Winners and Losers after Round 1 of NFL Draft

Jay Asser 28/04/2017
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Mitchell Trubisky.

Forecasting the NFL draft is usually a futile exercise, but this year’s first round was as unpredictable as any in recent memory.

While the number one selection came as little surprise, the rest of the first round unfolded as a guessing game with teams paying hefty prices to move up and snag a quarterback, position runs and questionable picks.

Here are winners and losers of the draft’s first day:

WINNERS

Cleveland Browns

No, the Cleveland Browns didn’t screw up the draft. In fact, the franchise that’s been a punchline for years and years actually made smart moves and came away better for it.

With the number one overall pick, they went with the safest and best player on the board in defensive end Myles Garrett before tabbing safety Jabrill Peppers at No25 and tight end David Njoku at No29.

Aside from netting three high-upside prospects, Cleveland also left with an extra first rounder in 2018 thanks to their trade with Houston, which saw them move down from No12 to No25, where they selected Peppers.

It’s fair to wonder why the Browns didn’t just stay at No12 and take the player the Texans did, quarterback Deshaun Watson, when that’s the position that’s truly keeping them from competing. Cleveland, however, clearly weren’t in love with any of the quarterbacks on the board so there was no point taking one just for the sake of it.

Myles Garrett.

Myles Garrett.

San Francisco 49ers

So far, so good for first-time general manager John lynch.

Somehow, Lynch convinced Chicago to swap their third overall pick for San Francisco’s second for the price of the Bears’ third-rounder, fourth-rounder and a 2018 third-rounder. It was a massive haul for the 49ers, who were never taking quarterback Mitchell Trubisky anyways, and they grabbed the guy they wanted all along in defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

After fleecing Chicago, Lynch later gave up the fourth-rounder he received in the trade and a second-rounder to move back into the first round at No31, where he selected linebacker Reuben Foster. The Alabama product slipped because of a combine altercation and failed drug test due to a diluted sample, but he’s a top-tier talent and a tremendous value at the end of the first round.

Running backs

Two running backs went in the top eight, with Jacksonville taking Leonard Fournette at No4 and Carolina adding Christian McCaffrey at No8.

In today’s NFL, we’ve reached the point where it’s universally known that the value of individual running backs are as low as ever. There are so many talented and versatile backs in the over-saturated market that investing heavily in one, unless they are literally one of the very best in the league, is taking a big risk.

Taking Ezekiel Elliott at No4 worked out great for Dallas last season, but he also ran behind one of the top offensive lines. Fournette and McCaffrey are both can’t-miss talents, but their stock was boosted at least a little by the Elliott effect.

Leonard Fournette.

Leonard Fournette.

New Orleans Saints

They came away with the top cornerback in the draft, Marshon Lattimore, and all they had to do was sit and wait patiently at No11.

This also means a trade for New England cornerback Malcolm Butler is much less likely, but even if Lattimore doesn’t develop into a similar player, the Saints won’t have to give up assets or a big contract.

There may be hope of New Orleans having a much-improved defence yet.

LOSERS

Chicago Bears

They must really believe Trubisky is ‘the guy’ because they sure did spend a lot to get him.

If you truly think you have your quarterback of the future, there’s nothing wrong with going all-in. The mistake Chicago made was they could have just waited to take Trubisky at No3 instead of giving up three picks to move up one spot. If San Francisco was going to take Trubisky, they wouldn’t have made the trade and the fact they were willing should have been a clear indication for the Bears to stay pat. Maybe another team was also bidding for No2, but it’s more likely the 49ers played Chicago.

Mitch Trubisky.

Mitch Trubisky.

Oakland Raiders

At No24, Oakland made the risky decision of pegging cornerback Gareon Conley, who has a sexual-assault allegation hanging over his head.

There’s no doubting Conley’s talent and it’s impossible to ascertain whether or not he’s guilty of the crime he’s accused of, but the Raiders could have waited until the second or maybe even third round to take a player who could face legal trouble or be subject to the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

This was simply a case of taking an unnecessary steep risk too early.

Offensive linemen

For the first time in five years, the first round didn’t feature two offensive lineman going within the first 10 picks. The only lineman selected were Garett Bolles at No20 by Denver and Ryan Ramczyk at No32 by New Orleans.

An outlier year at a position that’s still heavily valued in the NFL.

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2017 NFL Draft top prospects

Laith Malhas 27/04/2017
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2017 NFL combine

The 2017 NFL Draft is upon us and teams are ready to go through the grueling process of selecting the right players for their future. This year’s draft has some exciting prospects who have the potential to become not only key figures for their chosen franchise, but to emerge as the latest star of the NFL.

The NFL draft is the process of teams selecting eligible college players, who are evaluated and scouted throughout their playing years at their respective universities and colleges. As in all American sports leagues, the lowest seeded teams get to pick the top-ranked players in the draft, in an attempt to improve their struggling teams.

Draft picks may be traded between franchises on the night of the draft, as each team has ten minutes to make their pick for the first round. Time dwindles to seven minutes in the second round, five and four minutes in the later rounds.

Remember, though, being selected high in the draft does not always mean a player will translate that promise onto the next level, these players have put forth a body of work which has catapulted them to the top of their positions.

QUARTERBACKS

DESHAUN WATSON / CLEMSON

The two-time Heisman trophy finalist led Clemson to their first national title in 2016. Watson is a mobile quarterback who can gain chunks of yardage with his legs and can perform in the clutch. His upside is tremendous and will likely be drafted within the first ten picks. As for most quarterbacks, picking up the pro-style offense will take some time.

DESHONE KIZER / NOTRE DAME

Kizer had a 63 percent completion percentage for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has a big arm, is an all around athletic passer and has been able to overcome his lack of experience as a starting quarterback. The 21-year-old is projected to be drafted in the first round and could be selected by the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns or the Chicago Bears, who are all in desperate need of a quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS

LEONARD FOURNETTE / LSU

Fournette is an athletic, powerful runner who has made an impact in the South East Conference. He led the SEC in all-purpose yards as a true freshman and followed up with 1,953-yards rushing and 22 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. Fournette has the physical gifts to be a star in the NFL, his durability may be a concern due to his rough running style down the field.

WIDE RECEIVERS

MIKE WILLIAMS / CLEMSON

A prototypical wide receiver with tremendous leaping ability and catching skills. Williams is a notch above the rest of the class as his game seems best prepared to translate immediately into the NFL. As any rookie receiver, he will need to be coached up on routes and technique, but this type of talent is hard to pass up for any team in need of a receiver.

TIGHT ENDS

O.J HOWARD / ALABAMA

Howard had his best season in 2015, catching 38 passes for 602 yards. He also won offensive MVP honors for his contributions in the National Championship game when Alabama beat Clemson. He is a raw talent with size and speed and the 22-year-old has the potential to become an all-purpose tight end in the NFL.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

RYAN RAMCZYK / WISCONSIN

At 6 foot 6 inches tall and 310 pounds, Left Tackle Ramczyk is a ground and pound lineman with athleticism and technique. In 2016 he starred for the Badgers and claimed first-team All-Big Ten honors and did not miss a game the entire season. His game is fundamentally sound and could prove to be a solid contributor to an offensive line in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

MYLES GARRETT / TEXAS A&M

A physical specimen like Myles Garrett will turn heads and any team in need of a defensive lineman will have Garrett on their board. His combine numbers were outstanding, Myles completed his 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds and recorded a 41-inch vertical jump.

He earned first-team All-American and All-SEC as a junior while putting up 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 11 games. The Uber-athletic edge rusher has the potential to become an All-pro in the NFL, the only knock on Garrett has been his effort at times, many scouts have stated that he takes plays off during games.

LINEBACKERS

REUBEN FOSTER / ALABAMA

Alabama’s linebacker won the SEC championship MVP as he rocketed to elite status in collegiate football. His ferociousness on defense helped him accumulate a team-leading 115 tackles while becoming a playmaker for Alabama. Scouts see pro-bowl potential in Foster and envision him being able to play inside linebacker as well as weak-side linebacker. The combination of his freakish athleticism and sound fundamentals have given Foster a high grade in the draft.

CORNERBACKS

MARSHON LATTIMORE / OHIO STATE

In his first full season without injury, Lattimore recorded four interceptions with nine pass breakups. His overall impact on the team’s defense was felt throughout the year. His explosive play and anticipation give him an upper hand on other receivers. Lattimore has the potential to be a Pro-bowl cornerback and depleted teams will give him a shot even though his experience is limited.

SAFETIES

MALIK HOOKER / OHIO STATE

The Ohio State safety made his first splash in 2016, he made first-team All-American and All-Big Ten after making 74 tackles with seven interceptions. His high impact play and natural instinct make him a threat at the position at all times. Malik lacks experience, however, his ball skills and ability to play within a scheme will help him become a promising NFL player.

Share your picks using #360fans on Twitter or on Instagram or getting in touch via Facebook.

WAYS TO WATCH

You can watch the complete NFL draft on the NFL Network and ESPN. Round one of the draft starts Thursday night at 4 AM UAE time.

Rounds two and three will commence on Friday night at 3 AM UAE time. Saturday night will be the final day with rounds 4-7 of the draft at 8 PM UAE time.

Keep up with all the latest from the NFL draft:

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Dubai Little League gives young UAE baseball hopefuls the chance to shine

Jay Asser 25/04/2017
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Dubai Little League’s 12th annual Baseball and Softball Tournament afforded young players in the emirate a platform to showcase their talent against fellow Middle East nations for college and professional scouts.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia took part in the three-day tournament, held this past weekend, which featured 60 games across five baseball divisions and two softball groups, from ages seven to 18.

Dubai impressively topped the table in Under-8, U14 and U18 baseball, while the U14 and U18 softball squads also captured first.

The overall success for Dubai was promising, but just as encouraging was the presence of scouts to check out potential prospects.

Dubai teenager Sean Fekete was one of the players to put his skills on display, with the 17-year-old pitcher doing his best to catch the eye of scouts.

“Every year we hold this tournament, the level of play increase and the games get more competitive as we go on,” Fekete said.

“I think Dubai, our leagues, gets better every year and there’s more talent every year we hold. You can just see our level increasing exponentially while other countries and cities might not be increasing as fast as ours.”

“As we get better players here, it gives more chance to the young guys who are good. They get more exposure because the coaches in the states realise there’s more talent here than they think. It gives them a second look at Dubai.”

One of the talent evaluators in attendance was Steve Fish, who scouts for Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox. The former collegiate and minor leaguer player has built a close relationship with Dubai Little League and Fekete has taken full advantage of his advice.

“He always gives me pointers and tells me what I can do better because ideally I’m always looking to improve,” Fekete said.

“It helps him letting me know mechanically what I can do to throw harder and be more accurate with my pitches.”

Like his peers, Fekete has aspirations of playing baseball at the next level in college, whether on scholarship or not.

He’s in the process of sending emails and videos of him pitching to potential coaches in the United States. Fekete certainly has talent colleges would covet, with the right-hander standing 6-foot-3 and armed with a fastball that can reach up to 87 miles per hour on the radar.

Fekete is eyeing colleges like Notre Dame, University of Ohio and University of Tampa, among others, but his top choice would likely be the alma mater of his sisters, Michigan State. “If I have the chance I’d love to play there,” he said.

While Dubai Little League is done for the season, Fekete and other standouts will begin training next week in preparation of summer ball in the US.

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