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NFL Draft

3 Things to watch as Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars get set to draft tonight

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost here. The 2018 NFL Draft will get underway at 8 p.m. tonight with the opening 32 picks to be made in prime time in Arlington, TX.

After months of scouting, evaluating, working out, interviewing and even, re-interviewing prospects, the actual selection process will end the debate and speculation. And for the Buccaneers and the Dolphins in specific, they will anxiously watching what happens in front of them, as they are both scheduled to pick early on the evening.

By virtue of their breakout season a year ago, the Jaguars will sit and wait awhile, unless they make an unlikely trade leap up. Still, there’s plenty of intrigue, as to what Jacksonville might do, too.

So, here’s a quick rundown of the order and what to expect going in:

The Bucs at #7

Tampa Bay has three specific needs: running back, pass rush help and possibly, another strong defensive back. It’s unlikely that Penn State RB Saquon Barkley will be still available at the seventh spot. If he is, the Bucs will race the card up to commissioner Roger Goodell to select him. Otherwise, there’s not another clear cut star running back out of a talented group of 5-6 remaining, who’s worth a top 10 pick. So, those guys can be had later in the first or the early second round.

Will the Bucs attempt to maybe trade up for N.C. State’s DE Bradley Chubb? They have evaluated him heavily, but most analysts and mock drafts having going in the top 5. Is it worth the trade?  As we wrote earlier this week, there is a strong case for Tampa Bay to trade down, as well, because several teams behind them may want one of the remaining quarterbacks out of the top class. Tampa Bay traded down two years ago from nine to eleven and still got a guy in DB Vernon Hargreaves, who they wanted.  We’ll see if they do something similar tonight.

The Dolphins at #11,

While Miami doesn’t have an obvious need at QB, they certainly have made it apparent for four months that they are interested in taking one. And while it’s now highly unlikely that Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield gets out of the top five, both Josh’s, Rosen of UCLA and Allen of Wyoming, may be there just before the Dolphins are picking. Will Miami trade up for a QB or risk sitting where they are and have one fall to them?

Is Louisville’s Lamar Jackson a strong consideration there?

Will Miami go for another position like linebacker and maybe a Tremaine Edwards of Virginia Tech or Roquan Smith of Georgia? Or, would they entertain trading down to a team that really wants one of the top QB’s that might still be there, while the Fins are on the clock?

Off a disappointing 2017, Miami fans anxiously await.

Finally, the Jaguars at #29

Again, the great success last year of 10 wins, an AFC South Title, and two playoff wins, put the Jags in the rare position, for them, the back of the first round.

The two obvious areas where Jacksonville can improve is linebacker after veteran Paul Posluszny retired, and also potentially, long term QB for themselves.

Yes, while they have committed to Blake Bortles financially for the this year, his deal is very financially friendly to the team. So would be taking a QB in the late first round or even late second round, etc. in this draft. That player could be groomed, as the eventual replacement starter.

We also wrote that the Jags could be in the market for a tight end and Jacksonville native and South Carolina prospect Hayden Hurst makes a lot of sense. But will Hurst still be there? Does Jacksonville like another tight end? They will apparently wait at least three hours tonight to be on the clock. Strange for them indeed.

So, there you go. What will happen? Who trades? Who stays where they are, and what do they take?

The time is almost at hand.

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NFL Draft

Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars rookies take part in “Rookie Premier”

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFLPA hosted members of the 2018 NFL Draft class in Los Angeles over the course of the last three days, With several Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars represented, there were also state school players there, as well.

First, the 40 rookies attended a seminar, and then all got the opportunity to see their jerseys for the first time together:

For the Bucs, rookie running back Ronald Jones out of USC has now settled on #27, Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki donned his #86 and new teammate RB Kalen Ballage, his #33, and for the Jaguars rookie D.J. Chark saw his #17 with everyone else, too.

Of course, the marquee quarterbacks from the top ten of last month’s draft have and will continue to grab most of the attention.

This included the Browns #1 overall pick, Baker Mayfield, the Jets and their new “savior” in Josh Darnold, Josh Allen of the Bills and Josh Rosen of the Cardinals.

The guys took a group photo Saturday morning:

Interesting that there were also several state school players who were out in Southern California taking part in the three day event, and also got the same chance to put their new colors on, etc.

One of those is former USF star receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was taken by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round and he was eager to put on social media his first rookie card:

Also in attendance was former Hurricanes now Bengals running back Mark Walton putting on his #32. And former Louisville Heisman quarter back Lamar Jackson, who’s also a former high school star in Boynton Beach, decided to show some dance moves in his video shoot:

All in all the rookies, the NFLPA and their sponsors spent three days that got them acclimated to the upcoming to the lavish life of the pros.
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NFL Draft

Did Dolphins and Bucs make mistake passing on FSU’s Derwin James?

Florida Football Insiders

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Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Granted we are just after the NFL Draft process late last month and no one has played an actual game, but the analysis continues to pour in on players and the teams that drafted them.

One name that keeps coming up under the heading of “steal” in round one is FSU safety Derwin James.

The L.A. Chargers ended up sitting where they were at #17 and got the Noles All American safety to fill a need.

However, as the draft played out, the Dolphins, were not able to grab a quarterback, and decided with the 11th pick to draft Alabama safety/corner Minknah Fitzpatrick.

As we wrote, Fins owner Stephen Ross was apparently against that decision, but was convinced to let his front office make that pick instead of trading down to get more selections.

The Buccaneers could have also taken James after trading down to in deal with the Bills, but Tampa Bay chose Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.

Both clubs have a mix of veteran and young safeties, but you could make the argument that James would be able to step in and make an immediate huge impact in 2018. And, that’s what Pro Football focus discussed Tuesday:

As PFF points out, that 90.6 grade in pass coverage was #1 in their ranking formula for college safeties, and also his overall grade (92.1) on their scale ranked him #2. And as you can see from their info/photo they had James ranked their fifth best player in the entire draft.

You can also see more about what PFF’s analysts think about James’ game translating to the next level and the fit with the Chargers in their video here:

In the Fins case, they went with a player from Nick Saban’s defensive back factory at Alabama. Again, he’s had 10 defensive backs drafted in the first or second round of his Bama tenure. So, you cannot say that was a bad pick, unless Fitzpatrick is terrible/lost (unlikely), and James is tremendous from year one.

In the Bucs case, they drafted a young physical safety in Justin Evans in the second round last year and eventually took another safety, Jordan Whitehead of Pitt, on day three of the draft this year.

So, both teams would tell you that they addressed the need both last year and this year.

Now, will James’ play make them both regret that they had the chance to take him?

We will find out this fall.

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NFL Draft

Will Mark Walton get significant carries for the Bengals?

Ari Russell

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(USA Today - Trevor Ruszkowski)

When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Mark Walton in the fourth round it wasn’t just for the former Miami Hurricane to not compete for playing time. You have to understand before his ankle injury which cut short his 2017 season, Walton was projected to be as high as a second round pick. Obviously the injury hurt his stock, but he still could play a significant role in his rookie season.

That said there is one scout who feels as if Walton is actually overrated (via cintyjungle.com).

MARK WALTON, Miami (5-9 ½, 202, 4.59, Round 4): Third-year junior declared early even though ankle surgery ended his final season after four games. “He should have stayed in school,” one scout said. “He’s not very good. Just kind of a one-speed guy and gets tackled easily. No elusiveness.” Had a big season in 2016 (1,117). Finished with just 395 carries for 1,995 (5.1) and 26 TDs along with 56 receptions for 624.

That said another scout didn’t hold the same view of Walton at all.

“He’s got a PhD of football,” said another scout. “Poor, hungry and determined.” From Miami. “He’s explosive as heck,” a third scout said. “Just little. Big-play ability. Effective out of the backfield. He can cut and slide at full speed and can outrun the angles.”

Not sure what tape the first scout watched on Walton, it must have been right after he had his first ankle injury last season, where for a few carries he was a little slow. He did end up with over 200 yards on the ground that day. He’s an explosive player once healthy and can find seems and make the long ball runs.

The Bengals have quite a bit a depth now with Walton at running back. Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are already there. Plus there’s Brian Hill and Tra Carson. One thing that makes Walton valuable is his special teams abilities.

He’s capable of receiving kickoffs and punts, plus he’s excellent on coverage of both. The fact that he’s also a reliable receiver in the backfield also gives him a nice advantage as far as earning playing time. Considering his diverse value, Mark Walton will be making some kind of impact his rookie season, provided he remains healthy. Not sure what the heck that one scout was talking about.

Here’s Walton talking about his first day of rookie mini-camp.

 

 

 

 

 

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