stuffing defensive end as well as a potential double-digit sack stud. His production in sacks last year was down, hopefully helping the Falcons land him.

FS Jarius Byrd, Buffalo Bills

The Bills now seem as though they will not use the franchise-tag on Byrd. He might be out of the Falcons price-range, but he is the best free safety on the market. If there is a bidding war for his services, it may leave the Falcons looking for another safety in free agency.

FS Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts

antoine bethea

He is a more realistic candidate to be signed by the Falcons, seeing as how he is still an upgrade on DeCoud but he is much more affordable.

OLB Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins

Of course this is assuming that he even hits the market. He is a candidate for a franchise-tag as well as maybe even an extension. He would be expensive, but it all depends on where the Falcons want to spend their focus within free agency and the draft.

C Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns

He would instantly change the whole dynamic of the offensive line. Mack has already made it clear that there is a slim to none chance that he returns to the struggling Browns. The Falcons may be in the market to really upgrade this position  in particular through free agency.

OT Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs

branden albert

The connection of new Falcons Assistant General Manager Scott Pioli being the former General Manager of the Chiefs helps this possibility. He is a former left tackle, right tackle, and also a guard in college. He can bring versatility to the offensive line that it has not seen in a while.

OT Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens

He does not have any connection, but seems like a good fit at right tackle and would help immensely.

G Willie Colon, New York Jets

He was pursued by new Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice while he was in Chicago, and he fits his scheme. He would also be a cheap addition who could start at right guard.

Others who didn’t make the cut: DE Greg Hardy-will probably be franchised, DE Michael Bennett-too expensive, OT Eugene Monroe-too big of a market, FS Louis Delmas-too many health concerns

And Now for the 7-round Falcons Mock Draft

Round 1 6th overall- DE/OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo 

Khalil-Mack

This is assuming the highly coveted Jadeveon Clowney is off the board, and the Falcons would take the best player available which would be the versatile Mack. He has the NFL measurables and he is a clutch player, bringing in his best performances against top competition.

Round 2 37th overall- OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

He is a potential left tackle, but could play on the right side immediately as he develops.

Round 3 68th overall- DT Dominique Easley, Florida

He is a top 15 talent that slipped due to his torn ACL. He will be Babineaux’s replacement on the defensive line.

Round 4 99th overall- TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia

arthur lynch

He provides the ability to help in the passing game and as a blocker. Lynch will be a scheme-friendly pick for the Falcons, and should generate some home-town buzz.

Round 5 135th overall- S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

He is a tweener at sefety/corner, but his leadership and instincts make him valuable at the next level. He could play behind whoever the Falcons sign in free agency and make his living on special teams for the time being.

Round 5 compensatory- WR/RS Dri Archer, Kent State

He could be the Falcons 4th receiver, and speed demon return specialist. Sometimes it makes sense to take a flier on a guy who could make you look smart, he has gamebreaker potential.

Round 6 166th overall- G Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt

The need for help along the line has been noted and here is just another body to use for competition in camp.

Round 7 197th overall- WR L’Damian Washington, Missouri

ldamian washington

If he is still here at this pick, the Falcons should jump all over it. He is a big-body receiver who can make plays in the red zone to help replace Tony Gonzalez.

Round 7 compensatory- CB Ross Cockrell, Duke

Talented corner who is underrated for his smooth transitions in coverage. He will help special teams and be a 4th corner.

Round 7 compensatory- QB Connor Shaw, South Carolina

connor shaw

The Falcons do not seem to be high on Dominique Davis, and that’s why they brought in Sean Renfree in the draft last year. They want to create competition behind Ryan. Shaw would provide that and he is originally from Flowery Branch, where the Falcons practice facility is, thus creating local buzz. He is a proven winner, and has great running ability which is also valuable as a backup in the NFL.

Round 7 compensatory- C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

This would be adding another guy to the mix in camp to push Peter Konz.

Why is this Richt’s time?

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Most of college football fans know about the success of Georgia Head Football Coach, Mark Richt, but he may be more well-known for what he has not done. Richt is the elder statesman in the SEC, as he has been at UGA since 2001, but Richt’s main critics point to his inability to get to the “big game”, as he rarely has his team in real contention for a national title by season’s end. The famous end to the 2012 SEC Championship game against Alabama, where the Dawgs found themselves just “five yards short” of the National Championship. The others seem to be less haunting, but in 2002 against Florida, the undefeated bulldogs saw Richt bring starting quarterback David Greene off the field to make good on his promise to DJ Shockley. Only, the stage may have been too big at the time for young Shockley he threw a game changing interception which left a blemish on an otherwise great season and the SEC Championship was not enough to propel them to the BCS Championship game.

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The good news is, that coming off of a disappointing season, this is where Richt seems to be at his best. He starts the season just out of the spotlight and slowly gets his team to believe over the course of the season. This season the Dawgs will be replacing the face of the program for the last four years in quarterback Aaron Murray. His replacement, who took over for the last two and a half games of the 2013 season, Hutson Mason is a fifth-year senior who has been Aaron Murray’s backup for the past four years, and in that time, he has created a buzz throughout Bulldog nation for his accuracy in practice and his knowledge of the offense.  In recent years, 4 out of the last 6 BCS National Championships have been won by teams win a first year starting quarterbacks. The defense on the other hand, is returning 9 of 11 starters off of a struggling unit from a year ago and under the new defensive coordinator, from the reigning National Championship defense, Jeremy Pruitt is ready to maximize this group’s sterling potential.

hutson mason

So, why is this Richt’s time? It’s simple, he doesn’t have to be in the top two this season, with the new college football playoff going into effect, all you need is to be in the top four. Now, I’m not saying that Richt would be incapable of leading his team to a Championship, but this format plays into his strengths. He usually has his team playing its best football by season’s end and with the new landscape of the SEC, having so many new quarterbacks, leaves the door wide open. Richt is a molder of men and it usually takes the growth of a season, so if there is an early loss, it will not derail this teams goals.

NFL Previw and Predictions

The NFL season is finally here and officially started with the Kickoff Special last night where the Denver Broncos took care of the Baltimore Ravens 49-27.  The main star of that one being a star of old, Peyton Manning throwing for 450+ yards and 7 TDs, showing everyone he has a lot longer left in the league and lot left in him.  Last night was a strong indication that the Broncos are for real this year but it still is only one game and there is a lot of football to be played.

This new season brings about hope for, well most every team, and just a new football season brings joy to everyone no matter how bad their team is.  There will be really good teams, really bad teams, frustratingly average teams and always a surprise team or two.  So what teams will win their division and who will go the playoffs and win the Super Bowl you might be asking?  Well your in luck because I’m going to tell you how it will all go down.

Division Champions

AFC East-New England Patriots

Tom Brady still there and the mastermind Bill Belichick still running things makes this an easy pick for the Patriots to retain their AFC East division crown.  There will be too much offense even without the weapons for the other teams in the division to matchup.  Their defense will be the unsung hero of the season, and their continued dominance of offense will be too much for division foes.

AFC North-Cincinnati Bengals

I am liking what Cincy has got going on.  They will have a formidable offense led by Dalton and A.J. Green and their defense is probably their strongest point actually.  Led by their star DT Geno Atkins and star cornerback Leon Hall, the Bengals defense will look to put the clamps on every one they play.  Matching up with their division opponents is very favorable considering it’s against all teams that aren’t known for their offense.  Cincy will edge out the Ravens and claim the division crown.

AFC South-Houston Texans

Texans are the most balanced team in the division, and they certainly have the best defense.  As long as Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster can stay healthy, they will be able to take their division.  They will receive stiff competition from the Colts but it won’t be enough.  They will use their balanced offensive attack and their stingy defense to overmatch their opponents.  They will split with the Colts in the season but that won’t hurt them in winning the division.

AFC West-Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning will look to bring the Super Bowl Trophy back to the Mile High City Picture from sports-lite.com

Peyton Manning will look to bring the Super Bowl Trophy back to the Mile High City
Picture from sports-lite.com

As we saw last night, they are truly going to be a powerhouse this year.  Peyton looked better than he ever has, gasp!, and there are so many weapons for Peyton to throw too.  I mean he threw 3 of his TD passes to TE Julius Thomas and WR Andre Caldwell.  He didn’t even hit Welker, D. Thomas, or Decker for one until he finally found Welker for his 4th TD pass of the night.  Point being, they are loaded and their offense will be more than good enough to cover up for some holes on defense.  They will be way too much to handle for any of their division opponents.

NFC East-Dallas Cowboys

A surprise pick I would say, but something is telling me to not go with the obvious RGIII led Redskins.  I think Romo has been playing his best lately in his career and it will continue this season.  Only this time he will get some help from his defense.  The Cowboys will look to generate a lot of offense and hope to get a lot of it from their running back Demarco Murray, as long as he can stay healthy.  This division will be highly contested but the Cowboys will edge the Redskins out.

NFC North-Green Bay Packers

This will be another shootout of a division.  The Packers have to get better on defense and Clay Matthews will see to it that that does happen.  QB Aaron Rodgers will see to it that the offense doesn’t slow down one bit and look to continue his dominance in the league.  They will have to beat out other offensive power teams in their division but the Packers are the best overall team and take the division again this year.

NFC South-Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan will look to guide the Falcons to the Super Bowl. Picture from www.tumblr.com

Matt Ryan will look to guide the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
Picture from http://www.tumblr.com

Atlanta is the only sure thing in this division.  Although their offensive line looked soft in the preseason, they should be just fine when the real games get kicked off.  They have too many offensive weapons to not win the division and I think that their defense is an underrated one.  Their offense will carry them to the postseason though and the question will be if their defense can help them out enough in the postseason.  Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Steven Jackson, Tony Gonzalez.  That’s all you need to know to tell you whose going to win the division.

NFC West-San Francisco 49ers

This will be a tough, tough division for any of the teams to win a lot of games within.  The 49ers though have the best offense and best defense in their division, just by a small margin though over the Seahawks.  Kaepernick will be a stud again for them and he’ll get a full season, just think of the numbers he could put up and the excitement he can create.  Their defense will again be stoutly led by future Hall of Famer Patrick Willis.  They will survive their tough division and schedule but benefit from it mightily down the road.

Wild Card

AFC-Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts

Ravens will have enough offense and defense to propel them, their weaker division will help them too.  Flacco will once again make the playoffs and who knows once you get in, anything can happen.  The Colts will be led by their strong QB play of Andrew Luck and a manageable division schedule will benefit the Colts.  They will be improved on defense as well which will help them.

NFC-Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Josh Freeman will look to erase the critics and prove his worth as a franchise QB. Picture from borntocompete.com

Josh Freeman will look to erase the critics and prove his worth as a franchise QB.
Picture from borntocompete.com

RG III will not be denied a trip to the playoffs, they will fall short of the division to the Cowboys but this team will be a dangerous one.  Their strong defense led by London Fletcher will keep them in games and their explosive play from RGIII will propel their offense.  The Bucs are a sneaky, sleeper pick.  No one is giving them much respect but with their offseason additions and their nice rebound year last year, I just think they will do enough to get there.  Freeman will be much better resulting in their offense being dangerous and their defense will be better to help them edge into the playoffs.

AFC Champion-Denver Broncos

The Broncos will lock up home field advantage again this year and use that to their advantage and not let it go to waste again.  They are the most explosive AFC team and they will have one of the better defenses too.  It won’t be as good as Houston’s defense, but it will be good enough to compliment their offense.  Peyton will have record breaking numbers and look to get his second Super Bowl ring and they just might do it.

NFC Champion-San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are no doubt the most balanced and strongest NFC team.  They can run, throw, play defense with all the same effectiveness.  They will be too much for anyone that opposes them, but it will not be an easy road.  Kaepernick will get them to the Super Bowl for the second straight season and would look like it could be their year.

Super Bowl Champion-Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning celebrating what he hopes to be another Super Bowl in his future. Picture from www.sportsmole.co.uk

Peyton Manning celebrating what he hopes to be another Super Bowl in his future.
Picture from http://www.sportsmole.co.uk

I have the Broncos beating the 49ers in the Super Bowl.  I have to go with my early, early pick of the Broncos being the best team.  Peyton and his endless list of weapons will be too much for any opponent.  Kaepernick and the 49ers fall short yet again, but they’ve got a lot of time ahead of them.  The 49ers defense is better but Peyton Manning is well Peyton Manning.  Peyton will get Super Bowl number two and not let his younger brother out do him.  Wouldn’t that be nice, to see Peyton light it up this year and get a second and much deserving Super Bowl ring this late in his career, post neck injury.  After the game John Elway will proclaim to everyone, “This one’s for Peyton.”

So there you have it, the NFL predictions in it’s entirety.  It should be another great season and I am glad it is already here.  I’m ready to kick back and take it all in.  Let us know what you think about the season right here and how you see it all playing out.  I wish your team well!