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Interested in the 2021 NFL draft?

The 2020 NFL season is in the books, and now the time has arrived for one of the most popular nights on the American calendar. The NFL Draft. For a number of franchises, the draft is a time of renewed hope. An opportunity to hit the reset button.

https://youtu.be/fr4J-egSTPQ

The fortunes of a franchise can hinge on a good draft class, or perhaps even a single draft pick. Like Quarterback Peyton Manning for the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 or Cornerback Richard Sherman for the Seattle Seahawks in 2011.

There are differing opinions about when exactly the NFL Draft became such must-watch TV. There are some that feel it is the 1983 Draft which saw 6 QB’s selected in the first round. 3 of whom, John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino, went on to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

https://youtu.be/-7ntoWmnHVs

This was the first draft in which fans were allowed to attend the event in person. But perhaps more notoriously, the draft is remembered for first overall pick, Stanford University’s Elway, refusing to play for the team that selected him, the Baltimore Colts.

Elway instead opted to play for baseball outfit, the New York Yankees, unless the Colts traded him. Faced with the prospect of losing their pick for nothing, the Colts caved in and traded Elway to the Denver Broncos.

The lead up to the draft was also filled with rumours about University of Pittsburgh prospect Dan Marino. A story was doing the rounds amongst team execs that Marino was using drugs. The rumours proved to be untrue, but that didn’t stop numerous franchises passing on Marino, who was eventually drafted 27th overall by the Miami Dolphins. All in all, 5 QB’s were selected ahead of Marino, including Elway and Kelly. The source of the rumours has never been uncovered.

The second draft to capture the public’s imagination was the 1994 draft. That draft was memorable because of the war of words that broke out live on TV between ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr and Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Tobin, over the Colts selection of Linebacker Trev Alberts.

https://youtu.be/WYwfxtFbga8

Right before we go on, some simple facts you need to know about the NFL Draft:

  • The team with the worst record has the first pick. The reasoning is that the worst team gets the best player in College Football. The second-worst team gets the second pick and so on. The Super Bowl Champions pick last.
  • The higher a player is drafted, the more money he is eligible to earn on his rookie contract.
  • Players can only negotiate a contract with the team that drafts them unless a trade can be agreed to.
  • Only players that are at least 3 years removed from high school are eligible to enter the NFL Draft.
  • There are seven rounds in the draft. Each team gets a single pick in each round. The picking order of the draft is the same for each round.
  • Teams are able to trade draft picks with other teams, so it’s possible for a franchise to have more than one pick in a particular round.

https://youtu.be/Q9TwotB878w

The Jacksonville Jaguars, with a record of 1 win and 15 losses, currently hold the first overall draft pick. There isn’t too much doubt in most people’s minds about who the Jaguars will select. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson University has had NFL scouts excited since he was in high school. But it was the 2019 College Football National Championship game that alerted the American footballing public to the talents of the Cartersville native.

Lawrence torched the University of Alabama defense by throwing for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns, as the Tigers won their second National Championship in 3 years. Besides winning the National Championship, Lawrence led Clemson to 3 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championships, as well as receiving the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, and ACC Player of the Year.

https://youtu.be/p8qcWOICsgU

After Trevor Lawrence, the draft selection enters muddy waters. As many as 5 Quarterbacks could be selected in the Top 10. Zach Wilson (Brigham Young University), Justin Fields (Ohio State University), Trey Lance (North Dakota State University), and Mac Jones (University of Alabama).

https://youtu.be/F9o4lkfb-Fc

The New York Jets have the second overall pick, and just like the Jaguars, are expected to select a Quarterback after shipping starting QB Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. With Lawrence off the board, the Jets are likely to pick between Wilson and Fields. The San Francisco 49ers traded up for the third selection, after their QB Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending ankle sprain, and will probably pick whoever the Jets decide not to.

https://youtu.be/2sl9svFtjQ8

University of Oregon Offensive Tackle Penei Sewell is also expected to be selected in the Top 5. Whilst Wide Receivers Ja’marr Chase (Louisiana State University) and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (Alabama) will be in high demand.

https://youtu.be/17RWyRHPe1A

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Tight End Kyle Pitts from the University of Florida is an absolute beast and will be a good bet to elevate the offense of whichever team drafts him. Pitts teammate Quarterback Kyle Trask is expected to be a late first-round selection, or at the latest, an early second-round pick.

On the defensive side, Alabama Cornerback Patrick Surtain and Penn State University Linebacker Micah Parsons are expected to round up the Top 10.

https://youtu.be/GzL11dSU2e4

But until NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reads out an athlete’s name and the team that has drafted them, everything is pure speculation. You just never know what a franchise GM is going to do.

In the 2000 draft, 30 teams decided that Tom Brady wasn’t the quarterback of the future for them. The New England Patriots would eventually select Brady 199th overall in the sixth round. He didn’t turn out too bad.

In 2005, Aaron Rodgers sat uncomfortably in the Green Room as a team after team prolonged his ordeal in front of millions of viewers until the Green Bay Packers finally put him out of his misery.

https://youtu.be/byr00d5QrLI

But there is a flip side to the draft. As in life, there are no guarantees of success. Trevor Lawrence’s chances of a successful career in Jacksonville depend on a number of factors. How good will his offensive line be? Will he have reliable receivers? Will he be able to read defenses? Will he have a good relationship with the coaching staff? Can he stay injury-free?

NFL history is full of players who didn’t live up to the hype due to a variety of factors. Ryan Leaf was selected second overall, behind Peyton Manning, by the San Diego Chargers in the 1998 draft. But due to a combination of ill-discipline and injuries, Leaf was released by the Chargers in 2001 and was retired altogether by 2004.

Peyton Manning, on the other hand, had a 20-year career, won the Super Bowl with 2 different franchises, and enjoyed an epic rivalry with Tom Brady.

Whatever happens, when Goodell steps up and says, “ With the first pick of the 2021 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select……..”, it will be the beginning of a renewed sense of hope, or dreams being shattered.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook.

Sizwe Luthayi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Football_League_Draft?wprov=sfti1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_NFL_Draft?wprov=sfti1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevor_Lawrence_(American_football)?wprov=sfti1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_NFL_Draft?wprov=sfti1

https://theundefeated.com/features/how-seattle-seahawks-richard-sherman-pick-in-2011-draft-changed-the-next-10-years-of-the-nfl/

Categories
Sport

Super Bowl 55 | What can we expect?

One of the most tumultuous seasons in NFL history is set to reach its climax with the highlight of the gridiron calendar: The Super Bowl. Like so many other sporting competitions around the world, the NFL has had to deal with multiple positive Coronavirus test results, forcing numerous postponements.

The defending champions Kansas City Chiefs will attempt to become the first team since 2005 to win back to back Vince Lombardi trophies. Super Bowl 55 will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida.

However, due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the attendance will be limited to 25 000 people, approximately a third of the stadium’s capacity. A portion of those tickets has been allocated to Florida health workers, who’ve already been vaccinated. This will be the lowest attendance in Super Bowl history.

Traditional Super Bowl activities that are held throughout the week for the media and fans have all been cancelled. And Americans are being urged not to hold Super Bowl parties.

If you’re lost and don’t understand what the fuss is all about, please check out our piece on the basics of the NFL.

https://sleb.co.za/let-me-take-you-through-the-basics-of-the-nfl/

The man attempting to stop the Chiefs from making history will be 43-year old Quarterback, and six-time Super Bowl champion, Tom Brady. You read that right, 43 years old. Ironically Brady was part of the 2004/05 New England Patriots. The last team to win back to back Super Bowls.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xK_2j0CDNFo

https://youtu.be/jwdt5Z1K6AU

 

Tom Brady will be appearing in his tenth Super Bowl. To put that into context, Michael Jordan, the great Michael Jordan, appeared in six NBA Finals. LeBron James NBA Finals appearance number currently stands at nine.

Brady’s previous nine Super Bowl appearances have all come with the Patriots. This will be his first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This season without Brady, the Patriots failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Whilst this was the first time the Glazer-owned Bucs made the playoffs since 2008.

Clearly, the common denominator in either the Patriots or the Bucs failing to make the playoffs is the absence of Tom Brady. Brady and the Patriots organisation terrorised the American Football Conference (AFC) for twenty years, and now Brady is dishing out the same punishment to the National Football Conference (NFC) with the Buccaneers.

Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is looking to create his own piece of history. As aforementioned, Mahomes is looking to become the first Quarterback to win back to back SuperBowls since Brady in 2005. Mahomes will also be to aiming to win back to back Super Bowl MVP awards, after being named MVP for Super Bowl 54.

Mahomes is also the youngest QB to play in three consecutive AFC Championship matches. The first of which he lost against Tom Brady’s Patriots.

https://youtu.be/nKLkj0FzoEo

The Chiefs and the Patriots have already met during Week 12 of the regular season. Kansas City won a nail biter 27-24, that was headlined by Chiefs Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill’s sensational first-half performance. Hill and his jet heels torched the Buccaneers defense to record a career-high 269 yards, thirteen catches and three Touchdowns. The wideout performed a backflip into the End Zone for one of the TDs. I’m sure the Tampa defense hasn’t forgotten the showboating.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs won fourteen matches and had two losses during the regular season to finish on top of the AFC West and clinch the number one overall seed in the AFC. The second loss came on the final day of the regular season against the LA Chargers when coach Andy Reid rested most of his starters due to the number one seed already being secured.

The Chiefs defeated the Cleveland Browns in the Divisional Round in a tight affair that saw the Chiefs finish the match without star QB Mahomes, who had to be assisted off the field with a concussion. Mahomes returned to lead the Chiefs to an impressive win over the dangerous Buffalo Bills to claim the franchises second AFC Championship in a row.

https://youtu.be/c5CPyLlSWQ8

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Kansas City has the number one offence in the league for total yardage, and the sixth offence in points scored. At the heart of this potent offensive unit is QB Patrick Mahomes. The Texas Tech Universe alumni haven’t dominated the season single-handedly, however.

His primary targets have been Tight End Travis Kelce and the rapid Tyreek Hill. Both men have wreaked absolute anarchy with opposition defenders. The supporting cast of Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins, and Demarcus Robinson have also proved themselves reliable targets for Mahomes. Whilst rookie Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has gone from strength to strength.

However, the key to the Chiefs aerial attack, Pro Bowl Left Tackle Eric Fisher tore his Achilles against the Bills in the AFC Championship and will miss the Super Bowl. Fisher is the leader of the Chiefs Offensive Line and an integral part of Mahomes blindside protection. Bucs Defensive Ends Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul will fancy their chances of sacking Mahomes with Fisher out of the picture, as will Linebacker Shaquil Barrett.

Defensive Tackle Chris Jones will lead the Chiefs defensive line in trying to succeed where many others have failed, disrupting Tom Brady. While Safety Tyrann Mathieu will be crucial to thwarting Brady’s inevitable aerial bombardment.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In order to reach their first playoffs in twelve years, the Bucs won eleven matches and suffered five defeats to finish second in the NFC South behind the New Orleans Saints. Two of those defeats came in brutal fashion at the hands of divisional rivals, the Saints.

Tampa’s offense was ranked seventh in the league in total yards and third for points scored. Even at 43 years old, Tom Brady has proved to be a significant upgrade to previous QB and former NFL Draft overall number one pick Jameis Winston. Brady threw 40 TDs and 12 interceptions, whilst in the season previous, Winston threw 30 TDs and 30 interceptions.

In contrast to the Chiefs, Tampa had to navigate the long way round to reach the Super Bowl. All their playoff matches were played away from home. The Washington Football Team was dispatched in the Wild Card Round before the Bucs got sweet revenge by knocking out the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round. Brady and the Bucs completed their amazing playoff run by beating Aaron Rodgers and the NFC number one seed Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship match at Lambeau Field. By doing so the Bucs will become the first team in NFL history to contest a Super Bowl at their home stadium.

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Much like Mahomes, Brady has some serious firepower at his disposal. Wide Receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are two of the best Receivers in the league, whilst Scotty Miller’s electric speed is a nightmare for Defensive Backs. Veteran wideout Antonio Brown has experienced a career resurgence with the Bucs following his legal troubles.

The Chiefs defense will also need to keep an eye on the Tight End duo of Cameron Brate and Brady’s former Patriots teammate and future hall of famer, Rob Gronkowski. Running Backs Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette have combined for over 1300 rushing yards and 13 Touchdowns. LeSean McCoy is another option at Running Back, even though his best days are behind him.

But as good as the Brady’s offense is, their defense is even better. I’ve already alluded to the talents of edge rushers Suh, and Pierre-Paul. Linebacker Shaq Barrett will be ably assisted by Devin White. These physically imposing individuals will be looking to ensure it’s a long day for Patrick Mahomes, particularly in the absence of Eric Fisher.

The defending champion Chiefs are the bookies favourites to win the Super Bowl. And I have to say, I agree with them. Mahomes is a generational athlete. Barring any injuries, he will pose a serious threat to Brady’s numerous records over the course of his career. However, you’ll bet against Tom Brady at your peril.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook.

Sizwe Luthayi

Categories
Sport

Let me take you through the basics of the NFL

ESPN and ESPN 2 are once again available as part of the DSTV viewing package. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s been a frustrating seven years with no NFL or College Football on our screens. But the new NFL season is upon us, and South Africans will be able to watch. And I’m way too excited.

https://youtu.be/UVV80kTudSM

 

So I thought I’d go over some basics of the NFL for all the novices out there. The competition format, rules, teams etc. And maybe, you’ll give the sport a watch sometime.

Teams:

There are 32 teams in the NFL. The league consists of two conferences, each comprised of sixteen teams: The National Football Conference(NFC), and the American Football Conference(AFC). Each Conference is divided into four divisions consisting of four teams, based on geography.

NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Football Team (formerly Redskins, awaiting a new name)

NFC North:

Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South:

Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West:

Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South:

Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West:

Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers

Each team plays a total of sixteen matches during the regular season, including home and away fixtures against their divisional rivals. Division winners automatically progress to the playoffs. From the remaining teams, the three with the best overall record in each conference join the division winners in the playoffs.

Playoff contenders are restricted to their conference. The winners of the NFC and AFC face each other in the ultimate showdown, the SuperBowl.

NFL Records

Most SuperBowls: Pittsburgh Steelers & New England Patriots (6)
Most NFC Championships: Dallas Cowboys (8)
Most AFC Championships: New England Patriots (11)
Current SuperBowl Champions: Kansas City Chiefs

Rules:

Football matches take place on a field that is 120 yards in length(including the end zones), and 53 yards in width.

Each team is allowed a maximum of eleven players on the field of play.

A football match has a total playing time of 60 minutes. Each match is divided into two halves of 30 minutes, and each half is further divided into quarters that last 15 minutes.

A team can advance a football by running, passing, or kicking.

A team has four plays(downs) to advance a ball ten yards. If they are able to break the ten-yard barrier, they will receive a fresh set of downs. Failure to advance ten yards results in a turnover of possession to the opposition.

During a single play, once the ball has been advanced beyond the line of scrimmage, a forward pass becomes prohibited.

Turnovers occur from kicks, fumbles, and interceptions.

Scoring:

Touchdown = 6
Conversion = 1
2-point conversion (attempting a touchdown instead of a kick after a touchdown) = 2
Field Goal = 3
Safety (when the ball carrier is tackled in own end zone) = 2

Positions:

Defence:

Linemen

Primary Objectives

Put pressure on the Quarterback before he can make a play.
Stop running plays.
Judged by the number of tackles and sacks made.

Physical Characteristics

Normally the biggest and slowest players on defence, but still possess explosive speed off the mark.

https://youtu.be/j1Dgdn2niKM

Linebackers

Primary Objectives

Assist the defensive linemen in stopping running plays.
Assist the defensive backs in stopping passing plays.
Pressure the Quarterback.

Physical Characteristics

The hybrid between defensive linemen and defensive backs.
The Quarterbacks of the defence. Receive instructions from the Defensive Coordinator.

https://youtu.be/xMQbBWA7LLo

Defensive Backs

Primary Objectives

Cover the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
Stop passing plays.
Last line of defence.
Judged by interceptions and pass interruptions.

Physical Characteristics

Fastest players on defence.
Need good hands to catch possible interceptions.

https://youtu.be/hvh0aFRvp5M

Offence:

Linemen

Primary Objectives

Protect the Quarterback.
Create openings for running plays.

Physical Characteristics

The biggest and strongest on both sides of the ball. But also the slowest.

https://youtu.be/mcExqvEHpBU

Tight End

Primary Objectives

Protect the Quarterback
Block for Wide Receivers.
Catch passes.

Physical Characteristics

The hybrid between Offensive Linemen and Wide Receivers.
Incredibly fast for their size.
Good hands.

https://youtu.be/j61jbXgFSQ8

Running Backs

Primary Objectives

Run the ball, usually through a lot of traffic.
Protect the Quarterback on passing plays.
Judged by yardage gained and touchdowns.

Physical Characteristics

Stocky, strong runners.
Shorter than Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
Fast.

https://youtu.be/tlZvgdcIXvI

Wide Receivers

Primary Objectives

Catch passes.
Block for other Receivers and Tight Ends.
Decoy runs.
Judged by receptions and touchdowns.

Physical Characteristics

Tall and fast.
Phenomenal handling skills

https://youtu.be/zxbz3DDQzHU

Quarterbacks

Primary Objectives

Lead the offence. Call the plays.
Advance the teams position by either passing or running the ball.
Receives instructions from the offensive coordinator or the head coach.

Physical Characteristics

Throwing the ball with pinpoint accuracy.
Calm under pressure.
Reading the defence.
Tall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKhap8Qn-z4

Leave your comments/questions below.

If you were never into NFL below be sure to get into it this weekend when the season starts. You’ll love it!

Sizwe Luthayi