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  1. I don’t even know why they wasted their time writing this only to write it off as improbable but oh well https://247sports.com/nfl/chicago-bears/Article/Bears-trade-Vic-Beasley-ideal-scenario-128880767/Amp/ The offseason is the perfect time to think outside of the box a little bit. Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon did just that when he wrote up some offseason trade scenarios for every team in the NFL. One of the more surprising scenarios he laid out was one for the Chicago Bears in which they would acquire former first-round pick Vic Beasley from the Atlanta Falcons. "It's possible a change of scenery would be best for Beasley as he enters a contract year at the age of 27, and his $12.8 million walk-year cap hit wouldn't cripple a Bears team that has limited salary-cap space," Gagnon wrote. "Sure would be interesting to see him in a lower-pressure role with Mack and several other high-impact front-seven defenders leading the way in Chicago. The short-term gamble makes sense for the win-now Bears." Taken one pick behind Bears wideout Kevin White in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Beasley has had an up-and-down NFL career. He started all 16 games as a rookie and ended that season with 26 tackles, four sacks, three pass deflections, one interception and two forced fumbles. He burst out on his second year for the Falcons, recording 39 tackles, 15.5 sacks, two pass deflections and six forced fumbles en route to being named a Pro Bowl. Beasley played in 14 games in 2017 and recorded 29 tackles, five sacks, two pass deflections and one forced fumble. He capped off this past season with 20 tackles, five sacks and three pass deflections. Atlanta previously picked up his fifth-year option so he is set to earn $12.8 million this upcoming season. Gagnon does not seem to think that money would be too much for the Bears, but their cap space would suggest otherwise. Spotrac.com has the Bears at just $9,373,935 in cap space. That number will likely increase with a few adjustments to the roster, but Chicago still has decisions to make on nickelback Bryce Callahan and strong safety Adrian Amos in free agency. The only teams listed with less cap space are the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars. Gagnon suggests it would take just a third-round pick to acquire Beasley. Since the Bears do not have a first- or second-round pick it also seems unlikely they would give up the chance to make a selection on Day 2. What also makes this trade improbable is the Bears already have a young pass-rusher opposite of Mack who they like in Leonard Floyd. The former first-round pick came into his own in the second half of the season for Chicago. He is versatile enough to drop in coverage and showed an ability to apply consistent pressure as the season went on in 2018. Every team in the NFL would love another pass-rusher, but there is nothing about Gagnon's proposed deal that would make sense for Chicago.
  2. ATLANTA FALCONS Matt Ryan May Be Boring, but It's Foolish to Overlook the Former NFL MVP MIKE TANIERAUGUST 23, 2018 Adam Hunger/Associated Press Did you hear what Matt Ryan said on the Dan Patrick Show in response to Jalen Ramsey's "overrated" remarks in GQ? Buckle up, football fans, because these remarks are about to get bumpy: "You know what? I've played for 11 years. So I've heard my fair share of trash-talking from a lot of different people. And if this stuff kept me up at night, I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. So I don't pay too much mind to it. I'm about winning games, and I'm about being the absolute best player that I can be." Holy beef battles. And it gets better! Ryan met with the media on Tuesday, and he doubled down on the drama: "As I said before, having played as long as I did in this league, I've heard comments from everybody, both good and bad at different times. So I don't worry too much about it. My responsibility is to go out there and play the best football that I can, and I feel like I've done a pretty good job of that throughout my career." Savage! Staple that stuff to the Jaguars bulletin board! Ryan was breathing fire! Breathing fire by Matt Ryan standards, anyway. Falcons reporters prodded him on Tuesday to open up a little about trash talk, gamesmanship or anything, really. It was like trying to train a cat to fetch a stick. You have to hand it to Ryan. In a league where Eli Manning can muster a wry "Who?" wisecrack in response to Ramsey's strafing of veteran quarterbacks, where even dreary Joe Flacco gets to be Mr. Chip-on-His-Shoulder these days, Ryan still dares to be dull. And consistently dull: His remarks to Patrick were so bland that you probably missed them during all the Ramsey chatter last week, so he boringly referred back to those boring comments this week so you could overlook them again. No wonder huge swaths of NFL fandom nodded in agreement at Ramsey's assessment of Ryan, the former NFL MVP who came within a teamwide fourth-quarter server crash of winning the Super Bowl two years ago. Being consistently dull like Ryan is, well, consistently dull. Fans and chest-pounding young cornerbacks alike prefer the new, the bold and the promising—not the quarterback equivalent of dad slacks. Matt Ryan appeared to be in regular-season form in completing 5-of-7 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in a preseason game against the Chiefs.John Bazemore/Associated Press Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz are new and now, which placed them among the few quarterbacks Ramsey singled out for praise. So is Jimmy Garoppolo, with his 12 combined career touchdowns, eight fewer than Ryan has thrown in playoff games. Ramsey is also new and now, which is why he was profiled in GQ and not Prevention. Ryan? He's going into his 11th season, and he's about winning games, and he's done a pretty good job of that throughout his career. And he looks ready to keep doing a pretty good job of it this year, too. Ryan was razor-sharp last Friday night in his first significant preseason action. He threw on the run, flung some passes downfield and easily moved the Falcons offense in what became a 28-14 loss to the Chiefs after the starters left and silliness ensued. Few noticed Ryan's hot preseason start, because few watch Falcons preseason games (if Ryan bores you, you should see his backups), and veteran quarterbacks are supposed to look crisp in preseason cameos. But Ryan looked a lot like 2016 MVP Ryan—albeit in just two drives—during a weekend when Kirk Cousins looked flat, Cam Newton was under siege, Nick Folesnarrowly escaped an injury scare, and Drew Brees and Jared Goff enjoyed their extended summers. Ryan's problem isn't that he's overrated. He's overlooked, taken for granted as a perennial playoff quarterback in a league where storylines always get more attention than stability. Ryan has started 168 NFL games, including the playoffs. He's thrown for 41,796 yards and 260 touchdowns, 16th and 18th on the all-time leaderboards. Kyle Shanahan is one of a handful of former Ryan coordinators to leave the Falcons only to eventually become a head coach.John Bazemore/Associated Press Yes, those all-time passing lists are crawling with contemporary quarterbacks because of the increased passing rates of the last 20 years, so pointing out that Ryan has thrown for more touchdowns than Dan Fouts or more yards than Joe Montana is a misleading, unconvincing argument. But Ryan has thrown for more yards than Aaron Rodgers. And he's thrown 60 more touchdowns than Flacco, a dozen more than Tony Romo and three more than Newton and Cousins combined. Ryan has a 95-63 record as a starter. Yes, quarterback win-loss records trigger nerd rage among serious quarterback evaluators, for excellent reasons. But Ryan's Falcons amassed that record through two different coaching regimes, with offenses that finished among the top 10 in yards six times but among the top 10 defenses in yards allowed just once. So Ryan's win-loss record can't be written off as a product of his surroundings. In fact, Ryan-led offenses have been so reliably productive that three of Ryan's offensive coordinators (Mike Mularkey, Dirk Koetter and Kyle Shanahan) became head coaches, even though some of the most memorable moments of Ryan's career have been terrible crunch-time play calls with his team in scoring position, from the fourth-down playoff sneaks against the Giants in 2012 to whatever Shanahan was thinking late in the Super Bowl to last year's goal-line travesty against the Eagles. Last year was an "off" year for Ryan. He finished seventh in the NFL in passing, according to Football Outsiders' DYAR metric. He captained the Falcons to a convincing road playoff win against the Rams. He then led the Falcons down the field to the 2-yard line on a final drive on an icy, windy night against the Eagles before coordinator Steve Sarkisian called a play so obvious that Eagles defenders recognized it the moment the Falcons lined up. Some off year. In other words, Ryan has been playing football for a long time, and he's done a pretty good job moving his team up and down the field throughout his career. And this is the guy we snicker about being overrated? Ryan isn't flashy, but he has been effective, leading the Falcons to the playoffs in six of his 10 seasons in the NFL.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press/Associated Press There are no consensus "ratings" for quarterbacks, just a million contradictory, contrarian opinions. And in the NFL, like in many high-profile industries, "overrated" often means that a quarterback (pitcher, recording artist, whatever) has been around long enough for everyone to see his shortcomings, unlike the still-perfect-in-our-imaginations Garoppolo types. In that way, "overrated" is an unintended compliment. The secret to success in the NFL is that no news is good news, and that consistently dull equals good. Coaches love insomnia-curing press conferences and hate fashion magazines, so they love quarterbacks like Ryan. The same fans who applaud Ramsey's candor will tsk-tsk if Odell Beckham Jr. torches him in the opener. Survival in the NFL isn't about trash talk or trending topics but about being prepared for the highs and lows of a grueling season. And Ryan has seen both MVP highs and catastrophic Super Bowl lows. Ryan gets a rematch with the Eagles in the season opener, and then his team will host the Panthers and Saints. It's a good thing Ryan looks healthy and sharp and his Falcons look hungry and a little smarter than last year: There will be no easing into this season. Ryan, for his part, looks ready on the field, and his non-quotable quote game is in playoff form. It doesn't really matter whether what opponents thinks of him. The smart ones aren't going to underestimate him
  3. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2728492-monday-morning-digest-quarterback-fear-factor?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial A lot of good insight into other teams and struggles... Spotlight: Falcons Defense Preseason Story So Far Team owner Arthur Blank claims that the Falcons now have the fastest defense in the NFL. And while team partisans often offer some loopy opinions (see Clinton Portis' appraisal of the Washington backfield on the last slide), Blank may be onto something. The youthful Falcons starters swarmed all over the Steelers on Sunday and looked good against the Dolphins in the preseason opener until second-half silly time. Blank wants to see his Falcons play "a full four quarters now in the Super Bowl," because he's seen what happens when they settle for three-and-a-half. Will he get his wish? Players to Watch Takkarist McKinley had an uneventful NFL debut Sunday, though if you watched closely, you saw him bull-rush a left tackle on one play and flush Joshua Dobbs from the pocket on another. Look for McKinley to be eased into a pass-rush rotation that is suddenly deep behind Vic Beasley, with Brooks Reed, Courtney Upshaw and others looking healthy and effective right now. Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe should be a nasty defensive tackle tandem, with Poe munching on double-teams while Jarrett disrupts the backfield (as he did several times against the Steelers). De'Vondre Campbell, now the strong-side linebacker, looked comfortable in the role against the Dolphins. He also made a big play against the Steelers, delivering a big hit and forcing a fumble on a Martavis Bryant end-around. The Falcons secondary is difficult to evaluate, because the team hasn't faced a starting quarterback yet. Jalen Collins gave up a 99-yard touchdown against the Dolphins but is not in the team's plans. Fifth-round pick Damontae Kazee, one of those young speedsters Blank is raving about, is being groomed as a designated nickel defender and flashed some potential against the Steelers. The Falcons special teams bears monitoring. The Steelers blocked one punt and nearly blocked a second. Falcons return men fumbled twice against the Dolphins. It's probably nothing, but the Falcons need to mind the details after the way last season ended. Bottom Line If you are checking the Falcons' vital signs for evidence of an impending Super Bowl slump, you won't find them on defense. This is a deep, rapidly improving and (yes) lightning-fast unit. It's too early to tell if the Falcons defense will let the boss and the fans down in January or February. It will have no problem doing the job in September.
  4. I copied their FA rankings of positions that we may look into heavily this offseason. It's a little long might be an understatement. Here is a link to category for the positions. I recommend using CTRL-F or Command-F to find a position or player that they may or may not have wrote about. I found some of it very interesting. I mostly read the DT article because one of the contributors has some articles on the Falcoholic that have been very interesting. Defensive Tackle http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2693536-nfl1000-free-agency-rankings-for-the-2017-dt-market 4-3 OLB http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2693538-nfl1000-free-agency-rankings-for-the-2017-4-3-olb-market 3-4 OLB http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2693537-nfl1000-free-agency-rankings-for-the-2017-3-4-olb-market 4-3 DE http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2693535-nfl1000-free-agency-rankings-for-the-2017-4-3-de-market 3-4 DE http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2693534-nfl1000-free-agency-rankings-for-the-2017-3-4-de-market Guards http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2691723-nfl1000-free-agency-rankings-for-the-2017-og-market Defensive Tackles 21. Tyrunn Walker 2 of 22 Joe Robbins/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 14.2/25 Pass Rush: 13.9/25 Run Defense: 14.2/25 Tackling: 10.6/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 59.6/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 79/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Tyrunn Walker will have a chance to make a 53-man roster in 2017, but his 2016 performance wasn't impressive. He was a problem for the Lions' porous run defense as he played with poor gap discipline and leverage at times. He was also ineffective at rushing the passer. At this point, he'll have an uphill climb to secure a spot on Week 1 rosters. Doug's Quick Take Walker was a good player his first two years in the NFL (2012-13), with competent run defense and some pass pressure. But he hasn't had a sack since Week 17 of the 2014 season, and his run-stopping has regressed. Potential Suitors: Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles 20. Courtney Upshaw 3 of 22 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 14.4/25 Pass Rush: 13.5/25 Run Defense: 14.2/25 Tackling: 11/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 59.8/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 78/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Of the bargain-bin defensive tackle options, Courtney Upshaw might be the most intriguing. Atlanta signed him as a defensive tackle in 2016 after he played defensive end and strong-side linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens from 2012 to 2015. If this list were just based on his performance in the postseason, Upshaw would be much higher here. He showed a growth in pass rushing as the campaign progressed and became a key cog for Atlanta on its run to the Super Bowl. Upshaw brings a lot of value as a low-risk, high-upside signing. Don't be surprised if someone pulls the trigger on him for more than the veteran's minimum. Doug's Quick Take A second-round pick in 2012, Upshaw has never been the great pass-rusher some expected him to be, but he's an above-average run-stopper and a good player who will apply some pressure. He's a good rotational piece in an aggressive four-man front. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins 19. Cam Thomas 4 of 22 Dave Reginek/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 13.9/25 Pass Rush: 13.5/25 Run Defense: 14.7/25 Tackling: 11.1/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 60.1/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 76/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Cam Thomas had a mixed performance in 2016. He played a large role in the Rams defense behind Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Dom Easley. He wasn't impressive during his playing time, but he shows decent movement for a 335-pounder. Thomas never developed to be an anchor versus the run coming out of North Carolina, but he's a solid option as the fourth defensive tackle in a rotation. It would make sense for Los Angeles to keep him as it adds pieces to Wade Phillips' defense. Doug's Quick Take Thomas had his best seasons for the Chargers in 2011 and 2012, and he's been an average rotational tackle since then. At this point, he's a gap-plugging nose tackle without much push to pressure quarterbacks. Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Rams, Cincinnati Bengals 18. Sylvester Williams 5 of 22 Justin Edmonds/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 14.7/25 Pass Rush: 13.4/25 Run Defense: 14.7/25 Tackling: 10.8/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 60.2/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 73/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald The entire Broncos defense missed Malik Jackson last season, but Sylvester Williams may have missed him the most. He handled double-teams poorly and was a huge part of Denver's massive regression against the run. Expect the team to move on from its former first-round pick. It can find a better replacement in free agency or the draft. A heavy nose tackle who can't anchor versus double-teams or shoot A-gaps versus zone runs doesn't hold much valuable in today's NFL. Doug's Quick Take Williams has struggled to be special, and given his first-round status and the fact that he's had incredible talent all around him and one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history in Wade Phillips, that's a ****ing indictment. It's also why he'll have an uphill battle in free agency. Potential Suitors: San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins 17. Akeem Spence 6 of 22 Don Juan Moore/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 14.1/25 Pass Rush: 13.3/25 Run Defense: 15.3/25 Tackling: 11.1/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 60.4/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 71/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Akeem Spence is a solid run-defending defensive tackle who lacks that second gear to be a punishing pass-rusher. He did a decent job of keeping linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David clean in Tampa Bay last year. His return to the Buccaneers on a one- or two-year deal makes sense for both parties, so the team can divert its attention to the secondary or getting Jameis Winston and Mike Evans help on offense. Teams looking to find a stopgap solution for their run defense might take a flier on Spence. Doug's Quick Take Spence doesn't show the kind of leverage wins you'd expect from someone his size (6'1", 307 lbs), and he doesn't blast off the ball with the kind of speed required for interior pass-rushers. He's a decent option as a 4-3 gap-plugger, but that's about it. Potential Suitors: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals 16. Jonathan Babineaux 7 of 22 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 14.8/25 Pass Rush: 13.7/25 Run Defense: 14.4/25 Tackling: 11.2/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 60.6/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 70/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Jonathan Babineaux's best days are behind him. He was once an underrated, explosive 3-technique for Atlanta. But Father Time is undefeated, and Babineaux is a shell of the player he once was. He had flashes in the Falcons' postseason run, but the totality of his season was underwhelming. Babineaux may not have many suitors in free agency. It feels like he'll get a chance to make Atlanta's final 53-man roster, or he'll retire. Doug's Quick Take Babineaux had a nice, long run as one of the better, most underrated 4-3 interior linemen in the NFL, combining pass rushing and run-stopping in a formidable package. He's still got a bit left in the tank as long as his snaps are kept to a minimum, but his starting days are most likely behind him. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons 15. Stacy McGee 8 of 22 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 15.1/25 Pass Rush: 14.1/25 Run Defense: 14.8/25 Tackling: 11.3/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 61.5/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 63/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Stacy McGee quietly had a solid season for the Oakland Raiders. He played in nine games and registered two-and-a-half sacks and two forced fumbles to go with 17 tackles. His grade may not be as high as some of the other players on this list due to time missed to lower body injuries, but he's a high-level backup when his game is on. Considering Oakland's weak interior defense, re-signing him on a one-year deal would make the most sense. If he walks in free agency, the Seahawks would be an intriguing fit as they continue to strengthen their defensive front. Doug's Quick Take McGee has overcome off-field issues and a disappointing start to his career to play well in what was his contract year. He's a good-sized player (6'3", 310 lbs) who will play the run more than the pass, but he did have a two-sack game against the Chargers in Week 5, and he has shown the kind of potential that gets you more snaps over time. Potential Suitors: Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins 14. Khyri Thornton 9 of 22 George Gojkovich/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 15.1/25 Pass Rush: 14.1/25 Run Defense: 14.7/25 Tackling: 11.1/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 62/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 59/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Khyri Thornton is a jack-of-all-trades defensive tackle. He doesn't do anything particularly well, but he provides solid depth. He's not the flashiest or most explosive player, but there is value to having a defensive tackle who can hold his gap and keep up with his run fits. A team looking for a cheap, veteran rotational player might be interested in Thornton. He might be a guy who has to wait a bit for a franchise to come calling for him, though. Doug's Quick Take Thornton dropped 30 pounds before the 2016 season to establish a quickness he never showed in his time with the Patriots, and he was an asset in Detroit's defensive line at times. More a rotational run defender than anything, he'll get a lot of looks around training camp. Potential Suitors: Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins 13. Tony McDaniel 10 of 22 Adam Glanzman/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 14.8/25 Pass Rush: 13.8/25 Run Defense: 16.1/25 Tackling: 11.4/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 62.8/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 53/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Tony McDaniel is the typical two-down, run-stuffing defensive tackle who's a liability with his pass rush. He was a key cog in Seattle's stifling run defense but didn't offer much as a pass-rusher throughout the season. A team looking for rotational depth will most likely bring in McDaniel. He's not an ideal starter in today's NFL, but his archetype still holds value. A reunion with Seattle makes the most sense; he and Jarran Reed had nice chemistry to close the season. Doug's Quick Take McDaniel is a long, athletic player who best fits a four-man front as a run-stopping 3-technique tackle. He's been underwhelming in that regard of late, but perhaps suitors will remember his peak with the Seahawks in 2013, when he grabbed a Super Bowl ring and forced a lot of double-teams. Potential Suitors: Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals 12. Stephen Paea 11 of 22 Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 16.2/25 Pass Rush: 14/25 Run Defense: 14.8/25 Tackling: 11/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 63/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 52/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Stephen Paea is cut from the same cloth as Dominique Easley. He's an explosive player but doesn't always make an impact after his initial get-off. This leads to wild peaks and valleys in his game. Paea is a versatile defender who's been miscast as a two-gapper throughout portions of his career. He'd be best served being a 3-technique in nickel and dime sets to capitalize upon his explosion and ability to get up the field. Teams that like to move up front and play around with defensive line techniques would be a nice fit for Paea. Doug's Quick Take A workout monster who impressed at his scouting combine in 2011, Paea has indeed surprised some with his ability to get upfield and pressure quarterbacks. He could be a real bargain for any team looking to add to its defensive line depth with a versatile player who's got a couple of good recent seasons under his belt. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns 11. Earl Mitchell 12 of 22 Wesley Hitt/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 15.2/25 Pass Rush: 15/25 Run Defense: 15.6/25 Tackling: 10.9/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 63.6/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 46/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Earl Mitchell was a Miami Dolphins cap casualty, but that's not necessarily indicative of his talent level. Like Grady Jarrett and Bennie Logan, Mitchell is a smaller nose tackle (6'3", 310 lbs) who translates well to where NFL offenses have evolved over the past few years. When he's healthy, he can be an explosive presence at 1-technique with the ability to play 3-technique in a pinch. Ndamukong Suh played the vast majority of the 3-technique reps when he was on the field with Mitchell, so Mitchell played that "light" nose tackle role. Mitchell makes a lot of sense for the Philadelphia Eagles, who might lose Bennie Logan to free agency. He's not as effective as Logan, but he could slide right into the 1-technique role next to Fletcher Cox and keep the defense schematically fluid. Doug's Quick Take Mitchell would be best in a quick, aggressive one-gap defense where he can use his quickness to explode past blockers instead of taking them on in waves. He's not always been tasked to do that, but he's shown up well when the scheme meets his specific talents. Potential Suitors: Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons 10. Bennie Logan 13 of 22 Corey Perrine/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 15.8/25 Pass Rush: 15.1/25 Run Defense: 17.1/25 Tackling: 11.8/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 66.5/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 30/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Bennie Logan is the new-age nose tackle. He's only 6'2" and 315 pounds, but in a league that heavily uses outside zone, the ability to dominate the back-side A-gaps has become a must. This requires nose tackles to be stout and agile—two areas where Logan shows his ability. He may have played himself out of Philadelphia's price range with his performance the past few seasons, but an injury-plagued 2016 campaign could drive his price down for a team needing a starting nose tackle. The Raiders make a ton of sense as a potential landing spot for Logan. They have the cap space necessary to front-load a contract for immediate impact before they have to sign quarterback Derek Carr and star defender Khalil Mack to extensions. For Oakland's need at defensive tackle, the 27-year-old Logan is worth it. Doug's Quick Take Logan has been one of the better run-stopping tackles in the NFL for a while now, though he didn't show it as much when the Eagles moved to a base 4-3 under Jim Schwartz in 2016. Any two-gap team with hybrid fronts will love him as a pace-setter against the run, and his schematic regression last season could mean he's a real bargain. Potential Suitors: Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins 9. Terrell McClain 14 of 22 Wesley Hitt/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 15.9/25 Pass Rush: 15.1/25 Run Defense: 17.1/25 Tackling: 12.1/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 66.8/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 29/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Terrell McClain was one of the unsung heroes of the Dallas Cowboys defense. Dallas' defensive line didn't have much consistent talent outside of McClain and Maliek Collins to close the season. McClain was a force against the run, though. He wasn't the most consistent pass-rusher, but he did enough in that regard to not be a complete liability on passing downs. Teams looking for an affordable starter in free agency should have McClain high on their list. He played all over Dallas' line. He was competent at 1-technique, 3-technique and 0-technique in its "Bear" fronts (a nose tackle with two 3-techniques). If teams can convince him to be a rotational defensive lineman in 2017, he'll be one of the bargains of the offseason. Doug's Quick Take McClain was streaky in 2016, the first NFL season in which he logged 500 snaps. He's a physical tweener (6'2", 302 lbs) who explodes well off the snap and has good power for his size. McClain is the kind of payer who will occasionally flash, but his overall tape shows a rotational player who makes his teammates better. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Detroit Lions 8. Dominique Easley 15 of 22 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 17.8/25 Pass Rush: 15.9/25 Run Defense: 15.6/25 Tackling: 11.4/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 67.3/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 26/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Dominique Easley lives and dies off his first step. His snap-quickness score was one of the tops in the league, but he wasn't always productive after his first step. Easley's game is still in the adolescent phases. His athletic ability will allow him to make splash plays that made it look as though the Rams had two versions of Aaron Donald at times. His technique and hand placement was lacking quite a bit at other times, though. However, for a team that already has some established defensive line depth and needs a big-play threat from the 3-technique, Easley makes a lot of sense. His reunion with New England would be logical as the third or fourth defensive tackle rotating in with Alan Branch and Vincent Valentine. If the Eagles lose Bennie Logan to free agency, Easley and Fletcher Cox would become a dynamic duo on obvious passing downs with a high upside for the twist and stunt games. Oakland could also use an explosive presence inside next to Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Mario Edwards. Doug's Quick Take Easley's injury history has negated his massive potential to a degree—he's no longer the player he was at Florida, where he could destroy multiple blockers from just about any gap. But he will show stretches of dominance, and he's developed into a decent overall player. He can play well in one-gap and two-gap schemes, which will add to his appeal. Potential Suitors: Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams 7. Dontari Poe 16 of 22 Joe Robbins/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 16.8/25 Pass Rush: 15.1/25 Run Defense: 16.9/25 Tackling: 12/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 67.5/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 25/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald If there was a player to label as "buyer beware," it's Dontari Poe. Poe has played an absurd amount of snaps over his career. The wear and tear really started to show in his game this past season. He didn't flash the same freakish athleticism that made him a top-11 pick in 2012 and his pass rush got worse as the campaign progressed. It's fair to wonder if the back issues from the early portion of Poe's career have caught up with him. He's carrying a lot of weight (346 lbs) week in and week out; even though he'll only be 27 at the start of the season, his best football is probably behind him. He still offers solid two-down ability as a run-stopper. For a team to get the most out of Poe, his snap count will have to be decreased as a part of a rotation. Nailing down a location for Poe is difficult, but Atlanta and Indianapolis having former Kansas City personnel people in their front office could be an advantage for him. Doug's Quick Take Last season was the first time since Poe's rookie campaign of 2012 that he wasn't an every-down, every-play factor, and it's indeed possible that he's just gassed after a bunch of high-rep years. However, he still had seven quarterback hits and 23 quarterback hurries in 2016, so there's a chance that, perhaps with a little weight lost and a little more wisdom applied to his snap count, he can be a highly impactful player. There's also a good chance that he won't get the free-agent money he seeks. Potential Suitors: Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts 6. Alan Branch 17 of 22 Billie Weiss/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 16.1/25 Pass Rush: 15.1/25 Run Defense: 17.9/25 Tackling: 12.3/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 67.9/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 22/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Alan Branch is a tremendous run-stuffer. The Patriots ran a ton of "Bear" fronts last season (a nose tackle with two 3-techniques), and Branch played all three positions well against the run. It's difficult to find a player who can thrive as a two-gapper over the center, 3-technique on the strong side and a 3-technique on the weak side, but Branch managed to play well in a Super Bowl season for the Patriots. He played a key role on a line with Malcom Brown and Vincent Valentine, two young defensive tackles. It may be in the Patriots' best interests to bring him back for a season before completely passing the reins to the young guns. If Branch does move on, he should be able to latch on to a contender looking for help along the defensive line. Doug's Quick Take Branch was one of the most important—and most underrated—elements of New England's front-seven turnaround in 2016. Yes, he's a powerful run-stuffer, but he can also hustle upfield and get pressure when required. He's still got a ton left in the tank, and he'd be an asset for any defense. Potential Suitors: New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks 5. Corbin Bryant 18 of 22 Jerome Davis/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 16.4/25 Pass Rush: 15.9/25 Run Defense: 17.1/25 Tackling: 12.6/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 68/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 21/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Corbin Bryant is a talented, oft-injured defensive tackle. He fell under the radar playing on the same defensive line as stars Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, but Bryant has been a productive player for the Bills when healthy. He only has 2.5 sacks in his career, but that's not indicative of how disruptive he is. Bryant plays the run well with discipline and penetration while causing disruption as a pass-rusher. Coming off a shoulder injury, he probably won't cash in during free agency. Teams that need a starter in an odd or even front should be heavily interested in Bryant. Doug's Quick Take Bryant's best season was 2015, when he amassed 20 quarterback hurries in 653 snaps and proved to be effective against the run. The injury history is the "buyer beware" factor here, but teams will be interested in his versatility if he can stay on the field. Potential Suitors: Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos 4. Brandon Williams 19 of 22 Matt Hazlett/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 16.4/25 Pass Rush: 14.4/25 Run Defense: 19.4/25 Tackling: 12.7/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 69.4/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 18/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Brandon Williams is one of the premier nose guard talents in the league. Williams has anchored the Ravens run defense since becoming a third-round pick in the 2013 draft. The Ravens run a hybrid front, and Williams has played almost exclusively 1-technique and 0-technique for Baltimore. As a 6'1", 340-pound defensive tackle, his primary role will be dominating the A-gaps. Williams is in an interesting situation with the Ravens. This past offseason, Baltimore found a gem at nose tackle in undrafted rookie free-agent Michael Pierce out of Samford. He was almost on par with Williams as a run-stopper for the season (18.5 run defense grade). Pierce's emergence could make Williams expendable for Baltimore, and if it does let him walk, he shouldn't last long on the open market. With Earl Mitchell being released from Miami, Williams could be an intriguing option for the Dolphins next to Ndamukong Suh and in front of Jordan Phillips. Indianapolis needs to get much stronger up front with unacceptable play from David Parry as the nose tackle last season. The Colts run a similar system to Baltimore, so Williams would be an instant starter there. The 49ers have a boatload of cap space, and Williams would definitely help ease the transition for Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner into a new defense. Doug's Quick Take The fact that Pierce was able to be successful in Baltimore's fronts will have some wondering if Williams has been successful over the years due to the system he's in. There may be an element of truth to that, but there are also few players in the NFL who can consistently upend guards and centers like he does, and that alone will be worth big money in the 2017 offseason. When you factor in his ability to generate occasional pass pressure, Williams will be highly sought. Potential Suitors: San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts 3. Johnathan Hankins 20 of 22 Michael Reaves/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 16.9/25 Pass Rush: 15.9/25 Run Defense: 17.8/25 Tackling: 12.5/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 69.7/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 17/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Johnathan Hankins has been a slam dunk second-round draft pick for the New York Giants. Hankins paired with Damon Harrison this season to anchor the Giants' defensive resurgence en route to a wild-card berth against the Green Bay Packers. It is time for Hankins to cash in after massively outplaying his rookie deal. Hankins isn't an explosive game-breaker. He will never be the player who whizzes past opposing offensive linemen, but he has a nice array of pass-rush moves that allow him to get solid pressure on the quarterback. Where Hankins shines is with his work against the run. Harrison typically took on the responsibilities of the nose tackle, leaving Hankins as a heavy 3-technique, which was difficult to run against. A team that already has speed at defensive tackle would be smart to put in a bid for Hankins to mix and match along its defensive line. If Atlanta combined Hankins with Grady Jarrett and Ra'Shede Hageman for the foreseeable future, it would shore up the middle of that defense. Hankins would also fit well next to explosive players like Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox, New Orleans' Sheldon Rankins and Cincinnati's Geno Atkins. Doug's Quick Take Hankins would be a splendid addition to any heavy front looking for a killer combination of strength against double-teams and surprising explosiveness to pressure. His ability to rip through guards and centers to get consistent pressure is Hankins' most unique feature for his size—you simply don't see too many 6'2", 320-pound men who can get through the pocket as quickly as he can. Hankins' best bet would be to stay with Big Blue and the awesome Harrison, but the Giants may price themselves out of the equation after Olivier Vernon and Harrison's deals, and Jason Pierre-Paul's free-agent status. Potential Suitors: Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals 2. Nick Fairley 21 of 22 Joe Robbins/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 18.3/25 Pass Rush: 16.8/25 Run Defense: 17.8/25 Tackling: 12.7/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 72.3/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 10/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Nick Fairley has always flashed big-time potential and talent, but he's never had the consistency needed to vault himself into the upper echelon of defensive tackles. Fairley was finally able to put together a (mostly) consistent season, finishing as NFL1000's No. 10 defensive tackle. When Fairley is locked in, he can be one of the most dominating players in the game behind Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins and Fletcher Cox. He still has the rare athleticism that made him coveted as a first-round pick in 2011 by the Detroit Lions, but also much fewer mental lapses than in the past. Once rookie Sheldon Rankins returned from a leg injury midseason, he and Fairley immediately combined to be one of the best defensive tackle duos in the NFL. They interchanged between the 1-technique and the 3-technique, and both did a phenomenal job of stuffing the run. New Orleans was extremely difficult to run on when both Fairley and Rankins were in the game, and the Saints may be interested in keeping that chemistry together. If Fairley does end up hitting the market, there are plenty of teams that will be lining up to sign him. Atlanta, Oakland, New Orleans and Cincinnati make the most sense for Fairley from an organizational standpoint and a needs perspective. Doug's Quick Take Every NFL team will be interested in Fairley because of his freakish combination of power and athleticism, and every team will be just as cautious when analyzing him because, for every snap in which he looks like a world-beater, there's another snap where he disappears. That he's been on three teams in the last three seasons tells the latter story well, but Fairley will land somewhere, and he'll be an exciting player. The question always is, how consistently? Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals 1. Kawann Short 22 of 22 Grant Halverson/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 18.1/25 Pass Rush: 16.9/25 Run Defense: 19.1/25 Tackling: 13.1/15 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 73.9/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 5/99 NFL1000 DT scout Charles McDonald Kawann Short is the top defensive tackle on the market after he turned in another stellar season for the Carolina Panthers. Short's stats weren't as gaudy as his 2015 campaign when he notched double-digit sacks, but he was still extremely productive for the Panthers. Short was a key cog in the Panthers' tough run defense, as he routinely clogged rushing lanes from the 1- and 3-technique. His pass rushing wasn't quite as devastatingly consistent as 2015; however, he was still able to turn in monster performances on occasion. Short's game against the San Diego Chargers reminded everyone how dominant he can be rushing the passer, as he terrorized Philip Rivers and the Chargers' interior offensive line. Don't expect the Panthers to let Short hit free agency. Defensive tackles who can dominate the 1- and 3-techniques don't grow on trees; it's important to keep homegrown talent in these situations. If the Panthers can't lock him up to a long-term deal worth north of $15 million per year, Short will get hit with the franchise tag. The Panthers have a nice defensive tackle rotation with Star Lotulelei, Vernon Butler and Short. Short is easily the most talented of the three, and Carolina would be foolish to let him walk. Doug's Quick Take Short's 14-sack season in 2015 was a bit of an outlier, but that's not a reflection on the player. It's simply that such campaigns are so rare for defensive tackles who consistently demand double-teams. Carolina's defense saw some regression last year, but Short still put up seven sacks, 11 hits and 31 hurries, and he was perhaps better against the run than ever. Short will demand a ton of money on the open market if he gets there, and in any one-gap aggressive front, he'll earn all of it. Potential Suitors: Carolina Panthers 4-3 Outside Linebacker 16. Mark Herzlich 2 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Mark Herzlich did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Mark Herzlich had a grand total of 14 defensive snaps in 2016. Most of his playing time was on special teams. Trying to gauge his value based on last season is nearly impossible. The New York Giants needed Herzlich in 2015, though, as he filled the weak-side linebacker position in spurts. He succeeded in coverage, as a linebacker at that position should. He did not make outstanding plays or create turnovers, but he carried out his assignments well enough to not be a detriment to the players around him. As a run defender, however, Herzlich was problematic. He was not reactive enough, aggressive enough or athletic enough to make a positive impact. Opponents tended to block him at the second level and escort him away from the play. Herzlich was a fine tackler, but he rarely put himself in position to make meaningful tackles. Considering his low snap count in 2016 and uninspiring play in 2015, it's unlikely he will pull in a contract much better than the veteran minimum. Doug's Quick Take: Herzlich's recovery from bone cancer was amazing, and it's kind of a miracle he was able to play in the NFL at all. But time does roll along, and when a player who never ascended to starting status begins to lose what little snaps he gets, it's easy to tell the end of that story in a professional sense. Potential Suitors: New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles 15. Andrew Gachkar 3 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Andrew Gachkar did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Andrew Gachkar played sparingly for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. It was rare for him to see the field unless someone ahead of him on the depth chart was battling an injury. Gachkar is an uninspiring player. His athleticism is nothing of note and does not enable him to make any spectacular plays. As a result, he must feed off his instincts and his awareness, neither of which are overly positive traits for him. Gachkar is hit-or-miss in regard to how he reads plays, but the way he struggles to handle traffic at the second level often negates the ones he reads well in the running game. Third downs are not kryptonite for Gachkar, but he provides little value. He is not a worthwhile blitz piece, nor is he anything more than mediocre in coverage. It's best for him to head to the sideline on third downs. Gachkar can provide capable depth. In emergencies, he can hang around near plays and do a decent job of preventing catastrophes. Gachkar will be fine if a team nabs him for the veteran minimum (or close to it). Doug's Quick Take: A backup player with little upside, Gachkar will be on the outside of free agency looking in unless some team really needs depth and requires bodies on special teams. Potential Suitors: Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins 14. Sean Weatherspoon 4 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Sean Weatherspoon did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Sean Weatherspoon saw the field early in the season, but an Achilles injury sidelined him for most of the year. The Atlanta Falcons defense did not desperately miss him in his absence, but Weatherspoon—who had three starts because of injuries to the corps—was the Falcons' best non-starting linebacker. He had flash plays in coverage and in the running game, even if he was as inconsistent as any other backup player. Weatherspoon's athleticism allowed him to make up for some of his mistakes. He could be a little sluggish to identify his assignment and make a move in the right direction, but once he got going, he was normally able to recover in time. Considering Weatherspoon missed most of the year, it's possible many teams will shy away from him. Assuming his recovery process went smoothly, though, he should a steal. Weatherspoon still has quality football ahead of him. Doug's Quick Take: Weatherspoon's injury assured that two rookies (weak-side linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and slot cornerback Brian Poole) would see the field a lot more than they would have otherwise. That leads to an unsure future for Weatherspoon, who's still an above-average player in pass coverage. He'll be attractive to teams running a lot of nickel fronts. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots 13. Jelani Jenkins 5 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 14.9/25 Run Defense: 14.2/25 Pass Rush: 7.6/15 Tackling: 14.3/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 57/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 46/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Someone has to end the season at the bottom of the pile, and Jelani Jenkins was 2016's worst 4-3 outside linebacker. He was not always a liability for the Miami Dolphins, though. Earlier in his career, he strung together a couple of respectable seasons. This past campaign, however, Jenkins was overwhelmed. Part of his struggles were likely rooted in nagging injuries. The difference was undeniable. Jenkins looked scared in the running game and showed more hesitancy than ever before. He appeared to show the same symptoms Anthony Barr of the Minnesota Vikings did (many believed he was playing through injury). Seeing abnormal hesitancy and weakness at the point of attack from such a young player makes one strongly question how healthy Jenkins was. Regardless, the 24-year-old has never been a game-changer. After he posted such a poor season, especially as a run defender, it would be foolish to bring him in as a starting linebacker. His best role was likely as a fourth linebacker anyway, even prior to 2016. If a team could nab him as a cheap fourth linebacker, he may turn out to be a nice rebound project. Doug's Quick Take: Jenkins had a pretty nice season in 2014 as a blitzer and pass-coverage defender, but he's regressed in effectiveness and snap counts ever since. He projects as a backup at this point, and based on his 2016 tape, he may have to wait until training camp to get a serious offer. Potential Suitors: Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders 12. Donald Butler 6 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 14.5/25 Run Defense: 14.4/25 Pass Rush: 6.9/15 Tackling: 15.2/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 57/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 45/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Donald Butler was a disaster in 2016. After having spent all of his career with the Chargers prior to 2016, Butler tried to breathe life into his career with the Dolphins. He did not succeed. In fairness, none of the Dolphins linebackers looked good, and that may have played a role in Butler's on-field product. The only thing Butler could be somewhat counted on to do last year was secure tackles. Even then, he missed his fair share and was not any better than league average. Butler's run defense was an atrocity. He was out of place on seemingly every play. If he did not run himself out of the play initially, he was surely displaced by an offensive lineman at the point of contact. Nothing went his way in the run game. Butler wasn't any better on passing downs. He provided nothing as a pass-rusher and was a liability in coverage. He had no business being on the field for third downs. What's frustrating about Butler's overall poor play is that it's not for lack of ability. He's not an elite athlete, but he has more than enough movement skills to be able to keep up as an NFL linebacker, both as a run defender and on passing downs. Alas, Butler is not mentally in tune with the NFL. Plays process too late for him, and it's rare for him to recover. If a team wants to give him another shot, his athleticism warrants it, but Butler is not going to be a hot commodity. Doug's Quick Take: Butler was an athletic marvel when he came out of Washington, but reputable sources have questioned his effort. He's struggled with conditioning at times, and that tends to catch up with you. He was a good player his first two seasons in the NFL, but he's failed to live up to that in the next four. If the drumbeats around the league are that he's not giving it his all, you can imagine how his free-agency tours will go. Butler will have to answer those questions before he's given any offers. Potential Suitors: Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers 11. Paul Worrilow 7 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 14.5/25 Run Defense: 14.3/25 Pass Rush: 7/15 Tackling: 15.5/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 57.3/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 43/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Paul Worrilow is a clean-up tackler. From 2013-2015, he accumulated more than 350 total tackles for the Falcons. One would think someone with that level of production was a good player, but that's not the case here. Worrilow is the prime example of tackles often being a result of the runner taking the path of least resistance, meaning Worrilow was away from his assignment gap and had to recover late in the play. The Falcons phased him out of the lineup this season in favor of De'Vondre Campbell, who played much better as a rookie than Worrilow ever had. When Worrilow had to play as a rotational cog or in place of an injury, he struggled. He rarely got a good jump on his assignment, and his athleticism often left him in the dust on perimeter plays. Worrilow is slow to get going off the ball and can not change directions with fluidity. Couple that lack of athleticism with consistently delayed reactions and you end up with a linebacker who seldom renders himself useful. In coverage and as a pass-rusher, Worrilow provided close to nothing this year. His lack of athleticism hurt him in both areas, not to mention he could rarely identify his coverage assignment on time. His only somewhat valuable asset is that, while he makes tackles late, he does make them, and that can play a part in preventing explosive plays. As an emergency linebacker, Worrilow makes some sense, but he will be a desperation signing. Doug's Quick Take: Ten to 15 years ago, there was more of a place for the linebacker who wasn't athletically gifted but whose game intelligence kept him on the field. In the days of half-field coverage and nickel defenses as the default, though, that place is generally in the broadcast booth or on a coaching staff. Worrilow looked out of place in Atlanta's young, fast defense unless he was covering specific short routes or moving straight ahead to stop the run, and he did those things at a level that was league average or below for the most part. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints 10. Spencer Paysinger 8 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 15.4/25 Run Defense: 15.1/25 Pass Rush: 7.4/15 Tackling: 15.2/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 59.2/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 40/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Spencer Paysinger was one of many Dolphins linebackers who struggled this season. Mental struggles plagued the entire unit, including Paysinger. Their flashes were impressive, but the Dolphins linebackers were more commonly caught out of position. Paysinger has ample athleticism for an outside linebacker, but his instincts are a mitigating factor. He tended to be beaten to his spot in the run game, which rarely went well for him considering he is not a tuned block-handler. Most of Paysinger's notable plays were a result of his keying onto something presnap and darting immediately toward the play, though even that was a rarity. In coverage, Paysinger rarely made eye-catching plays, and he did not consistently flow to his assignment. He relied on his athleticism to make up ground down the field and to the perimeter. Coverage was far from a strong suit, as was the case with most other traits required to succeed at outside linebacker. Paysinger's athleticism makes him a serviceable backup, but he should not be signed with the intention of being used liberally. Doug's Quick Take: Paysinger isn't a world-beater in any particular category, but he's good enough at everything to make himself a little money in this free-agent class. He'll stick with a team that needs raw athleticism in blitzes and short to intermediate pass coverage. Potential Suitors: Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles 9. Philip Wheeler 9 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 14.4/25 Run Defense: 15.4/25 Pass Rush: 7.6/15 Tackling: 15.9/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 59.3/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 39/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Philip Wheeler played the same role for the Falcons as Michael Morgan did for the Seahawks. Wheeler, however, was not nearly as reliable. Whereas Morgan was at least able to be a consistent run defender, Wheeler was a roller coaster in all phases of the game. He came through occasionally with a well-timed blitz or an uncharacteristic tackle for loss, but he also gave offenses a player to attack if they wanted big plays. Coverage was a struggle for Wheeler. When asked to float out to the flats or carry receivers up the field, he got lost, often resulting in a good chunk of yardage for the offense. He has the athletic ability to keep up in coverage, but his sense of his surroundings and knack for finding the ball are lacking. Wheeler has close to zero natural skills in coverage. As a run defender, he could have been worse. Still, he rarely made impact plays, and his tackling tended to be subpar. He too often got washed out by blockers, which is troublesome for a player who consistently lined up near the line of scrimmage and often had to directly take on blockers. On rare occasion, Wheeler would knife through the offensive line to make a disruptive play, but it does not feel right to allow his few accomplishments to outshine his shortcomings. Wheeler should be a cheap flyer signing who a team hopes can be serviceable enough to make his blitzes worthwhile. Doug's Quick Take: Wheeler might get a shot to spot start on a team with a true three-linebacker rotation, where he can ease to the middle. But in a 4-2-5 base set or with a team that plays a ton of dime defense, he's going to be signed as a backup. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks 8. Malcolm Smith 10 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 14.5/25 Run Defense: 15.3/25 Pass Rush: 7.2/15 Tackling: 16.4/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 59.3/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 38/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Malcolm Smith took a step back in 2016. His first year with the Raiders in 2015 went well. He was not a world-beater or true game-changer at linebacker, but he provided stability and consistency to the Raiders front seven. He made plays in the run game and did enough in coverage to be an overall positive impact. In 2016, however, everything went south. As a run defender, Smith reverted to being a mediocre player. He had moments of crashing the line of scrimmage with aggression and timeliness, but he was often arriving to plays later than he should have. He wasn't as consistent at containing run plays as he was a year ago. Smith imploded in coverage, too. He was one of many Raiders linebackers who could not cover. With nobody else on the roster being capable, Smith was forced into coverage often, which didn't turn out well. He was one of this season's worst pass defenders. Smith has a past that he can sell to possible suitors. He won the 2014 Super Bowl MVP and posted a decent season in 2015. For whatever reason, he was not that guy in 2016, but players have down years all the time in the NFL. Smith has shown enough over his career to warrant another team giving him a chance to have a role in its defense, even if just as a rotational player. Doug's Quick Take: Smith made his money in Oakland based on that Super Bowl performance and an undeniably great half-season before that. He's been an acceptable linebacker for the Raiders for the most part, but he has already scratched the top of his potential, and his NFL future is likely as a backup and third-down guy. Potential Suitors: Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots 7. Chad Greenway 11 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 15.9/25 Run Defense: 17/25 Pass Rush: 7.3/15 Tackling: 17.4/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 63.6/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 19/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen The end is nigh for Chad Greenway. A worn veteran of the league, he will be 34 years old next season, which almost immediately rules out a deal longer than two years. In fact, there are already talks of Greenway's rumored retirement from the NFL, according to CBS Minnesota. Under the assumption that Greenway does return for at least one more year, teams should be expecting a functional weak-side linebacker who wins more with his brain than with his athleticism. He cannot move the way he once did, but his reads in the run game are proficient, and he does a good job of keeping plays in front of him. It's rare for Greenway to be the culprit of an egregious defensive play. His insight and aggression still enable him to make some impressive plays. On occasion, he will crash the box and make a sweet play to derail the offense. Of course, there are times where Greenway believes in himself too much and gets outrun, but his miscues can be lived with. As a third-down player, Greenway is best served as a blitzer or off the field. He is not a disaster in coverage, but he cannot keep up in the open field anymore. Minnesota tended to roll with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr for its nickel packages, leaving Greenway off the field. His future team (if he leaves Minnesota) will likely have to take the same course of action. Doug's Quick Take: The end has been coming for Greenway for a while. He's looked slower every season for the last four years, and his relative lack of athleticism is now in more sharp relief as the Vikings continue to stock their current defense with young, aggressive playmakers. He's a smart player who has been able to overcome the erosion of his physical abilities to a degree, but the retirement rumors indicate he knows the end is around the corner. Potential Suitors: Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals 6. Justin Durant 12 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 14.7/25 Run Defense: 15.6/25 Pass Rush: 7.6/15 Tackling: 15.7/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 59.4/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 37/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Justin Durant was one of many Cowboys linebackers who played alongside Sean Lee this season. The Cowboys, who were often in nickel like the rest of the NFL, constantly rotated linebackers in and out. Lee remained on the field almost all the time, but is counterpart changed from week to week or drive to drive. Durant was impressive in flashes. As a run defender, he occasionally made plays near or behind the line of scrimmage. His athleticism allows him to flow effortlessly from sideline to sideline and through open gaps, though he was often too late to recognize plays. He is better off when he can get going early than when he has to read his keys. Despite his athleticism, Durant is a two-down linebacker. Teams should stay away from him if they are looking for a linebacker with functional coverage ability. Unlike his play in run defense, Durant does not have flashes as a coverage player. He cannot cover, especially in today's NFL where linebackers are asked to cover a myriad different athletes over the course of a game. In fairness, Durant is a functional blitzer, but a defense cannot blitz him on every passing down and expect to keep him out of coverage. Durant got better as the season went on. His poor start and overall inconsistency still resulted in a weak end-of-season grade, but the progress he showed in 2016 was encouraging. A team could be in for a nice surprise if he continues to make minor strides. Doug's Quick Take: When you're primarily known for your athleticism, and Father Time starts to make appointments for reality checks, this is what happens. Durant is a highly valuable backup-level player, but he's no longer the difference-maker he was half a decade ago, and his appeal to teams and subsequent offers will reflect that. Potential Suitors: Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns 5. Daryl Smith 13 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 15/25 Run Defense: 15.8/25 Pass Rush: 7.5/15 Tackling: 15.7/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 60/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 33/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Daryl Smith has hit the wall. Just a few years ago, he was one of the best linebackers in the league when he was with the Ravens. The Ravens saw Smith's physical decline on the horizon and decided to let him go. He ended up as a Buccaneer this season and, while he was not a complete bust, he was nowhere near the player he was just a short time ago. The issue for Smith was not the way he processed the field. On film, his intelligence and awareness is still evident. He can often be found stepping toward the play as soon as it can be deciphered, and he understands his assignments in coverage. However, he cannot move around like he used to. As a run defender, linemen continually beat Smith to the spot in 2016. He made his best efforts to arrive to plays on time, but more often than not, he was late. Of course, Smith's quick-twitch thinking allowed him to get ahead of slower offensive linemen, but he wasn't winning like he used to. Coverage was where Smith's decline really showed itself. He was never an outstanding run defender, though he was good one. His calling card was prowess in coverage and being able to roam large chunks of the field. Smith can't do that anymore. Players now beat him to the perimeter in the flats and burn past him down the seam. He still holds his own in basic zones where he has to read the quarterback, but he's not the presence he once was. It would be hard to blame a team for giving Smith another shot. He's still good enough to be a fourth linebacker, and his resume warrants as many chances as possible until he retires. Doug's Quick Take: What we said in the last slide about Father Time coming calling with reality checks also applies here. Smith's pure demon speed on the field is a memory for the most part, though you will see it once in a while. Accordingly, he'd be a great situational backup for a team like the Patriots, who cycle through veterans and are able to understand what a player can do at this point in his career. Potential Suitors: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots 4. Brandon Copeland 14 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 15.2/25 Run Defense: 15.6/25 Pass Rush: 7.2/15 Tackling: 16.2/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 60.2/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 31/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Although he was not a consistent starter for the Lions, Brandon Copeland played a healthy role. On occasion, he would roll down to the line of scrimmage and play on the edge, but he was normally a traditional linebacker. Copeland is somewhat of a run-defense specialist who the Lions favored in certain situations. He is not an exceptional run defender by any means, though. In fact, he is little more than average as a run defender and tackler, but there are plenty of teams that could use his type of talent as a fourth or fifth linebacker on their roster, especially considering Copeland isn't a complete coverage liability. Coverage is not Copeland's forte, but he can survive there in a way that allows his run defense to be valuable. He won't sprint to the flats or carry players down the seam particularly well, but he can sink into zones and patrol an area. There is value in a player who can do that without making egregious errors. Copeland won't be highly sought after—and he shouldn't be—but he does have a role in this league as a reliable backup. Defenses need to be able to call on a stable "next man up," and Copeland can be that guy. He's not going to transform a defense, but he can be a safety blanket. Doug's Quick Take: Copeland started the season in a weird spot: trying to make a switch to defensive end. That didn't take, and the 6'3", 260-pound 'backer stayed put as a backup. He's a pretty good blitzer and run-stopper, and teams will find that reasonably valuable in a low-budget Dont'a Hightower sense. Potential Suitors: Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders 3. Michael Morgan 15 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 15.4/25 Run Defense: 16.5/25 Pass Rush: 7.1/15 Tackling: 16.8/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 61.8/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 27/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen As is often the case with Seahawks players, Michael Morgan is an athlete. He has the movement skills and strength to play either outside linebacker spot, though he mostly lined up on the strong side. In the Seahawks' 4-3 "Under" front, Morgan's strong-side linebacker position plays the alignment of a 3-4 outside linebacker but largely maintains the responsibilities of a typical strong-side 'backer. Morgan, though not always consistent, played relatively well in the run game as the strong-side linebacker. He was able to handle blocks at the line of scrimmage, which he was asked to do often, as well as stretch horizontally toward the boundary in order to funnel plays back inside. He was a functional player for the Seahawks and someone they could trust. That being said, Morgan does not have much ability as a third-down player despite how well he moves. Be it as a blitzer or as a coverage player, he looks oddly uncomfortable on passing downs. He appears unnatural as a pass-rusher and lacks a sense of awareness when dropping into space to defend the pass. If Morgan is asked to play a position similar to what he did in Seattle, he is a safe bet to be a quality two-down player. Doug's Quick Take: Morgan will get a lot of looks as an excellent special teamer and reserve linebacker. He's great in both of those areas, but if he's on your roster as a starter, it means somebody's probably injured. The Seahawks love him, so expect him back there if he doesn't get a shot at a starting role or the offers start to flatten out. He'd also work well in Atlanta's defensive scheme, and as much as the Falcons focus on special teamers, that'd be an ideal destination for him. Potential Suitors: Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers 2. Josh Bynes 16 of 17 NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 15.6/25 Run Defense: 15.8/25 Pass Rush: 7.4/15 Tackling: 17.6/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 62.3/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 23/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen Josh Bynes is most valuable as a backup player. He is not bad, per se, but he falls a hair short of the quality of player that a team should want in its starting 11. Bynes has started 19 regular-season games for the Lions over the past two seasons, though that has more to do with the Lions’ lack of talent at linebacker than it has to do with what Bynes offers. Athleticism is not a tool for Bynes. He tested poorly prior to the 2011 NFL draft and has done little to prove that he is more athletic than his numbers suggest. On film, Bynes’ lack of athleticism shows up whenever he is forced to make plays to the perimeter or in space. Bynes is slow to get going, and his change of direction is clunky. Bynes is too often a tick late reacting to plays, which does not pair up well with his athleticism. His delayed reactions are a detriment when trying to make plays in space. He gets himself behind the eight ball early on in plays and tends to not be able to recover well. Bynes does make a few splash plays, though, primarily when shooting through gaps in the run game. He is more of a “point and shoot” type of linebacker than one who can be trusted to make reads and react on them. If possible, Bynes should be left off the field on passing downs. He is a functional blitzer, but he does not generate pressure consistently enough to make up for being a questionable coverage piece. There is little value in keeping him on the field for third downs. Bynes deserves a shot as a fourth or fifth linebacker. He does a fine job of controlling the box in the run game and is a sure-enough tackler when he gets to the ball-carrier. That being said, his lack of athleticism is a major concern and ultimately restricts him from being more than a reserve. Doug's Quick Take: Bynes had a pretty decent season for the Lions as a starter in 2015 after injuries decimated the team's starting rotation, and he's continued to be a valuable player in reserve duty. If he doesn't get any serious looks in free agency, expect the Lions to reward his consistency with a nice new contract. Potential Suitors: Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns 1. Keenan Robinson NFL1000 Scores Coverage: 16.4/25 Run Defense: 17.1/25 Pass Rush: 7.4/15 Tackling: 17.7/25 Positional Value: 6/10 Overall: 64.6/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 OLB Rank: 16/46 NFL1000 4-3 OLB scout Derrik Klassen The Giants’ linebacker corps was one of the weirdest to decipher. None of their consistent contributors were impact players, but they were not total liabilities, either. It was a smorgasbord of capable yet lackluster talents. Keenan Robinson, one of four Giants linebackers who had ample playing time, borders the line between being a starting quality player versus a highly valuable rotational player. Blitzing is not his forte, but Robinson’s athletic ability allows him to get pressure from time to time. For a linebacker whose game is predicated on sound run defense, Robinson's blitzing is a nice touch. Robinson plays a brand of run defense that helps minimize runs, though he rarely makes stunning plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. Robinson gets to plays as they are happening or shortly after they’ve happened. He is not the type of linebacker to take many chances and, as a result, Robinson’s game has low variance. He avoids disastrous plays and does his part in keeping most plays to an average gain. That is not a special linebacker, but it is one that many teams around the league would be comfortable giving snaps to. In coverage, Robinson can hold his own, too. He’s not going to flow all over the field like a Sean Lee or DeAndre Levy, but Robinson does a fine job of playing his assignment. That is about all a defensive coordinator can ask of a linebacker, especially considering some of the route combos and unique receiver skill sets that these linebackers are faced with. Robinson makes sense as a stop-gap starter for a team either lacking linebacker talent or one that's OK pairing a relatively cheap player next to a star linebacker. He should not field a hefty contract, but there is a place for Robinson in the league as nothing less than a contributor. Doug's Quick Take: Robinson is correctly valued as a second-tier all-around player. He's best as a straight-ahead run-stopper and blitzer, and he will flow decently into short coverage at times. He's athletic enough to play in nickel sets but would be best-served in a system where he's able to play in the box and not deviate from that plan too often. Potential Suitors: New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-4 Outside Linebacker 21. Lerentee McCray 2 of 22 Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 13.9/25 Run Defense: 14.1/25 Coverage: 9.6/15 Tackling: 16.9/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 61.6/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 64/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Lerentee McCray changed teams twice before the 2016 season even began. Green Bay signed him away from the Broncos in April, and the Packers traded him to Buffalo in late August. He stayed with the Bills, but the results weren't pretty. He played in 13 games, registering just 16 tackles and no sacks. A rotational rusher for the Bills, McCray often looked in over his head when attempting to take on starting NFL offensive tackles. His 13.9 pass-rush grade finished as the worst among the 65 qualified 3-4 outside linebackers in 2016. McCray doesn't have the speed, power or countering ability to win at the point of attack. He was only slightly better in terms of stopping the run, although his opportunities there were limited. McCray doesn't turn 27 until August, but his best bet to stay in the NFL is likely on special teams. No team can trust him to play consistent snaps at outside linebacker after witnessing his struggles at the position in 2016. Doug's Quick Take McCray did have 10 quarterback hurries in 163 snaps last season, but he hasn't posted a sack since Week 6 of the 2015 campaign, when he played for the Broncos and had a world of talent around him. He's an OK depth player, but there are far better options out there. Potential Suitors: Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers 20. Tourek Williams 3 of 22 Frederick Breedon/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 15.2/25 Run Defense: 14/25 Coverage: 8.9/15 Tackling: 16.3/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 61.9/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 63/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Tourek Williams bounced back from missing the entire 2015 season to play in all 16 games for the Chargers in 2016. He tallied only one sack, but he re-established himself as one of the Chargers' core special teams players. They asked very little of him on defense, even when injuries ravaged the linebacker position. Rookie Chris Landrum eventually took most of the backup snaps at outside linebacker late in the season. Williams is the classic try-hard backup who sticks on the roster because he'll fight every snap he's on the field and bust his chops on special teams. The Chargers could bring him back for those very reasons, but the hiring of Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator might complicate a reunion. Without big upside as a backup pass-rusher, Williams may need to find a new home for the 2017 season. Doug's Quick Take Williams might stick as a "Leo" end in Bradley's system, but it's more likely that he'll find a home in a more traditional 3-4 front—Bradley prefers guys who can create more pressure. He is indeed a fine special-teamer, which will help his case. Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs 19. David Bass 4 of 22 Joe Robbins/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 15.7/25 Run Defense: 14.5/25 Coverage: 8.9/15 Tackling: 16.6/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 63.1/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 56/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse David Bass has served as depth for the Titans behind starters Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Over 29 games and seven starts with the Titans since 2015, Bass has just 1.5 sacks, including zero over 13 games in 2016. He possesses the size most teams want on the edge of the 3-4, but the majority of his snaps were empty this past season. His pass-rushing skills are unrefined, and he lacks the athletic traits to overcome his lack of technical proficiency. Bass is average against the run, and teams often went after him in the passing game when he was asked to drop into coverage. He's still only 26 years old, but Bass looks like he'll need to hang on as a special teams player moving forward. The Titans may move on, especially with rookies Kevin Dodd and Aaron Wallace on the roster at the position. Wallace often saw more of the field than Bass late in the season. Doug's Quick Take Bass gets decent pressure on the outside, but the fact that he's a relative liability against the run will limit his opportunities. He won't get a ton of looks from 4-3 teams that need end depth. Potential Suitors: Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills 18. Dekoda Watson 5 of 22 Dustin Bradford/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Dekoda Watson did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Dekoda Watson will enter free agency having already played for five teams since entering the NFL in 2010. He has 139 total tackles and four sacks over 89 career games, including 17 tackles and one sack over 16 games with the Broncos in 2016. Watson found himself as the fifth option within Denver's stable of talented outside linebackers, which made it difficult for him to get on the field. He played just 42 snaps on defense during the regular season despite a dominant preseason in which he tallied four sacks—including 2.5 against the Los Angeles Rams in the third game. Watson has some of the speed and agility necessary to win around the corner, but there's very little evidence of his beating starting quality offensive tackles. In recent years, his value has been maximized on special teams, where he's developed into a reliable player covering punts and kicks. The Broncos may look into bringing him back, especially if DeMarcus Ware leaves in free agency. If not, Watson could interest a team looking for depth on the edge. His preseason tape from this past year may excite those searching for a cheap edge player with potential upside. Doug's Quick Take Watson has struggled to climb up depth charts throughout his career. Even though he had a fairly impactful season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013, he'll need more counter and speed moves to transcend his current situation regardless of where he lands. Potential Suitors: Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns 17. Corey Lemonier 6 of 22 Al Pereira/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 16.3/25 Run Defense: 13.3/25 Coverage: 9.2/15 Tackling: 17/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 63.2/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 54/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse The 2016 season was a whirlwind for Corey Lemonier, who played for four different teams. Waived by the San Francisco 49ers in early September, Lemonier found himself claimed by the Cleveland Browns just a day later. He went on to play eight games in Cleveland, tallying two sacks and a forced fumble as a rotational rusher. The Browns waived him in December, which led to a short stint with the Detroit Lions. He didn't see any game action with Detroit before another release and another new team, this time the New York Jets. He played in New York's season finale against the Buffalo Bills. This offseason should provide even more uncertainty for Lemonier. Once a third-round pick of the 49ers, Lemonier has only produced 46 tackles and three sacks over 51 career games. All of his opportunities in 2016 prove teams are still intrigued by his size and skill set, but at some point, potential means nothing and production becomes everything. Lemonier is blessed with rare athletic gifts, but he doesn't have the production to warrant more many chances at the NFL level. Doug's Quick Take The 49ers took Lemonier in the third round of the 2013 draft because they were enamored with his pure speed. Unfortunately, he has been unable to add the necessary array of pass-rush moves to succeed in the NFL. Until he does, he'll be an expendable backup and special-teamer. Potential Suitors: New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers 16. Akeem Ayers 7 of 22 Joe Robbins/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 16.6/25 Run Defense: 12.5/25 Coverage: 10.3/15 Tackling: 16.5/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 63.5/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 51/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Akeem Ayers signed with the Colts after being released by the Rams during final cuts. He saw action in all 16 games for Indianapolis, but the former strong-side linebacker in the 4-3 defense looked like he was playing out of position in 2016. His game is built almost entirely on speed, which made him a hit-or-miss pass-rusher and a total liability against the run in the Colts' three-man front. Oftentimes, offensive tackles would steer Ayers out of the play as he attempted to run around them. In the run game, large offensive tackles would smother him, collapsing the edge and opening up huge holes to the outside. Ayers' biggest strength is dropping into coverage, where his athleticism became an asset. The Colts may want to bring him back for another year and continue his transition, but Ayers should look to get back to a 4-3 defense. He doesn't play big enough to last on the edge in the 3-4, and the coverage aspect of playing the position isn't a priority for most three-man fronts. Doug's Quick Take Ayers has never been the sackmaster some projected him to be when he came out of UCLA, but he's an aware player who can get it done against the run, and he will provide a bit of pass pressure out of multiple gaps as long as there are openings. He's best suited as a second-level linebacker and occasional blitzer in a 4-3 or 4-2-5 base defense. Potential Suitors: Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons 15. Sam Acho 8 of 22 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 16.2/25 Run Defense: 13.8/25 Coverage: 9.7/15 Tackling: 16.6/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 63.7/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 50/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse The Bears brought Sam Acho back to Chicago on a one-year deal for 2016, and he responded by playing in all 16 games for the fourth time in his six-year NFL career. Acho has only one sack over 31 games with the Bears, but he's turned himself into a key special teams contributor in Chicago. His value on defense has been minimized by his inability to get to the quarterback. Producing just one sack—despite making 13 starts and playing plenty of snaps since arriving in Chicago—is a good way to become a career special teams player. With limited speed and power, Acho lacks a go-to attribute in beating offensive tackles. Rushers without a dominant physical skill need to develop an understanding of countermoves, and it doesn't look like Acho possesses a backup plan when blockers stop his initial surge. Given his reliability on special teams, it seems reasonable to think the Bears would want him back on another short-term deal. Acho would probably welcome a return because teams aren't going to line up to sign him in free agency. His value remains highest in Chicago. Doug's Quick Take Acho's best NFL season came in 2014 for the Arizona Cardinals, who used him as a multi-gap blitzer in a rotation. He can do that in any kind of defense, and he's an underrated run defender, but his inability to match technique to his athletic gifts makes him a very inconsistent player on the edge. Potential Suitors: Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals 14. Alex Okafor 9 of 22 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.2/25 Run Defense: 13.1/25 Coverage: 9.2/15 Tackling: 16.8/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 63.9/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 47/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse The Cardinals received big years from Chandler Jones (11 sacks) and Markus Golden (12.5), who both look like long-term starters for the team at outside linebacker. Arizona will now have to make a decision on Alex Okafor, a 2013 fourth-round pick who provided quality depth behind Jones and Golden in 2016. Okafor tallied 3.5 sacks in a rotational role, but he was most effective when the Cardinals employed all three outside linebackers on the field at once in obvious passing situations. The unique package allowed him freedom to attack the quarterback from different positions and angles. However, Okafor's overall role in Arizona has decreased significantly over the last two years. He'll need to decide if he's comfortable as nothing more than a backup for the Cardinals or if he'd prefer to pursue a starting job elsewhere. He has some pass-rushing talent with a decent burst off the line and the agility to turn the corner. Okafor is far from an elite rusher, but a team in need of depth on the edge could do much worse in free agency, especially considering he is only 26 years old. Doug's Quick Take If Chandler Jones moves on from the Cardinals, general manager Steve Keim would be nuts to let Okafor go. Last season, he amassed 3.5 sacks and 24 quarterback hurries—in just 231 snaps. Okafor is not a world-beater, but he can get consistent pressure off the edge and in overload blitzes as long as there are other rushers around him to help occupy gaps. He's an ideal backup and spot starter in any 3-4 base defense. Potential Suitors: Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills 13. Jayrone Elliott 10 of 22 Dylan Buell/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.8/25 Run Defense: 12.9/25 Coverage: 8.9/15 Tackling: 17.6/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 64.8/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 43/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Jayrone Elliott has teased the Packers since signing in Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He has always been good for a few flash plays a year, but the jump from obvious potential to consistent production has been a difficult one, like it is for many young, unrefined players. Elliott has four sacks, one interception and one forced fumble over the last three seasons, and most of those numbers have come in a handful of games. In 2015, Elliott intercepted a screen pass and forced a fumble during a Green Bay win over the Seattle Seahawks. This past season, he notched his only sack of the year during another win against Seattle. Elliott looks the part at 6'3" and 255 pounds, and he runs well for a man his size. As a result, the Packers have kept him around as a core special teams contributor. A lack of snaps has likely contributed to his stunted growth on defense, but teams generally don't stash away talented pass-rushers without a good reason. Still only 25, Elliott has time to grow, but the clock is ticking. He will likely stick around in Green Bay, where the Packers greatly value his ability on special teams. A shuffle at outside linebacker may finally give him his opportunity in 2017. If not, Elliott should find work elsewhere. Young pass-rushers with potential always find a home in the NFL. Doug's Quick Take Grabbing three sacks in just 176 snaps in the 2015 season did a lot for Elliott's profile, but he wasn't able to capitalize on it last year. His best bet to get more reps is the possibility that both Nick Perry and Julius Peppers leave Green Bay in free agency, but Elliott will have to match any availability with his own development. Potential Suitors: Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers 12. Trent Cole 11 of 22 Andy Lyons/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 19.6/25 Run Defense: 13.6/25 Coverage: 9.3/15 Tackling: 17.4/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 67.6/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 32/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Once a star for the Philadelphia Eagles, Trent Cole delivered only five sacks over 21 games after signing a two-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts before the 2015 season. He missed nine games this past season after hurting his back, returning in December to notch two sacks over the final five games. A 12-year veteran with 90.5 career sacks, Cole still knows to use his best skills—like his burst off the line—to get around blockers and pressure the quarterback. However, his days of playing a full game's worth of snaps every Sunday are long gone. Cole can get pushed around in the run game, making it possible he'll be nothing more than a situational pass-rusher the remainder of his career. It's a role that could suit Cole well. Cutting down on snaps and providing opportunities to get after the passer would help keep him healthy and allow him to play to his remaining strengths. There's still some gas left in the tank, but it has to be used correctly, or Cole could flame out in a hurry. Any contender with a need for a rotational rusher (regardless of scheme) could have interest in adding the veteran this spring. Doug's Quick Take There are aging pass-rushers like James Harrison and Dwight Freeney who have found the ideal situations for the skills they have left. Cole's ideal situation at this point is probably in a four-man front where he can tee off around the edge. He doesn't have the burst required of a 3-4 endbacker to get around and through the pocket from a wide edge consistently, which is why his total pressure numbers plummeted in 2016. In-season back surgery didn't help, but that's one more sign of mortality. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers 11. Erik Walden 12 of 22 Andy Lyons/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 18.8/25 Run Defense: 14.1/25 Coverage: 8.9/15 Tackling: 17.4/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 66.9/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 35/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Don't let the numbers fool you. Walden finished the 2016 season tied for eighth in the NFL in sacks with 11, but he's not a gifted pass-rusher capable of producing double-digit sacks every season. In fact, 2016 was the first year he delivered more than six. In terms of NFL1000's pass-rush grades, 32 players at 3-4 outside linebacker scored higher this season. Still, no player lucks into 11 sacks in the NFL. Walden plays with leverage, power and pure determination. He's improved significantly in his ability to set up countermoves, which has allowed him to win more one-on-one battles late in games. Without better options, the Colts were all but forced to give Walden the snaps he required in 2016—and the veteran used those plentiful opportunities to get his volume numbers. Smart teams will see through the numbers and understand Walden's abilities. He's an average rusher, a slightly below average run defender and a liability in coverage. Walden can still be an asset for a number of teams, but those thinking he can step in and consistently deliver 10 or more sacks for a defense will be sorely mistaken. His best role would likely be as a No. 2 or 3 option behind an elite rusher, where his positives could be maximized and his liabilities minimized. Expect a team desperate for pass rush to spend more than it should to get Walden after an 11-sack season. Doug's Quick Take Walden does display impressive strength for his size (6'2", 238). He has a formidable understanding of how to beat blockers with power and agility and a nice palette of pass-rush moves. Any 3-4 team that is looking for veteran depth at OLB, or a handful of 4-3 teams that prefer lighter Leo ends, will be checking him out. Potential Suitors: Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns 10. Jarvis Jones 13 of 22 Joe Sargent/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.2/25 Run Defense: 15.1/25 Coverage: 9.5/15 Tackling: 18.6/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 67.8/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 31/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse The Pittsburgh Steelers made Jarvis Jones a first-round pick in 2013, but the former Georgia star has struggled to produce up to his draft status over his first four seasons. Despite making 35 starts and playing in 50 games, Jones has just six career sacks, including one sack over 14 games and nine starts in 2016. Late in the season, the Steelers all but shelved Jones in favor of James Harrison and Bud Dupree. He lacks the athletic prowess to consistently beat tackles and finish at the quarterback. While Jones will likely never develop the burst and bend necessary for becoming a top pass-rusher, he does possess skills in other aspects of playing outside linebacker. His best attribute is stopping the run, where his energy and strength make him an ideal player for setting the edge. Jones graded out 12th among 3-4 outside linebackers in run defense. He's also well versed in dropping into coverage and a proficient tackler capable of delivering big hits on the ball carrier. Jones has an interception in each of the last two seasons, and his tackle grade of 18.6 finished 11th at the position. His inability to pressure the quarterback will severely damage his value, especially as most teams will struggle to project significant improvement in Jones as a pass-rusher. He's not an explosive player, and teams pay for the future production that only natural explosion can consistently create. But for a team in need of help stopping the run, Jones could make sense. He won't cost much. Doug's Quick Take Jones will go down as one of general manager Kevin Colbert's biggest draft misses. His 4.88 40 at his pro day, diagnosis of spinal stenosis and limited palette of moves were all warning signs. Six sacks in four seasons—and just one season with more than 20 quarterback hurries—tell the tale. Jones is a rotational player, but his inability to grow into a complete pass-rusher will likely impact the entirety of his NFL future. He'll be a very scheme-specific addition wherever he goes. Potential Suitors: Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns 9. Datone Jones 14 of 22 Stacy Revere/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 18.9/25 Run Defense: 14.1/25 Coverage: 9/15 Tackling: 17.5/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 67.3/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 34/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Originally drafted in the first round as a down lineman, Datone Jones successfully converted to outside linebacker to play on the edge for the Packers. The move has been a beneficial one for Jones, who has a violent, powerful game well suited for setting the edge and collapsing the pocket. His ability to rush the passer has improved, but the numbers don't reflect the progression. Jones has only nine sacks in four years, including just one in 2016. His power allows him to consistently beat blockers, but he lacks the closing speed and agility to finish at the quarterback. Several of his pressures and hits were very close to sacks this past season. It's possible that cutting another 5-10 pounds would help him become a better finisher. Both Jones and the Packers have questions to answer about his future. Does Jones want to stay in a 3-4 scheme as an edge player? He might be better suited to play a number of positions in a four-man front. And do the Packers want to give up on a first-round pick before a second contract? Green Bay has big question marks at outside linebacker, and Jones has produced enough flashes of disruption to warrant another look. The Packers would almost certainly bring him back at the right price, but there could be several teams outside Green Bay interested in adding the former first-round pick. Doug's Quick Take Jones is an interesting player. Projected as an interior pass-rusher because of his size (6'4", 285 pounds), he only came alive in the NFL when he was moved outside as a giant edge-rusher in Dom Capers' multiple fronts. A good run-stopper on the inside and a consistent (if not entirely dominant) pass-rusher on the outside, Jones has the kind of gap versatility prized in today's NFL, and he'll get a lot of looks from teams that run 3-4 base fronts with hybrid sub-packages. Potential Suitors: Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Cowboys 8. Julius Peppers 15 of 22 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 19.7/25 Run Defense: 13.8/25 Coverage: 9.1/15 Tackling: 17.8/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 68/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 29/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse The Packers signed Julius Peppers, then 34, to a three-year deal back in 2014. He went on to produce 25 sacks over three years in Green Bay, including 7.5 in 2016. There's no telling if Peppers will return to play next season, but he's still chasing an elusive Super Bowl ring. The incentive for him to play another year is there, and a few teams could be interested in adding him in a limited, situational role. The Packers used Peppers at outside linebacker and as a down lineman in pass-rushing packages, but his play time decreased every year since 2014—mostly as a way to keep him fresh down the stretch. He can still beat a tackle around the corner and use his huge frame to disrupt a passing window, but those big plays are often separated by long stretches of inactivity. While Peppers was excellent during Green Bay's win over the New York Giants in the NFC Wild Card Round, he faded in subsequent playoff games against the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons. Now 37, Peppers hasn't missed a game since 2007. He's reliable, but the athletic traits that helped create his Hall of Fame career are starting to erode. Doug's Quick Take The Packers have used Peppers well, extending his career as a premier pass-rusher beyond its logical conclusion. Like Clay Matthews in recent years, Peppers has found additional success as a pass-rusher from the inside at linebacker depth, and he's remained a good run defender. He's likely to further extend his career with a series of one- or two-year deals, but there's enough left in the tank to make that an attractive possibility. The best case in this case for both player and team is a Green Bay reunion. Potential Suitors: Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants 7. John Simon 16 of 22 Wesley Hitt/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 18.4/25 Run Defense: 15.8/25 Coverage: 9.8/15 Tackling: 18.2/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 69.5/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 19/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse The Texans are loaded with big-name stars on defense, but don't forget about the vastly underrated John Simon. He isn't a star, and he hasn't produced big numbers, but Simon was consistently a bright spot for the Texans over 11 games and five starts in 2016. His best asset is defending the run. Simon was one of only 12 3-4 outside linebackers to finish the season with a run defense grade above 15.0. He's both strong at the point of attack and consistent in rallying to the football. His pass-rushing has steadily improved, but his ceiling as a rusher remains limited, which will lower his potential on the open market. Smart teams will realize his true value is in stopping the run, playing zone coverage and making plays on special teams. There's a spot on every roster for glue guys like Simon. The Texans have developed him over the last three years, making a return to Houston entirely possible—especially if Simon doesn't like offers from other teams in free agency. His performance in 2016 should attract teams willing to give him a real shot at a starting job. Doug's Quick Take Simon is a plus player for any team that runs hybrid fronts, especially two-down-linemen fronts, because he's so good against the run with his hand off the ground. It's a rare talent, and when you add his pass-rush skills to the equation, Simon should be a highly prized player on the free-agent market. He's not a big name among fans, but you'd better believe coaches and coordinators know how good he is. Potential Suitors: Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills 6. Lorenzo Alexander 17 of 22 Brett Carlsen/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 20.2/25 Run Defense: 14.8/25 Coverage: 10.2/15 Tackling: 18.2/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 70.9/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 10/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse A role player and a special teams stud for the first nine years of his career, Lorenzo Alexander put together one of the more improbable breakout seasons in recent memory in 2016. He tallied 10 sacks during the Bills' first nine games, or one more than the nine career sacks he had coming into the season. His 12.5 total sacks eventually finished tied for third in the NFL, trailing only Vic Beasley and Von Miller. Alexander isn't the biggest, fastest or strongest edge-rusher on the market. He'll also turn 34 in May. But with versatility, a willingness to do anything he's asked and an insatiable hunger for special teams, he's everything you want in a player on your 53-man roster. The Pro Bowler also showed enough burst around the corner to help quiet any concerns about his being a one-year wonder, even if he's unlikely to come close to 12.5 sacks in a season again. A team in need of a scheme-versatile pass-rusher with above average coverage skills could entertain the idea of giving Alexander a short but sizable contract, especially if a more highly coveted player like Melvin Ingram gets signed early in free agency. His price shouldn't get out of control given his age and past production. Doug's Quick Take When I reviewed Alexander's tape after Week 5 of the 2016 season, I was impressed both by his versatility to create pressure from all over the field and the openness of Buffalo's coaching staff to put him in those multiple positions. Some would call Alexander a one-year wonder—I'd be more likely to say he's a player who was finally in the right place for his abilities. It's a shame that Alexander had to turn 33 before it happened, because his age will limit his free-agent payday in a way if certainly wouldn't if he was 27. Potential Suitors: Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns 5. DeMarcus Ware 18 of 22 Don Juan Moore/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 20.8/25 Run Defense: 13.6/25 Coverage: 8.9/15 Tackling: 17.8/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 68.9/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 24/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse DeMarcus Ware's third season in Denver saw the veteran register a career-low four sacks over just 10 games. Arm and back injuries forced him out of six games, and the back issue eventually required surgery. He'll also turn 35 years old in July, making it possible the rest of Ware's career—however long it lasts—will require him to be a situational pass-rusher. That reality shouldn't scare off interested teams. Ware was still highly effective as a rusher in 2016, even if his sack numbers fell sharply. His pass-rushing grade finished 10th among all 3-4 outside linebackers, proving he could still threaten 10 or more sacks if he finds the right situation and stays healthy for 16 games. Ware's explosion off the ball has declined with time, but he's still one of the best at using his hands and length to beat blockers and get around the edge. Returning to Denver makes a lot of sense for Ware, especially as a rotational rusher behind Von Miller and Shane Ray. If the Broncos decide to move on, a number of contending teams should have significant interest. Doug's Quick Take Injuries blew apart Ware's 2016 season after a marvelous 2015 campaign, and at age 35 before the 2017 season starts, he's a guy teams will investigate with caution. As a rotational pass-rusher with all the wisdom in the world that he's more than happy to impart on his younger teammates, Ware is a huge asset. Expecting him to be a 10-sack, 60-hurry terror at this point in his career might be a bit much, though. Potential Suitors: Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers 4. James Harrison 19 of 22 Matthew Stockman/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 19.4/25 Run Defense: 14.9/25 Coverage: 10.5/15 Tackling: 18.4/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 70.7/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 13/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Father Time might be undefeated, but James Harrison is giving him one **** of a fight. Even at age 38, Harrison recorded five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception over 15 games—helping him finish 13th overall among all 3-4 outside linebackers in our NFL1000 rankings. He was even dominant at times in the postseason, tallying 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble as Pittsburgh advanced to the AFC title game. His performance against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card Round graded out as one of the best by any player at the position during the entire 2016 season. What Harrison lacks in youthful athleticism he makes up for with unrivaled strength, toughness and awareness, plus a complete understanding of how to play the position. His pass-rushing was understandably off and on in 2016, but he also enjoyed long stretches of disruption, especially to end the season. Even after 14 years in the NFL, Harrison continues to make himself indispensable to the Steelers by setting the edge against the run and dropping into coverage, a staple of Pittsburgh's defense. He finished the year with the position's top grade in coverage. Harrison hasn't hinted at retirement, so expect him to be back with the Steelers for the 2017 season. If his body cooperates, Harrison can be expected to produce. Doug's Quick Take Harrison's brutal workout regimen has paid untold dividends, as the former undrafted free agent has improved in both snap count and overall performance each of the last four years. To see this from a pass-rusher in his late 30s is just about unprecedented. Teams will be watching for when the other shoe drops, but this is the rare edge-rusher who could well be effective into his early 40s. It takes a look at the entirety of the history of the league to understand how impossible that is to do. Potential Suitors: Pittsburgh Steelers 3. Nick Perry 20 of 22 Dylan Buell/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 20.3/25 Run Defense: 16.4/25 Coverage: 9.1/15 Tackling: 19.1/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 72.4/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 7/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Nick Perry finally overcame his annual injury problems to produce a breakout season. The former first-round pick led the Packers with 11 sacks, nearly doubling his career total (12.5 his first four seasons) in the process. Perry didn't stay completely healthy, as a broken hand in early December cost him two games. But he returned with a large cast to protect the hand and managed to register four sacks over Green Bay's final five games, including the playoffs. While injuries might have stunted Perry's early growth as a player, he's as tough as they come when on the field. He can set the edge, beat double-teams with strength and collapse the pocket with power. Perry graded out as the third-best 3-4 outside linebacker against the run this season, a testament to how consistent he was controlling one side of the defense. He should also have positional versatility with real potential to thrive as a 4-3 defensive end. Perry clearly has the profile (premium position, still young, coming off a great season) of a high-priced, highly coveted free agent, but teams will have to weigh his positives against a lengthy injury history and his overall quality as a pass-rusher. Is he a game-changing player worthy of a huge contract? The Packers have big needs on defense, but they may have to let him determine his worth on the open market before attempting to bring him back. Doug's Quick Take Perry picked the best possible time for his breakout season, but don't make the mistake of thinking he's a one-year wonder—although he only had 3.5 sacks in 2015, he's always been a stellar run defender. What makes his free-agent turn so interesting is that he's not limited to any scheme—he'll be able to mess quarterbacks up in 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, as well as hybrid fronts, as long as he stays healthy. Don't be surprised if a team with a ton of cap space and a desperate need for edge pressure ignores the injury history and backs up a truck full of money. Potential Suitors: Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns 2. Chandler Jones 21 of 22 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 21.7/25 Run Defense: 15.2/25 Coverage: 9.6/15 Tackling: 18.9/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 72.9/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 5/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse A tumultuous year of change should conclude with Chandler Jones' signing a lucrative deal to stay with the Cardinals, regardless of whether it's the one-year franchise tag or a multiyear contract. Traded from New England to Arizona before a contract year, Jones produced 11 sacks and four forced fumbles for the Cardinals during a productive 2016 season. He graded out as NFL1000's fifth overall 3-4 outside linebacker, largely due to the fourth-best pass-rushing grade at the position. He has the long, athletic frame every team craves on the edge, and he uses his physical traits to win with both speed and power. His long arms create natural separation at the point of attack. Jones has now tallied at least 11 sacks in three of his last four seasons, and he's also averaged almost three forced fumbles a year over his five-year NFL career. His market would be substantial in free agency, especially since he'll only be 27 years old next season. In reality, the Cardinals won't allow it happen. His future certainly looks like it will involve the franchise tag, which is understandable given Arizona traded a second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper to the Patriots for Jones last March. He's too valuable for the Cardinals to let him sniff free agency. Doug's Quick Take Jones wasn't just a great pressure player in James Bettcher's aggressive Arizona defense—he was consistently dominant in all facets of the game. He had an utterly ridiculous 66 total pressures in 2016, without any playoff games to buttress that total, and he's become a plus run-stopper as well. Agreed that the Cardinals will do anything possible to keep him on the roster; if he does hit free agency, he'll immediately become one of the most prized assets on the market. Potential Suitors: Arizona Cardinals 1. Melvin Ingram 22 of 22 Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 22.2/25 Run Defense: 15.9/25 Coverage: 10.3/15 Tackling: 19.5/25 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 75.4/100 2016 NFL1000 3-4 OLB Rank: 3/65 NFL1000 3-4 OLB scout Zach Kruse Melvin Ingram is the top pass-rusher and one of the best all-around players available in free agency. He finished the 2016 season ranked 50th overall in our NFL1000 scores, including a No. 3 finish among 3-4 outside linebackers—trailing only Von Miller and Jadeveon Clowney at the paramount position. Ingram's unique versatility makes him one of the league's few elite edge-rushers. He is relentless in getting to the quarterback (18.5 sacks over last two years) and a playmaker when dropping into coverage (11 passes defended since 2015). He graded out as the second-best 3-4 outside linebacker in both pass rushing and pass coverage last season. Ingram is also more than capable of setting the edge and making tackles for losses against the run. Some teams might be scared away by the injuries and inconsistency of his first three seasons, but few at the outside linebacker position have been better than Ingram over the last two years. He's also only 27 years old and in the middle of his athletic prime, and he hasn't missed a game the last two seasons. The Chargers would be playing a risky game by letting him test the open market, where young and disruptive players like Ingram—or Olivier Vernon last spring—can create the interest required to land a mega contract. Expect Ingram to become a very, very wealthy man in the coming months. He's a game-wrecking force at a premium position in today's game. Doug's Quick Take When I watched Ingram's college tape before his 2012 draft selection, I was extremely impressed by his ability to disrupt from any gap—he'd get sacks from the nose tackle position at 270 pounds, which doesn't happen a lot. I believed him to be the finest defensive player in his draft class. Injuries slowed his progress in the NFL, but he's been dominant over the last two seasons, and he's been able to show some of that gap versatility. Only Von Miller and Khalil Mack had more quarterback hurries than Ingram's 54 in 2016, he's a plus run defender and he can drop into coverage pretty well. Ingram has become one of the truly well-rounded pass-rushers in the NFL regardless of scheme. Ancillary concerns about his health aside, he's about to get paid accordingly. Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints 4-3 Defensive Ends 19. Margus Hunt 2 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 15.9/25 Run Defense: 13.9/25 Snap Explosion: 11.4/20 Tackling: 11.6/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 60.4/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 66/68 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Margus Hunt has been the butt of jokes amongst the Bengals fanbase for a few years, but 2016 was easily his best season in the NFL. Hunt showed he can be a backend rotational piece and help on special teams, blocking three kicks this year. But in his 322 defensive snaps, he recorded just 14 tackles and zero sacks. He was benched when he was outplayed by Will Clarke, Wallace Gilberry and DeShawn Williams, but the Bengals eventually found a small role for him to finish out the year. He's big and strong, but extremely stiff and slow to react. This hurts him not only as a pass-rusher, but also as a tackler. He can help as a run defender, but he often gets outleveraged and moved too easily. With Hunt turning 30 in July, I'm not sure there's any upside left for the 2017 season. Doug's Quick Take: Hunt has also always had severe leverage issues—he doesn't get under pads, and he struggles to retain power as a result. It's never good when a second-round pick can only find value as a rotational cog, but teams looking for a decent run defender won't have to deal with that baggage. Depth value only. Potential Suitors: Cincinnati Bengals 18. Wallace Gilberry 3 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 15.2/25 Run Defense: 12.7/25 Snap Explosion: 10.8/20 Tackling: 12.4/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 58.7/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 68/68 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry After a few seasons as a rotational piece in Cincinnati, Wallace Gilberry signed with the Detroit Lions in a similar role. After a few weeks of being our lowest graded 4-3 DE, Gilberry was released. He spent a few weeks on the market and then re-signed with the Bengals after they struggled to replace him. The Bengals used him as a defensive tackle in their nickel defense and to manufacture pressure. He looked refreshed, and in the last two games of the 2016 season, Gilberry racked up 2.5 sacks. He just fits what they do, and both the player and team have a mutual understanding of his skill and abilities. I could easily see the Bengals re-signing him for the 2017 season. Doug's Quick Take: Gilberry still has a bit left in the tank, as he showed toward the end of the season, but anyone expecting a rerun of 2013-2015, in which he put up a ton of pressures, may be disappointed. Gilberry is 32, and pass-rushers in their early 30s are generally best suited for third-down roles in the right schemes. That's about how Gilberry projects at this point in his career. Potential Suitors: Cincinnati Bengals 17. Paul Kruger 4 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.2/25 Run Defense: 13/25 Snap Explosion: 12.9/20 Tackling: 13.1/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 63.9/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 53/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda Paul Kruger is a name many people know, since he was a significant free agent in the 2013 cycle. Because of that, his brand was elevated, with fans all over the country seeing him on watch lists. In his first three years with the Baltimore Ravens, Kruger posted just 6.5 sacks. But in 2012, his contract season, he recorded nine sacks, a career high to that point. Baltimore let him walk, which was a red flag in itself, and he signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the AFC North rival Cleveland Browns. He only played three years with the team, recording an 11-sack season in 2014 but posting just seven combined sacks in his other two years in Cleveland. Kruger's had two very good seasons in his career, but he has to be considered a free-agency bust for what the Browns paid him. Last year, Cleveland released Kruger, opening up a chance for him to land with the New Orleans Saints, who might have had one of the weakest defensive lines in the NFL. In his one year with New Orleans, as a 13-game starter, he recorded just 1.5 sacks. He's not an elite pass-rusher. He's not an elite run defender. In a lot of ways, he's just a dwindling star who is on the last leg of his career as a 31-year-old. The 6'4” defensive end struggles with pad level and is losing athleticism. Not a great combination, but there's still a chance someone believes they can revive him for that third career season. Doug's Quick Take: Kruger took one hot season and parlayed it into a huge free-agent haul, which shows (once again) that the Browns generally struggle to understand the outlier concept. In any case, the Paul Kruger of today is an average to below-average pass-rusher with decent run defense abilities. Potential Suitors: None 16. William Gholston 5 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 16.4/25 Run Defense: 13.9/25 Snap Explosion: 12.4/20 Tackling: 13.6/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 63.9/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 52/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda At just 25 years old, William Gholston has plenty of football ahead of him. The former fourth-round pick has finally finished his rookie contract, which he signed in 2013, and looks to hit the open market for the first time. Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Noah Spence in the second round and signed Robert Ayers last offseason, Gholston still managed to start 14 games last season at defensive end for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay struggles with their defensive line's quality of depth, so although he has just 10 career sacks, there’s a good chance Gholston could be re-signed. But if he does walk, there are few 25-year-old free-agent pass-rushers with 36 total starts under their belt. Gholston’s only plus quality is his size, as he’s listed at 6’6” and 281 pounds, but that could be enough to get him picked up, even if it is as a 3-4 defensive end instead of a 4-3 base end. Doug's Quick Take: Gholston is a bit of a tweener—not quite big enough to succeed as a traditional 3-4 end, and not quick enough to rack up a bunch of sacks and pressures in a four-man front. He's best served as a rotational guy in a hybrid front where he can kick inside on passing downs. Potential Suitors: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions 15. Chris Long 6 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.1/25 Run Defense: 14.1/25 Snap Explosion: 12.9/20 Tackling: 12.8/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 64.4/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 48/68 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Chris Long seemed to be at the end of his career for the past couple of seasons, but he looked rejuvenated for the Patriots early in 2016. Long ultimately ended up in a rotation for New England's hybrid defense that asked him to play OLB as well as DE. In his 741 defensive snaps, good for 60.1 percent of the Patriots' total snaps, Long ended up with 22 tackles and five sacks. He showed youthful athleticism as a pass-rusher at times, and there could be a few solid years left in his career as a pass-rusher in a rotation. But at other times, Long looked old and misused in the Patriots' scheme. Doug's Quick Take: Long had a number of high-quality seasons for a Rams franchise that had little clue what it was doing outside of its front seven, and he had experienced a bit of a downturn in 2014 and 2015. His resurgence in 2016 (five sacks, seven hits and 53 hurries) spoke to his fit in Bill Belichick's base fronts. He's more an end than a linebacker, but he could succeed for a couple more seasons in that role for any 4-3 team. Potential Suitors: New England Patriots 14. Mario Addison 7 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.3/25 Run Defense: 12.8/25 Snap Explosion: 13.6/20 Tackling: 13.2/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 64.6/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 46/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda Mario Addison will turn 30 years old by the time next season kicks off. He was a junior college transfer who landed at Troy, a school best known for producing both DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora. In his first two years in the NFL, he bounced around four different rosters. It’s amazing that Addison was able to make the most of his shots up to this point. Last year, he had a breakout season of 10 sacks, despite the fact that he started just one game. If some team, like the Baltimore Ravens, gives him decent money to be a third pass-rusher in an effort to chase a ring, that could be Addison’s best option in terms of his career. No one is going to give big money to a 30-year-old who's started just four NFL games, even at a pass-rushing position. Doug's Quick Take: With 10 sacks, five hits and 36 hurries in just 433 snaps last season, Addison continued a recent stretch of excellence despite his lack of starts. He's a great situational pass-rusher and decent run defender who can also play inside, and he's not a one-year wonder. He could be one of the better bargains in this free-agent class...or one team could get wrapped up in his sack numbers and overpay him. Age is the primary concern here. Potential Suitors: None 13. Darryl Tapp 8 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.5/25 Run Defense: 13.2/25 Snap Explosion: 13.2/20 Tackling: 13.3/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 64.9/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 44/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda If Darryl Tapp's name sounds like a blast from the past, that's because it is. Tapp turns 33 in September. That's well beyond your prime years at pass-rushing positions. In New Orleans last season, he rotated with Paul Kruger opposite of star end Cameron Jordan. Needless to say, he and Kruger juxtaposed across Jordan made for one of the more lopsided pass-rushing duos in the NFL in 2016. Like Kruger, Tapp is also an unrestricted free agent, which puts the Saints in an odd spot. They likely won't re-sign both if they don't have to, but based on their recent price tags, there isn't a clear-cut answer regarding which one New Orleans will bring back in 2017. Tapp has been on four teams in the last five years, so he's not new to the concept of free agency. In 2007, his sophomore season in the league, he posted a seven-sack total. But since 2008, he's never had more than three sacks in a single season. At 6'1”, he's not for everyone, and at this point in his career, he should probably be playing on turf. With that in mind, New Orleans, Atlanta and Minnesota should be the first teams Tapp's agent calls. The Falcons were down to starting Dwight Freeney (who makes Tapp look young) in the Super Bowl. While Minnesota has top-end talent, the Vikings really only use a three-man rotation, and Brian Robison is trending down. If Tapp can come on as a fourth pass-rusher, that might be the spot he needs to play at this point in his career. Doug's Quick Take: Despite his age, Tapp still shows some speed off the edge and run-stopping ability. Any 4-3 team with depth needs should take a look, as long as his size doesn't scare them off. Potential Suitors: New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings 12. Ethan Westbrooks 9 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.7/25 Run Defense: 13.6/25 Snap Explosion: 13.1/20 Tackling: 12.9/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 64.9/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 43/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda When you think of a baseline defensive end, there may not be a better example of that in the NFL than Ethan Westbrooks. While that might sound like a negative thing, he was a very consistent player for the Los Angeles Rams in a historically inconsistent year for the team. Opposite of Robert Quinn, there was a rotation of William Hayes, Eugene Sims and Westbrooks. There were very few times the difference between Hayes, Sims and Westbrooks was visible, even on a game-to-game basis. In some ways, that was a good thing for the Rams, as they were four-deep at a position with functional bodies, but having no specific traits awarded to three players doesn't help you much outside of the pitch count. For that reason alone, Westbrooks may hit the market, though he's currently a restricted free agent. That means the Rams have the most leverage right now in the tagging process, unless some team wants to come in and offer up a first-round pick for him. Los Angeles was aggressive with a first-round tender on quarterback Case Keenum last offseason, and it may spend more than expected on Westbrooks, too. As of now, Westbrooks is probably best known for being the defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game. He started two games last season, but he's played 35 total games in the NFL, recording just four total sacks. At 6'4” and 267 pounds, he can fit into any NFL scheme. If he does hit the open market, he's about as safe and affordable as you can expect for a third or fourth defensive end. Doug's Quick Take: Westbrooks has flashed starter potential at times with his combination of quickness, agility and strength. Perhaps he can put it all together in a more consistent package over time. If that happens, don't be surprised if he gets a ton more snaps in his contract year with a new coaching staff. Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Rams 11. Ryan Davis 10 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17/25 Run Defense: 13.3/25 Snap Explosion: 13.2/20 Tackling: 14/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 65/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 42/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda Ryan Davis is a pass-rusher who doesn't always flash on Sundays, but he's almost always there. After spending four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, moving up and down from the practice squad, Davis finally left Northern Florida for North Texas, where he signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys. That deal was worth $675,000, which set expectations low, but he still did enough in his time with Dallas to give owner Jerry Jones a reason to bring him back in 2017. In his career, Davis has been active for 47 games, though he's never started a game and has only recorded 11 sacks over that time. There are three factors that may keep Davis' price low again in the 2017 open market. First, his season was an injury sandwich, with him falling short of healthy early on and ending the year on the injured reserve list. Second, he's going to be 28 by the time he signs his next contract, which means his next deal should be another short-term one. Third, at his peak, he posted 6.5 sacks in 2014, which should be looked at as the absolute best-case scenario right now. Davis is a functional body at the position, but he's not someone who transcends the fact that he's a low-rotation player. Heck, he was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though Randy Gregory is now on the team's back burner, Dallas will likely return Demarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Tyrone Crawford, Benson Mayowa and Charles Tapper next season, and they all could be ahead of Davis on the depth chart. If it becomes a numbers issue, expect Davis to fill in as a veteran end for a team that needs a mid-level third or fourth pass-rusher in 2017. Doug's Quick Take: A rotational player throughout his career, Davis was a surprise cut by the Jaguars last September. He's demonstrated a lot of production and versatility in limited snaps, though it didn't show up as much as people would have liked in Dallas. On a team needing a gap-versatile pass-rusher, Davis can still succeed. Potential Suitors: Dallas Cowboys 10. Andre Branch 11 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.3/25 Run Defense: 14.1/25 Snap Explosion: 13.4/20 Tackling: 13.4/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 65.8/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 32/68 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Andre Branch signed with the Miami Dolphins last offseason as an under-the-radar acquisition. After playing more than 800 snaps for a playoff team, it seems likely the 27-year-old Branch will receive more attention this offseason. He's still largely the same player, but when he had Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh on the same line, Branch got some favorable matchups and took advantage. He graded decently against both the pass and run and would've been higher as a tackler if he hadn't missed so many. Branch played with high effort and a willingness to sacrifice his body against the run. As a pass-rusher, he still has issues turning the corner and isn't afraid to use his arm in a windmill motion to stay balanced. He had a solid year with 5.5 sacks in 2016, and looking at his career production, that's about what you should expect. Doug's Quick Take: Yes, Branch took advantage of the talent around him last year in Miami, but he was also good for four seasons in Jacksonville, where there wasn't a high-level supporting cast. Branch gets sacks in bunches, but he's a consistent quarterback disruptor with 34 hurries last season. Potential Suitors: Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys 9. David Irving 12 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 18/25 Run Defense: 13/25 Snap Explosion: 13.8/20 Tackling: 13.2/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 65.6/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 35/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda David Irving isn't a player whose name you should have known before this season. Prior to 2016, Irving was best known for being an undrafted prospect who was dismissed from the Iowa State football team. With that being said, he's an incredibly athletic player, and at 6'7” and 273 pounds, there are very few schemes in which he doesn't fit. At just 23 years old, the Cowboys have an opportunity to secure him with a long-term deal, if they believe in Irving the person as much as Irving the player. Under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, Irving has the best defensive line teacher of the last decade, so there's no reason why Dallas, considering their pass-rush situation, should turn him down on a reasonable contract. After posting three sacks in the last three games of the regular season, and starting the final two, Irving should be a top priority for the Cowboys brass. Think about it this way: If Irving were a draft prospect, with his age, size, production and athleticism at the NFL level, he would be worth a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft. In a calendar year, Irving very well might have more NFL starts than he had career starts at the college level. The Cowboys pulled an absolute gem, which is why he's a free agent this young into his professional career. He's an exclusive rights free agent, which means Dallas can have him on the cheap. There should be no hesitation on their side of this negotiation. Doug's Quick Take: Irving plays with a bit of a wild hair, but he's a malevolent, disruptive end with a world of potential. There's no telling how good he can be with Marinelli in charge of his future. Potential Suitors: Dallas Cowboys 8. Devin Taylor 13 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.1/25 Run Defense: 14.2/25 Snap Explosion: 13.5/20 Tackling: 13.5/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 66/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 30/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda Defensive end Devin Taylor came out of South Carolina as a highly touted draft prospect. Playing opposite Jadeveon Clowney, Taylor tested very well at the combine relative to his size, and his 6'7” length was a major talking point during the 2013 draft cycle. However, he's recorded just 15 sacks in 61 games as a professional, and he only started two games in his first three seasons in the NFL. Looking at the Detroit Lions' defensive end depth chart, they have several decisions to make this offseason. Their star, Ezekiel Ansah, was injured for part of 2016, leading to him recording just two sacks on the year. Ansah will be a free agent in 2018, and the team's third pass-rusher, Kerry Hyder, is an exclusive rights free agent this year, which means he likely will be playing in a contract season in 2017, too. Taylor started every game for the Lions last year and is a dependable player. On the open market, he should be able to fetch a three-year deal worth low-end starter money. Detroit simply needs to pick their two, and they have to do it a year early. If he does hit the open market,Taylor will be suited best for 4-3 schemes that are looking for a base end or a complementary rusher opposite of a star. He's never going to be more than a second or third piece to the pass-rushing puzzle, but that still has tremendous value considering he has yet to hit his perceived upside. Doug's Quick Take: Taylor is a long, angular player who generally manages to beat the leverage issues common to players of his height. He's also a good, dependable run defender who would be an asset to any line rotation, and his physical attributes make him a bit more scheme-versatile than some. Potential Suitors: Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers 7. Jabaal Sheard 14 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 18/25 Run Defense: 14.1/25 Snap Explosion: 13.3/20 Tackling: 13.1/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 66.1/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 27/68 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Jabaal Sheard started the year grading out very well as the Patriots played more of a traditional 4-3 defense. After four weeks, I was ready to call him one of the best all-around 4-3 ends in the NFL. In the first quarter of the season, Sheard accumulated 11 tackles and three sacks. At some point, the Patriots decided to bench Sheard and move to more of a 3-4/hybrid defense. When Sheard was used again, he was in a rotation with Chris Long and Rob Ninkovich. He played over 65 percent of the defensive snaps in seven of the first eight games but wouldn't surpass that benchmark again during the final eight games. Sheard ended the season with 20 tackles and five sacks. After starting 45 games in the first three years of his career, he has started just 14 in the past three seasons. From a skill standpoint, I still like Sheard. He's decently athletic, shows strength in his rush moves and can win on both sides of the line. He was asked to drop into coverage and looked good doing it. Against the run, Sheard can be a nuisance. He's a bit of a tweener, as his size suggests he's a 3-4 OLB or 4-3 RDE, but he plays more like a strong-side 4-3 end. He'll be 28 years old to start the 2017 season, so this may be his last decent contract, but he's flashed enough to show he can still help plenty of teams. Doug's Quick Take: More a run defender than a true pass-rusher throughout his career, Sheard is at his best as a 4-3 strong-side end who will rack up good production in a versatile way. He will also have to answer questions about his relative demotion in the second half of the 2016 season. When Bill Belichick decides you don't fit the plan, other teams tend to listen. Potential Suitors: New England Patriots, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers 6. Charles Johnson 15 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 17.4/25 Run Defense: 14.5/25 Snap Explosion: 13.5/20 Tackling: 13.5/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 66.5/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 24/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda Generally, if you're over the age of 28 in the NFL, you're starting your decline. With that in mind, it shouldn't be surprising that Charles Johnson has been steadily trending down the past few seasons. Already 30 years old, Johnson was cut by the Carolina Panthers last offseason. He was quickly re-signed to a one-year, $3 million contract, but the message was clear: He just wasn't worth the money they were expecting to pay him. If that was his market value last season, it's hard to imagine he'd receive more money at this point. In 22 starts over the last two seasons, every game that Johnson has been active for, he's only posted five combined sacks. To put that into perspective, in the previous seven seasons, he had only recorded fewer than a half-dozen sacks once. Johnson was a captain on a Super Bowl team, though, and as silly as that sounds, that's going to matter to some front offices. If he does leave Carolina, he very well might have a chance to chase a ring as a "leader" who has three or four years left in the tank, depending on how his 2017 season plays out. Carolina, New Orleans, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Dallas and Atlanta are all teams where Johnson could land. He wouldn't have to worry about dropping into coverage much, but he would have a chance to end his career with another deep playoff run. Those squads, if nothing else, are going to be in playoff contention over the next few seasons, and getting your foot in the door is half the battle. Doug's Quick Take: Johnson was one of the most effective and consistent pass-rushers in the NFL from 2010 through 2014, but age has visibly caught up to him. He has struggled to stay on the field and doesn't have the burst or strength he did at his peak. At 30, he'll have to sign a prove-it contract before he gets any more big money. Potential Suitors: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons 5. Dwight Freeney 16 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 18.3/25 Run Defense: 12.7/25 Snap Explosion: 14.9/20 Tackling: 13.3/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 66.7/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 22/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda There are players on this list that even casual NFL fans know, and Dwight Freeney is one of them. When Freeney left Syracuse after the 2001 season, he was drafted in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts, whom he played for through the 2012 season. There, he made seven Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro lists. In 2004, he even led the NFL in sacks. As an undersized 6'1” defensive end, he's the prototype for the short-framed pass-rusher in the modern NFL. After leaving Indianapolis, Freeney had a quiet two years in San Diego before signing with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015 and the Atlanta Falcons the following year. Freeney still has solid burst off the line of scrimmage and can still counter with an inside spin move. On some level, the 37-year-old looks like he can go on forever, as long as he's on a pitch count. You have to wonder, though, if his success in Indianapolis, Arizona and Atlanta juxtaposed to his years in San Diego comes from the fact that he was playing in dome stadiums. If you're willing to follow that narrative, Freeney needs to land with a Super Bowl contender that plays in a stadium with a roof. This year, playoff teams competing in arena-like stadiums were limited to the Houston Texans, a team three-deep in pass-rushers; the Dallas Cowboys, who need more help at that position than just about anyone in the league; the Falcons and the Detroit Lions, who don't totally fit the “contender” profile. If Freeney does want to extend his future beyond Super Bowl LI, the two teams that should be highlighted on are Dallas and Atlanta. Doug's Quick Take: For all the legitimate talk about pass-rushers hitting their obvious decline around age 30, Freeney and Pittsburgh's James Harrison are the two primary exceptions to that rule in 2017. Freeney was a great addition for the Falcons in 2016—he showed he still has the burst to get past tackles, a stellar inside counter and the famed spin move that has always been so devastating. He's also an outstanding mentor for younger pass-rushers. There's no reason he can't do the same in a rotational sense for the next couple years. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals 4. Ryan Russell 17 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 18.4/25 Run Defense: 13/25 Snap Explosion: 13.6/20 Tackling: 13.9/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 66.9/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 21/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda Ryan Russell doesn't have a huge NFL resume, but he had one of the more consistent grades in the NFL1000 series this season. Before Week 10, Russell had only been active for one professional game, with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. After that, he appeared in every Tampa Bay Buccaneers game in the second half of the 2016 season. Despite only recording one sack, Russell flashed pressure potential, and his 6'5”, 267-pound frame will attract many teams who are looking for a base end, should he hit the open market. The Buccaneers have the option to retain Russell with ease because he's an exclusive rights free agent under the current collective bargaining agreement. As long as Tampa Bay believes they have a roster spot for him, with the likes of William Gholston, Robert Ayers, Noah Spence and DaVonte Lambert possibly all returning for the 2017 season, then it should be an easy decision. You can only get cheap, experienced players in this league so often, and general manager Jason Licht has all the leverage he needs to bring him back with no resistance at all. Expect the 24-year-old Russell to stay in Tampa Bay in 2017. Doug's Quick Take: The former Cowboys castoff showed some real potential in the second half of the 2016 season, and he should get more reps in 2017, perhaps as a prelude to a starting career. Potential Suitors: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3. Kerry Hyder 18 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 18.8/25 Run Defense: 14.3/25 Snap Explosion: 13.2/20 Tackling: 13.9/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 67.9/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 18/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda There was no breakout player who came out of nowhere quite like Kerry Hyder did in 2016, at least at the defensive end position. Hyder came into the NFL as an undrafted defensive tackle out of Texas Tech. Listed at 270 pounds, he's lost 20 pounds since his 2014 combine, and he's far from the player he used to be. After spending most of his first two seasons on the New York Jets' and Detroit Lions' practice squads, Hyder was still fighting for a spot on the Lions' 53-man roster in Week 4 of the 2016 preseason. Hyder, who didn't so much as record a single sack in his 11 previous NFL preseason games, had a showcase three-sack game in Week 4, his only start of exhibition play in 2016. After making the regular-season roster, he had five sacks in the first four games of the season, earning two starts while star defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was out with an early-season injury. Hyder finished the year with eight total sacks as a rotational defensive end and pressure defensive tackle, making him one of the best bang-for-your-buck players at the position. He's an exclusive rights free agent, meaning the Lions can have him on a cheap, short deal in 2017 if they want, and there's no reason to think they would use him differently. Should the Lions make a mistake and let Hyder test the open market, a team like the Atlanta Falcons, which tries to get pressure with four defenders, should be interested. Any squad that puts a premium on using four players to rush the passer on third down (as opposed to the blitz) and wants a hybrid end-tackle in their even front defense should absolutely have Hyder at the top of its wish list. Doug's Quick Take: Hyder's story is very interesting, and he did show a lot of surprising potential in 2016. Still, there's a buyer-beware aspect to the story going forward. Four of his eight sacks last season came against the relatively weak Colts line and a Vikings line that was perhaps the worst in the game. Not to say he's a one-hit wonder, but he'll need to show more consistency in the upcoming season before many will rate him as a priority free agent. Potential Suitors: Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons 2. Wes Horton 19 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 19.1/25 Run Defense: 12.7/25 Snap Explosion: 14.1/20 Tackling: 14.1/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 68.2/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 16/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda Wes Horton isn't particularly talented at any one aspect of the game, but he's incredibly consistent. Horton, who was re-signed midseason by the Carolina Panthers, just turned 27 years old. He's also a restricted free agent, which means that by all accounts, Carolina will pick him up on a cheap, short-term contract. At 6'5” and 265 pounds, Horton has all of the length you'd want in a 4-3 defensive end while also possessing the feet to play on either side of the field. He doesn't have great sack production, posting just 8.5 sacks in his career. However, the fact that the Panthers started him in 27 games over the last three years speaks volumes. If for some reason Carolina does end up letting him walk, expect a team like the Cincinnati Bengals—who don't spend big money on free agents but do like longer ends—to take a run at Horton on a two- or three-year deal. Horton is about as baseline as you can get from a pass-rusher. His burst isn't exceptional, and neither are his developed moves, but he brings it every play. The one place where you have to worry about him is in the run game, where he tends to get washed or reached, exposing outside runs for offenses. Doug's Quick Take: A rotational cog throughout his career, Horton doesn't fade when he's given more snaps. The more you trust him with, the better he performs. He's not ever going to be a top-tier starter, but teams need players like him, who do everything asked of them to the highest degree possible. Potential Suitors: Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals 1. Jason Pierre-Paul 20 of 20 NFL1000 Scores Pass Rush: 19.1/25 Run Defense: 14.7/25 Snap Explosion: 14.7/20 Tackling: 14/20 Positional Value: 8/10 Overall: 69.8/100 2016 NFL1000 4-3 Defensive End Rank: 10/68 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda While Jason Pierre-Paul is our highest-graded 4-3 defensive end in this free-agency class, most of the conversations surrounding his next contract will have little to nothing to do with his talent. The New York Giants gave Pierre-Paul a one-year "prove it" deal in March 2016 after his highly publicized hand injury in July 2015. With that being said, he is just 28 years old, and he has produced since his accident. Pierre-Paul missed the last four games of the regular season and the playoffs because of a sports hernia. Back surgery in 2013 derailed his overall progression for a bit as well. If he hits the open market, those injuries may be the reason why. The 6'5” end posted 5.5 sacks in his final three games of the season, mimicking Robert Ayers' 2015 production. After Ayers got hot with the Giants at the end of the regular season, he signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason. Based on Pierre-Paul's pedigree and more productive past, that number will likely be closer to $10 million per year. If you simply look at how he was used by the Giants in the first 12 weeks of the season, it was clear they were getting as much out of him as possible while they had him under contract. New York played 872 snaps on the defensive side of the ball, per Pro Football Focus. JPP played in 793 of them, good for 90.9 percent. If he were to join a team to play in more of a rotation, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't benefit from resting in order to preserve his health and stamina down the line. If a team invests in him long-term, rather than what New York did short-term this season, expect a significant bounce back from a player who never even hit rock bottom. If he leaves New York, it seems likely he focuses on teams in contention for the Super Bowl. Doug's Quick Take: Between the fireworks incident and the sports hernia surgery that ended his 2016 season prematurely, you'd be forgiven if you thought 2016 was going to be an on-field disappointment for the veteran. Instead, Pierre-Paul showed every bit of the freakish physical abilities he's always had with one of his best seasons to date. Reports indicate the Giants want to ink a new deal with Pierre-Paul before he's able to hit the market, which would indeed be a wise move. Potential Suitors: New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons 3-4 Defensive Ends Billy Winn NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 9.1/15 Pass Rush: 12.3/25 Run Defense: 17.4/30 Tackling: 12.3/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 57.6/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 50/53 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Billy Winn had a chance to make an impact with the Denver Broncos as Derek Wolfe dealt with injuries and Jared Crick adjusted to his new team, but he didn't do much in his 342 snaps. He had just 19 combined tackles and zero sacks. Winn hasn't recorded a QB sack since 2013. He'll be 28 years old when the 2017 season begins, and at this point, he's a depth player for any interested team. Doug's Quick Take: Winn's inability to create pressure in a great defense with quality personnel around him will no doubt be a mitigating factor in how much teams look at him as a free agent. Outside of an above-average season for the Cleveland Browns in 2013, he's struggled to play at a league-average level. Potential Suitors: Denver Broncos Antonio Smith NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 9.7/15 Pass Rush: 13.8/25 Run Defense: 16.9/30 Tackling: 12.2/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 59.3/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 46/53 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Antonio Smith finished his 13th season in the NFL as a situational player for a good Texans defense. He's likely at the end of his career, and it showed. At one time, he was a serviceable player who could start and provide some pass rush. But Smith hasn't started a game in two years, and despite playing 244 snaps in 13 regular-season contests this past year, he only recorded four tackles and 0.5 sacks. If Smith decides to keep playing, it's hard to imagine he will garner much attention around the league. Doug's Quick Take: Life comes at you fast. Just a few years ago, Smith was one of the most dominant linemen in the league regardless of gap responsibility, and his destruction of opposing offenses against the pass and the run was a thing to behold. Now, he's a situation-specific player at best. If you have a ton of depth on your line and want a veteran to help wrestle guards, he might be worth a look. Potential Suitors: Houston Texans Kendall Reyes 4 of 10 NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 9.2/15 Pass Rush: 13.2/25 Run Defense: 16.9/30 Tackling: 12.8/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 59/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 47/53 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Kendall Reyes started the year with the Washington Redskins, but they released him after two games. After signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, Reyes filled in for injured starter Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard while rotating with rookie Chris Jones and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Reyes played 11 games with the Chiefs (one in the playoffs) and ended with 15 combined tackles and one sack in K.C. He's only a year removed from San Diego. There, he started 50 games in four years after the Chargers selected him in the second round of the 2012 draft. Reyes flashed some of that talent last season and could be a cheap, low-risk signing for many teams as a 3-4 DE or even a 4-3 DT. Doug's Quick Take: The Redskins dumped Reyes in part because he couldn't stay healthy and other linemen were usurping him on the depth chart. He found his way to Kansas City as an injury replacement and played unspectacularly for the most part. Reyes is a decent pressure player who comes up short against the run, and he's a situational guy at best. Potential Suitors: Kansas City Chiefs Ricardo Mathews 5 of 10 NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 9.3/15 Pass Rush: 12.6/25 Run Defense: 17.5/30 Tackling: 12.4/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 58.3/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 49/53 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry After the Pittsburgh Steelers lost stud defensive lineman Cameron Heyward to injury, they went to a 2-4 defensive front. Mathews didn't see as much time as I expected, as Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave got those snaps. The team relegated Mathews to substitution duty, and he ended up with only 311 defensive snaps for the season. Then, toward the end of the campaign, Mathews lost snaps to L.T. Walton. He ended the year with 14 combined tackles and one sack. He would be a depth signing for any team interested. Doug's Quick Take: A seventh-round pick in the 2010 draft, Mathews has done well to last this long in the NFL as a rotational player. He's played decently in both 4-3 and 3-4 base defenses, and that versatility makes him a quality depth signing. Potential Suitors: Pittsburgh Steelers Leger Douzable 6 of 10 NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 9.9/15 Pass Rush: 13.6/25 Run Defense: 17.7/30 Tackling: 13.5/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 61.3/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 38/53 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Leger Douzable probably doesn't get you excited as a potential free-agent signing, but he was a key contributor for the Buffalo Bills defense as a run defender. In his 482 total snaps, he routinely displayed a good first step, quick hands and a wide tackle radius. He received less attention than everyone else on the Bills front, but he handled what was in front of him. He often sat out on passing downs, and his 1.5 total sacks on the season reflect that. But registering over 40 tackles is impressive for a situational interior defender. If a team needs a run-defending 3-4 end who'll come off on third downs, Douzable may be its guy. He could come cheap and offer good value. Doug's Quick Take: Douzable is the kind of player who excites coaches and potential teammates more than fans. He's not a sack artist, but he's a smart guy who plays his assignments well. And he has always been able to stop the run. That will get him some good looks on a low-level contract basis, and he could be a real bargain in this free-agent market. Potential Suitors: None Frostee Rucker 7 of 10 NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 10.2/15 Pass Rush: 14.8/25 Run Defense: 18.5/30 Tackling: 13.4/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 63.6/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 22/53 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda Frostee Rucker has been around the block a few times. The 33-year-old is heading into his 12th year in the NFL, potentially with his fourth franchise. However, he may not have many suitors at this point other than the Cardinals, who could retain him. In 2006, the former USC Trojan was a top-100 pick, leading to a six-year run with the Cincinnati Bengals. From there, he had a cup of tea with the Cleveland Browns before signing with the Arizona Cardinals, where he's played since 2013. Rucker was a starter for the majority of his 2014 and 2015 campaigns, but in 2016, he only started one game. He recorded seven total tackles all season. At 6'3" and 280 pounds, he's a little on the small side to play as a defensive tackle—where 3-4 defensive ends tend to play in 4-3 defenses—in most schemes. The Bills franchise thought its defensive line lacked talent to the point it drafted Robert Nkemdiche, who infamously missed a bowl game after falling out of a hotel window, in the first round. The fact Rucker couldn't secure a starting role in that situation, at his age nonetheless, is a bit concerning. Rucker is nearing the end of his career, and if Arizona doesn't call him back, he may not have many other options. With teams like the San Francisco 49ers transitioning out of a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense under new defensive leadership, the market for a true 3-4 style defensive end is going out the window. Rucker is a remnant of 2006-style football in 2017. Doug's Quick Take: At this point in his career, Rucker will have to land with a team that sees him as a scheme-specific asset. He has some traction as a run-stopping end in multiple fronts, but the window is closing quickly. Potential Suitors: Arizona Cardinals Karl Klug 8 of 10 NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 11.4/15 Pass Rush: 14.5/25 Run Defense: 17.3/30 Tackling: 12.5/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 62.2/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 31/53 NFL1000 DE scout Joe Goodberry Karl Klug played 398 snaps for Tennessee and continued to be the same situational defender for the Titans that he's been during his six-year career. Despite posting only 1.5 sacks in 2016, he was a solid pass-rusher due to his athleticism and leverage. Klug consistently applied pressure from the inside, and as a run-defending end, he displayed the athleticism to be a nuisance for offenses. There was a good stretch of games where Klug was outplaying teammate Jurrell Casey, but he eventually cooled off and finished as our 31st-ranked 3-4 defensive end. He ended the season with an Achilles injury, which will likely cost him opportunities to sign elsewhere. But if healthy, I like Klug as an interior rusher for 3-4 and 4-3 teams in their nickel defense. He could end up being a bargain free-agent pickup. Doug's Quick Take: It was fun to see Klug and Casey wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines in the Titans' multiple fronts. Klug is a success as a rotational pass-rusher—in fewer than 400 snaps last season, he had 25 quarterback hurries—and he's a good enough run defender to get more snaps in other defenses. Potential Suitors: Tennessee Titans Chris Baker 9 of 10 NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 10.8/15 Pass Rush: 15.9/25 Run Defense: 19.6/30 Tackling: 13.6/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 66.5/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 11/53 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda When we started grading for the NFL1000 project, we quickly realized there was no 3-4 defensive end in the league more underrated than Chris Baker. Heading into the season, no one had high expectations for Baker, but a month later, it was very apparent Baker was one of the most consistently talented players at the position. You'll be hard-pressed to find a weekly ranking in which Baker wasn't among the top 10 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL. Baker was an undrafted player in 2009, but he only had two NFL games under his belt heading into the 2012 season. Before then, he spent time bouncing around Denver, Miami and even the UFL's Hartford Colonials before landing in Washington. After proving himself in 2012 and 2013, Baker earned a three-year deal with the Redskins, worth an affordable $9 million in total money. Now, at the age of 29, Baker has the potential to do whatever he wants. Does he want to chase a large contract? Does he want to establish himself with the franchise that took the longest look at him? Does he want to go after a ring? Baker is in an odd spot where all options should be considered. In some ways, he could be looked at as a backup plan for teams who lose out on the Calais Campbell sweepstakes, so expect Campbell to be the first domino to fall in the 3-4 defensive end sequence. They don't totally fit the same mold, though. While Campbell is a taller player—a traditional 5-technique—Baker is listed at 6'2” and 320 pounds, closer to a traditional defensive tackle. If a team wants to run a Carolina Panthers-style 4-3 defense, where their defensive tackles play both the under tackle and nose tackle positions, Baker—who can play both roles with his body type and skill set—could get a solid look by an even front squad too. Carolina's packed with tackle talent right now, as are the Buffalo Bills, who just hired former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott as their head coach. But in a copycat league, you don't have to assume ideology stems from a direct coaching tree. Doug's Quick Take: Baker isn't terrifically explosive, but he's a great technician with impressive strength and an obvious understanding of gap principles and line games. He's also the perfect type of lineman for today's hybrid fronts—strong enough to play tackle anywhere and versatile enough to be a base end in a 3-4 scheme, or even kick out to run-stopping end in a four-man front. He'll be a major asset to any team that signs him, and if the Redskins lose him, their defense will show the loss right away. Potential Suitors: Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders Calais Campbell 10 of 10 NFL1000 Scores Snap Explosion: 12.2/15 Pass Rush: 16.9/25 Run Defense: 21/30 Tackling: 15.2/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 71.9/100 2016 NFL1000 Defensive Tackle Rank: 2/53 NFL1000 DE scout Justis Mosqueda At this point, it would be hard to imagine someone who follows the sport of football not knowing who Calais Campbell is. Defensive linemen, particularly non-pass-rushers, don't often get thrown into the limelight, but Campbell's career is one that transcends the position. If nothing else, he's a player who was highlighted for his 6'8” height in every Arizona Cardinals prime-time and/or playoff game. Campbell is the prototypical 3-4 defensive end in a league that is losing more and more true 3-4 defensive looks, even on early downs, because they can't find enough talented bodies to run that scheme. If Campbell does hit the open market, he could be the most coveted line-of-scrimmage defender in the entire talent pool. Since Campbell was drafted by Arizona in the second round of the 2008 draft, he's recorded 501 combined tackles and 56.5 sacks at a position that doesn't often see statistics of that volume. He's tallied 50 or more tackles and five or more sacks in each of the last seven seasons, and he shows no sign of slowing down. Last year, at 30 years old, Campbell posted an eight-sack season, tied for the second-best mark of his nine NFL seasons. Campbell is the type of player who can turn an entire defense around. If he leaves Arizona after playing out his $55 million contract, look to see him land with a Super Bowl contender. A team like the New England Patriots—who always seem to land veterans who are chasing that one last ring, who always adapt to their talent on the defensive side of the ball and who somehow have more free cap space than any other playoff team heading into the offseason—would be an incredible fit. Doug's Quick Take: Campbell is going into his 10th season in 2017, but he shows no decline in his overall game. He might not be as quick as he was a half-decade ago, but he makes up for it with a virtually unblockable combination of massive strength and leverage and an inhuman wingspan. He's a quarterback-pressure machine, and the best run-stopper at his position. Throw away all the alerts about defensive linemen going into their 30s—Campbell is going to get paid, and if he stays healthy, he'll earn every penny. Potential Suitors: Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots Guards 21. Luke Joeckel 2 of 22 Joe Robbins/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Luke Joeckel did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel was arguably the worst guard in the NFL this year other than Alvin Bailey. It's certainly tough to convert positions, and players don't get enough credit for how seamless they make the transition look at times, but that wasn't the case for Joeckel at all. You have to imagine these were some of the first times Joeckel hasn't been stationed at tackle his entire life because he looked like a fish out of water inside. Joeckel made tons of basic mistakes: not dropping far enough back on pulls, getting tripped by other linemen in basic vertical sets, dropping his head and spearing as his first move post-snap, peeling off combo blocks too early, allowing easy ball-side interior penetration—really brutal stuff. That said, Joeckel will get a couple more chances as a reclamation project based on his draft position alone. While I understand that allure on the surface, I would advise interested teams to try him at tackle rather than guard. I know conventional wisdom says to try struggling tackles inside at guard, and that makes sense for some players (Greg Robinson, step right up), but that clearly isn't going to work with Joeckel. Some may say he didn't get enough reps at guard to fully adjust, but I saw more than enough over the course of the preseason and the first few weeks to convince me there is no future for Luke Joeckel at guard. Perhaps he needs to pull a Justin Britt and convert inside even farther to center. You can at least sell me on that one. But there is no way he should be getting reps at guard again. Of all the places he could go, I like the Panthers as a landing spot for Joeckel. Jacksonville needs to cut its losses, so I didn't even include the Jaguars as a suitor, but the Panthers could use a lottery ticket at right tackle. They have had some success with reclamation projects at tackle before in Michael Oher. They aren't finding many exciting tackle options in this draft class, and it would be nice if they had a chance to get help up front for Cam Newton. Doug's Quick Take It's possible Joeckel could have some manner of success inside in a straight-ahead power-blocking scheme, but that will take time. As Ethan said, his mechanical issues are legion, and he's proof that for the most part, the old "take the bad tackle and make him a great guard" school of thought doesn't work (step right up, Germain Ifedi). Potential Suitors: Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns 20. Patrick Omameh 3 of 22 Frederick Breedon/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 15.2/25 Run Block: 15.3/25 Power: 15.8/20 Agility: 13/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 66.3/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 74/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young It's clear the Jaguars need to revamp their guard group, as they arguably had the worst performances at the position in the league last year. Omameh was certainly part of that, showing that he is nothing more than a depth option going forward. Omameh had the fifth-lowest NFL1000 grade among guards that played more than five games, so hopefully he won't be asked to start again next season. Where Omameh really struggled was getting out of his stance in both the run and pass game. His hands were rarely ready to take part in hand fighting battles because they weren't up yet. Because of this, Omameh repeatedly allowed defenders to get into his body before he was ready, giving defenders leverage they otherwise wouldn't have had. Omameh also plays tall and struggles to play in his legs and generate a powerful anchor. He's smooth, but he is not explosive, and that is his main issue. If I was Jacksonville, I would look into purging the guard group as a whole. It clearly didn't work last year, from the top down to the depth options. That said, Omameh could work out as a depth option. When he does get his hands in position, Omameh has a powerful initial punch, and he also has length and flexibility to recover you rarely see off the bench at guard. He's 27, so you question how much development is still possible, but he could still be a serviceable option in the future. Dallas presents an interesting fit. The Cowboys don't have much to spend at guard, but if they lose Ronald Leary and want a cheap veteran to compete with La'el Collins, who is coming off an injury, Omameh could fit what they want. Omameh is useful in space, and giving him time to get out and gather himself like the Cowboys do with La'el would help cover up a lot of his deficiencies. Doug's Quick Take Omameh allowed no sacks and just 13 total pressures in 454 snaps last season, proving that he's decent enough in pass pro. While he remains a liability as a run-blocker, there's enough to build on for a vet minimum deal on a pass-heavy team. Potential Suitors: Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals 19. Earl Watford 4 of 22 Christian Petersen/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 13.8/25 Run Block: 15.2/25 Power: 16.2/20 Agility: 13/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 65.2/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 77/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Earl Watford is another depth-only option going forward, scoring as the second-lowest-graded guard in this year's NFL1000. Going further than just below-average grades—where Watford scored slightly lower—Watford edges out Omameh on this list for a couple of reasons. Sure, he's a year younger, but that's not all that important when you are looking at 26 vs. 27 years old at guard. The main difference between them is Watford has some experience at tackle.That emergency versatility is nice to have with depth players, and Arizona utilized it last year even though it wasn't pretty at times. I also prefer Watford from a traits perspective, as you can see the flashes on his tape. He's strong and long, and when the movement skills click into place, you can envision the possible development path. That said, the Cardinals tried for years to get those reps to appear more often and never were able to pull it off. I included the Rams as a possible third suitor for Watford as competitive depth for one of the worst interior offensive lines in the league. You may be wondering why I didn't include Los Angeles as potential suitors for some of the top guards available. This is because I think next year is finally the season Greg Robinson moves inside to guard full-time and the Rams go after a legit left tackle. If that happens, guard isn't a need. Rodger Saffold is already slotted in at the other guard spot. Even though Saffold has been average, he was far and away Los Angeles' best offensive lineman last year. That's not saying much, but there are more pressing matters to address up front. Depth is a need, but as bad as Cody Wichmann and Jamon Brown were last year, getting a cost-effective clear upgrade as a sixth offensive lineman may be tough. The Rams are likely to bring in another body on the inside and spend most of their allocated resources on tackle help. Doug's Quick Take Watford allowed six sacks as a guard last season, and when he was pressed into service at a tackle late in the 2016 campaign, he was even worse. A hulking presence, Watford doesn't have the agility at any position to succeed against pass-rushers, and his run-blocking doesn't make up for it. If you're signing him at this point, you either believe mightily in his upside or you are desperate for help. Potential Suitors: Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams 18. Oday Aboushi 5 of 22 Brett Carlsen/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Oday Aboushi did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Aboushi is about as bland a depth option on paper as you can get at the guard position, but that has value in today's offensive line landscape. With his age and relatively vanilla play, a team that misses out on the top guard options may overpay for Aboushi, but his tape isn't deserving of more than a depth contract. Essentially, if Aboushi gets more than $2 million per year as an average salary, that is too much. Given how bad the Texans guard situation was at times this year, keeping Aboushi around makes a lot of sense even though he didn't stand out on tape. With how Jeff Allen has played, it doesn't look he'll be on the roster this time next year, as his play has come nowhere near what he is being paid. Plus, relying on him to hold medically all year isn't ideal. On the other side, Xavier Su'a-Filo has been around a league-average guard, but his contract expires after this season. I can't imagine the Texans will be in rush to re-sign him either. I don't need to remind Texans fans Sua-Filo was selected before Derek Carr in 2014 and has become a martyr of sorts because of that. While that tidbit is irrelevant now, Su'a-Filo has come nowhere near his draft capital investment, and Houston may want to wash its hands of him after this year. So with Allen likely gone too, even if Aboushi is retained, another young guard may be needed in the future. Nick Martin could be that guy, but he was originally drafted as a center. Martin could pull off a conversion to guard, but that would be putting a lot of faith in Greg Mancz as the long-term center. The Texans don't need to worry about this for another year, but preparing now may be necessary if they want to avoid getting stuck with an interior of Aboushi-Mancz-Martin with the latter playing a new position. Doug's Quick Take Aboushi was decent in pass protection last season (seven pressures allowed in 358 snaps), but his below-average run-blocking is problematic. He's a decent veteran fill-in. Potential Suitors: Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars 17. John Jerry 6 of 22 Rob Leiter/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 15.8/25 Run Block: 15.3/25 Power: 16.3/20 Agility: 13.4/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 67.8/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 63/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young John Jerry is another low-end starting guard who has managed to hang on to a spot at the top of a depth chart over the years. But that may be coming to an end soon. At age 30, Jerry still is prone to overextension in pass protection, often lunging at opposing linemen rather than mirroring their movements. Jerry doesn't display quickness out of his stance either, which sets him behind against quicker one-gap interior rushers and makes it tough to get his spot on reach blocks too. On the flip side, Jerry has good functional strength and looks for work whenever he can, but they may not be enough to hold on a starting job anymore. If the Giants decide to go after someone like Chance Warmack, it's hard to see that Jerry returns to the Big Apple. But he may not have to leave the state of New York. The Bills could use some cheap veteran depth on the interior. There wouldn't be much of a chance to start in Buffalo given the presence of Richie Incognito and John Miller, though, so if that is important to Miller, he may be better off waiting until the first wave of injuries hits before signing anywhere. Detroit could be an interesting landing spot for Jerry as well. There would be much more opportunity for open competition there, as the Lions should be really young and inexperienced on the inside if they lose Larry Warford. It's an attractive situation for a vet like Jerry. If you can't beat out Laken Tomlinson at 30 years old, you probably aren't going to start anywhere anyway. I have the Lions going after Chris Chester to fill that void right now, but if Chester retires or goes elsewhere, Jerry could be the similar option. The fates of Evan Mathis, Jahri Evans and Chester could have a lot to do with Jerry's market even though he is several years younger than that trio. He's in the same tier as those guys from a competitive depth/bridge starter point of view. Doug's Quick Take Jerry has become a decent pass protector (two sacks, five hits and 19 hurries allowed in 1,123 snaps last season), but his lack of consistent run-blocking, especially for his size, is a concern. He's a depth option on a good line or a fill-in guy on a line in need of help wherever it comes. Potential Suitors: Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Detroit Lions 16. Chris Scott 7 of 22 Wesley Hitt/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Chris Scott did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young A career backup, Scott arguably looked the best he has over the course of his career in the five games he played significant snaps in 2016. Scott appeared in 10 games but only played more than a dozen snaps in Weeks 11-15. Of course, saying he's looked the best he has in his career isn't saying much, but Scott did show some growth from his brutal run as a starter in 10 games during the 2013 season and should get interest as a depth option during this free-agency period. Scott came into the league as a developmental project and bounced around after struggling to stay healthy, stay in shape and stick on a roster his first few years in the league. His conditioning struggles are well documented as well. After coming into OTAs as the projected starter at left guard for the Bills in 2013, he was cut after failing a conditioning test. He came into that camp weighing in at 360 pounds, and even after he was released and eventually signed by the Panthers, he had to be given multiple IVs during early-season practices in Carolina. That's the last we've heard since then. His play weight is somewhere around 340 pounds now, but I'm sure some teams, like the Jaguars with former Bills head coach Doug Marrone now in Jacksonville, won't be interested in bringing Scott around given his past struggles. While Scott's weight may suggest he's a player who would be an asset in the run game, his grade splits showcase he's much more adept in pass protection. In traditional looks, Scott struggles to attack defenders and dictate their movements, often letting them come to him. The Panthers also utilize a lot of power/counter concepts, meaning their right guard is asked to pull and block defenders in space a lot. This is not where Scott wins, as he struggles to generate leverage in the open field. At his best, Scott is a sturdy pass protector that can serve as a deep depth option. Doug's Quick Take A swing guard who can pass-protect (two sacks, three hits and five hurries allowed in 295 snaps last season), Scott has obvious conditioning issues that will hinder his progress until and unless he can get past them. Potential Suitors: Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins 15. Jermon Bushrod 8 of 22 Patrick Smith/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 14.8/25 Run Block: 14.9/25 Power: 15.9/20 Agility: 14.5/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 67.1/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 68/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Jermon Bushrod is going to have a lot better market than people think and much better than his play would dictate. Why? Mostly due to his unique blend of traits. His agility grade of 14.47 was third among free-agent guards, trailing only T.J. Lang and Andrew Gardner, and the latter was only graded in one game this season. Combine that with his 34.5-inch arms, and teams may get excited about his raw physical abilities as well as the idea that he can potentially slide out to right tackle as well if needed due to his short-area quickness and length. We've seen Bushrod at tackle before, and it was a mess from a technical standpoint, but given the lack of quality options on the market and his background there, needy teams could justify his acquisition. While some of Bushrod's technical deficiencies were hidden at guard, he wasn't suddenly a great player when moved inside for the Dolphins. Like when he was playing tackle, Bushrod struggled to keep his hips square in pass protection. Even though he has long arms, Bushrod's ability to create leverage is average at best. At 32 years old, it's hard to imagine his bad habits get fixed at this point. Even though he was one of the worst guards in the league last year, the Dolphins may still look into bringing Bushrod back. If they lose him, they would need two new guards, assuming Laremy Tunsil replaces Branden Albert and kicks to tackle. I've listed Miami as a potential suitor for many of the top guard free agents, but if they move on from Bushrod, they would need another one. In a relatively weak interior offensive line draft class, they may not find one there. Doug's Quick Take Bushrod is indeed the kind of player who will excite teams because of his raw athleticism. However, when those teams turn on the tape, they'll find a player who struggles to keep rushers from getting around him to either side, and he loses power battles too consistently. Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals 14. Tim Lelito 9 of 22 Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 15.4/25 Run Block: 16.4/25 Power: 16/20 Agility: 13.8/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 68.6/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 50/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Tim Lelito is another player that hasn't been able to consistently put it together, but he has some clearly defined traits that come through on tape. Lelito is listed at 6'4" but plays as squatty on tape as you'll find along an NFL offensive line, almost looking like an H-back at times on film (a role he played in jumbo sub-packages for New Orleans this year). That said, because he gets his pads so low, he displays tremendous power, winning with play strength and power at the point of attack. Pair that with his aggressive and fiery demeanor, and you get a quality asset in the run game. The issues come in pass protection, where that aggressiveness comes back to bite him as he tries to engage with defenders too quickly, overextending and allowing defenders to easily counter his initial punch. In terms of roster construction, it wouldn't surprise me if the Saints let Lelito walk and spent their limited amount of available money on a bigger upgrade, like Ronald Leary, to fill their right guard void. New Orleans has been linked to Leary in the past, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and a depth chart with Leary and Andrus Peat as the starters at guard and Senio Kelemete as a swing backup makes a lot of sense. That said, with Terron Armstead's injury history, it may make sense to want to run four quality deep on the interior in case Peat is forced to fill in for Armstead again at some point. On the other hand, four-deep depth role could easily be filled through the draft. I don't see Lelito as more than a depth option right now, but his past work in sub-packages may generate unique interest in teams that look to implement those types of packages into their offense. Doug's Quick Take A sometime starter in 2016, Lelito was above-average in pass protection late in the season, and he filled in at center, guard and right tackle. He's a quality depth guy who will have to work his way into any full-time starting lineup. Potential Suitors: Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints 13. Jonathan Cooper 10 of 22 Frederick Breedon/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Jonathan Cooper did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Jonathan Cooper's ascension (by default due to injury) and fall in Cleveland is one of the strangest situations of the 2016 season. He came in and put up two weeks of tape for a Browns front that really needed some stability. After a below-average game the following week, Cleveland cut Cooper outright. This move not only ended an intriguing comeback attempt, but it also raised a lot of questions about the sort of teammate and player Cooper was in the locker room. There had to be something going on, because for the Browns to move on from anyone while three interior offensive lineman were on IR is telling. At the peak of the Jonathan Cooper roller-coaster ride that was December 4 to right around Christmas time, Cooper's quickness and aggressiveness in his jump sets stood out to me. He also showed off great punch and power at the point of attack. He looked as healthy as he had ever looked in his NFL career too. Even during the good stretch Cooper's footwork could still use some work, as he continued to waste steps in pass protection, but there was a lot to be excited about overall. Obviously, Cooper has something to figure out between the ears before sticking anywhere. But on tape, the Tar Heel alum flashed traits that give me hope he could become a solid player if he does get the other issues sorted out. Until then, Cooper will remain an enigma, brought in by hopeful teams that look to unearth the potential the Arizona Cardinals saw when they drafted him seventh overall. Even though highly drafted players like Cooper typically get more chances than others, you only get so many opportunities in the NFL. This could be Cooper's last shot, and a team like Atlanta or Indianapolis that could use competition inside will likely be the one to take the plunge. Doug's Quick Take Cooper is one of my biggest evaluation misses. I still don't quite know what happened to the player I ranked seventh overall in his draft class, but he hasn't been able to show the otherworldly combination of power and agility in the NFL that he did in college. NFL teams will be interested because of that potential, but he's definitely a "buyer beware" player at this point in his career. Potential Suitors: Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys 12. Andrew Gardner 11 of 22 Michael Zagaris/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Andrew Gardner did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Andrew Gardner is an interesting case. Like Chance Warmack, who only played two games this year, Gardner's grade average isn't reflective of his value, as he was graded in one game for NFL1000 in 2016. A 2-star recruit out of high school, Gardner had a very successful career at Georgia Tech anchoring a triple option attack featuring Tashard Choice. But injuries caused him to miss almost the entire predraft process and slip to the sixth round of the 2009 NFL draft. Gardner has bounced around since then, spending most of his time with the Texans before latching on as a depth option with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. After two years with the Eagles, Gardner followed Kelly to the Bay Area last offseason. With Kelly now out of San Francisco, Gardner may be forced to venture somewhere new next season. As a player, Gardner is very athletic for his size and is great at finding and moving defenders in space. He plays a little tall and lacks leverage at times, but he's the type of blocker that can get off of his spot and find his assignment on the second level. ZBS-heavy teams, especially ones that could use some tackle depth as well, should be interested in Gardner as an OL7. Doug's Quick Take Gardner found his most playing time in 2014, when he allowed five sacks in 683 snaps for the Eagles. He's a decent depth addition for any team that uses a quick zone scheme, but he hasn't moved his way up to starter quality. He might be better suited for the right tackle position, as he's historically been better in pass protection there. Potential Suitors: Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts 11. Jahri Evans 12 of 22 George Gojkovich/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 16/25 Run Block: 16.1/25 Power: 16.6/20 Agility: 12.6/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 68/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 56/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young While Saints backup guard Tim Lelito (who comes in 14th on this list) had a better average NFL1000 grade than Evans this year, in a vacuum Evans is the more desirable player next season for a couple of reasons. The first is the relatively small sample of Lelito, who was graded in only five games to Evans' full slate of 16. Even when accounting for their six-year age difference, Evans is more likely to see starter work in 2017 because of his advantage in pass-protection ability. He's way more technically proficient in that regard. Evans may not move well anymore, as showcased by his agility grade, which is the biggest reason he rates as low as he does. But he's still capable of playing with good leverage and putting up sturdy play in the run and pass game. Another factor to consider with Evans is the intangibles side. After getting cut from Seattle early last preseason, he looked to be done. But he returned to a struggling OL in Nola right before Week 1, immediately earning a starting spot. The Saints' level of OL play was not good early on in the preseason, and he seemed to help bring it together for New Orleans over the course of the year. That chemistry makes sense given how he was a key member of the Saints OL for years, but the difference with him in the fold was noticeable. With all this talk about what Evans did for the Saints and what he offers them in the huddle and between the ears, I don't think Evans will forgo retirement to play for a new team. I would guess it's Nola or bust for the vet. It will be interesting to watch the market unfold for him and see if the Saints go after someone like Ronald Leary as previously discussed or roll with Evans once again. If there is one other team that could be a long-shot possibility, it's Miami. The warm weather and playoff potential could convince Evans not to call it quits, and if the Phins miss out on some of the top free-agent options, a sturdy guard like Evans would be a huge need. Doug's Quick Take The six-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro was once the best guard in football when it came to establishing power at the line of scrimmage and taking that power though linebackers and into the secondary. At his peak, Evans had an unmatched combination of strength and agility. Now, he's a decent stationary guard at the point of attack and a pretty good pass protector. Evans probably has a couple more good seasons left in a power-based scheme. Potential Suitors: Retirement, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins 10. Vladimir Ducasse 13 of 22 Joe Sargent/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 16.3/25 Run Block: 16.3/25 Power: 16.4/20 Agility: 13/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 69/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 47/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Vladimir Ducasse had a really weird 2016, going from being on the street to getting a chance with Baltimore after a rash of injuries for the Ravens to holding on to their right guard job for the rest of the season even after everyone else got healthy. The thing that was so odd about keeping Ducasse in the lineup is it forced Marshal Yanda to play on the left side. Yanda is a special player and can handle switching sides, but considering the interior depth Baltimore already had (Alex Lewis, John Urschel and Ryan Jensen) and the fact that Yanda has been an anchor on the right side for years now, it was strange to see it unfold the way it did. Clearly, Ducasse brought something to the table the Ravens liked last year. Even though they already have a ton of depth on their front, it wouldn't surprise me if they looked to bring him back. Based on what happened last year, the Ravens can't be happy with how Urschel and to a lesser extent Lewis (a rookie who battled injuries for a big portion of the year, all while having to convert positions) have played, and they clearly view Ryan Jensen as an emergency depth option. I like Jensen for what he is, so I was surprised he didn't get more of a chance last year. Ducasse's biggest flaw was in pass protection this preseason, but he won a lot more matchups in that respect after he was re-signed in October. It's still the biggest deficiency of his game, but his rapid improvement there from a technical standpoint was intriguing. Ducasse plays with nice leverage, and if he can continue to keep his hips square and improve his hand placement, he will find a home somewhere. Doug's Quick Take It's not surprising that Ducasse has always struggled against speed-rushers and against agility to either side—he's a big, hulking guy more known for his in-line power. However, his power is inconsistent due to iffy mechanics, and he'll stay on the second or third tier unless he becomes more physically efficient. Potential Suitors: Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants 9. Chris Chester 14 of 22 Tim Warner/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 15.6/25 Run Block: 16.9/25 Power: 16.5/20 Agility: 13.9/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 70/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 37/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young At 34 years old, retirement certainly has to be on Chris Chester's mind this offseason. But if he does put a helmet back on for one more go, it may be for a new team in 2017. Atlanta could look to upgrade its right guard position, the biggest hole on a great offensive line, with a younger and better option. It's the only way the Falcons can clearly improve their offense, and given the recent trend of building dominant offensive lines by Dallas and Oakland, it wouldn't surprise me if the Falcons followed suit and made a splash up front. The window is now for Atlanta, and after losing the Super Bowl in brutal fashion, bringing in a more dynamic option would make sense. It's not that Chester was horrible last season. He was about as close to league average as you can get at guard. But he faded down the stretch after a good first six weeks, and with another year of age-related regression, he could become a liability. Chester came into the league somewhat on the lighter side, but he has his play weight to about 315 now, and he plays even heavier than that from a functional strength point of view. Chester is one of the strongest guards in the league, and when he gets leverage he can dictate defenders and clear out gaps with the best of them. He's the nasty road-grader of the Falcons front, and that physical presence is important to what the Falcons do and will be important to replicate in a potential replacement. Consistently getting that leverage in pass protection is his biggest issue, though. Chester's short-area quickness has declined in recent years, and in an attempt to compensate for his delayed reactions, his footwork goes out the window at times. When he gets out of sync there are some bad reps, which hurts his perception in fans' eyes. It may not be fair, but offensive linemen that play with peaks and valleys are often perceived as being worse than they are. The Position Adjusted Variance (PAVAR) of Chester's NFL1000 grades reflects this inconsistency, coming in at 50.69, highest among all free-agent guards. Doug's Quick Take Chester was unquestionably the weak link in Atlanta's outstanding offensive line last season, and with Kyle Shanahan's move to San Francisco, he won't have the benefits of Shanahan's zone scheme to bolster his efforts. Steve Sarkisian has vowed to maintain Shanahan's offense, but the Falcons' new offensive coordinator doesn't have Shanahan's track record of success. It's almost certain the Falcons will move on from Chester, and unless some other team assumes he'll play the way the rest of Atlanta's line did last season, he could struggle to make a roster. Potential Suitors: Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons 8. Evan Mathis 15 of 22 Norm Hall/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Evan Mathis did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Mathis is nearing the end of his rope in the league. Retirement is something to consider, as he's 35 and coming off season-ending ankle injury last season. Although he has tweeted about retiring, it's not official yet. Mathis battled various injuries through the four games he played last year before ending up on IR. Mathis came into the league as an elite athlete, but as he has developed he's become more technically sound with his initial punch and hand placement. The elite feet have started to fade, but the power at the point of attack hasn't, and you can live with that kit inside. But between his health and age, it's hard to view Mathis as a reliable option going forward. Unfortunately for Mathis, the Cardinals need a reliable option at right guard. I have them going after the Bengals' Kevin Zeitler, but given their precarious cap situation, that may mean losing someone like Calais Campbell to make it happen. Arizona largely has the depth to handle that, and it would give last year's first-rounder Robert Nkemdiche a clearer role going into 2017. But you never want to lose players of Campbell's caliber. General manager Steve Keim could attempt to fit Chandler Jones, Campbell and someone like Zeitler into their $34 million of cap space, but that would require serious cap balancing and removing a lot of the Cardinals' expiring depth and mid-tier starters. Guys like Tony Jefferson, Kevin Minter, Marcus Cooper and Frostee Rucker who played a lot of snaps last year would be lost in that sort of situation. These cap scenarios are tough, but protecting Carson Palmer as best they can has to be a huge priority next year. It's hard to predict a landing spot for Mathis, but John Lynch is a noted fan from his broadcast days and could bring him in to be part of the 49ers' guard mix for competition inside. Doug's Quick Take Mathis has lost some of the physical characteristics that once made him one of the league's best guards, but he still has something to offer on the field, and he'd be a willing and able mentor to younger linemen on any team. He could still be a starter on quick zone teams with a clear hole at the right guard position and a need for veteran leadership. Potential Suitors: Retirement, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals 7. Chance Warmack 16 of 22 Frederick Breedon/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Incomplete: Chance Warmack did not play enough in 2016 to receive full grading. NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young This is where the average grades start to divert from the rankings as guys like Warmack who only played a few games in 2016 are docked due to a small sample. That said, Warmack will be a very interesting player to watch. I have no idea what his market will be, but I am sure there will be a broad level of interest given his age, past draft slot and the traits he flashes for gap scheme teams. I haven't included the Titans much in my Potential Suitors lists for other guards. With the nature of their "Exotic Smashmouth" scheme they look for different type of players than other teams do, and this market is somewhat limited in prominent gap scheme blockers. Larry Warford is the only other player on the market that would be a good fit for them going forward. Warmack is a strong run blocker who wins by clearing the A and B gaps with raw power. Get him off his spot, though, and the technique starts to break down, and you see him overextend and get off balance. Warmack has a lot of similarities to Chris Chester from a deficiency standpoint, which is why I included the Falcons as a team to watch for Warmack. Even if the 34-year-old Chester doesn't retire, he's a free agent on a team that has moved to get younger in recent years. You may think Warmack in a Shanahan stretch zone-blocking scheme is a horrible fit, and from a mental processing standpoint, you're probably right. Warmack may struggle to read and react to defenders' movements post-snap. But with Kyle Shanahan on his way out, if the Falcons offense starts to go away from those read-based looks and doesn't want to invest heavily in someone expensive like Lang, Warmack would help fill the road-grader void left by Chester in the interior. Doug's Quick Take Warmack's hand injury doesn't help his marketability in free agency, as he hasn't had a great season since 2014 and his mechanical flaws seem to have expanded in the last two seasons. Without a lot of good recent tape behind him, Warmack will have to convince teams in workouts that he can retain his center of gravity, and thus his overall power, with proper stance and footwork. Potential Suitors: Tennessee Titans, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons 6. Eric Kush 17 of 22 Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 16/25 Run Block: 16.6/25 Power: 16.6/20 Agility: 14/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 70.2/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 36/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young While Eric Kush isn't a household name, he could be a nice value signing. A career journeyman at center, Kush bounced all around the league before sliding to guard last year for an injured Josh Sitton. The good news? His play at guard last season was starter-caliber in the five games he played. At only 27 years of age, he is young enough to settle in for more than a few seasons. The question is, will teams value the solid yet limited tape, or will they look at his minimal resume and turn away? The Bears have no need for Kush other than depth, and even though he's a free agent too, Ted Larsen would be a cheaper option as an OL6. It seems likely Kush will have to find a new home next year as a budget veteran guard option. The Vikings (if they move on from Brandon Fusco), Buccaneers and Chargers all come to mind as teams that need help along the interior offensive line but also potentially lack the assets to bring in some of the top options on the market. Given the lack of quality centers on the market, Kush's previous experience at the position will only help his value to those teams. As a player, Kush displays good play strength and flexibility for his size. He does a solid job of keeping everything in front of him in pass protection, yet he doesn't play too passively, still coming off his sets very aggressively. In the run game, Kush displays nice seal but at times can have problems reaching his assignment on the second level. He has experience in almost every style of blocking scheme as well, so that shouldn't be a worry going forward. Overall, given his versatility and steady improvement, Kush is the type of player who can end up being a solid contributor out of free agency for below starter-level cost. Doug's Quick Take The Bears' guard rotation was decimated by injuries last season, and Kuch did help out, allowing no sacks and just six total hurries in 279 snaps. He's a coachable player who might just break a starting roster on a weaker line. Potential Suitors: Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers 5. Larry Warford 18 of 22 Leon Halip/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 16.2/25 Run Block: 16.6/25 Power: 17/20 Agility: 13.8/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 71/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 27/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young In a top-heavy free-agency class at guard, you may think Larry Warford could be a decent value for your team because of the talent of the group, but Warford is the most likely to get overpaid of the top options. Warford will have a hot market because of his youth. It wouldn't surprise me if he is the first mover in this position group for that reason. If not, whoever misses out on the top guards on this list (Jacksonville, Miami and Los Angeles) will get desperate because of the talent cliff at guard after Warford. The Lions have brought in a lot of young offensive linemen the past few drafts, perhaps preparing for the departure of Warford and right tackle Riley Reiff. Most Lions fans would retort that those picks haven't established much confidence in limited reps. Some context is needed, though. Laken Tomlinson was maddeningly inconsistent again last year, but there are other answers available. Yes, Graham Glasgow was one of the worst interior linemen in the NFL down the stretch last year, but initially he looked OK at left guard. His struggles mostly came when he had to change positions, exposing some of his deficiencies. Detroit also has Joe Dahl and ex-South Carolina Gamecock Corey Robinson, one of my personal favorite offensive line draft prospects from the last few years, lying around. Both are names to monitor for a starting job in 2017. As a player, Warford's aggressive nature and raw strength are fun to watch. He's nasty, and as he got healthier this year, we saw him start to let it go again. His movement ability returned to acceptable levels as his health returned as well. Last year when he was banged up, Warford was a lot slower out of phase and struggled to mirror quicker one-gap penetrators in pass protection. As long as the medical is all clear, Warford will have a hot market this offseason. Doug's Quick Take A third-rounder out of Kentucky in 2013, Warford is one of the better finds from the Lions front office in recent years. When healthy, he presents a compelling blend of estimable power and agility. He might not be best suited for a heavy passing attack like Detroit's at this point in his career, but he'd add a lot to any power-based line. Potential Suitors: Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans 4. Ronald Leary 19 of 22 Justin K. Aller/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 16.4/25 Run Block: 17.1/25 Power: 16.7/20 Agility: 14.1/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 71.2/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 23/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Injuries are one of the most unfortunate occurrences in professional sports, and it can feel a little taboo to talk about advantages gained by the "next man up" approach of the NFL. There is no question Ronald Leary earned tens of millions of dollars from La'el Collins' injury, though. Well, maybe there is a slight question about whether the injury was solely responsible. With Collins' early struggles this year and Leary's pedigree, one wonders how long those struggles would have been tolerated on a team with big ambitions. That "slight question" theme will resonate into the offseason with Leary. One might think a Cowboys team with no cap space has to let Leary walk. But the Cowboys just built a 13-win season on dominant OL play. Do they want to mess that up as Collins comes off a serious injury? These are the sorts of "slight questions" that surface when you imagine Leary in another uniform next year. Leary is not the best lineman Dallas has, but losing him may be the Jenga block that makes the tower tip for this dominant offense. The Cowboys would have to do absurd cap juggling to keep Leary around, but it may be worth it to make sure nothing about this offense changes in 2017. I would get behind the effort from a scouting perspective too. Leary is a tone-setter up front and packs a powerful initial punch. He's a player who wins with power and functional strength, but Leary is heady and knows how to mask his deficiencies as well. Rarely do you see Leary overextend and open up his hips in a desperate attempt to recover because he knows that is not where he wins. Rather, he focuses on keeping everything in front of him and making defenders beat him with an anchor in the ground. Leary seems like a cut-and-dry open market player, and the only "slight question" I don't have is about his ability as a consistent and stabilizing force along whatever offensive line he ends up on. Doug's Quick Take Leary is a powerful player with limited agility. I don't ever see him as a Pro Bowl-level guard, but he's done well for the most part as the Cowboys have built their incredible offensive line around him. He didn't allow a sack in 2016, but his 21 hurries cause a bit of concern, and teams interested in Leary will have to analyze how effective he'll be without Tyron Smith to his left and Travis Frederick to his right. Buyer beware there. Potential Suitors: Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys 3. Kevin Zeitler 20 of 22 Justin K. Aller/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 16.9/25 Run Block: 16.4/25 Power: 17.1/20 Agility: 14.4/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 72/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 21/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young Kevin Zeitler has been a sturdy starter at right guard for a few years now in Cincinnati, and that continued this past season. Zeitler is young enough that he may have two big paydays in his future. But like T.J. Lang's Green Bay Packers, the Bengals have invested a lot of draft capital into young offensive linemen in the past couple of seasons, and these younger players are much better fits to replace Zeitler than what Green Bay has in place behind Lang. I see three reasonable right guard replacements for Zeitler already in play on the Bengals roster: Cedric Ogbuehi: A former first-rounder, Ogbuehi could kick inside after struggling in his first full year at tackle. This would allow highly drafted Jake Fisher to slide into the starting lineup at right tackle full-time. The move inside makes sense from a traits perspective as well, as Ogbuehi has the frame to play guard and has showcased the strength at the point of attack needed to play on the interior. Andrew Whitworth: Another player with an expiring deal, Andrew Whitworth transitioned inside down the stretch in 2016 after he acknowledged in May that he was open to a position switch. It's possible that occurs full-time in 2017. Of course, that puts a ton of faith in unproven tackle play in Fisher and Ogbuehi. Given Whitworth's track record and the lack of talent on the tackle market, you have to imagine somebody will pay him tackle money. I don't imagine the Bengals will pony up to beat that amount only to slide Whitworth inside and have tackle be major question mark going forward. Christian Westerman: This scenario may not be talked about as much, but I absolutely loved the blend of play strength and fluidity Westerman displayed on film at Arizona State. He can step in next year and be a quality starter on the inside. Given the Bengals' cap situation and the fact that the Bengals rarely use cap to bring in notable outside free agents, Cincinnati could go away from its previous draft strategy and bring Zeitler back because he was its best lineman and a stabilizing force at times last year. That would be a mistake. From a roster-building prospective, retaining Whitworth, letting Fisher stick at right tackle and allowing Ogbuehi and Westerman to battle inside makes sense. As a player, Zeitler wins with power and leverage. His upper-body strength is evident on reach blocking reps, as Zeitler is able to control defenders away from his body, which helps hide his slight movement deficiencies. The Bengals are a truly balanced flex blocking team, utilizing both zone and gap scheme concepts. Even though Zeitler held up in zone looks, teams that utilize a true ZBS may not be the best fit for Zeitler going forward. That said, Zeitler is a young and sturdy starter who should garner interest from multiple teams. Doug's Quick Take Perhaps more than any guard on this list, Zeitler is a throwback to the NFL's days of yore, when guards won every battle with pure power. He's got a nasty streak a mile wide, and while he's not the most agile player at his position, he gets the job done in pass protection. Any power-based offense that can afford him should jump at the opportunity. Potential Suitors: Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars 2. Andrew Norwell 21 of 22 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images *Restricted Free Agent* NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 17/25 Run Block: 17.5/25 Power: 17.1/20 Agility: 14.8/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 73.4/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 9/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young The clear standout among restricted free agent guards, Andrew Norwell is the only guard I could conceivably see being given an offer sheet this year. Norwell may be the best overall RFA available this year, although I'm sure Malcolm Butler would have something to say about that as well. While losing a young dominant guard via restricted free agency brings up memories of Steve Hutchinson, the new CBA has removed the possibility of the so-called "poison pill" that made the Hutchinson acquisition so easy. Teams interested in RFAs cannot include odd clauses on their offer sheets meant to hamstring the original team anymore. In the Hutchinson situation, the Seahawks added a clause to Nate Burleson's offer sheet that fully guaranteed his seven-year contract if he played more than four games in the state of Minnesota in a year in response to the Vikings' poaching of Hutchinson in a similar fashion. On tape, Norwell showcases leverage and upper body strength at the point of attack reminiscent of Hutchinson. While Hutchinson lacked the length Norwell has, the explosiveness Hutch displayed out of his stance was rare, and comparing anyone to him fully is unreasonable. That said, the point here isn't to detract from Norwell, who is developing into one of the premier guards in the league. Norwell's consistent technique in pass protection is one of his best traits, only one-upped by his ability to drive through and clear play-side gaps in the run game. Even though agility and movement aren't where he wins, Norwell showcases good awareness in space and is so strong that he is able to clear a path on the second level with the best of them. While Norwell is a desirable young talent, with the quality of this free-agent guard class I don't think guard-needy teams are going to want to hand out both the massive offer sheet and the high draft pick tender needed to acquire him. Because the Panthers are going to match anything short of earth-shattering money, Norwell should remain in Carolina no matter what happens. Doug's Quick Take With Norwell and Trai Turner on their roster, the Panthers may well boast the finest guard duo in the NFL. Certainly, Norwell and Turner are the best power-based duo in the business and a perfect fit in this offensive scheme. Norwell probably isn't going anywhere this season, but with him and Turner both set to test the full free-agent waters in 2018 (and with Turner's recent signing with Rosenhaus Sports), Carolina has some tough decisions to make. Potential Suitors: Carolina Panthers 1. T.J. Lang 22 of 22 Joe Robbins/Getty Images NFL1000 Scores Pass Pro: 17.8/25 Run Block: 17/25 Power: 16.7/20 Agility: 15.3/20 Positional Value: 7/10 Overall: 74/100 NFL1000 2016 Guard Rank: 8/78 NFL1000 OG Scout Ethan Young T.J. Lang is one of the best guards in the league in a market that craves offensive linemen. He leads a strong but top-heavy guard free-agency group. At 29 years old, Lang is not the youngest guard in this free-agency class, but offensive linemen can keep up elite levels of play longer into their 30s than other positions, so he is hitting the market just in time to cash in for a huge contract. The Packers' offensive scheme features primarily zone-blocking concepts, but given Lang's traits and experience, it's reasonable to expect he could hang in a gap scheme as well. In fact, when the Packers throw out gap power concepts, Lang thrives. Green Bay has been quite deep along the offensive line in recent years, but since the Packers moved on from Josh Sitton sooner than anticipated, Jason Spriggs' frame and overall traits don't project well on the interior, and JC Tretter is also a free agent, the Packers may want to keep Lang around long-term. Seeing the Falcons on Lang's suitor list may surprise people, but it would not surprise me if the Falcons tried to follow the mold of what Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders did last offseason and build a super offensive line. The window to win is now with Matt Ryan, and given how the Alex Mack signing has turned out so far, the Falcons may want to go back to the well and set their offensive personnel over the top. On the field, Lang is a technician who knows exactly where to place an initial punch. He has a strong upper body as well, so these well-placed punches have something behind them. Lang has one of the best anchors in the league and rarely gets overpowered in pass protection. His Pass Protection and Power grades illustrate this sturdy play, coming in first and fourth among free-agent guards respectively. If there is an area where Lang struggles, it's in recovery. In the rare occurrence Lang misses his initial punch, he doesn't have the feet needed to get back in position. That said, Lang is one of the premium talents in this free-agent class, and given his experience, position and scheme versatility, the Green Bay right guard should have plenty of suitors. Doug's Quick Take People thought Packers general manager Ted Thompson was nuts to deem Josh Sitton expendable, but Thompson was playing the odds, knowing that Lang was ready to be the face and voice of Green Bay's offensive line. That he was, and the remarkable nature of his 2016 season doesn't get enough ink. In an offensive system that forces the quarterback to run around and wait for openings, Lang allowed no sacks, no hits and just 11 hurries in 964 snaps. T.J. Lang is going to get paid in 2017, and he's going to earn every penny. Offseason foot and hip scopes are the only concern here. Potential Suitors: Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta
  5. http://thelab.bleacherreport.com/so-much-darkness-so-much-light/?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=programming-national This article man... Ppl can doubt the man because they feel he is not where they want him to be but i have no idea in my mind Vic will get it ..
  6. They love our boy! http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2660578-simms-power-rankings-where-do-atlanta-falcons-rank-entering-the-year
  7. So, I just stumbled across this even though it was from March 14th (and couldn't find it posted anywhere on TAFT). They did a fairly in depth ranking of the top 40 free safeties in the NFL with a point scale taking Coverage (58/70), Run Defense (4/10), Tackling (5/10), and finally Value (15/15) and Allen came in at the #17 best FS in the NFL for last year. There is more of a write up in the article. Areas of improvement were clearly run defense and tackling but with his smaller size, this will likely always be his weakest aspects. If we can add in a solid SS in whats left of FA / Draft it'll only help Allen out. Personally I think this is a pretty fair list (Thomas, Jenkins, Woodson topped list) with decent evaluations. Thoughts on the fact we will be running with Allen for the foreseeable future? I'm personally really happy with him! http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2624043-br-nfl-1000-ranking-the-top-40-free-safeties-from-2015/page/30
  8. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2546403-nfl-preseason-report-cards-for-every-team/page/3 Win-Loss Record: 2-2 Analysis You cannot help but notice the different demeanor of these Atlanta Falcons under new head coach Dan Quinn. The team has been more aggressive and a lot more physical than we have seen in quite a while. That's what happens when you add a coach who spent two seasons in Seattle and saw his defense allow the fewest total yards and points in the league. Rookie outside linebacker Vic Beasley certainly bears watching. So does the running back combo of rookie Tevin Coleman and second-year pro Devonta Freeman. The duo combined for just 12 carries in the preseason (all by Coleman), but both figure to see plenty of action in the Monday night opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was also a good summer for a pair of new wide receivers to the team. Free agent Leonard Hankerson and rookie Justin Hardy give veteran quarterback Matt Ryan two more toys to play with this season.
  9. was bored and stumbled upon this little gem i feel like we should all worship at the alter of ryan..its amazing to see how much hes grown right in front of our eyes..sunday was truly a special day but looking forward to many many more days like that RISE UP!!! http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2191591-matt-ryans-6-best-performances-of-his-nfl-career
  10. http://bleacherrepor...-rushing-attack Devonta Freeman's 2014 Preseason Stats Rushing Stats Receiving Stats Attempts 32 Receptions 11 Yards 143 Yards 146 YPC 4.46 YPC 13.2 TDs 1 TDs 0 Stats courtesy of NFL.com Small exert of stats from the article. Pretty decent write up. I love the kid and figured y'all might enjoy the read. It is Bleacher Report. Freeman Rawr!
  11. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2143276-ranking-atlanta-falcons-10-most-critical-players/page/11 By Spencer Harrison 1. Matt Ryan 2. Julio Jones 3. Paul Worrilow 4. Jake Matthews 5. Roddy White 6. Jonathan Babineaux 7. Desmond Trufant 8. Steven Jackson 9. Harry Douglas 10. Devin Hester I agree with the first three.
  12. Atlanta Falcons: Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State (Round 3) One of the draft’s more surprising examples of “Player X selected before Player Y” came with the No. 68 overall pick, when the Atlanta Falcons drafted Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward before the most complete safety available on the board, Florida State’s Terrence Brooks. It would seem the Falcons fell in love with Southward’s physical potential after he posted some exceptional numbers at Wisconsin’s pro day,including a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and 42-inch vertical jump. That said, Southward was inconsistent in coverage at Wisconsin and wasn’t an impact playmaker. Brooks, on the other hand, demonstrated impressive ball skills while he is also a fluid deep coverage safety and an aggressive playmaker versus the run. And while his measurables aren’t quite as eye-popping as those of the 6’0”, 211-pound Southward, they’re not far off. Brooks is slightly smaller at 5’11” and 198 pounds, but he posted a 4.42-second 40 and 38-inch vertical jump at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. In need of an immediate replacement at free safety for the departed Thomas DeCoud, the Falcons will be reliant upon Southward’s ability to develop quickly and correct his biggest flaws. He has the potential to do so, but Brooks is a player much better equipped to take on an important role in the lineup in year one. Dallas Cowboys: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (Round 2) No strangers to making aggressive trades up the draft board, the Dallas Cowboys did so again in the second round of this year’s draft when they gave up both of their Day 2 draft picks to move up to the No. 34 overall pick and select Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence has the explosive burst and pass-rushing skill to be a dynamic playmaker off the edge of Dallas’ defensive line, but at this point he’s an incomplete player whose game must develop for him to be more than a situational pass-rusher. If the Cowboys were going to trade up for a defensive lineman, the player more worth moving up for would have been Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman. While Hageman, like Lawrence, is also an incomplete, boom-or-bust player, his upside is among the highest in this year’s draft. He also would have addressed a greater need: the interior of Dallas’ defensive line. The Cowboys did not select a single defensive tackle in the first six rounds of this year’s draft, which leaves them with one of the NFL’s worst starting nose tackles in Nick Hayden, and a dearth of depth behind him. Lawrence, meanwhile, enters a defensive end rotation that already had decent talent in Anthony Spencer, George Selvie, Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey. That’s not to say the Cowboys didn’t need and won’t benefit from a pass-rushing upgrade, but if Lawrence does not blossom into a starter and impact player, they might regret not taking a chance on Hageman, who has the size and power to play nose tackle but also boasts a tremendous burst and pass-rushing ability from the inside. Hageman was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the No. 37 overall pick. Detroit Lions: Terrence Brooks (Round 3) I tried not to use any of the same players twice in this slideshow, but the Detroit Lions didn’t make it easy to choose a non-selection they might regret. By consistently making value selections at positions of need throughout the draft, the Lions didn’t make any picks that look regrettable at first glance. The one major concern that seemed to linger for some Lions fans after this year’s draft, however, was that the team might not have done enough to improve its subpar secondary. Detroit’s pick of Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson in the compensatory portion of the fourth round was the team’s only selection of a defensive back. Although safety was arguably the team’s most pressing need going into the draft, the Lions did not draft any players at the position. They could have done so, and still satisfied the team’s emphasis on value, by selecting the aforementioned Terrence Brooks with their third-round draft choice. The Lions probably won’t regret using the No. 76 overall pick on Arkansas center Travis Swanson, who was the best player available at his position outside the top 75 and should be an heir apparent to 35-year-old starter Dominic Raiola. However, Swanson’s likely to be a backup for 2014. Meanwhile, at strong safety the Lions could have a coverage liability in starter James Ihedigbo, and their depth behind him and starting free safety Glover Quin is very shaky. In Brooks, who was selected just three picks later at No. 79 overall, the Lions could have landed an athletic, playmaking safety who could be used interchangeably with Quin at the two safety spots. Indianapolis Colts: Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut (Round 7) The Indianapolis Colts’ draft was met with scathing reviews, including a league-worst D-plus grade from ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required), but the only clear mistake they made with their draft picks this year was trading their first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns last September for running back Trent Richardson. The Colts didn’t necessarily come away from the draft with an outstanding haul, but with their first pick not coming until the No. 59 overall pick, they were stuck missing out on most of the draft’s premier talent. That amplifies the importance of the team making good on its late-round draft picks, however, and the Colts might not have found the best possible talent on Day 3. Indianapolis drafted Western Kentucky inside linebacker Andrew Jackson with the No. 203 overall pick in Round 6, but it might have been better off waiting until Round 7 and drafting Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood, who could easily become of the best late-round picks from this year’s draft. A hamstring injury limited Smallwood in predraft workouts and might have led his stock to plummeting in this year’s draft, but he is an instinctive player and sound tackler in space who was highly productive in his three seasons for the Huskies. Even with the offseason signing of veteran free agent D’Qwell Jackson, the Colts needed to continue to bulk up at inside linebacker. They did so by drafting Andrew Jackson, but he is a less polished player than Smallwood, who went 50 picks later to the Atlanta Falcons. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (Round 1) t’s easy to see why the St. Louis Rams fell in love with Auburn offensive lineman Greg Robinson and selected him with the No. 2 overall pick. A 6’5”, 332-pound tackle with incredbile athleticism for his size, Robinson has the ability to dominate opponents with power and explode to the second level to pick up blocks. Falling in love with his promise, however, might prove to be an error. While Robinson has shown the potential to be an outstanding run blocker, he isn’t nearly as polished or skilled in pass protection as Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, who was drafted 6th overall by the Atlanta Falcons. Considered to be the “safe” pick leading up to the draft, Matthews became overshadowed by Robinson’s freakish physical traits. But while Robinson might have the highest ceiling of any prospect from this year’s draft, Matthews has the highest floor. Matthews has all the tools needed to be one of the NFL’s best offensive tackles for many years to come. A polished technician with fantastic footwork, the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews could have been an immediate upgrade for the Rams at right tackle while being groomed as Jake Long’s eventual successor at left tackle. Selecting Robinson could certainly pay off in the long run, but it’s not as though Matthews doesn’t have All-Pro potential in his own right. If Robinson fails to develop as hoped in pass protection, and Matthews finds the immediate success expected of him, the Rams might regret picking Robinson for what he could become instead of Matthews for what he is already is.
  13. "The Kansas City Chiefs haven't played anyone." "Sure the Denver Broncos put up a ton of points, but how many elite defenses have they played?" "The Carolina Panthers may have won four straight, but they didn't play any good teams." These rhetorical questions—and many like them—have been trotted out this season to describe certain team's play. Often times, it's a way for someone (a fan or an analyst) to look even-handed in describing a team that is winning (or losing) while that person thinks the team is worse (or better) than their record. At times, it's a legitimate way to push back against the old Bill Parcells phrase: "You are what your record says you are." For many teams, that isn't the case. Teams ebb and flow, and match ups matter. At times, teams aren't anything like what their record says they are. Other times, these turns of phrase are just subjective ways to push back against a team that has found themselves with wins even though they haven't played very well—teams that seem to "luck" into wins, or have the ball bounce their way every single time. Statistically, though, what about teams that "don't play anybody?" How do they actually fare when it's time to play with the big boys? Intuitively, we believe that teams need to be tested. Teams with easy records that get to cake-walk into the playoffs are going to get demolished, right? Well, maybe not. This isn't college football. There are no "Directional State Universities" on the schedule. The Jacksonville Jaguars may be winless right now, but they're still a tougher out for an NFL team than Jacksonville State would be for a major college team. NFL teams don't have coaches and athletic directors out there scheduling true "cupcakes." Parity reigns in the NFL, but we tend to forget that when we're talking about who's played who. Another fact: when we talk about things like strength of schedule, it's a shifting measurement. Before the season, the Carolina Panthers were faced with a "murderer's row" type schedule—the hardest in the league! Now, through nine weeks, their opponents' combined record is .343—the lowest in the entire league! The Detroit Lions, too, were said to be facing a ridiculously tough schedule based on last year's records—.539! Instead, the Lions are right in the middle of the pack in the NFC, with an opponent's combined record of .493. It certainly makes the 5-3 Panthers look less impressive, right? Well, no. The hardest strength of schedule in the entire league is the Jaguars with an opponents' combined record of .687. You know what factors into that record pretty prominently—as least before a full season is played? The Jaguars eight losses! The same could be said for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their eight losses and their fourth-hardest schedule with an opponent's combined record of .603. The point here is: until we're looking backward at a completed 2013 season, it's difficult and near-impossible to accurately judge, "who played who." So, let's look back. In 2012, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl after going 10-6 in the regular season. Their opponents' combined record was .496 (tied for 10th easiest in the NFL). In the AFC playoffs, they beat Indianapolis (.441), Denver (.457) and New England (.496)—all teams that had been "tested" just as much or even less in the regular season. Then, the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers (.504) a team that had been "tested" more in the tougher NFC, but was still the tied with the fourth easiest schedule in the NFC. The team that had been tested most in the 2012 playoffs: The Minnesota Vikings (.520). They were done in the first round. After them, the Green Bay Packers (.508). Theirs was a second-round exit. Here's the whole list: OK, well maybe the measuring stick is flawed. Instead of strength of schedule, let's go with strength of victory—the combined win-loss record of all of the teams defeated by a certain team. Here, we find better correlation, but hardly rock-solid proof. Well, maybe 2012 was just an aberration. What about the last five Super Bowl champions? We get a little more what one would expect with the Giants, Packers and Steelers, but it's not rock-solid proof. The Saints certainly stick out like a big ol' sore thumb with their rankings. When one considers the Saints alongside the Ravens, it's clear that teams that haven't been "tested" are just as likely to win the Super Bowl as those teams with the more difficult schedules. As we examine, dissect and pick apart the 2013 NFL season, there are plenty of valid ways to talk about the teams that win, lose and which ones we think have the best shot at Super Bowl glory. Strength of schedule, as we see here, is too-often a crutch and supported only by flimsy anecdotal evidence. http://bleacherrepor...ly-a-good-thing I read this and thought it had some good points. We've heard the SoS argument quite a bit.
  14. Matt Miller, Bleacher Report A quick note on red flags. As long as I've been evaluating players, I've been very critical of on-and-off field "red flags". Whether that's a failed drug test, contact with an agent or something as vague as "breaking team rules"; I have been one of the most staunch defenders of character as a scoutable trait. That's ending today. In my 10 years in this business there is but a handful of players who had known issues in college and the NFL. There are notable instances of red-flagged players washing out of the league, but it's becoming a non-issue for standout players like Vontaze Burfict, Janoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree, Justin Houston and so many more. On the other side, players like Von Miller and Aldon Smith had no red flags in college and are missing significant games due to off-field issues. Red flags? No longer a part of my scouting process. NFL teams will continue to mark players down on their draft boards thanks to available information, but as someone who's job it is to project future NFL success (and not where a player is drafted), I feel that downgrading a player due to a red flag is no longer fair or prudent. Others may choose to keep downgrading players based on these known issues, but on my Big Board you will see players ranked based on their on-field talents and future projection. Nothing more.
  15. Posting only the link due to how the article is laid out on the site, but, feel free to copy/paste it yourself. http://bleacherrepor...ownfall-in-2013
  16. This is a pretty good article that shows how our Pick Your Poision Passing Game works. http://bleacherrepor...atlanta-falcons Gregory Shamus/Getty Images With wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons unquestionably have one of the NFL's best wide receiver tandems. Add tight end Tony Gonzalez to the mix and you have arguably the league's best starting receiving group. The statistics make a strong case: Through 16 weeks, White has caught 87 passes for 1,309 yards and seven touchdowns, Jones 76 for 1,142 and 10 touchdowns and Gonzalez 88 for 889 and eight touchdowns. Combined, that's 251 catches for 3,340 yards and 25 touchdowns. Only the Cowboys have a trio of receivers with more catches (six) and only the Packers have a trio with more touchdowns (two). But it's not just the statistics that are impressive—it's the way they're obtained. In last Saturday's win over the Detroit Lions, the Falcons showed why that is. Pick Your Poison All season, opposing defenses have had to choose which receiver to focus on as it is virtually impossible to equally cover White, Jones and Gonzalez. Last week, the Lions chose Gonzalez. It worked: the Lions held the future Hall of Famer to just one catch and nine yards on the day. But it left White and Jones in many man-to-man situations throughout the game, which they easily took advantage of, like on this 3rd-and-7 play early in the second quarter. White (at the bottom of the screenshot below) is going to run a simple slant pattern, but it's Gonzalez's presence which makes it happen. As circled in red below, Lions defensive end Cliff Avril is supposed to drop back in zone coverage like the rest of his teammates are about to. Yet Avril is so focused on him that he doesn't square his shoulders to see where Ryan's looking, allowing the signal-caller a big window to throw to White. By the time Avril turns around, the pass is already completed. That leaves cornerback Chris Houston visibly upset with Avril's coverage and White happy to convert the first down.
  17. I went to Bleacher Report today and came across an article that I thought would be interesting for discussion. It's the offseason anyway so, why not spend it looking back at our past failures? Um, Yay? Anyway, the games mentioned are all across the board and most don't even happen during the Smith/TD/Ryan era. Hopefully this will keep the trolls at bay but I doubt it. There probably aren't a lot of people here that remember some of these games but they are painful nonetheless, and maybe we can learn something by breaking them down. Oh, and yes, this Bleacher Report. I've blasted them a few times myself, so I get it, but it's not like these are predictions, so it should be OK. I'll post the link 1st then try to post the individual games. However, I'm not sure whether or not it will work so be patient. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1228759-nine-games-the-atlanta-falcons-wish-they-could-re-play#/articles/1228759-nine-games-the-atlanta-falcons-wish-they-could-re-play
  18. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1021739-brian-billick-hire-would-be-brilliant-move-for-atlanta-falcons-and-matt-ryan
  19. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/903448-nfl-week-7-picks-atlanta-falcons-and-teams-whose-playoff-hopes-will-be-squashed I simply love representing an underdog team...soon these guys will eat a big fat crow with a sauce!!!
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