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Detroit Lions: Could this top OL prospect fall to No. 35?

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The Detroit Lions could be hoping one of the top offensive line prospects falls to them in the second round in next week’s NFL draft.

The Detroit Lions offensive line allowed a total of 43 sacks last season, which was tied for 13th most in the NFL. But a much bigger concern is the fact 11-year veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford was limited to just eight games in 2019 due to injury.

Keeping the 32-year old passer healthy and under center for 16-games is likely this 3-12-1 team’s best chance of becoming a playoff contender this upcoming season. So the Lions’ front office went about revamping their offensive line recently, parting ways with starters in right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard Graham Glasgow.

Then the Lions signed former Philadelphia Eagles reserve offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a hefty five-year, $50 million deal in free agency. And Detroit recently agreed to re-signed Kenny Wiggins, a 31-year old versatile guard who has started 13 games for the Lions over the past two seasons.

Combined with a depth chart that also consists of starters in left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Joe Dahl, center Frank Ragnow plus a slew of key reserves like Oday Aboushi, Beau Benzschawel, and Tyrell Crosby; the Lions’ offensive line figures to be in a pretty good place heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

But that doesn’t mean Detroit isn’t open to finding a possible current or future starter for their offensive line during the annual selection event. Here’s what Benjamin Raven of MLive.com wrote recently about the possibility of one of the top offensive lineman prospects falling to the Lions’ second-round selection.

“[Josh] Jones was a member of the Matt Patricia-coached team at the Senior Bowl and came away with high marks looking like the best tackle on the field at times. He’s PFF’s top-ranked pass-blocking tackle on the board and earned those marks while playing in a high-paced offense at Houston. He is a potential first-round pick … that could be the steal of the draft at Pick 35.”

The Lions picked up Decker’s fifth-year option last April, securing his services through the upcoming season. But if Detroit decides to move on in 2021, that’s were selecting someone like Jones makes sense.

The team could also decide to start the rookie lineman at right tackle and kick the newly-acquired Vaitai to guard if they were looking to get him starting experience in his first season. The point here being selecting a talented rookie like Jones in the second round simply gives the Lions more options.

Remember, this is a Lions’ organization that allowed Glasgow to leave via free agency this offseason presumably in pursuit of cheaper options. Perhaps they see Decker and the future of the left tackle position in a similar light, not wanting to tie up too much of their salary cap into a contract they may eventually regret.

As for the prospect himself, Josh Jones is a six-foot-five, 319-pound offensive tackle that the Draft Network’s Jordan Reid called a raw, but talented lineman who has the makings of a top-25 selection.

Draft analyst Lance Zierlein calls Jones a developmental project who showed steady improvement during his time in Houston and whose shortcomings appear to be coachable. With a prospect grade of 6.37, NFL.com believes Jones will be a starter within his first two seasons. Finally, Hall of Famer Gil Brandt recently ranked Jones as his 29th overall prospect entering next week’s draft.

Next: Lions 2020 NFL Draft Full 7-round mock: Defensive focus early

Based on his stellar performance at the Senior Bowl, that pre-established relationship with the Detroit Lions coaching staff, and considering the possible future needs of this offensive line, it’s easy to envision a scenario where the Motor City would be very interested in someone like Josh Jones. Especially if he’s still on the board when the Lions’ number is called, 35th overall, in the second round.

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Atlanta Falcons cannot afford to miss on early defensive draft picks

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With the loss of a few quality defensive players in free agency, the Atlanta Falcons must have defense as their number one priority in the NFL Draft if they plan to compete in 2020.

The NFL Draft just over a week away, as we’ll finally get to watch something new that is sports-related, rather than just reruns of games such as Super Bowl LI (luckily didn’t air in the Atlanta area). And with that, this draft specifically is huge for the Atlanta Falcons if they want to rebound from the back to back 7-9 campaigns.

This class is deep with defensive talent in both the front seven and secondary, and the Falcons need to add high impact players early.

Unfortunately, Atlanta’s front office has failed to adequately address defense early in the past 2 drafts. Let’s look at the defensive players chosen in the draft over the past 2 years:

2019

2018

Out of those six, only Oluokun and Cominsky had a PFF grade of 60.0 or better last season. Cominsky actually graded out at 82.1, finishing 23rd among all edge defenders, despite not having many traditional stats. He is definitely expected to have an “increased role” in 2020, as per Dan Quinn. Oluokun only had a grade of 62.7, but he showed some flashes of brilliance and is primed to take over a starting gig with the departure of De’Vondre Campbell in free agency.

The two “early picks” in the past 2 years have been Oliver and Senat, the former having two forgettable seasons, and the latter literally being forgotten by the coaching staff despite showing promise.

You can even look back at 2017, where the Falcons first two picks were Takk McKinley and Duke Riley. Duke Riley isn’t even with the team anymore after being shipped off to Philadelphia, and although Takk has had some great plays, he has constantly battled shoulder injuries as well as being picked over guys like Tre’Davious White and T.J. Watt.

The Falcons did make some good moves in free agency, such as signing Dante Fowler Jr. and resigning some good depth players like Tyeler Davison and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. However, they also lost guys like Adrian Clayborn, Desmond Trufant, and De’Vondre Campbell. This is what makes this draft so crucial, and the Falcons have to focus on defensive talent in the first 3 rounds specifically.

Next: NFL draft night can’t come soon enough for Atlanta Falcons nation

Arthur Blank has said on record that he expects the team to return to the playoffs in 2020, but for that to happen, the front office has to nail their first three picks to reinforce a disappointing defense.

 

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AFC East Roundup: What to know about Miami Dolphins heading into NFL Draft

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We had a chance to talk with Brian Miller of PhinPhanatic about the Miami Dolphins offseason and what to expect heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

The AFC East is shifting with the departure of the Tom Brady and the division is likely going to be as competitive as it has been in nearly two decades. Recently, we had a chance to talk with Brian Miller to get insight about all things Miami Dolphins from the Bills’ latest signing to how the offseason has been and what to expect in the NFL Draft.

1. What can you tell about Bills fans about their recent signing of Evan Boehm? Is this a player Dolphins are going to miss?

I like Boehm. I actually was surprised that the Dolphins didn’t target him with another one year deal this off-season. While he wasn’t a dedicated starter last year, I thought he did well when put in. He has some growing to do and the Dolphins simply need to get better along the offensive line. Boehm was a fill in it appears so it’s hard to say where his ceiling is.

2. What free agent signing by the Dolphins do you think will have the biggest impact?

Kyle Van Noy is my favorite signing this off-season. He knows the Brian Flores defense well and I think he becomes the defensive leader on that side of the ball. He has terrific range and and can play well in coverage and attacking the passer. He also does well with setting the edge. He is obviously familiar with the AFC East so this is a rare inter-division signing that makes a lot of

sense.

3. Who do you think is going to be the starting QB for the Miami Dolphins in Week 1?

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter for 2020 and I don’t believe any QB drafted will change that. He took the team on his back last year and will at least start the first six to eight games before the job is handed to Josh Rosen or an incoming rookie. The QB situation in Miami is odd as we are not sure what they plan to do at the position.

4. Who are some draft prospects that you have seen that you think are perfect fits for the Miami Dolphins?

I really like Isaiah Simmons who more than likely will not be a Dolphins draft pick at five. I also really like Mechi Becton but he too will be gone by the time the Dolphins select at 18. Safety Xavier McKinney is a player I have been paying attention to. He fills a big need for the Dolphins after the release of Reshad Jones and also fits in well with Brian Flores who covets players in the secondary. I think this is a player that Miami will try and draft with one of their first round picks. The only thing that would make me think otherwise is that they have such huge needs along the offensive line.

5. What are realistic expectations for the Dolphins in the second season under head coach Brian Flores? 

I think the Miami Dolphins will be better than five wins but we are talking about 7 or 8 wins at best. Some predict the Dolphins to only win two games but I don’t see that as reasonable. The Dolphins are still young and they had a lot of coaching changes this off-season including both coordinators and a bunch of assistants as well.

Next: Bills start with cornerback in recent 7-Round Mock Draft

I think this off-season situation with the quarantine stuff is going to have a big impact as well. Flores is a coach that players like to play for but if they can’t be with him this off-season to learn what he expects from them, it might be difficult to find a rhythm early in the season.

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5 prospects the Panthers don’t want to see in the NFC South

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(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) Yetur Gross-Matos

The Carolina Panthers have their work cut out in the NFC South next season, which could be heightened with a number of new draft arrivals.

Things look bleak for the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South next season. All three opposing teams have real playoff ambitions and it has left the organization as something of an afterthought.

The New Orleans Saints have a powerhouse roster that has been significantly strengthened by the free-agent signing of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sean Payton now has an embarrassment of riches to call upon for what could be Drew Brees’ final season as a professional.

Legendary quarterback, Tom Brady’s arrival within the division has also put the cat among the pigeons, so to speak. He hand-picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a franchise he could potentially take to the next level and it is not hard to see why.

They have a strong defense, a decent offensive line, and a phenomenal wide receiver tandem in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. All signs point to the Bucs’ making a real run at things next season.

Although the Atlanta Falcons flattered to deceive once again last season, they are expected to turn things around quickly and this will represent another problem for the Panthers if the franchisee wants to improve on their 5-11 record.

With the potential of some promising college recruits entering the division in 2020, it could have serious ramifications on Carolina’s chances of turning their fortunes around.

Here are five players that the Panthers do not want to see end up in the NFC South next season.

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