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NFL Draft

NFL combine is making it easy to pull for Lamar Jackson

Ari Russell

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(USA Today - Trevor Ruszkowski)

There are always seemingly countless storylines every single year at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Obviously, the most inspiring story has been the absolute amazing performance by UCF’s Shaquem Griffin, who has defied critics. On the other end of the spectrum has been the ridiculous narrative surrounding former Louisville QB Lamar Jackson.

The narrative around Jackson was started when former NFL GM Bill Polian said that Jackson should be looked at as a WR. That take was then echoed across the 24 hour sports media landscape and took on a life of it’s own. Of course, there was quite a lot of resistance within the media to even consider this narrative, however, it was a strong enough take to escape any of the rational filters and become a major story line at the combine. We wrote here that the talk is ridiculous.

Now, Jackson stayed away from several drills, including running the 40. He is saving that for his pro day. That move was a good idea for Jackson. By not running the 40 Jackson evaded more WR talk at the combine. Also what happened with his performance in the drills was overshadowed by Jackson’s defiance to accept the WR narrative. His defiance makes it really easy to pull for him.

There are other reasons to root for Jackson. He currently doesn’t have an agent and is more or less representing himself. Though not unprecedented, it certainly isn’t a normal way for a potential first round draft pick to approach his first NFL experience. It will be interesting to see how this story line plays out as well.

Will Jackson still be available when the Dolphins draft at #11? It’s possible he could be and would that mean they should draft the Pompano Beach native? Who knows what the Dolphins will do. They could go after Baker Mayfield if he’s around as well.

The point here is that Jackson’s mere abilities have opened up a conversation that should have been put to rest decades ago. Athletic black QBs are always scrutinized in ways that their counterparts are not. It seems they have to go out here and be twice as good at passing the football as their fellow QBs.

The fact that Jackson had to answer questions about playing any other position other than QB is asinine. Any media member that participated in pushing the WR narrative or even accept it as being a worthy perspective ought to have their press credentials revoked indefinitely.

Lamar Jackson was a great college QB and he’s good enough to be considered to be drafted in the first round as a QB. The WR talk is intellectually dishonest and needs to be dismissed by any and all credible media folks. Hopefully this all dies down after the combine wraps up and we can put it to rest. In the meantime all this must be putting a large fire under Jackson. He will be coming into the NFL with a huge chip on his shoulder. I know I will be rooting for him at the next level.

Born in the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C., Ari Russell watched the rise of the 1980’s Miami Hurricanes and knew that he had to be part of the “U” someday. After graduating from Coral Gables, Ari rose through the ranks of the former XM Satellite Radio and then Sirius/XM as college football executive producer. He later spent 2 seasons as the publisher of the website “Beyond U Sports” focusing on major college football/basketball. Ari brings a great perspective on everything Miami, including the Dolphins to F.F.I.

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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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