Breakout Candidates for 2014

Posted by Jack Tumen

Every year a handful of young players take their games to the next level. These are the breakout players. I’ve got a few in mind that I think will raise the bar from their output in 2013.

Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

Markus Wheaton – WR, Steelers

The 79th overall pick in last year’s draft missed nearly his entire rookie season with a broken pinky. Now fully healed, Wheaton is poised for a productive year. Following the departures of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, Wheaton should slide in as the number two option at wideout opposite the explosive Antonio Brown.

Pittsburgh added some depth at the position in free agency by signing Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey, but both figure to play in three and four receiver sets. Wheaton should be able to draw some double teams away from Brown in order to open up the Pittsburgh passing attack. I’m thinking between 50-70 receptions for this guy in 2014.

Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

Dee Milliner – CB, Jets

It wasn’t all pretty for Milliner during his rookie campaign; he was benched multiple times by Rex Ryan and was forced to learn how to play corner the hard way, being thrust into the fire as an immediate starter opposite Antonio Cromartie. In addition, he was constantly pressed by the New York media about being Darrelle Revis’ replacement; an unrealistic expectation.

But as the season wore on, things started to click for the top-10 draft pick. He finished 4th on the team in solo tackles and intercepted three passes in the final two games. Now, Milliner is suddenly the number one corner on the Jets roster after Cromartie signed with Arizona as a free agent. Even with Dimitri Patterson now in the fold, Dee will lead the pack that includes himself, Patterson and Kyle Wilson. The Jets are fully expected to take a corner in May’s draft, but even then, Milliner will be the the man to lineup across from the opponent’s top receiver.

Getting in a full offseason will help immensely as well; Dee missed the majority of the offseason program last year while recovering from his fifth shoulder surgery and spent a lot of time playing catch-up. Rex Ryan certainly knows how to get the most out of his guys, and Milliner is no exception. Look for no. 27 to make an impact in his second season for the green and white.

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Mychal Rivera – TE, Raiders

Rivera had a less-than-ideal quarterback situation playing for the Raiders his rookie season. Now, they have Matt Schaub as their definite starter, barring a QB selection at 5th overall in May’s draft. Although Schaub is a stopgap above all, he’s a more capable passer than Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin. On top of that, he likes throwing to his tight ends; Owen Daniels was always a threat to strike in Houston with Schaub as his quarterback.

At 6-3, 245lbs, Rivera is an athletic-bodied tight end with the tools to create mismatches in the middle of the field. His game almost reminds me of Dustin Keller. Coming off a 38-407-4 season, he’s poised to emerge as a true weapon as Oakland’s top tight end option. Look for Rivera to be a bright spot in the black hole in 2014.

Other Notables

Levine Toilolo – TE, Falcons - There are only three tight ends on Atlanta’s roster. At 6-8, 265, this beast of a man could be the heir-apparent to Tony Gonzales for the dirty birds.

Terrance Williams – WR, Cowboys - With Miles Austin out of the mix, Williams is locked in as the man across from Dez Bryant. 44-736-5 was a nice starting point, but those numbers should balloon this season.

Jamie Collins – LB, Patriots  – This guy went on a mean streak toward the end of last season and especially emerged in the playoffs, recording 9 solo tackles, a sack and an interception. He’s the type of athlete who can become an enforcer on defense with proper coaching; and I think he’s got it where he’s at.

NFL Draft: My Favorite Quarterbacks

Posted by Jack Tumen

The quarterbacks of the 2014 draft class have been poked, prodded and highly scrutinized over the last 5-6 months. Many names we’ve known for some time now; others grew on us as the season progressed. Regardless, it’s all about to unravel on draft day. When it does, my five favorite quarterbacks will find new homes in the National Football League.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

5. A.J. McCarron – Alabama

People have made excuses that A.J. McCarron isn’t all that we think he is because he was surrounded by the best team in the nation at Alabama. Maybe he was; but then again maybe the players around him were that good because he was there. A.J. had a magnificent run as a three-year starter down in Tuscaloosa, commanding a dynasty that took three years and a miracle to unseat as the consensus number one team in college football. Many have tagged him as a game manager and I feel that’s a low blow for a guy with two national titles; Andy Dalton is a game manager; Christian Ponder is a game manager; A.J. McCarron is more than that. Standing at 6’3″, 220lbs, he might be the most consistent quarterback in this entire draft and he’s steadily improved his numbers year after year. Don’t sleep on A.J.

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

4. Blake Bortles – UCF

I had the pleasure of watching Bortles pick apart Penn State’s secondary first hand back when he was still a no-name QB. Now, he’s in consideration to be the number one overall pick in the entire draft. Funny how that happens. Bortles is one big dude, standing at 6’5″, 232lbs and he possesses great arm strength that scouts covet. I don’t think he’s the most consistent QB in the world and he comes off as sort of nonchalant to me. He’s been compared to Big Ben, which makes sense; he’s fairly mobile for such a big guy, but he needs to polish his all around game first. I think he’ll be a solid NFL QB if he can learn how to be a true field general. His ceiling remains high.

Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

3. Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois

Garoppolo is one of the more intriguing prospects in this years quarterback class. He’s a national name from a small school; the same one Tony Romo played at. He won the Walter Payton Award as the FCS’ most outstanding player after throwing for over 5,000 yards. He vastly improved his senior year, going from 31 TDs and 29 INTs as a junior to 48 TDs and 15 INTs a season ago; that’s one of the most important stats a quarterback can have and it shows how much better he can get at the next level. At 6’2″, 226lbs, Garoppolo throws passes with perfect touch and has a great starting skill set for an incoming rookie quarterback. He’ll probably go behind a few other names because of popular demand, but he’s a strong pick in the second round of May’s draft.

Getty Images

Getty Images

2. Connor Shaw – South Carolina

Yes, Connor Shaw. The kid was easily the most under appreciated quarterback in college football during his career at South Carolina and was overshadowed by the likes of Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney on his own roster. At 6’0″, 206lbs, Shaw is incredibly mobile, running a 4.66 40 in Indy; but his scrambles are calculated moves, not wild improvisation like Johnny Manziel. He’s a tough, heady kid who had complete command of his offense under the old ball coach, Steve Spurrier. As a senior, Shaw had the 10th best passer rating in the nation at 162.9 and threw 24 touchdowns compared to just one interception. His arm is incredibly underrated; his ball placement is superb and he’s got one of the better deep balls I’ve seen. Out of every quarterback out there, Shaw is most similar to Russell Wilson than anyone else; their games are nearly identical. Only a bold team will take a chance on this kid, but he will find a way to contribute at the next level one way or another. Watch the tape.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

1. Derek Carr – Fresno State

Not only is Carr my favorite QB in this draft, but I also believe he’s the best as well. At Fresno State, Carr threw for 3,544, 4,104 and 5,082 yards in each of his three seasons as the starter while amassing 113 touchdowns in that time span. He lead the nation is passing yards and touchdowns last season and also completed nearly 70% of his passes his junior and senior seasons. The stat I like the most, however, is the fact he threw less than 10 interceptions in each of his 3 seasons as a starter. A fiery, emotional leader, Carr has the “it” factor when it comes to rallying the troops. His teammates love and respect him as their captain and those traits will serve him quite well at the next level. At 6’2″, 214lbs, scouts have questioned his footwork at times but his natural throwing ability makes up for whatever qualms they may have. It would be cool to see him follow in his brother’s footsteps and go number one overall to Houston; David Carr also played at Fresno State and was the first Texan in history. Whoever ends up getting him, though, will have one heck of a quarterback on their hands.

Left Off

No, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel are not on this list. I’m one of those guys that doesn’t think Manziel’s game translates to the NFL, even if he is the greatest college football player ever. I mentioned earlier that he uses “wild improvisation.” His scrambling stunts won’t work against men who are professionals at chasing and tackling. He also has yet to take a legitimate hit. If he want’s to succeed at the next level, he’ll have to mightily improve his passing game. As for Bridgewater, he’s still lean and also has yet to take a big hit. Nothing about his personality or game really “wows” me. He’s a nice athlete and a fine quarterback, but I just don’t see things playing out in his favor. Disagree? Gimme a piece of your mind!

Three “Told You So’s” for 2014

Posted By Jack Tumen

Predictions predictions predictions. We make a million of them and we’re probably right about less than half of the time. Nonetheless, we continue to predict because let’s be honest, it’s fun to say “I told you so.” So here are three of my “told you so’s” for the 2014 NFL season.

Bill Reilly

Bill Reilly

1. The Baltimore Ravens will win 11 games in 2014.

Birdland experienced a classic Super Bowl hangover following their 2012 championship run, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs all together. Safe to say, losing Ray Lewis left a glaring hole in the leadership department. Ray Rice had his worst season since his rookie year in 2008, rushing for a meager 660 yards with 4 TDs on a career-worst 3.1 yards per carry. Joe Flacco actually set a career mark in passing, going for 3,912 yards, but negated that with only 19 TDs to 22 INTs. Previously, he’d only thrown 10 or 12 INTs in a season (10 twice, 12 three times.)

Let’s be real; Flacco didn’t deserve half of that $120 mil. contract. It was more like a “thanks for winning us a Super Bowl.” He’s not an elite QB; he’s a totally fine QB. At the same time, losing Dennis Pitta hurt the team in a huge way. It further exploited the lack of depth they had at the receiver position. I’m a huge fan of Torrey Smith, but Jacoby Jones was forced to do his best impersonation of a number two receiver when in reality he’s a number three at best.

I really think that Steve Smith was a great addition for that offense. He may not be as explosive as he was five years ago but he’s an emotional leader that will steady the offense and draw some attention away from Torrey Smith. Having Pitta back for a full season will also help Flacco regain his underlying sense of confidence. On top of that, the Ravens received four compensatory picks from the league: a 3rd, two 4ths and a 5th rounder. That’s quite generous if you ask me. Look for a bounce-back year from these fellas.

Beck Diefenbach/AP Photo

Beck Diefenbach/AP Photo

2. Rashad Jennings will rush for 1,000 yards.

One of the best free agent signings, in my opinion, was the Giants grabbing running back, Rashad Jennings. Any time this guy gets the rock – whether it was behind MJD in Jacksonville or filling in for DMC in Oakland – he gives it 110%. Jennings is a fluid north-south runner with excellent hands out of the backfield. Heck, he even blocked a punt in 2013! Most importantly, he’s a high-character guy who will bring much needed stability to a Giants’ backfield that ranked 29th in rushing last year.

After losing David Wilson to injury early in the year, Big Blue was forced to shuffle between Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox and Brandon Jacobs while waiting for Andre Brown’s return from a broken leg. Jennings’ signing doesn’t bode well for Wilson, a former first round pick who possesses all the athleticism in the world but lacks consistency with ball protection. With Andre Brown hitting the free agent market, look for the 29-year-old Jennings to lead the Giants’ backfield and surpass 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career. His highlight reel is pretty impressive too.

3. Tampa Bay Will Have a Top 5 Defense.

Buccaneers.com

Buccaneers.com

With the nightmare that was the Greg Schiano era behind them, the Buccaneers get a fresh start with new Head Coach, Lovie Smith. Lovie returns to Tampa Bay where his NFL career began as their linebackers’ coach from 1996-2000. Now he has a chance to turn around a young roster that’s full of potential.

A defensive-minded coach, Lovie inherits a defense loaded with talent. Gerald McCoy is a top three D-tackle. Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron might be the best safety duo in the league. Adrian Clayborn is one of the best lineman that no one talks about. Lavonte David and Mason Foster are studs at linebacker while Jonathan Banks is an up-and-coming corner.

Yet, this group was utterly average last year, ranking 17th in total defense. So with a few quick phone calls, Lovie decided to bolster that defense by cleaning up in free agency. He signed DE Michael Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner, DT Clinton McDonald and CB Mike Jenkins (also TE Brandon Meyers on offense, pictured above. Major bouce-back candidate.)

Johnson is only two years removed from an 11.5 sack season; he was sidelined by a concussion for most of 2013 but is a fine-tuned machine at defensive end when healthy. Verner was brought in to replace the baggage that is Darrelle Revis and will pair up with a comeback-minded Jenkins and Jonathan Banks to make an athletic and fast trio in the secondary. McDonald is the least-known name on this list, but he knows what a defense is supposed to look like after contributing to Seattle’s Super-Bowl-winning squad last season.

On top of all that, maybe Lovie will be able to wake up the sleeping giant that is Da’Quan Bowers, who has been a disappointment thus far in his NFL career.

New GM, new Head Coach and new uniforms; there’s a lot to like about this group and it’s one that I have high hopes for going into 2014.

NFL Draft: My Favorite Running Backs

Posted by Jack Tumen

It’s time to evaluate another position group in the epically deep draft class of 2014. This time, I’m going with running backs. There are some big names coming out this year; but remember, these are my favorite backs in the class, not necessarily the best ones. Let’s have at it, shall we?

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

5. Jerome Smith – Syracuse

Smith is a guy who largely went under the radar during his collegiate career. He exploded in 2012 with Ryan Nassib as his QB, rushing for 1,171 yards on a 5.2 YPC average and 3 TDs. Last season, he ran for 914 yards in what was more of a committee, with an honest 4.6 YPC average while amassing 12 TDs. He’s a thick, square back who loves contact and has a surprising burst in the open field. His combine numbers weren’t impressive, running a 4.84 40 time and only 14 bench reps. At 5’11″, 220lbs, he’s drawn comparisons to Alfred Morris. Smith could be a day three flier in the draft, but I like him to be a surprise contributor at the next level; maybe with a team like the Steelers. Here’s his highlight reel.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

4. Carlos Hyde – Ohio State

This guy is cruisin’ and bruisin’. The 2013 B1G Running Back of the Year comes in at 6’0″, 230lbs with a 4.66 40 and is widely regarded as a top-two back in this draft class. Coming off a year where he missed three games due to suspension, Hyde still managed to run for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs on a whopping 7.3 YPC average, including a 246 yard and 4 TD effort against Illinois. Trying to tackle this guy is like trying to tackle a landslide; you can’t achieve it with arm tackles alone. He’s one of the truer-built NFL backs we’ve seen in a while. Jacksonville, Tennessee and Arizona are three teams that could use his services as a bell-cow.

Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

3. Charles Sims – West Virginia

After spending his first three seasons at his hometown school of Houston, Sims transferred to West Virginia for his senior year where he was a First-Team All-Big 12 selection. He rushed for 1,095 yards and 11 TDs while catching 45 balls for 401 yards and 3 TDs. Although he plays running back, his game is evenly split between RB and wideout. In fact, he really projects better as a wide receiver in the NFL than he does running back. At 6’0″, 214lbs and a 4.48 40 time, Sims is electric and elusive on the football field. His frame is not ideal to carry the load for an NFL offense; he’s lean and runs somewhat upright. However, his experience at the position would make him a valuable asset for an NFL offense looking to acquire a multi-dimensional weapon. Check out his tape.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

2. Ka’Deem Carey – Arizona

Out of all the running backs in college football last year, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey was the most fun to watch in my opinion. The guy just looks like a running back; he’s got a cut frame with room to beef up at 5’9″, 207. His 4.70 40 time was slightly disappointing, but turn and burn isn’t his game. Carey is dynamic and bouncy as a runner; able to spin his way out of tackles and uses an array of stutter-steps to create space for himself. His college stats are also ridiculous; 1,885 yards and 19 TDs on 349 attempts as a junior last season. The scary part is that wasn’t even his best season; he went for 1,929 yards and 23 TDs as a sophomore on 46 fewer carries. Choosing to forego his senior year, Carey enters the draft as a top three RB prospect. He’s eerily similar to Giovani Bernard in terms of build and running style.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

1. Tre Mason – Auburn

Tre Mason was the keystone of Auburn’s 2013 dream season that came up one miracle short of a national title. As the fixture of Gus Malzahn’s read option offense, Mason carried the rock 317 times for 1,816 yards and 23 TDs while breaking the school’s all-purpose yardage record of 2,137 yards, previously set by Bo Jackson 28 years prior. It seemed like every other play this guy was barreling his way for another breakaway touchdown.

Mason is my favorite running back in this draft class for a few reasons; he’s soft-spoken, runs like a downhill bowling ball and he’s the son of De La Soul’s Vincent Mason; he’s got the music in his blood. At 5’8″, 207lbs with a 4.50 40, we have yet to see him take a handoff from the classic “I” formation, which will be intriguing. For that same reason, he fits perfectly in Denver as Knowshon Moreno’s replacement or down in Carolina with fellow Auburn Tiger, Cam Newton. He will one day be successful as an NFL starter.

Remembering the Sanchize: 2009-2013 (Kind Of)

Posted by Jack Tumen

Al Bello/Getty Images

If you’re a Jets fan, you remember where you were on draft day, 2009. The Jets made a move with their old pal, The Manginius, to grab Cleveland’s 5th overall pick in order to draft USC’s Mark Sanchez. I was babysitting for my Dad’s colleague’s kids; and based on the way I was jumping for joy at the pick, I was probably the one who should have been baby-sat.

Regardless, the future was now and a new era was off and running for Gang Green. Years one and two were nothing short of a dream; the team was good enough that Sanchez only had to manage games to make it to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. As a young Jets fan it was incredibly surreal. I’ve never screamed, sweated and paced back and forth as many times as I did when the Jets went into New England to upend the Patriots in the 2010 divisional round.

Surprisingly enough, Sanchez was stellar in the postseason, becoming the first quarterback ever to win four road playoff games in his first two seasons. But as surrounding contracts inevitably became inflated (as they usually did in the Mike Tannenbaum era) it was evident that Mark needed to take the next step and not be the weak spot of the team anymore.

Instead, he took a massively unwarranted contract, a step backwards and then some. It was a painful, gut-wrenching thing to watch. The Super Bowl had been so close two years in a row and every Jets fan could see the inevitable regression of their franchise quarterback happening right before their eyes. As much as I wanted to keep rooting for Sanchez, it was evident that he had reached his ceiling all too quickly. You could see it in his body language – how he would slow-jog to the sideline after every interception with his head down – that was my least favorite thing in the world. I hated Mark’s body language. Then butt fumble happened. I was there for that one; and as if seeing it one time wasn’t enough, I got to watch ESPN replay it on the Not-Top 10 for the next 40 weeks.

Ed Mulholland/U.S. Presswire

Ed Mulholland/U.S. Presswire

I don’t fault Sanchez for the way it ended; it was wrong of Rex Ryan to be playing him in that preseason game. Deep down though, I was happy to not have to worry about another year of Sanchez. Regardless of how good or not good Geno Smith was going to be, it was a fresh start. However, this injury meant the ultimate end of Mark Sanchez in New York. With that, a moment of reflection was in order for the quarterback who allowed me to go to bed happy on most Sundays for the last two years of high school.

As ugly it got toward the end, there were some great games that Sanchez pulled out for the Jets. I was lucky enough to have been present for 15 out of 16 home games in Sanchez’ first two years and I saw some true miracles in that time period. I remember his first touchdown pass to (drum roll) Chansi Stuckey. Great trivia question right there. The 30-27 win over Houston back in 2010? Man, that was something. Literally everyone had left the stadium after the Texans had come back to take the lead with under a minute left and I convinced my Dad – who’s the king of leaving games early to beat the traffic – to stay for the last drive just to see if maybe something could happen. Then boom; Braylon Edwards deep down the right sideline and the game-winning fade to Santonio Holmes. Unbelievable.

And how could any Jets fan forget the 37-0 thwarting of Cincinnati to clinch the playoffs and simultaneously close out the last ever game in Giants Stadium, right after Big Blue got whooped by Carolina the previous week in their final effort in the stadium named after them? Gotta love it.

Getty Images

Getty Images

There were some memorable players that surrounded Mark Sanchez in his time with the Jets as well: Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Tony Richardson, Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith; all great Jets. And I will say this now and any Jets fan will agree; Braylon Edwards was the man in New York. I really have no idea how his perception around the league with other fans was so awful but that dude made play after play for the Jets and was one of the sole reasons they made it as far as they did in ’09 and ’10.

But all of that’s over with now. With a slight of hand, Sanchez was swapped for Michael Vick; a move that two years ago would have had me a lot more enthused than it does now. An era of football and my life, gone forever. I won’t always remember it in the best light, but I will certainly never forget the myth that was the good times of Mark Sanchez.

Why Eric Decker Is A Legit No. 1 Receiver

Posted by Jack Tumen

AP

Eric Decker is now a New York Jet. After being a member of the best offense in NFL history, Decker hit the free agent market as the consensus top wideout available. At the same time, a large number of people were yapping about how he’s not truly a number one guy, but more like the best number two on any team.

I beg to differ.

Now, let’s first set aside the fact that since it’s the Jets, Decker is obviously their number one guy. Yes, got it, great. Having said that, it doesn’t matter what roster this guy is on; he can be a true number one on just about any team in the NFL that doesn’t have Calvin Johnson, AJ Green or Julio Jones (you get the point.) And I don’t want to hear any of this “Peyton Manning inflated his stats” crap. No shit he inflated his stats. Peyton could inflate MY stats. Peyton could inflate YOUR stats. He’s fucking Peyton Manning.

With that now off my chest, let’s get down to business. I’m not writing this post because I’m a wishful-thinking Jets fan; I’ve always been high on Decker. I’ve followed his career ever since he popped up on the Broncos depth chart way back in Madden ’11 (yup.) There’s only one way to size E-Deck up; compare him against every other number one wide receiver on every NFL team.

So that’s just what I did.

I created a spreadsheet listing height, weight and 40 time of every number one wideout on all 32 teams. To clarify what constitutes a number one wideout, as a knowledgable football fan, I combined team depth charts with common sense. For example; Justin Blackmon is the most physically gifted receiver on the Jaguars, but Cecil Shorts was their number one guy last year. Likewise for someone like Julian Edelman; not physically impressive but nonetheless the number one target on his team. For the Rams, it’s Chris Givens; he’s atop the depth chart and Tavon Austin didn’t play nearly as many snaps.

I also made this chart a couple days before the Raiders signed James Jones. Replacing Jones on this list would actually benefit Decker even more since Decker is taller, weighs more and had a faster 40 time; plus I did way too much math to do it all over again for flippin’ James Jones. Rod Streater was Oakland’s top target last season; Denarius Moore was oft-injured, and Streater emerged to lead the Raiders in receiving. On the other hand, despite Michael Crabtree’s injury, he’s still San Fran’s number one guy over Anquan Boldin.

Below is my list of number ones as they stood on March 15th. I believe Decker’s around the 15th or 16th best on this list.

  1. Eric Decker, Jets – 6’3″/214/4.54
  2. Julian Edelman, Patriots – 5’10″/198/4.52
  3. Mike Wallace, Dolphins – 6’0″/199/4.33
  4. Stevie Johnson, Bills – 6’2″/207/4.59
  5. Torrey Smith, Ravens – 6’0″/205/4.43
  6. A.J. Green, Bengals – 6’4″/207/4.50
  7. Josh Gordon, Browns – 6’3″/225/4.52
  8. Antonio Brown, Steelers – 5’10″/186/4.47
  9. Andre Johnson, Texans – 6’3″/230/4.41
  10. Reggie Wayne, Colts – 6’0″/200/4.45
  11. Cecil Shorts, Jaguars – 6’0″/202/4.59
  12. Kendall Wright, Titans – 5’10″/191/4.61
  13. Keenan Allen, Chargers – 6’2″/211/4.71
  14. Rod Streater, Raiders – 6’3″/200/4.37
  15. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – 6’3″/229/4.38
  16. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – 6’2″/221/4.51
  17. Victor Cruz, Giants – 6’0″/204/4.47
  18. Dez Bryant, Cowboys – 6’2″/222/4.52
  19. DeSean Jackson, Eagles – 5’10″/175/4.35
  20. Pierre Garcon, Redskins – 6’0″/212/4.48
  21. Jordy Nelson, Packers – 6’3″/217/4.51
  22. Brandon Marshall, Bears – 6’4″/230/4.52
  23. Greg Jennings, Vikings – 6’0″/195/4.48
  24. Calvin Johnson, Lions – 6’5″/236/4.35
  25. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers – 6’5″/230/4.46
  26. Marques Colston, Saints – 6’4″/225/4.50
  27. Julio Jones, Falcons – 6’3″/220/4.39
  28. Tavarres King, Panthers (like what?) – 6’1″/190/4.44
  29. Michael Crabtree, 49ers – 6’1″/214/4.54
  30. Percy Harvin, Seahawks – 5’11″/184/4.41
  31. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – 6’3″/218/4.63
  32. Chris Givens, Rams – 6’0″/198/4.41

With that rationale explained, here’s how my research turned out. The average height of all the number one wideouts is 72.7 inches; just under 6’3″, the average weight is 209.2 pounds and the average 40 time is 4.48 seconds. So where does Decker stand against those numbers? He’s 6’3″, 214 with a 4.54-40 time. So physically he’s just above average and is a hair slower than the average top wideout (plus speed always varies in actual games with adrenaline going.)

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Yeah, I bet you didn’t know Eric Decker is 6’3″. Neither did I. He just looks smaller on TV. But the numbers don’t lie; Eric Decker is physically above average. He’s basically a Jordy Nelson clone.

Ok, ok. So what about when it comes to actually catching passes? This is where all those inflationists chime in. Listen, people; the fact that he’s catching a Geno Smith pass doesn’t de-value his legitimacy as a number one wideout. As receiver 2a in Denver last year, Decker caught 87 balls which was good for 12th in the league and had fewer drops than Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall and his former counterpart, Demaryius Thomas among others. Even if Decker catches 20 fewer passes as a Jet next season, it still doesn’t make him any worse a receiver. The quarterback is responsible for the distribution of numbers; the potential is still present.

That potential is what I’m getting at here. No, he’s is not a juker and he’s not a burner, but he’s the ultimate possession guy. He’s about as solid a wide receiver as you can find to fit the definition. Only just entering his prime at 27, the man now deserves to be included in this category. Like it or not, it’s time to warm up to Eric Decker.

5 Favorite NBA Throwbacks

Posted by Jack Tumen

The Toronto Raptors recently announced that they’ll be bringing back the infamous purple throwback uniforms as part of their 20th anniversary next year. I’ve got one of those bad boys up on my wall; it’s one of my favorite uniforms of all time. This got me thinking about some of my favorite NBA throwback jerseys. Here’s my top 5.

5. Phoenix Suns – 1992-2000

AP

That black jersey with the streaking sun is downright stealthy.

4. Utah Jazz – 1984-1996

Dick Raphael/Getty Images

One of the classiest uniforms of all time.

3. Toronto Raptors – 1995-1999

Frank Gunn/CP PHOTO

The purple definitely “pops,” but the white is pretty fresh.

2. Seattle Supersonics – 1995-2001

Getty Images

A team with jerseys this good deserves to be back in action.

1. Vancouver Grizzlies – 1995-2000

That teal with the Native American trim is straight up dank. Can’t beat it.

NFL Draft: My Favorite Wideouts

Posted by Jack Tumen

I know, I write about receivers a lot. But you know why? Because it’s the coolest position. Everyone loves a great receiver; I’m no exception. Who doesn’t want to be the guy that goes up and grabs the game winning touchdown? So this post is about the guys who will soon have a chance to do that for a living. These are my top 5 favorite receivers in this years draft.

5. Marqise Lee – USC

Jerry Ting/Neon Tommy

Here’s a guy who was considered to be a top 5 pick a year ago. Instead, Marqise Lee is just another brick in the wall of an incredibly deep and talented wide receiver class. At 6 foot, 192lbs, Lee is truly his own receiver; I can’t think of anyone in particular to compare his game to. Maybe a mix of Marvin Harrison and Pierre Garcon; same heights, similar weights. He plays bigger than his height and has the moves to turn a 7 yard gain into a 77 yard gain. He’s got the drive and passion, which is great in today’s NFL where we see less and less emotion on a down to down basis from WRs. Lee is a prospect that I don’t see failing in any situation. He’s going to ascend to number 1 on the depth chart wherever he goes…and quickly at that.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

4. Allen Robinson – Penn State

Ok, so maybe this one’s a little biased. But then again, maybe it’s not. I got to watch all 3 years of A-Rob’s career at Penn State, and I will tell you now, this dude can pah-lay. Some were a bit disappointed by his combine 40 time, but speed is not his game; he’s a go-up-and-get-it guy. He had the 3rd longest broad jump and 6th highest vertical jump at the combine, which still doesn’t do him justice. You just have to see him make a play when he’s got the adrenaline going. I’ll never forget calling the epic 4OT game vs Michigan from the press box last season when he made the play of his career that set up the score to send it to overtime. That’s just one example of how flawlessly he times his jumps. He also thrives in the screen game – a method Bill O’Brien employed to force feed him the ball – which helped to crown him as the best receiver in the B1G for 2/3rds of his career. That same screen/sideline game translated over to his master skill at cutting back between the safety and defensive back to make a score countless times, like he does 15 seconds in to this highlight reel. Being 6’2″, 220lbs doesn’t hurt either. He’s one of a kind.

3. Brandin Cooks – Oregon State

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The 2013 Biletnikoff award winner has been on my radar for some time now. Mid-season I’d be checking random stats and I see this guy leading the nation in receiving. Who? Brandin Cooks from Oregon State? Is Oregon State even good? Well, by now he’s on everyone’s radar; and rightfully so. After running the fastest 40 time of any wideout at the combine (4.33) and second fastest overall, Cooks has propelled himself into the 1st round conversation. To me, he’s one of the top 5 “playmakers” in this draft. His sticky hands and jackrabbit quicks instantly add a dangerous dimension to any offense; plus, he’s a skilled return man. Cooks is another guy whose game can’t exactly be compared to anyone else’s; he’s short at 5’10″, 189lbs, but has the build and agility to play above the measurables. There’s still room for him to beef up, but Cooks is a top 25 prospect for 2014.

Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports

2. Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt

Matthews was one of the first receivers to be talked about at the start of last season – and as remarkable of a year as he had (4th nationally in receptions and receiving yards) the attention seemed to stray toward the likes of the Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. Meanwhile, here we have, in my opinion, the most well-rounded player in this entire draft; leadership, consistency, attitude and playmaker are just some of the many words that can be associated with this young stud. Like all the previously mentioned receivers on my list, Matthews’ game is his own; comparisons fall by the wayside. It’s another reason I love this class so much; they’re all unique individuals who will bring a new flare to the NFL. At 6’3″, 212lbs with a flashy 40 time of 4.46, he’d be a heavy value pick in the second round.

1. Odell Beckham Jr. – LSU

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

I would go so far as to say that Beckham is one of the top 3 athletes in this draft next to Jadeveon Clowney and maybe Khalil Mack. It’s honestly stupid how freakish he is. At 5’11″, 198lbs, he’s been a star at basketball, baseball, football and soccer at different points in his life. He can catch a ball literally anywhere on the field, run any route type and has the perfect frame to be used in any scheme. Back at LSU, Beckham and Jarvis Landry made up the top wide receiver tandem in the country. I truly believe this kid will be one of the top 10 receivers in the league in 2 years. His aggression and intensity at the catch point are unrivaled. Also not to mention he’s one of the best return men in the nation. If you’re still not convinced, check out this article recapping his remarkable 2013. Odell Beckham Jr. will soon be having his way with NFL defensive backs; just you wait and see.

Notables Left Off This List – Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans & Kelvin Benjamin

Many of you may be pulling your hair out over the fact that I didn’t include at least Watkins and Evans in this list. Sure, they’re amazing athletes and great college receivers, but I’m not thrilled by their intangibles. All 3 of these guys seem like they kind of just go through the motions, assuming they’re going to be a first round pick because Mel Kiper said so. Watkins maybe would be number 6 on this list, but as for Evans, I’m just not a fan of his vibe. And as for Benjamin, if you have Jameis Winston throwing darts at your solar plexus every play, then I haven’t seen enough from you. Let’s talk again when he’s got Christian Ponder or Chad Henne throwing that duck 2 feet in any direction from his head.

So there you have it, my 5 favorite wideouts in the 2014 draft class. Don’t agree? Say somethin’ why don’t ya!

NFL Combine: Under-the-Radar WRs

Posted by Jack Tumen

Tyrann Mathieu

Dave Martin/AP

The NFL Combine is under way, which means ranking season is in full swing. Personally, I think the combine is overrated. People get too caught up in the numbers game when in reality, certain players will have better careers than others simply because of the situation they’re drafted into.

At the same time, the combine is a great place for lesser-known players to make a name for themselves as the draft approaches. Over the next two months, new faces will surface as these young talents make the final push to up their stock for May 8th. The combine is where that push starts. Below are three under-the-radar wide receivers that I think will emerge as productive pros.

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Devin Street – Pittsburgh

Street leaves the University of Pittsburgh as the school’s all-time leader in receptions. He was a two-time second-team All-Big East selection in 2012 and ’13. He stands at 6’3″, 198lbs with a long frame and covers chunks of yardage with large strides. I think he has a great chance to become a solid number two receiver; his build fits the bill for an ideal second option on the outside. I like him as a deep ball/sideline target in a vertical NFL offense, but he’s versatile enough to make a grab anywhere on the field. Potential suitors could be Detroit, Indy, Philly or the Jets. Look for him to come off the board in the 4th round. Check out his highlight reel.

Kevin W. Fowler/Lansing State Journal

Bennie Fowler – Michigan State

At 6’1″, 217lbs, Fowler has some of the highest growth potential of any wideout in this draft. He’s led the Spartans in receiving for the last two seasons, and although his stats don’t exactly “wow” at first glance (36 rec, 622 yds, 6 TDs in 2013) his athleticism and upside are enormous. If you watch some of his tape, you can’t help but notice his outstanding ability to stop and change direction on a dime. He fearlessly runs routes in the middle of the field and can line up anywhere on offense; he’s taken a few reverse handoffs along the way too. More importantly, the guy can take a hit. Pittsburgh, Kansas City or Tampa Bay could all be fits for a physical receiver like Fowler. I’m thinking 4th-5th round, but he’ll be an underrated value pick.

Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

Michael Campanaro – Wake Forest

Look up the definition of slot receiver and it should say Campanaro’s name next to it. This kid is one of the toughest receivers around and people should take notice. Listed at 5’9″, 192lbs, Campanaro is the Demon Deacons all-time leader in receptions. He’s a true possession receiver that moves the chains in chunks while using his quickness to gain extra yardage. His game reminds me of Steve Smith (also 5’9″, but 10lbs lighter) mixed with Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman. He’d be the perfect Seahawk, but I can also see him working the slot with Jacksonville, Tennessee or San Diego. He’ll come off the board in the 5th or 6th round.

Stay tuned for many more pre-draft lists and predictions in the coming weeks.

The Lost Souls of the NFL

Posted by Jack Tumen

AP

Is your trophy case empty? Do you long for a championship ring on that naked finger? Are you constantly defending yourself against everyone who’s been there and done that? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re most likely one of the 13 NFL franchises that have never won a Super Bowl.

The quest for the ultimate achievement in sports is an elusive one, indeed. Only the best to walk this earth have ever reached the summit of every boy’s dream and been touched by eternal greatness. Some have been lucky enough to climb that mountain twice, three times or even…just once.

But the strive for that immeasurable satisfaction never dies. It haunts every player, coach and fan for as long as they’re willing to put on a jersey, headset or beer helmet every fall Sunday. The closer one gets, the harder it is to reach the finish line – and just when you think your team is on the doorstep of a championship, the rope snaps and you fall into darkness, only to awake in a cold sweat as you get out of bed and splash some water on your face.

Another bad dream.

For 13 franchises, all they’ve ever known is a bad dream. Talk about the Bills; man do I feel badly for those guys. Four straight losses in the big game? Makes me thankful to be a Jets fan. The Bills have been bad for so long that there are whispers of them moving to L.A.. Listen, that’s silly. The only place the Buffalo Bills belong is in Buffalo. For crying out loud, they’re named after a guy called Buffalo Bill! Without the Buffalo, everyone will suddenly ask, “wait, what the heck is a Bill?” Sshhhhhhh. Don’t draw attention to it. Just keep pretending it makes sense.

Chris O’Meara/AP Photo

Another franchise with four Super Bowl losses is the Vikings. I feel less badly for them because they’re losses were mostly separate – just one back to back – and they all happened wayyy back in the medieval times of the NFL. Then you’ve got the Eagles and Bengals as the only other teams to lose multiple Super Bowls without a Lombardi to fall back on. Philly has been one of the better teams of the last decade, but to no avail. I’ll tell you one thing, though, Cinci ain’t winnin’ nothin’ with that Dalton kid. I never got to watch Boomer Esiason so I grew up thinking that Bengal’s QBs are supposed to be totally and completely average. Well, Carson Palmer is the only one I truly remember watching, but there you go.

Then there’s the “yeah no” group. This would include the Chargers, Titans, Falcons, Panthers and Cardinals; each franchise losing its only Super Bowl appearance. San Diego’s had its chances since Phillip Rivers has been around. Atlanta’s so close, but so far. Carolina’s stock is on the rise for the next half-decade while Arizona, one of first NFL franchises, hasn’t done so much as to lift a finger to show it’s fans what a winning team looks like in nearly 100 years of existence. They’re getting into Cubs territory.

The Titans in my opinion have it the worst out of this group. To lose a Super Bowl by 1 yard? Man, that’s rough. I’d love to see them get back but that’s a franchise with a lot of work to do; they have no true leaders. They should at least bring back those dark blue unis; they’re not making it to the big game in that baby blue.

Finally, we arrive at the bottom of the barrel; the franchises that have never even appeared in a Super Bowl. This group consists of the Texans, Jaguars, Browns, and Lions. I give Houston and Jacksonville the benefit of the doubt since their franchises are still fairly new. I really thought Houston had its best shot to get there in 2011 until Matt Schaub was injured. Jacksonville actually made it to two AFC Championship Games back in the late 90s during the Mark Brunell/Tom Coughlin era. The Jaguars were actually a pretty decent team 10 years ago but they’ve been a franchise running on fumes for the better part of the 2010s.

AP

The Lions may not have a trophy but at least they had, in my opinion, the greatest running back ever in Barry Sanders. I guess in a way that actually makes it worse. At least they’re not the Cleveland Browns. Anyone seen the preview for that movie coming out called “Draft Day”? The Browns have been the laughing stock of the league for so long that they actually had to make a movie about them having the number one pick. I may be a Jets fan, but I can be certain that they’re not making any movies about the Butt Fumble.

This group of franchises recently said “farewell” to the Seattle Seahawks, who now party with the big boys. It’s nice to see a city like Seattle join the ranks of those with a Lombardi Trophy, especially after they were robbed of the Sonics. People forget that Seattle is really a basketball town (or was.)

For the remaining 13 teams, they continue to wander through the forest in search of answers; the lure of a Super Bowl title always in mind. But if you’re one of the lost souls of the NFL, not to fret; there’s always next season.