Appearance on the Master Plan Podcast: Way too early AFC Preview

Football season is quickly approaching, and teams have began to prepare for the upcoming year. The AFC could be a very competitive conference, but which teams have enough talent to be playoff contenders? My cousin Michael Philipkosky and I broke it all down in this episode of his podcast, the Master Plan.

2021 NFL Mock Draft: Pats find their future QB in talented, offense-heavy class

The NFL Draft is a week away, and rumors have been all over the place about what will happen. One big question here in New England is how the Patriots will address their QB situation. Bill Belichick made a lot of additions this offseason, and he opted to re-sign Cam Newton. However, are all these additions meant to help build around Newton, or to help make the transition easier for a new quarterback? It will take a lot to get a quarterback in this offense-heavy draft class, but it may be worth it considering this is one of the best QB classes in recent history. I’ve answered that question and more in the mock draft below. The mock is based off a combo of what I think teams will do and what I think they should do.

#TeamPlayerPosCollegeWhy
1Trevor LawrenceQBClemsonIn my eyes, this one’s a no brainer. Lawrence looks like the best QB prospect we’ve seen since Andrew Luck between his insane accuracy, big arm, and quick release. He is a generational talent who can bring a level of success the Jaguars have never seen before.
2New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative BloqZach WilsonQBBYUNow that the Jets dealt Sam Darnold to the Panthers, it’s pretty clear that they want to take the quarterback of their future here. Wilson faced lighter competition than other top QBs at BYU, but has a great skillset and might even have a better arm than Lawrence. It will take time for Wilson to adjust to the NFL but it’s a good investment for the future of this team.
3San Francisco 49ers logo Digital Art by Red VelesTrey LanceQBNorth
Dakota
State
The rumors here have mostly been about Mac Jones and Justin Fields. However, I think the Niners have their eye on a different QB. Lance dominated the FCS in 2019 before sitting out 2020, and looks to be the best FCS QB since Carson Wentz (also from NDSU). Lance will benefit from some time behind current Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo but San Fran will have someone to turn to in the case that Jimmy G is hurt again.
4
(TRADE)
Justin FieldsQBOhio StateBill Belichick is not known to be someone who trades up for quarterbacks. However, I think it’s very clear that Belichick is taking a different approach this year as he tries to thrust his team back into contention. He has been known to buy low on players, and Fields, once considered a top 2 QB in the class, has seen his draft stock plummet. I think Newton will be the bridge to the Fields era in Foxborough.
5cincinnati bengals logo wallpaper | Cincinnati bengals, Nfl logo, Nfl teams  logosPenei SewellOLOregonThere’s been a lot of buzz surrounding a Joe Burrow reunion with LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase. However, the Bengals would be foolish if they failed to provide Burrow extra protection. The Bengals offensive line put Burrow and RB Joe Mixon at risk. It should take priority over another weapon, as the Bengals already have WRs Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. In addition, Sewell might be the best o-line prospect since Quenton Nelson.
6Jaylen
Waddle
WRAlabamaChase is easily my top receiver in this class. However, I do see a QB-WR reunion happening here as Tua Tagovailoa reunites with Jaylen Waddle. Waddle missed time last year but proved to be talented and well-rounded when healthy. He’ll be a good fit in Miami, where he can develop into their WR1 without drawing too much coverage as a rookie.
7Ja’Marr ChaseWRLSUChase could make it past the Bengals and Dolphins, but if he falls to 7 I doubt the Lions pass on him. With Kenny Golladay leaving, the Lions need their next alpha wide receiver. Chase is talented enough to fill that role right away. Look at how good fellow LSU alumnus Justin Jefferson was last year. Chase was as good if not better than Jefferson at LSU, and we could see the same in the NFL.
8NFL Commentary: The Carolina Panthers, Sleeper In the NFC, or Overrated? |  Nfl carolina panthers, Carolina panthers football, Carolina panthers logoKyle PittsTEFloridaWith Greg Olsen gone, the Panthers were lacking at the tight end position last year. Ian Thomas (Olsen’s supposed successor) struggled mightily. Pitts has the potential to be one of the best tight ends ever. He would thrive immediately in Carolina. He reminds me a lot of Raiders breakout star Darren Waller, but could be even better.
9Mac JonesQBAlabamaI don’t think Jones is on par with the other four top QBs in this class. He benefitted a bit from his surroundings. However, it doesn’t seem that Drew Lock is the answer for Denver, and Jones could still be a quality starter in the NFL who’s worthy of a top 10 pick. The Broncos don’t need to trade up for a QB if they can get Jones right here at #9.
10Patrick Surtain IICBAlabamaAfter seeing nine straight offensive players go off the board, this is the perfect opportunity for the Cowboys to address their defense. I think Surtain is the best defensive player on the board after three strong years as a lockdown corner for Alabama.
11Kwity PayeEDGEMichiganThere’s a lot of different things the Giants could do with this pick, but they’ve been in the market for a pass rusher for years and Paye would fill that need at long last. He may have played in a 4-3 scheme at Michigan, but we’ve already seen recent Michigan pass rusher Chase Winovich thrive in 3-4 setups. I think Paye is capable of the same.
12Micah ParsonsLBPenn StateThe Eagles have been lacking at wide receiver for years, but I’d argue linebacker is an even bigger need. Parsons was a major playmaker for Penn State’s defense, and I think he’ll stand out on the Eagles defense as well. The Eagles get their star linebacker of the future with this pick and Parsons gets to stay in his home state of Pennsylvania.
13Rashawn SlaterOLNorthwesternThe Chargers may have signed Corey Linsley but there’s still work to be done with this offensive line. Slater has the versatility to play tackle or guard and could be a very valuable part of this line if the Chargers opt to take him.
14Christian
Darrisaw
OLVirginia TechDarrisaw has shot up draft boards of late, and the Vikings could use just about any o-line help they can get. Darrisaw would be an instant starter for the Vikings, most likely at left tackle.
15
(TRADE)
Jeremiah Owusu-KoromoahLBNotre DameThe Falcons could still use more help at linebacker surrounding Deion Jones. It would have been a reach for any linebacker at 4, but taking Owusu-Koromoah at 15 is good value for them. You could even argue he’s better than Parsons. At the very least, he’ll be a solid starting linebacker.
16
(TRADE)
Devonta SmithWRAlabamaArizona’s pressing need is at tight end, and they’d be reaching for a tight end in this spot. With Devonta Smith still on the board, I have Indy trading up to capitalize on the opportunity. Smith may be undersized, but he’s a very talented receiver who’s an excellent route runner. He’ll have the opportunity to become Carson Wentz’s top target.
17Jaycee HornCBSouth CarolinaThe Raiders have a decent secondary but lack a true leader there. Horn has the potential to shine in this secondary and become the #1 corner for Vegas. With a lot of the top receivers and linebackers off the board, corner is the right move here.
18Gregory RousseauEDGEMiamiThe Dolphins swapped edge rusher Shaq Lawson for Benardrick McKinney to add to the LB corps, but now they need another edge rusher. One of the Miami Hurricanes edge rushers would be a good fit, as they are local prospects and some of the best on the board. I see them taking Rousseau over Jaelan Phillips but they could potentially take either.
19Washington Home | Washington Football Team - WashingtonFootball.comZaven CollinsLBTulsaWashington needs two major things from this draft: help at linebacker and a better o-line. Once they have those two things they’ll be one of the most well-rounded teams in football and could make a case for a playoff run. Collins will definitely fit well here.
20Trevon MoehrigSTCUThe Bears need a long term solution at safety alongside Eddie Jackson. Moehrig is really the only safety worth a first round investment and the Bears should be able to land him here.
21Arizona Cardinals Logo PNG Transparent & SVG Vector - Freebie Supply(TRADE)Pat FreiermuthTEPenn StateFreiermuth is still a bit of a reach at 21 but is the best option for Arizona, who desperately needs a tight end. Freiermuth has picked up the nickname “Baby Gronk” and should be a capable pass catcher and blocker in the NFL, even though he’s not on par with Kyle Pitts.
22Samuel CosmiOLTexasWith Isaiah Wilson leaving after one year, the Titans are still looking for their new right tackle, and it’s one of their most pressing needs. Cosmi fits the bill for what they’re looking for and will likely be the best tackle on the board at this point.
23New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative BloqCaleb FarleyCBVirginia TechThe Jets have had a hole at corner for multiple years, and the departure of Jamal Adams has only made their secondary worse. Farley would be a good start in building this secondary back up to where it needs to be for contention.
24Travis EtienneRBClemsonI think Najee Harris is the most well rounded back in this draft class, but Etienne is a better fit here in Pittsburgh. He is not a power back but is an elusive and speedy back who is capable of playing all three downs. Early on, I see Benny Snell Jr. having a role here, but Etienne will eventually be able to take over the backfield. I see a lot of D’Andre Swift in Etienne, except mixed in with the speed of someone like Nick Chubb.
25Rashod BatemanWRMinnesotaThe Jaguars may have signed Marvin Jones this offseason but could still use another weapon. Bateman adds depth to the Jaguars WR corps and like the three receivers taken before him, he has the potential to emerge as a #1 receiver. Bateman will likely be the last WR remaining from the top tier of this draft class so the Jags should take advantage.
26Nick BoltonLBMissouriThe Browns look to be a fairly complete team and with a good season from QB Baker Mayfield they could be Super Bowl contenders. The only need I really think they have is at linebacker, and that can be taken care of easily with this pick.
27Wyatt DavisOLOhio StateThe Ravens recently lost star interior lineman Marshal Yanda to retirement. Davis has the potential to fill that role in Baltimore for years to come. With the top tier of wide receivers out of the question, addressing the o-line will be a priority here.
28Christian BarmoreDLAlabamaAfter releasing a handful of guys to save cap space, the Saints will need to upgrade the defense, including the defensive line. This is a rather weak d-line class, but Barmore stands out among the rest of the defensive linemen available.
29Alijah Vera-TuckerOLUSCVera-Tucker has risen up people’s draft boards lately, but I think he fits best in a very specific role where he has the flexibility to play tackle or guard. He’ll be able to do that in Green Bay, especially with Elgton Jenkins starting to see time at center now that Corey Linsley is gone.
30How the LA Rams' new logo managed to anger an entire fanbase | Los Angeles  Rams | The Guardian
(TRADE)
Jaelan PhillipsEDGEMiamiThe Rams haven’t had a first round pick in a couple years due to the Jalen Ramsey trade. I think they’ll put a package together to move up if Phillips falls this far. Phillips shined as part of a strong Miami pass rush and could have the chance to stand out in LA’s pass rush.
31New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative Bloq
(TRADE)
Najee HarrisRBAlabamaRunning backs like Harris aren’t available every day. The Jets still need to find a starting running back, and I think they’ll be willing to move up a few spots from their early second round selection to secure one. Harris’ raw strength reminds me of Derrick Henry, and unlike Henry he can catch passes too.
32Creed HumphreyOLOklahomaThe Buccaneers pretty much brought back their entire Super Bowl roster, but some more protection for Tom Brady can’t hurt. They secured a tackle in Tristan Wirfs with their last first rounder. This time around I see them addressing the interior.

In the later rounds, I think the Patriots will add a wide receiver as well as some front seven help. I could see them targeting a receiver like Elijah Moore or Amon-Ra St. Brown on Day 2. That’s all for today’s mock draft, but my coverage of the draft will continue on draft day when I take part in a livestream on The Master Plan YouTube channel with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky.

2020 NFL Week 1 Picks: Lots of Close Games in Competitive Season

The NFL off-season has been one of the craziest ever. Tom Brady left Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Instead he went to Tampa, building his own offense. This caused the biggest off-season QB carousel in a long time. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NFL Draft virtual and canceled the NFL preseason. But despite the pandemic and all the unusual events, football is coming back. With or without fans attending the game, this NFL season will go on, and so will my weekly NFL pick’em posts. Each week, I’ll have my NFL picks on this website as well as some fantasy content on my fantasy football Instagram account, @bsmfantasyfootball. I think this could be one of the most competitive seasons in a while, and that will mean a lot of close games. Keep reading to see my predictions of them all. I’ll say one thing, we could see multiple games go to overtime this week alone.

Lock of the Week

As I said, there should be a lot of close games this week. This is not one of them. I expect the Bills to have a lot of success running the ball. The combo of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and running QB Josh Allen will just be too much for a Jets front seven that will be without LB C.J. Mosley. Allen will also rely on his new star WR Stefon Diggs in this one. QB Sam Darnold will struggle, as a strong Bills defense shuts down his banged up arsenal of weapons.

Upset of the Week

I think the 49ers are the better team here. But WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are recovering from injuries, leaving QB Jimmy Garoppolo with solely star TE George Kittle to rely on. The Cardinals defense will focus in on Kittle, making it difficult for Garoppolo’s offense to function. QB Kyler Murray won’t be that much better against a strong San Francisco D. But with WR DeAndre Hopkins in the mix, I think Arizona will put up enough points to pull off the upset this time around. The Niners will have a chance at revenge later this season after Garoppolo’s receivers heal up.

The Other Games

Thursday Night Football
I expect the Chiefs to come out on top in the end here. QB Patrick Mahomes’ offense is a dominant force and I doubt this weakening Texans D will be able to keep up. However, the Texans will make it close, as the duo of WR Brandin Cooks and WR Will Fuller should be able to outplay Kansas City’s secondary. I think they might even force OT.
I think QB Cam Newton will rely on pass catching RB James White and slot WR Julian Edelman to beat out an improved, but still below average Dolphins defense. On the other hand, WR DeVante Parker and TE Mike Gesicki are no match for Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty.
The Browns have a good front seven, but it won’t be enough to stop dual threat QB Lamar Jackson. I expect Kevin Stefanski to completely modify the Browns offense and that will allow them to make this competitive. However, in Baltimore I see them falling short.
QB Gardner Minshew II is lacking surroundings. I expect WR D.J. Chark to have a good game thanks to their chemistry, but it’ll be tough against this improved Colts D. The Colts also have an improved run game behind an elite o-line that should dominate against a crumbling Jaguars defense.
The Raiders do have an improving offense centered around RB Josh Jacobs and TE Darren Waller, and they will make it close against an unproven Panthers defense. But I expect RB Christian McCaffrey to run all over the Raiders D in this one.
Washington’s defense is looking better than it has in a while, with a front seven led by rookie Chase Young and veteran Ryan Kerrigan, plus a secondary that includes CB Kendall Fuller and S Landon Collins. They will hold the Eagles to just 1 TD, but fall short due to anemic offense.
The Vikings D is looking strong after adding DE Yannick Ngakoue, so I expect a strong Week 1 performance against Green Bay. RB Dalvin Cook will lead Minnesota to victory, but it will be close with natural slot WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson rotating outside.
The Lions won’t put up too many points as I expect the Bears D to improve upon last year. But the Bears QB troubles will cause them to fall short. I think QB Mitch Trubisky will have some success with RB Tarik Cohen and WR Allen Robinson, but be too inconsistent to finish the job. I have Detroit taking it in OT.
This is definitely going to be a close one. But on the road, I have the Seahawks falling short. QB Matt Ryan will lean on his strong WR duo and RB Todd Gurley to lead Atlanta to victory in overtime.
The Chargers secondary is looking strong, but the loss of S Derwin James hurts. I think QB Joe Burrow will capitalize on his connection with WR Tyler Boyd and find ways to beat out this strong Chargers D, pulling off the upset in his debut. The Chargers offense will show flashes of a strong performance but struggle overall with Tyrod Taylor at QB.
QBs Tom Brady and Drew Brees face off twice this year. In this one, I’m expecting the Saints to squeeze by for a victory in a back and forth offensive shootout. WRs Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin will all get the chance to stand out here.
Sunday Night Football
I’m expecting an OT thriller in the first edition of SNF this year. QB Jared Goff will be under center in a pass heavy offense that outplays the Cowboys secondary and makes this one close. But QB Dak Prescott will rely on what’s arguably the best WR trio in the league alongside RB Ezekiel Elliott as he leads the Cowboys to last minute victory.
Monday Night Football
This could be tough for the Giants as Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses in the league. But the Giants defense has also improved, and I expect them to slow down RB James Conner and make things difficult for QB Ben Roethlisberger in his return. This could go either way, but I have New York pulling off an upset in overtime.
Monday Night Football
I think the Broncos will shut down QB Ryan Tannehill and make it hard for the Titans offense to put up much. But RB Derrick Henry will just be too much for Denver, allowing the Titans to stay in this game. Denver’s offense will take time to click after all the new additions, but I think RB Melvin Gordon and rookie WR Jerry Jeudy will make a difference as the Broncos narrowly get by here.

Which teams do you have winning this week? Comment with your thoughts.

Gonk Knocks S2 E1 – We All We Got, We All We Need

I know, it’s been a while.  Since I last posted, I’ve received a variety of experiences thanks to John Rooke and the Dean College sportscasting camp, including an appearance on Patriots.com radio.  I was living the busy life of a sportscaster, so I didn’t have much time to post on here.  Last week, I was recovering from wisdom tooth surgery.  But now, I’m back, and so is Algonquin football.

It all began yesterday with a team meeting and the first official practice of the preseason.  Check out the best moments from the meeting and more in the first Season 2 episode of Gonk Knocks:

Football is back, and here at Algonquin, it all started today. The Algonquin Tomahawks had a busy day ahead of them, including team meetings and the first official practice of the 2019 preseason.

Before the meeting, I caught up with Head Coach Taylor Allen. He filled me in about some things to watch for at practice and the team’s goals and motto for the season.

Two of this year’s captains, senior slot receiver and strong safety Nick Alessi, and junior linebacker and full back Rio Ferguson, were selected in advance by Coach Allen. It’s rare to see a junior as the team captain, but Coach Allen trusts Rio, who’s been here since freshman year, to help lead the team.

Rio proved Coach Allen right, leading the way in blitzes and for the run game.

Alessi also shined in multiple roles. He had a great catch in 7 on 7s, beating out Eli Khasabo on his route as he played the slot. He also tried his hand at playing running back.

The final captain would be selected by the team before practice.

Coach Allen started off the meeting by making the team’s goals clear and uniting the team around these goals.

After this, he went over the offensive formula for success and philosophy.

Later on, he handed it over to his brother, DC Mark Allen for some defensive stats, values, and key plays.  Mark emphasizes controlled aggression when coaching.

After this, it was time to get to work.

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Monday, 8/19 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #3
  • Tuesday, 8/20 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #4
  • Wednesday, 8/21 @ 1 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #5
  • Thursday, 8/22 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #6 (First in full pads)
  • Friday, 8/23 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #7
  • Saturday, 8/24 @ 10 a.m.: Scrimmage #1 @Clinton High School vs. Clinton
  • Monday, 8/26 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #8
  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill

 

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC North Edition

Welcome to Part 6 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Last week, I reviewed the home division of my New England Patriots, the AFC East.  Though the Pats should win the division, the Jets outdid them in the draft.  But in my eyes, an AFC North team was the overall draft winner.  Which team is it?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns

Overall Grade: A

Draft Report Card:

img_4597

Analysis:

I feel the Browns won this year’s draft. Not only did they snag two major steals at positions of need in Greedy Williams and Mack Wilson, they also filled most of the rest of their biggest needs. In addition to Williams, a CB and Wilson, an ILB, the Browns drafted a tackle, a safety, an outside linebacker. Some of their other picks were slight reaches, but they filled most of their needs, so I really like this draft class.

Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

img_4599

Analysis:

The Ravens started off this draft historically strong. They grabbed their two WRs of the future (hopefully Lamar Jackson is able to throw to them). They also drafted a much needed edge rusher in Jaylon Ferguson, who happens to be a great fit. The later rounds didn’t go as well. They did make some decent picks later on. I understand the selections of RB Justice Hill and DT Daylon Mack. But the Ravens didn’t need another guard or corner, and the Ravens been fine with Robert Griffin III as Jackson’s sole backup. Overall, this is a pretty good draft class, but it was a bit top heavy, and they didn’t prioritize their biggest needs in the later rounds.

cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

img_4600

Analysis:

The Bengals made a couple great selections. They found their potential QB-LT duo of the future. The Bengals also filled all of their biggest needs. But they reached on a lot of their picks. I’m not going to make a big deal about their choice to put aside smaller needs in favor of prospects they liked. But Drew Sample, for example could’ve been found in the 4th or 5th. He isn’t 2nd round material. I do give them credit for the promptness on filling their needs though, so I didn’t mind this draft class too much.

pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

img_4601

Analysis:

My favorite pick by far from this draft class was the selection of RB Benny Snell Jr.  Snell can be the primary backup for James Conner with Le’Veon Bell leaving for good. But other than that, the Steelers didn’t have an amazing draft. They didn’t fill too many needs, and the needs they did fill were filled by reaching. I didn’t mind the Devin Bush pick, as he may not be a good fit, but he can play inside linebacker as they need. Plus, Isaiah Buggs was a steal even though Pittsburgh doesn’t need a DT.  But the fact that they didn’t draft a tackle to replace Marcus Gilbert will significantly bog them down.

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Grades.  Stay tuned for my AFC South Draft Grades next.  As a whole, the AFC South did not have a great draft.  But two teams tied for the worst overall grade.  Who were they?  Find out soon.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East Edition

Welcome to Part 5 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Today, I’ll be kicking off my AFC draft reviews with the AFC East. The New England Patriots (my team) have dominated this division for years. But did they dominate the draft? What other AFC East teams thrived? Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

 

Jets-Logo New York Jets

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Jets may have reached for a couple players and they did struggle to fill all of their needs with six picks. But for the amount of picks they had, this was a pretty solid daft. I would’ve rather the Jets take Josh Allen over Quinnen Williams, as Allen is the better fit even though Williams is the better player.  They did make up for it later though, as they drafted Jachai Polite and Blake Cashman. I also really liked the selection of Chuma Edoga, an underrated player at a position of need for the Jets. The Jets opted to wait on a tight end and a corner, and when they finally drafted them, it was a reach. They also failed to fill needs at center and receiver. But the Jets did the best they could and finished with a strong draft class.

New_England_Patriots New England Patriots

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

I wrote a more in-depth Patriots draft review in a separate article.  Check it out!

Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Bills made some very confusing picks, but they also drafted some quality players in between.  They did fill all their biggest needs early, as they didn’t really have many.  They earned a steal by drafting T Cody Ford in the 2nd.  They also drafted a strong TE, Dawson Knox and an OLB, Vosean Joseph in later rounds to fill their other two needs.  They did draft another TE later, but this pick was an unnecessary reach alongside some others.  I also don’t get why they took DT Ed Oliver at #9 when they didn’t need a DT and good o-linemen were available.  It was good that the Bills took a young RB, but the backfield is way to crowded for it, and Round 3 was early for Singletary.  Otherwise, I didn’t mind this draft too much.

Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

Most of these picks were understandable, but the Dolphins had better options.  It wasn’t easy for Miami in this draft, as they had a lot of needs to fill as they rebuild and they didn’t have many picks to do so.  The rebuilding will need to continue over the next couple years.  Most of these picks filled needs, so that helps Miami’s case.  But a couple of them were reaches, especially the selection of Auburn RB Chandler Cox.  In addition, the Dolphins didn’t really make a point to priorities their biggest of needs.  But overall, I didn’t mind this draft class, but this is only the beginning of a long rebuild for the Fins.

That’s all for this portion of my Draft Grades.  Stay tuned for my reviews of the rest of the AFC.  I’ll be reviewing the AFC North yet, where I feel 1 team highlighted this year’s draft.  Which team is it?  Find out in my next post.

A Roller Coaster Ride: Reviewing the Patriots Draft

Welcome to my in-depth draft review for the New England Patriots.  I have already begun writing draft grades for each team (organized by division), but I figured I’d go more in depth for my favorite team.  Plus, I was able to submit this as a critical review for English class.

Read below for my draft grades for the Pats alongside my review.

In addition, I had the chance to catch up with Bob Socci about New England’s draft:

Now, let’s jump right in:

new_england_patriots New England Patriots

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

 

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Analysis:

Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Patriots should remain elite in 2019.  However, with tight end Rob Gronkowski hanging up his cleats and multiple receivers leaving through free agency, the Patriots still had a few tasks to accomplish coming into the NFL Draft.  

First of all, they needed to find quarterback Tom Brady some receivers.  Going into this draft, Julian Edelman was the only capable pass-catcher on the roster that Brady already has a strong rapport with.  Their depth behind Edelman was limited to Demaryius Thomas (coming off torn achilles) and Phillip Dorsett (has yet to prove himself dependable).  They also added Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a veteran tight end who was signed to help fill the hole Gronk left behind. But ASJ is no more than a temporary solution.  He has been terribly inconsistent throughout his career, and after playing 5 years on 3 different teams, he has never reached 400 receiving yards or 5 TDs in a season.  The Pats will eventually need to find another option there.

Second, they needed to fill some of their other positional needs.  They lack defensive line depth and are in desperate need of an elite pass rusher.  They brought Adrian Clayborn on board for 2018, but he didn’t consistently produce.  They haven’t really had a consistent one since DEs Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich left a few years ago.  The team could also use help at linebacker and in the o-line. Lastly, Brady’s not retiring anytime soon unless his stats suddenly decline.  But they still need time to start planning for the post-Brady era.

I feel the team worked towards achieving all of these objectives, but still could have done more to achieve them.  

There were rumors that New England would consider trading up to draft an elite tight end.  Instead, they opted to wait on a tight end and draft WR N’Keal Harry in Round 1. At #32, Harry was one of their best options, and he fills a need.  Once he gets into a rhythm with Brady, expect to see him starting and producing across from Edelman, so this was one of their better picks in the draft.

I wasn’t a huge fan of their 2nd round trade up for cornerback Joejuan Williams though.  Round 2 is a bit early for Williams; the Pats had bigger needs at #45. For example, they could have taken Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr.  But if they were going to trade up for a cornerback, it should have been LSU’s Greedy Williams. He ended up going to the Browns at #46. He may be a flawed prospect, as he’s not a very physical player and he opted out of visiting with teams prior to the draft.  But he has insane potential and refuses to leave receivers open.

The Pats redeemed themselves in the 3rd round.  After trading their later 2nd round pick, they managed to snag edge rusher Chase Winovich early in Round 3.  At the age of 24, Winovich is an older rookie, but he should still bring the energy to the locker room that Gronk left behind and make an instant impact in the pass rush where Ninkovich previously thrived.  This was the perfect choice for the Pats.

In this round, they also snagged a running back, Damien Harris and a tackle, Yodny Cajuste.  Harris is one of the better RB prospects in this draft, and he was a steal at #87. He has played in committees, but it’s hard to get a lot of opportunities in New England’s four-man backfield, something established in 2017.  As long as Michel is healthy, I’m not so sure they needed a fourth man. But he’s still a decent investment in my eyes.

Cajuste was one of the best tackles on the board and fills a need for the Pats, so I liked the pick.  Isaiah Wynn has yet to play a regular season game after losing his rookie year to an ACL tear, so the left tackle job is anyone’s for taking.

Though it received mixed reviews overall, one of my favorite picks in this draft was the selection of Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham in Round 4.  Stidham may have struggled at Auburn, but he wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for Auburn’s system, and I trust that he’ll fit better with the Pats and is capable of replacing Brady when he retires.

They also took guard Hjalte Froholdt in this round.  This was a bit of a reach, but he does help fill the team’s need for o-line depth.  

I was a bit disappointed at first when the Pats took DT Byron Cowart in Round 5, when better options were on the board.  But since then, I’ve looked further into this pick, and it actually makes sense. It fills a need, and as a former top high school prospect, Cowart has plenty of potential despite underperforming in college.  

On the other hand, it’s hard to argue in favor of the selection of punter Jake Bailey.  First of all, Bailey is a right footed punter, the first right footed punter on the Pats in a long, long, time.  Plus, they already resigned punter Ryan Allen. In baseball, they put right handed batters in a platoon with left handed batters.  Would the Pats consider something similar with punters? Regardless, the 5th round was a bit early to draft one.

Their drafted concluded with the addition of cornerback Ken Webster.  This pick didn’t make much sense, as they had already added depth at the position by drafting Joejuan Williams.  But it’s the 7th round, so I doubt it’ll have that much of an impact in the long run.

Overall I thought this draft class was pretty solid.  Some of the decisions they made were a bit confusing, but that was mixed in with some amazing picks, and it’s hard to doubt Bill Belichick.  This draft class makes a lot more sense now that the Pats have reunited with TE Ben Watson and LB Jamie Collins in free agency.  So if I had to give this draft class a letter grade, it would be somewhere in the B-range.

Stay tuned for more draft grades soon.

Featured on WCVB Boston’s A+ Segment

Recently, I was featured in a news segment known as the “A+ Report” on WCVB, Boston’s ABC affiliate:

The A+ Report is a segment about students in New England doing exceptional things in and out of school.

WCVB picked up my story after watching my Keynote speech at the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) Visions of Community conference.

At the conference, I told the story of how I got into sportscasting and overcame adversity after being diagnosed as autistic.

You can see some clips of the speech below:

Since the feature on WCVB, Stitch has also picked up my story.  They included a shortened version of my A+ segment as well as an article about me and my story.

I’d like to thank Kristin LaRose and FCSN, Antoinette Antonio and WCVB, and Stitch for allowing me to share my story.  I look forward to more opportunities to share my story in the future.

Boston Marathon 2019: Runner Spotlight – Michael Palmer and the Snow Angel Challenge

Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day.  As you may know if you have read this blog before, I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.  Doctors said I may never speak.  But almost 14 years later, not only am I talking, I am a budding sports journalist who has written this blog for 5 years.

In honor of Autism Awareness Day, the Boston Herald asked me to tell my story for today’s paper!  I met Joe Sciacca, the editor-in-chief of the Boston Herald at a Red Sox game in 2015.  Since that day, I have gained multiple exciting sportscasting experiences from the Herald, including guest co-hosting a Boston Herald Radio show.

Now, I also serve as a Flutie Fellow for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism so I’d like to share a story about a Dougie’s Team Boston Marathon runner named Michael Palmer.  Leading up to the marathon, he started something inspirational within the autism community.  Below is my video about Michael alongside what I said in the video:

For Michael Palmer, running the Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Doug Flutie, Jr Foundation for Autism has personal meaning. Michael has Aspergers. He wants to spread the message that people on the autism spectrum are not alone in their daily struggles to connect with others.

Michael literally spread his wings in creating a “snow angel challenge” as part of his marathon efforts. Michael put out the challenge for people to overcome their fears and barriers and support people like him who overcome challenges daily. I can relate to Michael’s challenges and I am grateful for his efforts, as they benefit me as well. I’m Flutie Fellow Andrew Roberts, and thanks in part to Michael’s efforts, the Flutie Foundation is helping me pursue my goal of being a sports broadcaster.

Michael’s “snow angel challenge” spread through other team members and friends of the Flutie Foundation. Then, recently-retired All-Pro New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski got word of the challenge. While he didn’t jump in the snow, Gronkowski did participate in his own way. Thanks Gronk!

If you’d like to support Michael Palmer’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for autism, please check out the Flutie Foundation website at FlutieFoundation.org.

This is not the last of my Boston Marathon coverage.  I will be writing more runner spotlights this year, including one about a runner for Get Air Sports, a partner of the Flutie Foundation.  On a side note the Pats need a replacement for Rob Gronkowski who had fun in contributing the video for Michael.  Will they address the TE position in the draft?  Find out what I think in my upcoming 2019 NFL Mock Draft.

Stay tuned for more sports coverage soon.  But as the Herald headline noted, my sportswriting journey is only just getting started.