Holton Hill has elite shutdown corner potential

Holton Hill has elite shutdown corner potential

Things change in the NFL. Ever since the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII with the fearsome Legion of Boom, defensive backs 6 feet and above have become the norm. Nowadays, cornerbacks that don’t meet this standard are considered undersized; measuring in below the 6 foot threshold very well could be the difference in being selected in the first round and on day 2 of the NFL Draft.

Texas’s Holton Hill fits the bill of a modern corner. Standing at just under 6’2″ and 200 pounds, Hill possesses the key traits sought out in today’s CB prospects. He has a blend of length, athleticism, and physicality to square up against just about any receiver on the outside. Hill’s length makes him a very intriguing press-man corner:

Here he is against a very large man, Oklahoma State WR Marcell Ateman (6’4″, 220 lbs). Hill delivers a good jam to Ateman’s chest that disrupts his attempted break inside. A well-thrown ball is delivered and is put in a spot where only Ateman can get it… or maybe not.

Hill’s length makes him incredibly challenging for WRs to deal with at the catch point as well. He’s physical and is able to break passes up by extending his arms for the football:

 

The athleticism of the former Longhorn is also something to rave about. He has rare movement skills and hip fluidity for a player of his size. With his speed and lateral agility, Hill has no problem shadowing receivers in and out of their breaks.

For as good as he is in man coverage, Holton Hill is plenty comfortable and instinctive in zone/off coverage. He does a good job of reading the quarterback’s to locate and break on the ball:

He also showed tremendous click and close when playing off. Hill routinely displays the ability to sink his hips, fire out of his backpedal, and drive on the ball quickly. He has elite closing burst, and looks like a missile as he converges on the receiver. Delivers a nice “pop”:

More of the same. Hill has a knack for blowing up screens before they develop. He instantly recongizes it, plants his foot, attacks downhill, and makes the tackle. Mental processing is on point, and he diagnoses the play nearly as fast as he shuts it down.

His instincts and ability to recognize and break down plays paired with his physical profile is what makes him so unique. Good cornerbacks don’t grow on trees, especially ones with this combination of size, speed, and processing speed.

USC runs double crossing routes here to distort the cornerback’s path to their receiver. However, Hill is with it the whole way. He opens his hips to turn and run immediately and displays the spatial awareness to elude the oncoming tight end and the speed to stick with the route and make the key 4th down stop.

Later on in the game, the Trojans do it again. And once again, Hill is having none of it.

 

Cornerbacks add value if they can contribute in run support. They should be able to seal the edge to prevent ball carriers to get free on the outside and tackle well.

Holton Hill is more than willing to crash down and contribute against the run. He’s an excellent face up, wrap up tackler, capable of shedding blocks from receivers and delivering a big hit.

3rd and 13. Baylor sets up a screen out of the backfield on Hill’s side of the field with three blockers out in front. Hill drives, sidesteps a blocker on the second level, and makes the tackle.

This is perfect run defense by Holton Hill and Malik Jefferson. Hill sees and immediately bolts out of his stance to seal the edge, before James Washington is even able to get hands on him. Jefferson shoots the A gap and helps make the tackle along with Hill. Nowhere for the running back to go.

 

Holton Hill is easily a 1st round talent that could fall to late day 2 with his off the field concerns. But he has the elite traits and potential to be an all-around, shutdown cornerback in the NFL. He has a scheme-versatile skill set with the length, athleticism, and instincts to match up against any player on the field. As a bonus, he’s a reliable tackler as well. If he’s able to clean up his act, there’s a chance a team ends up with one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks with excellent value.

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Three Draft Sleepers at Every Position: Offensive Tackle

Now here’s a positional group that doesn’t get enough love. Giants GM Dave Gettleman refers to these guys as “hog-mollies”, which is both accurate and hilarious.

It’s difficult to find a sleeper at the offensive tackle position, but there are some examples in the NFL. Terron Armstead was a third round pick in 2013; Charles Leno Jr. was a seventh round pick; and Jason Peters went undrafted!

So, who are the three potential offensive tackle sleepers in the 2018 NFL Draft?

Joseph Noteboom, TCU

If you watch tape on this guy, you’ll marvel at how athletic he is. Noteboom has a wide stance and is able to beat the quickest edge rushers. He needs to work on his strength, but there is loads of potential here.

Projected Round: 4th round

Projected Team: Minnesota Vikings

I like Minnesota as a fit for Noteboom. They have a solid coaching staff who can coach him some decent technique. Also, he has the potential to start at either tackle spot.

TCU OT Joseph Noteboom.

Greg Senat, Wagner

If there’s any position that is home to small school standouts, it’s the offensive line. Senat is technically sound and has a pro-ready frame.

Projected Round: 5th round

Projected Team: Detroit Lions

Detroit has improved their offensive line immensely, but they still need some depth. Could the Lions benefit from having a solid right tackle? You better believe it.

Wagner OT Greg Senat.

Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T

Here is another small school standout. Two seasons ago, Parker blocked for Tarik Cohen, who had a surprise breakout campaign for the Chicago Bears. Parker has shown that he can play against solid competition, and has the potential to start.

Projected Round: 5th round

Projected Team: Miami Dolphins

Miami needs more hard workers. Parker can come in and compete for a starting job and hopefully bring in some nastiness to the practice field.

North Carolina A&T OT Brandon Parker.

Was the Risk of Signing Kirk Cousins Higher than the Reward?

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have had really inconstant quarterback play throughout the history of their franchise dating back to their inaugural season in 1961. Frank Trenton was their first starting quarterback ever and it is safe to say he was the best quarterback the franchise has ever had up to this point. Looking back at recent history, the Vikings have constantly chose to go with quantity over quality at the position.

Minnesota Vikings QB Case Keenum.

Case Keenum had the best year of his career in his first year with the Vikings, leading them to the NFC championship game but Kennum is not a franchise guy. Keenum thrived in Pat Shurmur’s offense but you can say Keenum was average at best when looking back at his stints with the St. Louis/L.A. Rams and Houston Texans. While Keenum may just be a late bloomer, I would side with the argument that he is a system quarterback. Sam Bradford was brought in a few years ago when they gave up too much(a first and fourth round pick) to bring him in. He had a good 2016 leading the league in completion percentage, but the team did not make the playoffs. A year later, he struggles to make it on the field and once again proves that he is not a reliable option at quarterback.

Minnesota Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater.

Teddy Bridgewater was taken as the last pick in the first round of the 2014 draft in hopes of being the franchise guy for Minnesota. Before tearing up his leg during a team practice in august of 2016, Bridgewater was a decent game manager. He started 13 games during his rookie season, winning 6 games and throwing for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In his first full year as a starter in 2015, Teddy threw for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. These numbers are not that great, but he at least showed his ability to be a game manager and lead the Vikings to 11 wins and a playoff birth, thought they were eliminated by Seattle after a missed field goal by Blair Walsh as time expired. The Vikings decided to look in a different direction as they decide not to make an effort to bring Bridgewater back not knowing how he would preform coming off a nearly two year injury.

Oct 27, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) escapes from Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett (42) during the second quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

 

From 2011 up to the 2014 draft, the Vikings went with a quarterback room that consisted of guys such as Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman and Donovan McNabb. Matt Cassel had a few good games when he was with the Patriots, but in no means imaginable was he ever going to be a starter in the league like he was in Kansas City for a few years and the games he started with the Vikings. Ponder was a first round pick who shouldn’t of been drafted in the first round in 2010 and though he was on the 2011 Vikings team that made the playoffs, Adrian Peterson was the reason why they made it there. Josh Freeman started one game with the Vikings and he quickly fell on his face and suffered a concussion that ended his tenure as the Vikings starter. Then there was Donovan McNabb, who was past his prime and should have retired after he parted ways with the Eagles and definitely after his unforgettable tenure with the Washington Redskins.

CHICAGO – NOVEMBER 14: Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings looks over the Chicago Bear defense before taking the snap at Soldier Field on November 14, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 27-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Brett Farve has been the best Vikings quarterback in recent memory, leading the team to the NFC Championship game during the 2009 season, but he was nearing the age of 40 and a year later regressed and concussion issues forced him to retire for good. Tavaris Jackson, Dante Culpepper, Jeff George, Randall Cunningham, Brad Johnson and Warren Moon add to the list of notable Vikings starting quarterbacks and they all have one thing in common: they all did not get the job done.

Fast forward to March of 2018, and the Vikings think they’ve finally found the guy that will be the face of their franchise and the quarterback who will finally lead them to not just a Super Bowl, but a Super Bowl Championship for the first time in franchise history.

Lets quickly take a look at Kirk Cousins career statistics:

Kirk Cousins thus far has had a pretty impressive career. He has not thrown more than 13 interceptions in a season, has averaged over 4,100 yards every full season he has played and has been very durable up to this point.

This signing makes the most sense for Kirk Cousins not just because the Vikings have the best chance to win, but uniting with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. DeFilippoo had a historic year coaching Carson Wentz and Nick Foles last season in Philly. Carson Wentz was the front runner and unanimous league MVP up until he tore his ACL week 14 against the Rams. Nick Foles came in and at first struggled as the starter, but after more playing time and being used to running the offense, Foles had a historic playoff run and finished the year as a Super Bowl Champion. The reason why this is important is because of the type of offense he runs. John DeFilippo runs a West Coast style offense that is known for quick decisions, quick passes and play action plays mixed in with that. This style fits Kirk Cousins perfectly. Cousins has been put in a position in Washington where he had to hold the ball, especially with the lack of a running game and wide receivers who, for the most part, couldn’t consistently get open. Now in Minnesota, he has a few solid options at the running back position, a star tight end in Kyle Rudolph and two very good wide receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. If you think that his numbers now are impressive, imagine what his ceiling could be in Minnesota with all of those things to go with a top three defense in all of the NFL and a phenomenal coaching staff lead by head coach Mike Zimmer.

However, the big thing with Cousins is that he struggles in prime time match ups. Up to this point, Cousins is 4-9 in thirteen career regular season prime time games. Obviously, that is not something Vikings fans are happy to hear. Kirk Cousins has also only played in one playoff game during his career, losing 35-18 in the wildcard round to the Green Bay Packers. In that game, Cousins was decent, completing 29 of 46 passes, 326 passing yards and 1 touchdown. He had one turnover that was a fumble as he was sacked six times in the game. That stat line is not great if you are trying to win playoff games, though it is not entirely his fault as the defense struggled late in the game and could not pressure Aaron Rodgers at all. Is it really safe to pay a guy who has only played in one career playoff game top dollar not knowing how he would really perform under pressure in the playoffs, especially with a sub .500 prime time record?

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrates a touchdown with Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) during the Minnesota Vikings game versus the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 18, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. (Photo Credit: Matt Blewett/The Minnesota Sports Report)

Th other big risk with this contract is that the deal is fully guaranteed for the next three years. Kirk is set to make 84 million dollars over the duration of the deal, with the average salary coming out to 28 million dollars a season, with a 24 million dollar cap hit per season. Imagine a scenario where Cousins does not play up to expectations and actually regresses, or the absolute worse scenario where Kirk Cousins gets injured in a similar way to Teddy Bridgewater. Now, Minnesota will not only have to find a viable replacement at the position, but pay a quarterback who is not playing who counts towards one fourth of their cap situation. Add this to the Vikings having to resign players such as Stefon Diggs, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Kyle Rudolph, Andrew Sendejo, Trae Waynes, and Adam Theilen during the duration of Kirk’s deal. The Vikings right now have the ability to make a signing like this work, but looking towards the future, Cousins has to preform at a high level and stay healthy to just make this deal look reasonable.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during an NFL game on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 in Denver. The Broncos won the game, 34-14. (AP Photo/Ric Tapia)

Another big factor that fails to be mentioned is teams usually do not win championships with a quarterback that that team did not draft. There are exceptions but those exceptions are future hall of famer’s or the legacy of that teams defense. Looking back at the past ten years, every team with the exception of the 2009 Saints and the 2015 Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl with a quarterback they had drafted. Since 1987 the only other teams  to win a Super Bowl with a quarterback they did not draft where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001 with former Viking Brad Johnson, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens with Trent Dilfer, and the 1999 St. Louis Rams with Hall of Famer Kurt Warner(though this may not count as Warner was undrafted). Kirk Cousins may ultimately be an exception to this trend, but history is not on his or the Vikings side.

This signing is clearly a high risk move, but the potential results of signing a quarterback such as Kirk Cousins is high as well. The only way this deal will look like a success is if Cousins could finally take the Vikings over the hump and lead the team to their first ever Championship. A lot of things would have to go wrong to make a deal like this a disaster but anything could happen in the NFL. High praised and quality signings have failed before and they will fail again. Lets just hope for the Minnesota Vikings and the sake of their fan base that this one swings their way and their championship window closes on a high one, rather than a sour one as they have been accustomed to in the past.

 

A Look into the Biggest Deals of Free Agency

It has been a couple of weeks since free agency began, and in a surprise turn of events, most of the deals had already made in the early tampering period. Quite a few huge deals were made in free agency, and depending on who you ask could be perceived as good or bad. In this piece we will examine the pros and cons of each free agency deal.

Malcolm Butler to the Titans: Malcolm Butler signed a deal worth 60 million over five years, with 30 million guaranteed.

Pros- The Titans, despite having defensive stats that don’t indicate poor play, looked atrocious when teams actually attacked their biggest weakness. They were terrible against short passes and teams destroyed them when they utilized consistent short passing. The Patriots exposed this flaw in the divisional round of the playoffs and diced the Titans up. Malcolm Butler will bring depth and solidify the corner back core as a number one corner back while allowing Adoree Jackson or Logan Ryan to play slot. This should also help the interception rate, with the Titan’s getting just 12 on the year and 8 of those coming from all pro safety Kevin Byard.

Cons- It is a high risk signing due to a plethora of mysterious concerns surrounding Malcolm’s benching in the Super Bowl. Alongside that he had a down year in 2017. His deal indicated top 10 corner back play so he has high standards to set for the team.

 

Nate Solder to the Giants: Nate Solder signed a deal worth 62 million over 4 years.

Pros: If you have not noticed it yet, the Giant’s offensive line was atrocious. Bringing in a top tier free agent, relative to the other tackles in this free agency class, will most definitely help the team as they go through a rebuilding phase. With other offensive linemen leaving, they are in dire need of solidifying at least one piece of the puzzle.

Cons: They paid him as a top offensive tackle. He is not a top offensive tackle. His play was above average and could be shaky at times. Such a blockbuster deal should be used on a player who is actually proven to be a top 3 player at their position. This deal was just pure desperation by the Giants in order to help who ever the quarterback is next year.

 

Andrew Norwell to the Jaguars: Andrew Norwell signed a 5 year 66 million dollar contract.

Pros: With Blake Bortles as your quarter back, you definitely need a strong run game to compensate for a high rate of turnovers and slow passing game. With the Norwell signing, they should be able to utilize Fournette more efficiently and pound the ball at will. A good protector for Blake Bortles as well when he needs to throw the ball, but that aspect is less important than the huge upgrade to the Jaguar’s offensive line.

Cons: The only real con is that it is a long term deal that could go wrong if he fizzles out for some reason and they poured an extensive amount of resources into bringing him in.

 

Trumaine Johnson to the Jets: Signed a 5 year 72 million dollar contract.

Pros: The Jets were looking for a proven game changer, and even though they have a promising safety duo in Jamaal Adams and Marcus Mayes, they are both still young in their career. Trumaine Johnson will be a great CB 1 that will solidify a defense that was sometimes underachieving and change games in favor of the Jets. Will bring a veteran presence into the locker room.

Cons: A lot of money will be put on a guy who is not the number one corner in the league, even that is what his contract indicates. Luckily for the Jets, they have an immense cap space and can easily pay that money for such a game changing presence.

 

Still Waiting on: Ndamukong Suh

Could potentially be an insane contract because of his ability to automatically boost an entire defense. Would bring a strong locker room presence, good or bad, but works hard and pushes hard in games.

Jessie Bates: Best Free Safety in the Draft

Jessie Bates: Best Free Safety in the Draft

Jessie Bates is the best free safety in this year’s draft. Bates is currently considered a fringe first round prospect, but when we look back on this draft, he will be considered a huge steal.

Bates left Wake Forest as a red-shirt sophomore who had two highly productive seasons for the Demon Deacons. I thought Bates was special after seeing his freshman season, in which he had 5 interceptions. Bates reinforced my perception of him in his sophomore season. Bates plays free safety and has great range for the position. Bates showed about what I expected at the combine, running a 4.50 40 and showing good explosion in the jumping drills. The agility and DB drills were where he shined. Bates has phenomenal hip fluidity and agility to the point that he could play cornerback. His play speed is fantastic and his cover ability reflects his great movement ability. The Wake Forest product is also the best ball-hawking safety in the draft. Bates consistently reads the quarterback and uses his range and length to make spectacular athletic plays on the ball. Bates also has shown value as a punt returner, bringing one all the way back in his bowl game against Texas A&M this year.

Jessie Bates

image credit to morganton.com

Some scouts have concern over his weight and bulk, which is somewhat valid, but it isn’t a horrendous issue and NFL strength programs prove time and time again to fix concerns like this. He also misses some occasional tackles, in particular coming down to tackle running backs, but when he is the last man to beat he can almost always be relied upon to make the tackle. 

Jessie Bates is a big-time playmaker with great cover ability and is a reliable last line of defense.He is a player that any team in need of a free safety should look long and hard at come late April. 

Check out the mock draft that Harun and I made pre-combine.

Featured image credit to http://www.wfmynews2.com

First Round Rookie Grades as the Season Comes to a Close

First Round Rookie Grades as the Season Comes to a Close

As we prepare for the 2018 NBA playoffs to get started in the coming weeks, let’s take a look back at the draft and grade what rookies taken in the first round have done so far.

 

 

The 2017 NBA draft board.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

 

30. Josh Hart – Los Angeles Lakers

Hart after making a 3.

Photo Credit/lakersnation.com

 

Joining the Lakers after a full career at Villanova, Hart has seen increased minutes as the year has gone on. The 22-year old has showcased above-average rebounding ability for a guard and a solid outside jumper. He’ll continue to share minutes with KCP for the remainder of the season once he returns from his hand injury.

Grade: B-

 

 

29. Derrick White – San Antonio Spurs

White in summer league.

Photo Credit/ralphiereport.com

 

White wasn’t expected to have a huge bench role for the Spurs but he’s been non-existent all season. To spend a first round pick on a 23-year old who’s not ready yet isn’t a win.

Grade: D

 

 

28. Tony Bradley – Utah Jazz

Bradley in a game against a EuroLeague team.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Drafted as a project after one year at UNC, Bradley has yet to find barely any floor time in his rookie year. Even with the Rudy Gobert injury, the team favored Ekpe Udoh over Bradley for minutes. He has the potential to be a solid NBA center but needs to improve offensively and get stronger.

Grade: C

 

 

27. Kyle Kuzma – Los Angeles Lakers

Kuzma during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Kuzma has been almost perfect for the Lakers so far and is a building block for them at the forward position. His outside shooting ability, offensive versatility, and length make him an exciting prospect and could be a 20pt scorer in just a year or two. He’ll contend for ROTY in June.

Grade: A+

 

 

26. Caleb Swanigan – Portland Trail Blazers

Swanigan fighting for the ball with Nikola Jokic.

Photo Credit/oregonlive.com

 

Though he rarely gets minutes, Swanigan was a great pick late in the first, as the Blazers got some much needed help in the frontcourt with his toughness inside and another outside shot. Rebounding is clearly his best attribute, but his 3pt shot has a chance to develop and make him a solid rebounding-stretch 4. The Draymond Green comparisons are fair.

Grade: B-

 

 

25. Anzejs Pasecniks – Orlando Magic

Pasecniks at a Blazers press conference.

Photo Credit/blazersedge.com

 

Pasecniks is already 22 and isn’t expected to make an NBA debut anytime soon. To pass up on a player like Kuzma and opt for a draft and stash with an older player is an awful choice by the Magic front office and is a symbol of the moves the franchise has made and continues to make that hinder their chances of being successful again.

Grade: F

 

 

24. Tyler Lydon – Denver Nuggets

Lydon in a rookie photo shoot.

Photo Credit/denverstiffs.com

 

Lydon has been a disappointment for a Nuggets organization with an already deep frontcourt that doesn’t have many minutes for the rookie. The Syracuse product has found himself in the G-League much more than on the Denver roster so far.

Grade: D-

 

 

23. O.G. Anunoby – Toronto Raptors

Anunoby going to the basket.

Photo Credit/espn.com

 

Anunoby was a clear steal for Toronto. The rookie swingman has shown an ability to knock down threes at a solid rate and displayed defensive versatility with his unbelievable length. He’s being compared to All-Star players at the moment and is the clear future for Toronto at the 3.

Grade: B+

 

 

22. Jarrett Allen – Brooklyn Nets

Allen passing the ball.

Photo Credit/newsday.com

 

Allen looks to be another steal as he’s putting up All-Rookie type numbers while still only logging around 20 minutes per game. With the dealing of Tyler Zeller to the Bucks before the deadline, Allen holds the reigns as big man of the future for Brooklyn.

Grade: A

 

 

21. Terrance Ferguson – Oklahoma City Thunder

Ferguson against the Lakers.

Photo Credit/basketusa.com

 

With the season ending injury to Andre Roberson, that would seem to open up some more minutes for Ferguson. He’s an explosive athlete with an improving jumpshot but he’s raw and needs to get stronger to ever be a starter for OKC. Ultimately, the Thunder are trying to compete now while they have Anthony and George, and Ferguson isn’t ready to produce yet.

Grade: D+

 

 

20. Harry Giles – Sacramento Kings

Giles in a rookie photo shoot.

Photo Credit/dukebasketballreport.com

 

After being highly touted coming out of high school, Giles was a disappointment at Duke and still is one with the Kings. He has massive upside but has been ruled out for the season with lingering knee problems.

Grade: C-

 

 

19. John Collins – Atlanta Hawks

Collins during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/peachtreehoops.com

 

Collins may be the biggest steal of the draft as he’s stepped in and already become one of the Hawks best players. His length, athleticism, and nose for the ball down low will turn him into a double-double big man with an All-Star future.

Grade: A+

 

 

18. T.J. Leaf – Indiana Pacers

Leaf dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

In limited minutes, Leaf has produced pretty well but still needs to develop more to see sufficient playing time in the Pacer frontcourt. Given some of the talents Indiana passed up on here, this isn’t a win.

Grade: C

 

 

17. D.J. Wilson – Milwaukee Bucks

Wilson backing down Patterson.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Wilson was a reach for the Bucks at 17. His length and versatility make him worth holding onto but he won’t be ready to make any impact for Milwaukee for a while.

Grade: D+

 

 

16. Justin Patton – Minnesota Timberwolves

Patton in a team photo shoot.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Patton has been another disappointment as he’s been thrown in and out of the G-League so far this year. He has great size and potential but after some injury issues early on, he hasn’t established himself at all yet.

Grade: D-

 

 

15. Justin Jackson – Sacramento Kings

Jackson driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/sacbee.com

 

There’s still a chance for Jackson to be the forward of the future for the Kings, but he’s been a little inefficient in his first year. He’s had steady production on the wing in limited minutes and should see increases in all his numbers as Sacramento plans to start sitting veterans more as the season goes on and into next year.

Grade: C+

 

 

14. Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat

Adebayo boxing out Mahinmi.

Photo Credit/allucanheat.com

 

Adebayo has been great for Miami so far, complimenting Whiteside well in the frontcourt. In just around 20 minutes a game, Adebayo is making a case to be considered for the All-Rookie 1st team. Given that the Heat passed on fellow big man John Collins here, it wasn’t a perfect pick.

Grade: A-

 

 

13. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz

Michell running up the court.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Mitchell is currently one of the frontrunners for ROTY, leading the Jazz in scoring and keeping them on the fringe of playoff contention. After losing Gordon Hayward in the offseason, Utah knew they needed to find their new star and they’ve taken care of that quickly as Mitchell has a chance to put up over 20 a game in his first season with the Jazz.

Grade: A+

 

 

12. Luke Kennard – Detroit Pistons

Kennard driving to the basket against Toronto.

Photo Credit/espn.com

 

Coming out of Duke, Kennard has been a reliable outside shooting option for Detroit as expected, but isn’t set to be the star that Mitchell is. Imagining Donovan Mitchell on a Pistons team with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond would be a possible home court playoff spot for Detroit. Kennard is an NBA level player and could start at shooting guard for the Pistons a few years down the road but given who Detroit missed out on, it’s a disappointment.

Grade: C+

 

 

11. Malik Monk – Charlotte Hornets

Monk dribbling the ball up the floor.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

When the Hornets were on the clock with this pick, Monk seemed like the obvious choice, but the Kentucky product has been a massive disappointment for Charlotte. He’s been inefficient and sore in the Hornet backcourt. His rough start has led to him being underutilized, and Monk is a guy who needs the ball in his hands to excel. Again, Mitchell would have been the better choice at shooting guard here.

Grade: D

 

 

10. Zach Collins – Portland Trail Blazers

Collins during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/blazersedge.com

 

Despite playing on little minutes, Collins has been solid so far with Portland and looks like a future starter for the Blazers. Getting stronger to go with his long frame and possibly developing a better jumpshot should be the next steps in turning him into a star.

Grade: B+

 

 

9. Dennis Smith Jr. – Dallas Mavericks

Smith Jr. handling the ball.

Photo Credit/hoopshype.com

 

Though still fairly inefficient, Smith Jr. has been great for Dallas and is surely their point guard for the future. His athleticism and scoring ability will turn him into a star. When he improves his shot selection and playmaking ability he’ll be a perennial All-Star.

Grade: A

 

 

8. Frank Nitilikina – New York Knicks

Nitilikina during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

Though Nitilikina has faced some tough criticism so far this season over not being as complete of a rookie guard as Smith Jr. or Mitchell, he’s shown some promise in his first year. Despite not getting starters minutes, the 19-year old Frenchman has displayed solid playmaking ability and has shot the 3 as well as most expected. Where he seperates himself from some of the other guards in the draft is his defensive potential. At 6’5″ with a 7-foot wingspan, Nitilikina can make several All-Defensive teams in his career.

Grade: B

 

 

7. Lauri Markannen – Chicago Bulls

Markkanen during warm-ups.

Photo Credit/sbnation.com

 

In the Jimmy Butler trade, the Bulls were able to move up into the top 10 and grab Markkanen, who’s put himself into outside ROTY contention in Chicago. The Finnish big man is putting up solid numbers while stroking it from the outside at an acceptable rookie rate. His size, combined with his somewhat guard skills could make him an All-Star soon.

Grade: A

 

 

6. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

Isaac pump faking under the rim.

Photo Credit/basketballinsiders.com

 

Isaac has had a quiet first year in Orlando after being drafted sixth overall by the new Orlando front office. The Bronx native has dealt with a few injury hiccups and has even spent some time in the G-League lately. At his length and athleticism, potential still reigns as the number one attribute for Isaac. More minutes and a stronger body should get him into double digits in scoring next year.

Grade: B-

 

 

5. De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings

Fox dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Fox started the year coming off the bench for veteran G George Hill, but with the deadline trade of Hill to Cleveland, Fox is now running the Point in Sacramento. In a guard heavy draft, Fox went to a Kings team thirsting for a youthful PG and he seems to already be settling in as their most promising young player. Despite low numbers on the boards and a struggling outside shot, Fox has showcased All-Star potential and strong leadership for Sacramento.

Grade: B+

 

 

4. Josh Jackson – Phoenix Suns

Jackson driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/nbcsports.com

 

After a fairly slow offensive start to the season, Jackson has since picked it up and been better than expected in his rookie year in Phoenix. While putting up over 10 points a game and rebounding at a fair rate, the Kansas product has played stingy D all year and should be an All-Defensive selection someday. Continuing to work on his jumper in the offseason will further develop him into a two-way star.

Grade: A-

 

 

3. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

Tatum dunking in a game.

Photo Credit/masslive.com

 

Danny Ainge made a great move last June to move down and still take the most polished player in the top 10. Tatum has been lights out from deep all year, shooting over 40% consistently throughout the year, near league’s best from beyond the arc. His length and versatility on offense made him a solid replacement for Gordon Hayward who went down on opening night. Tatum should make a smooth transition to the 4 next year when Hayward returns.

Grade: A+

 

 

2. Lonzo Ball – Los Angeles Lakers

Lonzo Ball during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/latimes.com

 

As expected, Los Angeles took Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick and have gotten nearly exactly what they expected, an inefficient scorer with an innate ability to see the floor on offense, and length on defense. Ball has dealt with a few injury spells this season but has been out there for the Lakers most of the year. While his shooting has been a dry spot in his game, Lonzo has given the Lakers a future at point guard and a special passer, putting up around 7 assists a game. He’ll never lead the league in scoring but Ball has All-Star potential and could be a starter on a championship team in the Lakers future.

Grade: A-

 

 

1. Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers

Fultz driving to the basket.

Photo Credit/philly.com

 

Fultz, the number one pick in the 2017 draft, has seen almost no court time all season. His nagging elbow injury hasn’t just kept him off the court but also completely transformed his jumpshot and has forced him to pretty much re-learn to shoot the basketball. If he’s able to get healthy he has the potential to be a top guard in the league and would add to the budding young stars in Philadelphia, but Fultz may not even return this year and it’s uncertain how he’ll fair adjusting to a different jumper while learning the NBA.

Grade: Incomplete

 

 

 

How Jimmy Butler Injury Affects Western Conference:

 

Three Draft Sleepers at Every Position: Tight Ends

The NFL draft is quickly approaching, and scouts are looking to find the diamond in the rough. Finding sleepers is every GM’s dream, and the tight end position has some reputable sleepers. Jason Witten was a fifth rounder, Aaron Hernandez was a fourth rounder and Rob Gronkowski was a second round pick.

This tight end class is littered with talent from top to bottom, so let’s analyze the three, lesser known tight end prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Cam Serigne, Wake Forest

Serigne is one of my favourite prospects in this draft. He’s athletic with a solid catch radius. His vision is impeccable and makes his offense better.

Projected Round: 4th round

Projected Team: Seattle Seahawks

With Jimmy Graham gone to Green Bay and Luke Willson probable to leave the Pacific Northwest, the Seahawks will need a new tight end. Serigne is a versatile receiver who could be a great fit for the 12s.

Wake Forest TE Cam Serigne.

Durham Smythe, Notre Dame

Smythe is the epitome of a sleeper. He’s not going to wow you with his catching ability, but he’s a phenomenal blocker. He’s a throw back tight end who will excel in any system.

Projected Round: 6th round

Projected Team: Denver Broncos

Denver has last year’s pick Jake Butt at tight end, who essentially redshirted his rookie year, but they’ll need another tight end. Smythe can become a decent blocker who is a competent receiving threat.

Notre Dame TE Durham Smythe.

Jordan Akins, UCF

Akins isn’t much of a blocker, but he’s a decent receiving threat and has good speed for a tight end. He’s raw, but he has upside.

Projected Round: 6th round

Projected Team: Baltimore Ravens

There are questions surrounding the Ravens’ receiving corps, and having a large, agile receiving threat could be a benefit for the Ravens moving forward.

UCF TE Jordan Akins.