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NFL Draft

Let the NFL Draft debates commence!

Florida Football Insiders



Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the reality that after Conference Championship weekend is over, there will be only one meaningful football game left this season, the Super Bowl, of course most fans will start to focus on the NFL Draft.

And on Thursday, the premiere draft analyst of the last 25 years, at least on ESPN, Mel Kiper Jr., put his initial first round mock for the 2018 Draft.

With the understanding that Kiper by his own admission will change this and maybe even significantly, as we go along over the next 90 days, it’s still interesting to see who he thinks is going where. This is especially for the top few teams and for our purposes the Florida Teams.

Here’s his first assessment:

A Couple of immediate things jump out, Wyoming early entry QB Josh Allen must have mixed emotions, as Kiper has him going #1 overall. It’s the ultimate honor for any draft pick. Then again, he has to want to vomit to see his name next to the team- Cleveland, even if it’s a mock draft.

Next, Kiper believes that UCLA QB Josh Rosen is the next best option at signal caller and will go to the Giants #2.

You can obviously read, who else he has going where off the tweet and screen grab from ESPN this afternoon.

Interesting for us at F.F.I. that while the Buccaneers have needs at RB, and DE, Kiper actually has them taking an OG, in Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame. It’s not sexy, but the Buccaneers guard play and offensive line play overall, was poor at best last season. This would be a good need filled, too.

Equally intriguing, he has the Dolphins, who also have a need at RB and might one to draft one of the QBs, taking an O-lineman, well. Kiper took another Notre Dame player, Tackle Mike McGlinchey at #11 for the Fins. Again, same as the Bucs, they need line help in South Florida.

Anything beyond that point (around pick 10 or so) is really crap shoot, as it only takes one or two wild picks to disrupt everything. And, just like in 2017, multiple teams will trade up to grab their guy, too, and mess up the draft order, etc.

Finally, another intriguing name from Kiper’s first round? Baker Mayfield, Heisman winning QB at Oklahoma. He has him going to Jay Gruden and the Redskins at 13.

He’s a name that will be heard a bunch in the coming weeks with the combine and individual workouts and of course, with Miami’s quarterback situation still fluid, the Dolphins will get mentioned.

Mayfield wasted no time on Thursday afternoon, as Dolphins WR Kenny Stills (a former Sooner himself) was live on Instagram watching draft conversation on TV. Mayfield decided to “reach out:”

We don’t know how quickly “#GetMeToMiami” will take off on social media, but it was an intriguing and very honest moment from Mayfield.

Again, so much is going to be said, written, theorized and “mocked” for the next couple of months. You just have to pace yourselves.

Still it’s fun for the first time to peek, ponder and debate.

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NFL Draft

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

Florida Football Insiders



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



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



(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

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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