What needs to happen for Ohio State to win national title

Photo via Getty Images

With the regular season rapidly approaching and Spring games over, the debate shifts towards next year’s performance.

Ohio State is in everyone’s thoughts as a potential contender for the national title, and here’s what needs to happen for them to achieve it.

Last Season 

The Buckeyes finished out last season with an 11-2 record losing to the Clemson Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl.

The 31-0 loss was rather embarrassing, but OSU showed the country that they can still play at a high level.

They had impressive wins over Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma, as well as a narrow loss at Penn State.

OSU history 

Urban Meyer has brought his team to impressive heights. He went undefeated in 2012 and 2013, as well as only losing a single game in the three seasons after.

Image result for ohio state draft picks 2017
The Buckeyes lost 12 players to the NFL Draft, but they didn’t miss a stride in recruiting new talent. Photo via Ohio State’s official athletic website

Meyer combines consistent recruiting with dedicated coaching, and the results are apparent. The Buckeyes went 11-1 last regular season even after losing 12 players to the NFL draft.

The recruiting slate—defense 

The Buckeyes were able to recruit the second best recruiting class in the nation. What this means is that they nabbed five five-star recruits and fourteen four-star recruits.

The Buckeyes lost Marshon Lattimore to the Saints, Malik Hooker to the Colts, Gareon Conley to the Raiders, and Raekwon McMillan to the Dolphins. Hefty losses, but Meyer didn’t lose sleep over finding replacements.

First among the recruits are two cornerbacks—Jeffrey Okudah, No. 1 cornerback in the nation, and Shaun Wade, the second highest ranked corner in the country.

They also recruited Amir Riep, Marcus Williamson, and Kendall Sheffield, all three four-star cornerbacks.

At safety, the Buckeyes grabbed Isaiah Pryor, a four-star safety out of Florida.

The Buckeyes also recruited what might turn into one of the best defensive-lines in the country. Last year, the Buckeyes ranked at sixth in total defense in the FBS, but in 2017 we will see this number go up because of the incoming class.

Image result for baron browning ohio state
Baron Browning is the top-ranked OLB, and he’ll be a great addition to the Buckeyes D-line. Photo via Scout.com

First is outside linebacker Baron Browning out of Texas, ranked first at his position. Weak defensive end Chase Young, the second ranked player at his position,.

Complimenting them on the line are four-star defensive tackles Haskell Garrett and Jerron Cage.

With this defensive class alone, OSU would be rated higher than most teams for recruiting, and I’m looking forward to seeing one of the absolute best defenses in the nation performing this season.

Does Barrett have what it takes? 

In early January, we found out that J.T. Barrett would be returning to the Buckeyes through his Instagram, shown below:

“I’m Coming back for my senior year,” Barrett said. “Much love to Buckeye Nation and thank God for the blessings.”

There’s no question that Barrett is a great quarterback, but does he have what it takes to bring home the title?

Last season, Barrett threw for 2,555 yards on 233 completions, with 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He also chalked up 845 rushing yards with nine rushing touchdowns—not a small feat, and a powerful statement for the dual-threat quarterback going into next season.

That being said, Barrett struggled with accuracy, completing only 61.5 percent of his passes.

His inconsistency showed through during games against Michigan State, Michigan and Clemson where he only threw for 86, 124 and 124 yards respectively.

Will his struggles prevent the Buckeyes from reaching a national championship once again?

I don’t think so.

Image result for curtis samuel panthers
Curtis Samuel signed a $6.4 million contract with the Carolina Panthers. Photo via twitter.com/panthers

While the Buckeyes lose receivers Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson, and Noah Brown to the NFL, the upcoming recruiting class holds promise.

None of the three players boast many yards (none more than 500 yards) receiving, and looking at Meyer’s upcoming class, I feel confident that Barrett will have capable targets this season.

Wide Receivers and a new coach 

 First of all, the Buckeyes return three of their freshmen as receivers—Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, and K.J. Hill. None of them got many playing time, even as the receiver corps consistently underachieved.

Now, they have a chance to prove themselves on the field. The Big Ten Network ranks OSU’s receiving corps as the third best in the conference behind Penn State and Indiana, and this is without taking the new recruits into account.

Two impact players to watch are four-star wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Jaylen Harris. Grimes is ranked the fifth-best receiver in the nation, while Harris is ranked No. 30. Not bad for an incoming class.

And now for the wildcard, or maybe secret weapon is a more apt name: Johnnie Dixon.

Image result for johnnie dixon
Johnnie Dixon has had almost no playing time since 2014, but this is about to change now that he’s finally healthy. Photo via Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer

Dixon —the fifth-ranked wide receiver in the nation in 2014—only caught six passes in the 2016 season because of injury. He has only participated in 14 total games across his three years at OSU.

Now, he’s back and looking extremely promising. As an eligible junior, he was finally able to play in spring games, where he had six receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns.

Dixon didn’t expect to be able to return to the team, but right after his spring game he posted on Instagram about his prospects:

Dixon might prove to be the strongest receiver for Ohio State, and I’m predicting a breakout season from him.

And there’s some icing on the cake: Kevin Wilson, the new offensive coordinator and tight ends coach for the Buckeyes, is one of the best OCs in the game, and he’s ready to test his skills in Columbus.

Wilson has a history of success for offenses. He led the Oklahoma Sooners to a historic 11-2 season and Fiesta Bowl berth. As the head coach at Indiana he brought the program from a 1-11 record to a 6-6 record by the end of his tenure five years later.

Urban Meyer knows how good he is for offenses, and he might be just what the Buckeyes need to win the national title.

Why Ohio State will win the national title game 

Ohio State is one of the favorites for the national title this year, along with Alabama. Clemson no longer has the ability to embarrass OSU, and the Buckeyes are by far the better team.

I don’t see many FBS teams with the ability to beat OSU. They’ll face a challenge against Penn State, Oklahoma, and Michigan, but I think they’ll overcome those obstacles.

Add in the absolutely outstanding defensive recruiting class, and you have an all-around amazing team. Greg Schiano, now the sole defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes, led a great defensive program last year after being head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If Barrett comes into his own—which he will, considering the strength of his incoming receiving corps—and works well with Kevin Wilson, the Buckeyes have a great chance of winning the title.

Why the Buccaneers’ Vegas win totals are wrong

Photo via CBS Sports

In the last couple weeks, both the Westgate and South Point Superbooks have projected win totals for all of the NFL teams.

A couple of teams shine at the top—the New England Patriots are projected at 12.5 wins at Westgate and 11 wins at Southpoint. The Steelers are at 10.5 wins for both books, as well as the Seahawks.

However, there is at least one notable inconsistency in the metric for choosing win totals: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Both books have the Bucs at eight wins to finish out the regular season.

This seems rather harsh, considering both the Bucs’ last season and the prospects for next season.

Last season, the Bucs finished out the season with nine wins, just missing the playoffs because of a couple bungled games. They had wins over the Falcons and the Panthers, as well as narrow losses to the Saints.

The NFC South as it is 

The Falcons are set at 10 wins, while the Panthers are set at nine wins.

After a Super Bowl run, it’s not far-fetched that the Falcons can have another successful season.

With Matt Ryan at quarterback and other impact players like Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Devonta Freeman, the Falcons have a great offense combined with an up and coming defense.

The Panthers, however, are a different story. After a Super Bowl run in 2015, they shocked many by only winning six games in 2016.

Although many are projecting Cam Newton to bounce back, it’s hard to put too much faith in a team that only had six wins last season.

However, it is expected that they will be vastly improved, but should still have a tough battle to make the playoffs.

Both of these teams seem to be the most likely contenders against the Bucs, although the Saints can be anywhere from average to great—they haven’t had less than seven wins in a season since 2005.

So why are the Bucs projected lowest in the Division?

The Bucs didn’t miss the playoffs by much, and there are a couple of reasons why the Bucs are going to have at least a nine-win season.

The obvious: Jameis Winston 

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston hasn’t yet played to his full potential. Last season he led the Bucs to a nine-win season and coming into his third season he needs to cash in on his potential.

In both 2015 and 2016, Winston threw for just over 4,000 yards. He’s got the arm, he just needs to be smarter with it.

Image result for jameis winston bucs
Nobody denies that Jameis has an amazing arm, but can he keep the ball out of the opponents’ hands? Photo via AP photo

Of course, it’s not all about yardage. He’s inconsistent and throws way too many interceptions, but the team has added many more skilled targets to throw at this season.

The offense is one of the most skilled in the NFL and all that holds the Bucs back now is whether Winston can come out and perform as well as we know he can.

New all-star offense 

The Bucs offense is already great, for wide receiver Mike Evans had 1,321 yards receiving on 96 receptions. Just look at this catch above thrown by Winston against Cleveland. 

In addition, Tampa Bay is bringing back tight end Cameron Brate (82.8 PFF player grade), a dependable receiver with 660 yards last season who could be dangerous in combination with extremely talented rookie tight end O.J. Howard

The Bucs also added former Washinton Redskins wide receiver Desean Jackson. His deep threat could be deadly under Winston. Last season for the Redskins, Jackson had 1,005 yards off of just 56 receptions (17.9 yards per reception).

If that isn’t enough for Winston, throw dynamic tight end O.J. Howard into the mix. Howard caught for 595 yards in the 2016 season on 45 receptions for Alabama, and honestly he was criminally underused.

Image result for oj howard bucs
Howard was drafted by the Bucs in 2017 and is expected to be one of the best receivers on the team. Photo via Buccaneers.com

These stats are deceiving. In the 2015 national championship game, he chalked up 208 yards—a third of his yards for the season—and caught two touchdowns to help Alabama beat Clemson.

In 2016, he got 106 yards and a touchdown against Clemson in the national title rematch. Clearly, Howard can catch.

Howard was projected to be a top-10 pick, and although he was picked at No. 19, he is expected to be one of the best rookies this year’s draft class.

Standing at 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, Howard can reach wide receiver-level speeds and catches consistently in the red zone.

The Doug Martin puzzle 

There’s one piece to this puzzle that can capitulate the Bucs to an amazing season if it fits: Doug Martin’s health.

Martin, one of the best running backs in the league when he’s healthy, has had an inconsistent career. In both 2012 and 2015, Martin ran for over 1,400 yards. In his other three years, he ran for under 500 each season.

Image result for doug martin
When he’s healthy, Martin is the star of the Bucs offense. Photo via Buccaneers.com

His two problems? He’s been plagued with injury and drug addiction. He checked himself into rehab after a suspension that he’ll serve until three games into next season.

He’s back in practice, however, and claims to have gotten so much better. I’m a stronger person individually, mentally and physically,” he said. “You know, better on and off the field.

“It was a journey these past few months. You know, with the statement and I had to get help. It was a journey of self-development. I learned a lot about myself. I’ve had the support of my family, my friends and teammates all around, and I’m happy to be back here,” he said last week.

If his statements can be believed, the Bucs have a dynamic alternative to Winston’s pass attack. To supplement Martin, the Bucs have Jacquizz Rodgers, who rushed for 560 yards last season, and Charles Sims.

Sims is one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league according to Pro Football Focus, but he’s been dealing with injury as well.

After an injured shoulder cut short his 2016 season to seven games, he was cleared for practice recently and looks to return to the Bucs backfield.

Growing defense 

It isn’t just the offense that will shatter the win totals that oddsmakers have been projecting—the defense is growing and adding a dynamic component to the Bucs on the field.

The Bucs already have three stars on defense: Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, and Kwon Alexander.

McCoy has 42.5 career sacks since 2010 and 170 solo tackles. David has 192 solo tackles and ten interceptions since his start in 2012. In just two years, Alexander has 238 combined tackles, three interceptions, six sacks and 16 passes defensed.

Image result for noah spence bucs
Noah Spence got 5.5 sacks last year despite being plagued by injuries. Photo via  Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There’s new talent to supplement the old: defensive end Noah Spence.

Spence has created a buzz for next season after his injury plagued 2016 where he had just 5.5 sacks.

In a game against the Broncos, Spence popped out his shoulder and then fixed the injury himself. He played through the injury all season, and has noticeably improved in the offseason.

After his surgery, teammates and coaches alike have expressed their excitement to have him be part of the team, and his sophomore season will prove that he’s one of the best defensive ends in the entire league.

The Vegas win totals are wrong 

The Bucs will perform much better than they’ve been projected to play. My prediction is an 11-win season, or maybe at the least a 10-win season. With so many good players coming off of injuries, the Bucs are shaping up to have an impressive season that no one in Tampa Bay has seen since coach Jon Gruden.

Projecting Tampa Bay at eight wins is a harsh letdown for Bucs fans who just had their first nine-win season since 2010. They have a young quarterback with endless potential and a team hungry for a playoff run.

What needs to happen for Florida State to win national title

Photo via Associated Press

FSU ended last season ranked eighth in the AP poll, but they’re one of the top contenders for the college football title next season. Under the right circumstances, this year’s FSU team is a recipe for success.

Last Time Out 

Overall, the Seminoles had a successful 2016 campaign, but there were some bumps in the road, with surprise losses to UNC and Louisville. The ‘Noles bounced back and only suffered one more loss against powerhouse Clemson, and then edged Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

Throughout the season FSU had powerful players on both sides of the ball, but the big story is whether they’ll be able to replace RB Dalvin Cook, who just got drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.

Ground Game

Image result for cam akers
Top ranked running back recruit Cam Akers impressed all at the FSU spring game. Photo via AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst

It looks like the Noles have an answer to the Dalvin Cook question in freshman running back Cam Akers, who was ranked the No. 1 RB in his class by 247 Sports.

To supplement Akers, FSU is also bringing in the No. 4 ranked running back Khalan Laborn and the No. 15 ranked RB Zaquandre White. Laborn is a five-star recruit out of Virginia, and is ranked No. 1 among all-purpose backs.

With this stacked RB recruiting class, it seems the Seminoles have solved the problem of Cook’s departure for the long term. If Akers, Laborn, and White perform as well as they’re ranked, FSU won’t lose any sleep over running concerns.

Passing Prowess

Image result for fsu francois
Deondre Francois threw for over 3,000 yards in his debut season for the Seminoles. Photo via Wayne McGahee III

Any doubt that people had about Deondre Francois’s passing game is all but gone.

In his first season as FSU’s quarterback, he threw 235 completions for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Francois has been working consistently to become a better team leader, and he thinks he’s doing well. “I feel like I’ve gotten better this spring,” he told ESPN in an interview. “I will never be pleased with myself internally, but as a team and as an offense, I am very pleased with how we’ve been doing.”

One thing that Francois did struggle with was protection – he was sacked 37 times last season, and if changes aren’t made to the O-line the ‘Noles have a problem.

O-Line Issues

The main culprit for all these sacks is the rest of the offense. Francois was also tackled for a loss 86 times and was hurried 28 times, terrible numbers for a top-10 team.

The bottom line is, if Francois doesn’t receive better protection, he’s going to continue to get sacked, which will impair FSU’s ability to reach the title game.

Image result for roderick johnson
Offensive tackle Roderick Johnson leaves a gaping hole in the O-Line for the Noles. Photo via Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

All-American offensive tackle, Roderick Johnson, recently left for the draft, leaving yet another hole in the Seminole O-Line. For a line already plagued by injury, losing a player like Johnson is a recipe for mediocrity. If FSU is going to have a strong offensive line, their young players are going to have to step up.

Josh Ball, a 6’8″ 287 pound offensive tackle out of Virginia, might help the Noles answer some questions. He redshirted last season and comes into this season as a freshman. Redshirt freshman Jauan Williams, a four-star offensive tackle, and Baveon Johnson, a four-star center, also hope to supplement the struggling line.

Sense a trend here? It looks like FSU had a lot of talent in reserve last season. If this group of promising players pans out, FSU looks good for the post-season.

Top-Notch Recruiting, as Usual

Ranked as the sixth-best recruiting class in the nation, the Noles have an impressive group of young talent coming in on both sides of the ball. Besides the obvious with Akers at running back, the Seminoles have some quality offensive players for the upcoming season.

FSU’s receiving corps added eighth-ranked wide receiver D.J. Matthews. He’s joined by wide receiver Tamorrion Terry, and tight ends Tre’ McKitty and Alexander Marshall.

It seems like FSU put more focus on the defense this year, though. Defensive end Joshua Kaindoh, a five-star recruit out of Florida, is the third-ranked WDE in the country and ranked ninth in the nation overall.  He’s joined by four-star cornerback Stanford Samuels and four-star safeties Cyrus Fagan and Hamsah Nasirildeen.

Image result for marvin wilson fsu
Five-star defensive tackle provides a backbone to the growing FSU defense. Photo via Miller Safrit/ESPN

The Seminoles also recruited five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who is the No. 1 ranked defensive tackle in the nation.

Add four-star defensive tackle Ja’len Parks, and FSU looks strong on defense for the upcoming season.

Why Florida State will win the college football title game

FSU has played well consistently since 2012, and last season was no exception. This year they come back with a more mature quarterback and a stellar ground game, as well as a defense that’ll be tough to beat.

The most important thing for the Seminoles to focus on right now is their opening game against Alabama. It could prove to be their toughest game of the year, and the Crimson Tide won’t hold back.

It will be interesting to see the Hurts-Francois matchup, since so many people have compared them this offseason. FSU will also be going up against one of the best offenses and defenses in the nation.

Even with an opening day loss, the ‘Noles won’t completely lose their spot. It would be an important win for Francois’s confidence and their ranking, though.

The new receivers will have to learn how to work with Francois as he develops, and his offensive line will need to make sure he has time to get rid of the ball.

If those two things happen, the Seminoles will be a hard team to beat, and will most likely make the title game.

POLL: Should the Bengals have drafted Joe Mixon?

Photo via Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Football is never a stranger to controversy, and as the 2017 NFL draft finished up this weekend, another questionable decision was made. Former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon was drafted in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals.

It’s hard to forget Mixon’s past. By this time most people have seen the 2014 footage of Mixon punching a female student and breaking four bones in her face. He was suspended during the entire 2014 season, and never really made a comeback until the 2016 season.

Let’s ignore the debate about whether he should’ve been a first-round draft pick—he definitely has the talent. In his senior year, Mixon ran for 1,274 yards, had 538 receiving yards, and scored  15 touchdowns.

There’s a moral component to think about which the Bengals seem to have justified in their heads.

The thought process goes, “well he’s a bad guy, but we drafted him in the second round, so its okay!” And somehow this is supposed to make it better.

Everyone wants to think that character is important in sports. These are guys that we look up to as we see them go through college, get drafted, and have careers in the spotlight. Athletics host many household names, but, as we know, many of them fall short in the role model department.

There is a long history of teams compromising their moral fiber to pick up a good player, and the Mixon pick is just another part of the saga.

Has Mixon stated his regret? Yes. Were his actions deplorable? Undoubtedly. Should he have been drafted? It is hard to say.

We are finally learning that character doesn’t make even a tiny difference in professional sports. There are always amazing, larger-than-life guys in sports and we shouldn’t forget those guys. However, the Bengals just cared about what player could help them win on Sundays.

I watched the video of Mixon’s altercation again this morning, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

We will see in the coming years if Mixon has truly changed and won’t get into trouble off the field. Nonetheless, I side with the idealistic notion that he shouldn’t have been drafted at all.

Idealism doesn’t have much of a place in the NFL if it could jeopardize a chance of winning more football games.

WATCH: Malik Hooker explode in drills, shows he’s healthy

Photo via Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer

The article can also be found on the Chargers Wire!


If NFL mock drafts were truly a good predictor, former Ohio State safety Malik Hooker would be guaranteed to become a member of the Los Angeles Chargers this Thursday. However, lingering concerns about his health have caused some analysts to reevaluate.

Hooker had surgery prior to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine to repair a torn labrum and hernia after playing the entire season with both injuries.

His recovery stopped him from being able to do drills at the combine, but this recent video shows Hooker is moving just fine, per the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

A safety absolutely needs to have fluid hips and quick, precise movements in order to be successful at the next level. If not, they risk getting carved up by any receiver and tight end.

As such, seeing Hooker look explosive and fluid should be an encouraging sign to both the Chargers and their fans.


The article can also be found on the Chargers Wire!

Chargers swing big in latest 3-round mock draft

Photo via Lance King/Getty Images

The article can also be found on the Chargers Wire!


The 2017 NFL Draft is just three days away, and the decisions made April 27-29 in Philadelphia will impact the Los Angeles Chargers’ future for years to come.

While the Bolts can hardly afford to miss high drafts this year, they also can’t expect to play it safe and improve a five-win team by much.

As such, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco swings for the fences in our latest three-round mock draft.

 

Mitch Trubisky throwing.jpg
Photo via Grant Halverson/ Getty Images

 

Round 1: Trade Down

The Chargers should look to take advantage of quarterback-hungry teams.

Everyone knows the Cleveland Browns want to get former Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett and/or North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky. However, the Buffalo Bills at no. 10 might stop Trubisky from falling to Cleveland at no. 12.

Therefore, Los Angeles should look to use Cleveland’s fear against them, swapping their first-round pick with the Browns in exchange for Cleveland’s no. 33 overall pick.

Now, Los Angeles gets one extra draft pick to fill their many needs and the Browns get their quarterback of the future.

(Next page below)

Western Michigan DE Keion Adams visits Chargers

Photo via AP Photo/Michael Conroy

The article can also be found on the Chargers Wire!

Former Western Michigan Broncos linebacker/defensive end Keion Adams visited the Los Angeles Chargers recently, according to NFL Draft Diamonds.

Adams is a former three-sport athlete in high school, who is explosive while wielding his repertoire of pass-rush moves in a fashion that could net stout NFL results.

Adams is only 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, which is very light for an every down defensive end or outside linebacker in the league.

His lack of size creates concerns for him in the running game. Larger offensive linemen will be able to bully him around which could make it difficult for him to set the edge in the run game.

There are also some character concerns surrounding Adams that could see him fall completely out of the draft, per CBS Sports’ draft projections.


The article can also be found on the Chargers Wire!

Raiders work out two running backs

Photo via Jason Lee/The Sun News

The Oakland Raiders are still not done looking at running backs. It has been a few days since former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was supposed to sign with Oakland, but the official deal has still not come to fruition.

The Raiders have just recently worked out the two former college running backs below.

Former Coastal Carolina RB De’Angelo Henderson worked out with the Raiders, per Draft Diamonds.

Henderson is listed at 5-foot-7, 208 pounds. He is another small back, but he is more of a bruiser than a speedster. He ran a 4.49 second 40-yard dash at the combine, which is fast, but not electrifying.

He has a nose for the end zone, scoring in 35 straight games in his college career. However, there is a worry that his production came from playing weak competition.

Regardless, he has good burst to be a productive one-cut runner and provides a good option to catch the ball out of the backfield.

He seems to be a talented prospect who can do a little bit of everything. His size combined with coming from a smaller school might cause him to fall a little farther in the draft.

He is projected to go in the fifth or six round, according to CBS Sports.

Raysean Pringle.jpg
Photo via Jeffrey D. Allred, Desert News
Also, former Southern Utah RB/WR Raysean Pringle had a workout with Oakland last week, according to his own twitter account. 

Last season, he ran the ball 63 times for 417 yards and six touchdowns. His stats are not impressive and he is not expected to be drafted, but he might be an under the radar guy that McKenzie will look to bring in as an undrafted free agent.

It would likely be a dream come true for Pringle, for he would be returning to his hometown of Oakland, Calif. to play in the NFL if general manager Reggie McKenzie looks to sign him after the draft.

McKenzie is obviously not content with the running back position. The team didn’t seem happy with Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray during the regular season last year and definitely not this offseason; they never even offered him a contract.

McKenzie also picked up two running backs last off-season in RB Jalen Richard and RB DeAndre Washington.

McKenzie looks like he wants to bolster the running back position through the draft even if Lynch is going to sign in the coming days.

AFC West: How to fix each team’s biggest need

Photo via Scott Tucker/SF Bay

Los Angeles Chargers: Interior of offensive and defensive line

Isaac Asiat.jpg
Guard Isaac Asiata (Photo via Tom Smart, Deseret News)

The Chargers are terrible at tackle and guard on the defensive line. Their defensive tackles, Corey Liuget and Damion Square, have PFF player grades of 49.3 and 61.4, respectively. Liuget’s rating is considered poor, and Square’s is below average.

The guard position is as bad or worse, with Orlando Franklin (47.5) and Spencer Pulley (45.8). There might not be a worse combination in the NFL.

The Chargers need to look for help via the draft and free agency.

Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is still available on the free-agent market; he’s a dominant player on the inside, as long as he can stay healthy. It’s late in free agency, and he’s still looking for a team, so the Chargers should be able to get him for pennies on the dollar. He’d go well with defensive end Joey Bosa and linebacker Melvin Ingram.

On offense, the Chargers should look to the draft. They could use their number seven pick on a guard, but it’d make sense to take one later in the draft.

Guard Isaac Asiata, from Utah, would be a great fit. He has flown under the radar, so he should be available early in the third round. He has a big frame, is athletic, and has the ability to move the line of scrimmage. He’d be a good addition to help running back Melvin Gordon improve on his impressive 2016 campaign.

These moves won’t completely solve the Chargers problems, but they’ll definitely help.

Oakland Raiders: Help Inside

Perry Riler Jr. Raiders.jpg
Photo via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There’s not much the Oakland Raiders can do in free agency to make an impact. The dream is to land cornerback Richard Sherman in a trade with the Seahawks, but that’s unlikely, despite what the odds say.

The Raiders need to resign MLB Perry Riley Jr. (84.8 PFF grade). His grade might be a little inflated, but he’s a solid player at a very weak position for Oakland. They don’t have much choice but to re-sign him.

The Raiders still need a lot of help in the middle of the defensive line, too. Oakland, like Los Angeles, could use Johnathan Hankins at defensive tackle. Hankins might be out of general manager Reggie McKenzie’s price range, though, so the Raiders should look to the draft.

With a big frame and elite athleticism, Malik McDowell from Michigan State would be a great fit for Oakland. He’s great against the run and an even better pass rusher. With DT Mario Edwards Jr. getting healthy, adding McDowell would give the Raiders one of the top pass-rushing duos in the league. The inside push from Edwards Jr. and McDowell would do wonders for linebackers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

Denver Broncos: Protect the QB

Siemian Sacked Panthers.jpg
QB Trevor Siemian sacked (photo via Joe Mahoney/ AP Photo)

 

The Denver Broncos need help at the quarterback position. QB Trevor Siemian isn’t going to propel Denver to a bunch of wins himself, but he’s not a liability either. With a strong defense, like the 2015 Broncos’, there’s a chance for them to go deep in the playoffs.

Quarterback Paxton Lynch has potential, but he won’t realize it this season. A dream scenario would be signing Tony Romo, but that looks pretty unlikely at this point. Without a lot of outside options at QB, the Broncos need to look elsewhere for help.

Too build for the future once they find an elite quarterback, the Broncos are going to need to protect whoever’s calling the plays; Denver lacked talent at both tackle positions last season. They just signed former Oakland Raiders tackle Menelik Watson, a solid addition to the right side. There’s still a major need on the left side, though.

Their projected starting left tackle, Donald Stephenson, had a PFF grade of 28 last season, close to the lowest in the league. Denver should look to take a left tackle in the first round of the draft. A lot of media analysts like tackle Garret Bolles from Utah. His frame lacks a little at the moment, which could hurt in the run game, but he’s expected to fill out as his career in the NFL progresses.

Bolles would solidify the left tackle position and help whoever is under center.

Kansas City Chiefs: Help for Alex Smith

Tyreek Hill Touchdown.jpg
WR Tyreek Hill catches a touchdown against Denver (Photo via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Quarterback Alex Smith is a good, but not elite player. For the Kansas City Chiefs to go further in the playoffs, they need to provide as many weapons for Smith as possible.

They have a game changer and deep threat in WR Tyreek Hill, and another deep threat in WR Jeremy Maclin. They need a bigger target, though, who can consistently move the chains and score touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce is great, but having a chain mover at wide receiver is important.

The Chiefs pick late at no. 27 in the first round, but WR Corey Davis should be available when they pick. He has a big frame at 6-3, 209 pounds, and, according to his NFL network draft profile, is considered a “touchdown juggernaut”. His size and skilled route running will make him a reliable target for the future.

Kansas City has always struggled to throw touchdowns and to complete passes to their wide receivers in general.

Davis would be the perfect complement to Maclin and Hill.

Oakland Raiders 7-round mock draft

Round 1 (24th Overall): DT Malik McDowell

Malik McDowell
Photo via Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports

At this point, the Raiders have missed out on all the marquee defensive tackles available in free agency, and it makes the most sense for them to pursue McDowell from Michigan State. He has elite talent and could help fill the glaring need of an inside pass-rusher for Oakland.

His work ethic and leadership are concerns, but the defense has immense leadership with Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Reggie Nelson to hopefully get McDowell on the right path.

 If they do, he has the potential to be a scary good player in the future.

Round 2 (56th Overall): LB Jarrad Davis

Jarrad Davis
Florida Gators team website

Oakland missed out on inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower, LB Zach Brown and have not re-signed last year’s starting MLB Perry Riley.

LB Jarrad Davis, from the University of Florida, would fill one of the Raiders’ biggest needs.

Davis is touted as a high-character guy, has NFL caliber talent, and a history on special teams, a combination that any general manager would love.

Round 3 (88th Overall): CB Jourdan Lewis

Jourdan Lewis Mich
Photo via James Coller/Daily

CB David Amerson and CB Sean Smith were serviceable for the Raiders last year, but were too often beat by smaller, quicker receivers.

If the Raiders can bring in a guy like former Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis to cover the quicker receivers, then the team should be able to mitigate Amerson and Smith’s weaknesses.

Lewis, who is small, quick and feisty, could be a day 1 starter in the slot and would be an immediate upgrade from past nickel corner DJ Hayden.

However, Lewis has been charged with domestic violence. The incident could make him completely un-draftable in the eyes of owner Mark Davis, but it could also have him drop far below the third round and make him into one of the best value picks of this draft.

Round 4 (130th Overall): S John Johnson

John Johnson BC
Photo via Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Safety is not a pressing need at this moment, but the Raiders are going to need someone to pair alongside SS Karl Joseph for the future with FS Reggie Nelson on the wrong side of his career’s peak.

S John Johnson, from Boston College, has starting experience at both safety and corner. He has fluid hips, good instincts and a nose for the football according to his NFL.com draft profile.

In the NFL, he could transition to either a slot corner or a high safety, for he is better at covering than tackling.

While FS Nelson is still a Raider, Johnson could make an impact by playing in the slot and by adding depth to the safety and corner position. Once Nelson retires, Johnson could move into a starting safety role next to SS Joseph, who is a better tackler and plays in the box, which would compliment Johnson’s skill set.

Round 5 (168th Overall): WR Dede Westbrook

OU VS KANSAS
Photo via Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Wide receiver is not a big need for the Raiders, but when there is someone this talented available in the fifth round, it is hard to not take a flier.

WR Dede Westbrook, from Oklahoma, was an elite college football player. He won unanimous first-team All-American honors, won the Biletnikoff award, and hauled in 80 catches for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns in his last season as a Sooner.

His frame and an accusation of domestic violence in 2012 and 2013 are concerning for NFL teams, but he can move into the slot to hide his smaller frame and was never convicted in either assault case.

He is definitely worth the risk of a fifth round pick.

 Round 6 (208th Overall): RB Elijah Hood

Elijah Hood UNC
Photo via Jim Hawkins, Inside Carolina

The Raiders lost RB Latavius Murray to free agency and have not replaced him with anyone since. There are rumors about Marshawn Lynch joining Oakland, but until it happens we have to assume the Raiders will look to fill their hole at running back through the draft.

Hood lacks the speed to be an every-down starter, but has the power to be a short yardage back. Therefore, in combination with the speed of Richard and Washington, Hood could be a solid addition to Oakland’s backfield.

Round 7 (242nd Overall): CB Des Lawrence

Des Lawrence UNC
Photo via Joe Bray

Cornerback is still a massive need for the Raiders. They might as well keep drafting corners until they get lucky and hit at the position in the draft.

Former Tarheel CB Des Lawrence has the ideal frame listed at 6 foot, 188 pounds. He is a physical press corner who uses his hands well, is smart in coverage and has special teams experience (important for a projected non-starter).

He is ultra competitive but lacks ideal speed and quickness at the NFL level. Hopefully with the guidance of bigger and experienced corners Smith and Amerson, he can develop into a starting cornerback down the road.

Round 7 (244th Overall): LB Calvin Munson

Calvin MunsonSDS
Photo via Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

LB Calvin Munson was a productive starter for three years at San Diego State.

He is intense, powerful and plays well with his hands, but he lacks the agility to make an impact as a starting linebacker at the next level.

He will provide good support in the run game, but will be a huge liability in coverage. At the very best, he could be useful for run-heavy situations.

However, he has shown to be a good player on special teams, which is where he will need to find his role to make the team.

Like cornerback,the team should just keep drafting linebackers until one of them will stick.

This shouldn’t be considered a throw-away pick because he can play special teams if he doesn’t pan out as a linebacker.