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Conspiracy theorists in the football world are salivating right now.
According to Field of Schemes, if you go to the NFL's official website and search for "LA" a page for the Rams will appear. Except these Rams are based in Los Angeles. Everything is from the actual St. Louis Rams, from the jerseys to the stats, but there's always an underlying suspicision of why it happens.
With all the talks about Los Angeles getting its football team back, don't expect this conspiracy to die down anytime soon.
Auburn football players are good at many things ... riding horses isn't one of them.
In the fourth installment from the school's "Sports Collide" series, the football team tackles horseback-riding. On the flip side, it seems difficult for other athletes to do what the football team does on the field. However, they have a pretty fun time trying.
After three knee surgeries and almost 200 missed games, Derrick Rose has been forgotten by many as the one-time top threat to LeBron James’ throne over the Eastern Conference — which he and his team have represented in the NBA Finals for four straight seasons.
LeBron last squashed a Rose-led Bulls team with the Miami Heat in 2011, after Derrick became the youngest MVP in league history and led his team to 62 victories in Tom Thibodeau’s first year on the job as head coach.
A lot’s changed since then. James has won the MVP twice more, and Rose has been supplanted as the game’s brightest young point guard by Steph Curry, the winner of 2015’s award. But Chicago still stands as the biggest in-conference threat to LeBron, and the semi-finals matchup between the Bulls and his Cleveland Cavaliers is the most intriguing showdown of the Eastern season.
Much remains to be seen after a spate of regular season games between the two sides that didn’t reveal much — various injuries, and midseason trades, meant neither team had their ideal lineup or momentum at the same time. The most mysterious factor of the series, though, is how Cleveland will fare and adjust without starting forward Kevin Love, who’s out for the year after separating his shoulder.
Young Tristan Thompson has been a nightmare for the Bulls on the glass and will be asked to keep that up as he fills in for many of Love’s minutes. But Cleveland’s offensive versatility will suffer without the hyper-skilled big man, and Chicago should be able to take advantage.
Jimmy Butler can’t stop LeBron (no one can), but he can give the game’s best player enough trouble to limit his overall impact. A lot will fall on the plate of Kyrie Irving, and on Rose’s with the task to stop him. This will be a trying challenge, to be sure, but in the end Chicago will simply have more.
Prediction: Bulls in 6.
— John Wilmes
Ndamukong Suh may not be the best person to test your physical strength against, but Warren Buffett never backs down from a challenge.
The Dolphins tackle took on Buffett in an arm-wrestling contest and it ended in the most unusual way.
Luckily Suh was taking it easy on Buffett.
Chris Paul has long been one of the NBA’s best players. But Saturday night, he ascended into the echelon of timeless legends. His inspired, hobbled performance in the Los Angeles Clippers’ Game 7 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, 111-109, goes straight into a pantheon including iconic showings from Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan. If you didn’t see his game-winner, you missed one of the sport’s finest moments:
Taking down the defending champions may feel like an accomplishment grand enough to end a successful season, but there’s still a long road ahead of the Clippers. Now Paul has to lead L.A. against James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Paul has a compromised hamstring, and his partner in crime Blake Griffin spent many of his resting minutes against San Antonio with copious amounts of ice strapped around his knees.
The Clippers’ shallow bench nearly undid them against the Spurs, but the elite talent of their front six was ultimately enough. Houston’s goal, after a swift five-game dismissal of the Dallas Mavericks, will be to continue wearing down the Clippers. Without the hounding Patrick Beverley (out for the season with a torn wrist ligament) to make Lob City truly pay for their injured leader, the Rockets will have to get creative.
Expect Houston’s bevy of terrific wing defenders to take turns exhausting Paul in the series, who may miss Game 1 tonight — he’s listed as day-to-day. Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer should be able to challenge CP3 in a way that the veteran Jason Terry, Beverley’s primary replacement, cannot.
Houston’s best weapon in their quest to take the Clippers’ worn-down bodies to the end of their year, though, may be Dwight Howard. While he’ll often have his hands full with the indefatigable DeAndre Jordan, he’ll also be expected to make life difficult for Griffin at the rim, and open up the court for James Harden as a pick-and-roll partner.
If the Clippers had a week to get right before this series started, they’d be the overwhelming favorites — that’s the status you earn for knocking off the champs. But they’ll have to beat their health issues, in addition to the formidable Rockets. This one’s all but a toss-up.
Prediction: Clippers in 7.
— John Wilmes
Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.
This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.
A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?
Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking.
Ranking the ACC’s Football Coaches for 2015
1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Record at Florida State: 58-11 (5 years)
Career Record: 58-11 (5 years)
Fisher has returned Florida State to the nation’s elite, guiding the Seminoles to a 27-1 mark over the last two seasons and the 2013 national championship. Under Fisher’s watch, Florida State has averaged 11.6 wins a season and has three consecutive finishes in the final Associated Press poll. Replacing Jameis Winston won’t be easy, but Fisher is one of the nation’s best at talent evaluation, and the Seminoles will continue to win at a high level under his watch.
2. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Record at Louisville: 50-13 (5 years)
Career Record: 92-34 (10 years)
Petrino’s return to Louisville was a success, as the Cardinals finished 9-4 in their first season in the ACC. And Petrino’s team was neck-and-neck with the top teams in the conference, losing by just six points to Clemson and was defeated by Florida State after leading the defending national champs going into the fourth quarter. In Petrino’s 10 years as a college head coach, he’s won at least eight games every season but one. The Cardinals have some key pieces to replace for 2015, but the program is in good shape for the long haul with Petrino in control.
3. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Record at Duke: 40-48 (7 years)
Career Record: 84-77 (13 years)
Cutcliffe has elevated Duke into an annual bowl team in the ACC, and after winning the Coastal Division title in 2014, the Blue Devils finished second last season. How big of a difference has Cutcliffe made with Duke since 2008? The 10-win 2013 campaign, and the 19 victories in a two-year span are the best marks in school history. Cutcliffe is regarded for his work with offenses and quarterbacks, but he deserves more credit for his work as a head coach, especially at a program like Duke where it’s not easy to maintain success.
4. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Record at Georgia Tech: 58-35 (7 years)
Career Record: 165-74 (18 years)
2014 wasn’t necessarily a make-or-break year for Johnson at Georgia Tech, but it was fair to wonder where the program was headed after a 14-13 mark from 2012-13. The Yellow Jackets entered 2014 with low expectations and delivered with a surprising 11-3 season and a Coastal Division title. In Johnson’s seven seasons in Atlanta, Georgia Tech has never finished under .500 in conference play. Additionally, the Yellow Jackets have played for the ACC Championship three times.
5. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Record at Virginia Tech: 231-115-2 (28 years)
Career Record: 273-138-4 (34 years)
Beamer is college football’s longest-tenured coach entering the 2015 season. Virginia Tech has won 231 games under Beamer’s watch, which includes a streak of eight consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins from 2004-11. While Beamer’s longevity deserves plenty of consideration here, it’s also worth noting Virginia Tech is just 22-17 over the last three seasons and has not finished in the final Associated Press poll in that span after recording 12 top-25 finishes in 13 years from 1998-2011. The Hokies tied for second in the Coastal Division in 2013 but slipped to fourth in 2012 and fifth in 2014. Can Beamer return this program back to the top of the Coastal in 2015?
6. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Record at Clemson: 61-26 (7 years)
Career Record: 61-26 (7 years)
Swinney has helped Clemson football reach its potential with four consecutive seasons of at least 10 victories. The Tigers have not lost more than two games in ACC play during that span and finished No. 8 in the final Associated Press poll in 2013. Swinney is also regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, as Clemson has averaged a 13.2 finish – including two top-10 classes – among all 128 teams over the last five seasons. It’s no secret the Tigers invested heavily in their coordinators – Chad Morris (now at SMU) and defensive play-caller Brent Venables – to allow Swinney to focus on being the program CEO. What type of impact will Morris leaving have on the offense? That’s the big question facing Clemson in 2015 and beyond.
7. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Record at Boston College: 14-12 (2 years)
Career Record: 27-23 (4 years)
Even though he’s won only 14 games in two seasons at Boston College, Addazio is off to an impressive start with the Eagles. In the two years prior to Addazio’s tenure, Boston College went 6-18 and missed out on a bowl appearance in both seasons. But Addazio has made the Eagles a tough out in the ACC once again, and the program is coming off back-to-back bowl appearances. Addazio’s tenure is even more impressive when you consider he was able to mesh his systems with the returning talent in 2013, as well as recruit a graduate transfer (Tyler Murphy) at quarterback with a slightly different approach on offense. With only nine returning starters, Addazio has a tough assignment just getting Boston College back to a bowl in 2015. However, the track record suggests the Eagles will be pushing for a winning record once again.
8. Al Golden, Miami
Record at Miami: 28-22 (4 years)
Career Record: 55-56 (9 years)
2015 is a critical season for Golden at Miami. The Hurricanes are just 16-16 in four years of ACC play under Golden and 28-22 overall. For a program that has the ability to recruit at a top 10-15 level, a .500 mark in conference games is a troubling sign. Golden did inherit some obstacles when he took over the program, including the Nevin Shapiro scandal and NCAA investigation, which was a cloud hanging over the program for over two years. Prior to taking over at Miami, Golden went 27-34 at Temple, which included a 17-8 record over the final two years (2009-10). With one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks in Brad Kaaya, Miami has the potential to challenge for the Coastal Division title. But potential has been the key word surrounding this program for a few years. It’s time for Golden to deliver.
9. Dave Doeren, NC State
Record at NC State: 11-14 (2 years)
Career Record: 34-18 (4 years)
If NC State picks up in 2015 where it left off last season, it’s a safe bet Doeren will rank higher on this list next year. The Wolfpack showed marked improvement in Doeren’s second season, going from a 3-9 and winless team in the ACC in 2013 to an 8-5 squad in 2014. NC State also finished 3-5 in ACC games and won four out of its final five games, including a 35-7 rout over rival North Carolina. Prior to NC State, Doeren went 23-4 at Northern Illinois and guided the Huskies to an appearance in the Orange Bowl in the 2012 season. Recruiting at NC State is on the rise too, as the Wolfpack have signed back-to-back top-35 classes after not finishing higher than 54th from 2011-13.
10. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Record at North Carolina: 21-17 (3 years)
Career Record: 55-36 (7 years)
The ongoing NCAA investigation/uncertainty at North Carolina certainly isn’t helping Fedora’s tenure in Chapel Hill. However, the Tar Heels have regressed in wins since posting an 8-4 record in 2012. North Carolina finished 7-6 in 2013 and slipped to 6-7 in 2014. Aside from the regression in the win column, the biggest concern for Fedora has to be fixing a defense that ranked 14th in the ACC in yards per play allowed. The hire of Gene Chizik as the team’s coordinator should address that side of the ball, and North Carolina has one of the league’s most talented offenses in place. Could 2015 be the best year of Fedora’s tenure with the Tar Heels?
11. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Record at Wake Forest: 3-9 (1 year)
Career Record: 93-88 (15 years)
Prior to taking over at Wake Forest, Clawson was a successful head coach at three previous stops. From 1999-2003, Clawson went 29-29 at Fordham, with 19 of those victories coming in the final two seasons. After five years with the Rams, Clawson went 29-20 with two FCS playoff appearances at Richmond, followed by a 32-30 mark at Bowling Green from 2009-13. Clawson didn’t inherit a loaded roster and finished 3-9 with just one of those wins coming in conference play. However, Clawson seems to have Wake Forest moving in the right direction with a talented, young core in place for 2015 and '16.
12. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh
Record at Pittsburgh: First Season
Career Record: First Season
If we are buying stock in coaches for 2016 and beyond, Narduzzi is on the must-have list. The former Michigan State coordinator is ready to be a head coach after leading one of the nation’s top defenses from 2007-14. The Spartans ranked in the top five nationally for fewest yards per play and points allowed per game from 2011-13. Narduzzi’s defense was a big reason why Michigan State won at least 11 games in four out of the last five years. Pittsburgh is on its fourth coach in six seasons. However, Narduzzi seems like the right coach at the right time for the Panthers.
13. Mike London, Virginia
Record at Virginia: 23-38 (5 years)
Career Record: 47-43 (7 years)
London entered 2014 on the hot seat but managed to earn another season in Charlottesville after the Cavaliers finished 5-7 and lost five games by eight points or less. London enters 2015 in the same situation, as his contact expires at the end of 2016 and there’s pressure to get Virginia back into a bowl game after three consecutive losing seasons. Recruiting has been a strength for London and his staff, with the Cavaliers averaging a 31.8 finish nationally since 2011. The 31.8 mark ranks No. 6 among ACC teams, ahead of three other Coastal Division teams in Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Duke. But despite the success on the recruiting trail, Virginia has won only five games in ACC play over the last three seasons. 2015 is a make-or-break year for London.
14. Scott Shafer, Syracuse
Record at Syracuse: 10-15 (2 years)
Career Record: 10-15 (2 years)
Shafer went 7-6 in his first season at Syracuse (2013), but the Orange regressed to 3-9 last season. The four-win decline had a lot to do with injuries to key players, including quarterback Terrel Hunt. Improving the offense has to be a priority for Shafer and coordinator Tim Lester, especially since the Orange managed only 24 points in their final three games. Prior to Shafer’s promotion to head coach, he worked as a defensive coordinator with the Orange from 2009-12. Additionally, he made stops as an assistant at Michigan, Stanford, Western Michigan, Illinois and Northern Illinois. Syracuse seemed to be trending in the right direction after 2013. But after a three-win campaign last year, can Shafer get the program back into contention for a bowl? With a new athletic director coming, the pressure is on Shafer to produce.
The 2015 NFL Draft is over and more than 400 players have begun the next chapter of their football careers.
So what better time than now to look ahead to next spring and the 2016 NFL Draft. Here are the top 32 prospects that could be drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft:
1. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State (6-4, 230)
He got no support from his running game or offensive line last fall, but Hackenberg has all the NFL tools to be the best QB prospect in the draft next year. He's a more athletic version of Eli Manning. It's hard to keep elite QBs from being the top pick.
2. Laremy Tunsil, OL, Ole Miss (6-5, 305)
He could easily be the top pick as the best offensive tackle in the draft. He has the size, the athleticism and is significantly better than any offensive lineman in the 2015 NFL Draft.
3. A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (6-4, 320)
He won't stuff the stat sheet but tackles rarely do. Yet, Robinson is a beast in the middle who must be accounted for on every play — more often than not by more than one blocker. He's big and extremely physical.
4. Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss (6-4, 280)
From a size and strength standpoint, few players in the country can match Nkemdiche's ability. He played end early in his career and has shifted inside and dominated in both spots. Look for him to take the next step in 2015.
5. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (6-4, 265)
The best pure pass rusher in this class, Bosa has already proven himself as one of the best in college football. He is likely to be avoided by most offenses in '15 so the numbers may not improve, but his stock won't go anywhere. He's one of the best players in the nation period.
6. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (6-2, 235)
The freakish redshirt sophomore had a coming-out party in the College Football Playoff, earning MVP honors of the Sugar Bowl. He could blossom into the best linebacker in the nation due to elite speed, instincts and physicality.
7. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn (6-2, 255)
The knee injury may scare some scouts away, but Lawson can clear away all the doubt with a huge '15 campaign. He was essentially the best player on the Auburn defense two years ago as just a freshman and will become a household name in short order this fall.
8. Ronnie Stanley, OL, Notre Dame (6-5, 315)
He's got the size and talent to be an elite blocker on the next level and has held his own very well against elite defensive talent (Leonard Williams, Stanford, LSU).
9. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss (6-2, 230)
A broken leg isn't nearly as concerning as knees or hips so once Treadwell steps back onto a field, it won't take long for his elite talents to show that he's the top receiver in the '16 class.
10. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida (5-11, 195)
An elite freshman All-American, teams were already staying away from VH3 last season. So he might be avoided completely this fall. That won't have much impact on his overall stock — which is the best cover corner in the nation.
11. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (6-1, 235)
Jack matches Lee from a talent standpoint and has produced on both sides of the ball a la Shaq Thompson. His numbers are huge and he's poised for another monster season as the star of the UCLA defense.
12. Su'a Cravens, S, USC (6-1, 225)
He has elite-level athleticism, size, range and has been making big-time plays the second he stepped onto the field. The former five-star prospect has completely lived up to the hype and is poised for a massive junior year.
13. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor (6-8, 275)
"Scary athlete" doesn't begin to explain what Oakman is along the defensive line. He's intimidating, massive and could be leading Baylor to a third consecutive Big 12 title.
14. Scooby Wright, OLB, Arizona (6-1, 240)
He may not have a true position in certain NFL defensive schemes but he's a guy who simply makes plays wherever he is slotted. Case in point: 163 tackles, 29.0 for a loss, 14.0 sacks and six forced fumbles don't happen on accident.
15. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (5-11, 195)
The Hokies' star coverman might actually be as good as Hargreaves. The five-star recruit has started every game of his two-year career and is going to be an All-American entering '15.
16. Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State (6-1, 204)
How many five-star recruits start all 13 games as a true freshman for a team that goes 14-0 and wins a national title? Ramsey is now an upperclassman, the veteran star of the Noles' defense.
17. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State (6-3, 218)
He's got the size, the arm and is an above-average athlete. He wins games and takes care of the football as well. He's a pure leader who could be on the only team capable of knocking off Ohio State.
18. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (6-0, 225)
The top Heisman Trophy candidate entering the season was an absolute monster in the Playoffs. He carried his team to a national championship and should be the top back taken if he can stay healthy.
19. Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State (6-4, 255)
There is a good chance he's the starter for Ohio State when the season opens, and his overall arm talent is what makes him the best QB prospect on the OSU roster. And a second national title could cement his first-round status.
20. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame (6-2, 235)
He can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end in a 3-4 or just about anywhere else on the field. He's a freakish athlete who will vault himself into the first round.
21. Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor (6-6, 310)
He's a beast who anchored the Bears' two Big 12 titles the last two years. He could have easily entered the draft and been one of the top picks in the '15 Draft but could work his way into the top 10 with another stellar season in Waco.
22. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt (6-2, 190)
He regressed as a sophomore but his freshman season was no fluke. He has excellent athletic ability and can run all of the routes in the stem. Look for a huge bounce-back season from the Panthers wideout.
23. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (6-6, 240)
The best all-around tight end prospect in the nation unfortunately has been extremely underused by the Crimson Tide offense. He is an elite blocker and an elite pass catcher as well.
24. Leonard Floyd, DE/LB, Georgia (6-4, 238)
The dynamic, hybrid edge player flourished in Jeremy Pruitt's system last fall and should produce another huge season for what could be the best defense in the SEC. He's rangy, athletic and productive.
25. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State (6-5, 255)
Calhoun could have left school early last fall but elected to return. His stock can't change much but as long as he continues to deliver on his tremendous ability on a championship-level defense, he will be a first-rounder.
26. Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA (6-4, 310)
When it comes to upside, Vanderdoes has as much as anyone in the nation. The big-time prep star has delivered quickly on his potential and should blossom into a superstar this fall.
27. Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee (6-0, 190)
He may not have the flashy speed and quickness of other cornerbacks ahead of him in the draft, but few players in the nation are as instinctual and make as many plays as the Vols' star defensive back.
28. Vadal Alexander, OL, LSU (6-6, 340)
He's a massive road-grader and will produce big numbers in the running game. There is more than one solid LSU O-Line prospect in this unit, but Alexander is the best of the bunch.
29. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (6-3, 240)
He's an absolute beast. Cut from the Larry Johnson/Steven Jackson mold, few players have ever had the size-athleticism combo that Henry possesses. Now, if Lane Kiffin could just give him the ball a few hundred times.
30. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (6-2, 230)
He may not have the arm talent of the pure pocket passers in the NFL but few have his heart, toughness, physicality and leadership. He's a great athlete who is a better thrower of the ball than scouts think.
31. Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss (6-0, 217)
The fourth member of the highly-touted 2013 Rebels' signing class could find himself in the first round alongside Tunsil, Treadwell and Nkemdiche. Conner flies around the field and makes big plays consistently.
32. Nate Andrews, S, Florida State (5-11, 210)
The less-heralded of the two star FSU safeties isn't any less talented. He's got great size and could be just as highly regarded as Ramsey come draft time.
Next Best: Eddie Jackson, CB, Alabama; Jared Goff, QB, Cal; DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon; Travin Dural, WR, LSU; Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida; Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State; Duke Williams, WR, Auburn; Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama; Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma; James Conner, RB, Pitt;
About a month has passed since Duke defeated Wisconsin for the 2015 championship, and we’ve already had a busy offseason.
Coaches have been fired and hired and headed to the NBA. Underclassmen have put their names into the draft or elected to return. Most transfers and incoming freshmen have found their landing places.
In that case, now is as good a time as any to revisit our early top 25 for the 2015-15 season. Since we last took a snapshot of the national scene, our top two teams, Virginia and North Carolina, lost key players while Duke, Kentucky and — surprise! — Cal added key recruits.
1. Kentucky (38-1, 18-0 SEC)
Losses: F Karl-Anthony Towns, C Willie Cauley-Stein, G Aaron Harrison, G Andrew Harrison, F Trey Lyles, G Devin Booker, C Dakari Johnson
Returnees: G Tyler Ulis, F Alex Poythress, F Marcus Lee
New arrivals: C Skal Labissiere, G Isaiah Briscoe, G Charles Matthews, G Mychal Mulder
Outlook: In a rare string of recruiting losses, Kentucky lost out on guard Brandon Ingram (Duke), Cheick Diallo (Kansas), Malik Newman (Mississippi State) and Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV) in postseason commitments. Kentucky filled one spot with Mychal Mulder, a standout shooter from the junior college ranks.
2. Duke (35-4, 15-3 ACC)
Losses: G Quinn Cook, C Jahlil Okafor, F Justise Winslow, G Tyus Jones
Returnees: F Amile Jefferson, G Matt Jones, G Grayson Allen
New arrivals: F Chase Jeter, G Luke Kennard, F Sean Obi, G Brandon Ingram, G Derryck Thornton
Outlook: If 2015 proved Duke could win a championship with a roster full of freshmen, the 2016 recruiting class proved Mike Krzyzewski could reload just as quickly. The team won’t be as stocked as the championship team, but the key holes have been filled with a big man (Jeter), a shooter (Kennard), a point guard (Thornton, who reclassified from the 2016 class to 2015) and a big, versatile shooter that has served Duke well in the past (Ingram).
3. North Carolina (26-12, 11-7 ACC)
Losses: F J.P. Tokoto
Returnees: G Marcus Paige, F Brice Johnson, F Kennedy Meeks, F Justin Jackson, F Isaiah Hicks, G Nate Britt, G Joel Berry
Outlook: North Carolina was a candidate for preseason No. 1 the first time around with every key player returning. Since then, J.P. Tokoto elected to leave for the pros. Carolina should still be very good, but Tokoto was a standout defender. His departure tempers expectations a bit.
4. Kansas (27-9, 13-5 Big 12)
Losses: G Kelly Oubre, F Cliff Alexander
Returnees: F Perry Ellis, G Frank Mason, G Wayne Selden, G Brannen Greene, F Jamari Traylor, F Landen Lucas, G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
New arrivals: F Carlton Bragg, F Chieck Diallo
Outlook: Losing Oubre and Alexander is notable, but not unexpected in the big picture (even if both had uneven freshman seasons). The biggest victories came in recent weeks. Ellis decided to return to school, and Kansas was able to add top-10 forward Cheick Diallo, a freshman who should be an ideal fit in Kansas’ system.
5. Maryland (28-7, 14-4 Big Ten)
Losses: G Dez Wells, G Richaud Pack, F Evan Smotrycz
Returnees: G Melo Trimble, F Jake Layman, G Jared Nickens, G Dion Wiley
New arrivals: C Diamond Stone, F Robert Carter Jr.
Outlook: Maryland was one of the biggest surprises in 2014-15, finishing second in the Big Ten. Next season will bring legitimate expectations. Melo Trimble and Jake Layman are back. Moreover, landing the top-10 prospect Stone was a major coup for Mark Turgeon. Forward Robert Carter Jr. also will be eligible after averaging 11.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds at Georgia Tech in 2013-14.
6. Virginia (30-4, 16-2 ACC)
Losses: G Justin Anderson, F Darion Atkins
Returnees: G Malcolm Brogdon, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey, G London Perrantes
Outlook: Virginia’s hopes of being a preseason No. 1 are probably dimmed with the surprising departure of Justin Anderson to the NBA Draft. That said, the Cavs’ preseason hopes last season were dampened when Joe Harris was believed to be an irreplaceable void. Virginia won the ACC regular season title anyway.
7. Michigan State (27-12, 12-6 Big Ten)
Losses: G Travis Trice, F Branden Dawson
Returnees: G Denzel Valentine, G Bryn Forbes, F Matt Costello, F Gavin Schilling, F Marvin Clark Jr., G Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.
New arrivals: G Eron Harris
Outlook: Michigan State will miss Trice’s scoring punch and Dawson’s rebounding. Harris, who averaged 17.2 points per game for West Virginia in 2013-14, will help the former. Tum Tum Nairn will hold down the point guard spot and take over leadership of the team as just a sophomore.
8. Iowa State (25-9, 12-6 Big 12)
Losses: G Bryce Dejean-Jones, F Dustin Hogue
Returnees: F Georges Niang, G Monte Morris, F Jameel McKay, F Abdel Nader
New arrivals: G Hallice Cooke, G Deonte Burton
Outlook: The biggest story of the Iowa State offseason will be coach Fred Hoiberg’s recovery from open-heart surgery. The Cyclones are in good hands with Niang and Morris still on board. As usual, transfers — Cooke from Oregon State, and Burton, a point guard from Marquette — will round things out. The Cyclones are still in contention for two graduate transfers (Michigan’s Max Bielfeldt and Providence’s Tyler Lewis).
9. Gonzaga (35-3, 17-1 West Coast)
Losses: G Kevin Pangos, G Byron Wesley, G Gary Bell Jr.
Returnees: F Kyle Wiltjer, C Przemek Karnowski, F Domantas Sabonis, G Kyle Dranginis, G Eric McClellan
Outlook: Wiltjer could have left to begin a pro career somewhere, but his return means he’ll be a potential national player of the year candidate. Replacing Pangos at point guard will be no small issue. Otherwise, this is a team built for another run. The replacements include a handful of players who saw few if any minutes last season — McClellan (who was dismissed from Vanderbilt before landing at Gonzaga), Josh Perkins (who missed all but five games with a broken jaw) or redshirt Bryan Alberts.
10. Oklahoma (24-11, 12-6 Big 12)
Losses: F TaShawn Thomas
Returnees: G Buddy Hield, G Isaiah Cousins, F Ryan Spangler, G Jordan Woodward
New arrivals: G Rashard Odomes
Outlook: The return of Hield, the Big 12 Player of the Year, is key as the Sooners look to stay in the mix in the Big 12. Most of the key pieces are back, but losing Thomas means the Sooners will rely even more heavily on the backcourt.
11. Notre Dame (32-6, 14-4 ACC)
Losses: G Jerian Grant, G Pat Connaughton
Returnees: F Zach Auguste, G Demetrius Jackson, G Steve Vasturia, F Bonzie Colson
Outlook: The departures of Grant and Connaughton probably mean Notre Dame won’t come within a hair of the Final Four again, but there are plenty of pieces for Notre Dame to make noise in the ACC. Colson is a future star.
12. Wisconsin (36-4, 16-2 Big Ten)
Losses: F Frank Kaminsky, F Sam Dekker, G Traevon Jackson, G Josh Gasser, F Duje Dukan
Returnees: F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter
New arrivals: G Brevin Pritzl
Outlook: Hayes’ decision to return to school is critical. The Badgers won’t be Final Four contenders again, but don’t forget that the Badgers were a consistent top-four Big Ten team regardless of personnel before this run in the last two seasons.
13. Indiana (20-14, 9-9 Big Ten)
Returnees: G Yogi Ferrell, G James Blackmon Jr., F Troy Williams, G Robert Johnson, G Nick Zeisloft, F Hanner Mosquera-Perea
New arrivals: F Thomas Bryant, F Juwan Morgan
Outlook: Tom Crean could be well-positioned to return to the good graces of Indiana fans next season. Nearly everyone is back, and the frontcourt will get some desperately needed help from the 6-10 Bryant, a McDonald’s All-American.
14. Villanova (33-3, 16-2 Big East)
Losses: G Darrun Hilliard, F JayVaughn Pinkston, G Dylan Ennis
Returnees: G Josh Hart, G Ryan Arcidiacono, F Daniel Ochefu
New arrivals: G Jalen Brunson
Outlook: Hilliard was the closest thing Villanova had to a star player last season, but this was a balanced team with six guys averaging nine or more points per game. Losing Ennis, a graduate transfer, hurts. Nova adds the five-star point guard Brunson to a team that will already have a senior point guard in Arcidiacono.
15. Wichita State (30-5, 17-1 Missouri Valley)
Losses: F Darius Carter, G Tekele Cotton
Returnees: G Fred VanVleet, G Ron Baker, F Shaquille Morris, G Evan Wessel
Outlook: Wichita State already survived a tense moment when Alabama courted Gregg Marshall. Baker mulled the draft but elected to return to school. The Shockers can’t be dismissed as long as VanVleet and Baker are in the backcourt.
16. Arizona (34-4, 16-2 Pac-12)
Losses: F Stanley Johnson, G T.J. McConnell, F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F Brandon Ashley
Returnees: C Kaleb Tarczewski, G Gabe York
New arrivals: F Ryan Anderson, G Allonzo Trier, F Ray Smith, G Justin Simon, C Chance Comanche
Outlook: McConnell, Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson are big losses. Yet Sean Miller continues to reload with 247Sports’ No. 2 recruiting class featuring four top-50 prospects and Anderson from Boston College (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg in 2013-14).
17. Cal (18-15, 7-11 Pac-12)
Losses: F David Kravish
Returnees: G Tyrone Wallace, G Jordan Matthews, G Jabari Bird, F Christian Behrens
New arrivals: F Ivan Rabb, F Jaylen Brown
Outlook: Cal was already poised to take a step forward with the backcourt of Wallace, Matthews and Bird returning. Then, Cuonzo Martin beat out Kentucky, North Carolina and Michigan for the No. 2 small forward prospect (Jaylen Brown), adding to a recruiting class that already included No. 2 power forward (Ivan Rabb). Cal should contend for the Pac-12 title.
18. Utah (26-9, 13-5 Pac-12)
Losses: G Delon Wright
Returnees: G Brandon Taylor, G Jordan Loverage, F Jakob Poeltl, G Dakari Tucker, F Brekkott Chapman
Outlook: Wright could have the biggest impact of any single departure in the country. He’s a lockdown defender and an efficient point guard, two things not easily replaced. Poeltl could have gone to the draft as an intriguing prospect, but he elected for more seasoning in college after a dominant finish to last season.
19. Louisville (27-9, 13-6 ACC)
Losses: G Terry Rozier, F Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear
Returnees: G Quentin Snider, F Chinanu Onuaku, F Mangok Mathiang, G Anton Gill
New arrivals: G Trey Lewis, F Damion Lee, F Raymond Spalding, G Donovan Mitchell, F Deng Adel
Outlook: Rick Pitino bolstered his young roster with a pair of transfers, adding Trey Lewis from Cleveland State and Damion Lee from Drexel. Lee was arguably the top graduate transfer available after averaging 21.4 points per game last season. Lewis hit 96 3-pointers for Cleveland State. That will be a welcome sight after long-range shooting was a problem all year for the Cards.
20. SMU (27-7, 15-3 American)
Losses: C Yanick Moreira
Returnees: G Nic Moore, F Markus Kennedy, F Ben Moore
New arrivals: G Shake Milton
Outlook: SMU has been knocking on the door of postseason relevance for two seasons. First came a snub to the 2014 NCAA Tournament and then the questionable goaltending call in a loss to UCLA in the round of 64. Moreira is a substantial loss, but SMU returns enough to contend for another AAC title.
21. LSU (27-11, 11-7 SEC)
Losses: F Jarell Martin, F Jordan Mickey
Returnees: G Keith Hornsby, G Tim Quarterman, G Josh Gray, G Jalyn Patterson
New arrivals: F Ben Simmons, G Antonio Blakeney
Outlook: LSU underachieved in the Martin/Mickey era, reaching one NCAA Tournament and losing in a second-half collapse to NC State. The Tigers will be expected to contend in the SEC next season after adding Simmons, the top prospect in the 247Sports rankings. Blakeney is also a five-star prospect. LSU’s supporting cast of Hornsby, Quarterman and Patterson is solid.
22. Vanderbilt (21-14, 9-9 SEC)
Losses: F James Siakam, F Shelton Mitchell
Returnees: C Damian Jones, G Riley LaChance, G Wade Baldwin IV, F Luke Kornet, G Matthew Fisher-Davis, F Jeff Roberson
New arrivals: G Nolan Cressler
Outlook: The Commodores were an awfully young team last season and improved as the year went along. Jones’ decision to stay in school was huge. The one major departure is made up for by the arrival of Cressler, who averaged 16.8 points per game as a sophomore at Cornell.
23. NC State (22-14, 10-8 ACC)
Losses: G Trevor Lacey, G Ralston Turner
Returnees: G Cat Barber, F Kyle Washington, F Abdul-Malik Abu, F Caleb Martin, F Beejay Anya
Outlook: The unexpected departure of Lacey to the NBA Draft will dampen expectations. He was the Wolfpack’s most consistent player on a team that sorely needed consistency.
24. Butler (23-11, 12-6 Big East)
Losses: G Alex Barlow, F Kameron Woods
Returnees: G Kellen Dunham, F Roosevelt Jones, F Andrew Charbascz
New arrivals: G Tyler Lewis
Outlook: Dunham and Jones will be seniors, and 5-11 NC State transfer Lewis should take over the point guard spot. More important, Butler locked up coach Chris Holtmann with a contract extension. The gap between Butler and Villanova in the Big East is narrowing.
25. Michigan (16-16, 8-10 Big Ten)
Losses: G Max Bielfeldt
Returnees: G Caris LeVert, G Zak Irwin, G Derrick Walton, G Spike Albrecht, G Aubrey Dawkins
Outlook: Michigan was a preseason top 25 team before everything went wrong, starting with an injury to star Caris LeVert. Before falling to .500, Michigan reached an Elite Eight and a national championship game. Let’s give John Beilein another chance at this, especially after LeVert elected to return to school.
Others of Note
Baylor (24-10, 11-7 Big 12)
Losses: G Kenny Chery, F Royce O’Neale
Returnees: F Taurean Prince, F Rico Gathers, F Johnathan Motley
Outlook: Not much was expected out of Baylor last season, but they made a nice run before losing to Georgia State in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears need to find a replacement for Chery at point guard to go with that solid front line.
Cincinnati (23-11, 13-5 American)
Returnees: F Octavius Ellis, G Troy Caupain, G Farad Cobb, F Gary Clark, G Kevin Johnson, F Shaquille Thomas
Outlook: Cincinnati’s roster returns essentially intact, but the Bearcats hope to have coach Mick Cronin for the season after he missed most of 2015 with a medical issue.
Florida State (17-16, 8-10 ACC)
Returnees: G Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G Brandon Montay, G Devon Bookert, G Phil Cofer
New arrivals: G Dwayne Bacon, G Malik Beasley
Outlook: A pick for a sleeper? Florida State returns nearly everybody to a mediocre team and adds two top-25 prospects at guard.
Georgetown (22-11, 12-6 Big East)
Losses: C Josh Smith, G Jabril Trawick
Returnees: G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, F Isaac Copeland, G Tre Campbell, F L.J. Peak, F Paul White
New arrivals: C Jessie Govan, F Marcus Derrickson, F Kaleb Johnson
Outlook: Placing expectations on Georgetown is always a tricky proposition. Smith-Rivera is already a star, and his return was critical to the Hoyas’ hopes. Copeland was a highly touted freshman and should start to reach his potential as a sophomore.
Oregon (26-10, 13-5 Pac-12)
Losses: G Joseph Young, G Jalil Abdul-Bassit
Returnees: F Elgin Cook, F Dillon Brooks, F Dwayne Benjamin, F Jordan Bell
New arrivals: G Tyler Dorsey
Outlook: The Ducks will need to find someone to replace the scoring that Young provided the last two seasons, but the Ducks got major contributions from last year’s freshman class. Oregon adds a top-30 point guard in a class with three top-100 freshmen
Purdue (21-13, 12-6 Big Ten)
Losses: G Jon Octeus
Returnees: C A.J. Hammons, G Rapheal Davis, F Vince Edwards, G Kendall Stephens, C Isaac Haas, G Dakota Mathias
Outlook: The seven-footer Hammons elected to return to Purdue rather than the NBA Draft, meaning the Boilermakers are gearing up to contend for the Big Ten title.
Texas (20-14, 8-10 Big 12)
Losses: F Jonathan Holmes, F Myles Turner
Returnees: G Isaiah Turner, G Javan Felix, C Cameron Ridley, G Demarcus Holland
New arrivals: G Eric Davis, G Kerwin Roach, C Shaquille Cleare
Outlook: How much of a difference can first-year coach Shaka Smart make? Many of the same pieces of a team that was picked to challenge for the Big 12 title last season will return. Adding two four-star freshmen in Davis and Roach and Maryland transfer Cleare means the pieces are in place for Texas to contend for an NCAA spot or more.
Texas A&M (21-12, 11-7 SEC)
Losses: F Kourtney Roberson, G Jordan Green
Returnees: G Danuel House, G Jalen Jones, G Alex Caruso,
New arrivals: C Tyler Davis, F D.J. Hogg, G Anthony Collins
Outlook: The Aggies were NIT bound after a disastrous SEC Tournament, but they were on the fringe for most of the season. They hope a standout recruiting class puts them over the top. USF point guard Anthony Collins is also eligible immediately.
West Virginia (25-10, 11-7 Big 12)
Losses: G Juwan Staten
Returnees: F Devin Williams, F Jonathan Holton, G Jevon Carter, G Daxter Miles Jr.
Outlook: The Mountaineers, who are still smarting from a 39-point loss in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky, will have to replace the point guard Staten, but they return nearly every other key player from a surprise team in 2014-15.
Florida State has gone 39-3 during the last three seasons with three ACC titles, a national championship and a playoff appearance.
None of this is by accident or by fluke.
The Seminoles have had 29 players drafted during that span, a record for the modern era. In the 2015 draft, Florida State led all teams with 11 selections from Thursday through Saturday, starting with Jameis Winston as the No. 1 pick through guard Bobby Hart in the seventh round.
While Florida State was the top school, the SEC as usual led all leagues in the draft in a decade of dominance of sending players to the pro ranks.
Here’s a look at the top schools and a few notes on how schools performed in this year’s draft.
|School||Draft Picks||Conference||Draft Picks|
*includes Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham
• For the first time in five drafts, the SEC did not have the most first-round draft picks as the Pac-12 and ACC had nine apiece. The SEC had seven first-rounders. For the ninth consecutive draft, however, the SEC produced the most overall picks (54).
• Florida State produced the most picks with 11, giving the Seminoles 18 picks in the last two seasons. There’s a good reason the 2013 ‘Noles overwhelmed just about everyone they played.
• With 11 picks for Florida State and 10 for Louisville, the Seminoles’ 42-31 win over the Cardinals on Oct. 30 had the most draft picks of any game last season.
• On the other hand, TCU’s 42-3 win over Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl featured a grand total of three draft picks so far.
• Another oddity: Oklahoma State defeated Washington 30-22 in the Cactus Bowl. The Cowboys had one draft pick (defensive back Josh Furman, the 35h pick of the seventh round). Washington had three draft picks in that game, including two first-round picks. That doesn’t include first-round cornerback Marcus Peters, who was dismissed from Washington in early November.
• Ohio State is the first reigning national champion to be shut out of the first round of the NFL Draft since the 2002 Buckeyes. Ohio State’s five overall picks are the fewest for a reigning champion since 2010 Auburn (four).
• Not a bad problem to have: Alabama’s seven draft picks was the fewest for the Crimson Tide since 2011. Alabama has produced 44 picks since the 2010 draft.
• LSU’s four picks was the fewest for the Tigers since 2005.
• As has been trumpeted several times: Miami and Florida produced more draft picks than wins. Ereck Flowers an Phillip Dorsett became the first Miami players to go in the first round since 2008. The Hurricanes had seven players drafted but finished 6-7.
• Florida’s draft output was even more astonishing. The 7-5 Gators had eight players drafted, including six from an offense that 96th in yards per game. By one measure, the Will Muschamp era was more productive than the Urban Meyer era at Florida. Muschamp’s teams produced 5.5 draft picks per year (22 from the 2012-15 drafts) while Meyer’s produced five picks per year (30 from 2006-11).
• Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon was the Badgers’ first skill position player to be drafted in the first round since wide receiver Lee Evans in 2004 and first running back since Michael Bennett in 2001. Wisconsin’s first-round picks since 2004 have included four offensive linemen and two offensive linemen.
• The 2010 Texas A&M offensive line class may be one of the best classes for any position ever. Former coach Mike Sherman signed three first-round linemen (Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi) and fifth-rounder Jarvis Harrison.
• On a bit of a technicality, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was Oklahoma’s highest draft pick at No. 40. Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri, transferred to OU but never played. The next highest Sooner in the draft was No. 52 overall pick Jordan Phillips. Excluding Green-Beckham, Oklahoma has had only one top-50 pick since 2010, the draft when quarterback Sam Bradford, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and offensive tackle Trent Williams were all drafted in the top four.
• Two notable first-round droughts ended: Duke guard Laken Tomlinson became the Blue Devils’ first first-round pick since 1987, and Arizona State safety Damarious Randall became the Sun Devils’ first first-round pick since Terrell Suggs in 2003.
• Nine Power 5 teams were shut out of the draft: Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Illinois, NC State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Syracuse and Vanderbilt. The Volunteers didn’t have a player drafted for the first time since 1963.
Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly delivered one of the most inspirational moments of the NFL Draft when he was the surprise guest picker on behalf of the Buffalo Bills in the second round.
A little more than a year ago, Kelly was fighting an aggressive return of oral cancer, originally diagnosed in June 2013. Through treatment, Kelly had part of his jaw and teeth removed, and tests in January cleared of cancer.
Kelly made his pick to a standing ovation in Chicago for one of the draft’s most touching moments. Watch:
Colorado’s classic white and black jerseys are some of the best in the Pac-12. But every uniform needs an occasional refresh, and that’s exactly what the Buffaloes are doing headed into 2015.
On Friday, Colorado updated its white and black uniforms, along with a brand new gray jersey.
Overall, these are really sharp uniforms for the Buffaloes:
We are excited about the silver. The Dark Steel Gray looks great. https://t.co/sf4gd3oBcc— Coach Mike MacIntyre (@CoachMikeMac) May 1, 2015
Our traditional but modern look. The helmets are a special mix of matte and shiny. https://t.co/osWTuupWqa— Coach Mike MacIntyre (@CoachMikeMac) May 1, 2015
This is our storm trooper look. https://t.co/Heb4KLgWLl— Coach Mike MacIntyre (@CoachMikeMac) May 1, 2015
Colorado’s steel gray uniform and silver helmet. pic.twitter.com/jlSdAIQDcA— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) May 1, 2015
Perhaps no one was more happy not to hear his team called on Thursday than Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
Presumably, Meyer would have been pleased to hear an NFL team take his wide receiver Devin Smith in the first round, but whether Ohio State produced one first-round pick or none Meyer, that's a good thing.
For the first time since 2003 — the last time Ohio State won a national championship — the reigning national champion did not produce a first-round draft pick the following April. Since the start of the BCS era in 1998, Oklahoma in 2000 is the only other team that did not produce a first-round pick immediately after winning a national title.
Meyer won’t have the draft day brag sheet to take on the recruiting trail, or at least not one as impressive as past national champions. Not that it really matters.
Most of the draft picks from the 2014 national championship team will be playing for Ohio State in 2015.
This isn’t major news for anyone who has been paying close attention to Ohio State. The Buckeyes have all three quarterbacks in tow, including their top pro prospect at the position Cardale Jones. Defensive end Joey Bosa appears to be on pace for a first-round pick. Ezekiel Elliott may or may not continue Thursday’s run on first-round running backs, but he’ll be in the draft eventually.
Linebackers Joshua Perry and Darron Lee are back. So is end-turned-tackle Adolphus Washington.
Even if Smith, defensive tackle Michael Bennett and cornerback Doran Grant are selected this weekend, the Buckeyes will have to wait until 2016 for their big draft celebration.
That’s not totally uncommon for national championship teams. Since 1998, four reigning national champions produced four or fewer draft picks the following year — 2010 Auburn, 2008 Florida, 2003 USC and 2000 Oklahoma. The USC team went on to repeat in 2004. Florida started 13-0 in 2009 before losing to eventual national champion Alabama in the SEC title game. Only 2011 Auburn finished unranked.
Here’s a look at the national champions since 1998 and how they fared in the NFL Draft after their title season.
|Year||School||First Round||Total Picks||Following season|
|2013||1||7||13-1, No. 5, lost in CFP semifinal|
|2012||3||9||11-2, No. 7, lost Sugar Bowl|
|2011||3||8||13-1, No. 1, won BCS championship|
|2010||2||4||8-5, NR, won Chick-fil-A Bowl|
|2009||2||7||10-3, No. 10, won Capital One Bowl|
|2008||1||3||13-1, No. 3, won Sugar Bowl|
|2007||1||7||8-5, NR, won Chick-fil-A Bowl|
|2006||2||9||9-4, No. 13, lost Capital One Bowl|
|2005||2||6||10-3, No. 13, won Alamo Bowl|
|2004||2||5||12-1, No. 1, lost Rose Bowl*|
|2003 (BCS)||1||7||9-3, No. 16, lost Capital One Bowl|
|2003 (AP)||1||4||13-0, No. 1, won BCS championship|
|2002||0||5||11-2, No. 4, won Fiesta Bowl|
|2001||5||11||12-1, No. 2, lost Fiesta Bowl*|
|2000||0||2||11-2, No. 6, won Cotton Bowl|
|1999||3||7||11-2, No. 5, lost Orange Bowl*|
|1998||1||5||9-3, No. 9, lost Fiesta Bowl|
*Lost in national championship game
54 points. That was the historically large deficit that sent the Milwaukee Bucks out of the NBA Playoffs, courtesy of the advancing Chicago Bulls.
120-66 is not a pretty figure, but the Bucks still have a lot to look forward to. Multiple young players broke out for them in a surprisingly competitive first-round bout with the Bulls. A series that once looked like a sweep became a six-game affair that had the Windy City sweating as head coach Jason Kidd’s defensive schemes flummoxed the Bulls in Games 4 and 5. The lengthy, energetic poise they bring to every position makes for a forest of limbs that will challenge NBA offenses for years.
John Henson was surprisingly effective stepping up to Pau Gasol in the post, as was Giannis Antetokounmpo. Sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams played an inspired Game 5, racking up 22 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocks as he led his team to a stunning 94-88 victory in Chicago. Shooting guard Khris Middleton continued to prove himself as one of the best in the game at his position, making life difficult for Bulls shooters and draining clutch three-pointers with the calm of an assassin.
And Milwaukee did all of this without the man who could very well be the centerpiece of their future: Jabari Parker. 2014’s No. 2 overall pick tore his ACL midseason, and has been on the mend since. Once he returns to the roster with his singular scoring knack, it will open up the floor for the Bucks’ offense in untold ways.
With Kidd and a promising roster in tow — and new uniforms and insignia on the way this fall — Milwaukee’s looking like the scene of an NBA renaissance. Chicago might have a big-brother hold on them for now, but soon the Bucks could be their bitter rivals.
— John Wilmes
The New England Patriots took a defensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft for the second year in a row, selecting Malcom Brown from Texas and taking a solid step forward in replacing the irreplaceable Vince Wilfork. Last year, the Pats took Dominique Easley, also a defensive linemen with the versatility to play multiple positions. The Pats have taken a defensive player with their first pick in each of the last four drafts now.
Bill Belichick was clear in his press conference after the first round that Easley and Brown are different players, but what matters most is the continued influx of talent in the defensive trenches. The Patriots struggled against the run last season, especially in short-yardage situations so putting the 320-pound Brown into the mix should help remedy that problem.
Taking Brown does indicate a slight shift in Belichick's defensive philosophy, which has been an ongoing evolution since the complete defensive rebuild that started in 2009. His biggest strength is getting into the backfield quickly, the same as Easley. This signifies just how important generating a pass rush from all spots on the defensive line has become.
When Wilfork was first drafted the Patriots ran a 3-4 defense with the front three two-gapping and holding their ground. While the Pats will still employ two-gapping techniques for certain matchups, it's become a tool, not the base down norm. Brown should be able to learn how to two-gap, but his size and ability against the pass should make him an every-down player in New England, even if he starts off as part of a rotation.
The cupboard was not bare at defensive tackle prior to Brown's arrival. Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones and Alan Branch join Easley as a promising interior grouping, but the addition of Brown sets their ceiling even higher.
The best defenses are ones who can consistently generate disruption up front and that continues to be something the Patriots struggle with. With the loss of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, a lethal pass rush can help offset the difference.
Brown should be a big part of the plan upfront. He's not going to instantly replace Wilfork all by himself, but he's just the kind of player Belichick can use in a number of ways to maximize his effectiveness.
Injuries mounted for USC in its 28-26 win at Arizona on Oct. 11. The Trojan secondary — a unit that started 2014 shorthanded, thanks to the suspension of cornerback Josh Shaw — lost Adoree’ Jackson and Kevon Seymour midway through the contest.
“I look out against Arizona,” USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said on Thursday’s Pac-12 coaches teleconference call. “And I think we had four true freshmen out in the secondary in the fourth quarter.”
USC’s situation was never again as dire as on that night, when John Plattenburg and Jonathan Lockett were thrust into prominent roles for the first time in their careers, but the secondary also never exactly teemed with experience, either.
Shaw did not return to the lineup until Nov. 22, leaving a corps of youngsters to handle the load. Fifth-year senior Gerald Bowman and junior Seymour were the group’s elder statesmen. Otherwise, the secondary was made up of true freshmen Jackson, Lockett and Plattenburg; redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins; sophomore Leon McQuay III, as well as sophomore Su’a Cravens, who split time between nickel back and strong-side linebacker.
All that inexperience predictably translated into ups and downs. The ups included a first month in which the Trojans did not allow a passing touchdown; giving up a Hail Mary to lose to Arizona State and allowing UCLA to turn several intermediate routes into huge gains were a few of the downs.
“We had our moments where we had our growing pains,” Sarkisian said. “But they ended up being real beneficial for us. Our guys are a lot more confident. They believe in what we’re doing. “We got better and better and better,” he added.
The unit’s collective and continued progress plays a critical role in the Trojans’ pursuit of the Pac-12 championship. USC faces five of the nation’s 33 most prolific passing offenses next fall, all in conference play.
Reinforcements arrive with an influx of new contributors, both incoming freshmen like 5-star prospect Iman Marshall, as well as redshirts like Lamont Simmons.
For those new additions to the secondary, last year’s youngsters take on the role of veteran leaders.
“For us, the leadership role is to just go out there and lead by example,” Jackson said after USC’s spring game on April 11. “Pretty much, that’s how I do it. If you talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.”
Jackson’s play as a true freshman did indeed speak volumes. He commanded attention in the offseason, albeit primarily for his explosiveness on special teams and offense.
But the speedster Jackson staked his reputation throughout his freshman campaign on his defense, typically matching up opposite opponents’ No. 1 wide receivers.
“He can cover just about anybody,” Sarkisian said.
Jackson’s coverage impressed Sarkisian so much last season, in one practice the head coach declared Jackson “kryptonite of the offense.”
USC needs him to be with Colorado’s Nelson Spruce (1,198 yards, 12 touchdowns in 2014) and Arizona’s Cayleb Jones (1,019 yards, nine touchdowns) and others lined up on the opposite side. And, in turn, Jackson needs his teammates in the secondary to become more consistent against the rest of opponents’ receivers.
The Trojans made positive trends to that end late in the season. McQuay, who had been badly burned on a few plays in USC’s late-season loss at UCLA, was instrumental in the Holiday Bowl defeat of Nebraska.
“To see a young man in Leon McQuay who struggled… come back and have two really cool, critical plays there at the end of the game on the third- and fourth-down plays was awesome,” Sarkisian said at season’s end.
McQuay, Hawkins and Plattenburg will all vie for playing time at free safety, which is indicative of a huge positive USC has in 2015 it lacked much of 2014: depth.
The Trojans relied so much on youth because the previous three years of NCAA-mandated scholarship restrictions rendered their bench thin.
With the options defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox now has in the secondary, USC can get more aggressive in other phases of its defense.
One month into the 2015 MLB season and it’s no surprise to see Huston Street and Trevor Rosenthal among the leaders in saves for their respective leagues. But did you know that the Mets’ Jeurys Familia and Tigers’ Joakim Soria are tied with Street for the most entering May 1 with nine? Both are in the closer role for their teams because of injuries, which have had quite the early impact on bullpens around the league. Not only are we still waiting for Kenley Jansen, Sean Doolittle and Jake McGee to make their season debuts, but the Royals’ Greg Holland is currently on the disabled list with a pectoral strain, although he’s expected back right around the time his 15-day term is up.
|Arizona||Addison Reed||Brad Zeigler||Evan Marshall, Oliver Perez|
|Atlanta||Jason Grilli||Jim Johnson||Luis Avilan|
|Baltimore||Zach Britton||Darren O'Day||Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz|
|Boston||Koji Uehara||Edward Mujica||Junichi Tazawa|
|Chicago (AL)||David Robertson||Zach Duke||Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka|
|Chicago (NL)||Hector Rondon||Pedro Strop||Jason Motte, Zac Rosscup, Neil Ramirez (DL)|
|Cincinnati||Aroldis Chapman||Jumbo Diaz||J.J. Hoover|
|Cleveland||Cody Allen||Bryan Shaw||Scott Atchison, Nick Hagadone|
|Colorado||John Axford||Rafael Betancourt||Adam Ottavino, LaTroy Hawkins (DL)|
|Detroit||Joakim Soria||Joba Chamberlain||Al Albuquerque, Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon (DL)|
|Houston||Luke Gregerson||Chad Qualls||Pat Neshek, Tony Sipp, Josh Fields|
|Kansas City||Wade Davis||Kelvin Herrera||Ryan Madson, Greg Holland (DL)|
|Los Angeles (AL)||Huston Street||Joe Smith||Fernando Salas, Cam Bedrosian|
|Los Angeles (NL)*||Yimi Garcia||Chris Hatcher||Paco Rodrigiez, Pedro Baez, Joel Peralta, Kenley Jansen (DL)|
|Miami||Steve Cishek||A.J. Ramos||Mike Dunn|
|Milwaukee||Francisco Rodriguez||Jonathan Broxton||Will Smith, Jim Henderson (DL)|
|Minnesota||Glen Perkins||Casey Fien||Brian Duensing, Caleb Thielbar|
|New York (AL)*||Andrew Miller||Dellin Betances||David Carpenter, Justin Wilson|
|New York (NL)||Jeurys Familia||Buddy Carlyle||Carlos Torres, Bobby Parnell (DL), Jenrry Mejia (suspended)|
|Oakland||Tyler Clippard||Dan Otero||Eric O'Flaherty, Sean Doolittle (DL)|
|Philadelphia||Jonathan Papelbon||Ken Giles||Jacob Diekman, Justin De Fratus|
|Pittsburgh||Mark Melancon||Tony Watson||Jared Hughes|
|St. Louis||Trevor Rosenthal||Jordan Walden||Matt Belisle|
|San Diego||Craig Kimbrel||Joaquin Benoit||Dale Thayer, Kevin Quackenbush|
|San Francisco||Santiago Casilla||Sergio Romo||Jeremy Affeldt, Jean Machi|
|Seattle||Fernando Rodney||Danny Farquhar||Yoervis Medina, Tom Wilhelmsen|
|Tampa Bay||Brad Boxberger||Kevin Jepsen||Ernesto Frieri, Jake McGee (DL)|
|Texas||Neftali Feliz||Roman Mendez||Keone Kela, Shawn Tolleson|
|Toronto*||Brett Cecil||Miguel Castro||Roberto Osuna, Aaron Loup|
|Washington||Drew Storen||Matt Thornton||Aaron Barrett, Casey Janssen (DL)|
*Los Angeles (NL) and Toronto are employing a closer-by-committee approach, while New York (AL) has not designated a primary closer.
The 49-year-old has about as impressive of a resume as any college coach, and it makes sense for him to jump the professional level in 2015. Donovan and his program had become less effective at recruiting in recent days, fielding a roster this past season that didn’t even crack the NCAA tournament.
Talent won’t be a problem for Donovan in OKC, though. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be his for at least one season. Durant, of course, can test free agency in the summer of 2016, so Donovan’s first year on the job comes with the pressure of winning over the 2014 MVP’s affections enough to help him make a decision to stay with the Thunder.
Donovan is no stranger to NBA talent. At Florida he developed Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, David Lee, Chandler Parsons and Bradley Beal. With Noah, Horford and Brewer, his Gators were a rockstar squad that won consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007.
The Thunder were known to be fond of Donovan for some time — probably well before they pulled the plug on Brooks. Donovan and OKC general manager Sam Presti are friendly, and it appears today that the Thunder were never really embarking on a search for a Brooks replacement, but instead banking on Donovan being up for the job.
Part of the thinking surrounding his hire is that the team needs to have a smart, successful program in place with or without their mega-talented superstars sticking around. Donovan’s vision is in line with the front office’s, and Presti decided it was time to make a shift into a more cohesive future, rather than hanging onto a coach who took the team out of the basement, for sentimental reasons.
— John Wilmes
Oregon is set to close spring practice with its final scrimmage of the season on Saturday.
It’s a big spring in Eugene, as the Ducks are looking for a replacement for Marcus Mariota, as well as searching for new starters on defense.
Different uniforms and designs are nothing new for Oregon, so it’s no surprise the Ducks have unveiled new “Salute the State” jerseys and helmets for Saturday’s game.
Check out the Oregon spring game uniforms for 2015:
Oregon Ducks spring scrimmage uniforms honor the U.S. Armed Forces. pic.twitter.com/qDKn5qzWfZ— Heidi Burgett (@heidiburgett) May 1, 2015
Ducks spring game patch showcases 2015 opponents’ school colors in order of game schedule (Pac-12 foes starred) pic.twitter.com/HkKOC7KgeD— Heidi Burgett (@heidiburgett) May 1, 2015
The Jameis Winston crab leg thing just won’t go away.
After being selected No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Thursday night's NFL Draft, the former Florida State quarterback apparently celebrated his selection with crab legs. He posted the following image to Instagram and Twitter on draft night but later deleted the Instagram post.
Earlier in the draft process, Winston was counseled by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on how to handle the crab leg-theft incident in NFL Draft interviews.
Given Winston’s proximity to Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Fla., and oceanic dining, the crab leg meme might not fade away for a while.
UPDATE: Former Tampa Bay quarterback Shaun King defending Winston for the image, saying the image wasn't intended as a jab at all.
If people only knew how STUPID they sound killing this kid over that picture smdh— shaun king (@realshaunking) May 1, 2015
I was seated at the table right next to jameis at the mike alstott charity auction, when captain keith asked jameis to help him auction off— shaun king (@realshaunking) May 1, 2015
This huge king crab he had flown in for the event. Captain keith is from the deadliest catch show. I wasnt sure how jameis was gonna— shaun king (@realshaunking) May 1, 2015
Handle the request, but it didnt faze the young man at all he simply said ok sure, we r here to help the alstott foundation right.— shaun king (@realshaunking) May 1, 2015
That same captain keith in a gesture of thanks sent jameis and his family 25lbs of king crabs legs for his draft event last night.— shaun king (@realshaunking) May 1, 2015
Thats the backstory behind last nights picture for those of you who need to seriously have some self evaluation done— shaun king (@realshaunking) May 1, 2015
It’s hard to beat the traditional scarlet and gold uniforms that the San Francisco 49ers have each season.
But there’s a new look coming to the team in 2015. The 49ers unveiled a new black alternate jersey on the first day of the 2015 NFL Draft. The team also unveiled matching pants to give San Francisco all black uniforms.
This isn’t an awful look, but why mess with San Francisco’s traditional uniforms?
The Big 12 is known for its high-scoring offenses and quarterback play, but the league enters 2015 with several unknowns under center. TCU’s Trevone Boykin is the clear favorite for first-team all-conference honors and one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy. However, after Boykin is a host of unproven names. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph ranks as our No. 2 quarterback after a promising finish to 2014, while we project Baylor’s Seth Russell to continue the successful run of signal-callers in Waco.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2015.
Ranking the Big 12 Quarterbacks for 2015
1. Trevone Boykin, TCU
2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior
Under new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, Boykin emerged as the Big 12’s top quarterback and one of the most improved players in the nation. TCU’s offense averaged 46.5 points per game last year, which was a significant bump from the 25.1 mark in 2013. Boykin threw for 3,901 yards and 33 scores last season and ranked second on the team with 707 yards and eight touchdowns. The senior is among the nation’s leaders for the 2015 Heisman Trophy.
2. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Rudolph’s emergence at the end of 2014 is a big reason why Oklahoma State is poised to move up the Big 12 standings in 2015. The true freshman did not play through the first 10 games but started the final three contests and guided the Cowboys to a 2-1 mark in that span. Rudolph ended the year with 853 yards and six scores, while completing 57 percent of his passes. With an improving offensive line and one of the Big 12’s top receiving corps, Rudolph should push for all-conference honors in 2015.
3. Seth Russell, Baylor
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Russell takes the reins of Baylor’s high-powered offense after Bryce Petty expired his eligibility. Since 2010, the starting quarterback for coach Art Briles has passed for at least 3,500 yards in each season. Additionally, in three out of the last five years, the starter has eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark. Russell threw for 804 yards and eight scores in limited action last year, which included one start against Northwestern State while Petty was out due to a back injury.
4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Putting Mahomes at No. 4 assumes he beats out Davis Webb for the job and starts all 12 regular season games. As a true freshman last year, Mahomes threw for 1,457 yards and 16 scores, with a bulk of his production coming in the final three games. Mahomes also brings a different element to the offense with his dual-threat potential. He only managed 104 yards on 46 attempts last season, but the rushing ability only adds to what should be a dynamic Texas Tech offense in 2015.
5. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Oklahoma finished spring without a definitive answer under center, but all signs point to Mayfield taking the first snap of the 2015 season. Mayfield sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules after leaving Texas Tech following the 2013 campaign. In Mayfield’s only season with the Red Raiders, he threw for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 186 yards and three scores. In Oklahoma’s spring game, Mayfield led all quarterbacks with 176 passing yards.
6. Skyler Howard, West Virginia
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Howard entered spring neck-and-neck with William Crest for the No. 1 spot under center. However, Howard pull ahead throughout the offseason workouts, which may allow the West Virginia coaches to use Crest in an all-purpose role in 2015. Howard gained valuable experienced at the end of 2014 by starting the final two games and threw for 346 yards and three scores against Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl. The junior college recruit was slated to redshirt last season but injuries to Crest and Clint Trickett forced him to play. Considering the track record of quarterbacks in Dana Holgorsen’s offense, it’s safe to assume Howard will post big numbers if he picks up where he left off in the bowl game and the Mountaineers find a replacement for star receiver Kevin White.
7. Tyrone Swoopes/Jerrod Heard, Texas
There’s a ton of potential with Texas’ quarterback situation in 2015. But will the Longhorns get consistent production from their signal-callers? Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard were both four-star recruits in the 247Sports Composite and finished spring in a tight battle for the No. 1 spot. Last year, Swoopes completed 224 of 384 passes for 2,409 yards and 13 scores. He also rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns. Heard did not play as a redshirt, but he finished the spring on a high note by completing 20 of 29 passes for 177 yards in the spring game. The upside is there for both quarterbacks to take a step forward in 2015, especially with the offense shifting to more of a spread approach.
8. Sam Richardson, Iowa State
2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior
Richardson was steady in his second full year as Iowa State’s starter, completing 254 of 451 passes for 2,669 yards and 18 scores. He missed the matchup against Kansas due to injury, but in Big 12 contests last year, the Florida native averaged 239 passing yards per game. The Cyclones should be better on offense in 2015, especially with a talented receiving corps in place, featuring the return of Quenton Bundrage from injury, along with the development of sophomore receiver Allen Lazard. Richardson should also benefit from another offseason to learn under coordinator Mark Mangino. With the returning talent at receiver, No. 8 might be too low for Richardson.
9. Joe Hubener, Kansas State
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Hubener is the favorite to replace the underrated Jake Waters under center for K-State in 2015. The Kansas native has an interesting backstory, as he joined the program as a walk-on after never starting a game at quarterback in high school. In two seasons of playing time with the Wildcats, Hubener has completed 9 of 17 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown. He has rushed for 147 yards and three scores on 29 rushing attempts. Competing with Hubener for the starting job is sophomore Jesse Ertz and incoming freshman Alex Delton.
10. Michael Cummings/Montell Cozart, Kansas
Cummings is penciled in as the starter in Lawrence, but a knee injury in the spring game has clouded his availability for 2015. If Cummings returns in time, he should be the starter after completing 137 of 244 passes for 1,715 yards and nine scores last year. But if Cummings is sidelined for the full season, Cozart is the likely replacement. He threw for 701 yards and five scores and started five games in 2014. If the Jayhawks look to the future, true freshmen Ryan Willis or Carter Stanley could get a chance to play.
After two drafts with no running back taken in the first round, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon both went in the first 15 picks of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gurley was the first to go, somewhat surprisingly to St. Louis at No. 10, while San Diego made the first trade of the night by swapping with San Francisco to move up two spots to take Gordon with the 15th overall pick.
Both backs could step into starting jobs for their new teams fairly early, so from a fantasy standpoint which rookie is the one to target first come draft day? Let’s take a look at each breaking down the following areas: College Resume, Team Fit, 2015 Schedule and Potential Obstacles
Todd Gurley – If not for a four-game suspension for violation of NCAA rules and then a torn ACL in November, Gurley may have been in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. In three seasons at Georgia, Gurley rushed for 3,285 yards in 30 games, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He averaged more than a touchdown (36 rushing, six receiving) per game on offense alone and also returned two kickoffs for scores.
Melvin Gordon – The Heisman Trophy runner-up to Marcus Mariota, Gordon led the nation in rushing (2,587) and tied for the top spot in scoring (32 TDs). In four seasons at Wisconsin, Gordon rushed for 4,915 yards (boasting an impressive 7.8 ypc) and scored 49 total touchdowns. Keep in mind that in his first three seasons Gordon shared the spotlight with the Broncos’ Montee Ball (2011-12) and Patriots’ James White (2011-13). Gordon did most of his damage as a senior.
Advantage: Gurley gets the nod here because of the SEC’s reputation as being the nation’s best college football conference. Gordon’s production is impressive, but Wisconsin is known for running the ball and the Badgers’ offense is built around just that.
Gurley – Jeff Fisher loves to run the ball, going back to his days with the Titans. If Gurley’s knee checks out, Fisher could have his best running back since Eddie George was churning out 1,000-yard seasons from 1996-2003. St. Louis averaged 102.2 yards rushing per game in 2014, with rookie Tre Mason being the most productive back. The initial reports on Gurley’s recovery have been positive, so as long as he’s healthy and picks up the Rams’ playbook, the opportunity for 20-25 carries per game is clearly there.
Gordon – Ryan Matthews is now in Philadelphia, but San Diego’s running back cupboard isn’t exactly bare. Danny Woodhead, who only played in three games last season because of a broken leg, will get his share of touches, especially in passing situations, and Branden Oliver showed flashes as well. Gordon wasn’t called on to block or pass protect very much at Wisconsin, so it may take him some time to get up to speed in those areas. Roles can change as the season progresses, but Gordon probably will be used primarily as a two-down back early on.
Advantage: Gurley will have to show he can handle the blocking and pass-protection aspects too, but the Rams’ offensive philosophy should present him with more touches out of the gate than Gordon will see with the Chargers.
Gurley – Playing in the NFC West, the Rams have two games against the defending division and NFC champion Seahawks as well as the Cardinals. Crossover play against the NFC North doesn’t look that scary, especially with Ndamukong Suh no longer on the Lions. The AFC North has some decent defenses, but the Ravens and Steelers also have seen personnel changes on that side of the ball. Overall, it doesn’t appear to be that tough of a slate for a RB.
Gordon – The Chargers also get the AFC and NFC North in crossover play. Their swing games are Jacksonville and Miami, two teams that struggled to stop the run last season, but again the Dolphins now have Suh, an All-Pro defensive tackle, up front. As far as the AFC West goes, the Broncos were No. 2 against the run in 2014, but the Raiders (22nd) and Chiefs (28th) didn’t fare as well.
Advantage: Gordon gets the slight edge here mainly because of Gurley’s total of four games against Seattle and Arizona. Division-wise, there’s no contest when it comes to the quality of the defenses in the NFC West compared to the AFC West.
Gurley – Two seasons ago, Zac Stacy came out of nowhere as a fifth-round pick to rush for 973 yards. Last season, he gets just 293 on 76 carries, while Tre Mason, a third-round selection, leads the way with 765 yards, most of that coming over the final seven games. Gurley has the potential to break out, but will he get the opportunity from Week 1 or will it take some time to grasp the offense? And there’s also a chance the Rams decide to take it slow with Gurley because of his knee.
Gordon – San Diego has other options in Woodhead and Oliver, who already figure to take touches away from Gordon regardless of how quickly he learns the playbook. Philip Rivers isn’t the most mobile of quarterbacks and even though he’s entering the final year of his contract, he’s still critical to the Chargers’ success. If Gordon can’t do his job in pass protection or catch the ball, he could be eased into the offense.
Advantage: Both rookies will have to earn their playing time, but Gurley’s path to significant touches seems clearer, provided the surgically repaired knee is ready for the workload.
Both Gurley and Gordon figure to be attractive options in fantasy drafts this fall. Running backs could be the difference between a fantasy championship contender and a team that just can’t get over the hump each week. Many fell in love with Montee Ball and Zac Stacy last season and took them early, only to watch them get hurt or struggle to produce. Gurley and Gordon both could develop into top-10 fantasy options, but probably not this season.
Even with the questions surrounding the knee, Gurley is a more appealing option with considerably larger upside in my opinion, making him the target. However, at this point, Gurley is a borderline top-25 RB for 2015, as there are questions about his knee and how quickly he will receive a starter’s workload. Gordon also has intriguing upside, but the likelihood of limited touches has him in flex territory, for now.
The first round of the 2015 NFL Draft is in the books.
Tampa Bay did the right thing by taking Jameis Winston No. 1 and Tennessee pulled the trigger on its future leader by taking Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick.
But there are tons of elite prospects still left on the board on day two of the NFL Draft. The second, third and fourth rounds of the draft are loaded with great talents every year and ’15 won’t be any different.
Joel Bitonio, Derek Carr, Lamarcus Joyner, Jordan Matthews and Jeremy Hill were all second-rounders last season. Here are our favorite players left on the board entering the second round:
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The fact that the Crimson Tide playmaker fell out of the first round is astonishing, and he is clearly the best player on the board entering Day 2. He's lightning-quick and explosive and is one of the best tacklers in the class. Coverage skills aren't elite and that's likely what has dropped him on boards.
Randy Gregory, OLB/DE, Nebraska
He’s got elite-level athleticism but many have questioned his desire to be great in the NFL. Be it the marijuana issue or his weight fluctuations. He also doesn’t fit naturally into either the 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
He’s got the size. He’s got the numbers. He’s got the wins. He’s got the athleticism. Once he refines his deep ball, he could be a big-time playmaker under center. He won’t last long in the second round. He's clearly better than the rest of the QB class left in this draft.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri/Oklahoma
As gifted as Calvin Johnson and as troubled as Jameis Winston. His off-the-field issues are a major question mark despite never actually being charged with anything. On the field, there is no doubting his ability. He’s a superstar from a talent perspective.
Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
There really isn’t much difference between first-round selections Kevin White or DeVante Parker and Strong. He’s got a huge frame and produced big numbers on a winning team. He’s raw but has massive upside.
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
The younger brother of Eagles standout, Mychal, Eric was equally as decorated in college. Kendricks won both the Butkus and Lott Trophies his final season and was the defensive leader for the only UCLA team to win at least nine games in three straight seasons. He’s a plug-and-play prospect.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
The 5-foot-8, 205-pound running back was electric with the ball in his hands — both as a receiver and runner. When Nebraska needed a big play, he delivered. He rarely gets tackled cleanly and he is a hard-working football nerd.
T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt
The big blocker has only played offensive line for two years after playing along the D-line for the Panthers. He's a bit of a project but has elite-level upside and raw talent. He won't last long.
Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
He’s just a redshirt sophomore but he’s got tons of upside. Phillips has a massive frame at 6-foot-5 and 329 pounds with plenty of quickness and burst. If he can sustain consistency, he could be a dominant player in the NFL.
Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Few covermen bring the size NFL teams are craving right now on the outside like Collins does at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds. He got great coaching at LSU and was one of the few Tigers who played up to their potential.
Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
He’s not overly big (6-2, 290) but he has every intangible possible. He’s a great leader, he’s as smart as any prospect in the draft and he’s been a winner his entire career. A Jurrell Casey comparison is apt for this mid-rounder.
Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
McKinney has the body of a defensive end but the instincts, quicks and overall game of an inside backer. As the game has evolved, getting bigger and faster, McKinney could be the next breed of middle linebacker.
Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami
The second round is where the NFL finds linebackers and 2015 won’t be any different. Perryman is a fantastic inside tackler with great instincts. He got very little help from his fellow defenders and still posted big numbers. Perryman is one of a handful of great LBs still left on the board.
Jake Fisher, OL, Oregon
Just pop in the tape of the Ducks with Fisher in the lineup and without. Oregon was a totally different squad when the anchor at left tackle was in the game. He has great athleticism and the size needed to excel at the tackle position. Center Hroniss Grasu also fits into this mold as one of the best players in this draft at his position.
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
He’s small and got hurt a bunch at Miami but this guy can flat out pick up yards. His Combine stats don’t tell the story of his outright playing speed. Johnson is a big play waiting to happen and is a perfect complementary back in the modern NFL offense.
Paul Dawson, LB, TCU
Don’t worry about his Combine stats, just watch the tape. He was all over the field for the Big 12 co-champs a year ago, posting 136 tackles, 20.0 for a loss, 6.0 sacks and four interceptions. He made huge plays in huge spots and will do the same in the NFL.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
Looking for a guy who plays bigger, faster, stronger and more consistently than his measurables? Yeldon is your guy. He consistently got tough yards against the best defenses in the nation and rarely got knocked backwards. He’s a lock to produce on the next level.
Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
He under-produced at times but has every tool needed to be an excellent NFL D-lineman. He’s big, fast, athletic, agile, flexible and coordinated. Once focused, he could be an every-down starter. A number of other Seminoles could fall on this list as well: Mario Edwards, Nick O'Leary, P.J. Williams, Rashad Greene and Tre Jackson to name a few.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
Slot receivers are the new norm and few players bring as much to the position as Lockett does. He’s small (5-9, 185) but has blazing speed and produced in a huge way for KSU. He also excels on trick plays and on special teams.
Until the new crop of NFL first-rounders hits the field, grading the first round of the NFL Draft is just educated guesswork.
Having said that, fans in Tampa Bay and Tennessee should be brimming with excitement as they welcome new starting quarterbacks. Others are left scratching their heads.
Below are four different grades for the 32 first-round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft:
A: Franchise-changing selection. A great value at key position of need.
B: An instant starter who contributes right away.
C: Solid pick but has a question of value, upside, risk or position of need.
F: A questionable selection with poor value and heavy risk.
|Jameis Winston||No. 1||QB||Florida State|
|The best QB prospect since Andrew Luck is a complete package at the position... on the field.|
|Amari Cooper||No. 4||WR||Alabama|
|Complete professional at the position. Elite hands, speed and polish. Immediate starter and outside star for Derek Carr.|
|Leonard Williams||No. 6||DL||USC|
|Arguably the best player in the draft at No. 6? Lined up next to Sheldon Richardson? Are you kidding?|
|Andrus Peat||No. 13||OT||Stanford|
|The best offensive tackle prospect in the draft is a perfect value and need for the Saints.|
|Shaq Thompson||No. 25||OLB||Washington|
|One of the best pure athletes in the draft who can play multiple positions on multiple sides of the ball. Take him and find a spot for him later.|
|Marcus Mariota||No. 2||QB||Oregon|
|Game-changer at most important position makes this franchise instantly interesting and watchable again.|
|Dante Fowler Jr.||No. 3||OLB||Florida|
|Lack of consistency keeps him from being an "A," but is a star in the making otherwise.|
|Kevin White||No. 7||WR||West Virginia|
|Loads of upside and talent but has plenty of work left to his game. Was this the most pressing need for the Bears?|
|Vic Beasley||No. 8||OLB||Clemson|
|Awesome player who might be best "B" on the list. Productive big-play machine who was a leader for a winning program.|
|Todd Gurley||No. 10||RB||Georgia|
|Elite talent, potentially the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson... if he's fully healthy. Injury history keeps him off the "A" line.|
|DeVante Parker||No. 14||WR||Louisville|
|Got their guy and provided Ryan Tannehill with a playmaker. Big, physical, talent but needs to stay on the field.|
|Melvin Gordon||No. 15||RB||Wisconsin|
|Only slightly less talented than Gurley. Extremely intelligent and hard-working player with plenty of burst.|
|Cam Erving||No. 19||OL||Florida State|
|Versatile prospect who excelled at both center and tackle. Immediately helps everyone on the offense.|
|Nelson Agholor||No. 20||WR||USC|
|Smaller version of Cooper. Extremely polished pro's pro at the position. Will need no preparation to play and will help special teams too.|
|Bud Dupree||No. 22||OLB||Kentucky|
|Productive and dependable player who fits a need and defensive scheme perfectly. A great value as well.|
|Shane Ray||No. 23||OLB||Missouri|
|Extremely talented player whose character isn't nearly as big a question mark as late slide indicated. Excellent value.|
|Laken Tomlinson||No. 28||OG||Duke|
|What's not to like? A terrifyingly strong road-grader to protect Matthew Stafford who wants to be a neurosurgeon.|
|Malcom Brown||No. 32||DT||Texas|
|One of the best values in the first round. Elite defensive space-eater will flourish in Pats system.|
|Brandon Scherff||No. 5||OG||Iowa|
|Really solid potential guard but won't play tackle and may never be a star. A huge reach passing on Cat Williams.|
|Ereck Flowers||No. 9||OT||Miami|
|Big-time upside but a project who lacked consistency against only moderate competition. Needs development and could have been a reach.|
|Trae Waynes||No. 11||CB||Michigan State|
|Thin draft class pushed Waynes higher on the boards. Fills a need but questions about his upside remain.|
|Danny Shelton||No. 12||DT||Washington|
|Giant space-eater improves physicality but may lack overall quickness, explosiveness to be a star.|
|Kevin Johnson||No. 16||CB||Wake Forest|
|Solid but not elite player taken early in the round at a position that may not have been the top need.|
|Marcus Peters||No. 18||CB||Washington|
|Could be best pure coverman in the draft but drops to a "C" due to discipline question marks.|
|Cedric Ogbuehi||No. 21||OT||Texas A&M|
|Very athletic and lean but large prospect. Major knee injury in January and some underachievement last fall drop him to "C."|
|D.J. Humphries||No. 24||OT||Florida|
|Talented upside but lacks overall size and polish to contribute right away. Has also had major injury issues in the past.|
|Damarious Randall||No. 30||S||Arizona State|
|Will likely play cornerback. Has major size for that position but questions about his transition. Would inside linebacker been a better option?|
|Arik Armstead||No. 17||DT||Oregon|
|A+ for snagging extra picks but few players did less with more than Armstead while in college. Huge risk selection.|
|Breshad Perriman||No. 26||WR||UCF|
|More talented, more productive options all over the board and it feels like a luxury pick in the first round.|
|Byron Jones||No. 27||CB||UConn|
|Combine creation who never excelled in a lower-tiered league. Was never even all-league in the American Athletic Conference.|
|Phillip Dorsett||No. 29||WR||Miami|
|Speedy player but a one-trick pony who isn't much better than other small, slot receivers. Other positions were a greater need.|
|Stephone Anthony||No. 31||ILB||Clemson|
|Solid player at a position of need... if this was the end of the second round. Never was an elite player despite elite physical tools.|
With both the top two picks, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, watching the NFL Draft from home, viewers had to wait for a memorable interaction between a draftee and commissioner Roger Goodell.
Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton made it worth the wait. The No. 12 pick overall pick of the Cleveland Browns gave Goodell a bear hug and then lifted the commissioner off his feet.