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Summer is here, which means NFL training camps will be starting up soon and so will drafts. It’s never too early to start your preparations and one way to do that is to participate in some mock drafts. And when it comes to mock draft simulators they don’t get any better than the one provided by our friends at . Click or below to start.

 

 

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And to further your fantasy football draft preparations, be sure to pick up your copy of the . The 2016 edition has 400-plus in-depth player reports, a 280-player big board, 20-round mock draft, cheat sheet for draft day and team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers around the country.

 

There’s also a debate about who should be the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts, a rundown of potential breakout candidates, injury concerns and fantasy busts from 2015 who may or may not bounce back this season. Whether your fantasy league is head-to-head, rotisserie, PPR or IDP, this resource has all the split stats and in-depth insight to help you take the first step towards winning a fantasy football championship.

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The season is almost here: Do you know who your team’s starting quarterback is?

 

In some cases the answer is obvious, even if it’s not exactly reassuring. (Sometimes a little drama can be a welcome development.) Elsewhere, the pecking order at the start of preseason practice remains a mystery, made all the more mysterious in an era of high-profile transfers, dismissals and early-enrolling freshman that’s made rapid upheaval the norm from one season to the next. Proven vets graduate; freshman phenoms fade; up-and-comers come and go. Keeping track can feel like a full-time chore.

 

If you’re just catching up, consider this your cheat sheet. We’ve ranked every SEC team’s 2016 quarterback depth chart from the most promising to the least, with an eye toward the past and future as well as the present. Whose time has come? Whose time has passed? Who’s got next? Here’s our best guess, before everything changes again.

 

This feature and more is available in the .

 

1. OLE MISS

 

The Incumbent: It seems like a very long time ago that Chad Kelly was considered a gamble, and given his track record before arriving in Oxford — a dismissal from Clemson; an arrest outside a club in his native Buffalo, N.Y. — not necessarily a good one. As it turned out, the only problems Kelly caused in 2015 were for opposing defenses, which he victimized en route to single-season school records for total yards (4,542), passing yards (4,042), touchdowns (31), completion percentage (65.1) and efficiency rating (155.9) among nearly a dozen other marks. (He added 10 more touchdowns rushing, for good measure.)

 

The Heir Apparent: Had he chosen any other school on this list (and he certainly could have), Shea Patterson might have found the starting job gift-wrapped for him the moment he set foot on campus. Instead, the most touted passer in the 2016 recruiting class will bide his time this fall, backing up Kelly as a true freshman with an eye toward moving to the top of the depth chart in 2017. Assuming he does, Patterson will be the first Ole Miss starter who actually signed with the Rebels out of high school in more than a decade.

 

2. TENNESSEE

 

The Incumbent: With 22 career starts to his credit, senior Joshua Dobbs is the conference’s most seasoned quarterback, by far, and arguably the most versatile: In 2015 he led all SEC signal-callers in rushing yards (671) and touchdowns (11), effectively serving as a third tailback in the league’s most run-oriented offense. Dobbs could stand to improve his consistency as a passer — his efficiency rating, 127.0, was slightly below SEC and national averages — but given how close Tennessee came to snapping its East Division title drought anyway, even a small step forward may be all the Vols need to get over the hump.

 

The Heir Apparent: Dobbs is in no danger of losing his job, but those around the program rave about sophomore Quinten Dormady and his big right arm. Incoming freshman Jarrett Guarantano was a coveted recruit, but it would be a major surprise if Dormady were not the starting QB in Week 1 of the 2017 season.

 

 

3. ALABAMA

 

The Heir Apparent: Crimson Tide quarterbacks tend to be more or less interchangeable, and Cooper Bateman fits the template to a tee: At 6'3", 224 pounds, he’s latest in a long line of sturdy, pocket-bound “game managers” who are perfectly content to let the defense and ground game carry the day. As a redshirt junior, Bateman is also the oldest signal-caller on the roster, and the only contender for the job with significant playing time already under his belt. If we know anything about the way quarterback derbies are conducted in Tuscaloosa, it’s that Nick Saban always defers to experience.

 

The Comer: If anyone has ever stood a chance of defying that assumption, it’s redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, who arrived last year from California as one of the most highly touted QB recruits in Saban’s tenure. Barnett is taller (6'5") and skinnier (200 pounds) than the standard Bama model, but he more than held his own in the spring and will have every opportunity to jump the line of succession.

 

The Odd Man Out: Whatever happened to David Cornwell? This time last year, Cornwell was widely regarded as the frontrunner to start the Tide’s season opener following a surprisingly strong showing in the spring. By kickoff, he was so far submerged on the depth chart, his only chance of glimpsing the starting lineup was through a periscope.

 

4. GEORGIA

 

The Incumbent: For Georgia fans hoping the first act of the Kirby Smart era would be to declare the existing QB depth chart null and void, well … just keep telling yourself there’s still time. For now, though, the status quo holds: Senior Greyson Lambert worked with the first offense throughout the spring and showed no signs of yielding the job after starting all but one game in 2015. At his best, the Virginia transfer was eerily accurate (he completed 24-of-25 passes against South Carolina) and never prone to killer mistakes (he threw just two interceptions, fewest of any FBS passer with more than 200 attempts), the chief reason he was 10–2 as a starter. On the other hand, despite his efficiency, Lambert’s play-within-the-offense approach yielded too few big plays, and even in wins he had a tendency to disappear.

 

The Comer: Inevitably, the preseason buzz will center on Jacob Eason, a towering (6'5", 211 pounds), big-armed freshman from Washington with five-star credentials from every outlet that gives them. Physically, Eason is the second coming of Matt Stafford, the perfect counterpart to the lo-fi stylings of a more limited player like Lambert. He was also stuck running with the third-string offense throughout the spring. Whether that’s just the new kid paying his dues or an accurate reflection of Eason’s place in the pecking order may be the biggest question the new staff has left to answer.

 

5. LSU

 

The Incumbent: Look, nobody is saying LSU needs Brandon Harris to be great. There’s more than enough transcendence on tap in the backfield, at wide receiver and along the line of scrimmage for the Tigers to survive and thrive with mere competence behind center. But that was all equally true in 2015, which ended with Harris serving up six interceptions in the final five games as a would-be championship season careened off the tracks in November. Clearly Harris has the physical tools and, as a junior, the experience to see a title run all the way through. No matter how loaded the surrounding lineup looks on paper, though — and make no mistake, it is loaded — if he can’t come up with the handful of timely plays the team needs to scale the Great Wall of Bama, the season will go down as another golden opportunity wasted.

 

The Comer: It’s tempting to dismiss Purdue transfer Danny Etling, whose abbreviated tenure as QB1 for a Big Ten bottom dweller was hardly a ringing endorsement for his capacity to lead a team with national ambitions. Résumé notwithstanding, though, there’s a reason Les Miles welcomed him aboard: Etling was a four-star recruit out of high school, and it’s not hard to imagine him finding his comfort zone as a veteran surrounded by blue-chip talent. In a season with such little margin for error, a good insurance policy can go a long way.

 

6. ARKANSAS

 

The Heir Apparent: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema ended what little drama there was by officially naming Austin Allen as the Razorbacks’ starting quarterback in late April. He inherits the job from his departed brother, Brandon. Physically, the younger Allen is a virtual clone of his older brother, who turned in an SEC-best 166.5 pass efficiency rating last year as a senior. If Austin comes anywhere near that number in 2016, Bielema may start looking into an actual clone whose eligibility never expires.

 

The Wild Card: For raw talent, the most intriguing option behind Allen is probably Ricky Town, a former blue-chip recruit who served a mandatory redshirt in 2015 after transferring from USC. From the neck up, Town’s first season in Fayetteville was a different story: “He never really got a grasp of the offense,” Bielema told reporters before spring practice, adding that Town struggled so badly with terminology that coaches often felt “like we’re speaking French to him.” Still, once the Razorbacks hit the field in March, Town appeared to be on equal footing with sophomore Rafe Peavey and redshirt freshman Ty Storey, and once his brain catches up with his arm, his ceiling could surpass both.

 

7. AUBURN

 

The Incumbents: In retrospect, it seems obvious that the bubble that inflated around Jeremy Johnson last summer was bound to pop — by mid-August he was being floated as a bona fide Heisman favorite based less on anything he’d done in his first two years on campus than on the assumption that any big, relatively mobile quarterback running the same system that exploited Cam Newton’s and Nick Marshall’s talents to maximum effect was bound to succeed. By the end of September Johnson had been benched, and the perceived invincibility of Gus Malzahn’s scheme had been roundly debunked. But Johnson’s understudy, redshirt freshman Sean White, didn’t fare much better, suffering a knee injury that left the position in flux from week to week over the final month of the season, and occasionally from series to series.

 

The Comer: Not surprisingly, Auburn fans seemed far less interested in continuing the White-Johnson debate in the spring than they were in monitoring the progress of the new guy, junior college transfer John Franklin III, who enrolled in January with designs on claiming the job for himself. Franklin has never been pegged as a blue-chip recruit, earning three-star grades out of both high school and junior college. But his size (6'1", 174) and athleticism have evoked comparisons to Marshall, as did his trajectory to Auburn: Like Marshall, and Newton before him, Franklin’s detour through the junior college ranks was preceded by a false start at another powerhouse, in Franklin’s case Florida State. The pecking order remains up in the air, but that’s not a bad precedent to have on one’s side.

 

8. TEXAS A&M

 

The Stopgap: The last time many SEC fans saw Trevor Knight, he was in an Oklahoma uniform, doing his best Johnny Manziel impersonation en route to a 45–31 stunner over Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. If you’re just catching up, it was downhill from there: Knight suffered through a sophomore slump in 2014, lost the starting job outright the following spring, and spent the entirety of the Sooners’ 2015 playoff run watching from the bench. On the bright side for A&M, it’s possible to rationalize most of Knight’s problems at OU as the result of a series of injuries — at full speed, he’s flashed enough playmaking ability to envision him thriving in his new environment. But he’s rarely remained healthy for long, and the options behind him are alarmingly thin if he doesn’t pan out this fall.

 

The One(s) Who Got Away: Between Matt Davis, Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, the mass exodus of four- and five-star quarterback talent under Kevin Sumlin defies modern precedent and almost defies belief, especially given that the last three members of that quartet — Hill, Allen, and Murray — all played significantly early in their careers and were pegged as rising stars before encountering turbulence. Regardless of what Knight achieves in his final year of eligibility, unless it results in a championship, a major bowl bid, or a sustained Heisman run, the Aggies will be left wondering what might have been if at least one of his predecessors had stayed the course.

 

9. FLORIDA

 

The Stopgap(s): For a guy with three years of eligibility left to spend, Luke Del Rio has been around the block. Heck, he’s been around most of the continent: Following a decorated prep career in Colorado — where his dad, Jack, served as defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos before moving on to his current gig as head coach of the Oakland Raiders — Del Rio has spent each of the past three seasons in a different corner of the country, first as a walk-on at Alabama (2013), then as a backup at Oregon State (2014), and finally as a transfer at Florida, where he spent 2015 biding his time with the scout team during his NCAA-mandated year on ice. If spring practice was any indication, he’s finally found his niche. Despite a strong push from fifth-year Purdue transfer Austin Appleby (11 career starts at Purdue), Del Rio was the only holdover from coach Jim McElwain’s first year in Gainesville and maintained the edge heading into the summer.

 

The Heir Apparent: The looming question is, how long can either of the veteran retreads hold off hyped freshman Feleipe Franks? To the disappointment of many fans, the local product didn’t immediately seize the reins in his first few months on campus, nor did he appear to come very close. Still, there remains little doubt that Franks is the most physically gifted passer in the pipeline, and probably the only one with legitimate star potential down the line.

 

The One Who Got Away: None of the above would have mattered in the slightest if not for the premature departure of Will Grier, who was 5–0 as a starter in 2015 and well on his way to living up to his blue-chip recruiting marks before he was slapped with a year-long NCAA suspension last October. Ideally, Grier could have resumed his starting role this fall after sitting out the first six games and still enjoyed two full years of eligibility beyond that in 2017-18. When McElwain refused to guarantee his old job would be waiting for him, however, Grier balked and announced in April that he would continue his career at West Virginia.

 

10. SOUTH CAROLINA

 

The Incumbent: Coach Will Muschamp was clear in the spring that he had no intention of identifying a “clear-cut No. 1 quarterback” heading into the summer, a familiar refrain for the Gamecocks after a 2015 campaign that saw three different QBs log multiple starts. By most accounts, though, the pecking order in the spring looked a lot like it did over the second half of the season, with former walk-on Perry Orth (when healthy) at the top of an uninspiring field of contenders. As a fifth-year senior with eight starts under his belt, Orth is both the oldest signal caller on the roster and the most game-tested.

 

The Comer: Specifically, the young player most Gamecocks fans have in mind is true freshman Brandon McIlwain, a four-star recruit from Pennsylvania who enrolled early and ended the spring running with the first-string offense in Orth’s absence. Coaches like McIlwain’s mobility; fans like that he represents a clean slate in the wake of last year’s descent into last place. So far, it looks like he’ll be given every opportunity in the fall to live up to expectations on both counts, but he’ll also have to contend with fellow freshman Jake Bentley, a four-star prospect from Alabama who’ll join the fray a year earlier than expected after deciding to forego his senior year of high school.

 

The Odd Man Out: What will McIlwain’s emergence and Bentley’s earlier-than-expected arrival mean for sophomore Lorenzo Nuñez? While he was extremely limited as a freshman in the passing game, Nuñez did offer glimpses of his athleticism (375 yards rushing, good for second on the team) and seemed to stand a decent chance of overtaking Orth in the spring on talent alone. Instead, he was sidelined by a knee injury and forced to watch as the “dual-threat” torch was passed on.

 

11. MISSOURI

 

The Incumbent: There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Missouri’s offense was a disaster in 2015, coming in dead last in the SEC in both yards and points per game, and Drew Lock hardly distinguished himself amid the broader collapse, posting easily the worst pass efficiency rating (90.5) of any FBS quarterback with at least 200 attempts. Still, there are glimmers of hope that Lock’s disappointing debut can be written off as a mulligan, beginning with the fact that he was a wet-behind-the-ears true freshman who, had it been possible, should have been redshirting.

 

The One(s) Who Got Away: In the end, most of the frustration for the lost season was directed not at Lock but at his predecessor, Maty Mauk, whose inability to stay out of the doghouse — he was officially suspended twice during the campaign, sidelining him for the final eight games — thwarted any plans to bring the freshman along slowly. Mauk was booted from the team for good in January, ending any hope that remained of him rekindling the spark as a fifth-year senior that helped Mizzou to consecutive SEC East titles in 2013-14.

 

12. VANDERBILT

 

The Incumbent: At Vanderbilt, it often seems like “rebuilding” is less of a passing phase in the lifespan of the program than a permanent condition. If the Commodores stand any chance of breaking the cycle of futility under third-year coach Derek Mason, though, it will almost certainly be on the arm of Kyle Shurmur, a big, heady sophomore who boasts the kind of prototypical size (6'4", 223 pounds) and tools that are guaranteed to grab NFL scouts’ attention. (It also doesn’t hurt that Shurmur’s late uncle, Fritz, and dad, Pat, have a combined four decades in the league as coaches.) Obviously, with just five starts to his credit as a true freshman, Shurmur is a long way from thinking about the next level just yet.

 

The Wild Card: Wade Freebeck appeared in just one game last year after starting four as a true freshman, an unlikely trajectory for a guy hoping to supplant a younger player as a junior. But Freebeck did enough in the spring to remain within “a hair whisker” of Shurmur, according to Mason, who also says he believes the collective quarterback talent on hand is the best at Vanderbilt in 20 years. That’s a tall claim, if only because Jay Cutler’s time in Nashville falls well within that window.

 

13. KENTUCKY

 

The Heir Apparent: It took longer than expected, but ready or not, it’s Drew Barker’s time. After nearly two full seasons as an understudy, the most celebrated Kentucky recruit since Tim Couch finally cracked the starting lineup for the Wildcats’ final two games last November, then found himself in the spring as the only returning scholarship quarterback on the roster. Although coaches (being coaches) insisted “there’s no depth chart” going into the summer, there was also no indication that junior college transfer Stephen Johnson or early enrollee Gunnar Hoak posed a threat to Barker’s grip on the full-time job.

 

The One Who Got Away: Barker’s ascension to QB1 came at the expense of Patrick Towles, a big, durable slinger who started 22 consecutive games in 2014-15 and put up some perfectly respectable numbers (4,866 yards, 23 touchdowns) in the process. But Towles’ production plummeted over the second half of last season — his last five starts yielded a single touchdown to seven interceptions — and in the wake of his demotion it became clear his odds of fending off Barker for the third consecutive spring were distant at best. Instead, Towles opted to spend his final season of eligibility at Boston College, where he’s virtually assured of resuming his familiar status atop the depth chart.

 

14. MISSISSIPPI STATE

 

The Heir(s) Apparent: There’s no replacing Dak Prescott, who cemented his status in 2015 as the best quarterback in MSU history, by a mile, and arguably the best player, period. Coach Dan Mullen didn’t feel compelled to chase a graduate transfer or a junior college project in search of a quick fix. Instead, he’ll seek to fill the post-Prescott void the old-fashioned way, with a pair of long-serving backups, sophomore Nick Fitzgerald and junior Damian Williams, vying for the top job in their third and fourth years on campus, respectively. Neither candidate arrived as an especially touted recruit, nor do they figure, at this point, to command much attention from pro scouts. But both have seen the field in a limited capacity, and whoever emerges in the fall will have spent years absorbing Mullen’s system. That system has yet to attract a can’t-miss QB prospect to Starkville — even Prescott was a three-star afterthought — but has consistently gotten the most out of the talent on hand.

 

The Wild Card: Behind the frontrunners, the most intriguing athlete in the mix is redshirt sophomore Elijah Staley, whose combination of defensive-end size (6'6", 248 pounds) and athleticism (he’s spent time on the MSU basketball team) make him very difficult to dismiss. Staley lacks polish as a passer, but that’s not necessarily a deal breaker in this scheme: If he can replicate the production of, say, Chris Relf, an equally huge, raw talent who held down the starting job for most of 2010 and 2011 — both winning seasons — Bulldogs fans will take it.

 

– By

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Ranking the SEC's Mostly Troubling Quarterback Situations
Post date: Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - 09:00
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Who is ready for some ? With training camps set to start in late July the NFL will soon back to be business, which means fantasy football drafts won’t be far behind.

 

And while plenty will change between now and when Week 1 kicks off on Sept. 8 it’s never too early to take a look at positional rankings and start your draft preparations. One thing that is likely not to change, barring an injury, is who will be atop Athlon Sports’ rankings when the season starts. Antonio Brown has not only established himself as the No. 1 wide receiver in the game, he’s also the No. 1 player in fantasy.

 

In fact, wide receivers occupy the top three spots in our rankings; yet further proof of how NFL offenses have tilted more towards throwing the football rather than running it. Running backs are still well represented, however, with six in our top 10, a list that’s rounded by Rob Gronkowski.

 

It should come as no surprise that reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton checks in as the first quarterback on our list. However, Newton is No. 45 overall while the next group of signal-callers (Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Rusell Wilson) fall outside of the top 50.

 

Positional rankings are just one thing you can find in . Whether your fantasy league is head-to-head, rotisserie, PPR or IDP, this resource has all the split stats and in-depth insight to help you take the first step towards winning a fantasy football championship.

 

Early 2016 Fantasy Football Top 200

 

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Early 2016 Fantasy Football Top 200 Rankings
Post date: Monday, June 27, 2016 - 11:00
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Most head coaches have a preferred side of the ball — usually the side they worked on while making their name — and their strategies tend to lean on that unit. There are countless defensive coaches who never seem to be able to field great offenses, and then there are the offensive coaches whose teams always seem to have to win shootouts because their defenses are weak.

 

The exceptions to this rule often follow a pattern, such as the aggressive defensive coach who always has an equally aggressive offense like Bob Stoops, or the tough-minded offensive coach who’s always fielding a strong defense, like Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

 

In his first year at Michigan, Harbaugh was lucky to inherit a loaded defensive roster and a brilliant defensive line coach in Greg Mattison. Harbaugh initially brought in D.J. Durkin from Florida to install a defensive scheme from the Saban/Muschamp school, and they found immediate success, even shutting out three consecutive opponents.

 

Durkin moved on — he’s now the head coach at Maryland — so Harbaugh needed to replace him with someone who could make the most of a fantastic defense loaded with experienced upperclassmen. He chose Don Brown from Boston College, fresh off a year in which his defense finished first nationally in total defense.

 

Not only did Harbaugh make a fantastic hire by bringing Brown aboard, but he also landed a coach whose preferred style perfectly matches the Michigan roster.

 

This feature and more on Michigan are available in the .

 

 

Brown’s defense at Boston College was defined primarily by its aggressive secondary combined with the defensive line’s sound, physical play. Up front, the Eagles were built around nose tackle Connor Wujciak and defensive tackle Truman Gutapfel, two fighters who excelled in the run game, holding their ground against double teams, and in the pass rush, executing stunts as a part of the multiple Eagle blitz package.

 

Like Durkin, Brown’s style of defense is a hybrid between the 4-3 and the 3-4, with the nose tackle, defensive tackle and strong-side end all responsible for plugging interior gaps and occupying blockers to allow the linebackers to make plays.

 

Brown has a variety of fronts in his defense, but they all revolve around the play of the interior line, while pressure tends to come from the pressure package rather than a pure, four-man pass rush.

 

The Brown blitz package is a very aggressive and multiple collection of man and zone blitzes. It includes pressures that bring four or five rushers backed by Cover-2 from the secondary as well as six-man blitzes that drop five defenders into coverage — a la Michigan State.

 

This was made possible by the brilliant play of the Boston College secondary, a collection of hand-picked recruits whom Brown fashioned into an aggressive group that could play man coverage at every position. You could call Brown’s approach to building the secondary a “four-corners” philosophy, and indeed both of the Eagles’ starting safeties in 2015 were converted cornerbacks.

 

While the Brown playbook was fairly extensive, for the CBs a great deal of it consisted of playing tight man coverage and pressing opposing receivers, either in pattern-matching Cover-3 schemes or in Cover-2 change-ups. The safeties, meanwhile, carried different assignments such as man coverage, deep half-field zone, or dropping into the deep middle.

 

Because they were effective in man coverage with a pair of athletic and versatile safeties, BC could execute Brown’s vast array of blitzes without fear of getting burned in the passing game.

 

 

The two key ingredients that made Boston College’s defense so effective — brilliant interior line play and an excellent coverage secondary — were also true for Michigan in 2015 and will likely be true in 2016 as well. If you were describing the ideal roster to suit Brown’s scheme, you would start with those interior linemen and stress the importance of having sturdy yet mobile players up front who could hold the point of attack but were good with their hands and capable of getting involved in the pass rush. It just so happens that Michigan is returning its top five interior linemen, including star nose tackle Ryan Glasgow, tackle/end Chris Wormley and potential breakout end Taco Charlton.

 

You’d also want a secondary with good press corners and a pair of rangy, athletic safeties, which again perfectly describes the Michigan roster. Last year, the Wolverines spent a lot of time playing nickel and dime packages in which cornerback Jourdan Lewis would shadow the quickest receiver while Delano Hill or Jeremy Clark would often shadow the bigger receivers. Press-man coverage was a big part of the game plan every week, and everyone was cross-trained to allow the Wolverines to match up individually with opposing lineups.

 

Under Brown, Lewis may be more likely to stay outside at corner rather than tracking receivers inside to the slot, but the Wolverines’ ability to play tight man coverage across the board will be extensively utilized.

 

The most exciting question for Michigan might be how Jabrill Peppers —  perhaps the best athlete on a team filled with great athletes — is unleashed in this scheme. The plan is to deploy him as the Sam linebacker, a position that accounted for 17.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks last year at Boston College (Matt Milano). Since Brown protects his linebackers with his DL, Peppers’ lack of size shouldn’t hold him back.

 

Indeed, because Peppers is such a versatile athlete — equally comfortable playing on the edge as he is in man coverage or zone — his deployment at the Sam position may prove devastating for opponents. He’ll align around the box in this position but it’ll be hard to for opponents to discern where he’ll actually end up after the snap.

 

 

Here’s an example of how that could play out against one of Ohio State’s favorite formations (diagram 1). If you’re an Ohio State QB trying to keep tabs on Peppers (the S in this diagram), there’s a wide range of possibilities to account for.

 

Perhaps the most likely is that he’ll be an extra defender in the box keying the TE, helping the Wolverines control the edge and outnumber the run game (diagram 2). If that’s the case, the Buckeyes will find the run game to be tough sledding since Peppers is faster than Ohio State’s own fearsome offensive skill players, and his presence as an extra defender allows the linebackers to focus on plugging holes inside.

 

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If the offense should audible to a passing play? Now they have to worry about the wide variety of blitzes and coverages they could be facing, all of which are made more dangerous by Peppers’ presence. In addition to being in position to blitz, Peppers could also slide out late and replace the corner, allowing the DB to run free off the boundary in one of Brown’s Cover-2 blitzes (diagram 3).

 

Peppers can play some man coverage, especially in these sorts of Cover-2 trap blitzes that Brown uses regularly, and he could also drop into deep zone and allow the Wolverines to roll the safeties over to the field to shore up what appears to be a soft spot with a max coverage (diagram 4).

 

These examples represent just a fraction of the possibilities that opponents will have to consider, and we haven’t even mentioned the many scenarios in which Peppers will be blitzing.

 

Brown is inheriting a secondary that can match up and allow him to bring disguise and cause disruption, and he’s taking over a defensive line that can excel at plugging the interior and protecting the linebackers. He’s planning to supplement both with creative uses of Peppers, one of the Big Ten’s best players. The results should satisfy the hard-nosed Jim Harbaugh and provide plenty of excitement for Michigan fans.

 

– By , SB Nation

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Why Jim Harbaugh, Jabrill Peppers and Don Brown are a Perfect Match for Michigan
Post date: Monday, June 27, 2016 - 09:30
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Deshaun Watson’s national championship game performance was the kind of night that childhood dreams are made of — the rising junior threw four touchdowns and had 478 yards of total offense — except for the final minutes.

 

It’s possible that casual fans hadn’t watched Watson lead a quietly elite Tigers program through an undefeated regular season. In marquee regular-season wins over Notre Dame and Florida State, the Tigers offense wasn’t quite as explosive; but after the national championship game, Watson was a household name. That’s what slicing up an Alabama defense does.

 

Now the Clemson quarterback enters 2016 as a Heisman favorite on the NFL’s radar, leading a team that was so painfully close to beating back the Alabama dynasty. The first task for one of college football’s brightest talents: Take all the good of 2015, break it down, learn from it and then leave it in the past.

 

This article and more can be found in the .

 

 

Did you feel like there was any kind of hangover after the title game? What’s it been like to get back to work?

 

I’m doing really well. School is going good and the off-field training has been, too. It feels good to get back and make it about the work on the field. We had some time off right after [the national title game] to refresh and reflect on the journey, and since then it’s been focusing on what we can accomplish in 2016.

 

Have you watched the title game, and if so, how many times?

 

I’ve watched it maybe about six or seven times. I’ve watched it to correct myself, to look at my mistakes, and honestly I’ve just watched it to watch it. That game is behind us now, but it was still a great experience. There are thousands and thousands of athletes who want to play in that game, so why not watch it? Sit back and enjoy it, even though it didn’t turn out the way we wanted.

 

What are you looking for when you watch one of your games repeatedly? What are you picking up on?

 

It depends. Every time you find something different. There’s usually something you didn’t see the last time — decision-making, technique, how I read a defense and seeing what I didn’t get to see on the field. Probably the biggest things are looking at my decision-making and my footwork. I’m looking for things I can improve.

 

At this point in your career, who do you think is the best defensive player you’ve faced?

 

That’s hard. I would probably say [former Florida State defensive back] Jalen Ramsey if you’re talking about the opposing team. If you’re including our team I’d probably say Shaq Lawson, Stephone Anthony or Mackensie Alexander.

 

Clemson has had a ton of defensive talent head to the NFL. Your scrimmages must be pretty intense.

 

Absolutely. We’ve had Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett. Clemson has been very talented on the defensive side, which helps me as a quarterback.

 

 

What’s your favorite stadium to play at when you’re on the road? Have you had one favorite experience as the visiting team?

 

Florida State is a really great environment to play in, especially when it’s Clemson and Florida State against each other. The place I would want to go to and play at that I haven’t … LSU, Oregon, maybe the Rose Bowl or at USC. I could go on and on, but those are the big ones.

 

Do you think you could be a two-sport athlete at Clemson if you had to?

 

I think so. I could play basketball. I had an opportunity to play here at Clemson and had some other offers when I was being recruited, but I really wanted to focus on football. I played shooting guard in high school.

 

Who is your favorite pro athlete right now, and growing up?

 

It’s always been LeBron James. Even when I was growing up through today. It’s the way he prepares for games and the way he performs, but also the way he takes criticism. It’s everything about how he handles himself. He’s someone I loved to watch and will watch whenever I can.

 

When you aren’t playing the game, do you consider yourself a college football fan?

 

I love college football, going back to when I was a little kid. I just love the different teams around the country, watching how they play and prepare, and not so much to compare them to us but just to see how the game is different in different environments.

 

Are there non-Clemson players you tune in to watch?

 

I used to love to watch [Trevone] Boykin at TCU. But right now I’d say Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey. Those are the guys at the top of my list right now.

 

What was it like to be recruited by (former offensive coordinator) Chad Morris and watch him leave for a head coaching job (at SMU)? What’s your advice to kids being recruited?

 

In high school I never had a big change. Honestly, it’s probably the biggest change of my career. I didn’t have one going all the way back to middle school and pee wee. When you’re being recruited you really need to trust your heart. Focus on what you’re looking for in a school. It’s a business. For you it’s life changing — it’s where you’ll be for three or four or five years. You have to have a balance between the place and the coaches. You love football, but you’ll only be playing there six or seven days a year. You have to be comfortable there all those other hundreds of days.

 

When did you know Clemson would be special last season?

 

Probably all the way back in the summer, when we’d get together off the field and compete. Running drills, player-led meetings, activities, all that. Then heading into fall camp we were already working hard. We knew.

Teaser:
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson revisits loss to Alabama, talks LeBron James
Post date: Friday, June 24, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated, News, Magazines
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-qb-baker-mayfield-talks-revenge-texas-missing-baseball-and-more
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Baker Mayfield didn’t win the Heisman Trophy in 2015. He didn’t even get invited to New York for the festivities.

 

He did win the Burlsworth Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s top player who began his career as a walk-on.

 

OK, so that’s a bit obscure. Mayfield, however, is anything but obscure. Oklahoma’s flashy quarterback returned to the field a year ago after sitting out 2014 as a transfer from Texas Tech and led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.

 

Mayfield is back again, ready to lead a Sooner charge and perhaps even set himself up to strike a pose …

 

This story and more is available in the .

 

 

Could you score on Buddy Hield in a basketball game of one-on-one?

 

Absolutely not. Despite my athleticism, put me on a basketball court and it’ll all disappear. No, not against the best player in the country.

 

Could you play another college sport?

 

Baseball. I really am missing baseball. Going to the games and watching (former OU football player) Cody Thomas play makes me miss it. In high school, I was the only junior to start on the field for our baseball team. The spot that was open was first base and I wound up playing first base for the first time in my life. Then my senior year, I kind of played anywhere on the infield where they needed me, mostly at third, although I mixed it up a little bit. I was actually going to play when I was at Texas Tech. I had talked to coach Tim Tadlock; he had seen me play in high school and was all for it. I was set on doing it, but obviously I wasn’t there for the spring and things changed. And football kind of became the primary sport when I got here.

 

Could you play another position in football?

 

I could put on weight and go try and play linebacker. Or I could lose weight and try and play inside receiver. I think I could find a spot.

 

What was your favorite moment from last season?

 

There were a couple good moments. But winning the Big 12 championship against Oklahoma State was a good one. We really just had fun. Also, the Kansas State win. It was kind of the turning moment in our season, and we all enjoyed it. There were times when we were playing well. But when everybody was having fun at the same time would be my favorites.

 

What about the Kansas State game made it a turning point, and what did it do for you guys moving forward?

 

We realized what we were capable of. If we’d just go out and execute our job, nobody could hang with us. And that became our mindset. We realized, ‘Well, if we’re going to do this thing, we need to grind every week at a time and we’ll get to where we need to be.’ And that became our goal.

 

 

When you transfer into a program, what’s that like, and is there a sense that you have to go earn the other players’ trust?

 

Oh yeah, there definitely is. There’s a sense, being the new guy. It was a little different for me, since I had played a good amount the season before I came to Oklahoma. And some of the defensive guys had seen my film, just because of the scouting they did against Texas Tech. But other than that, I had to come in and earn every part of the respect I needed on the offensive side of the ball. And then, I knew that the defense would have to deal with me on scout team, so I didn’t worry too much about that. It was just about practicing with the offense.

 

How difficult was it knowing you could play at this level, yet having to wait to show it?

 

It’s pretty disappointing. It’s frustrating, especially since I’d played my first year, then had to sit out after that. And knowing that I had done it before kind of made it more frustrating, having to redshirt a year after you’ve played.

 

What’s the most valuable thing the team learned on the way through last season?

 

Never to be satisfied. I think when we figured out that we were never good enough or we hadn’t figured everything out, that was when we always learned to work for a win one week at a time and just focus on that goal.

 

Have you watched the Orange Bowl?

 

Yes, I have.

 

What’s it like to watch a game like that, one that ends your season and doesn’t go the way you want?

 

It’s frustrating watching those types of games, knowing they did nothing to stop us. We did everything. We left a lot on the field, made a bunch of mistakes. We had a penalty in the first half to stop a drive. I turned the ball over twice, which was very unlike me. And I did it in a big game, which I can’t do. I need to take care of the ball. And it’s frustrating to see that if we would have played the way we should have, we would have won. But the better team won that day. And they went on to the national championship.

 

Which Big 12 team would you enjoy beating the most next season?

 

Texas. After last year, not playing very well against them, we need to go out and play a lot better.

 

Anything you feel like you have to do better in 2016?

 

I need to keep taking care of the ball. And just pushing my guys every week to never be satisfied and to work for it each week, and to realize if we really want it, that’s how it has to be.

 

You guys are replacing a couple of key guys on the offensive line. Do you have a role in helping bring those guys along?

 

I do, just showing what’s to be expected around here. We have three guys who started the whole season coming back. I mean, we’re losing key leadership up front, losing Nila (Kasitati) and Ty (Darlington). It’s never ideal. Those guys were around here and played for a long time. But those other three guys who are coming back, they have full seasons of experience under their belt. They have to come into their own, and we expect them to be huge leaders for our offense, so they have to grow up quickly.

 

As a leader yourself, how do you express that?

 

There’s different types of leaders. There are vocal, which I’d say I am. There’s non-vocal types of leaders, like Samaje (Perine). And we’re both in that stage of our careers where we’re the older guys around the program. And Samaje, he just goes about his business and everybody watches what he does. He doesn’t have to say anything, he’s always doing the right thing. And people watching, they can learn from that. I’m a type where I can get on guys. If they’re not doing it right, I’ll tell them to pick it up. If they’re doing well, congratulate them and tell them to keep doing well, it’s not going unnoticed. Things like that go a long way.

 

You’ve been described as a gunslinger. Is that a tag a Texas guy can really embrace?

 

I think so. I enjoy it. Coming from an offense like this, if you aren’t described as a gunslinger, something’s wrong, with as many times as we throw it. I’ll take it.

 

You play with a lot of flair. Is that a reflection of how much fun you’re having on the field?

 

It definitely is. I truly have a love for the game. It’s a lot better than going to workouts or having to go through practice. Every Saturday that we get an opportunity to go out there and play, I enjoy. And I try to express that every time I can.

 

Who’s the best defensive player you’ve faced?

 

I’d have to say a couple of them from our team last year, between Eric Striker and Charles Tapper. My freshman year, when I was at Texas Tech, I played against Jason Verrett, the TCU corner who’s with the San Diego Chargers right now. He was probably one of the best defensive backs I’ve ever played against. He never let up. It didn’t matter who was over there, who he was covering, he was locking them down. And he’d bring the pop when he was hitting people.

 

What stadium, other than your own, have you enjoyed playing in the most?

 

You can’t beat the Cotton Bowl. There’s nothing like that. But last year when we went to play Tennessee in Neyland Stadium, that was probably the best game experience I’ve had and probably will ever have. That’s a different type of loud. I can’t even describe it. It was unbelievable.

 

What’s your take on the Bedlam rivalry?

 

It’s something different. Being from Texas, I always thought the OU-Texas rivalry was the bigger one. Then when I got up here, I realized how much of a hatred the two schools have for each other. It’s different for me, because I wasn’t born into that. But I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing all the writing when Bedlam week comes along. I have a lot of fun with it.

 

The Sooners were a little bit of a surprise last year. Will being the target affect the team’s approach this season?

 

It needs to. When you go 8–5 one year, it’s easy to be very motivated when people say you’re not very good, or that you’re not a part of the national championship picture. Now it’s a sense of people congratulating you and saying you should be there. You can’t be entitled or get complacent in thinking that you’re just going to show up and be in the final four at the end of the year. You’re going to have to work for it. It’s kind of the mentality we had after the Kansas State win. It has to be one week at a time and we’re never good enough.

 

How cool was it that the Sooners were the first team to make the Final Four in both football and basketball?

 

I think it’s pretty sweet, especially in the same year. It’s been a pretty special athletic year around here. Getting to watch those guys on the court was so fun.

 

You’ve been frequently seen dancing on videos. How good of a dancer are you?

 

Mediocre, at best. It gets a little blown out of proportion. I’m not bad, but it gets blown out of proportion. It’s all a little much.

 

What coach, other than Bob Stoops, could you see yourself playing for?

I’ve always been a fan of Mike Leach. When he was recruiting me to Washington State when I was in high school, he was just a funny guy. He had the kind of carefree attitude that it didn’t matter what anybody told him, he was just going to go out and do his job. I always kind of related to that. I could see myself playing for him.

 

A good coach for a gunslinger to play for, right?

 

Yeah, definitely.

Teaser:
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield talks revenge on Texas, missing baseball and more
Post date: Thursday, June 23, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/10-favorite-sports-dads-steph-curry-ken-griffey-jr-deion-sanders-wilfork
Body:

Dads are all special, it would be impossible to rank them.

 

We love sports dads because no matter what happens, they will always keep their athletic sons and daughters in check. They never let their heads get too big or caught up in all the fame and fortune. It's an extremely tough job but they handle it with no problem. Here's some of our favorite dads in sports. 

 

Dell and Steph Curry - Steph Curry is a guard for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association and the reigning two-time league MVP. One of the best father-daughter moments in sports history came in a post game interview in the 2015 Western Conference Finals when Steph’s daughter, Riley Curry, sat in his lap throughout the interview and stole the show. Since then, Riley Curry has blown up around the Internet and you can find a multitude of her videos on YouTube. We think it’s safe to say that though Riley has stole the hearts of people throughout the country, but Steph and Riley have an amazing connection that we love to. Dell on the other hand retired as the Charlotte Hornets' all-time leader in points (9,839) and three-point field goals made (929). You could say Steph is well on his way to doing the same for the Warriors. 

 

 

Buddy Ryan (Bob and Rex Ryan's dad) - Buddy Ryan was a former defensive coordinator and head coach in the National Football League and the dad of current NFL coordinator Rob Ryan and head coach Rex Ryan.  Buddy built his reputation as a defensive specialist and is credited with creating and implementing the 46 defense, which the Chicago Bears used in the 1980s to dominate opposing offenses.

 

Son Rex Ryan became a defensive specialist in the NFL as well serving as an assistant for 22 years before becoming a head coach in 2009. Each of Rex’s teams have been known for the stingy defenses. Rob’s coaching career has been a little shakier as he’s served as a defensive coordinator on a multitude of teams. His best season came in 2001 as the linebackers coach of the New England Patriots in which they had the best scoring defense in franchise history with only allowing 17 points per game.

 

Seems like Buddy’s defensive prowess has rubbed off on his sons. 

 

Vince Wolfork (D'Aundre Wilfork's dad) - Vince Wilfork is the nose tackle for the Houston Texans in the National Football League.  He’s considered one of the premier defensive linemen in the league as he’s a 5 time pro bowler and 4 time all pro team selection.  He and his wife, Bianca Wilfork, have two sons and one daughter. Their first son, D’Aundre Wilfork, is Vince’s stepson but Vince has taken care of him like one of his own. If you haven’t watched the video of NFL players’ children talking about their dad’s . Wilfork has had an amazing football career but listening to his kids talk about him as a dad seemed like a bigger moment for him. 

 

Archie Manning (Peyton and Eli Manning's dad) - Archie Manning was a quarterback in the National Football League for 16 years namely for the New Orleans Saints. In 1972, Archie led the league in pass attempts and completions in addition to leading the National Football Conference in passing yards. He was named NFC player of the year in 1978 and was selected for two pro bowls.
 

Almost more notably, Archie is the father of two premier NFL quarterbacks, Peyton and Eli Manning. Peyton  was the quarterback of the Denver Broncos after spending 13 years with the Indianapolis colts. He was selected to the pro bowl 14 times, the all pro team 10 times, the NFL MVP 5 times and led the league in numerous passing categories throughout his career. Peyton wrote a book with Archie called Manning: A Father, His Sons, and a Football Legacy. Peyton has often said that family is one of the most important things. Eli Manning has also had a very successful NFL Career as the quarterback for the New York Giants. Eli is a four time pro bowler as well as the record holder for numerous passing categories for the New York Giants. In 2009, Peyton, Eli, and Archie co-authored a book called Family Huddle which was a simple picture book showing how the Manning brothers played football.
 

Throughout their lives, family has seemed of the utmost importance through their books and the founding of Manning Passing Academy and there is no doubt Archie helped instill these values in them. 

 

Howie Long (Chris and Kyle Long's dad) - Previously a star defensive end in the NFL, Howie Long has come a long way since then. He did a few movies here and there, some commercials as well but now he currently is a studio analyst for Fox Sports Networks' NFL coverage. Long has three sons and two of the three are currently playing on Sundays. Chris plays defensive end for the New England Patriots and Kyle straps up on the offensive line for the Chicago Bears.  

 

Clay Matthews Jr. (Casey and Clay Matthews' III dad) - The Matthews family is nothing short of talented. They have an incredible history of NFL caliber players at all kind of positions. Clay Matthews Jr. had a storied NFL career playing linebacker for the Browns and Falcons. He produced two All-Pac 10 linebackers at USC and Oregon, and both made it to the NFL with Clay Matthews III being drafted by the Green Bay Packers and Casey being selecting by the Philadelphia Eagles. 

 

Cecil Fielder (Prince Fielder's dad) - The combination of the two, could easily be the best father and son power hitters of all-time. Cecil in 1990 became the first player to reach the 50-home run mark since George Foster hit 52 for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977. Similarly, Prince hit 50 home runs himself back in 2007. 

 

 

Deion Sanders (Deion Sanders' Jr. dad) - Everyone loves Prime Time right? Arguably the best NFL corner of all-time, Deion has been the man since day one. After having a Hall of Fame career for the 49ers and Cowboys, he has taken more of a dad role with his son Deion Sanders Jr. Junior currently plays defensive back for the SMU Mustangs and this tweet sums up the mentor role quite nicely. 

 

 

Ken Griffey Jr. (Trey Griffey's dad) - The Kid had the most natural swing that the majors has ever seen. He was a great athlete and could even track down any ball in the gap. His son Trey didn’t follow his father’s footsteps on the diamond. Instead he plays on the gridiron for the Arizona Wildcats with hauling in passes at wide receiver. The best part about the situation is that his dad shoots his games on the field. Junior has found a new hobby and taking photos of his beloved son is a great way to put the icing on the cake for our top 10 list. Happy Father’s Day.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 17, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-top-50
Body:

There’s no denying the is home to the best football players in the world. But when it comes to the best of the best, who is king of the gridiron? Quarterback may be the glamor position of the league, but does it also lay claim to the league’s top player?


To answer that question, Athlon Sports teamed up with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services to not only rank NFL players by position for our , but also to come up with an overall top 50 list. Not surprisingly, quarterbacks dominate the top five, as Cam Newton, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have combined to win five NFL MVP awards while starting eight Super Bowls.

 

While all that hardware and those multiple Super Sunday appearances are impressive, it’s not enough to dethrone the No. 1 player on our list. Last season, J.J. Watt joined Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor as the only players in history to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times. Watt has claimed the honor in three of the past four seasons and is without question not only the top defender in the league currently; he’s the top player period.

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I  I I I

 

NFL’s Top 50 Players for 2016

 

1. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston

Collected his third NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in four years after leading all defensive linemen in sacks (17.5), quarterback hits (50), tackles for a loss (29) and passes defended (eight).

 

2. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina

Collected 48 of 50 votes to win the NFL’s MVP award for the 2015 season. The athletic competitor passed for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10 more scores.

 

3. Tom Brady, QB, New England

The future NFL Hall of Famer and 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback responded in the face of adversity with 4,770 yards passing and 36 touchdowns. He was intercepted only seven times. Will serve a four game suspension to start the 2016 season.

 

4. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay

Had a blip on the career radar in 2015 after losing prime target Jordy Nelson. His 60.7 completion percentage was the lowest in his eight years as a starter.

 

5. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh

Set single-season franchise records in receptions (136), yards (1,834), 100-yard receiving games (nine) and receiving yards per game (114.6). Set a franchise record with at least 110 catches three straight years.

 

6. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England

The unanimous first-team All-Pro had 72 catches for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Tom Brady and Gronk have connected on 64 career touchdown passes, most by any pass-catch duo in team history.

 

7. Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland

The first player named to the AP All-Pro first team at two different positions in the same season, linebacker and defensive end. Only J.J. Watt tallied more sacks than the versatile and explosive playmaker.

 

8. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta

Earned his second straight Pro Bowl selection after leading the NFL with 1,871 yards and tying Antonio Brown with 136 receptions. He scored eight times.

 

9. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh

He missed the second half of the 2015 season with an MCL tear, but before the injury, the Pro Bowl-caliber back was averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 92.7 yards per game.

 

10. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina

The instinctive warhorse recorded 118 tackles in the regular season and added 29 more in the postseason.

 

11. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle 

Was voted second-team All-Pro in 2015. He’s smart, quick and reactive. Athletic and competitive in his play.

 

12. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota

The workhorse led the NFL with 1,485 yards with over 20 carries per game. He scored 11 times and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

 

13. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh

With Antonio Brown and a healthy Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers can score on anyone. Big Ben holds numerous career franchise passing records.

 

14. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland

A nine-time Pro Bowl player and a six time first-team All-Pro in his nine years in the NFL. A total package of size, flexibility and explosiveness.

 

15. Von Miller, OLB, Denver

The Super Bowl MVP has been franchised by the Broncos as they work on a new long-term contract. In five years, Miller has gotten to the quarterback 60 times and has forced 16 fumbles.

 

16. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona

A big and physical corner who was voted to his fifth straight Pro Bowl. The durable athlete has not missed a start since being drafted in 2011.

 

17. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle 

Since entering the NFL, Thomas has been one of the most dominant safeties in the league and leader of the Legion of Boom. An intense, focused and physical player.

 

18. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans

The 15-year veteran averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and had 10 games of over 300 yards passing. It was the fifth time in his career he has done so.

 

19. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati

Is the first Bengal to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons. Ranked eighth in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,297, averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

 

20. Josh Norman, CB, Washington

The first-team All-Pro corner signed with the Redskins after Carolina released him from the franchise tag. The competitive corner totaled 56 tackles and defended 19 passes.

 

21. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas

Was the first offensive lineman Jerry Jones selected in the first round since he purchased the Cowboys in 1989. The strong, athletic knee bender is the prototype for future NFL tackles.

 

22. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle 

Wilson has won 46 regular season games, more than any quarterback in his first four years in NFL history.

 

23. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles

The Pro Bowler was second among all interior defenders with 69 tackles, including 11 sacks. Has been a force since Day 1 in the league.

 

24. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets

Registered 12 sacks and defended seven passes in 2015 en route to his first Pro Bowl berth.

 

25. Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City

May miss part of the 2016 season rehabbing his knee from February surgery. He exploded with 22 sacks in 2014 after collecting 26.5 sacks in his previous three years in the league.

 

26. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston

Has started 48 straight games since being drafted in 2013, recording 239 receptions, 3,533 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is averaging 14.8 yards per reception over his career. Earned first Pro Bowl berth in 2015.

 

27. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego

Rivers is the franchise leader in career completion percentage and passer rating. He completed a career-high 437 passes in 2015.

 

28. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

Backed up his record0setting rookie campaign with a more impressive second year. He had 96 receptions, 1,450 yards (15.1 per catch) and 13 touchdowns.

 

29. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit

The relentless and talented ascending defender racked up 14.5 sacks on his way to his first Pro Bowl berth in 2015. He earned second-team All-Pro honors.

 

30. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati

The quick-twitch and high-motor Atkins returned to form last season. Had 11 sacks, tying for the most in the league among interior linemen.

 

31. Jamie Collins, OLB, New England

Recorded eight tackles and sacked Peyton Manning twice in the AFC Championship Game at Denver. Forced five fumbles in 2015.

 

32. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina

Worked and pushed his way to 55 tackles and 11 sacks last fall. The power player delivers an explosive jolt to the blocker with his hands.

 

33. Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay

The dynamic Pro Bowl pass rusher added to his overall game by playing inside linebacker the past year-and-a-half and made all the defensive calls. He has 67.5 sacks in six years.

 

34. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver

Played in 79 regular-season games and started 63 times in his first five season with the Broncos. He had 12 interceptions in that span. Second-team All-Pro in 2015.

 

35. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina

Dependable and consistent, Olsen caught 77 passes for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. He has played in 142 consecutive games.

 

36. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Miami

After signing a huge contract in 2015, Suh had a large target on his back, but fought his way through double- and triple-teams to register 61 tackles and six sacks.

 

37. Mike Daniels, DE, Green Bay

Is one of the Packers’ featured interior rushers in the team’s nickel sub packages. The short but explosive leverage defender consistently pressures opponents’ quarterbacks.

 

38. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City

Has spent his entire 10-year career with the Chiefs, recording 86 sacks and forcing 32 fumbles. Started out as a 4-3 defensive end before moving to outside linebacker.

 

39. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay

Re-signed with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Only Peterson rushed for than his 1,402 yards in 2015.

 

40. Malcolm Jenkins, S, Philadelphia

A playmaker who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2015. He posted career and team highs with 109 tackles, three forced fumbles and 10 passes defended.

 

41. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City

The explosive back has rushed for 7,220 yards and caught 283 passes heading into the 2016 season. Suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second time in his career in ‘15.

 

42. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver

Joined Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt and Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history with four consecutive years of at least 90 catches and 1,300 receiving yards.

 

43. Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona

The angular but explosive edge defender has consistently been one of the top defensive linemen in passes defended over the past five years.

 

44. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati

Led the Bengals with a career-best 13.5 sacks. The long-armed defender also earned a Special Teams’ Player of the Week award by blocking a key field-goal attempt versus the 49ers.

 

45. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia

Will make a position scheme move from a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 tackle. Regardless of the alignment, Cox closes off running lanes as an impact hitter and pressures the quarterback.

 

46.  Eric Berry, S, Kansas City

Has been elected to four Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro pick in 2015 in his first year back after overcoming cancer.

 

47. Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City

The 11-year veteran earned his fourth Pro Bowl bid by registering 116 tackles this past season. Has totaled 990 tackles and defended 68 passes over his

career.

 

48. Delvin Breaux, CB, New Orleans

Suffered a serious neck injury and did not play football in college. Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Saints and started all 16 games in 2015. One of league’s emerging stars.

 

49. NaVorro Bowman, ILB, San Francisco

Led the NFL in tackles during the 2015 season with 154 — a remarkable total after sitting out 2014 rehabbing from a severe knee injury.

 

50. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angles

Voted the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, Gurley exploded on the field with 146 yards on 19 carries during the fourth week of the season and hasn’t looked back.

Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Top 50
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-defensive-backs
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With  offenses tilting more and more towards throwing the ball rather than running it that puts even more emphasis on the strength of a team’s secondary. Look no further than the success of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom,” the Seahawks’ vaunted secondary that helped Pete Carroll’s team play in back-to-back Super Bowls.

 

In fact, Seattle boasts the top cornerback and safety in the NFL, according to Athlon Sports' defensive back rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the . Defending Super Bowl champion Denver also is well represented with both starting cornerbacks (Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib) and safety T.J. Ward in the top 10.

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I

 

2016 NFL Cornerback Rankings

 

1. Richard Sherman, Seattle

Was voted second-team All-Pro in 2015. He’s smart, quick and reactive. Athletic and competitive in his play.

 

2. Patrick Peterson, Arizona

A big and physical corner who was voted to his fifth straight Pro Bowl. The durable athlete has not missed a start since being drafted in 2011.

 

3. Josh Norman, Washington

The first-team All-Pro corner signed with the Redskins after Carolina released him from the franchise tag. The competitive corner totaled 56 tackles and defended 19 passes.

 

4. Chris Harris Jr., Denver

Played in 79 regular-season games and started 63 times in his first five season with the Broncos. He had 12 interceptions in that span. Second-team All-Pro in 2015.

 

5. Delvin Breaux, New Orleans

Suffered a serious neck injury and did not play football in college. Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Saints and started all 16 games in 2015. One of league’s emerging stars.

 

6. Jason Verrett, San Diego     

The undersized but ultra-competitive corner held All-Pro Antonio Brown to three catches and 45 yards in their head-to-head matchup. A Pro Bowl defender.

 

7. Desmond Trufant, Atlanta

Has not missed a start in his three years with the Falcons. He has 173 tackles and six interceptions in his career.

 

8. Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo

The smooth and athletic corner has 59 passes defended over four years. He totaled 36 tackles in 12 games last season.

 

9. Aqib Talib, Denver

Posted the most interceptions (30) in the NFL among active cornerbacks since he entered the league in 2008. One of three corners selected to the Pro Bowl the last three seasons.

 

10. Vontae Davis, Indianapolis

Defended 16 passes in 2015 and picked off four passes in an injury-plagued year. He worked through foot, hamstring and ankle injuries, as well as a concussion.

 

11. Sean Smith, Oakland

12. David Amerson, Oakland

13. Marcus Peters, Kansas City

14. Darrelle Revis, New York Jets 

15. Malcolm Butler, New England

16. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants

17. Darius Slay, Detroit

18. Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles

19. Adam Jones, Cincinnati

20. Ronald Darby, Buffalo

21. Logan Ryan, New England
22. Joe Haden, Cleveland

23. Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants

24. Sam Shields, Green Bay

25. Bashaud Breeland, Washington

26. Johnathan Joseph, Houston

27. Casey Hayward, San Diego

28. Tramaine Brock, San Francisco

29. Robert Alford, Atlanta

30. Kyle Fuller, Chicago

 

2016 NFL Safety Rankings

 

1. Earl Thomas, Seattle

Since entering the NFL, Thomas has been one of the most dominant safeties in the league and leader of the Legion of Boom. An intense, focused and physical player.

 

2. Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia

A playmaker who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2015. He posted career and team highs with 109 tackles, three forced fumbles and 10 passes defended.

 

3. Eric Berry, Kansas City

Has been elected to four Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro pick in 2015 in his first year back after overcoming cancer.

 

4. Harrison Smith, Minnesota

Has returned a Viking-record four interceptions for touchdowns in his career. Totaled 66 tackles in 2015.

 

5. Reshad Jones, Miami

Is a big hitter who plays the ball well in the air. The run-support terror collected 135 tackles and defended 10 passes last fall.

 

6. Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona

Was named to the All-Pro first team in 2015. The quick-reacting safety had 11 tackles for a loss, a sack, forced fumble and an interception for a touchdown.

 

7. Morgan Burnett, Green Bay   

The active and athletic safety had 68 tackles and defended five passes in 11 games played. He has defended 32 passes in his Packer career.

 

8. Devin McCourty, New England

A five-time defensive captain for the Patriots who has excelled at both safety and cornerback. Has started every game he was active for in his six years in New England.

 

9. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay

Let his instincts and athletic ability do his talking in 2015 after learning the Packers’ complex defensive playbook.

 

10. T.J. Ward, Denver 

The two-time Pro Bowl selection has started all 81 career regular-season games and four postseason contests. He has 33 career passes defended.

 

11. Patrick Chung, New England

12. Kurt Coleman, Carolina

13. Reggie Nelson, Oakland

14. Rodney McLeod, Philadelphia 

15. Da’Norris Searcy, Tennessee

16. Marcus Gilchrist, New York Jets

17. Darian Stewart, Denver

18. Isa Abdul-Quddus, Miami

19. Michael Mitchell, Pittsburgh

20. Walter Thurmond, Philadelphia

21. George Iloka, Cincinnati

22. Tony Jefferson, Arizona

23. Eric Weddle, Baltimore

24. Kam Chancellor, Seattle

25. Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans

26. Donte Whitner, Free Agent

27. Adrian Amos, Chicago

28. Corey Graham, Buffalo

29. Glover Quin, Detroit

30. Byron Jones, Dallas

 
Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Defensive Backs
Post date: Friday, June 3, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-linebackers
Body:

While an defense may start up front with the linemen, the heart and soul of the unit is the linebackers. Not only are they responsible for making the bulk of the tackles, the most valuable linebackers are those that also can make plays in coverage.

 

Whether they are considered inside linebackers or outside, there are no lack of impact playmakers that make up Athlon Sports' rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the . In fact leading the way is a tackling machine who already has an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award on his resume and a pass-rushing specialist who was named the MVP of Super Bowl 50.

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I

 

2016 NFL Inside Linebacker Rankings

 

1. Luke Kuechly, Carolina

The instinctive warhorse recorded 118 tackles in the regular season and added 29 more in the postseason.

 

2. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City

The 11-year veteran earned his fourth Pro Bowl bid by registering 116 tackles this past season. Has totaled 990 tackles and defended 68 passes over his career.

 

3. NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco

Led the NFL in tackles during the 2015 season with 154 — a remarkable total after sitting out 2014 rehabbing from a severe knee injury.

 

4. Jerrell Freeman, Chicago

Signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason after ranking second on the Colts in tackles with 112.

 

5. Brandon Marshall, Denver

An instinctive player who plays with a good motor and hustle. A competitor who takes good angles in pursuit.

 

6. Danny Trevathan, Chicago

Earned his Super Bowl ring last year with the Broncos and signed as an unrestricted free agent along with Jerrell Freeman to bolster the linebacking corps.

 

7. Bobby Wagner, Seattle

Has collected 478 tackles in four years backing up the defensive front in Seattle. An impact hitter with great instincts.

 

8. Deone Bucannon, Arizona

An instinctive player who chases the ball and is physical at the point of attack. A rare combination of speed and power and the prototype for linebacker/safety hybrids of the future.

 

9. David Harris, New York Jets

The nine-year veteran is recognized as the defensive leader of the Jets and is a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine.

 

10. C.J. Mosley, Baltimore

Has collected 250 tackles during his first two years on the job. A playmaker with quick hands and feet. Also shows good route awareness.

 

11. Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati      

12. Stephen Tulloch, Detroit         

13. Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville

14. Avery Williamson, Tennessee          

15. D’Qwell Jackson, Indianapolis

16. Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh        

17. Eric Kendricks, Minnesota     

18. Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia   

19. Christian Jones, Chicago      

20. Brian Cushing, Houston

 

2016 NFL 3-4 Outside Linebacker Rankings

 

1. Von Miller, Denver

The Super Bowl MVP has been franchised by the Broncos as they work on a new long-term contract. In five years, Miller has gotten to the quarterback 60 times and has forced 16 fumbles.

 

2. Justin Houston, Kansas City

May miss part of the 2016 season rehabbing his knee from February surgery. He exploded with 22 sacks in 2014 after collecting 26.5 sacks in his previous three years in the league.

 

3. Jamie Collins, New England

Recorded eight tackles and sacked Peyton Manning twice in the AFC Championship Game at Denver. Forced five fumbles in 2015.

 

4. Clay Matthews, Green Bay

The dynamic Pro Bowl pass rusher added to his overall game by playing inside linebacker the past year-and-a-half and made all the defensive calls. He has 67.5 sacks in six years.

 

5. Tamba Hali, Kansas City

Has spent his entire 10-year career with the Chiefs, recording 86 sacks and forcing 32 fumbles. Started out as a 4-3 defensive end before moving to outside linebacker.

 

6. Whitney Mercilus, Houston

Took advantage of blockers’ attention to J.J. Watt and responded with 12 sacks. A relentless pass rusher with an explosive first step.

 

7. Melvin Ingram, San Diego

Overcame three previous years of injuries and ups and downs to break out with 10.5 sacks and 65 tackles. He also defended six passes and forced three fumbles.

 

8. Pernell McPhee, Chicago

Joined the Bears after four seasons with Baltimore as a rotate edge player with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Started 12 games in 2015 and collected 53 tackles and six sacks.

 

9. Jabaal Sheard, New England

Free-agent addition recorded eight sacks and forced four fumbles in his first season with the Patriots.

 

10. Chandler Jones, Arizona

Recorded 12.5 sacks among his 44 tackles last year with the Pats but was dealt to the Cardinals in the offseason.

 

11. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington  

12. Brian Orakpo, Tennessee     

13. Aaron Lynch, San Francisco  

14. Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore       

15. Trent Murphy, Washington     

16. Jeremiah Attaochu, San Diego

17. Markus Golden, Arizona         

18. Trent Cole, Indianapolis         

19. Erik Walden, Indianapolis      

20. Julius Peppers, Green Bay

 

2016 NFL 4-3 Outside Linebacker Rankings

 

1. Sean Lee, Dallas  

The quarterback of the Cowboys’ defense was drafted to make the checks and adjustments from the middle linebacker post, but he now mans one of the outside spots.

 

2. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay

The run-and-hit weak-side linebacker has collected 577 tackles in his four-year career, including 147 stops in 2015. He also defended 13 passes and forced two fumbles last season.

 

3. K.J. Wright, Seattle

The weak-side impact linebacker forced four fumbles to go along with his 116 total tackles. An instinctive downhill player with good lateral quickness.

 

4. Thomas Davis, Carolina

The first-team All-Pro selection was second on the Panthers in tackles in 2015 but moved into first place in franchise history with 883 career tackles.

 

5. Mark Barron, Los Angeles

Was in on 88 tackles in 2015 after making a move to hybrid linebacker. He was moved around to take advantage of matchups, and he impressed as a blitzer, playing coverage and filling gaps.

 

6. Anthony Barr, Minnesota

Barr made a bunch of highlight-reel plays in 2015 en route to his first Pro Bowl invitation.       

 

7. Malcolm Smith, Oakland

The former Super Bowl MVP for Seattle was everything the Raiders hoped for and more after signing as a free agent. He led the Silver and Black with 122 total tackles.

 

8. Telvin Smith, Jacksonville

Had a breakout year and finished second on the Jaguars with 128 tackles from his weak-side linebacker position. His 232 tackles are the most ever by a Jaguar player in his first two seasons.

 

9. Josh Bynes, Detroit

Responded with a big year for the Lions after the injury to DeAndre Levy. The versatile linebacker contributed in a variety of defensive packages.

 

10. Bruce Irvin, Oakland

Signed with the Raiders to reunite with Ken Norton Jr., Oakland’s defensive coordinator who was Irvin’s linebackers coach in Seattle.

 

11. Koa Misi, Miami

12. Manny Lawson, Buffalo          

13. Karlos Dansby, Cincinnati     

14. Jelani Jenkins, Miami 

15. Vincent Rey, Cincinnati           

16. Nigel Bradham, Philadelphia

17. Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay

18. Jonathan Casillas, New York Giants

19. Tahir Whitehead, Detroit        

20. Shaq Thompson, Carolina     

 
Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Linebackers
Post date: Friday, June 3, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-defensive-linemen
Body:

Quarterbacks may get most of the attention and the fame, but in the the old adage still holds true: defense wins championships. Denver proved this last season, riding the league's No. 1 defense all the way to Super Bowl 50. Once there, the Broncos' defense overwhelmed MVP Cam Newton and the rest of the Panthers' offense.

 

One of the big keys to Denver's defensive success was its relentless pressure on the quarterback, which started up front. To that end, here are Athlon Sports' defensive line rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the . It should come as no surprise that J.J. Watt is No. 1 among 3-4 defensive ends.

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I

 

2016 NFL 3-4 Defensive End Rankings

 

1. J.J. Watt, Houston

Collected his third NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in four years after leading all defensive linemen in sacks (17.5), quarterback hits (50), tackles for a loss (29) and passes defended (eight).

 

2. Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets       

Registered 12 sacks and defended seven passes in 2015 en route to his first Pro Bowl berth.

 

3. Mike Daniels, Green Bay

Is one of the Packers’ featured interior rushers in the team’s nickel sub packages. The short but explosive leverage defender consistently pressures opponents’ quarterbacks.

 

4. Calais Campbell, Arizona

The angular but explosive edge defender has consistently been one of the top defensive linemen in passes defended over the past five years.

 

5. Leonard Williams, New York Jets

Impressed during his rookie season by collecting 63 tackles and garnered consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He was tremendous against the run game and helped free up teammates to rush the passer.

 

6. Jurrell Casey, Tennessee

Is recognized among his peers as a high-effort competitor who has been consistent play-in and play-out. In 2015, he had a career-high 28 quarterback pressures and collected 54 tackles.

 

7. Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh

The defensive team captain has played in 80 consecutive games since being drafted in 2011. Has recorded 19.5 sacks in the past three seasons.

 

8. Stephon Tuitt, Pittsburgh

Registered 54 tackles, including 6.5 sacks, in 2015. The country strong edge defender can press the pocket as a pass rusher or can stack the line of scrimmage in the run game.

 

9. Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets           

An explosive player who consistently pushes the pocket and moves the guard back. Physical stuffing the run game. Uses his strong and quick hands to his advantage.

 

10. Chris Baker, Washington

Has come a long way from an undrafted free agent to a productive interior run stuffer who collected six sacks in 2015 as well as racking up 53 total stops.

 

11. Jaye Howard, Kansas City     

12. DaQuan Jones, Tennessee  

13. Kendall Langford, Indianapolis        

14. Quinton Dial, San Francisco 

15. Alan Branch, New England    

16. Akiem Hicks, Chicago

17. Allen Bailey, Kansas City       

18. Eddie Goldman, Chicago      

19. Desmond Bryant, Cleveland 

20. Timmy Jernigan, Baltimore   

 

2016 NFL 4-3 Defensive End Rankings


1. Khalil Mack, Oakland

The first player named to the AP All-Pro first team at two different positions in the same season, linebacker and defensive end. Only J.J. Watt tallied more sacks than the versatile and explosive playmaker.

 

2. Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit   

The relentless and talented ascending defender racked up 14.5 sacks on his way to his first Pro Bowl berth in 2015. He earned second-team All-Pro honors.

 

3. Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati        

Led the Bengals with a career-best 13.5 sacks. The long-armed defender also earned a Special Teams’ Player of the Week award by blocking a key field-goal attempt versus the 49ers.

 

4. Everson Griffen, Minnesota      

Has recorded 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons and earned his first Pro Bowl bid in 2015.

 

5. Michael Bennett, Seattle

Collected 10.5 sacks among his 44 total tackles in 2015. In the past four years, he has recorded 36 sacks.

 

6. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans          

For the second time in his Saints career, he posted at least 10 sacks. His productivity also landed him his second Pro Bowl invitation. He has started 79 of a possible 80 games.

 

7. Cliff Avril, Seattle

A consistent edge-pressure player for the Seahawks with long arms and an explosive first step. Had 47 tackles, including nine sacks, last season.

 

8. Olivier Vernon, New York Giants

Signed a lucrative contract with the Giants in the offseason. Had 7.5 sacks among his 61 total tackles last fall in his last season in Miami.

 

9. Connor Barwin, Philadelphia  

The total package — can rush the passer, set the edge of a defense on run plays or drop into coverage.

 

10. Brandon Graham, Philadelphia        

His seven forced fumbles over the last two regular seasons tied for third-most in the NFL. Set a career high with 51 tackles in 2015, including 6.5 sacks.

 

11. Robert Ayers, Tampa Bay      

12. Jerry Hughes, Buffalo

13. Derrick Shelby, Atlanta

14. Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas

15. William Hayes, Los Angeles 

16. Mario Edwards Jr., Oakland

17. William Gholston, Tampa Bay          

18. Jared Odrick, Jacksonville     

19. Brian Robison, Minnesota     

20. Charles Johnson, Carolina

 

2016 NFL Defensive Tackle Rankings

 

1. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles

The Pro Bowler was second among all interior defenders with 69 tackles, including 11 sacks. Has been a force since Day 1 in the league.

 

2. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati

The quick-twitch and high-motor Atkins returned to form last season. Had 11 sacks, tying for the most in the league among interior linemen.

 

3. Kawann Short, Carolina           

Worked and pushed his way to 55 tackles and 11 sacks last fall. The power player delivers an explosive jolt to the blocker with his hands.

 

4. Ndamukong Suh, Miami           

After signing a huge contract in 2015, Suh had a large target on his back, but fought his way through double- and triple-teams to register 61 tackles and six sacks.

 

5. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia

Will make a position scheme move from a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 tackle. Regardless of the alignment, Cox closes off running lanes as an impact hitter and pressures the quarterback.

 

6. Linval Joseph, Minnesota        

Is a huge, strong and athletic tackle with raw power. He presses the pocket and is a disruptive interior presence.

 

7. Derek Wolfe, Denver

Played a key role in the Broncos’ successful Super Bowl run, collecting 15 tackles, including 2.5 sacks, in the postseason.

 

8. Damon Harrison, New York Giants  

Led all interior defenders with 72 tackles as a Jet, then signed as a free agent with the rival Giants. Harrison majors in stuffing the running lane.

 

9. Malik Jackson, Jacksonville     

Signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Jaguars after earning a Super Bowl ring with the Broncos. He will be expected to pressure the quarterback as a 3-technique tackle like he did in Denver.

 

10. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo

The No. 3 overall pick out of Alabama in the 2011 draft pressured his way to 51 tackles in 2015. Earned Pro Bowl bids in 2013 and 2014.

 

11. Ian Williams, San Francisco 

12. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay    

13. Brandon Williams, Baltimore

14. Dontari Poe, Kansas City       

15. Dan Williams, Oakland          

16. Denico Autry, Oakland

17. Corbin Bryant, Buffalo 

18. Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota         

19. Michael Brockers, Los Angeles        

20. Haloti Ngata, Detroit     

Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Defensive Linemen
Post date: Thursday, June 2, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-offensive-linemen
Body:

The skill position players get most of the credit and accolades, but that doesn't diminish the importance of a solid offensive line in today's . Quarterbacks can't rack up all those yards throwing the ball and likewise the same on the ground for running backs if their line doesn't do its job in pass protection and run blocking.

 

All-Pro-caliber offensive linemen dominate the top of Athlon Sports' positional rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the . So which teams can boast the top tackles, guards and centers as part of their first line of offense?

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I

 

2016 NFL Tackle Rankings

 

1. Joe Thomas, Cleveland

A nine-time Pro Bowl player and a six time first-team All-Pro in his nine years in the NFL. A total package of size, flexibility and explosiveness.

 

2. Tyron Smith, Dallas

Was the first offensive lineman Jerry Jones selected in the first round since he purchased the Cowboys in 1989. The strong, athletic knee bender is the prototype for future NFL tackles.

 

3. Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati

Has started 148 out of a possible 160 games over his 10-year career. Getting better with age. Named to his first All-Pro team in 2015.

 

4. Joe Staley, San Francisco

Is heading into his 10th NFL season. The five-time Pro Bowl pick plays flat-footed and can handle the best NFL two-move pass rushers.

 

5. Trent Williams, Washington

Elevated his game in 2015 with new line coach Bill Callahan. The long-torso tackle locks on a pass rusher and has the body control to redirect the defender’s path.

 

6. Jason Peters, Philadelphia

Age and time are catching up with the one-time archetype for NFL pass protectors. These days, the left tackle is a dominating zone run blocker.

 

7. Terron Armstead, New Orleans          

The rangy blocker offers an outstanding combination of foot quickness and ease of movement.

 

8. Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City

Made an immediate impression on the offensive line after signing as an unrestricted free agent. Excels in pass protection where he plays with good technique and foot quickness.

 

9. Cordy Glenn, Buffalo

Is an imposing physical specimen with long arms, a wide body and athletic feet. The Bills inked their left tackle for five years and $65 million dollars in early May.

 

10. Taylor Lewan, Tennessee

Is an ascending pass protector and physical run blocker similar to former Titan and Eagle Jon Runyan. Aggressive in his run blocking and a smooth-footed pass protector.     

 

11. Donald Penn, Oakland           

12. Duane Brown, Houston          

13. Ryan Schraeder, Atlanta         

14. Morgan Moses, Washington 

15. Jared Veldheer. Arizona         

16. Jake Matthews, Atlanta           

17. Anthony Castonzo, Indianapolis       

18. Lane Johnson, Philadelphia 

19. Zach Strief, New Orleans

20. Joe Barksdale, San Diego

 

2016 NFL Tackle Rankings

 

1. Marshal Yanda, Baltimore

An All-Pro the past two years and a five-time Pro Bowler, Yanda is an explosive run blocker and a skilled pass protector with good body control.

 

2. Zack Martin, Dallas

A mature leader and a consummate team player who concentrates and focuses on his job. The first Cowboy since Emmitt Smith to earn Pro Bowl bids his first two seasons.

 

3. David DeCastro, Pittsburgh

One of the best guards to enter the NFL since Steve Hutchinson in 2001. Intense, competitive and patient in pass protection. Excellent recoverability. Hands are strong and explosive.

 

4. Kelechi Osemele, Oakland

The former Raven signed a five-year, $58.5 million contract to join the Raiders in the offseason. The big, long-armed zone blocker is athletic and effortless in his play.

 

5. Mike Iupati, Arizona

An athletic and physical pass protector who plays with good technique. Flashes an explosive punch, then locks out and drives the defender. A mauler who gets push.

 

6. T.J. Lang, Green Bay

A consistent and competitive performer who is technique sound and effort proud. Adjusts well on the run and finishes plays downfield.

 

7. Josh Sitton, Green Bay

Agile, powerful and nasty in the run game. Strong and tough enough to cut off any inside pass rusher.

 

8. Evan Mathis, Arizona

Has played for six teams since entering the league in 2005. Won a Super Bowl with Denver in 2016. A battler who plays well on his feet.

 

9. Richie Incognito, Buffalo

An explosive knee bender who rolls his hips and has a strong lower body. Physical use of hands, punch and placement. A mauler who dominates his

opponent at times.

 

10. Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati

A physical and aggressive long-torso athlete with good balance and toughness. Locks on his target with strong hands.

 

11. Jack Mewhort, Indianapolis   

12. Trai Turner, Carolina   

13. Jeff Allen, Houston      

14. Andrew Norwell, Carolina      

15. Gabe Jackson, Oakland         

16. Justin Pugh, New York Giants          

17. Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh     

18. James Carpenter, New York Jets    

19. Andrew Tiller, San Francisco

20. Clint Boling, Cincinnati

 

2016 NFL Center Rankings

 

1. Travis Frederick, Dallas

The two-time Pro Bowl center is a smooth, aware and agile blocker who can handle both quickness and power in opposing linemen.

 

2. Ryan Kalil, Carolina

Was voted All-Pro for the second time and has been to five Pro Bowls over his nine-year career. The physical and intense competitor plays with outstanding first-step quickness.

 

3. Eric Wood, Buffalo         

An athletic blocker who gets movement on the down defender with functional strength. Plays with a solid base in pass protection.

 

4. Weston Richburg, New York Giants

An athletic center who can pull and read on the run. Blocks any interior leakage or can kick out in perimeter support.

 

5. Alex Mack, Atlanta

A productive and consistent blocker who is mobile and powerful. Plays with good awareness. Signed with the Falcons after voiding the final three years of his contract with Cleveland.

 

6. Rodney Hudson, Oakland

Plays with rare foot quickness to execute a variety of blocks in the run game and in pass protection. Puts a hat on a hat and maintains contact.

 

7. Joe Berger, Minnesota

Had a breakout year in 2015 after a season-ending injury to starter John Sullivan. The 11-year veteran is a technician who is versatile, smart and crafty in his play.

 

8. Jason Kelce, Philadelphia

The undersized but light-footed Eagle is all about leverage and effective body control. Reacts quickly to pick up the blitz.

 

9. Max Unger, New Orleans

Brought stability to the interior of the Saints’ offensive line. The scrappy veteran has quick feet and the strength to cut off a penetrating gap nose tackle.

 

10. Nick Mangold, New York Jets

A long-time Pro Bowl player who plays with excellent body control and balance. Crafty, smart and alert.

 

11. Mike Pouncey, Miami  

12. John Sullivan, Minnesota       

13. Matt Slauson, San Diego       

14. Corey Linsley, Green Bay       

15. Jeremy Zuttah, Baltimore       

16. Ben Jones, Tennessee          

17. Manny Ramirez, Chicago       

18. Mitch Morse, Kansas City       

19. Kory Lichtensteiger, Washington

20. Matt Paradis, Denver    

Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Offensive Linemen
Post date: Thursday, June 2, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-tight-ends
Body:

The tight end may still not be the most popular position in the but it's certainly en vogue right now. Not only did four different tight ends eclipse 1,000 yards receiving last season, the same number as those that had done this the past three combined, but six wound up leading their team in receptions.

 

It should come as no surprise that Rob Gronkowski leads the way in Athlon Sports' rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the . However, the names that come after Gronk may include a few you weren't expecting to see or at least their place in the rankings.

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I

 

2016 NFL Tight End Rankings

 

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England

The unanimous first-team All-Pro had 72 catches for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Tom Brady and Gronk have connected on 64 career touchdown passes, most by any pass-catch duo in team history.

 

2. Greg Olsen, Carolina

Dependable and consistent, Olsen caught 77 passes for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. He has played in 142 consecutive games.

 

3. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati

Corralled 13 touchdown passes in 2015 despite missing significant time in games 12 through 15 due to injuries. Was third on the team with 52 receptions. Wins more than his share of 50/50 balls.

 

4. Delanie Walker, Tennessee

Was the go-to receiver for rookie Marcus Mariota in 2015, catching 94 passes for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns. A solid and consistent run blocker as well as a pass protector when not out on a route.

 

5. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

A sure-handed pass catcher who runs fluid and sharp routes. The ex-Stanford Cardinal caught 75 passes and averaged 11.4 yards per catch in a time share with Brent Celek.

 

6. Jason Witten, Dallas

Is the leading pass catcher in Cowboy history, and his 1,020 career receptions are the second most for a tight end in NFL history. In 2015, despite a variety of quarterbacks, he caught 77 passes for 713 yards.

 

7. Jordan Reed, Washington

Former third-round pick enjoyed a breakthrough season, catching 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns to help the Redskins capture the NFC East title.

 

8. Maxx Williams, Baltimore

The rookie caught 32 passes in 2015, including six against the Bengals in the season finale. Was a solid run blocker and an ascending sure-handed chain mover for Joe Flacco.

 

9. Gary Barnidge, Cleveland

Very quietly had a productive year, catching 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns. His previous highs were 13 catches, 242 yards and two TDs.

 

10. Jimmy Graham, Seattle

The prolific pass catcher in New Orleans was almost an afterthought in Seattle after being acquired by trade. His run blocking improved, but his 48 catches were the fewest since his rookie year.

 

11. Martellus Bennett, New England

12. Antonio Gates, San Diego

13. Coby Fleener, New Orleans

14. Crockett Gillmore, Baltimore

15. Charles Clay, Buffalo

16. Richard Rodgers, Green Bay

17. Ben Watson, Baltimore

18. Brent Celek, Philadelphia

19. Travis Kelce, Kansas City

20. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota

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While there are plenty of differences when it comes to comparing an wide receiver and running back, there also is one fairly significant similarity. The best at each position wear the same uniform.

 

Not only does Pittsburgh claim the in the league in Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers also boast the No. 1 wide receiver. For the second year in a row, Antonio Brown leads Athlon Sports' rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the .

 

The reasons why are pretty obvious. Brown has led the NFL in catches each of the past two seasons, piling up an impressive 265 during that stretch for 3,532 yards, 23 touchdowns and a pair of first-team All-Pro nods for good measure. There are certainly a number of dynamic, difference-making wide receivers in the league, but Brown is clearly the current standard bearer for the position.

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I

 

2016 NFL Wide Receiver Rankings

 

1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

Set single-season franchise records in receptions (136), yards (1,834), 100-yard receiving games (nine) and receiving yards per game (114.6). Set a franchise record with at least 110 catches three straight years.

 

2. Julio Jones, Atlanta

Earned his second straight Pro Bowl selection after leading the NFL with 1,871 yards and tying Antonio Brown with 136 receptions. He scored eight times.

 

3. A.J. Green, Cincinnati

Is the first Bengal to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons. Ranked eighth in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,297, averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

 

4. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

Has started 48 straight games since being drafted in 2013, recording 239 receptions, 3,533 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is averaging 14.8 yards per reception over his career. Earned first Pro Bowl berth in 2015.

 

5. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

Backed up his record-setting rookie campaign with a more impressive second year. He had 96 receptions, 1,450 yards (15.1 per catch) and 13 touchdowns.

 

6. Demaryius Thomas, Denver

Joined Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt and Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history with four consecutive years of at least 90 catches and 1,300 receiving yards.

 

7. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

Totalled 183 receptions for 2,833 yards in 2013-14 but went down with a torn ACL prior to the 2015 season. A first-team All-Pro selection in 2014, Nelson has 49 TD catches in his seven seasons.

 

8. Dez Bryant, Dallas

Was limited to nine games last year due to injury. Had three straight seasons with 1,200-plus receiving yards from 2012-14. Has averaged 14.1 yards per catch in his career.

 

9. Jarvis Landry, Miami

Former LSU Tiger a franchise record in 2015 with 110 receptions, and he has 194 catches in two seasons — the most ever by a player in his first two years in the league. Only averaged 9.9 yards per catch.

 

10. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo   

The speedy and athletic receiver seemed to be hitting his stride late in the 2015 season; he averaged 17.9 yards per catch and had eight touchdown catches in the Bills’ last 11 games.

 

11. Brandon Marshall, New York Jets

12. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

13. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville

14. Doug Baldwin, Seattle

15. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay

16. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver

17. Eric Decker, New York Jets

18. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

19. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

20. Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore

21. Julian Edelman, New England

22. Kamar Aiken, Baltimore

23. Keenan Allen, San Diego

24. Allen Hurns, Jacksonville

25. Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City

26. Golden Tate, Detroit

27. John Brown, Arizona

28. Michael Floyd, Arizona

29. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

30. Amari Cooper, Oakland

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The 2016 college football season is less than 100 days away, but the countdown to kickoff is officially underway. Athlon Sports’ 2016 College Football Preview annuals are already on newsstands across the county and available for order in the online store, . Each year, Athlon Sports produces regional preview magazines for the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, as well as a national edition with previews for all 128 teams.

 

Who will make the College Football Playoff and how will the 2016 season look by December? Athlon Sports has projected how the results will play out and ranked every team 1 to 128 based upon its finish for 2016. This ranking represents where we think teams will finish – not where they should start at the beginning of the season. 

 

Conference Predictions

 

Power 5:  |  |  |  |

 

Group of 5:  |  |  |  |

 

Follow the Athlon Sports' college football team on Twitter: , , , , , ,

 

Athlon Sports Projected 128 Team Rankings for 2016
Athlon Sports 2016 College Football 1-128 Team Rankings
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide suffered key losses on both sides of the ball, but this team reloads as well as any in the nation. Expect Nick Saban's team to lean on its defense and ground attack until the offense finds stability at quarterback.
2. Florida State: After winning 10 games in a rebuilding season, FSU is poised to challenge for the title. Most of the roster returns intact, but the Seminoles have to find a QB and replace cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Dalvin Cook is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman.

3. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have the fewest returning starters (six) of any Power 5 team. However, thanks to elite recruiting classes, Ohio State should be able to reload in a hurry. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes can lean on J.T. Barrett until the rest of the pieces fall into place.

4. Clemson: Even though the Tigers suffered heavy losses on defense, quarterback Deshaun Watson and the nation’s top receiving corps is more than enough to keep Clemson in the hunt for the national title.

5. Michigan: Jim Harbaugh already has Michigan back among the nation’s top teams. The Wolverines have to find a quarterback, but this team can lean on its defense — led by new coordinator Don Brown — to push Ohio State for the Big Ten title.

6. Oklahoma: The Sooners are a heavy favorite to win the Big 12, but there are potential landmines on a schedule that features road trips to TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia. If the voids on the offensive line and defense are filled, quarterback Baker Mayfield could carry Oklahoma to another playoff berth.

7. Tennessee: The Volunteers have made steady improvement under coach Butch Jones, and the pieces are in place to challenge for the SEC title. Tennessee returns 18 starters, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs and end Derek Barnett.

8. Notre Dame: Brian Kelly’s team lost a handful of key players from last year’s 10-3 squad. But the Fighting Irish have a manageable schedule, two proven quarterbacks and enough of a foundation on both sides of the ball to push for 10 wins once again.

9. LSU: After coaching drama surrounding Les Miles at the end of 2015, LSU is loaded for a run at a CFP berth. As usual, the Tigers will lean on their ground attack and defense to carry the team. However, Brandon Harris and the passing game have to improve to win the SEC.

10. Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze must replace three first-round picks, but the Rebels have recruited well enough to prevent a huge drop off. Chad Kelly is the SEC’s top signal-caller and there’s no shortage of options at receiver.

11. Washington: The Huskies are poised for a breakthrough year in Chris Petersen’s third season. Talented sophomores Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are two of the Pac-12’s top players on offense, while the defense returns eight starters from a unit that allowed only 18.8 points a game last year.

12. Stanford: Stanford has won three of the last four Pac-12 titles, but David Shaw’s team was hit hard by personnel departures. However, the Cardinal still has enough returning talent to challenge for the conference title — especially with running back Christian McCaffrey leading the way.

13. Michigan State: The Spartans have won at least 11 games in five of the last six years. Despite the loss of quarterback Connor Cook, end Shilique Calhoun and standout linemen Jack Conklin and Jack Allen, coach Mark Dantonio won’t allow Michigan State to slip too far in the rankings.

14. UCLA: Similar to rival USC, UCLA enters 2016 with its share of questions. However, the Bruins return the Pac-12’s top quarterback in Josh Rosen, and the schedule is more manageable than the Trojans’ brutal slate. The defense returns eight starters, and standout end Eddie Vanderdoes is back from injury.

15. Houston: The bar is set high for Houston after a 13-1 record in Tom Herman’s first season. The Cougars are the top Group of 5 team for 2016 and could climb into the playoff discussion with wins over Oklahoma and Louisville in non-conference games.

16. Georgia: New coach Kirby Smart inherits a roster filled with promising talent and one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits in Jacob Eason. However, running back Nick Chubb is recovering from a serious knee injury, and the defense features a revamped front seven.

17. TCU: TCU will be a dark horse contender in the Big 12. Only one starter returns on offense, but there’s a good foundation in place at the skill positions. The Horned Frogs are loaded on defense and return four key players who missed all or most of last year due to injury.

18. Louisville: The Cardinals finished the 2015 season by winning six of their final seven games. Bobby Petrino’s team should build on that momentum in 2016 with 16 returning starters and the emergence of dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson.

19. Iowa: The Hawkeyes were one of college football’s biggest surprises in 2015 and open 2016 as the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten West. Quarterback C.J. Beathard leads the way on offense, while the defense returns eight starters.

20. Florida: The defense is still among the best in the SEC, but Florida has to find some answers on offense after averaging 12.6 points over the final six games of 2015. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback.

21. North Carolina: New quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a rising star, and the supporting cast is among the best in the ACC. The defense showed some improvement under new coordinator Gene Chizik last year but has to get tougher against the run.

22. USC: Clay Helton’s first full season on the job features one of the nation’s toughest schedules, a quarterback battle and a completely revamped defensive line.

23. Oregon: The Ducks hope another FCS transfer (Dakota Prukop) is the right answer at quarterback. There’s no shortage of skill talent on offense, but the line must replace three starters. Brady Hoke is tasked with improving a defense that surrendered 37.5 points a game.

24. Oklahoma State: Mason Rudolph to James Washington should be one of the Big 12’s top quarterback-receiver combinations in 2016. However, for the Cowboys to match last year’s 10 wins, the offensive line and rushing attack have to improve.

25. Baylor: The dismissal of Art Briles as the program's coach has added a layer of uncertainty to Baylor for 2016. The Bears still have plenty of talent, but question marks remain on the line of scrimmage. Will interim coach Jim Grobe keep this team in the hunt for the Big 12 title?

26. Arkansas: Bret Bielema has to retool an offense that loses quarterback Brandon Allen, running back Alex Collins and a handful of other key players. However, the defense should take a big step forward with nine starters back. If Austin Allen settles in at quarterback, Arkansas could be a top 25 team.

27. Miami: Mark Richt's return to Miami is a much-needed boost for a program still looking for its first trip to the ACC Championship Game. Richt will handle the play-calling duties for the Hurricanes, and he inherits one of the nation's top quarterbacks in junior Brad Kaaya. With North Carolina and Florida State visiting Sun Life Stadium, Miami could surprise in Richt's debut.

28. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin needs to show the program is still on track after an 8-5 2015 campaign. The quarterback position took a hit with the transfer of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, but Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight should provide stability at the position. The defense took a step forward under first-year coordinator John Chavis last season and should be even better in 2016.

29. Virginia Tech: The Hokies hit a home run with the Justin Fuente hire, and the first-year coach should immediately help an offense that has experienced its share of ups and downs in recent years. Coordinator Bud Foster needs to restock the trenches, but Virginia Tech could crack the top 25 with improvement by its offense.

30. Washington State: Don't sleep on Mike Leach's Cougars in the Pac-12 North title race. Led by quarterback Luke Falk and receiver Gabe Marks, Washington State's offense will be one of the best in the nation. The defense showed progress under new coordinator Alex Grinch in 2015. With six starters back for 2016, another step forward is expected.

31. Nebraska: After a season filled with bad luck and close losses, Nebraska is due for a change in fortune in 2016. With quarterback Tommy Armstrong and a deep group of receivers in place, scoring points won't be a problem for the Cornhuskers. However, coach Mike Riley's team has significant question marks in the trenches.

32. Utah: The Utes will be a dangerous team in the Pac-12 South. Coach Kyle Whittingham's team is once again strong on defense and boasts a standout ground attack on offense. However, the passing game has to improve for Utah to win the division.

33. Wisconsin: Paul Chryst had a solid debut (10-3) in his return to Madison, but the road to double-digit wins is much tougher in 2016. The Badgers face a brutal schedule, and enter the season with uncertainty at quarterback and a new play-caller on defense.

34. Boise State: A year after winning the Mountain West and the Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos slipped to 9-4 in coach Bryan Harsin's second season. However, Boise State won't be down for long, as quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Jeremy McNichols anchor an explosive offense and provide enough firepower to win the Mountain West in 2016.

35. Auburn: The Tigers were one of the nation's biggest disappointments in 2015. Is a rebound year in store for coach Gus Malzahn? Auburn needs to find an answer at quarterback, while new coordinator Kevin Steele is tasked with improving a defense that ranked near the bottom of the SEC last season.

36. San Diego State: Rocky Long's Aztecs are the defending Mountain West champs and will be a tough out once again in 2016. Running back Donnel Pumphrey anchors the offense, while seven starters return from a standout defense. The Aztecs could win 11 games once again.

37. South Florida: The Bulls showed marked progress in coach Willie Taggart's third year. USF finished 8-5 in 2015 and returns 14 starters for 2016, including running back Marlon Mack. The Bulls are the favorite to win the AAC East this fall.

38. Pitt: Pat Narduzzi's first year in the Steel City was a success, and the Panthers are aiming even higher in 2016. Standout receiver Tyler Boyd must be replaced, but Pitt returns 16 starters, including standout safety Jordan Whitehead and senior quarterback Nathan Peterman. The combination of James Conner and Qadree Ollison is one of the nation's best backfield duos.

39. Penn State: James Franklin has recruited well, but the Nittany Lions are still looking for a breakout season under their third-year coach. With scholarship sanctions ending, the depth and overall talent level is improving in Happy Valley. Franklin needs to find a new quarterback and replace a couple of key faces on defense.

40. West Virginia: Is this a make-or-break year for coach Dana Holgorsen? With no long-term contract in place, Holgorsen is under a lot of pressure to win in 2016. The Mountaineers should have one of the Big 12's top offenses, but the defense features a revamped back seven. 

41. Mississippi State: Replacing the best player - Dak Prescott - in school history will be a challenge for coach Dan Mullen. However, Mullen has elevated this program, and the Bulldogs are better equipped to handle personnel losses than ever before.

42. Texas Tech: Dynamic offense, questionable defense. A similar theme is setting up for the Red Raiders in 2016. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is one of the best in the nation, but the junior has to work behind a revamped offensive line. If the defense improves, Texas Tech could exceed last year's seven wins.

43. Texas: The pressure is building on coach Charlie Strong, but the Longhorns have a promising core of young talent and some much-needed direction on offense under new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. The development of true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele and front seven on defense are the keys to Texas' 2016 season.

44. California: The addition of graduate transfer Davis Webb was huge for the Golden Bears in the post-Jared Goff era. With Webb in the mix, California gets a slight bump in Athlon's rankings for 2016.

45. Northwestern: The Wildcats were one of the Big Ten's biggest surprises last year, claiming 10 victories for the second time in four seasons. Pat Fitzgerald's team needs to improve on offense to reach that level in 2016, but the defense should be strong once again with six returning starters.

46. Arizona State: High expectations surrounded the Sun Devils last year, but the Sun Devils finished a disappointing 6-7. Todd Graham's team has a lot of question marks for 2016, as a new quarterback must emerge, and the defense has to get better against the pass.

47. BYU: New coach Kalani Sitake faces a challenging schedule in his first year in Provo, but the Cougars return 12 starters, including two standout quarterbacks in Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill.

48. Kansas State: Injuries hit Bill Snyder's team hard last year, but the Wildcats still managed to get six wins and a bowl trip. With better luck in the health department and more consistent play at quarterback, Kansas State will be a dangerous team to watch in the Big 12 this season. 

49. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets had a surprising fall last season. After winning the Coastal Division and the Orange Bowl in 2014, Georgia Tech slumped to 3-9. Expect Paul Johnson's team to rebound back into a bowl and challenge for a winning record in 2016.

50. Arizona: Last season's seven-win mark was the lowest by Arizona under coach Rich Rodriguez. And if the Wildcats want to top that total in 2016, it will have to be on the strength of an offense that averaged 37.4 points a game last year. Rodriguez hit the reset button on defense, and this unit is in need of repair after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

51. Air Force: With 13 returning starters, Air Force should challenge Boise State for the top spot in the Mountain West's Mountain Division. Coach Troy Calhoun has a deep stable of running backs at his disposal, and the defense should be strong with nine starters back.

52. Temple: After tying the school record with 10 victories last year, what will Matt Rhule's Owls do for an encore? With 11 returning starters, including quarterback P.J. Walker and running back Jahad Thomas, Temple should challenge for the American Athletic East Division title once again.

53. Duke: The Blue Devils have made significant progress under coach David Cutcliffe, but getting to a fifth consecutive bowl game won't be easy. Quarterback Thomas Sirk's status is uncertain due to an offseason Achilles injury, and there's a challenging road slate ahead on the schedule.

54. Cincinnati: After a disappointing seven-win season last year, the Bearcats hope to get back on track in 2016. Tommy Tuberville's team could show marked improvement just by having better luck in the turnover department (minus-19 in 2015). Quarterback Gunner Kiel also returns for his senior year.

55. Indiana: Replacing quarterback Nate Sudfeld won't be easy, but the Hoosiers are on the right track under coach Kevin Wilson. New quarterback Richard Lagow inherits a strong supporting cast, and new coordinator Tom Allen should help the defense take a step forward.

56. Kentucky: Mark Stoops' fourth year in Lexington is a critical one. The Wildcats have posted back-to-back 5-7 campaigns but are still looking for their first bowl trip under Stoops. With a favorable schedule and promising talent on both sides of the ball, Kentucky should be able to hit the six-win mark this fall.

57. Vanderbilt: The Commodores showed progress in coach Derek Mason's second year, and a bowl game isn't out of the question for 2016. The strength of Mason's team is once again the defense, and quarterback Kyle Shurmur is expected to improve with a full offseason to work as the starter.

58. Appalachian State: As last year's 11-win season showed, the Mountaineers made a quick transition to the FBS level. With 16 returning starters - including a deep stable of running backs - Scott Satterfield's team should edge Arkansas State for the Sun Belt title.

59. NC State: Earning a third consecutive bowl trip won't be easy for the Wolfpack in 2016. In addition to finding a replacement for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, NC State's schedule is tough, highlighted by a non-conference game against Notre Dame and road trips to Clemson, North Carolina and Louisville.

60. Minnesota: First-year (full-time) coach Tracy Claeys has a chance to make a good first impression on new athletic director Mark Coyle. With 14 returning starters and a favorable schedule, there's a good chance Minnesota exceeds last year's six wins.

61. Colorado: The Buffaloes are trending in the right direction under coach Mike MacIntyre. However, the schedule isn't easy, and there's uncertainty at quarterback after Davis Webb decided to transfer to California. Will Sefo Liufau return to full strength by September?

62. Missouri: The Tigers should be strong on defense once again. However, new coach Barry Odom's biggest task is generating improvement from an offense that averaged only 13.6 points a game in 2015. 

63. South Carolina: Will Muschamp has plenty of question marks to address in his second stint as a head coach in the SEC. The Gamecocks probably have more talent in the program than last year's 3-9 record would suggest, but only eight starters are back and both sides of the ball have significant holes to fill.

64. Wake Forest: Expect the Demon Deacons to take a big step forward in Dave Clawson's third year. The overall depth and talent level has improved over the last two seasons, and the schedule is favorable enough to challenge for six wins.

65. Boston College: Injuries hit Boston College hard last season, but the Eagles should rebound in 2016. The addition of Patrick Towles is an upgrade at quarterback, while the defense remains tough with six returning starters.

66. Maryland: D.J. Durkin is a good hire, but expectations should be tempered in year one. The Terrapins have question marks at quarterback and suffered key losses at each level on defense. 

67. Navy: The Midshipmen lose a handful of key players - namely quarterback Keenan Reynolds - but Ken Niumatalolo's team will be in the mix for a finish near the top of the American Athletic Conference's West Division.

68. Southern Miss: New coach Jay Hopson should keep Southern Miss at the top of Conference USA's West Division in 2016. Of course, it doesn't hurt the Golden Eagles return standout quarterback Nick Mullens and running back Ito Smith.

69. Western Michigan: Led by quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis, Western Michigan is poised to threaten Northern Illinois' run at the top of the MAC West. The Broncos have a few voids to fill on defense, but NIU and Toledo must visit Kalamazoo. 

70. MTSU: The Blue Raiders could be poised for a breakthrough season under coach Rick Stockstill. Quarterback Brent Stockstill and receiver Richie James form one of the top pass-catch combinations in the Group of 5 ranks. Also in MTSU's favor: No Southern Miss in crossover play and a home date against WKU.

71. Iowa State: Matt Campbell was one of the offseason's best hires, and the first-year coach inherits two of the Big 12's top skill players in running back Mike Warren and receiver Allen Lazard. Campbell's biggest concern is an offensive line that's thin on depth and proven starters.

72. Virginia: Bronco Mendenhall is an interesting fit at Virginia, and the former BYU coach inherits a roster with just 10 returning starters and question marks on both sides of the ball. Safety Quin Blanding should push for All-America honors.

73. Marshall: The Thundering Herd will be looking for their fourth consecutive 10-win season in 2016. Sophomore quarterback Chase Litton and visits by WKU and MTSU to Huntington could be enough for Doc Holliday's team to win C-USA's East Division.

74. Illinois: The Lovie Smith hire has created some much-needed energy around the program, but the first-year coach will have a tough time exceeding last season's five-win mark. The Fighting Illini have major voids to fill on defense, and top receiver Mike Dudek is out for the year due to a knee injury. Quarterback Wes Lunt should be one of the best in the Big Ten.

75. Syracuse: Dino Babers is one of the top hires for 2016, but the first-year coach inherits a team with a lot of question marks. The offense is led by promising quarterback Eric Dungey and big-play threat Steve Ishmael at receiver. The defense - especially in the trenches - is Babers' biggest concern.

76. WKU: Standout quarterback Brandon Doughty must be replaced, but the Hilltoppers are positioned for another run at the C-USA West Division title. A deep group of running backs leads the way for coach Jeff Brohm, and WKU boasts the conference's top offensive line.

77. UConn: The Huskies took a step forward in coach Bob Diaco's second year last fall. Expect more improvement out of UConn in 2016, as 15 returning starters provide plenty of optimism for Diaco. Cornerback Jamar Summers is one of the nation's top cover men.

78. Arkansas State: The Red Wolves return 13 starters from last year's Sun Belt title team, and coach Blake Anderson filled a few voids by adding a couple of talented transfers. Expect Arkansas State to push for the Sun Belt title once again.

79. Toledo: New coach Jason Candle should keep the Rockets near the top of the MAC West. Toledo returns a dynamic backfield - led by senior Kareem Hunt - and a standout offensive line to lean on in 2016.

80. Northern Illinois: With 12 returning starters and a healthy Drew Hare at quarterback, a seventh consecutive trip to the MAC Championship is within reach for Northern Illinois. A road trip to Western Michigan in early October could decide the winner of the MAC West Division.

81. Georgia Southern: New coach Tyson Summers inherits a team capable of winning the Sun Belt title. But transitioning to a new staff and schemes is never easy. The Eagles own one of the nation's top ground attacks with the return of Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw at quarterback, along with Matt Breida and L.A. Ramsby at running back.

82. Utah State: Chuckie Keeton expired his eligibility, but the quarterback position for the Aggies is in good hands with Kent Myers. It's a good thing Utah State returns nine starters on offense, as there's a complete rebuilding effort (three starters returning) on defense in 2016.

83. Memphis: Mike Norvell is a good hire at Memphis, but the first-year coach has a tough assignment this fall in finding a replacement for quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Tigers have a good collection of skill players and return eight starters on defense.

84. Tulsa: Scoring points shouldn't be a problem for the Golden Hurricane. Second-year coach Philip Montgomery returns standout quarterback Dane Evans and one of the American Athletic Conference's top receiving corps. Surpassing last season's win total rests with generating improvement on a defense that gave up 39.8 points a game in 2015.

85. Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs have big shoes to fill on offense with the departure of quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Kenneth Dixon. And there are plenty of voids to fill on defense with only three returning starters. Receiver Trent Taylor is one of the top players in Conference USA.

86. Nevada: An overhauled front seven on defense will be a tough test for coach Brian Polian, but the Wolf Pack will be explosive on offense with the return of nine starters. The one-two punch of James Butler and Akeel Lynch at running back provides plenty of support for steady quarterback Tyler Stewart.

87. Rutgers: Chris Ash looks like the right coach to help Rutgers take a step forward in the rugged Big Ten East Division. Year one is going to have its share of rough patches, as the Scarlet Knights have to find a quarterback and improve a defense that gave up 462 yards a game in 2015.

88. Central Michigan: Quarterback Cooper Rush and a deep group of receivers should keep the Chippewas in the mix for the MAC West title. However, road trips to Northern Illinois and Toledo won't be easy.

89. Colorado State: Mike Bobo's first season in Fort Collins resulted in a solid seven-win season. The Rams are aiming higher for 2016, but there's a lot of work to do on defense, and standout receiver Rashard Higgins left for the NFL. 

90. Oregon State: Year two of Gary Andersen's rebuilding project is underway in Corvallis. The Beavers could be more competitive in 2016, but it may not show too much in the win column. The addition of Utah State transfer Darell Garretson should provide stability at quarterback.

91. Ohio: The MAC East is one of the toughest divisions to predict for 2016. When choosing a favorite amongst uncertainty, it's better to default to Ohio - a program that hasn't recorded a losing record since 2008. Linebacker Quentin Poling anchors a defense that should be among the best in the MAC.

92. UTEP: Injuries hit UTEP hard last season, but the Miners should be poised for a quick rebound in Sean Kugler's fourth year. The return of running back Aaron Jones to full strength is a big boost for the offense, and a favorable schedule should allow for a trip to the postseason.

93. New Mexico: The Lobos had a breakthrough year in 2015. In Bob Davie's fourth season, New Mexico finished 7-6 and went to a bowl for the first time since 2007. And with 14 returning starters, the Lobos should push for another bowl trip in 2016.

94. East Carolina: The Pirates will be a team to watch under new coach Scottie Montgomery. Senior Isaiah Jones leads a dangerous group of skill players, and there's a solid foundation in place on defense with six returning starters. 

95. Purdue: With six wins in three seasons, coach Darrell Hazell is squarely on the hot seat for 2016. The return of 16 starters provides promise, but the Boilermakers need better play from quarterback David Blough and a struggling defense (36.5 points a game in 2015) to push for a winning season.

96. San Jose State: Last year's six-win season and bowl victory was a step in the right direction for the Spartans. Standout running back Tyler Ervin must be replaced, but the Spartans return 15 starters, including an All-Mountain West candidate at quarterback in Kenny Potter.

97. Bowling Green: New coach Mike Jinks has big shoes to fill in replacing Dino Babers. The Falcons have enough talent to win the MAC East for the fourth year in a row, but there's a lot of unknowns under Jinks - a coach who's never been a coordinator or head coach at the FBS level.

98. Akron: 2015 was a record-breaking season for the Zips. Terry Bowden's team set a program-high with eight wins and also claimed the first bowl victory in Akron history. Only four starters return for 2016, but the Zips should push for another postseason trip.

99. Kansas: David Beaty inherited a massive rebuilding project. The Jayhawks need another recruiting class or two to upgrade the program's overall talent level just to be competitive in the Big 12. Kansas should at least break into the win column in 2016.

100. UCF: The Knights have more talent on the roster than last year's 0-12 record would suggest. New coach Scott Frost should provide a much-needed boost to the offense, and this unit returns plenty of talented pieces, including quarterback Justin Holman and receiver Tre'Quan Smith.

101. SMU: Chad Morris has SMU on the right path, but the Mustangs are probably a year away from contending for a bowl game. The offense should be explosive behind quarterback Matt Davis and receiver Courtland Sutton.

102. Troy: The Trojans could surprise in the Sun Belt. Troy only won four games last year but showed improvement under first-year coach Neal Brown. Quarterback Brandon Silvers is a name to remember. 

103. FAU: Despite back-to-back 3-9 seasons under Charlie Partridge, the Owls have a talented core of young players in place. End Trey Hendrickson recorded 13.5 sacks last year and anchors a defense that held opponents to 28.8 points a game in 2015. 

104. Old Dominion: With 16 returning starters, the Monarchs are poised to push for the program's first bowl trip. The defense has room to improve, but Old Dominion returns nine starters on offense and has two proven quarterbacks in Shuler Bentley and David Washington.

105. FIU: Coach Ron Turner has to rebuild the defense, but the Panthers return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Alex McGough and running back Alex Gardner. 

106. UNLV: The Rebels showed progress under first-year coach Tony Sanchez in 2015. Don't be surprised if UNLV takes another step forward in 2016. Junior college recruit (and former Nebraska signal-caller) Johnny Stanton is an intriguing player to watch, and receiver Devonte Boyd is one of the best in the Group of 5 ranks.

107. UL Lafayette: After four straight 9-4 seasons, the Ragin' Cajuns slipped to 4-8 and no postseason trip for the first time under coach Mark Hudspeth. Can Hudspeth get this program back on track? Running back Elijah McGuire is one of the Sun Belt's top players, but the bowl hopes of UL Lafayette rest with the development of the defense and quarterback Jordan Davis.

108. Fresno State: After winning 11 games in 2013, the Bulldogs have won only nine contests over the last two years. There's pressure on coach Tim DeRuyter to show the program hasn't slipped in 2016. A revamped coaching staff provides some optimism, but the Bulldogs have big question marks on both sides of the ball.

109. Rice: After missing out on a bowl for the first time in three years, Rice hopes the return of 15 starters will be enough for a trip to the postseason. The Owls have to break in a new quarterback, and the defense needs to show marked improvement after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

110. Georgia State: The Panthers took a big step forward in coach Trent Miles' third season with a 6-7 final record and the program's first bowl trip. The overall talent and depth has improved, but Georgia State has to replace standout quarterback Nick Arbuckle.

111. Army West Point: The Black Knights have only two winning seasons since 1996, but they are improving under third-year coach Jeff Monken. With 14 returning starters - including two promising quarterbacks in Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter - Army could push for six wins.

112. Miami, Ohio: The RedHawks are getting better under third-year coach Chuck Martin and could be a sleeper team to watch in the MAC East title picture. Martin needs to settle the quarterback battle between Gus Ragland and Billy Bahl, but Miami should have one of the MAC's top defenses in 2016.

113. Buffalo: The Bulls return only two starters on offense and enter the year with uncertainty at quarterback, but coach Lance Leipold's team should be able to push for a bowl game on the strength of a defense that returns eight starters.

114. Wyoming: Craig Bohl is the right coach to get Wyoming's program back on track. However, the Cowboys are in the midst of a youth movement and likely facing another uphill battle for wins in 2016. Running back Brian Hill is one of the top players in the Group of 5 ranks.

115. South Alabama: The Jaguars were unable to build off the 2014 season, which saw the program earn its first bowl bid. A return to the postseason is possible in 2016, but South Alabama needs to find a quarterback and navigate a tough schedule to get to six wins.

116. Ball State: New coach Mike Neu - a former Ball State quarterback - inherits some promising talent on offense, including quarterback Riley Neal and receiver KeVonn Mabon. The Cardinals could push for a winning record if the defense takes a step forward after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

117. Tulane: The Green Wave made one of the offseason's best hires in Willie Fritz. 2016 looks to be a rebuilding year for Fritz, as Tulane has major question marks on an offense that returns four starters and lacks a proven quarterback. 

118. Kent State: The Golden Flashes boasted a standout defense in 2015, but the offense averaged only 13.1 points a game. Coach Paul Haynes needs to find a spark for this unit or the temperature on the fourth-year coach's seat is only going to increase.

119. Idaho: Last year's four-win campaign was Idaho's best since 2010. Quarterback Matt Linehan leads the way for an offense that returns eight starters. Improvement is needed from a defense that gave up 42.1 points a game last season.

120. New Mexico State: The Aggies were more competitive in 2015 and should take another step forward in 2016. Running back Larry Rose is one of the nation's best in the Group of 5 ranks. 

121. Hawaii: Nick Rolovich is a good hire, but the former Hawaii quarterback inherits a team that won only three games last season (and zero in conference play). The Rainbow Warriors need to find a quarterback, but a challenging schedule won't be easy to overcome.

122. Texas State: New coach Everett Withers inherits a team with only eight returning starters from last year's 3-9 team. However, the cupboard isn't entirely bare for Withers. Quarterback Tyler Jones is a capable triggerman for this offense, and there's probably more talent in the program than last season's record indicated.

123. UTSA: Frank Wilson is regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, but this is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level. The Roadrunners have talent at the skill positions, and the addition of graduate transfer Jared Johnson should settle the quarterback spot. 

124. Eastern Michigan: The Eagles hope to show major progress in coach Chris Creighton's third season. With 15 starters back, EMU could equal its win total from the last two years (three). The return of end Pat O'Connor from injury should help a defense that gave up 42.1 points a game in 2015.

125. Charlotte: The 49ers should show some progress in their second year at the FBS level. Running back Kalif Phillips and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi are two under-the-radar performers for coach Brad Lambert, while former Miami signal-caller Kevin Olsen takes over at quarterback.

126. ULM: The Warhawks get high marks for the Matt Viator hire, but progress may be hard to find in 2016. The offense features talented sophomore quarterback Garrett Smith and one of the Sun Belt's top receiving corps. The defense must be overhauled with just two returning starters.

127. UMass: Life as a FBS Independent isn't going to be easy for UMass. The Minutemen return only six starters from last season's 3-9 team. Junior college transfer quarterback Andrew Ford and running back Marquis Young provide hope on offense.

128. North Texas: Seth Littrell is a good hire and should have the Mean Green competing for bowl trips over the next few years. However, there's a lot of work needed for 2016. Alabama transfer Alec Morris is an intriguing option at quarterback.

 

Teaser:
College Football 2016 Team Rankings 1-128
Post date: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-running-backs
Body:

In today’s pass-happy , it should come as no surprise that the role and status of the running back has changed. Consider that last season seven players rushed for at least 1,000 yards. Just five years ago that number was 17. Also, when Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was taken with the fourth overall pick of this year’s draft he represented just the third running back taken in the first round in the past four drafts combined.

 

That doesn’t running backs are no longer valuable, but the skill set and job description certainly has changed. Even though Le’Veon Bell is recovering from a torn ACL, he still claims the top spot in Athlon Sports’ running back rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the The main reason? Bell is just a much a weapon in the passing game as he is taking the hand off with 107 receptions for nearly 1,000 yards over the last two seasons (22 games).

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I

 

2016 NFL Running Back Rankings

 

1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

He missed the second half of the 2015 season with an MCL tear, but before the injury, the Pro Bowl-caliber back was averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 92.7 yards per game.

 

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota

The workhorse led the NFL with 1,485 yards with over 20 carries per game. He scored 11 times and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

 

3. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

Re-signed with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Only Peterson rushed for than his 1,402 yards in 2015.

 

4. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

The explosive back has rushed for 7,220 yards and caught 283 passes heading into the 2016 season. Suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second time in his career in ‘15.

 

5. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles

Voted the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, Gurley exploded on the field with 146 yards on 19 carries during the fourth week of the season and hasn’t looked back.

 

6. Matt Forté, N.Y. Jets

Signed by the Jets in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. The 30-year-old back has been one of the most complete offensive players in the NFL the past eight years.

 

7. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina     

Led the Super Bowl runner-up with a career-high 242 carries. Ranks second in franchise history with 1,283 rushing attempts and 5,814 rushing yards.

 

8. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta

Earned his first Pro Bowl selection after rushing for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 73 passes and tallied three more scores in 2015.

 

9. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo

Averaged 74.6 yards per game, fifth-best in the NFL in his first season in Buffalo. He added 32 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns. McCoy has 332 receptions in six-year career.

 

10. Lamar Miller, Houston

Averaged 4.6 yards per carry in Miami and was signed by the Texans as an unrestricted free agent. Miller has a lot of tread left on those tires, getting only 12.1 carries per game last season.

 

11. Chris Ivory, Jacksonville         

12. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay           

13. Frank Gore, Indianapolis       

14. Latavius Murray, Oakland       

15. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

16. Darren McFadden, Dallas      

17. C.J. Anderson, Denver            

18. David Johnson, Arizona          

19. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati   

20. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee

21. Ronnie Hillman, Denver         

22. Alfred Morris, Dallas    

23. DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh         

24. T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville        

25. Dion Lewis, New England     

26. Rashad Jennings, N.Y. Giants         

27. Karlos Williams, Buffalo         

28. Mark Ingram, New Orleans    

29. Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland      

30. Duke Johnson, Cleveland     

 

2016 NFL Fullback Rankings

 

1. Mike Tolbert, Carolina

Was voted first-team All-Pro as the lead blocker for Jonathan Stewart and pass protector for Cam Newton. The utility back can do it all, including carry the ball and catch passes out of the backfield.

 

2. Patrick DiMarco, Atlanta

The second-team All Pro paved the way for Devonta Freeman’s success in 2015. He also caught 13 passes for 110 yards and scored twice.

 

3. Bruce Miller, San Francisco

Was a Pro Bowl-caliber player during the Jim Harbaugh era but was used only in spot duty in 2015. He excelled on special teams. Miller caught 10 passes for 135 yards last fall.

 

4. Marcel Reece, Oakland

Will start out the 2016 season on the suspension list for PEDs. When on the field, the ex-Washington Huskie catches the ball well and has good run-after-catch ability. He is a three-time Pro Bowl player.

 

5. John Kuhn, Free Agent

The road grader of a fullback has signed one-year deals with the Packers the last two years and has been an integral part of the special teams and Aaron Rodgers’ protector. 

Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Running Backs
Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-quarterbacks
Body:

Make no mistake, quarterback remains the “it” position in the . Not only is it the most popular one, it’s also the most scrutinized and arguably the most important when it comes to team success.

 

For poof of this, look no further than this year’s quarterback rankings. Athlon Sports’ rankings, which were done in conjunction with of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the , are headlined by a trio of signal-callers who have two things in common – each has won a league MVP award and has led his team to the Super Bowl. In fact, the latter accomplishment applies to each of the top six on our list, a group that has combined to win nine times out 14 Super Sunday appearances.

 

Rankings courtesy of , which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

2016 NFL Positional Rankings: I I I I I  I I I

 

2016 NFL Quarterback Rankings

 

1. Cam Newton, Carolina

Collected 48 of 50 votes to win the NFL’s MVP award for the 2015 season. The athletic competitor passed for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10 more scores.

 

2. Tom Brady, New England

The future NFL Hall of Famer and 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback responded in the face of adversity with 4,770 yards passing and 36 touchdowns. He was intercepted only seven times. He is scheduled to serve a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season.

 

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

Had a blip on the career radar in 2015 after losing prime target Jordy Nelson. His 60.7 completion percentage was the lowest in his eight years as a starter.

 

4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

With Antonio Brown and a healthy Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers can score on anyone. Big Ben holds numerous career franchise passing records.

 

5. Drew Brees, New Orleans

The 15-year veteran averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and had 10 games of over 300 yards passing. It was the fifth time in his career he has done so.

 

6. Russell Wilson, Seattle 

Wilson has won 46 regular season games, more than any quarterback in his first four years in NFL history.

 

7. Philip Rivers, San Diego

Rivers is the franchise leader in career completion percentage and passer rating. He completed a career-high 437 passes in 2015.

 

8. Carson Palmer, Arizona

Was voted to the second-team All-Pro squad after passing for a career-high 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns and averaging 8.7 yards per attempt.

 

9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta

Became the fifth-fastest quarterback to pass for 30,000 yards, accomplishing the feat in his 117th game. One of four passers to throw for 4,000 yards in each of the last five seasons.

 

10. Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants

Has not missed a start in 11 years. He is the franchise leader in passing attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and interceptions.

 

11. Tony Romo, Dallas     

12. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis    

13. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati          

14. Joe Flacco, Baltimore 

15. Kirk Cousins, Washington     

16. Matthew Stafford, Detroit        

17. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville    

18. Jay Cutler, Chicago     

19. Alex Smith, Kansas City         

20. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo    

21. Sam Bradford, Philadelphia  

22. Ryan Tannehill, Miami

23. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay

24. Derek Carr, Oakland

25. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

26. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee  

27. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Free Agent

28. Brock Osweiler, Houston       

29. Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco

30. Josh McCown, Cleveland       

Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Quarterbacks
Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /nfl/athlon-sports-2016-nfl-division-picks-and-playoff-predictions
Body:

The NFL season never really stops as the league bounces from the regular season, the postseason, free agency, the draft, OTAs, minicamps, training camps and back to the regular season again.

 

We’re a month removed from the draft, most rookies have reported, and rosters are starting to be evaluated through the league.

 

Athlon has done its share of evaluation, too, and we’re ready to get you ready for the season ahead with the release of the Athlon Sports 2016 Pro Football Preview, .

 

To celebrate the arrival of this year’s NFL preview magazines, we’re releasing our division-by-division and playoff picks for the 2016 season.

 

All of Athlon’s 2016 previews are and will be available on newsstands on June 7.

 

  AFC East NFC East
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  AFC North NFC North
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  AFC South NFC South
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  AFC West NFC West
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AFC Playoffs NFC Playoffs
Wild Card Wild Card

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Divisional Round Divisional Round

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AFC Championship NFC Championship

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Super Bowl LI
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Teaser:
Athlon Sports 2016 NFL Division Picks and Playoff Predictions
Post date: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-2016-preseason-college-football-top-25
Body:

Spring practice is over. The NFL Draft has come and gone. National Signing Day seems like it was eons ago. This is the time when the longest offseason in major sports is its most grueling. This is also when optimism flourishes, when no team has a loss and every team has a chance.

 

Athlon is here to help fill the days between now and that first college football game of the year. After all, it’s preseason magazine season.

 

All editions of the 2016 Athlon Sports college football preview are . Our 2016 annuals include the National preview of all 128 teams, regional editions for the SEC and Big Ten. Athlon is also the only magazine in 2016 with editions previewing the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12.

 

To celebrate the arrival of this year’s magazines, we’re releasing our top 25 for 2016*.

 

Stay tuned to AthlonSports.com for previews of each team, conference predictions and .

 

All of Athlon’s 2016 previews  and will be available on newsstands May 24.

 

Podcast: Breaking down the preseason top 25 with Athlon's Braden Gall and Steven Lassan

 

*Updated as of June 1

 

Athlon Sports 2016 Preseason College Football Top 25
1. The Crimson Tide suffered key losses on both sides of the ball, but this team reloads as well as any in the nation. Expect Nick Saban's team to lean on its defense and ground attack until the offense finds stability at quarterback.
 
2. : After winning 10 games in a rebuilding season, FSU is poised to challenge for the title. Most of the roster returns intact, but the Seminoles have to find a QB and replace cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Dalvin Cook is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman.
3. The Buckeyes have the fewest returning starters (six) of any Power 5 team. However, thanks to elite recruiting classes, Ohio State should be able to reload in a hurry. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes can lean on J.T. Barrett until the rest of the pieces fall into place.
4. Even though the Tigers suffered heavy losses on defense, quarterback Deshaun Watson and the nation’s top receiving corps is more than enough to keep Clemson in the hunt for the national title.
5. Jim Harbaugh already has Michigan back among the nation’s top teams. The Wolverines have to find a quarterback, but this team can lean on its defense — led by new coordinator Don Brown — to push Ohio State for the Big Ten title.
6. The Sooners are a heavy favorite to win the Big 12, but there are potential landmines on a schedule that features road trips to TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia. If the voids on the offensive line and defense are filled, quarterback Baker Mayfield could carry Oklahoma to another playoff berth.
7. The Volunteers have made steady improvement under coach Butch Jones, and the pieces are in place to challenge for the SEC title. Tennessee returns 18 starters, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs and end Derek Barnett.
8. Brian Kelly’s team lost a handful of key players from last year’s 10-3 squad. But the Fighting Irish have a manageable schedule, two proven quarterbacks and enough of a foundation on both sides of the ball to push for 10 wins once again.
9. After coaching drama surrounding Les Miles at the end of 2015, LSU is loaded for a run at a CFP berth. As usual, the Tigers will lean on their ground attack and defense to carry the team. However, Brandon Harris and the passing game have to improve to win the SEC.
10. Hugh Freeze must replace three first-round picks, but the Rebels have recruited well enough to prevent a huge drop off. Chad Kelly is the SEC’s top signal-caller and there’s no shortage of options at receiver.
11. The Huskies are poised for a breakthrough year in Chris Petersen’s third season. Talented sophomores Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are two of the Pac-12’s top players on offense, while the defense returns eight starters from a unit that allowed only 18.8 points a game last year.
12. Stanford has won three of the last four Pac-12 titles, but David Shaw’s team was hit hard by personnel departures. However, the Cardinal still has enough returning talent to challenge for the conference title — especially with running back Christian McCaffrey leading the way.
13. :  The Spartans have won at least 11 games in five of the last six years. Despite the loss of quarterback Connor Cook, end Shilique Calhoun and standout linemen Jack Conklin and Jack Allen, coach Mark Dantonio won’t allow Michigan State to slip too far in the rankings.
14. UCLA: Similar to rival USC, UCLA enters 2016 with its share of questions. However, the Bruins return the Pac-12’s top quarterback in Josh Rosen, and the schedule is more manageable than the Trojans’ brutal slate. The defense returns eight starters, and standout end Eddie Vanderdoes is back from injury.

15. Houston: The bar is set high for Houston after a 13-1 record in Tom Herman’s first season. The Cougars are the top Group of 5 team for 2016 and could climb into the playoff discussion with wins over Oklahoma and Louisville in non-conference games.

16. Georgia: New coach Kirby Smart inherits a roster filled with promising talent and one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits in Jacob Eason. However, running back Nick Chubb is recovering from a serious knee injury, and the defense features a revamped front seven.

17. TCU: TCU will be a dark horse contender in the Big 12. Only one starter returns on offense, but there’s a good foundation in place at the skill positions. The Horned Frogs are loaded on defense and return four key players who missed all or most of last year due to injury.

18. Louisville: The Cardinals finished the 2015 season by winning six of their final seven games. Bobby Petrino’s team should build on that momentum in 2016 with 16 returning starters and the emergence of dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson.

19. Iowa: The Hawkeyes were one of college football’s biggest surprises in 2015 and open 2016 as the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten West. Quarterback C.J. Beathard leads the way on offense, while the defense returns eight starters.

20. Florida: The defense is still among the best in the SEC, but Florida has to find some answers on offense after averaging 12.6 points over the final six games of 2015. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback.

21. North Carolina: New quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a rising star, and the supporting cast is among the best in the ACC. The defense showed some improvement under new coordinator Gene Chizik last year but has to get tougher against the run.

22. USC: Clay Helton’s first full season on the job features one of the nation’s toughest schedules, a quarterback battle and a completely revamped defensive line.

23. Oregon: The Ducks hope another FCS transfer (Dakota Prukop) is the right answer at quarterback. There’s no shortage of skill talent on offense, but the line must replace three starters. Brady Hoke is tasked with improving a defense that surrendered 37.5 points a game.

24. Oklahoma State: Mason Rudolph to James Washington should be one of the Big 12’s top quarterback-receiver combinations in 2016. However, for the Cowboys to match last year’s 10 wins, the offensive line and rushing attack have to improve.

25. Baylor: The dismissal of Art Briles as the program's coach has added a layer of uncertainty to Baylor for 2016. The Bears still have plenty of talent, but question marks remain on the line of scrimmage. Will interim coach Jim Grobe keep this team in the hunt for the Big 12 title?

 

 

Teaser:
Athlon Sports' 2016 Preseason College Football Top 25
Post date: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/pick-6-our-favorite-things-may-2016
Body:

In each issue of Athlon Sports & Life, we pick six of our favorite things. They may be books, automobiles, games, gear, booze, apparel or whatever happens to be awesome. Here's what made our short list this issue: 

 

Trans Am SE "Bandit" Edition

When we saw Burt Reynolds pop up in a video (watch it below) promoting an updated version of his '77 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from the man-classic film "Smokey and the Bandit," we took notice. Turns out, we can thank the Trans Am Depot, which has exclusive rights to the Trans Am brand. The Tallahassee, Fla., based company will be rolling out 77 of these beauties, each with a tire-smoking 840 horsepower and an autograph from the Bandit himself. 
, $130,000

 

Craftsman 24 Volt 10-inch Cordless Chainsaw

To our surprise, this electric chainsaw is a beast. In an attempt to put it to the test, we set out to fell an 11-inch thick, 25-foot tall tree. It sliced through it with ease and made quick work of the branches without needing a recharge. Set-up was easy, and other than the occasional tightening of the blade, this wood cutter ran with zero trouble. The lithium-ion battery recharged in a little over an hour. For those do-it-yourselfers who need to take down a tree (within reason, of course) and keep branches at bay in their yard, look no further. 
, $130

 

Wilson C200 IronsWilson Staff C200 Irons

We can't heap enough praise on these irons. They helped us hit for more distance, had a great feel during our swing, and (best of all) were very forgiving. The "C", by the way, stands for "crossover" and is designed for players seeking a midsize head shape and moderate offset. The biggest difference from the previous C100 model is the new "Power Hole" construction, which features urethane-filled holes that surround the head completely, helping to maximize face flex upon impact, resulting in increased ball speed and distance. They're ideal for mid- to high-handicap golfers looking to improve their game. 
, $800
 

Filson's Dutch Harbor Watch

Strap this Detroit-born beauty to your wrist and the first thing you'll notice is the feel... not too heavy, not too light, just right. At 43mm, this 1950s dive-watch inspired timepiece, is perfectly sized for most wrists. While the stainless steel case means it's sturdy, we fell in love with the soft, brown leather strap that complemented the green rotating ring perfectly.  
, $800
 

Back from the Dead

This aptly-titled memoir from NBA legend Bill Walton recounts his devastating injuries (in 2008, he suffered a spinal collapse) and amazing recoveries, set in the context of his UCLA triumphs under John Wooden, his storied NBA career, and his affinity for music and the Grateful Dead. A must-read for any Walton fan. 
, $27 

 

Sports Detectives

This Smithsonian Channel show has us hooked, as private investigator Kevin Barrows and sports reporter Lauren Gardner search for missing memorabilia from history's greatest games and players. Viewers get to follow along as they travel the country on the hunt for Muhammad Ali's missing Olympic gold medal, Jim Craig's Miracle on Ice flag, Dale Earnhardt's first racecar, and other legendary items. Tune in Sunday nights to see if the detectives get their man, er, sports memorabilia.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, May 15, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /foyt
Body:

At 81, A.J. Foyt is still known as the toughest man to ever sit in a racecar. He survived crashes that would have ended most drivers’ careers. But he kept coming back… and winning.

 

Foyt won in every type of car from IndyCar to NASCAR, which he won the Daytona 500 in 1972, and stock cars, midgets, sprints, sports cars and Le Mans. He’s won 14 national titles and 172 major races in a career that spanned four decades and three continents.

 

But the Foyt name is most synonymous with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he was the first driver to ever win the Indianapolis 500 four times (1961, ’64, ’67 and ’77). As the owner of Foyt Racing, he won it again in 1999.

 

We caught up with Foyt to discuss the 100th running of the Indy 500: The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

 

What is it that makes the Indianapolis 500 so special?

FOYT: It’s like the Kentucky Derby, it’s been there for many years and some of the races are great and some of them are bad, but it’s still the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s what makes it so great. I guess, tradition you just can’t beat.

 

Where does it rank among all of the other races you've been in during your career?

I would have to say it rates number one. I keep referring to the Kentucky Derby, but your horse can lose every race and if he wins the Kentucky Derby, he’s the Kentucky Derby winner. It’s the same way in Indianapolis. I won a lot of races all over the country, but there’s still only one Indianapolis. People all over the world know the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s a tradition and tradition you can’t buy.

 

What do remember from the first time you drove in the Indy 500?

That was probably the biggest thrill of my life. I always dreamed of it and when I was a little kid I used to listen to it on the radio. For me to be good enough, from Houston, Texas, where I still live and was born and raised, to qualify for the 500 was the biggest thrill of my life.

 

In 1977, you became the first to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. Is that a greater accomplishment than the longevity and the sustained success you had throughout your racing career?

To do something nobody’s ever done before, yeah, naturally you’re proud of that. Going back, it’s like the Triple Crown in horse racing. The whole world knows it. It ain’t just the local people.

 

I have a question that only an Indy 500 winner would know, after winning the Indy 500, is the milk you drink cold or warm?

Well, it ain’t ice cold.

 

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an equally special track, is there anything about the track or race day that only a driver would know?

You can test all over the world and until you get there it seems like that track changes so much from the first day of practice to qualifying day to race day. It’s got a characteristic of its own. It seems like it’s never the same. One day to the other your can be handling great and the next day you can’t even hardly stay on the track. It’s just got a history like that.

Who's your pick to win this year's race?

I hope my team wins. That’s who I’m picking. I think we’re due for one.

 

How many Indy 500’s have you been to throughout your life and will you be there this year for the 100th running?

I hope I’m still around at the 100th running. I’ve been there since 1958 and I came there and sat up in Turn 2 in 1956 and 1957, but the first time on the ground trying to race was 1958. Yeah, I’ve gone every year. Even last year after I had open heart surgery. I didn’t go to a lot of the (other) races, but I did go to the Indy 500.

 

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give a spectator going to their first Indy 500? Besides the drivers’ seat, where’s the best seat at the track to watch a race?

Grandstand B is real good and Grandstand A. It’s according to what you want to see and (Grandstand) E is very good. I’ve got seats in all (three) of them, but if a person can get a ticket in either – I’d say – B or E, to me, you can see a lot.

 

Who's the greatest driver you ever raced against?

There were a lot of great drivers, so it’s hard to pick one that you had trouble racing with. Parnelli Jones is good. Mario Andretti. There were just a lot of great guys. I was just glad to be racing against them because they were good racers.

 

What makes a great race car driver?

Dedication and really putting your mind to it. 

 

Of all the different types and styles of cars you’ve raced, which was most fun?

The most fun I used to have was on a half-mile dirt sprint car. You had a lot of power and you had to control it with your foot. It was a lot of fun. Today these guys wouldn’t even know what to do if you put them in a sprint car. They wouldn’t know the front wheel from the steering wheel.

 

What do you think of today’s Indy Cars?

They’re about 1,000 percent safer than the old cars and the racetracks, they have safety walls. And the fuel is down to 18 gallons, where we used to carry 75 gallons, so when we hit the wall it was a pretty big explosion.

 

You've had a lot of serious wrecks and injuries – burns, broken bones, busted back, bruised aorta, etc. How does a driver mentally prepare to get back into the car and drive the way it takes to win?

The press would always write, ‘Can he come back or not?’ That’s what drove me. I just wanted to prove them wrong. 

 

How’s your health these days?

Right now everything’s looking good. I’m learning to walk again at 81 years old, but the last two-and-a-half years have been pretty rough on me. I had to have open heart surgery and then I got staph infection and they had to take the other new knee. I got new hips and I got knees and then that staph infection was probably one of the most terrible things you could ever have. I was unconscious for almost 10 days in the hospital and then I got bedsores. That’s been over a year ago and they’re about 99.9 percent healed up. It’s been a mess, but I’m gaining and I’m not going to give up.

 

That’s when it pays to be a hard ass.

(Laughing) I guess you have to be a fighter to live.

 

There are a lot of professional and college football players, who have expressed regrets after the fact, having gone through so many medical procedures and the mounting health issues; have you even questioned yourself or had any regrets?

No. I knew when I went into the game the chances, and if I had my life to live over I wouldn’t change one damn thing.

 

Do you miss driving a race car?

Yes, I do. I really do, but I know in my own mind there’s no sense thinking I’m 20-years-old. Time passes on and, like I say, since the day I retired and got out I’ve not sat back in one to drive.

 

Because you know you gave it everything you had to win as much as you could, does that make it easier to retire? You didn’t take races off. You didn’t half-ass it. Having no regrets makes it OK.

I told (my publicist) Anne (Fornoro) and them something yesterday and never told a writer or anybody, but I’m going to tell you. When I was running some of the Daytona 500 races in stock cars, I would be running along with them and would talk to myself. I would say, "Come on A.J. Let’s get with it." I was running up front with them, but I felt like I could give it more and I was sitting there stroking a little bit.

 

Really?

Yeah, and you’re the only writer I’ve told that to. I used to talk to myself there a lot. I didn’t do it in Indy Cars because I was always giving it 110 percent, but here sometimes you start following and drafting and you start stroking it. I’d start talking to myself. "Come on, you can do more than this."

 

Did it work?

Yeah, it worked. Sometimes I got in trouble, but I got out of trouble more than I got in.

 

Your name is synonymous with auto racing, I need to know, has being A.J. Foyt ever gotten you out of a speeding ticket?

Yeah. I think the funniest thing was, up in Pennsylvania, I was hustling one day going to Pocono and I passed an old brown Dodge that looked like crap. I wasn’t running that fast – maybe 75 or 80 – and all of a sudden I seen him put his hat on and I said, "Oh crap." He turned his lights on and I stopped. He come up and he said, "Who do you think you are A.J. Foyt?" I said, "Yeah," and he said, "Don’t you get smart with me." I’ll never forget that. 

 

One last question about Indianapolis, your grandson is married to the daughter of the Colts owner. Are you still a Texans fan or does that mean you have to root for the Colts?

You’re going laugh, but who I really like in football through the years was Tom Brady. Day in and day out I’m a Patriots fan. Yeah. … When Bum Phillips was with the Oilers, I really liked the Oilers but since then Texans ain’t really had nothing.

 

Interview by Keith Ryan Cartwright

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, May 14, 2016 - 10:31
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-football-teams-2016-nfl-draft
Body:

The SEC ruled the NFL Draft yet again, while Ohio State dominated the 2016 proceedings, especially early. Considering the SEC is responsible for producing college football’s national champion in eight of the past 10 years and the Buckeyes won it in 2014, this should come as no surprise.

 

Ohio State had 12 players get drafted this past weekend, including a record 11 in the first four rounds. Clemson, which lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship, was second to the Buckeyes with nine.

 

Conference-wise, the SEC continued its decade-long dominance with 51 players selected while the Big Ten, fueled by Ohio State, finished a close second with 47.

 

Here is how the top schools and each FBS conference fared in this year’s draft, along with some other notes and nuggets of information.

 

School Draft Picks Conference Draft Picks
12 51
9 47
8 32
7 26
7 26
7 10
6 10
5 9
5 6
5 3
5    
5    
5    
5    
5    
5    

 

• Ohio State not only led the way in total players drafted (12), the Buckeyes also were tops with five first-round selections: Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apple, Taylor Decker and Darron Lee. That’s one shy of the record six set by Miami in 2004.

 

• Of Ohio State’s five first-round picks, three were among the first 10 — Joey Bosa at No. 3, Ezekiel Elliott at No. 4 and Eli Apple at No. 10. It was the first time since 2010 that a school had three players go in the top 10. That year it was Oklahoma with Sam Bradford going No. 1 overall followed by Gerald McCoy (No. 3) and Trent Williams (No. 4).

 

• All 12 Ohio State players that were drafted went in the first four rounds – from Joey Bosa at No. 3 overall to Cardale Jones with the last pick (No. 139) of the fourth round. That’s the most in the first four rounds for a single school, breaking the previous mark of 11 by Miami in 2004.

 

• Despite the strong showing by Ohio State, the SEC still led the way with 51 players taken in the draft. This extended the SEC’s streak to 10 straight years of dominating the draft. The Big Ten finished second with 47.

 

• The SEC could not extend another streak to 10, however, as 2016 marked the first time since ‘07 that a player from the conference was not among the top five picks. Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil was expected to keep this run intact, but that was before a questionable video posted on one of his social media accounts contributed to him falling all the way out of the top 10. Miami took Tunsil with the 13th pick.

 

• Even though Ohio State alone had five first-round picks, the SEC as a whole still led with eight players among the first 31 selections. Last year’s draft had been the in which the SEC did not provide the most first-round picks.

 

• Among the Power Five conferences, the SEC (51 players taken) and Big Ten (47) set the pace with the Pac-12 (32), ACC and Big 12 (26 each) following behind.

 

• Seven Power Five teams were shut out of this year’s draft: Colorado, Duke, Iowa State, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wake Forest. It was the second straight year with no players drafted for the Volunteers but that’s .

 

• Independents (in this case BYU and Notre Dame) and Group of Five conferences combined for 46 players drafted. The Fighting Irish were responsible for seven of those with the American Athletic Conference and Conference USA each responsible for 10 of the selections.

 

• While the FBS ranks understandably dominated the draft, FCS programs combined for 20 of this year’s selections. Included in this total was No. 2 overall pick QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota State as well as a pair of second-rounders (Eastern Kentucky OLB Noah Spence, Samford CB James Bradberry).

 

• Fifty-six (56) schools had multiple players taken in this year’s draft. This group includes big-time programs like Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, Notre Dame, Baylor and many other Power Five schools, but also the likes of Boise State, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Temple, Western Kentucky, Colorado State, San Jose State, Southern Miss, Utah State, Western Michigan as well as FCS programs North Dakota State and South Carolina State.

 

• Not surprisingly, the four College Football Playoff participants from last season (Alabama, Clemson, Michigan State, Oklahoma) combined for 25 of this year’s draft picks. The national championship game between Clemson and Alabama accounted for 19 of those, 10 of which were first- or second-round selections.

 

• With seven more this year, Nick Saban’s Alabama teams have produced 51 draft picks since 2010, the most of any school.

 

• The Fiesta Bowl between Notre Dame and Ohio State featured an impressive 19 draft picks, including seven from the first round and four from the second.

 

• Among the New Year’s Six bowls, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between Houston and Florida State featured the fewest draft picks with five. Perhaps what is more interesting is that the Cougars (3) had more players drafted this year than the Seminoles (2).

 

• After leading all schools with 11 picks last year, Florida State’s two selections are the school’s fewest since having just one player (Everette Brown) taken in 2009. Prior to this year, the Seminoles had produced a total of 40 picks over the past six drafts.

 

• Last, but certainly not least, Moritz Boehringer of the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in the German Football League became the first international player to be drafted straight from a European football league to the NFL. Boehringer was taken in the sixth round by the Minnesota Vikings and has already signed his rookie contract.

Teaser:
Ranking College Football Teams in the 2016 NFL Draft
Post date: Wednesday, May 4, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC
Path: /college-football/early-2017-nfl-draft-prospect-top-50-rankings
Body:

The 2016 NFL Draft is complete as 253 players have taken the first steps in their professional football careers. From a standpoint, the focus now shifts to next year. Which players are next in line to hear their name called when the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft commences next spring?

 

Here are Athlon Sports’ top 50 college players to keep an eye on this fall. Make no mistake; this list will change, especially once the action resumes on the field, but you can’t really go wrong with a list that’s headlined by a pair of Heisman Trophy finalists from last season and a guy who could very will win it this year.

 

Power Five Conference 2017 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
I I I I  I

 

Athlon Sports' Early Top 50 for 2017 NFL Draft

 

RK Player POS School YR
1 Deshaun Watson QB JR
2 Leonard Fournette RB JR
3 Christian McCaffrey RB/RS JR
4 Myles Garrett DE/OLB JR
5 DeMarcus Walker DE  SR
6 Desmond King CB SR
7 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR JR
8 Cam Robinson OT JR
9 Charles Harris OLB JR
10 Jonathan Allen DT SR
11 Jalen Tabor CB    JR
12 Jamal Adams S JR
13 Roderick Johnson OT JR
14 Royce Freeman RB JR
15 Adoree Jackson CB JR
16 Tre'Davious White CB SR
17 Devonte Fields OLB SR
18 Zach Banner OT SR
19 Anthony Walker ILB JR
20 Raekwon McMillan ILB JR
21 Eddie Jackson SS SR
22 Adam Bisnowaty OT SR
23 Derek Barnett OLB JR
24 Malik McDowell DT JR
25 Jabrill Peppers S JR
26 Quin Blanding S JR
27 Lewis Neal LB SR
28 O.J. Howard TE SR
29 Davon Godchaux DE/DT JR
30 Mike Williams WR SR
31 Travin Dural WR SR
32 Dalvin Cook RB JR
33 Chad Kelly QB SR
34 Brad Kaaya QB JR
35 Nick Chubb RB JR
36 Jake Butt TE SR
37 Cordrea Tankersley CB SR
38 Daeshon Hall DE SR
39 Chris Wormley DT SR
40 Dan Skipper OT SR
41 Jordan Leggett TE SR
42 Kendell Beckwith ILB SR
43 Dan Feeney OG SR
44 Tony Conner SS SR
45 Josh Harvey-Clemons SS/OLB SR
46 Bucky Hodges TE JR
47 Pat Elflein OG SR
48 Jourdan Lewis CB SR
49 Lowell Lotulelei DT JR
50 Jeremy Sprinkle TE SR
Teaser:
Early 2017 NFL Draft Prospect Top 50 Rankings
Post date: Monday, May 2, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/ranking-top-100-prospects-2016-nfl-draft
Body:

The 2016 Draft will commence April 28 with the first round. While only 31 former college players will ascend the stage of the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago that night, a total of 253 will hear their name called by the time the draft concludes on April 30.

 

Related: 

 

The future of all 32 NFL franchises will take shape over these three days in the Windy City as every selection will be analyzed and discussed thoroughly by anyone who follows and is a fan of the sport. So when it comes to this year’s player pool, which are the names most likely to go in the early rounds?

 

 

*Denotes early entry

 

Athlon Sports' Top 100 Draft Prospects

 

Rk Player POS School HT WT
1 Joey Bosa* DE 6-6 275
2 Ronnie Stanley OT 6-6 304
3 DeForest Buckner DE 6-7 281
4 Jalen Ramsey* CB/S 6-1 201
5 Laremy Tunsil* OT 6-5 305
6 Jared Goff* QB 6-4 215
7 Myles Jack* ILB 6-1 238
8 Laquon Treadwell* WR 6-2 210
9 Jaylon Smith* OLB 6-2 240
10 Carson Wentz QB 6-5 233
11 Vernon Hargreaves III* CB     5-11 199
12 A'Shawn Robinson* DT 6-3 315
13 Taylor Decker OT 6-8 320
14 Leonard Floyd* OLB 6-4 231
15 Jarran Reed DT 6-3 311
16 Mackensie Alexander* CB 5-11 190
17 Sheldon Rankins DT 6-1 304
18 Shaq Lawson* DE 6-3 270
19 Emmanuel Ogbah* DE 6-4 275
20 Andrew Billings* DT 6-2 310
21 Jack Conklin* OT 6-6 325
22 Ezekiel Elliott* RB 6-0 225
23 Robert Nkemdiche* DT 6-4 296
24 Noah Spence* OLB 6-3 253
25 Kevin Dodd* DE 6-5 275
26 Paxton Lynch* QB 6-7 245
27 Reggie Ragland ILB 6-1 259
28 Eli Apple* CB 6-1 198
29 Vonn Bell* FS 5-11 205
30 Jalen Mills FS 6-0 194
31 Josh Doctson WR 6-2 195
32 Hunter Henry* TE   6-5 254
33 Kendall Fuller* CB 6-0 196
34 Will Fuller* WR 6-0 184
35 Darron Lee* OLB 6-2 235
36 Kenny Clark* DT 6-3 310
37 Jonathan Bullard DE 6-2 283
38 Corey Coleman* WR 5-11 190
39 Su'a Cravens* SS 6-1 225
40 Kevin Hogan QB 6-3 217
41 Jason Spriggs OT 6-7 305
42 Adolphus Washington DT 6-3 297
43 Joshua Perry ILB 6-4 248
44 Chris Jones* DT 6-6 308
45 Shilique Calhoun DE 6-5 251
46 Connor Cook QB 6-4 220
47 Derrick Henry* RB 6-3 242
48 De'Runnya Wilson* WR 6-5 220
49 Artie Burns* CB 6-0 197
50 Braxton Miller WR 6-1 204
51 Vernon Butler DT 6-3 325
52 Jeremy Cash SS 6-1 212
53 William Jackson III CB 6-1 185
54 Dak Prescott QB 6-2 226
55 Tyler Boyd* WR 6-2 200
56 Nick Vannett TE 6-6 256
57 Josh Garnett OG 6-5 317
58 Alex Collins* RB 5-11 215
59 Christian Westerman OG 6-3 297
60 Pharoh Cooper* WR 5-11 207
61 Eric Murray CB 5-11 198
62 Michael Thomas* WR 6-3 210
63 Jordan Jenkins OLB 6-3 257
64 Austin Johnson DT 6-4 323
65 Cardale Jones* QB 6-5 250
66 Devontae Booker RB 5-11 212
67 Charone Peake WR 6-2 208
68 Shon Coleman* OT 6-6 313
69 Carl Nassib DE 6-6 273
70 Scooby Wright* ILB 6-1 246
71 Deiondre' Hall CB 6-2 192
72 Darian Thompson FS 6-2 215
73 Paul Perkins* RB 5-11 210
74 Kenny Lawler* WR 6-3 195
75 Bryce Williams TE 6-6 260
76 Graham Glasgow OC    6-6 306
77 Bronson Kaufusi DE 6-7 281
78 Kentrell Brothers ILB 6-1 249
79 Deion Jones OLB 6-1 219
80 Harlan Miller CB 6-0 182
81 Miles Killebrew SS 6-2 219
82 Christian Hackenberg* QB 6-4 228
83 Malcolm Mitchell WR 5-11 194
84 Ryan Kelly OC 6-4 302
85 Alex Lewis OT 6-6 302
86 Charles Tapper DE    6-3 276
87 Maliek Collins DT 6-2 300
88 Xavien Howard* CB 6-2 200
89 Sean Davis FS 6-1 201
90 Zack Sanchez* CB 5-11 179
91 Cody Whitehair OG 6-3 300
92 Shawn Oakman DE 6-7 269
93 Germain Ifedi OT 6-6 335
94 Kyler Fackrell OLB 6-5 244
95 Karl Joseph SS 5-11 195
96 Roberto Aguayo* PK 6-1 210
97 Kenyan Drake RB 6-1 210
98 Demarcus Robinson* WR 6-1 204
99 Landon Turner OG 6-4 325
100 Jerald Hawkins OT 6-5 305

 

This is just one of the features found in Athlon Sports' 2016 NFL Draft Preview Magazine. The most complete preview of this year’s draft, Athlon has once again enlisted the expertise of Dan Shonka from Ourlads Scouting Services, to provide our scouting reports and rankings. With his guidance, our perview magazine dives deep into the 2016 draft class with in-depth scouting reports on 218 of the top prospects and position-by-position rankings of 554 draft-eligible players. We also take a detailed look at every NFL team with depth charts and needs for the upcoming season. Our draft magazine also includes a profile of sure first-rounder Joey Bosa, a mock draft, a draft board, a peek ahead at the 2017 draft and much more.

Teaser:
Ranking the Top 100 Prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft
Post date: Friday, April 22, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/5-digital-cameras-we-love-sports-and-outdoors-lifestyle
Body:

We all know the dad who posts amazing photos from his kid’s Little League games. Or have the buddy who uploads his outdoor adventures in stunning visual detail. It’s your turn to join this elite club. Ditch your flimsy camera phone and step up your game with these five options to fit your aspirations.

 

Olympus TG 870The Tough One

If your sports take you into rough terrain, bring along the Olympus TG 870. It’ll survive being submerged in water, frozen, crushed under 220 pounds, and dropped from 7 feet. It’s not all brawn, though: this 16-megapixel camera has a wide 21mm equivalent lens, 180-degree flip-up LED screen, and WiFi streaming to your phone for quick Instagramming or Facebooking, so you can post pics no matter how hard it's pouring at your kid's soccer game. $280,

 

Go Small

As far as pocket cameras go, Panasonic’s tiny Lumix ZS100 packs a 20 megapixel sensor, 4k video recording, and 10x zoom into a pocket-size package. The slim build makes it great for travel and for people who don't want to lug a large camera around a stadium. The smartphone remote control feature—via Panasonics’ app—is the icing on the cake. $700; 

 

Sony RX10 IIA Real Shutter Bug

Sony’s RX10 II is the definition of pro-sumer: a camera for the person who rides the line between everyday consumer and professional photographer. It shoots 4k video, up to 40x slow-mo, and has an autofocus of .09 seconds, so you won't miss that shot of the ball flying off your son’s bat. $1,300;

 

Take Flight

Technically this isn’t a camera. It just helps you get photos that seem impossible. DJI’s Phantom 2 + H4-3D is built to work with GoPro’s Hero4 actions cam, has an internal GPS auto-pilot that allows it to hold a position or dial in a specific altitude so you can focus on shooting, while the 5200mAh battery gives you 25 minutes of flight time per charge. The integrated Nemuse H4-3D gimbal provides extremely smooth video recording. They only bummer? The GoPro Hero4 ($399-$499; ) isn’t included. But just image the Superman shots you’ll snag at the next family reunion. $500; 

 

POV

If you’re looking for a first-person point of view, Garmin’s Virb XE is perfect for reliving your last Tough Mudder or ski trip. Capable of recording video at 1080p and still photos at 12 megapixels, the waterproof (up to 150 feet) camera can mount on your chest, helmet, pack strap, or goggles. To further the immersion, the camera’s GPS-based sensors track stats (speed, elevation, heart rate, and hang time) and superimpose that on the screen, so your awesomeness will be backed by solid evidence. $399; 

 

Reviews by Billy Brown

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 14:44

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