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The NFL Draft Report

From one of the most colorful draft analysts in the industry, now you can read the reports The NFL Draft Report has provided league scouting departments for over 40 years.

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The NFL Draft Report's "New Kids on the Block" Series - The Complete Directory to the Reports on the American Football Conference Teams

THE NFL DRAFT REPORT PRESENTS THE AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK DIRECTORY

Throughout the summer, The NFL Draft Report has identified several rookies on each American Football Conference team that we feel will impact the organizational rosters in 2016. While those teams might have higher draft selections not mentioned, the athletes selected are those who appear to be in “the right place, at the right time” to contribute greatly this campaign. That could be due to depleted talent at the player’s position, filling a loss created by free agency, or an unfortunate injury to a veteran player than now makes the team hopeful that their youngsters can grow up in a hurry. Below is a link that will take you to a directory that will refer you to each story on an AFC team;

AFC EAST

Below are the links to the rookies on each team in the AFC East that The NFL Draft Report has identified as players to watch in training camp. They include Shaq Lawson, Reggie Ragland, Adolphus Washington-Buffalo Bills; Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard, Brandon Doughty-Miami Dolphins; Cyrus Jones; Joe Thuney, Devin Lucien-New England Patriots; Darron Lee, Brandon Shell; Jalin Marshall-New York Jets. The link to this directory for team information can be found here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/22046508/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---directory-to-the-reports-on-the-american-football-conference-east-teams.html

AFC NORTH

Below are the links to the rookies on each team in the AFC West that The NFL Draft Report has identified as players to watch in training camp. They include 2015 injured first rounder Breshad Perriman, Ronnie Stanley, Christopher Moore-Baltimore Ravens; injured first rounder William Jackson III, Andrew Billings, Nick Vigil-Cincinnati Bengals; Corey Coleman, Carl Nassib, Shon Coleman-Cleveland Browns; Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Jerald Hawkins-Pittsburgh Steelers. The link to this directory for team information can be found here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/23465670/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---directory-to-the-reports-on-the-american-football-conference-north-teams.html?_ga=1.1018354.2142855655.1470942998

AFC SOUTH

Below are the links to the rookies on each team in the AFC West that The NFL Draft Report has identified as players to watch in training camp. They include Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, Nick Martin, Tyler Ervin, K.J. Dillon-Houston Texans; Ryan Kelly, T.J. Green, Josh Ferguson-Indianapolis Colts; Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngaboue, Tyrone Holmes, Sheldon Day-Jacksonville Jaguars; Jack Conklin, Sebastian Tretola, Austin Johnson, Derrick Henry, Kevin Byard, Tajae Sharpe-Tennessee Titans. The link to this directory for team information can be found here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/21990655/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---directory-to-the-reports-on-the-american-football-conference-south-teams.html

AFC WEST

Below are the links to the rookies on each team in the AFC West that The NFL Draft Report has identified as players to watch in training camp. They include Devonte Booker, Connor McGovern and from 2015, Trevor Siemian-Denver Broncos; Chris Jones, Parker Ehringer, Dadi Nicolas-Kansas City Chiefs; Karl Joseph, Shilique Calhoun, Darius Latham-Oakland Raiders; holdout Joey Bosa, Huner Henry, Jatavis Brown-San Diego Chargers. The link to this directory for team information can be found here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/22109548/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---directory-to-the-reports-on-the-american-football-conference-west-teams.html

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The NFL Draft Report's "New Kids on the Block" Series - Directory to the Reports on the American Football Conference North Teams

THE NFL DRAFT REPORT’S “NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK” SERIES PRESENTS – THE AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE NORTH ROOKIES WHO COULD IMPACT THEIR TEAM ROSTERS

Below are the links to the rookies on each team in the AFC North that The NFL Draft Report has identified as players to watch in training camp. It is not whether or not they earn a starting job coming out of the gate, but how they impress the staff and continue to develop enough during the course of the upcoming season to convince the front office that they are ready for bigger and better roles in 2017. It also takes into account how these rookies will impact the veterans on the current roster, as there are only 53 jobs available by the time the season opens. The directory to the AFC North story-lines can be located here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/23465670/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---directory-to-the-reports-on-the-american-football-conference-north-teams.html?_ga=1.1018354.2142855655.1470942998

BALTIMORE RAVENS

The Ravens hope they can finally see their 2015 first round pick in an NFL contest, but yet another injury could keep wide receiver Breshad Perriman in drydock for another season. With Steve Smith coming off a career-threatening Achilles injury, Perriman a question and Mike Wallace slowly becoming nothing more than journeyman material, could Cincinnati’s Christopher Moore give Ravens fans a glimpse from their past with a perfect Anquan Boldin imitation? With Eugene Monroe no longer an option at left tackle, it might appear that first round choice Ronnie Stanley will have to grow into the left tackle position in a hurry. If not, returning injured quarterback Joe Flacco might want to purchase a flak jacket. The link to this feature can be found here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/23417086/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---a-look-at-the-baltimore-ravens-rookies-hoping-to-impact-the-team-roster-in-2016.html

CINCINNATI BENGALS

In 2012, the Bengals selected Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, but had to wait for his NFL debut while he dealt with injury issues. In 2014, they selected Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard, but like Kirkpatrick, injuries have stalled his NFL progression. Now, the team’s 2016 top pick, William Jackson III is out for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle. Bengals fans don’t need to fret, as the front office found a perfect compliment to play opposite A.J. Green at wide receiver in Pitt’s Tyler Boyd. They unearthed a tackling machine in Nick Vigil, who can play any of the linebacker positions. In 2010, they discovered a fourth round find in nose guard Geno Atkins. This year, history could repeat itself as fourth rounder Andrew Billings is a clone of what the team has received from Atkins’ services to date. The link to this feature can be found here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/23425223/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---a-look-at-the-cincinnati-bengals-rookies-hoping-to-impact-the-team-roster-in-2016.html

CLEVELAND BROWNS

The Browns hope that Baylor alums, quarterback Robert Griffin III and receiver Corey Coleman can get in sync quickly. They will be relied upon to improve an aerial attack that finished 21st in the NFL last season (236.4 ypg) and tied for 26th worst with just twenty touchdown catches. The team is also hoping that third round pass rusher Carl Nassib is ready for extensive action, as he needs to fill the void created by Desmond Bryant’s injury that will keep the left defensive end sidelined for the entire 2016 schedule. At right tackle, whether it is by the season opener, or later in the year, that position could see an infusion of youth, if cancer survivor Shon Coleman can wrest the job away from temporary fill-in, Austin Pasztor. The link to this feature can be found here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/23461536/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---a-look-at-the-cleveland-browns-rookies-hoping-to-impact-the-team-roster-in-2016.html

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Steelers might regret taking Artie Burns in the first round, as several scouts feel he is an athlete whose only affection is for the interception, evident by his 93 tackles through 37 college games, but in Sean Davis, many feel the team has finally found a leader for the young secondary, a void they needed to fill since Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu retired. Competition at left tackle is a three-horse race, but with his athleticism, once his field knowledge catches up, Jerald Hawkins could be the answer for what has become the team’s biggest weakness up front. The link to this feature can be found here;

http://nfldraftreport.sportsblog.com/posts/23465058/the-nfl-draft-report-s--new-kids-on-the-block--series---a-look-at-the-pittsburgh-steelers-rookies-hoping-to-impact-the-team-roster-in-2016.html

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The NFL Draft Report's "New Kids on the Block" Series - A Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers Rookies Hoping to Impact the Team Roster in 2016

As Pittsburgh looks to totally revamp their secondary, first round pick Artie Burns is expected to challenge Ross Cockrell for the right cornerback spot, but he's been banged up as training camp continues

THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

For the first time since the 2011 draft, the Steelers went home with just seven new players from the 2016 phase. Since the last time the team had just seven choices, the Steelers have drafted 42 players from 2011-through-2015. That cache of talent has not produced too much talent, roster-wise, as just eleven remain as starters and eight more in a reserve role, based on the roster the team intends to take into training camp this year.

With the loss of rising star, Kelvin Beachum (Jacksonville), it was their left offensive tackle position that appeared to be the team’s primary need entering the 2016 draft, but they waited until the fourth round to bring in some fresh legs at that position. Rather, the team concentrated on the defense’s most glaring weakness – the secondary. Pittsburgh, which has seen Ike Taylor, Tory Polamalu, Cortez Allen and even long-time coach Dick LeBeau depart in recent years.

The current coaching staff knew that if they expected to get deep into the playoffs, they needed to drastically overhaul that unit. Pittsburgh finished with the third-worst numbers in the league last year, allowing 271.9 aerial yards per game, tying for 12th-worst by yielding 29 touchdowns. They allowed 52 receptions for at least twenty yards and twelve for forty yards or longer, but did tie for sixth in the NFL with seventeen interceptions.

That lack of performance in the defensive backfield was further highlighted by all the “yellow flags” that unit incurred, as the Steelers were called for 121 penalties on defense, the fourth-highest total in the league. They finished 21st in the nation in total defense (363.1 ypg) due to the secondary problems, negating a solid effort by their “front seven” that held opponents to 91.2 yards per game rushing (fifth lowest in the NFL) and only six touchdown runs (third lowest).

Among their seven selections in 2016, five will vie for roster spots on the defensive unit, as the team only added a tackle (Jerald Hawkins) and a return specialist/receiver (Demarcus Ayers) on the draft’s third day. They will need a lot of contributions from their first three picks, with their first choice, Artie Burns, ready to challenge Ross Cockrell, a former college cornerback, for the right cornerback job. Second round pick, Sean Davis looks to take on 2013 fourth round disappointment, for the strong safety position once occupied by Ryan Clark, but a problem area since the veteran packed it up two years ago.

South Carolina State’s Javon Hargrave needs to show veteran savvy and not be taken back by the level of competition after playing his career in the Football Championship Subdivision. He will need to be NFL-ready, if the team hopes to find a replacement for the front line’s heart and soul – Steve McClendon, who joined the Jets via free agency. Hargrave is currently listed behind 2014 sixth round pick, Daniel McCullers, in the battle for the starting nose guard position.

ROUND ONE…ARTIE BURNS-UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI CORNERBACK

The Steelers invested heavy in a cornerback most scouts feel was a one-year wonder. Burns did pick off six passes last season, but in 24 games prior, he had only one pick and just eleven starting assignments.

It was a bit of a surprise to see Burns end up with the Steelers in the opening round. Many analysts figured that the team would take a lineman, on either side of the ball, but when the blue chip left tackles were all gone at pick #25, they decided that Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi was not NFL left tackle material, at least not with the opening pick. They also turned their attention away from Alabama’s Kenny Clark and the Packers would scoop up the best interior defender left on the draft board two picks later.

There sat Burns and Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander when Pittsburgh had to make a decision. Speed could not have been a factor, as the Hurricane was timed at 4.46 and Alexander ran 4.46. It was not an obvious display of raw power, as Burns could only put up the 225-pound bench press bar seven times while the Tiger did an equally feeble ten. If it came down to leaping ability, Alexander had Burns trumped (37.5 inches to 31.5).

It was all the matter of production in the one category the secondary lacked from their 2015 starting cornerbacks – playmaking ability. Alexander has never recorded an interception as a collegian and his 23 tackles with five pass deflections last season were hardly first round numbers. Burns posted 36 hits and also broke up five passes, but he intercepted six more and caused two more turnovers via fumbles. Advantage – Burns – when it came to the front office’s decision.

Burns is built for speed. He has an angular frame with very good quickness. He shows good hip snap and change of direction agility. He does not take wasted steps in transition and can close on the ball quickly when the play is in front of him. He shows smoothness with his feet in his pedal and has the range to make plays along the sidelines. He shows good hand/eye coordination, but you’d like to see him generate a second gear in order to recover quicker on deep routes. He has valid feet for the position and good arm usage to stick it to receivers in press coverage.

The Hurricane is quick to gain position and sees plays in front of him well. He shows urgency getting to the ball in long pursuit. He is the type that likes to lock on to a receiver’s hip and run with him, rather than give cushion. You only wish that he would make more plays in run support, as he did not show much enthusiasm for getting up to the line. He can react and recognize plays much better when they are in front of him, but has confidence in his speed to close on the ball in a hurry.

Man coverage is what Burns does best. He is active with his hands and has adequate strength to press and reroute the receiver at the line. He stays tight on the receiver through their patterns and has the feet to break on the ball in a hurry, even when his man gets a step on him. He is not the type who will deliver tackles that will take his man out of the game, but is effective at making plays on the ball. He sticks to his man tight coming off the line, but when he gambles, he pays for it by giving up the big play. Still, he generally gets the job done, especially when he keeps his hands active in attempts to redirect.

With Cockrell nothing more than a placeholder at right corner, Burns has a great opportunity to emerge from training camp as the team’s right cornerback. William Gay should have his work cut out trying to stave off a position battle from 2015 second rounder, Senquez Golson, who spent last season on injured reserve.. The team will likely keep five corners, leaving 2015 fourth round choice, Doran Grant, as the favorite over Donald Washington, Al-Hajj Shabazz and Montell Garner, all street free agents.

BURNS 2015 SEASON…Ended regular season with ACC-leading six interceptions, most by a Hurricane since Sean Taylor had 10 in 2003...Started all 12 games in which he competed...Finished year with 36 tackles (26 solo), five PBUs, one fumble recovery and six picks...Six interceptions were tied for 10th-most in single season in Miami history...Entered season among team's top returners at defensive backs...Started season opener vs. Bethune-Cookman and recorded two solo tackles and first interception of season...Interception in red zone ended first drive of second half for Wildcats and was returned four yards...Added five tackles and second interception of season in start vs. FAU...Interception vs. Owls came on impressive dive after tipped pass in fourth quarter...Recorded two tackles and third interception of season in start vs. Nebraska...Became first Hurricane since Sean Taylor to record interception in three straight games...Had one unassisted tackle in start at Cincinnati...Recorded four tackles (two solo) in start at Florida State...Recorded first multi-interception game of career in start vs. Virginia Tech, picking off two passes...Was first multi-INT game by Hurricane since 2013...Added two solo tackles vs. Hokies...Had career-high totals of six solo tackles and seven total tackles in start vs. Clemson...Added first fumble recovery of career vs. Tigers...Had three tackles and two PBUs in start at Duke...Did not play against Virginia due to passing of mother...Had two tackles, one PBU and 0.5 TFLs in start at North Carolina...Totaled four solo tackles in start vs. Georgia Tech...Recorded sixth interception of season and returned it 19 yards at Pittsburgh...Had three tackles and two PBUs in start at Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso.

ROUND TWO…SEAN DAVIS-UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND STRONG SAFETY

Davis totaled 50 appearances and 40 starts during his career, after starting all 12 games in 2015. Moving to safety, he led the team with 70 solo tackles and was second with 88 total tackles. He ranked second in the nation with five forced fumbles, the second-most in a single season in Maryland history. He also tied for the team lead with three interceptions. Davis became the first Maryland player since D’Qwell Jackson (2005) to reach 200 career solo tackles

Actually, The NFL Draft Report had Davis as a much more coveted prospect than Burns. The Terrapin has experience at all four secondary positions, but his hard hitting ability and range makes him a nice fit for the strong safety spot in Pittsburgh’s alignment. Unless the team has a change of heart and brings back Will Allen for a third tour of duty (80 tackles with four sacks, nine pass deflections, an interception and two fumble recoveries in 2015), Davis could emerge as the start.

Currently, Pittsburgh has Shamarko Thomas in a make-or-break situation as the starter, but in 40 games, he’s posted just 46 tackles with no interceptions or pass break-ups. With Robert Golden (40 tackles, five pass deflections) replacing Allen for three games as the starter last year, he could enter the starting strong safety picture, but with Mike Mitchell (80 tackles, three thefts) still not knowing if his surgically repaired shoulder will hold up this season, Golden might be asked to start at free safety, instead. Street free agents, Ross Ventrone, Jacob Hagen, Jordan Dangerfield and Ray Vinopal only offer insurance, in case any of the four projected safeties on the roster can not make it out of the gate due to injury issues.

Davis is a high character, high-effort player, whose former and current coaches rave about his leadership qualities and instincts. He made a smooth adjustment to the college game, even though he was sort of the team’s “Ben Zobrist,” having to check the lineup to see what position he would be tasked for. For a young player, who truly sticks out is that he shows uncommon discipline, reading the play completely before making his move. He is rarely fooled by play-action or misdirection or beaten over the top due to taking false steps.

Davis does a fine job reading screens at the line of scrimmage, but is patient enough to wait until the quarterback is making the throw before accelerating to the ball. He generates a good burst and accelerates smoothly, taking good angles to the ball. He possesses good body control and times his leaps very well to compete in jump-ball situations with bigger receivers. In man coverage, he has the valid agility and straight-line speed you look for a safety, but he was often was asked to drop down as the boundary cornerback, showing good flexibility, balance and acceleration to turn and run with receivers.

Davis can flip his hips, plant his foot in the ground and drive to mirror receivers' routes. He is very physical in press coverage trying to re-route the slot receiver or tight end. He rides receivers for a few yards to disrupt timing with the quarterback and times his leaps well, demonstrating natural ball skills. In the zone, he appears to be smooth, demonstrating a low backpedal with the balance to change direction without losing speed. He is quick to locate weak spots in coverage and knows what the receiver is trying to do against him. He also breaks on the ball quickly and is a reliable open-field tackler who arrives with significantly more pop than his size would indicate.

ROUND FOUR…JERALD HAWKINS-LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY OFFENSIVE TACKLE

While Hawkins might sit and learn in 2016, do not be surprised if he closes out the season as the Steelers' starting left tackle, where the two players ahead of him on the depth chart are only placeholders until the Tigers star gets acclimated to the NFL

With the team finally admitting it blundered on second round bust Mike Adams and realizing that a former West Point wide receiver, turned left offensive tackle might not be the best idea to handle blindside protection for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the coaches hope that the former Tiger youngster can grow up quickly to challenger Alejandro Villanueva for the left tackle job. Hawkins will have to bide his time, as Denver castoff Ryan Harris might get the first opportunity to battle the Army vet, but sooner or later, youth will prevail.

Hawkins was a three-year starter on offensive line for the Tigers from 2013-15, but opted to forgo senior season and enter the 2016 NFL Draft. An extremely athletic offensive lineman, he was a standout basketball player in high school, going on to played and start 37 games during his career (25 at right tackle, 12 at left tackle) at Louisiana State. He made the switch from right tackle to left tackle in 2015, playing in eleven games.

Last season, Hawkins was on the field for a total of 754 offensive snaps and recorded 38 knockdown blocks, missing the only game of career in a road loss to Ole Miss. He played every snap in seven games, including the bowl win over Texas Tech where the Tigers racked up a school bowl record 638 yards of offense in the 56-27 win over the Red Raiders. He was a key member of LSU line that helped the Tigers lead the SEC in rushing with 256.8 yards per game. He blocked for 1,000-yard rusher Leonard Fournette, who set the school record for single-season yards (1,953) and rushing touchdowns (22). Fournette led the nation in rushing with 162.8 yards a game as he went over the 100-yard mark 10 times and had a school-record four games with 200 or more yards.

While is appears that Hawkins has a lanky build, there is plenty of room for additional growth. He has long arms and shows good quickness off the snap, doing a nice job of shuffling back in pass protection with bent knees, ready to slide inside or out to mirror the defender. He has greatly improved his upper-body strength and flashes an effective punch to stun the pass rusher. He is the type that gives good effort, but needs to become more confident in his forceful upper-body strength to sustain blocks (sometimes leans into rather than locking on to his assignment).

As a drive blocker, Hawkins displays good nastiness, but he is also savvy enough to know when he has to be a finesse blocker, which he does well, thanks to his positioning and athleticism. He is still working on improving his leverage and leg drive as a short-area run blocker, but he shows an explosive burst to make the reach block or cut block when sealing the edge. On traps, he has the quickness needed to fire off the snap for combo blocks. He does a nice job of getting his hands into defenders and is agile enough to release and get to the second level.

Hawkins can generate quickness and depth in his kick slide in pass protection and when attacking the defender in the running game. He also possesses the quickness needed to get down field as a run blocker or stalk in the second level while adjusting nicely to the moving target. He is a determined sort who makes a very good effort to sustain blocks and will hustle downfield. As a former basketball player, he displayed interesting athletic ability in his first full season as a left side starter and scouts feel that he is just starting to reach that surface level where his potential will be replaced by his production.

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