We are just 48 hours away from the start of the 2016 NFL Draft, live from Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Picking third, we all now know that the draft truly begins with our beloved San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have the luxury of knowing the first two selections will be quarterbacks, giving them pick-of-the-litter among all the non-quarterback players.
To quote a famous line from comic book lore: With great power comes great responsibility.
The Chargers can not miss with this pick. This must be a player who will be a mainstay for the next decade provided he can stay healthy. We all know that is easier said than done in San Diego. This man must be a building block of the future, someone who can step into a starter’s role from game number one.
Many intriguing storylines are attached to the 2016 edition of the NFL Draft. Here’s a look at the biggest ones on everyone’s minds and lips heading into Thursday night.
1. What will the Chargers do?
San Diego can enlist a franchise player from this spot but will they? Temptation will be heavy to trade down and try to add picks and value. If the Bolts trade down and add picks, the chances of hitting on a prospect increase. The risk is passing on the next big superstar/future Hall Of Fame enshrinee. What to do, what to do…
As we’ve already seen, quarterbacks drive the action in this draft. The number one and two selections have exchanged teams. More movement to acquire the top five quarterbacks on the board will occur, most likely in the first round. Carson Wentz and Jared Goff will undoubtedly go in the first two picks. Expect Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg to be drafted in round one.
Aside from the rookies, don’t be surprised to see Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Colin Kaepernick traded in the first round. The Philadelphia Eagles (Bradford) and San Francisco 49ers Kaepernick) find themselves in the same boat. Both teams have quarterbacks that don’t want to play for them anymore. Both quarterbacks have plummeted on the field and in overall value. Will the two teams make the best of their bad situations and swap headaches (err…quarterbacks) especially after new 49ers coach Chip Kelly was just fired by the Eagles.
Whether it’s an even exchange or not, the Niners would be helping the coach that has set back their organization untold years. (Insert dramatic music here…) Quarterback desperate teams will rule the first two days of the draft. Sleeper team to be a player in the quarterback sweepstakes: The New England Patriots. You heard it here first.
3. Ole Miss players
There are always players that fall from grace in the draft. It’s most likely that player will come out of Ole Miss. Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is considered the best offensive lineman on the board in the last five years. Robert Nkemdiche was the chosen one for the number one pick in the draft just six months ago. A handful of off-the-field incidents later, he is not expected to go until the second round or worse. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is the top-rated wide receiver prospect in the draft despite an unimpressive 4.6 40-yard dash time.
The NFL won its appeal and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will serve his four-game suspension for his role in the Deflategate scandal after all. This dark cloud will manifest itself multiple times during the proceedings, starting with the fact the first round will only be 31 selections due to the Patriots losing their first round draft pick. With the news dropping just 72 hours before the draft, it is sure to be a hot button issue all week long. As mentioned above, this news could also precipitate a move by the Patriots on the quarterback front.
5. Winners and losers
Every year, the talking heads will compile their winners and losers list for the draft as a whole. Some teams will reach way to high for a head-scratcher of a pick. One team will get the ‘steal of the draft’. We’ll all comb the internet and sports channels for the draftniks’ grades of each team.
We all know what’s coming, and like Christmas, we can’t wait for it to get here. We’re anxiously anticipating Roger Goodell taking the podium to thunderous boos as he announces the 2016 NFL Draft is underway and the Los Angeles Rams are on the clock.
The themes are the same, only the names will change. We’ll ogle a players’ smoking hot girlfriend. We’ll shake our head at a couple of players’ choices of suits. We’ll see that big name player plummeting down the draft board and keep a curious watch on how far he slides as if rubbernecking at the site of a car crash. We will watch every pick and celebrate the entire three hours like we’ve never seen it before.
Because football, that’s why.
Are YOU ready?
The Greg One
There are less than three days remaining until the offseason day we’ve all been waiting for aside from the start of free agency. The NFL Draft will commence with the Tampa Bay on the clock and a whirlwind of speculation surrounding our beloved San Diego Chargers. I will be there in person to see the events unfold and write of it in the days thereafter. After ingesting all the rumors and speculation of the last couple months, I have a feel for the way things go and I am brave (or stupid) enough to put them in print. Without further adieu. here are my top ten fearless predictions.
1. Philip Rivers will NOT be traded. Chargers GM Tom Telesco knows how valuable a commodity he has in Rivers and he’s simply not for sale. Not for Mariota. Not for Winston. Not for a handful of magic beans. No trade. No way. No how.
2. Adrian Peterson WILL be traded. To my chagrin, I have come to the realization that he will not be traded to the Chargers as dearly as I want that to happen. The Vikings know there is no chance in hell Peterson will ever suit up in the Purple and Gold ever again so on draft day he will be gone to the highest bidder. I will stand by my projection that the best they will get is a third round pick and maybe a late round throw in but their first round asking price will not happen.
3. Marcus Mariota will be the second pick in the draft but he will not play for Tennessee, who own the second pick. Not coincidentally, it leads to my next prediction…
4. Marcus Mariota and Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly will be reunited in Philadelphia. All the talk of a Mariota-for-Rivers deal has to make the Eagles happy because they have been largely forgotten in the equation. This will turn out exactly the way we expected it to at the end of the National Championship game. Chip Kelly wants Mariota to run his offense the same way he did at Oregon. Kelly knows there is no one better to run his offense than Mariota. Kelly will get Mariota.
5. To get Mariota, Kelly will trade off his offseason acquisitions. We all thought Kelly traded off his best pieces if he wanted to trade up to get Mariota. The Eagles sent former rushing champion LeSean McCoy packing. They traded away a strong quarterback in Nick Foles. What they did was overload their skill positions in order to make a deal the Titans would want. Let’s examine the facts. They now have DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles as running backs. They now have Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and Tim freaking Tebow in their five quarterback stable. Kelly is going to give the Titans the quarterback and running back of their choice AND their first rounder to get the Titans spot and claim Mariota. Book it.
6. Eight household name players will change addresses during the draft. Expect at least five veterans to get traded on day one and more on day two as Peterson comes into play. Chip Kelly will be responsible for three of those names alone. More will come.
7. The Chargers first round pick will be a running back. Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon will be the man depending on who’s available. Florida State center Cameron Erving will be the selection (as I indicated in my recent mock draft) if both are gone. Offense will be the order of the day in the first round. Telesco has not addressed the running back issue at all in the offseason and contrary to what has been said, don’t expect him to stand pat with Donald Brown, Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead. A top two running back will be drafted.
8. Only two quarterbacks will be drafted in the first round but three will be traded. Among those names, expect Robert Griffin III to be one of them.
9. The bidding war for Adrian Peterson between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys will be won by….New England. The Patriots will give the Vikings their first, second and fifth round picks to secure Peterson as Belichick shows why he is still the smartest person in the room. Hear that sound? It’s Bill Belichick dropping the mic.
10. Telesco will go against formula and trade down on day two to recover the seventh round pick he dealt last year. He’s saving one other bombshell for day two that lands the Chargers the services of.. disgruntled Bears feature running back Matt Forte. You heard it here first. A big name veteran will end up with the Chargers by the end of the draft. Telesco has a plan and its going to jolt Bolt Nation.
There you have it. My expectations for the draft. There’s always a few surprises, a few head scratchers but it will always be entertaining. Look for me on Thursday wearing my powder blue lightning bolted jersey of the quarterback who won’t be traded.
The Greg One
Last Sunday, the Chargers broke their modest (in comparison to the Raiders) three-game losing streak with a hard-fought victory over the winless Raiders. Although this is not a “signature win”, it is a win nonetheless. All Chargers fans should be happy for the rest of the week. That being said, the players can only celebrate for about 24 hours and then their minds need to be focused on their next opponent, the St. Louis Rams.
At 4-6, the Rams do not immediately instill fear in the hearts of many teams. Sam Bradford, their highly respected QB was injured, and has not played since early in the season. Since then, it is quarterback by committee for the Rams which has proven to make scoring difficult and winning even more of a challenge. Look for the Rams to rely on running the ball and strong defense to try to win this game.
So what do the coaches have to do to prepare their team mentally for this upcoming game? After all, the Rams are flying high after their 22-7 drubbing of Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos. At the same time, the Chargers may have some confidence issues after barely getting by lowly Oakland, following three straight losses. There has even been some controversy during the week after Antonio Gates discussed a lingering rib injury that Philip Rivers has been dealing with. Is their team leader going to be healthy enough to play well? This is the first time in a long time that question has been on anyone’s mind at Chargers Park.
Let’s take a look at the job Rams Head Coach, Jeff Fisher has in front of him this week. He needs to find a way to keep his team high, but not allow them to become over-confident and look past the struggling Bolts. Here are five angles that Fisher could take while leading the Rams this week:
- Defense Needs to Continue to Step Up: “Yes, we had a great team win against the Broncos last Sunday. We beat them in all three phases and showed them that no one can sleep on the St. Louis Rams! Yes, Peyton threw for a lot of yards, but that’s okay! You have to expect that with Peyton. The important thing was that when our backs were against the wall, we picked off two of his passes! We also sacked him three times! Consistent pressure, timely turnovers, and completely shutting down the run game is why the Broncos were only able to put seven points on the board. That’s right, SEVEN! If we can continue that kind of defensive intensity, we can shut down the Chargers offense the same way.
- Offense and Special Teams: “Offense, I haven’t forgotten you. I think you would agree that we didn’t exactly light it up out there. One touchdown and five field goals is not how we want to finish drives. That being said, what we did do is stay on the field. 35 minutes of ball control offense helped keep that Broncos offense off of the field. That helped our defense stay fresh and able to attack. As for the Special Teams? What can I say? Five field goals speaks for itself. Outstanding effort by the special teams. We don’t win that game without your effort.
- Make Up Our Minds: “Now, what I want to know is this: Who are we? Can we please just make up our minds? We currently have a record of four wins and six losses. Three of our four wins are against San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver! The 4-6 teams in the league are not supposed to beat those guys! Yet, we do. That being said, we have these great wins but have yet to win two in a row! We are in a tough spot right now. We have quality wins that will show other teams that they better show up and play ball. But, we also have a losing record which can lull teams to sleep. Well, I’ll tell you what. The Chargers will not sleep on us after we took down their division rival. They know we are coming in to beat them and they will try hard not to let that happen. So it’s time to ask yourself, “who are we?” If we are winners, let’s prove it on Sunday.”
- Must Win: “Gentlemen, I’m not going to blow sunshine up your dress. With six losses already, we are pretty much in a must win situation every week now. If we plan on going to the dance, we need to get on a win streak and keep it rolling. Traditionally, 10 wins will get you in. That is the most we can get! I say we take it one game at a time and string together some wins and see what happens. We have already beaten three of the best teams in football. There is no reason that we can’t win every Sunday. But it starts with this Sunday in San Diego.
- Speaking of San Diego: “One final word about this week’s game. The Chargers have indeed been struggling. They have only won a single game in their last four and that was against the Raiders who still haven’t beaten anyone. They are a talented team that has been dealing with injuries. They are getting healthy and have shown improvement on defense. At the same time, their offense has been slowed down greatly in recent weeks. They haven’t scored more than 21 points in the last four weeks and they were even shutout once by Miami! Rivers is banged up. That is definitely to our advantage. We need to hit him every chance we get. Play clean, but play hard. Just like we did last week and I truly believe we have a happy flight home.”
Moving over to the Chargers locker room, let’s see what Head Coach Mike McCoy might say to get his players mentally prepared for what is sure to be a difficult challenge:
- Oakland is Behind Us: “I know that you are being told by the press and social media outlets that we didn’t play well against the Raiders. You know how I feel about that. I think we made a solid team effort and beat a division rival, made up of professional football players, who have been in every game they have played. The Raiders will win eventually. If a team looks past them, they will win. We did what we had to do. We improved our run game, our coverage, our pass rush, and most impressively, our special teams. We won the time of possession battle and well as the field position battle. Most importantly, we won the points battle. In the NFL, that is all you can ask for so keep your heads up and don’t listen to anyone outside of our camp. They don’t know what they are talking about.”
- Keep Things in Perspective: “Now that you know that I am very proud of our effort against the Raiders, understand that we need to keep things in perspective as well. This was not a signature win. We only scored one touchdown. Offensively, we are not where we need to be. I thought our running game was much improved, but it is going to be challenged again this week by one of the best and deepest from defensive fronts in the league. The Rams are tough on defense. Their numbers aren’t staggering, but they have improved lately. Let’s face it; they just held the Broncos to seven points. That’s impressive. On the other hand, Peyton was able to throw for almost 400 yards. If not for a couple untimely turnovers, it’s a whole new ballgame. Keep Philip on his feet and we should be able to move the ball through the air. Denver was not able to run, but they are hurting for healthy players to run the ball. I believe that we will have more success in that area. Offensive line, this is another week where your effort and success could make all of the difference.”
- Philip: “Men, I mentioned keeping Philip on his feet. That has never been more important than this week. As everyone knows, he is a little banged up. We also know that he is one tough son of a gun and won’t miss any reps in practice or plays in the game. BUT, that can all change if too many shoulder pads, or helmets find their target! It’s no secret that Greg Williams is the Defensive Coordinator for the Rams. It is also no secret that he was suspended from coaching for a year due to his involvement in “Bounty Gate”. Let’s face it; he created the bounty system that paid players for injuring other players. Last week, the Broncos lost three skill position players during their game. His defenses his hard and often. Make sure you do not let up, or forget to keep your head on a swivel all the way through the whistle, and maybe a couple of seconds after.”
- Defense Wins Games: “Defensive guys, I am looking forward to another step up from you. Last week, our coverage was much tighter and we were able to keep Carr moving around in the pocket. That was great, but it is behind us now. Now, we get to show the league that it wasn’t just a bad offense from the Raiders, but it was in fact a solid defensive effort by our team. You need to meet, or beat, the intensity of the Rams this week and I guarantee that their level will be extremely high. I want to dominate the time of possession. Part of that is on the offense. They must get first downs and have no turnovers. The rest is on you! We still need to greatly improve on third down and we must tackle better as well. No more shoulder tackles. These guys are too big to just knock over. Wrap up and play solid fundamental football. DB’s, how about a pick or two? Can you do that for us? I think you can. Now you just have to go out there and prove it.”
- One Game at a Time: “Men, I know we are getting down to the last third of our schedule and the race is very tight between us and the Chiefs and Broncos. You’re not stupid. You understand that there may only be one wild card representative from the AFC West this season, as it looks right now. Where here is the good news. If we take care of our business, we are in. Screw the wild card; we can still win the West! But we can’t win all six games of Sunday, November 23, 2014. We can only beat one team on that day and that is the Rams. If we look ahead, we will lose our focus and that is not good. We need to have a razor-sharp focus and that has to be all about this Sunday. I know it is cliché, but it truly is one game at a time. Let’s go win this one game!”
Only the players for each team really know what mind games the coaches are playing on them this week, but those are some angles that I would take. What points would you try to get across, if you were the head coach or either team?
Thanks for reading and please comment below. I will get back to you ASAP.
Enjoy the game and Go Chargers!!!
Every football media pundit on television lauds the NFC West as the by far best division in football. On some shows it has even been mentioned that the NFC West is the toughest division in sports regardless of the sport. While the NFC West is definitely the talk of the league division-wise, it is hardly a forgone conclusion that the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams are the best division in football.
The AFC West would beg to differ. While not as defensively dominant as the NFC West, the AFC West excels in the opposing category. The AFC West is the most offensively dominant division in football. The 1754 points scored by the AFC West teams best the closest division, the NFC North, by over 100 points (1,648). The NFC West led the league in fewest points allowed with a paltry 1,191. The next closest division was the NFC South with 1377 points allowed, a difference of 186.
The AFC and NFC West are the classic example of unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
That story played out in the last season’s Super Bowl as the highest scoring team in the league, the 13-3 Denver Broncos with 606 points scored faced the team that allowed the fewest points in the league, the 13-3 Seattle Seahawks with 231 points allowed. Both teams reached the same record in completely different fashions. Another old adage played out in this contest. Defense wins championships. The Seahawks embarrassed the Broncos 43-8, solidifying their season-long dominance with the Lombardi trophy. The win also put the NFC West as the best division going today.
But are they?
The NFC West was long the laughing-stock of the league until only three years ago. Keep in mind in 2010 the Seattle Seahawks created a national firestorm among football purists and analysts when they made the playoffs by winning the NFC West with a 7-9 record. It was during these three seasons that the NFC West rebuilt itself starting with the Rams drafting Sam Bradford in 2010. The 49ers drafted quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the 2011 draft. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was drafted in the 2012 draft. Add to the mix players that are now household names like Seattle’s Legion Of Boom members Walter Thurmond (2010), Earl Thomas (2010) and Richard Sherman (2011) or San Francisco’s Aldon Smith (2011) Navorro Bowman (2010) to show how this division has risen only after years upon years as the NFL’s doormat.
On the other hand, the AFC West has long had dominant teams represented with the exception of the 2008 and 2011 seasons when San Diego and Denver won the division with 8-8 records, respectively. In both cases, they won the wild card game and lost in the divisional round. League dominance by a division is cyclical. The last time the NFC West dominated the way they have been in present years was the Steve Young era 49ers in the 90’s. During the second half of that decade, the division also featured the Kurt Warner-led ‘Greatest Show On Turf’ St. Louis Rams team. Now the NFC West looks primed for another long run of dominance as players like Kaepernick and Wilson mature and the team around them gets better suited to their talents. The question is, at this point, are they that much better than the AFC West?
Take a look at the principal teams. In the NFC West you have Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona as the heavies while St.Louis toils away in the basement. In the AFC West you have Denver, San Diego and Kansas City jockeying for control with Oakland living in the cellar. The AFC West was the only division to get three teams in the playoffs last season. The NFC was close to getting three teams in as well as Arizona went 10-6 but failed to make the playoffs. Call them victims of circumstance, but the Cardinals did lose three games last season by a field goal including a loss to the lowly Rams in the season opener. The big three in NFC West had 2 more wins than the big three in the AFC West by a 35-33 margin. They were by far the top two divisions in the NFL when you take a win count of the top three teams. They may be lapping the rest of the league, but not each other.
Look at the starting quarterbacks. Representing the NFC West you have Wilson, Kaepernick and Carson Palmer representing the Cardinals. In the AFC West you have Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. If you had to select one group of quarterbacks, team notwithstanding, to carry your team a for full season which group would you pick? The NFC group is the young upstarts, (Palmer notwithstanding) but Palmer is only in his second season in Arizona. The AFC West feature the proven quarterbacks. Manning and Rivers can light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree. Kaepernick and Wilson are on the rise but their best days are ahead of them. The AFC West crop are winding down their careers but Manning and Rivers represent the most dangerous quarterback tandem in any division.
Leaving Palmer and Smith out of the formula for a moment, in Manning and Rivers you have two of the most cerebral quarterbacks in the league. Give them time and they will eat defenses for lunch. There’s nothing they haven’t seen and they are the old-fashioned stand in the pocket, lead-footed gunslingers that are fading out of style in the NFL. Instead, teams fancy the new breed of quarterback with Wilson and Kaepernick as the prime examples. They are quick to scramble to extend a play. They are also very intelligent, game managers. They capitalize on field position granted by their stalwart defenses. Manning and Rivers have rarely had the benefit of top five defenses, instead making their mark with their arms and their superior knowledge.
This season, these divisions will battle it out in the regular season and when the smoke clears two things will be evident. One, neither division will get three teams in the playoffs. Two, we’ll know which division is truly the best in football because as you can see, no other division comes close. However, to answer the pundits, the NFC West is not without a doubt the best division in the NFL. They may be in the lead as they can boast the current Super Bowl champion but not by far. The safer thing to say is the WEST is the best division in the NFL, regardless of conference. Will the unstoppable force or the immovable object come out on top this year? Let the games begin.
What do you think? Which division is better?
The Greg One