Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-linebackers
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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
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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

Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Tight Ends
Post date: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-player-rankings-wide-receivers
Body:

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

Teaser:
2016 NFL Player Rankings: Wide Receivers
Post date: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 10:30
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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 NCAA college football ranking represents where we think teams will finish – not where they should start at the beginning of the season. 

 

Conference Predictions

 

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Athlon Sports Projected 128 Team Rankings for 2016
Athlon Sports 2016 College Football 1-128 Team Rankings
1. Alabama: 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, 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, 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
1.  
2.
3.
4.
  AFC North NFC North
1.
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3.
4.
  AFC South NFC South
1.
2.
3.
4.
  AFC West NFC West
1.
2.
3.
4.
AFC Playoffs NFC Playoffs
Wild Card Wild Card

over

 

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over

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Divisional Round Divisional Round

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AFC Championship NFC Championship

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Super Bowl LI
 over 

 

 
 
 
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
All taxonomy terms: outdoors, Life
Path: /life/how-guide-pond-fishing
Body:

It’s likely you could list a half-dozen ponds with an hour’s drive from home. They’re everywhere—scattered throughout suburban neighborhoods, golf courses, and farm country—and that puts fishing within reach of just about anyone. Pond fishing is accessible, requires relatively little gear, and you don’t have to have a boat to pull out the biggest fish around.

 

But you do need to know how to fine-tune your fishing to hook a fish worth bragging about—or enough for a family fish fry. Here’s how to strategically fish a pond, picking apart the different habitat types that hold bass, bream, catfish and more. Give it your best cast. And better yet, team up for a great two-person pond adventure. Start along the pond shore and fish in opposite directions until you meet on the other side. Trade tips and fish stories, then finish out the circuit.

 

First cast 

Big fish in a small body of water often hole up in obvious cover. The trick is to get your lure or bait to the trophy without disturbing the pond. Before walking to the shoreline, take a few minutes to identity fishy-looking logs that extend into the water, patches of lily ponds, and creek mouths. Then stalk to just within reach for your first few casts.

 

Bream beds 

Popular panfish such as bluegill and shellcrackers will spawn in large, shallow bedding areas. Look for lightly-colored moon-shaped craters. Spinfishermen should toss small spinners or crickets under bobbers. Fly anglers will score with small popping bugs and foam spiders. Tie a black ant to the hook bend with 12 inches of fishing line for a deadly one-two punch.

 

Pond dam 

Finding fish along the pond dam can be tricky. Start at a corner where the deep and shallow water meets, and cast around any fallen trees or weedlines. You can estimate where the submerged creek channel lies by finding the creek outflow on the downstream side of the dam. The underwater channel is a great target for diving lures. And don’t forget to run lures or bait close to the pond drain or spillway structure.

 

Deep water 

Summer heat pushes fish into deeper water, so add split-shot weights and a sliding bobber to your line and hunt for schooling fish. Steep banks are a clue to deep water close to shore, and don’t overlook the edges of long points and submerged creek channels. Catch a fish, and 50 of its closest friends could be buddied up nearby.

 

Night moves

 When the sun sets, the cats come out to play. Catfish, that is, so be ready. A couple hours before dark, throw dog food along a stretch of pond shore. That’s where you’ll want to chunk hooks baited with chicken livers or shrimp.

 

By T. Edward Nickens

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, April 16, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Pick 6, Life
Path: /life/pick-6-our-favorite-things-april-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: 

 

Lamborghini Centenario

If you're going to celebrate the 100th birthday of an automotive genius, then you might as well go over the top. That seems to be the idea behind this nod to founder Ferruccio Lamborghini. This carbon-fiber bodied beast produces 770 hp from a naturally-apsirated V12 engine that launches it from 0-60-ish in 2.8 seconds. The automaker plans to produce only 20 coupes and 20 roadsters for the low, low price of $1.9 million. Enjoy the above video and try not to get goosebumps. We dare you.

 

Blockhead

For anyone who's ever fought to fit their Apple charging cord into a tight space or thought to themself, "Why wouldn't they make it so it plugs in flat against the wall?" your prayers have been answered. With this small adaptor plug that fits onto your current charger, you'll never have to move the sofa again.

$20,  

 

Shinola WatchShinola's Runwell Sport Chrono

If you're looking for a dainty watch, this isn't it. At 48 mm, it's a sizeable timepiece that stands out on your wrist. Handcrafted in Detroit (yes, Detroit), it features a sapphire crystal and bold colors that make it easy to read, even with the multiple fuctionality (date and stopwatch). The brown leather strap next to the green watch face makes for a beautiful combination typically reserved for British racing cars. Truth be told, we couldn't stop staring at it. Better yet, every Shinola watch comes with a lifetime guarantee. 
$875,
 

 

On the Origins of Sports

At first glance, a sports book about the rules of various games hardly sounds like a page turner. Somehow authors Gary Belsky and Neil Fine overcame sizable odds to not only create a deeply informative read, but also one that's awash in trivia and entertaining facts. The book runs the gamut from playground favorites like kickball to mainstream monsters like football. 
$20,  

 

The Selling of the Babe

Spoiler alert: The Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919. What followed was the changing of fortunes for two of baseball's most storied franchises. The book, by baseball writer and historian Glenn Stout, chronicles the little-known true story of how the sale came to be, and how a legend was born. Not recommended for Red Sox fans. 
$28,

 

FixnZip

There are few things as aggrevating as a busted zipper on your gym bag or favorite jacket. It's basically the kiss of death. So when we heard there was a quick and easy fix, we had to try it out. And it delivers. In under 3 minutes we popped on a new zipper and it worked like a charm. Not to sound like an infomercial, but it really was that easy.

$10,

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, April 15, 2016 - 11:39
Path: /mlb/ranking-best-and-worst-mlb-logos-2016
Body:

Brand recognition is important in today’s business climate and that includes professional sports. One critical component to a team’s identity is its logo. While fans certainly relate to the players, it’s the team’s logo that’s displayed prominently on the uniform and pretty much every piece of memorabilia or merchandise.

 

 

So when it comes to , which teams have the best logos and which ones could use a little updating or touching up? To answer that question, we enlisted the help of Blake Copia, a Web designer for Athlon Sports, and someone’s whose eye is trained to find the finer details among the logos for MLB’s 30 teams.

 

  Logo Analysis
1. The Cubs’ logo is easily one of the most recognizable in baseball. The vibrant colors pop with the contrasting white space, and the typography is creative and modern.
2. The Mets’ logo has several nice elements. I like the subtlety of the baseball stitching. The typography is strong and could stand alone, but is enhanced by the contrasting skyline.
3. The script font for Orioles is a great choice. The outline adds interest. I also like the balance and playfulness the bird ads to the logo. All in all, I have nothing negative to say about this logo. 
4. This logo has the perfect combination of creativity and simplicity. It is easily recognizable and is classic and compelling.
5. The Braves’ logo is timeless. It is well balanced with the placement of the tomahawk, and you can’t go wrong with the blue and red color combination.
6.

This logo is one of the more delicate baseball logos. The font is a classic and recognizable style. I also like the added interest the movement baseball lines give to the look of the logo.

7.

The unique placement of the lettering makes this logo stand out. It is simple and effective. I can see why it has been around for so long.

8.  I like the interaction between all the elements in this logo. It has nice movement and a fun hand-drawn quality to it.
9.

This is a strong typographic logo. An intriguing, modern design is created by the interaction of the S and D letters. I am a big fan of this change in logo design for the Padres.

10. The playfulness of the Yankees’ logo makes it memorable. I like the historical feel of this logo. 
11. The unique shape of the Reds’ logo is a nice change from a typical circle option. I like the use of the C as a border of the Reds. It is a simple and creative solution.
12. This is an all-around nice circle logo. The blue jay is a strong icon on its own, and is only enhanced by the thoughtfully placed text surrounding it.
13. I like the baseball diamond shape of this logo, and I even like the typography. But I’m not crazy about the design of the Liberty Bell. At first glance it isn’t easily recognizable with the text over the top of it. I like the alternate logo with the usage of the baseball much better.
14. I like that this logo can stand on its own, but I’m not a huge fan of the diamonds. It looks like the design is stuck in the ‘80s.
15. This logo has a lot of nice elements but could stand to be simplified for legibility. I think the typography is strong, but you lose some of the elements when viewed in a smaller format.
16.

The Detroit Tigers’ logo is nice in that it can stand on its own without any other text. However, it is a little old school for my taste.

17. This logo would be much stronger if it was simplified to just the Twins text on top of the baseball. The additional text surrounding the baseball is difficult to read when scaled down.
18. The Marlins’ logo would look more modern without the text under the M. The color usage is unique, but paired with the font below, it gives an overall retro look.
19.

The Rangers’ logo isn’t exciting. There is nothing to hate about it, but I would like to see something a little more creative.

20. The change to a C from Chief Wahoo as the Indians’ main logo is a nice change, but I find the font choice of the C to be boring. I would like to see something with more intrigue.
21. The interior design of this logo is very compelling, but gets lost in the thick blue circle. I would take the text and the dark outer circle away to let the best elements shine. 
22. The Rays’ logo is cheesy and I don’t like the way the Rays text gets lost in the diamond background. Removing the diamond could solve the problem.
23. This logo is boring and could use some added creativity.
24. I would like this logo better if the dark green circle was removed. The circle distracts from the most interesting part of the logo.
25. This logo looks dated. I don’t like much about it. I think they should lose the stroke on the text at the very least.
26. The elements in the Royals’ logo are very disconnected. I would remove the KC crown icon all together and find a way to incorporate the crown in a more creative manner.
27.

I like the move away from the cheesy pirate. But I’m not in love with the simplicity of the P. I find the font a little strange.

28. I’m not a fan of using the Red Sox on their own. It looks like stock art. I think using just the B or a combination of text with the red sox would make for a more interesting logo.
29. The Nationals’ W looks too much like the Walgreens W. This logo needs to be rethought.
30. The Giants’ logo looks very amateur. Some of the past logos were stronger solutions.
Teaser:
Ranking the Best and Worst MLB Logos in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-basketball/15-best-teams-did-not-win-ncaa-tournament-2016
Body:

This college basketball season has been characterized by one thing – parity – and it’s a label that has carried over into the NCAA Tournament. But that’s not always the case as there often has been a team that has clearly separated itself from the rest of the pack. However, that regular season or even early Tournament domination hasn’t always been punctuated with a national championship.

 

Here are the 15 best college basketball teams whose paths to championship glory were cut off by the single elimination, one-and-done roadblock that is March Madness.


1. 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

(34–1, 18–0 Big West)
Coach Jerry Tarkanian
Lost to Duke, 79–77, in Final Four

Vegas was the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in college basketball before falling to Duke in a rematch of the 1990 title game, in which the Runnin’ Rebels humiliated the Blue Devils, 103–73. With three 1991 NBA Lottery picks — national player of the year forward Larry Johnson (No. 1 overall), wingman Stacey Augmon (No. 9) and point guard Greg Anthony (No. 12) — and the reigning Final Four MOP in Anderson Hunt, UNLV was as intimidating as it was dominant.


2. 1975 Indiana Hoosiers

(31–1, 18–0 Big Ten)
Coach Bob Knight
Lost to Kentucky, 92–90, in Elite Eight

Bob Knight and Joe B. Hall nearly went to blows during a 98–74 IU win over UK in December 1974. The Hoosiers were riding a 34-game winning streak heading into their rematch with the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. But without a full strength Scott May — who scored two points due to a broken arm, after scoring 25 in the first meeting — undefeated Indiana fell to Kentucky, a team that went on to lose the national title to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game.


3. 1983 Houston Cougars

(31–3, 16–0 Southwest)
Coach Guy Lewis
Lost to NC State, 54–52, in NCAA title game

Texas’ tallest fraternity, “Phi Slama Jama” was led by a pair of future Hall of Famers in shot-swatting big man Akeem Olajuwon and high-flying Clyde “the Glide” Drexler. The middle of three straight Final Four appearances and first of two national title game runner-up finishes was the most painful, as NC State pulled off one of the greatest Cinderella upsets in Big Dance history.

 

Related: 


4. 1985 Georgetown Hoyas

(35–3, 14–2 Big East)
Coach John Thompson
Lost to Villanova, 66–64, in NCAA title game

The Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas were runner-up to North Carolina in 1982, national champs in 1984 and heavily favored to repeat as champs in 1985. But the overwhelming edge in talent for Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Co. was no match for the magical shooting night of Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats, who shot 22-of-28 from the field to beat “Hoya Paranoia” on April Fools’ Day.

 

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5. 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels

(28–3, 14–0 ACC)
Coach Dean Smith
Lost to Indiana, 72–68, in Sweet 16

On paper, this was Dean Smith’s most talented team, on the court and on the bench. National player of the year Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty and freshman Kenny Smith headlined a loaded roster, while Roy Williams, Bill Guthridge and Eddie Fogler served as assistant coaches for a group of Tar Heels that couldn’t even make it to the Final Four.

 

6. 2015 Kentucky Wildcats

(38-1, 18-0 SEC)

Coach John Calipari

Lost to Wisconsin, 71-64, in Final Four

 

Kentucky was the first team in history to go 38-0 as it reached the Final Four on a mission to become the first team to hit that magical 40-0 number. The Wildcats’ stifling defense and imposing big men met their match against the historically efficient Wisconsin offense. This UK team didn’t have the star power of perhaps other teams on this list, but it was among the deepest teams of the modern era.


7. 1993 Michigan Wolverines

(31–5, 15–3 Big Ten)
Coach Steve Fisher
Lost to North Carolina, 77–71, in NCAA title game

The sophomore season of the Fab Five — Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — produced the same (since vacated) results as their freshman campaign. Michigan marched all the way to the national title game with their signature baggy shorts, black socks and swagger, only to lose to ACC power UNC, after losing to Duke in the championship game the season before.


8. 1997 Kansas Jayhawks

(34–2, 15–1 Big 12)
Coach Roy Williams
Lost to Arizona, 85–82, in Sweet 16

KU had it all, with NBA size down low in Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard, clutch shooters in Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase and Billy Thomas, and steady point guard play from Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson. But Roy Williams’ Jayhawks could not close the deal against Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and eventual champion Arizona.


9. 1973 NC State Wolfpack

(27–0, 12–0 ACC)
Coach Norm Sloan
Banned from postseason play

David Thompson and Tommy Burleson led NC State to an undefeated regular season but were unable to go dancing after being banned from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. When the ban was lifted, the 1973-74 Wolfpack went 30–1 cut down the nets following a national championship.


10. 1974 UCLA Bruins

(26–4, 12–2 Pac-8)
Coach John Wooden
Lost to NC State, 80–77 in 2OT, in Final Four

The next-to-last team coach by the Wizard of Westwood ended UCLA’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA titles. Despite being led by Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes, the Bruins were unable to outlast NC State in double-overtime in the Final Four.


11. 1954 Kentucky Wildcats

(25–0, 14–0 SEC)
Coach Adolph Rupp
Elected not to participate

Coach Adolph Rupp chose to take a stand against the NCAA by keeping the unbeaten Wildcats out of the Tournament after Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos were ruled ineligible due to a graduation rule that is no longer in place.


12. 1999 Duke Blue Devils

(37–2, 16–0 ACC)
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Lost to Connecticut, 77–74, in NCAA title game

One of Coach K’s most talented teams was anchored by No. 1 overall pick Elton Brand, sharpshooting senior Trajan Langdon, point guard William Avery and athletic freak frosh Corey Maggette — all of whom went in the top 14 of the 1999 NBA Draft.


13. 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes

(26–2, 13–1 Big Ten)
Coach Fred Taylor
Lost to Cincinnati, 71–59, in NCAA title game

Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek are two of the greatest players in Ohio State history, playing in three consecutive NCAA title games — losing the last two trips as a heavy favorite against in-state rival Cincinnati.


14. 1957 Kansas Jayhawks

(24–3, 11–1 Big Seven)
Coach Dick Harp
Lost to North Carolina, 54–53 in 3OT, in NCAA title game

Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain was unable to follow in the championship footsteps of San Francisco’s Bill Russell — who led the Dons to titles in 1955 and '56. The Stilt lost in triple-overtime in what old timers have called the greatest game ever played.


15. 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats

(26–2, 11–1 Missouri Valley)
Coach Ed Jucker
Lost to Loyola-Chicago, 60–58, in NCAA title game

In their fifth straight Final Four appearance, the Bearcats were aiming for a three-peat before the term existed. But back-to-back champion Cincinnati was shocked by underdog Loyola-Chicago in the final.

Teaser:
15 Best Teams That Did Not Win the NCAA Tournament
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-2016-sweet-16-bracket-cheat-sheets
Body:

Let’s face it, chances are pretty good that your NCAA Tournament bracket is busted. Take heart, you’re not alone in this after all the chaos, fantastic finishes and unexpected outcomes that took place in the first and second rounds. But the good news is it’s not too late to redeem yourself. The Sweet 16 is set, and with it comes a shot at redemption.

 

So what if you didn’t have Syracuse or Gonzaga or Wisconsin making it to the Sweet 16. Now’s your chance to go all in on the Orange or Bulldogs or Badgers or you can hitch your wagon to another horse. No Michigan State or Kentucky to choose for your Final Four? No problem, as other blue bloods like Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and Indiana are still in the hunt.

 

The point is this. Consider the slate clean. If you could start over from this point, who would you have making it to the Final Four? Here’s how some Athlon editors see things playing out as the field narrows down to four teams come Sunday night. Besides, you know that they say: hindsight is always 20/20.

 

Mitch Light      
South           East
     
Final Four
         
 
     
             
West           Midwest
     
     
         
 
     

 

Braden Gall      
South           East
     
Final Four
         
 
     
             
West           Midwest
     
     
         
 
     

 

David Fox      
South           East
     
Final Four
         
 
     
             
West           Midwest
     
     
         
 
     

 

Jasmine Watkins      
South           East
     
Final Four
         
 
     
             
West           Midwest
     
     
         
 
     

 

Mark Ross      
South           East
     
Final Four
         
 
     
             
West           Midwest
     
     
         
 
     
Teaser:
NCAA Tournament 2016: Sweet 16 Bracket Cheat Sheets
Post date: Monday, March 21, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /life/big-game-hunting-adam-vinatieri
Body:

Four-time Super Bowl champion Adam Vinatieri, 43, certainly knows a thing or two about big games.

 

The 20-year veteran kicker holds the NFL record for career postseason points scored (234) and has delivered time and again in high-pressure, high-profile situations. Vinatieri split the uprights on a 48-yard field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVI. Two years later, he won another Super Bowl by kicking a 41-yarder. The infamous “Tuck Rule” game? Won on a field goal by you-know-who.

 

As it turns out, Vinatieri isn’t just an expert on wild big games; he also knows all about big game in the wild.

 

“I’ve hunted all over the world,” he says. “Alaska, the Arctic, South America, New Zealand. I’ve chased everything from whitetail deer to grizzly bears. I love football, but hunting is in my blood.”

 

Not surprising, considering he grew up in rural South Dakota.

 

“My dad took me hunting for pheasants when I was 4 or 5 years old,” he says. “We were always out with uncles and cousins. It was definitely a family affair.”

 

Vinatieri has passed down the love of the outdoors to his kids, too.

 

“When I can, I try to steal an afternoon and take my 12-year-old son (A.J.) out,” he says. “He absolutely loves it. I’ve tried bringing my 5-year-old (Gabe) along, but it’s a little tough to keep a 5-year-old quiet. And my daughter (Allison) has tried hunting a few times. But honestly, she’d rather be riding horses.”

 

Today, Vinatieri still craves all types of outdoor activities — rifle and bow hunting, fishing, you name it. And while he loves the thrill of the chase, being outdoors gives the NFL’s oldest active player a chance to decompress.

 

“My job is stressful,” says Vinatieri, who lives in Carmel, Ind., just north of Indianapolis. “Every time I’m out there kicking it’s some degree of pressure. So when the season’s over, I really enjoy getting away from the city. The quiet, the calm, watching the sunrise, everything about it keeps me grounded.”

 

From deer to musk ox, gazelle to bison, Vinatieri has amassed quite a hunting résumé. (And yes, he does eat most of what he catches.) But of course, like all of us, he’s still trying to accomplish ambitious “bucket list” goals.

 

“I’d love to get to Russia and hunt,” he says. “Animal-wise, the Lord Derby (the world’s largest eland antelope, which can weigh over 2,000 pounds) in Africa is definitely something I have my sights set on.”

 

Judging by Vinatieri’s track record of success, there’s a good chance he adds a few more off-field prizes to his laundry list of on-field achievements. The undrafted South Dakota State product has raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy following Super Bowl wins with Tom Brady (three times) and Peyton Manning (once). He’s also the only player to ever score 1,000 points with two different teams — playing 10 years apiece with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, respectively.

 

“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some great teams,” he says. “Sometimes life is about being in the right place at the right time.”

 

He says that if he could, he’d hunt 250 days a year. So, will he be hunting full-time when he retires?

 

“In a perfect world, I’d love to have my own TV show. I’ve been on a couple of other hunting shows and had a great time.  I think it’d be awesome to travel the world, hunt and have it filmed.”

 

In the end, Vinatieri says hunting is more about the experience than the final result.

 

“Having a chance to spend time with family, the people I care about, building memories,” he says. “That’s the thing I love the most.”

 

by Lane Strauss

Teaser:
The greatest clutch kicker in NFL history is also a marksman off the field
Post date: Sunday, March 20, 2016 - 14:29
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/st-patricks-day-cocktails-irish-whiskey
Body:

St. Patrick's Day is the most wonderful time of the year. Whether you're Irish or not, it's a great time to drink green beer, speak in an Irish brogue, and make themed cocktails. Here are three of our favorites. All are easy to mix, so you have no excuse not to drink like an Irishman.

 

The first is the Grisly Mint, from mixologist Jacob Tschetter (The Jeffrey NYC). Next, try the Old Fashioned Irishman. Finally, finish with a classic Irish Coffee. 

 

Grisly MintGrisly Mint 

Ingredients

1 ½ oz. Teeling Irish Whiskey 
½ oz. Brancamenta 
½ oz. Glogg 
½ oz. Cynar 
½ oz. Brovo Amaro No.14 

 

Method 
Stir and strain into a coupe.  

 

The Old Fashioned Irishman 

Ingredients

2 oz. Teeling small batch 
.5 oz. Cynar 
.5.oz. Bittermens Hiver Amer  
.25 oz. Luxardo  

 

Method

Stir/strain into a coupe  
Garnish with flame orange peel

 

Irish Coffee

Ingredients
2 oz. Coffee infused Teeling 
.5 oz. Bittermens New Orleans 
.5 oz. Ancho Reyes liqueur
.5 oz. maple syrup

Dash mole bitters 
Islay scotch rinsed coupe

 

Method

Shake with ice, double strain into coupe

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/pick-6-our-favorite-things-march-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 list this issue: 

 

POWERHANDZ

Depending on your sport, there's a glove option for you. We tried the Pure Grip Sports Gloves for baseball. Yes, they feel weird when you first put them on—due to their heft—but that's the point. The gloves' weight (up to 2 lbs., based on size) is strategically placed around flex points on the top side of the glove and feature sheepskin leather on the palm. This helps both strengthen hand and arm muscles and improve dexterity. And hey, if it's good enough for brand ambassador David Ortiz, it's good enough for us. 

$69.99,

 

Earnhardt Nation

Billed as the "full-throttle saga of NASCAR's first family," author Jay Busbee looks at the life and times of the Earnhardt family, from Ralph Earnhardt and Dale Sr., to Dale Jr., who's keeping the legacy alive. Fans of The Intimator will enjoy this trip down memory lane and deep dive into NASCAR royalty.

$27, 
 

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

There's just something great about a truck that can head off-road at the drop of a hat. This Pro package on the always dependable Tacoma offers a wider, higher stance, a bold grille, and an overall feel that screams, "I'll eat your neighbor's sedan." When it hits the market this fall, it will boast all-new FOX 2.5 Internal Bypass shocks tuned by TRD, Rigid Industries LED fog lights, an aluminum TRD front skid plate, Baja-inspired TRD alloy wheels wrapped with Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain tires, and an available 6-speed automatic or manual transmission. Now bring on the zombie apocalypse!

Price: TBD, 
 

 

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015

Each year Master Distiller John Campbell handcrafts a limited-edition malt to celebrate friendship (“Cairdeas“ in Gaelic). It worked. After a few sips, we were calling Campbell our best friend, thanks to a smokey, peaty taste that kicked us right in the teeth, but went down smooth and warm. At 103 proof, it's not for the novice whisky drinker, so feel free to cut it with ice or water to open up the flavors. In short, it's the sort of single-malt scotch whisky your WWII grandfather would love. And so did we.

$75,
 

Ballpark Blueprints

Looking for the ultimate wallhanger in your man cave or office? Look no more. Ballpark Blueprints offers up stunning blueprints/artwork that showcase the architectural designs of most major sports venues, from classic baseball ballparks to modern-day college football stadiums. Each print features historical information and comes in various size options. Prices can range from $40 for the print to $210 for a framed and matted piece. We recommend spending the extra money and getting it framed. Truly a must-have for any sports fan. 

$40-$210, 
 

Reactor Titan Watch

This is one tough sports watch. We took it running, hiking, swimming and muddy mountain biking. It handled it all like a pro. The Titan series has a stainless steel core with a rugged polymer shell—that looks better in person than photos—for superior impact and (200M) water resistance. Swiss movement with 10-year power cell keep it running on time, while it shines bright in low light thanks to glowing tritium tubes. To top things off, the watch comes packaged in a container intended to be converted into a drink koozie. We tested it with a cold beer and stared at our wrist, admiring the coolness of the last performance sports watch we'll ever need.

$500,   

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/8-great-beers-springtime
Body:

Spring is officially here. It's time to ditch the heavy coat, embrace the extra daylight and enjoy a frothy beverage to kick your taste buds out of their wintery slumber. To help you navigate the fermented waters of spring, which can be a no man’s land for beer lovers—sandwiched between distinct seasonal winter and summer brews—we dove headfirst into finding the perfect beer for sunnier days, backyard grilling and, of course, March Madness. 

 

First Peach Ale (Blue Moon Brewing Co.)

A Belgian-inspired brown ale that offers a sweet hint of peach to perfectly complement—but not overpower—the overall flavor. In all, it was the best fruit-infused beer our manly palettes tasted. But hurry, this Colorado-brewed beauty is only available for a limited time.

 

Blackhook Porter (Redhook)

This spring seasonal will satiate beer lovers who crave a darker taste without being overly hefty. It blends coffee and chocolate notes with a touch of hop bitterness and pairs perfectly with a grilled steak. 

 

420 Extra Pale Ale (SweetWater Brewing Co.)

This Georgia-brewed beer offers a hoppy kick, but goes down smooth with a light, easy finish. Better yet, the rainbow trout adorning the bottle reminds us it’s time to go fishing. Now grab a pole, a 6-pack and get to it.

 

Rebel Grapefruit IPA (Samuel Adams)

Brewed with real grapefruit that enhances without dominating its authentic beer taste; this clean, crisp IPA is both refreshing and satisfying. Ideal for that first hot springtime outing.

 

Side Trip (New Belgium Brewing)

You know that beer that just tastes better while watching a game? This is one of those beers. A straightforward Belgian-style pale ale flavor that satisfies, especially during March Madness.

 

Landshark Lager (Margaritaville Brewing Co.)

You may be too old for Spring Break, but you can still put on flip flops, crank up some Jimmy Buffett and head to Margaritaville, thanks to a brew inspired by the man himself. This island-style lager goes down easy and gets tastier the closer you get to summer.

 

Nitro White Ale (Samuel Adams)

A nitrogen-filled widget rests at the bottom of each can, credited with chemically crafting an enjoyable, creamy head. Although the bizarre beer-cracking sound left us awaiting a beer spray, our nerves were quickly calmed as we were treated to a delightful draft-poured taste and smoothness that had us looking to crack a few more. 

 

Longboard Island Lager (Kona Brewing Co.)

Need something on the lighter side? Try this Hawaiian-based brew that bills itself as “Liquid Aloha.” An easy, crisp and extremely refreshing flavor of the island, thanks to its mild 4.6% alcohol by volume. 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 10:00

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