The second round can be a secret stockhold for teams to scrounge up first-round level talent who fall via too many question marks. Whether it be character issues that plagued a college career, unease over lackluster measurables, or concerns over his transition to the pro game, second rounders bring more risk yet the round usually houses the finer sleepers of a draft. So when the Bears selected the tight end out of Ashland Adam Shaheen 45th overall, it felt like Ryan Pace nailed another pick.
First overall picks ordinarily arrive into the league rather well-equipped for the NBA landscape. Most have moments of vigor but still have a level of green to them that holds them back, merely using their rookie campaign as a stepping stool to what they will accomplish. Sometimes, players enter the league and dominate from the first tip. Less often are the ones who can’t seem to find their footing and drip out of the league. Whether it be due to health concerns or teams simply giving up on the young lad, busts happen every once in a while. And then you have Markelle Fultz.
As the regular season winds down and the playoffs nearing, let’s run down the biggest weakness for every contender down the stretch.
Celtics: Depth Scoring
Baker Mayfield ranks as one of the most confusing yet polarizing prospects in recent memory. Some see him worth a top three pick while others believe he’s a trap waiting to spring and that Mason Rudolph (yes, that Mason Rudolph) would be a better and safer selection. Scouts generally don’t bat an eye at the annual Heisman winners and Mayfield is no different.
According to NFL insider Adam Schefter, the Chicago Bears have found their new kicker in the former Miami Dolphin Cody Parkey. He intends to sign with the Bears once free agency officially opens on Wednesday, replacing mid season pick up Mike Nugent.
According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the Chicago Bears are expected to lock down former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson to a three year, 42 million deal. Because free agency opens on Wednesday, he cannot be officially signed just yet but barring a desperate swing from another team, the Bears have found their top receiver.
The Raptors historically don’t have much to boast about in the playoff department. They have only been able to claw to the Conference Finals a single time in their 23-year history and only nine total Raptors teams have made it past April. A conference semis appearance is all they have to show for the Vince Carter era and with the current DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry era faring just as poorly in terms of playoff success, watching the Raptors soar to the first seed in the East this season feels like watching a young child attempt to ride a bike without training wheels for the third time in his life and merely preparing for him to crash into a tree.
Every year, there seems to be a player or two in the draft that has a narrative tied to him far better than the draft’s own natural drama and intrigue. Whether it be a heartwarming underdog tale or a frat boy everybody simply can’t wait to see fail, college football usually blesses us with more than just the yearly dry analysis of prospects. This year, current darling and feel-good story of the college season Shaquem Griffin has been gaining a lot of traction in not only headlines and Twitter circles, but in legitimate draft stock as well.
For those who haven’t paid much attention to the draft or just football in general, Griffin shredded college football in his last couple of seasons. In his senior year at linebacker, he led the defense on an undefeated Central Florida team en route to a Peach Bowl victory, in which he won defensive MVP to add to his 2nd-team All-American and Sports Illustrated’s All-Bowl team honors. But what makes him all the more remarkable is he accomplished all this with a single hand.
Tragically amputated at a young age due to amniotic band syndrome, Griffin has gone through his entire football playing career without his left hand. In most cases, NFL teams would see this as an unavoidable red flag, rendering a player like him virtually undraftable. But Griffin has not let any of it hinder him in the slightest up to this point
He absolutely stole the show at the annual Combine. He first put up an absurd 20 reps of 225 pounds at the bench press using a prosthetic hand. His previous best before this was only 11 reps. He only impressed further in the 40, dropping the fastest time for a linebacker since 2003 with a 4.38. As a six foot one, 227-pound linebacker, that kind of speed is rare and dangerous, nevermind the one hand.
Yeah, while balance issues have plagued his entire career and open field tackles bring their own unique difficulties, a player with his levels of instincts, blazing speed at the linebacker position and overall versatility has incredible value despite it. He even has adapted to catch passes, with three interceptions in his college career and showed the capability off in the coverage drills.
But what has been capturing teams’ attention over all of his athletic gifts lies in his competitive motor and heart. One-handed athletes don’t find too much success in the world of sports, especially such a demanding sport like football, and Griffin would be the very first player in the NFL modern era to play with only a single hand. The fact he even managed a division I college roster is impressive enough but to take over the way he did and be expected to be drafted relatively high should be more than enough to convince general managers and fans alike of his unparalleled spirit.
Even with his obvious talent, unreal combine showing, and motor scouts still project him as third or fourth round selection. While his natural playmaking abilities and dynamic athletic qualities could arguably be first-round caliber, adjusting to the pace and demands of the pro game down a hand forces teams to be a little wary of him on day one. He will more than likely hear his name called high-third to mid-fourth and honestly will be able to compete for a contributing role if coaches are willing to work around the missing left hand.
So enter the Chicago Bears. A rebuilding team doing everything in their power to evolve into an athletic force on defense. They have already cut plenty of aging veterans, (looking at you Jerrell Freeman, Pernell McPhee, and Willie Young) at linebacker to make room for cap space and to allow for the young bucks to start to spread their wings. Considering only Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks make up the pass rush, for now, the Bears will more than likely be digging for versatile and preferably young edge rushers to aid the budding defense.
Griffin ticks all of these marks and then some. His greatest skill rests as his pass rushing instincts and robust ability to get to the quarterback, which is exactly what the Bears would be searching for. Add in his coverage skills and wonderful story, and he would be an instant fan favorite who would set the bar for the defense. His journey is inspiring enough but to watch him (hopefully) grow into a star on the founding franchise of the NFL would be a headline for the ages.
And if there will be any coach who could widdle around the one handedness, it would be defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. His creativity on the defensive side keeps him employed and seeing what he has been able to accomplish when given the versatility he wants. Eddie Jackson and Floyd have been smashing successes and as a rookie, Griffin would slide into secondary sets beautifully.
The only problem? The Bears don’t own a third-round selection this year and with such a deep draft in the receiver, interior offensive lineman, and corner positions slim-fitting the Bears’ needs, it may not be worth pulling the trigger on Griffin in the second. However, this wouldn’t be a complicated fix at all as Pace has already shown how aggressive he can be on draft day. Nabbing an early third rounder would be his morning coffee and toast.
The pieces just fit too well on this one. Griffin already has developed a great following and his awesome personality would bring some much-needed character to the Bears, especially if he did grow into a star in this league. His talent would be a perfect addition to the blooming defense and his playmaking skills could inject some excitement into Soldier Field.
Here’s hoping Pace will find a way to get Griffin in blue and orange.
Arguably the best player in the draft without a combine invitation, Texas nose tackle Poona Ford’s strong senior year and a very impressive Senior Bowl performance tucks his name among the finer sleeper picks. Projections for the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year range from the fifth round all the way down the seventh, with almost zero mock him anywhere near day one or two, an oddity for a player who had dominated both the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl to his degree. While concerns about height handicap his perceived value to teams, short nose tackles have found great success in this league before.
Position: Nose tackle
Pro comparison: Mike Daniels
A powerful rusher, he has flashed enough upper body to effectively avoid redirect blocks and utilizes his thick build for solid gap filling abilities. He also possesses much more length than he gets credited for with 33’ arms to boot.
However, his greatest gift lies in his sense of leverage. Because of his small stature, Ford has an uncanny ability for getting low and squeezing through blockers from his low hips alone. Complemented by his sturdy upper body strength, watch how he pries through for the sack.
He also flaunts great motor. A determined player who can make plays well out of his area. With any player of this height in the pros, intensity and motor can make up for a lot of size deficiencies. Ford is one of those cases. While not a particularly speedy player, watch the impressive chase down tackle from him.
Ford has very little block shedding capabilities due to his inactive hands and general lack of quickness. If he does not win with the bull rush, he will not win at all. His lack of height isn’t a deal breaker but without improvement to his little explosiveness off blocks, he could be a liability in the pass rush.
Texas utilized him mostly in a slanting scheme and without the right scheme, he may flounder in being asked to make tackles in opposite gaps as he often gets too caught up in the man in front of him. His impact could be very limited in the run game in a scheme that does not emphasize the slant. Asking anything outside of gap disruption may be too much for him to handle.
Fit with Bears
With Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks locking down the defensive line as the primary defensive lineman, Ford’s wrecking ball style has run stuffing potential on a defense focused on a versatile pass rush. His lack of agility won’t bode well in pass rush but his gap filling skill could benefit Leonard Floyd on the outside.
While he will not be worth a high pick, seeing as his stock is relatively low, if available in the later rounds, he could be worth the pickup. With some improvements to his block shedding, Ford will be a nice addition.
The Boston Celtics came off the offseason of their dreams, seeing Danny Ainge’s genius in the full force with swindling the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving, bringing on the services of Utah Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward and Duke superstar Jayson Tatum in the draft, and in the process, primed themselves for a Finals run. Although this season meant to shoot for the stars, the Celtics have stumbled as of late, mustering up only a 17-13 record in the past thirty games. So in order to help steer the course, here are the Celtics keys to the Finals.
After a weekend of wonky national anthems, a dunk contest that just couldn’t save the dunk contest and actual competition(!) in the All-Star game, the NBA season has finally hit the home stretch, mere weeks away from the playoffs. So allow us to take a breather and lay out some post All-Star Game power rankings.
Johnny Manziel’s name has left quite the illustrious legacy, to say the least. Mostly for extreme frat boy partying and legal troubles but career highlights also include flipping off opposing teams and catching a pass on a high school level trick play that somehow kinda worked. So naturally, the Manziel comeback has been a hot topic for seemingly since he got the knife from the Cleveland Browns in March of 2016 and the conversation only ramped up to an eleven once he announced he will be participating the upcoming Spring League.
The NFL season has been finished for merely a week now and with our perpetual football void that just can’t be filled by the NBA or NFL, it’s time to fire up the ol’ draft rumor, profile, and speculation mill. The 5-11 Chicago Bears offseason has droned on for weeks now and the mill only rocks harder every day. There have been plenty of whispers about Calvin Ridley or Quenton Nelson finding a Bears jersey at the eighth pick (unless they trade down) and while that’s all fine and dandy, drafts are never won in the first round. The middle rounds are often where seasons are made and with a deep cornerback class this draft, everything looks to work in the Bears favor.
Chance after chance the Bears gave to their offensive building block Kevin White. Selected seventh overall out of West Virginia, there was a lot of hype going into his rookie year. Only Amari Cooper could beat him as the top receiver in that draft and with his incredible physical traits, seemed like a lock for a number one receiver. Fast forward three seasons and he has only seen the field five times in his entire career.
After days of will they-won’t they, Cleveland has finally pulled the trigger on an Isaiah Thomas deal. They send him, Channing Frye and a first to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Coming off a serious hip injury that knocked him out of the 2017 playoffs and much of the 2018 season, Thomas is currently suffering through the worst season since his rookie year with a meager 14.7 points on a 36.1% shooting clip while being a total defensive liability game in and game out, sitting at the eighth-worst mark in the league with a -.015 defensive win shares.
With the league hitting it’s annual pre-All Star weekend slump leaving fans to trudge through the monotonous rat race and giving us too much time to our own thoughts, it’s only natural that the rumor mill kicks up to an eleven. Quotes can and often will be blown well out of proportion and this year, LeBron James gifts us with an absolute gem of a report. He owns a player option going into this offseason and him turning the Cavaliers down looks to be more and more likely with every Cavs loss, especially considering his generally selfish tendencies in free agent decisions.
The NFL’s annual popularity contest, oh wait sorry, their “All-Star Game” has been widely regarded as a yearly flop for decades now and quickly devolves into a total waste of time for players and fans alike after the first kickoff. Despite Roger Goodell’s deplorable attempts to spice it up, nothing has yet to work in creation of a nationally beloved All-Star game a la the NBA. Nobody wants to watch a bunch of grown men in bright colored uniforms lazily walk around and throw a football back and forth.
You can’t be a hockey fan without knowing who Vegas is. We are halfway through the regular season to playoffs and it is starting to show which teams will come out on top. With breaking many expansion team records in their inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights did not fail to excite their fan base. With a record of 18-2-1 at home, takes the best home record in the league after beating the New York Rangers on Sunday which was the team's record attendance at a whopping 18,209. The only losses Vegas has at home are against the Detroit Red Wings, the Dallas Stars, and losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The 2017 season one of the worst offensive seasons of the Bears in recent memory. And for a team who had Jay Cutler calling the shots for eight seasons, that is really saying something. Whether you blame the coaches and their predictable gameplans or the fairly inexperienced Mitchell Trubisky running the show, a lot of the blame undeniably falls on the shoulders of the lousy receiving corps.
The seventeen weeks of disappointment and heartbreak the Bears have given us have mercifully sputtered to a close, capped off with an all too fitting 23-10 loss at the hands of the Vikings. Without too much to be proud of the 5-11 dud of a season, the offseason may provide some semblance of aid to a bleeding fanbase desperate for a little ray of hope.
Dear NFL assistant coaches,
I sincerely hope this message finds you all well, from Matt LaFleur and Teryl Austin to Josh McDaniels and Jim Bob Cooter. I take heart in your respective seasons having gone to plan however with the grueling season racing to a close and the long offseason staring us dead in the eyes, you all will have plenty decisions on your plate to be made by your franchises and you yourselves. The potentially most painful accords for both you and your franchise will be where you will end up coaching next.
After grueling weeks of misery and torture at the unforgiving hands of the football gods, the Bears have regained probably somewhat temporary control of the reigns that have been thrown so hard off course they barely know where the course is anymore with a 33-7 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals. Even though it was only the now 5-8 Bengals coming off a short week that looked like they have recently been brutally beaten to a pulp by in a Tonka tough Steelers team, to finally breathe again with a hearty win was more refreshing than a Soldier Field lemonade in August.
Life hasn’t been nice to Bears fans. Our beloved Bears are on a five-game skid after a relatively pedestrian 3-4 start and after the latest disappointment of a blunt death by 5 field goal sized papercuts, the hate and discontent for head coach John Fox and heck, the whole organization, in general, has hit an all-time high. This season has been a disgrace to the football world and suffices to say a lot of changes are coming in the offseason.
From coaching changes to the draft, a great offseason can shift the entire complexity of a season. The Bears are in desperate need of a facelift and the offseason couldn’t come any quicker. So in order to lay out some of the groundwork for how this offseason should be run, here is an official to-do list for Ryan Pace and the rest of the executives up in Halas Hall.
The Chicago Bears fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 31-3 in a humiliating road loss. The humiliating loss marks the 4th straight loss for them and the 9th straight win for the Eagles. The game that was truly never close solidified the disastrous season that was the Bear's. With a bad season however comes a good draft pick, but that isn't what this article is about. The impressive season the Eagles are having is especially impressive for star players on their team like Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz.
The Chicago Bears are a team out of answers. The month of November has been just about as bad as it could get, going completely winless topped off by being absolutely embarrassed by a red hot Eagles team. With an offense running in circles combined with a head coach that has lost total control of the reigns, it’s fair to chock this season up as a massive failure already.